Although 2011 saw the end of the exciting Space Shuttle launches, 2012 would still see plenty of cool launches and the deliveries of each shuttle orbiter to its respective museum. I would meet many amazing people along the way and continue to share the exciting times with others.
Note: All photos in this blog are available for purchase. Ordering information can be found HERE.
The busy year of spaceflight photography would start out in March when I traveled to Florida to photograph space shuttle Endeavour inside the Orbiter Processing Facility. I had been really looking forward to this opportunity, as I would get to photograph the crew module of Endeavour powered up. Well unfortunately some last minute changes by the powers at be scrubbed the powered flight deck opportunity and I would only get to photograph a dead orbiter. While still very exciting and special in its own right, it was not the shot I had been hoping for and I would leave quite disappointed.
A couple days later on March 9th, I photographed the ‘shuttle shuffle’ of Discovery and Atlantis between the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) and Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Discovery was departing the OPF for the final time after all transition & retirement activities had been performed on the orbiter. Discovery would be stored inside the cavernous VAB for around a month before she would be flown to Chantilly, VA for permanent display at the Smithsonian’s Udvar Hazy Center.
Around the first of April I would receive a call from NASA saying that I had a time slot to photograph the powered flight deck of Endeavour! The disappointment of a month ago was now gone and a flight to Florida was booked in record time. I still tried to not get my hopes up, as I know things can change, but everything would end up working out. I was given 30 minutes inside the crew module on the morning of April 6th. Spacecraft Operator Bill Powers and I worked together to makes sure all of the lighting was just right for the shot, it was up to me not to screw up the once in a lifetime opportunity. To be able to direct a photo shoot inside a powered orbiter was incredibly special and a proud moment of my time photographing the shuttles. This was one of the final times Endeavour would be powered before her final power down which occurred in mid-May. You can read my blog about the experience HERE.
Later in April I would shoot my first assignment for the popular space news website SpaceflightNow.com, the delivery of shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian. Discovery was the first of the three orbiters to be decommissioned shipped to a museum for display.
During the early morning hours of May 22nd, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 and Dragon. The Dragon capsule would become the first commercial spacecraft to travel to the International Space Station.
Inside Orbiter Processing Facility #1 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on June 26th, workers installed Replica Space Shuttle Main Engine’s (RSME) #2 and #3 into the aft of Atlantis. These activities were part of preparing Atlantis for public display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in a new 100 million dollar exhibit, which is set to open in July 2013.
On June 29th a top-secret satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off on top of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy Rocket.
Our viewing spot provided an extremely rare view of the sun rising directly behind the massive rocket.
Lifting off on over two million pounds of thrust created by the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-68A engines, the Delta IV Heavy, the worlds tallest and most powerful rocket lifts off from launch complex 37B at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Inside Vehicle Assembly Building High Bay 4, Space Shuttle Atlantis sits in storage after being moved from Orbiter Processing Facility #1 on June 29th. Atlantis would stay inside the VAB until mid-August before swapping places with Endeavour so crews could finish preparations for Atlantis’ display.
On August 16th Space Shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour came nose to nose for the final time as they swapped places between the Vehicle Assembly Building and Orbiter Processing Facility #2. Atlantis, which has been stored in the high bay since June 29th, would finish up transition and retirement processing in the OPF before she would eventually be rolled to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. With an aerodynamic tail cone installed, Endeavour has had all transition and retirement activities completed, she would sit inside the VAB until being flown to Los Angeles, CA in mid-September. It would be the last time that two orbiters were ever photographed together.
Space shuttle Endeavour sits in High Bay 4 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building as a Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex tour group views the orbiter as part of the limited time only Up-Close tour of the building.
Note: All photos inside this blog are available for purchase. Ordering information can be found HERE.
On the morning of September 16th, Endeavour, now attached to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, was pushed back from the mate-demate device at the Shuttle Landing Facility in preparation for the cross-country trip to California. You can read my ferry flight blog HERE.
Space shuttle Endeavour is viewed from the overhead cockpit hatch of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
On Wednesday, September 19th Space shuttle Endeavour took off from the Shuttle Landing Facility to begin her journey to California for permanent display.
For the first time since 2008, Space shuttle Endeavour arrives back in California on September 20th. The SCA and orbiter duo are seen on final approach for runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base.
Space shuttle Endeavour is seen during a layover at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.
Space shuttle Endeavour is seen sitting on the tarmac through the hangar door at Dryden Flight Research Center.
On Friday, September 21st Space shuttle Endeavour took off from Runway 04 at Edwards Air Force Base to begin a series of flyovers around the state of California, which included Palmdale, San Francisco, Sacramento, Hollywood and Los Angeles.
Over the course of three days space shuttle Endeavour made the move billed as “Mission 26” from Los Angeles International airport to the California Science Center. The 12 mile journey began during the early morning hours of October 12, 2012. Endeavour eventually arrived at the California Science Center on Sunday October, 14th. You can read my parade blog HERE.
Sitting on top of the Orbiter Transport System (OTS), Atlantis awaits the 9.8 mile trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex where she will go on permanent display. The following day would mark the first time since 1979 an orbiter had not called KSC home. You can read my parade blog HERE.
In the early morning hours of November 2, 2012, Space shuttle Atlantis began her final journey, a 9.8 mile trip to the KSC Visitor Center. Riding atop the Orbiter Transport System, Atlantis made two stops along the way for employees, families and visitors to enjoy the final journey of a space shuttle orbiter.
In November I had the opportunity to photograph the NASA “Rubber Room”. With its walls and floor lined with rubber to absorb the blast of a Saturn V just 40ft overhead, crews and astronauts would arrive in this room after sliding down a steep teflon-lined chute from the pad surface. You can read my blog about the experience by clicking HERE.
And this concludes another great year of photographing of spaceflight.
I recently created a Facebook page devoted to my photography where you can stay up to date on recent shoots. Be sure to “like” the page so that you can stay up to date on what is going on!
7 thoughts on “Best Photos of 2012: Spaceflight”
in case anyone ever wondered why I call you ‘Sir Walt’…
Wow, this is really a fantastic collection of images, Walter! You certainly “rose to the occasion” several times to capture all of these. This is a collection that I think you will treasure all of your life.
~ Tim Huebel – Columbia, South Carolina
Simply Spectacular! Excellent,excellent work!!!!
I love getting to see these space shuttle views through your lens. Just wonderful!! My parents live in Merritt Island and I was in their back yard when the Columbia went up the first time. We felt the earth shake and were thrilled to witness history being made. The Cape is a special place all around but especially for its meld of natural Florida and high technology. I wonder what the future holds.
Thanks for sharing these wonderful images.
Thank you Judy, I enjoyed your post about the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse. I have only seen it from a distance, I hope to get a closer look soon. I’m glad you enjoyed the images! I look forward to the future programs and I hope I can be there to document them.