Astronaut Don Pettit has become one of the most prolific astronaut photographers during his expeditions aboard the International Space Station. He could (and did) saturate downlink transfers with photos for three full days from just one 30-minute photographic session in space. While photography is part of an astronaut’s job requirement, Pettit’s engineering ingenuity and natural curiosity has led him to create photos that are as stunning for their artistic beauty as they are for their scientific value.
For a lot of us, travelling to space and taking photographs sounds like a dream job. For Don Pettit, it’s just another day at the office. In fact, part of his official NASA training included working with a number of professional photographers and trainers. Of course, being an astronaut photographer isn’t just taking beautiful photos from outer space. Pettit said in an interview with SmugMug, there’s actually a lot of engineering photography to be done, which Pettit says is actually quite uninteresting to the public.
“We have to take macro images of pins in an electrical connector or a bit of grunge in a hydraulic quick-disconnect fitting or little patterns that might develop on the surface of one of the windows. These things need to be documented so the images can be downlinked for engineers on the ground to assess what’s happening to the systems on space station. We get training specifically on doing these engineering images, which, for the most part, are not really interesting to the public.
Photography on the space station is more than just taking a bunch of pretty pictures. We take pictures of Earth and the surroundings of earth, and these pictures represent a scientific data set recorded now for over 14 years. About 1.2 million pictures were taken as of July 2012.”
Let’s be real, space selfies are light years better than the average Instagram styled selfie. Photos taken of space from space are like the ultimate travel photos. It probably has something to do with the fact that some astronauts, like Buzz Aldrin, were orbiting earth at speeds of 17,000 mph and just casually snapped a selfie like what they’re doing is no big deal. As Aldrin explains in the interview below, he was supposed to be photographing ultraviolet stars, but when the sun rose and he could no longer see the stars, he turned the camera on himself because he was curious to see what it would like and, you know, why not?.
Listen as Aldrin tells the story behind pioneering the space selfie, then read on to see how you can take a space selfie of your own.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is launching a camera into space via a supply ferry, the Automated Transfer Vehicle 5 (ATV-5) which headed to the International Space Station. Launching cameras into space isn’t particularly rare in itself, but this camera is kinda special. The Automated Transfer Vehicle Break-Up Camera was designed in just nine short months by team members of the ESA specifically for this mission. The Break-Up Camera is a disposable infrared camera that will photograph the reentry of the ATV back into earth’s atmosphere where it is destined to burn up in a blaze of glory. [Read more…]