Vince Talotta/TorStar news service

A design by York University-Sheridan College students Peter Hui, left, Gigi Lui and Graham Huber has been selected as the official patch for NASA’s upcoming space shuttle mission.

When the shuttle Atlantis rockets into space later this month, the crew will wear the colourful handiwork of three Toronto students.

The mission’s insignia — woven into a patch for each uniform and spacesuit — is the handiwork of the students, who graduated in the spring from the joint design program of York University and Sheridan College. It was selected from dozens of entries in an international competition.

It adds a little touch of home for Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean, who will walk in space to help install solar panels on the International Space Station, using the robotic arm Canadarm2, during the 12-day mission, scheduled to launch Aug. 27.

“It was an absolutely exhilarating experience,” said Graham Huber, part of the York team that created the mission insignia and a personal patch for MacLean, who earned a doctorate in physics at the university in 1983.

He and colleagues Gigi Lui and Peter Hui had the opportunity to meet with MacLean to learn what elements he felt were important in a design. “He is incredibly humble and a really genuine person,” Huber, 24, said.

The lower section of the insignia is dominated by the shuttle and the two solar panels it will carry into space. The space station is in the background, highlighted by the sun bursting over Earth’s horizon. MacLean’s personal patch shows him on a spacewalk, with the Canadian-designed Canadarm2 silhouetted by a sun rising from the centre of a red maple leaf.

The Canadian Space Agency says the sunburst “illustrates the importance of the mission’s primary objective: The successful installation and activation of the solar arrays.” The maple leaf emphasizes Canada’s part as one of the 15 nations building the space station, it says.

The choice of insignia was left entirely to the crew of shuttle mission STS-115, which personally selected the York design. Huber hopes it will be a handy item on his resumé as he searches for a job in the design field.

Lui — who came here from Hong Kong in 1993 and will return in the fall for a career in design — said she hopes the design shows Canada “as a leader in aerospace technology.”

Huber, Lui and Hui will be flown to Florida as guests of NASA to watch the shuttle launch.

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