Cameras are like our memories: They preserve snapshots of they way things are at a unique point in time, creating links to places, people and events that we can no longer visit in person. The conflict between this sense we have of eternity, and yet being stuck in mortal bodies, provides a never-ending protagonist as we photographers tell stories by writing with light.
Today I came across this photo I made in 2013 of one of the launch pads at Kennedy Space Center. I was struck with a new connection to it, as this week part of the tower has been torn down to make way for the new Falcon 9 Heavy rocket made by SpaceX.
I took this photo on a pilgrimage of sorts. I love watching while history is being made. As a young photographer it fueled my desire to be a photojournalist. In high school, I was able to cover part of the 1988 Presidential race as Ronald Reagan and Michael Dukakis both visited my swing state of Ohio. Seeing people up close that I’d only watched on the evening news was an incredible rush to a 16-year-old.
Over time, I realized that I value a personal connection to places and events. It’s one thing to see a picture of something like Stonehenge, but until I stood before it, it wasn’t as real.
It’s with that motivation that I traveled to Kennedy Space Center in the spring of 2013. NASA was flying Space Shuttle Endeavour to Los Angeles, and I had secured VIP passes to be on the flight line the morning it flew out. I really wanted to see a space shuttle on the back of a 747, and this was my last chance because it was never going to happen again. I was also able to take a special tour of Launch Complex 39A...the site where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took flight to become the first men on the moon. This launch pad went on to serve the shuttle program with 82 shuttle launches. Because the pad was not in use for the first time in nearly 35 years, up-close tours were allowed in ways that hadn’t been before, and are no longer available, since it has become a main launch site for SpaceX.
It was a powerful moment for me to stand inside the fence at pad 39A and have a few brief minutes to examine and photograph a place I’d thought about since I was a small boy. This is a very personal photograph that represents far more than just the subject before the camera. And today, knowing that this scene is gone forever, I’m very glad I had the chance to make it.
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