Astronaut set to lift off with York art and music

When astronaut and York alumnus Steve MacLean blasts off on board Space Shuttle Atlantis, he’ll be bringing the sights and sounds of his alma mater with him – in the form of a York-designed mission logo and a special composition he’ll listen to once the shuttle is in orbit.

MacLean, a mission specialist aboard STS-115 – set to launch as early as Sunday – will wear patches designed by three graduates of the York/Sheridan Joint Program in Design.








Above: Astronaut Steve MacLean (left) with student logo designers Graham Huber, Gigi Lui and Peter Hui

The designers will be attending the launch as guests of the Canadian Space Agency. “We’ll be watching and rooting for Steve,” says Gigi Lui, part of the design team. “It is going to be amazing to see our designs headed into space – totally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Lui and fellow classmates Graham Huber and Peter Hui were third-year students when MacLean approached the University with the idea of designing both his personal patch and the mission patch, to be worn by the entire crew. The team’s design was chosen from among several student submissions. Working closely with MacLean, the group fine-tuned its designs to the specifications of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA. (For complete story, see the Nov. 12, 2002, issue of YFile.) 

MacLean spoke jokingly of the patches he had previously worn on his spacesuit, saying they were obviously designed by an engineer. “This time, I wanted more of an artistic patch to wear in my upcoming mission.”

MacLean also called upon York to provide the soundtrack for his trip to space. Before he headed off for launch preparations, he asked David Mott, a music professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, whether he had any new compositions that might suit the occasion.

                                                                    Right: David Mott

“Steve told me that on his down time, he really likes to listen to music and look out into the darkness of space,” says Mott. “I had just completed a piano concerto and so I sent him this one movement, “Dark Shadowed Moon”, that I thought would be perfect.” The movement is from a piano concerto called Eclipse which Mott composed for the opening of the Accolade Project, the new home for York’s Faculty of Fine Arts; it was performed by York music Prof. Christina Petrowska Quilico under the direction of Prof. Mark Chambers.

Left: Christina Petrowska Quilico

MacLean has long been a fan of Mott’s music; he took an earlier Mott composition, titled “Regarding Starlight,” with him on his flight aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1992.