Tim Gagnon was born and raised in East Hartford, Connecticut. A fascination with space exploration came early as did an interest in art. Like many others of his generation Tim remembers watching the missions of his childhood heroes on a small black and white television with “rabbit ears” that could receive few broadcast stations. For his 16th birthday gift in 1972 his parents arranged for Tim and his father to attend the launch of Apollo 17 as invited guests of NASA.
In 1983 while serving on the East Hartford Bicentennial Commission, Tim painted a portrait of Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert. Swigert had lived in East Hartford while working as a pilot for Pratt and Whitney and serving in the Connecticut Air National Guard prior to joining the space program in 1966. The painting is currently on display at the CT Air National Guard Headquarters in East Granby, CT. Also in 1983 Tim represented East Hartford as a guest of NASA at the launch of STS-7 when the Bicentennial Medallion was flown aboard the space shuttle Challenger.
In 1985 Tim started creating scrapbooks of female astronauts for his daughter and niece. The first response for contributions to the scrapbooks arrived on Saturday, January 25, 1986. The package contained a hand written note, an autographed photo as well as other photos. The note read in part…”you can do anything you want if you get a good education.” It was signed “Judy Resnik NASA Astronaut.” Three days later Judy Resnik was dead. Stunned by the Challenger tragedy, Tim decided that the message in that letter should not die with her. He began a volunteer career with the Young Astronaut Program. He served as Connecticut Coordinator from 1986 until 1991 when he moved his family to Florida. He currently serves as Brevard County Coordinator for the program.
In 1996 while involved in the effort to support the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, Tim helped to organize the “Reach for the Stars” event at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The event was held on the tenth anniversary of the Challenger accident. Later that year he painted “On the Shoulders of Giants” a 4’ x 8’ acrylic on board that depicted all 12 moonwalkers together on the lunar surface honoring all of the people who helped get them there as well as the ones who were lost along the way. The painting was unveiled at the Center for Space Education during a dinner observing the 30th Anniversary of the Apollo 1 tragedy in January, 1997 and is on display there to this day.
In April of 1998 when Hugh Harris retired as NASA Public Affairs Officer at the Kennedy Space Center Tim painted his portrait and was invited to present it to Mr. Harris at his retirement party.
In 1999 inspired by Eileen Collins becoming the first woman to command a spaceflight Tim painted “One Small Step…for a Woman.” The painting, which is on display in the City Hall of Elmira, New York (Collins hometown), depicts her in front of other famous astronauts from space program history. A print is also displayed in the Titusville, FL City Hall
From 1999 to 2005 Tim was the director of the Young Astronaut Program at Divine Mercy Catholic School in Merritt Island, FL. He introduced the Young Astronaut Program to the school and started a club. The first event in the fall of 1999 was to host a “friendship gathering” with a group of 60 Young Astronauts visiting from Japan. During the exchange of gifts, Tim presented “Friends in Exploration” a portrait of Japanese astronauts to the Director of the Young Astronauts Club of Japan. It is on display in their office in Tokyo. Each year the Young Astronaut Club (YAC) would host a Space Day event which would involve the entire faculty and student body, many aerospace companies and a guest lecturer. On January 31, 2003 Astronaut Brian Duffy spoke to those attending and said that the astronauts they honored would say, “Don’t cry for me because I was doing something I loved. In fact there are ten astronauts in space right now continuing their mission – and seven of them will land here tomorrow in the shuttle Columbia.” The next day those students had to learn first hand about the risks of space flight when the Columbia was lost during re-entry.
On October 28, 2003. The US National Monument for Fallen Astronauts, known as the “Space Mirror” at the Kennedy Space Center was rededicated in honor of the Columbia crew of mission STS-107. The Divine Mercy Young Astronauts served as ushers and family escorts for the ceremony.
In 2005 Tim was inspired by the incredible effort to return the shuttle to flight and painted “Return to Flight” a multi-media piece depicting the shuttle stack launching into space along with portraits of the STS-114 crew. It was presented to NASA and was displayed in the IMAX Theater at the KSC Visitor Complex during the mission.
In 2006 at the request of and with the cooperation of Mrs. Kennedy, Tim painted a portrait of KSC Director Jim Kennedy on his motorcycle. He presented the portrait to Jim on the occasion of his retirement.
Ever since reading about the design of the Skylab 1 patch in an article written by the artist Frank Kelly Freas in 1973, Tim dreamed about creating a patch for a flight crew, to actually use his artistic talent to contribute to the space program. He came close in 1985 when Bob Crippen invited him to submit designs for the first shuttle mission scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, STS-62A. That mission was canceled after the Challenger accident.
In 2004 his dream finally came true when astronaut John Phillips selected him to design the emblem for the Expedition 11 mission to the International Space Station. In 2006 he was invited by mission Commander Pam Melroy to submit draft designs for the STS-120 patch. The competition was strong and Tim placed second. In 2007 Tim was selected by astronaut Eric Boe to design the STS-126 mission emblem. Knowing how much it meant to participate, Tim invited his pen pal Dr. Jorge Cartes of Madrid Spain to join him on this project. The STS-126 crew was so happy with the result that they recommended Tim and Jorge to the STS-127 crew. As each patch was completed, Tim and Jorge were recommended to more flight crews.
Since 2008 they teamed to work with the astronauts of the following crews: STS-129, STS-132, STS-133 and STS-135* Though for the final flight of the Space Shuttle Program it was only a collaboration as the idea to include the NASA vector was adopted by the crew. The end of the Space Shuttle Program did not slow down demand. Tim and Jorge were proud to work with the following crews serving aboard the International Space Station: Expeditions 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 34, One Year, 47, 48, 53 and 55.
In 2007 to raise funds for the Apollo Program Monument the Space Walk of Fame Foundation conducted an online auction. To support this effort Tim donated the creation of an 18” x 24” painting. The winning bidder challenged Tim to create a piece that would illustrate the entire 50 year history of space exploration. They soon realized that the scope of the painting required a larger canvas. After researching the idea it was decided that it could be done on a 48” x 24” canvas. The painting became “Past Is Prologue” – Celebrating 50 Years of America in Space. It was unveiled on Space Day, May 2, 2008 in front of the Apollo Monument in downtown Titusville, FL. The painting will remain on display at the Space Walk of Fame Museum for one year and then be returned to its owner.
In 2008 keeping with his dedication to support activities that can promote space science education for children, Tim designed a souvenir “mission patch” for the team launching Steve Eves 1:10 scale model of an Apollo/ Saturn V rocket to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11. The patches will be launched aboard this incredible working scale model. The launch date was April 25, 2009.
Tim has also designed a ten-part series of patches to “Celebrate 50 years of America in Space.” The first patch which is the 50th anniversary patch has been shown on the NBC Television Series: “Law & Order SVU” and has also flown in space. The designs which range in size from 4″ to 12″ cover the range of human exploration from Project Mercury to the International Space Station. While not widely distributed they have been well received by all who have seen them.
Over the last six years, Tim has continued to build a reputation as someone easy to work with and increasingly in demand.