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NASA Behind the Scenes: Launch Pad Photography

Launch shot captured by Julian Leek.
Launch shot of the Atlas V and the MAVEN spacecraft captured by Julian Leek.

In the world of modern spaceflight, we are spoiled with close up imagery of rockets launching. Thanks to cameras mounted on the side of rockets we often get to ride along with the rocket watching stage separations in real time. After witnessing my first rocket launch in March of this year, SpaceX CRS-2 mission, I began wondering what type of photography equipment was needed to capture a rocket launch. With all of the long distance transmitting we see with space flight, it’s easy to imagine photographers in a room monitoring and maneuvering their cameras as the launch takes place. That doesn’t even come close to reality.

Before each NASA Kennedy Space Center launch, photographers from around the world gather on the launch pad to set up remotely triggered cameras. Getting the launch pad money shot is risky and involves careful positioning to keep cameras stable and protected from debris shooting from the launch pad flame duct. Before these cameras face earth shaking vibrations from the rocket engines igniting, they are often subjected to harsh coastal winds, rains, and changing temperatures—all of which are a camera’s worst enemy.

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DIY Space

Space Exploration is a new theme to South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive. One of the courses that caught my attention was Crowd-Sourcing the Space Frontier. The session shed light on several hands-on opportunities for space enthusiasts.

Edward Wright, of the United States Rocket Academy, thinks we are entering a third age of space. The first age being government driven and the second age provided wealthy individuals opportunity to travel to space. The third age is do-it-yourself transportation, technology, and research. Wright compares what’s happening with space right now to what we experienced with personal computing. When parts to build computers became readily accessible, there was a great increase in computing innovation.

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Pinehead will be at SXSW Interactive!!

March is turning of to be a super lucky month for me. Last week I was representing Pinehead at the SpaceX launch at the Kennedy Space Center and this week I’m representing Pinehead at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive! SXSW is most known as a music and film festival but last year Interactive hosted about 19,000 people, about a third of attendees at the three SXSW conferences.

So I wanted your input on what you’d like covered. Think of me as your conference robot, I will report form the sessions you are interested in. There are two tracks I’m focused on, Space and Open Source but if there is something you’d like me to attend, just speak up! Below is a list of some of courses in those two areas with links to the course descriptions. Leave a comment if you’d like me to attend a particular session and/or if you have any questions you’d liked me to ask.

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