For the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend I made the trip down to the Space Coast to cover the launch of an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Mars Science Laboratory into space. The new rover, which is about the size of a small car, is NASA’s most ambitious mission to the Red Planet to date and will make use of a rocket powered sky crane to lower the rover onto the surface upon arrival. The 354 million mile journey will take over eight months and it will arrive next August.
On Friday, shortly after the rocket was rolled out to the pad, photographers were escorted out to the pad to set up remote cameras. I set up two remotes for this launch. Since nobody can be near the launch pad during the launch, the cameras must be triggered by sound or other means. The triggers are normally custom built and they can often malfunction. For some reason one of my triggers that had not failed me yet quit working, but luckily my bud Alan Walters had an extra trigger he loaned me for the launch.
After setting my first remote up and testing it out, it was working fine so I went over to my next location to set up my second remote. For some reason the connection from my trigger to my camera started malfunctioning on the first camera I set up and it started to fire off around 1,200 frames. The above image captured a curious onlooker trying to figure out what the hell was going on! Luckily a fellow photographer noticed the problem and found me! So after completing the setup of my second camera I walked over to the camera and quickly figured out what was wrong and fixed it with some electrical tape…
For launch day musician and NASA supporter WIll.I.AM. from the Black Eyed Peas was in attendance. Here he is seen being interviewed by NASATV.
For the launch I was able to get one of the coveted shooting locations on top of the roof of the 525 ft tall Vehicle Assembly Building. Although the lighting condition were less than optimal, it still provided a very nice view of the launch, backdropped by the Atlantic Ocean.
For this shot, I exposed for the flame which provided for a different look showing the details of the flame and the glint off of the rocket. It was actually a screwup of the exposure on my part, but it still came out looking pretty cool!
Here is a video I shot from the roof.
Around an hour and a half after launch we were taken out to the pad to retrieve our cameras. Here is the singed pad post launch. Note the burnt signs on the tower.
Ice buildup is shaken loose from the Atlas V as the main engine ignites moments before liftoff from complex 41.