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  Air & Space: Top NASA Photos of All Time

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Author Topic:   Air & Space: Top NASA Photos of All Time
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 27373
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-18-2008 03:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Air & Space Magazine: Top NASA Photos of All Time
By The Space History Division, National Air and Space Museum

#1: The whole Earth from space, as photographed by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972. Arguably the most influential image to come out of the American space program.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which began its operations on October 1, 1958, we offer this list of the 50 most memorable images from NASA's history. We recognize that any such ranking is inherently subjective. The rationale for why any one image ranked two slots higher than any other combines several factors, including our attempt to balance the list between human spaceflight, satellite imaging, and planetary exploration. Many wonderful images did not make the final cut -- we couldn't convince the editors to give us 20 pages instead of 10.

The list omits significant events from space history that were not NASA achievements, such as the famous 1958 photograph of Wernher von Braun and the other architects of the Explorer 1 satellite celebrating their success by holding a model of the satellite over their heads, an event that occurred months before NASA existed. Photos from the Apollo moon program predominate, as well they should -- it remains the agency's crowning achievement. We also recognize that, even though the first "A" in NASA stands for "aeronautics," our list is light on aeronautical breakthroughs. Our only excuse is that the ranking reflects the affinity of the division of space history staff for space topics.

We welcome the discussion we know this list will spark. Debating which images should or shouldn't have been ranked, and how high, would be an appropriate way to mark the past half century of NASA's accomplishments.

The first 31 photographs can be seen on the magazine's website.

Did they get the list correct? Did they miss any obvious choices? Did they pick photos that shouldn't have been chosen?


Posts: 198
From: Washington, DC USA
Registered: Dec 2006

posted 09-18-2008 04:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DCCollector   Click Here to Email DCCollector     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The photograph of a very apprehensive looking Alan Shepard just prior to his flight, now displayed prominently at Launch Complex 5/6, would have been a great addition. I think the look on Shepard's face captures a great deal about those early pioneers.

KC Stoever

Posts: 1009
From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 09-18-2008 05:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I dunno. They're all great. I guess I'd like to have seen Ralph Morse's LIFE magazine cover shot showing John Glenn in his visor-up helmet. Maybe Glenn was just hot. But the expression Morse captured comes across as a study in American cold war resolve.

I suppose the editors made an editorial decision, too, to limit the images just to astronauts, hardware, and space vistas.

But some of the images from spaceflight history that I like best of all show bystanders, willing taxpayers, and servicemen on recovery operations. Americans standing on the beach, eyes skyward, to see the early launches. Ecstatic Navy crewmen straining for the first sight of, for example, Al Shepard's capsule that they're helping to fish out of the sea. Images like that, which capture a nation's mood.


Posts: 2284
From: Renton, WA USA
Registered: Jan 2000

posted 09-18-2008 06:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I didn't see the Phoenix lander under the parachute taken from the MRO in orbit around Mars. That photo made me fall out of my chair - twice!

Mike Dixon

Posts: 767
From: Kew, Victoria, Australia
Registered: May 2003

posted 09-18-2008 08:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Agreed Tom... it deserved a slot.

I also thought Gemini 6 and 7 might have made an appearance.


Posts: 2566
From: Netherlands
Registered: Nov 2001

posted 09-19-2008 12:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for heng44   Click Here to Email heng44     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My feeling is that the choice was influenced by what they could find on the internet. And why is the photo of John Glenn during his flight in B&W? I am not too impressed, but I admit it is hard to impress me...

Also: Echo was an important project, but that's no reason to call a photo of Echo in a hangar one of NASA's top photos.


Posts: 4065
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 09-19-2008 12:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No photos of Saturn by the Cassini orbiter. No pictures of Uranus and Neptune by Voyager... but a photo of JFK? That's not even a NASA photo...


Posts: 1567
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 09-19-2008 01:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And the photo of Stafford and Leonov shaking hands on the ASTP mission?


Posts: 3046
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 09-19-2008 03:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree Tom - the Phoenix lander is THE big omission and stands alongside the Voyager shot of moon and Earth. There's no structure to these photos - historical timeline? seminal events? major achievements? There are many I'd dispute as being "top photos" - Ride, Armstrong X-15, Echo...


Posts: 365
From: McLean, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2004

posted 09-19-2008 09:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for collocation   Click Here to Email collocation     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is the Apollo 13 picture color enhanced? I just have never seen this picture in color only black and white.


Posts: 391
Registered: Jul 2007

posted 09-19-2008 09:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for lm5eagle   Click Here to Email lm5eagle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some amazing shuttle launch photographs missing from the list!


Posts: 2284
From: Renton, WA USA
Registered: Jan 2000

posted 09-19-2008 12:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Echo one is kind of strange also. I do think that Mars Phoenix is right up there with Apollo 8's Earthrise photo. I just think that photo just screams "exploration!" I have that printed out and above my head here in my cubicle.

Just looked up at it again... ohh yeah! That's fine stuff! Hehe!


Posts: 136
Registered: Dec 2010

posted 07-27-2013 08:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jemmy   Click Here to Email jemmy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Found this to be very interesting and wanted to share: Top NASA Photos of All Time By The Space History Division, National Air and Space Museum

Editor's note: Threads merged.


Posts: 1578
From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 07-27-2013 09:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some nice photos but I don't think the charred interior of Apollo 1 or the Challenger explosion photos should be in this compilation. Yes they are important parts of NASA's history but not (to me) one of the top NASA photos of all time.


Posts: 389
From: Bloomington, Illinois, USA
Registered: May 2005

posted 07-27-2013 09:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for J.L   Click Here to Email J.L     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Gary regarding the Apollo 1 and Challenger photos, and there are certainly some better photos from the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo era that were passed over. The person picking these appeared to be trying to hit each milestone, regardless of image quality. Could very well have been a young intern sitting down at the NASA GRIN site.

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