Very few objects have ever been launched into space, but a few Drexel students will have the distinct experience of having their creations carried into orbit.
A team of graphic design students has given the crew on the final space shuttle mission something that the astronauts will hold close to their hearts, literally, by designing the special mission patch that astronauts will be carrying into space to be left at the International Space Station.
The mission patches were designed as part of an independent project conducted by a team of five upperclassmen directed by associate teaching professor Don Haring Jr. and graphic design program director Jody Graff.
“Spaceswan” by Jen Choy and “Waves” by Jeremy Bloom were selected as the patches the astronauts will be wearing during the scheduled launch Friday, July 8. The other students that participated were Cara Brobst, Herbie Hickmott and Evan Raisner.
“I’m very honored to be picked,” Bloom, a graphic design junior currently on co-op at Electronic Ink, said. “I looked at a lot of older NASA patches, but I wasn’t very inspired by them because they were so generic, just pictures of space shuttles and stars and kind of plain.”
Bloom said he looked to more terrestrial sources for influences.
“I looked at YouTube videos of jets and was really interested in the way that a jet engine created a vortex around itself, so I took that and made it a little abstract while trying to keep the space theme,” Bloom said.
Choy, who recently graduated with a degree in graphic design, said she looked more at the motion of spaceflight to design her patch.
“When I was sketching patch designs, I was inspired by motion — a launching shuttle at blastoff, the gracefulness of an astronaut floating in space,” Choy said. “My focus was to portray the shape and motion of the space shuttle as graceful and elegant but also strong, so I’d say Spaceswan is quite a fitting name.”
Each of the patches will hold a special but bittersweet place in history as the launch of STS-115 is the final space flight of the shuttle program.
Drexel will be represented by more than just the patches on the astronauts during the historic flight, as the commander of the mission is Drexel mechanical engineering alumnus Christopher Ferguson, ’84, an astronaut since 1998.
Ferguson, who has been to space on two prior shuttle missions, will have the distinct honor of commanding the four-astronaut team that will make up the last American manned spaceflight until a replacement vehicle is built.
“I would like to personally thank the Drexel community for their support and encouragement throughout the years,” Ferguson said. “Like all of the fine Drexel students, the foundation of what I became was set during my years as a Dragon. For as much as you might learn during your years as an undergraduate student, the ultimate benefit will be that you learn how be adaptable to the world around you.”
Ferguson was named the University 2009 Engineer of the Year and has spent more than 28 days in space. He came to Drexel March 16 to meet with the students who designed the patches for his mission and spoke with them about the end of the shuttle program.
“I watched STS-1 launch from the Creese Student Center,” Ferguson said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that 30 years later I personally would command the mission that put the period at the end of the space shuttle program. If you can imagine it, you can do it.”
Choy said she enjoyed the involvement that Ferguson had in designing the patch.
“He is a really nice, funny, down-to-earth (no pun intended), all around cool guy. I never thought I’d get to meet an astronaut, so it was a neat experience,” Choy said.
In addition to Ferguson, two other Drexel alumni have reached space aboard the space shuttle, James Bagian, ’73, who spent 15 years with NASA and flew in 1989 and 1991, and Paul Richards, ’87, who voyaged to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2001.
Professors involved with the design of the patch were proud of the strong connections that Drexel has with the elite Shuttle program.
“We were incredibly honored when shuttle commander Chris Ferguson first approached the graphic design program about designing a mission patch,” said Haring. “The students couldn’t believe they had a chance to design for NASA, and I couldn’t have been more excited to advise and help them, especially considering the importance of this last shuttle flight. It was an amazing opportunity for all of us, and as always, we’re incredibly proud of creativity and skill in our students.”
The University will be channeling a young Ferguson watching STS-1 by holding a launch party July 8 to watch the final shuttle blast off. The party starts at 11 a.m., and the 11:26 a.m. launch will be shown on a large screen in the Bossone lobby. It is open to the public, and food and drinks will be served. In attendance are expected to be 140 children from the Drexel STAR summer scholars program and the NASA Summer Program who might, one day, remember when they watched the last shuttle flight at Drexel as they wait for their turn to journey into space.
Updated July 5, 2011 9:00 A.M.
Correction: The astronauts will be carrying the patches into space and leaving the patches aboard the International Space Station as tokens of their visit. The previous version of the article misstated that the patches would be worn on the uniforms of the astronauts.