NASA returns to space! «Joe McNally Photography

I remember having a fever. I filmed the first three launches and landings of the space shuttle program, officially known as STS-1, 2, 3. The mood at JSC and KSC was great. America has returned to space, in a big way. I speculate the same now, as Artemis and the SLS are getting ready, almost ready to scream space.

Launches are difficult to shoot. I suspect less now because of the magic of digital. Even now, though, the main issue remains the timely activation of the remote cameras, which are placed in the field prior to launch. These cameras must be activated by the missile and fire on their own. We’ll be miles away at launch, shooting super-long glass manned positions, battling Florida heat waves. Our options for remote triggering are line-of-sight activation (the camera moves as the sensor detects a missile’s explosion) or sound-activated, which is sensitive to the rumble of the launch. With sound, however, woe to the cameraman if a seagull screams at their camera before taking off!

To prevent such premature activation, we will be setting up a timing mechanism that will allow all of the camera rig’s circuits to “warm up” just a few minutes before launch. Working as a team with fellow shooter Hank Morgan, tasked with Discovery Magazine, we finally settled on good old US Army Corps of Engineers geodevices. Plug them into the mud of the saltwater estuaries around the launch pad, wire them to a timer, then wire them directly to your camera, they can easily pick up the seismic boom of the rocket and start clicking.

(There’s also a lot of luck if you get a successful zoom shot. Timing is everything for your remote camera. One has to remember they only have 36 exposures.)

The Space Shuttle, carried on the boosters it needed to reach orbit, now seems almost uncanny, compared to the huge sleek Artemus rocket, the most powerful NASA has ever built. .

Moving the space shuttle out in California is a facility of mass activism. They will actually have to drag it through the streets of the neighboring small town of Edwards AFB.

Much later, I had the honor of photographing John Glenn back into space for National Geographic. The senator is an extremely decent, adventurous human being! Intimate with a fault, easygoing and approachable. Easygoing enough to eat donuts in his space suit, along with fellow space traveler Chiaki Mukai.

Or trigger me a camera that I have mounted on the T-38. I just said to him, “Senator, just look at the sun and press this button.” We shared a credit in National Geographic together.

Or cunning enough to make President Clinton later divert from his intended itinerary, having secretly grilled him some space food in the microwave of the space shuttle simulator.

Then there was the amazing construction (at the time) of the space shuttle. Covered in a tile made of silica fiber, it disperses heat so efficiently that you can pick one up, glowing with your bare hands.

We are going back to the moon. Take off !!!

More tk….

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