From The Art of Michael Whelan:
"I was stuck for a while as I tried to come up with a design structure to unify the elements I wanted to include in this composition. Later I was driving on a highway and as I passed beneath a bridge, I glimpsed two yellow and black caution markings on the concrete pillars on either side of the road. That was it.
When I was commissioned to do the art for the cover to this anthology, I was told I could have all the freedom I wanted. I came up with several concepts inspired by my meditations on the title Distant Stars, but they were all rather metaphysical in feeling and the clients were unimpressed. Instead, they gave me a sketch of the idea they wanted: on the front cover, a spacesuited man coming through a porthole; on the back, a woman in a diaphonous gown, 'waiting for her man to come home.'
This is what they got. Maybe someday the woman will get on the front cover."