Meet Tim Gagnon, Nasa’s go-to patch designer

Meet Tim Gagnon, Nasa’s go-to patch designer

“On that trip I learned that the person who did the mission patch was an external artist, not someone employed by Nasa,” says Tim. “ It was Robert McCall, someone whose work I knew already – he had done artwork for 2001: A Space Odyssey, and painted huge murals at the National Air and Space Museum.” Finding out that artists like McCall and Paul Calle, another of his creative idols, could contribute to the space programme was a lightbulb moment for Tim. “I’m a left brain guy, always have been. You’d never want me to calculate trajectories, because you will not get to where you think you’re going!” he laughs. “But if you want to wear a patch while you’re going there, I can do that.”

So, from around the age of 17, Tim began writing to astronauts, asking if he could work on their mission patches. He’d always been an avid illustrator and artist, yet as a self-confessed “stubborn teenager” he didn’t consider art school. Instead, he wanted to get a job and make his own money. Ending up with a career in logistics, Tim continued to make artwork as a hobby, always inspired – of course – by space. He painted a portrait of Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a shuttle mission, and donated it to her hometown, where it hung in the city hall. His portrait of Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert, who had lived in Tim’s hometown, still hangs in the Connecticut Air National Guard headquarters. Meanwhile he met his wife, had a daughter, and years later somehow persuaded them to move from Connecticut to Florida, purely so he could be closer to the space programme and see rockets take off whenever he wanted. I’m guessing they understood, better than anyone, that Tim’s obsession with space wasn’t going anywhere.

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