Vander Galien Acts as Official Photographer for Rocket Launch


SpaceX Rocket LaunchMost people only get to see rocket launches on television. But Craig Vander Galien ’17 not only witnessed a SpaceX rocket launch on July 18 from just a few miles away, he served as one of the official photographers for the event. Vander Galien covered the takeoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 for SpaceNews from the launch site at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Vander Galien said he has always wanted to be a space photographer, so he was thrilled to receive confirmation from NASA on July 5 that he had permission to photograph the event. On the advice of his mother, he had contacted SpaceNews to offer his services—and the news agency accepted and offered him press credentials.

“I’ve watched every rocket launch live for the last two years,” he said. “This was a dream.”

He and a friend drove overnight on July 17 to the launch site in Florida. “It felt like the hottest day in the world,” Vander Galien said. He only had about 35 minutes at the launch pad to set up the two cameras he had rented, which had automatic sound triggers. The vibrations from the rocket launch were so intense, he needed to tape the focus settings in place. He also covered the cameras in plastic bags to protect them from debris when the rocket took off. Then, he and the other official photographers watched the launch from about three miles away.

Until he was allowed to return to the launch pad hours later, Vander Galien didn’t know what kind of images the cameras had captured—if any. “I knew the photos I had taken from the causeway with my camera were OK, but I didn’t know how the others turned out.” The pictures turned out better than OK, and SpaceNews featured three of them in its article about the event.

According to SpaceNews, the launch was a success, lifting a Dragon cargo spacecraft into orbit for delivery to the International Space Station, while the Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed back on land.