Best Photos of 2010: Space Shuttle Program

I have always had an interest in our Space Program. Due to the fact I regularly visit Florida I have been fortunate enough to view many launches from the surrounding areas. Since the tragic loss of Space Shuttle Columbia in early 2003, I have attempted to view many more shuttle launches including the return to flight in 2005. Unfortunately it was starting to look like I may never see or get to photograph another shuttle launch. So in 2009 after being back in Florida and once again missing another launch I began talking to a friend about the whole deal and she told me she had a sister-in-law who worked at Kennedy Space Center, so I will let you all make your own conclusion on how that turned out from the images below… : )

In February I was in Daytona covering the NASCAR races at Daytona, I had just finished shooting the Budweiser Shootout and had to leave the track shortly after the race ended and head down to Kennedy Space Center for Endeavours launch a few hours later. I originally thought I would be viewing from the NASA causeway which is about 6.5 miles away from Pad 39-A, well I ended up a few hundred feet away from the historic Vehicle Assembly Building, yes my jaw dropped.  A little over three miles from the launch pad, this is the closest anyone except emergency crews and the astronauts themselves can get to the pad. So its sounding great, well about a hour before launch it was decided to scrub for the night due to heavy cloud cover. So the next evening I was back at KSC but this time I had the chance to view from the Banana Creek viewing area! It was a chilly but perfect night for a launch and I was able to create the two images above.


For this launch I set up three cameras, all with different shots in mind. At the time this launch was the final scheduled night launch. I had never done a streak shot of a launch before but I was still able to get a somewhat decent shot. Looking back I can think of several things I should have done, etc. Leaving Kennedy Space Center that early morning I wondered if I would ever be back, well thankfully I would be back a few more times during year.

In May I was back at Kennedy Space Center for the final planned launch of Atlantis (OV-104). Due to the early afternoon sun and tremendous amount of heat rising from the ground I was not able to get as many good shots from this launch. Once the shuttle gained altitude, the atmosphere became much clearer and I was still able to get some great shots however!

Due to some scheduling delays and problems with Space Shuttle Discovery, this would end up being the last shuttle launch of 2010, but the fun was just beginning. With the way things are looking, this could have very well been the final day launch of the Space Shuttle Program, with that said I am very happy I was able to shoot it.


On September 20, I was back at Kennedy Space Center for what was to be the final rollout of Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103). Viewing a rollout was something I had never had the pleasure of doing so it was quite an incredible experience. I was amazed at the size of the shuttle stack as it passed only a few feet in front of me.

The rollout happened shortly after sunset which is a pretty rare occurrence as most rollouts start around midnight. I tried to incorporate the sunset into the shot whenever I could.

A great lighting team lit up the shuttle as it headed out to the pad with extremely powerful XENON lights.

A few days later Kennedy Space Center opened the gates for employees to bring in friends and family to tour the complex. The above shot of Discovery was shot from a moving vehicle as we toured both launch pads.

The highlight of the day was being able to tour Endeavour’s (OV-105) Orbiter processing facility. I never dreamed of being able to stand under the orbiter while it was still active! With the use of my wide angle lens I was able to get this overall view of the aft end of Endeavour.

With all three main engines installed, Endeavour waits for her final mission next year.

Clouds loom over the massive Vehicle Assembly Building.

The size of the VAB is incredible, looking up 526 feet straight up is almost dizzying.

A never used Space Shuttle main engine sits in the engine processing facility.

Although this blog is all about the Space Shuttle Program, I thought I would include this photo I was able to capture of a rare Delta IV Heavy rocket launch in late November.

This concludes my “Best Space Flight Photos of 2010” blog. I am looking forward to continuing my coverage of the program next year as it winds down. It is very unfortunate that this amazing vehicle is being retired, but I am happy I have been able to document some of the final events of the program. I still have one more goal and that is to shoot one of the remaining shuttle launches for a news outlet, hopefully by the end of next year that will have become reality.


One thought on “Best Photos of 2010: Space Shuttle Program

  1. Walter,
    I must say they keep on getting better,and better. I think the most profound shot that you captured of the Shuttle, that expresses the conclusion of the Shuttle program is the sixth shot down from the top.
    You were able to capture the shadow of Discovery on the VAB, as Discovery roles out to Launch Pad 39-A. It’s image is still there, as your images will be there to remind us of a wonderful era of Space Travel, and Science.
    This is most appropriate.

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