Follow the Leader
Two astronauts walk across the gantry and away from the space shuttle Discovery during a routine practice evacuation in March 2010 for the STS-131 mission. Seven astronauts would ultimately lift off aboard Discovery from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida the following month.
The picture is part of an independent series being created by photojournalist Philip Scott Andrews to document the end of the U.S. space shuttle program. In January 2004 U.S. President George W. Bush called for the shuttles to be retired in the wake of the shuttle Columbia disaster, in which seven astronauts perished when the vehicle disintegrated during reentry.
The shuttle Atlantis lifted off on the final space shuttle mission on July 8 and is close to the end of its 12-day visit to the International Space Station (ISS).
Called Last Days: The Final Flights of the Space Shuttle, Andrews' photo project offers a unique, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of astronauts, the ground crew, and the shuttles themselves as the 30-year program draws to a close.
"My father [veteran photographer Scott Andrews] has covered all but two of these things—133 launches. He's a total dork when it comes to this stuff," Andrews said. "When they announced the end of the shuttle program, we decided we're going to do a big project on this thing."
As Andrews and his father started work on that project—a time-lapse video of shuttle launch preparations—"I happened to be there with my film camera, so I started shooting a separate black-and-white project" that covers several of the final shuttle launches, Andrews said. Although the photos for Last Days were all taken during the past couple years, "I picked black-and-white because I wanted to draw parallels with the classic aesthetic of the Apollo generation."
Space Shuttle Pictures: Rare Behind-the-Scenes Views
A photojournalist with unique access shares visions of the people and places behind the scenes at the final U.S. space shuttle launches.