I first came across Philip Scott Andrew’s Last Days photo essay a while back while I was still working on contract at NASA Ames Research Center right before the end of the Space Shuttle program. Ames is home to the largest federal supercomputer, the NASA Kepler mission, and a slew of other amazing missions/projects; it is not involved in launch of manned space crafts. Even still the day after the Shuttle Program it seemed like a dark veil or stormy cloud hovered above the Research Park. Few engineers and employees were out and about; the heads of the seldom few were hung heavy. Even I, whom didn’t dream of being an astronaut as child, who starting working at NASA because it was a golden opportunity to share amazing content in an innovative fashion, sunk a little.
Andrew’s photographs capture end of the NASA Space Shuttle Program in such a triumphant manner. In his frames, there is no confusion or dismay about where the Space Program is headed. There is no bitterness to lack of direction and aimless quest of human space flight. It glorifies the accomplishments and tireless of work of so many individuals to place man into orbit.
His artist statement in Issue 9 of Daylight Magazine reads:
In the simplest terms, these photographs tell a story about men and women who show up to work every day and launch spaceships. It is a marvel, a symbol of the United States’ twentieth century dominance. But it is a tragic story. The U.S. is abandoning not only its manned spaceflight program but the individuals behind it whose ingenuity, bravery, and attention to detail made the program not only possible, but reliable… In looking back, we can look ahead to find the next adventure over the horizon.
Last Days truly captures a moment in time. The work is pretty phenomenal in taking a snapshot of the unparalleled nationalistic spirit and technical accomplishment only possible through the hands of many. Check out his website, it’s full of gems.