Andy Thomas AO (b. 1951) is an astronaut and aerospace engineer, recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and the Yuri Gagarin Medal. Born and educated in Adelaide, an engineer by profession, he managed a number of aeronautical programs and patented several inventions before joining NASA in 1992. He made his first space flight in 1996. Some two years later he boarded the shuttle Endeavour to dock at the Mir space station, where he worked as Board Engineer 2 for 130 days. In 2001 he became the first Australian to undertake a spacewalk, riding the space shuttle Discovery to spend over six hours affixing components to the outside of the International Space Station. Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA from 2001, in 2005 he flew on the STS114 Discovery shuttle, undertaking new methods to inspect the orbiter in flight and to verify its fitness for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Over the course of his four missions, Thomas spent more than 177 days in space. Now, he is working on means to lead astronauts out into deep space, where he anticipates some profound questions will be answered, and some unfathomable questions will be raised.
Denis Montalbetti and Gay Campbell (b. 1957 and b. 1958), New-York based Canadian-born fashion and editorial photographers, researched Thomas’s career and his appearance before conceiving this highly-coloured heroic image. They reported that Thomas was a ‘gracious and enthusiastic’ subject as he posed patiently against the streaky blue background representing the earth viewed from space.