Mr. Space Shut­tle’s fi­nal shoot Pho­tog­ra­pher recorded 30 years of launches

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY MARC LAN­CASTER

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. | When Space Shut­tle Chal­lenger dis­in­te­grated in flames and smoke on the morn­ing of Jan. 28, 1986, panic rip­pled through the photo depart­ment at Newsweek. As space shut­tle launches had be­come some­what rou­tine, the mag­a­zine hadn’t both­ered to send a pho­tog­ra­pher to doc­u­ment Chal­lenger’s lat­est mis­sion.

It ap­peared that Newsweek might be caught emp­ty­handed on one of the big­gest news sto­ries in years, but photo op­er­a­tions man­ager Kevin McVea had an idea. He would call Scott An­drews.

“We knew he was there,” Mr. McVea said. “He was Mr. Space Shut­tle.”

Even then, five years into the shut­tle pro­gram, the An­nan­dale, Va.-based pho­tog­ra­pher’s rep­u­ta­tion was well es­tab­lished. Mr. An­drews had been there from the very be­gin­ning and has re­mained a fix­ture at launches, miss­ing only two shut­tle flights through three decades of tri­umph and tragedy.

He was at Kennedy Space Cen­ter once again on July 8 to mon­i­tor the dozens of cam­eras he had set up at ever y con­ceiv­able an­gle around the launch­pad in prepa­ra­tion for the 135th and fi­nal shut­tle flight.

The mis­sion will bring one era of U.S. space ex­plo­ration to an em­phatic close while ush­er­ing in an era filled with ques­tions and un­cer­tainty for NASA and U.S. space ex­plo­ration.

An un­fa­vor­able fore­cast for the morn­ing launch was just one of myr­iad com­pli­ca­tions weigh­ing on Mr. An­drews’ mind in the week lead­ing up to the event as he and his team scram­bled to de­ploy more than 30 cam­eras through­out Kennedy Space Cen­ter and be­yond, each de­signed to cap­ture a spe­cific an­gle as At­lantis arced from Launch Pad 39a one last time.

There wasn’t a fin­ger on the shut­ter of any of those cam­eras as the shut­tle de­parted. Many of them were so close to the launch­pad that a per­son stand­ing in that spot at liftoff would be killed by the vi­bra­tions. Oth­ers were po­si­tioned in ar­eas that are off lim­its to ob­servers. But all of them, Mr. An­drews hopes, will pro­vide a se­ries of mem­o­rable pho­to­graphs that couldn’t be made with a cam­era op­er­ated man­u­ally sev­eral miles far­ther away.

“Launch day is al­most an­ti­cli­mac­tic,” Mr. An­drews said. “It’s like you’re har­vest­ing what you sowed in pre­vi­ous days there.”

‘Space geek’ from the start

The seeds of Mr. An­drews’ fas­ci­na­tion with the space pro­gram date to his child­hood. He re­mem­bers watch­ing from his un­cle’s back­yard up the coast near Day­tona Beach as the Apollo 9 mis­sion launched in 1969. Then 14 years old, he was hooked im­me­di­ately, grav­i­tat­ing to “just the whole spirit of it” as the U.S. raced to put a man on the moon.

He watched the next Apollo launch with his fa­ther, and by Apollo 15 in 1971 — when Mr. An­drews was a stu­dent at An­nan­dale High School in An­nan­dale, Va. — he was min­gling with pho­tog-

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