We down­load ev­ery sin­gle pic­ture we take. Whether it’s good, bad, in­dif­fer­ent or ugly, we down­load it to NASA and they keep it

Don­ald Pet­tit, astro­naut and pho­tog­ra­pher

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hen grow­ing up in Ore­gon, Don Pet­tit loved tak­ing

pic­tures. He even used pho­tog­ra­phy to help with his high school stud­ies, and later when com­plet­ing his PhD in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing. But tak­ing pic­tures in space was just a dream un­til he de­cided to fill in an ap­pli­ca­tion to join NASA. That’s when his ca­reer re­ally went into or­bit…

As a child, did you want to be an astro­naut when you grew up?

Yes and no. When I was a kid I saw [pi­o­neer­ing astro­naut] John Glenn go up and I thought, ‘Wow! That’s re­ally neat’, but then I got ab­sorbed into sci­ence, math and en­gi­neer­ing, and I didn’t think it was some­thing that I could do un­til I grad­u­ated with my PhD in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing. I then thought, ‘Hey, I could do this’, and it just so hap­pened that NASA was re­cruit­ing, so I put in an ap­pli­ca­tion.

You be­came an astro­naut in 1996. What place did pho­tog­ra­phy have in your life?

Well, pho­tog­ra­phy has been a main­stay in my life. When I was a lit­tle kid, maybe six or seven, I had a Brownie cam­era. I started us­ing 127 film and I could only af­ford black-and-white, and I did all my own de­vel­op­ment and print­ing. I just loved pho­tog­ra­phy. I grad­u­ated through a se­ries of old film cam­eras and I would al­ways do my own dark­room work. Any place that I hap­pened to be or what­ever project I was do­ing, I would al­ways il­lus­trate it with photographs, so it’s been a life-long pas­sion.

How were you able to use pho­tog­ra­phy for your tech­ni­cal stud­ies?

I started to get into tech­ni­cal pho­tog­ra­phy at high school, where I’d take pic­tures through mi­cro­scopes and through tele­scopes; I did astropho­tog­ra­phy as an am­a­teur as­tronomer. At col­lege I had the op­por­tu­nity to do tech­ni­cal pho­tog­ra­phy for the chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing depart­ment, so I’ve al­ways fig­ured out how to bring pho­tog­ra­phy into what­ever mode of liv­ing I hap­pen to be do­ing.

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