Photographing Aboard The International Space Station – An Incredible Opportunity!

This is a bittersweet post. On one hand, I’m extremely excited to tell you about an incredible photographic opportunity that has landed in my lap, but on the other hand, I’m sad to say that I’ll have to abandon this blog for two months while I participate in the project. In fact, I’ll have to abandon everything on earth!

It all started a few months ago when NASA implemented a new promotional effort designed to increase public awareness. For the past few decades, fewer and fewer young people have taken up astronomy as a hobby. Sadly, the field has become geriatric, and NASA is concerned that without an infusion of young and brilliant minds, the agency will crumble.

International Space Station

The International Space Station flies over Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nikon D700, Nikon 16mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, f/3.2, ISO 1600, 7 20-second exposures stacked. I'll be spending 2 months aboard the station beginning next month!

Their plan is to generate a renewed interest among the public, beginning with elementary school kids. There are many facets of the campaign, with one of them particularly exciting. They decided to send a civilian photographer to the International Space Station to document the life on the station and, more importantly, to capture great images of the cosmos while there. NASA will use these images in posters, flyers, ad campaigns, and slide shows, all designed to target school kids. They could have chosen a photographer from among the NASA ranks, but they wanted a civilian so there would be more of a connection to the public.    

I’m sure you’ve figured out where this is going. Yes, unbelievably, they chose me! They wanted someone with night photography experience and in their search they came across the Digital After Dark blog and decided that I would be the perfect candidate. I was honored, but also very hesitant. My first response was that there are people who are better qualified, both in photographic experience and, no doubt, in their ability to keep lunch inside while on a moving ship. Another huge concern was the fact that I would have to live on the station for 60 days. I told them I could not go that long without red wine.

The NASA officials told me that none of my concerns was founded. They said they could not think of a better person to fill this role than the great nephew of Ansel Adams and that my images were the best they had seen. They also said that because they were a top-secret government agency, they had access to drugs that would allow me to keep lunch where it belongs during the entire mission, without any negative side effects. (I asked them why these drugs weren’t available to the public and they sputtered something about bureaucratic logjams and the total incompetence of everyone else in the government besides themselves. But that’s the topic for another article.)

But the main reason why I agreed to do this mission is because they told me that I could have all the red wine I wanted, whenever I wanted it. Because I would be civilian aboard the station, I did not have to adhere to the rigid rules that the other astronauts had to follow. They said I could have wine for breakfast if I wanted it. I asked them where they wanted me to sign.

I’ll be leaving the states on May 4 and flying to Moscow, where I’ll board a Russian spaceship that will take me to the ISS. I’ll live on the station until July 5, when a Chinese ship will bring me back. The return date was originally scheduled for July 1, but I told NASA that I wanted to remain through the 4th so I could photograph fireworks from space.

While I’m on the station, I’ll be able to communicate with my wife, but NASA says there is no Internet connection in space, so I won’t be able to make blog posts. I’m going to miss all of my readers during this period, but hopefully I’ll have lots of cool photos to share with you when I get back.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, as I was, how you drink red wine in zero gravity, NASA says I’ll have to drink it through a tube connected to a plastic bladder, like the ones backpackers use. I told them no problem; I’ll just bring the wine bladder I keep hanging from the center post of my tripod.

4 Responses to “Photographing Aboard The International Space Station – An Incredible Opportunity!”

  1. fara Says:

    How excitingfor you to make a great journey. I just started to follow you on your blog. I can’t wait for warmer weather to arrive to starting night shooting. I live out in the country so I have been scouting fields to try this summer you have been such an inspiration to me. Good luck, have fun and happy shooting on your trip of a life time.

  2. Marc Says:

    OK, Kevin. This is really cool. So glad for you.

    However –
    You did write this on April Fools Day…

  3. Kevin Adams Says:

    Thanks so much Fara and Marc! And thanks for following me!

    Hmm, Marc, now that you mention it, I DID write this post on April Fools Day, didn’t I? Talk about coincidences! I’d ponder the relevance of such a discovery more, but I’m afraid I don’t have time. I have to get back to practicing drinking wine in zero gravity.

  4. Marc Says:

    They still use the modified aircraft nicknamed the Vomit Comet for that don’t they? So what’s it like? 😉

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