NASA has announced the winners of its Photographer of the Year competition, which pays tribute to the best in-house photographic talent. The photos were taken last year and were grouped into four categories: Places, People, Documentation and Portrait. The winners, and second and third place finishers, were announced via Twitter by NASA.
While are some impressive photography competitions out there, focusing on topics such as wildlife astronomy, this one from NASA is truly special – giving an inside look at what goes on at the space agency. Only NASA employees can participate. And they can take just simple selfies or capture their activities using advanced camera equipment.
Let’s start with the top winners. Photographer Josh Valcarel got the first prize in the Portrait category for this black-and-white photo of NASA spacesuit-wearing astronaut Thomas Mashburn. The astronaut had a busy year in 2021. He reached low Earth orbit during NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The first place in the Documentation category was for photographer Norah Moran. His photo shows NASA testers Kelsey Young and Tess Caswell doing lunar field geology work at night at the Johnson Space Center Rock Yard – a place that simulates landscape conditions on the moon and Mars. The tests were part of the xEVA project.
Photographer Denny Henry, who works at the Goddard Space Flight Center, was given first place in the People category. His photo shows Ryan Fischer, an engineer technician, prepping a table used for vibration testing of spacecraft. It’s not a very glamorous shot, but it shows a behind-the-scenes look at an important side of NASA.
The first-place winner of the Places category looks like a shot from a sci-fi film. Photographer Dominic Hart captured a stunning view of the National Full-Scale Aerodynamic Complex. The structure measures 120 feet (36.5 meters) tall and 80 feet (24 meters) wide. The people at the base are the Navy’s Blue Angels flight team.
The first-place winners are just a small sample of the tremendous output of the photographers at NASA. On second place, this Portrait photo shows astronaut Jonny Kim in a high-altitude pressure suit. He wore the suit while being inside a WB-57 aircraft, which can fly to altitudes in excess of 60,000 feet (18.3 kilometers).
Also on second place, there’s this surreal Places photo by Norah Moran. It shows a prototype of a future space suit, known as eXploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), undergoing testing inside the B14 Anechoic Chamber. It’s the successor to spacesuits worn by Apollo astronauts when they set foot on the lunar surface.
Third place also has some remarkable photos. This one by Bill Ingalls in the Places category shows a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft on top. It was taken by NASA photographer Bill Ingalls on November 23, 2021, at the Vandenberg Space Force Base. The DART probe is currently heading to Dimorphos.
Last but not least, NASA photographer Chris Gunn took this impressive shot of the Webb Space Telescope while it was still folded up in the cleanroom at Northrop Grumman, California. The telescope is now in its science phase of the mission and already capturing spectacular views of the cosmos, as we have seen this week.