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Space Shuttle Photo Op Becomes a Personal Tribute

Being a photographer, the first thing you think of when you hear that the space shuttle will be doing a flyby over Manhattan is whether it will be a great photo op.

I did my research and figured out that I could get a great shot of the shuttle flying past the Manhattan skyline from a park in Weehawken, NJ. I wasn’t the only one with this idea in mind and I found myself jockeying for a spot between a Japanese TV crew and some news photographers.

NYC Space Shuttle.

A large crowd had gathered and excitement was in the air. It reminded me of when my parents let us stay home from school to watch the Olympic torch relay. Watching the shuttle make its way up the Hudson river, I started thinking about how awesome it must have been to watch a space shuttle take off. I thought about the space shuttle iron-on that I had put on my jacket when I was a kid. I thought of when I learned about both space shuttle disasters. It made me realize that this was not just a photo op, but we were witnessing the end of an era.

NYC Space Shuttle.

As that shuttle flew over too high and close to get the skyline shot that I had hoped for, I got a little emotional and felt tears running down my face.

NYC Space Shuttle.

I quickly wiped them away before the Japanese TV crew on my right side or the news photographers on my left side noticed and I became the poster child for the end of the space shuttle program.

NYC Space Shuttle.

As the shuttle continued it’s piggyback ride up the Hudson, I recomposed myself and hoped it would fly closer to Manhattan on its way back down the river. Not sure if it was the wind, security issues or if they just didn’t care about the people watching from the NJ shore, but that plane flew almost directly above us on its way back down the Hudson.

NYC Space Shuttle.

What I expected to be just a photo op turned out to be a farewell of sorts to a program that started when I was at an age where we all wanted to be astronauts and continued for three decades. I am disappointed that I did not get the photo I had planned, but I am glad I got to say farewell to an old friend.

April 27, 2012 - 6:24 pm

Sally Sanford - I love your story. I too felt sentimental watching the last flight, but I saw it on TV. Thanks to your photos, I feel as if I was there. Would love to see the Japanese paper with your photo!

April 27, 2012 - 7:11 pm

Julia Milmore - Thank you for these photos and for your sharing your thoughts. I agree, it will be missed, the end of an era.

April 28, 2012 - 5:26 pm

Craig Rennerq - Great pictures and story! Glad you were able to make it there to experience firsthand.

May 31, 2012 - 9:57 am

Jake - Nice story. I was thinking of going in late to work to see it and now I wish I did.