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Mr. Space Shuttle’s final shoot
Photographer ready to record last launch, capping 30 years
Question of the Day
Others had done plenty of experimenting with remote triggers, using devices such as a cake pan that would set off the camera when vibrations from the launch reached a certain level. Sound triggers like that could be tripped accidentally, though, by low-flying aircraft that used to circle the pad before launches.
Mr. Andrews‘ idea was to set up triggers featuring built-in alarm clocks set to power up only during the launch window. That kept the triggers from firing prematurely - an especially important fix when those unmanned cameras were shooting through rolls of film rather than today’s high-memory digital media cards.
His system quickly gained favor among those who regularly photographed launches, and wire services such as the Associated Press and United Press International - and eventually NASA itself - ended up buying his timers. He kept refining the system based on trial and error. Within a couple of years, camera manufacturer Nikon had hired him as a technical representative in its Washington office. He now works in a similar capacity for Canon.
“Of course, there’s lots of other guys that have boxes out there and triggers and mechanisms, but it seems like Scott’s is just proven from all his years of experience,” said Bill Ingalls, NASA’s senior contract photographer. “He really knows what he’s doing for that kind of stuff.”
Coupling Mr. Andrews‘ technical expertise and his willingness to share his knowledge and techniques with others - “He’s really an awful businessman,” said his son, Philip - he quickly became the go-to guy for advice on how to make a photograph anywhere photographers weren’t allowed.
Mr. Andrews has set up remote cameras for numerous presidential inaugurations and in the gallery of the U.S. Senate. He got the call to rig the camera system inside the courtroom during the O.J. Simpson murder trial and regularly consults on projects with government and military entities.
“I’ve been able to test equipment in very, very hazardous situations both in safety and in weather-related things and apply it to how I can help somebody out in Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said. “I can say categorically that this camera, if you put it next to a howitzer or a light gun of some sort, or you’re in a firefight, it is going to work.”
Mr. Andrews‘ obsessive pre-launch planning and technical expertise paid dividends on one of the darkest days for the space program.
Having witnessed so many launches, Mr. Andrews was in the midst of his usual routine as Challenger roared off the launchpad for what turned out to be its final liftoff. With his cameras set up in the field, Mr. Andrews was shooting with a handheld camera near the press site when a fellow photographer noted something unusual a little over a minute after launch.
As Mr. Andrews reflexively kept shooting photos, the bystander suggested that the shuttle might have aborted its mission and was turning to return for an emergency landing at the launch site. Mr. Andrews thought it was too low for that to happen.
“I knew that they were basically, um, lost,” he said. “It was a shock, a real shock.”
“I was afraid they were going to lock the place down,” he said.
In the meantime, he heard from Newsweek’s Mr. McVea, an acquaintance from work at inaugurations. The magazine didn’t have a photographer assigned to the launch. Karen Mullarkey, the director of photography, was planning only a small spread inside the magazine focusing on Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher slated to travel to space.
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About the Author
Marc Lancaster has covered Major League Baseball for the Tampa Tribune and the Cincinnati Post and served as an editor at FanHouse.com and SportsIllustrated.com. A University of Georgia graduate, he began his career as a sportswriter at the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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