Steve MacLean taking York art and music into space


TORONTO, August 24, 2006 -- When astronaut and York alumnus Steve MacLean blasts off on board Space Shuttle Atlantis, he’ll be bringing the sight and sound of his alma mater with him – in the form of a York-designed mission logo, and a special composition he’ll play once the shuttle is in orbit.

MacLean, a mission specialist aboard STS-115 – set to launch as early as August 27 – will wear patches designed by three graduates of the York/Sheridan Joint Program in Design.

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 proposal was chosen from amongst the student submissions. Working closely with MacLean, the group fine-tuned their designs to the specifications of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA.

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.

"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 Accolade, the new home for York’s Faculty of Fine Arts; it was performed by York professor Christina Petrowska Quilico under the direction of professor Mark Chambers and was recorded for broadcast by the CBC Radio Two program "Two New Hours."

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.


York University is the leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university in Canada. York offers a modern, academic experience at the undergraduate and graduate level in Toronto, Canada’s most international city. The third largest university in the country, York is host to a dynamic academic community of 50,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, as well as 190,000 alumni worldwide. York’s 11 faculties and 23 research centres conduct ambitious, groundbreaking research that is interdisciplinary, cutting across traditional academic boundaries. This distinctive and collaborative approach is preparing students for the future and bringing fresh insights and solutions to real-world challenges. York University is an autonomous, not-for-profit corporation.

For more information, please contact:

Janice Walls  
Media Relations Coordinator
York University
416-736-2100, ext. 22081