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STS-135 Atlantis

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image Mitch Traphagen Photo

Standing on the launchpad in front of Atlantis was awe-inspiring.

In my career, I've photographed presidents and celebrities and in all cases I felt honored to do so.  But I have never been so struck as I was standing on Launchpad 39A in front the space shuttle Atlantis during the early morning hours of June 17, 2011.  During the overnight hours, NASA opened the rotating service structure that protects the shuttle from inclement weather in order to load cargo.  Since the shuttle was now visible, NASA invited credentialed media to visit the launch pad for a sunrise photo op.  The weather, lighting and conditions weren't perfect for photography that morning but that didn't detract from actually being there.

Standing directly in front of Atlantis was awe-inspiring.  It drove home just how much this nation has and can accomplish.  This wasn't the result of any political party -- it is the result of an entire nation that believed in reaching for the stars.  It is the result of extraordinarily brilliant and committed people and a very select group of brave and selfless astronauts.  Standing directly in front of me was an American triumph that has no equal on earth.  We do reach for the stars and this is good.

The press area for the launch is approximately three miles away, which is the closest people can be for it.  I've been told that the crowd at the press site tend to be pretty reserved about such things.  I'm not overly self-conscious, thus I'll probably be easy to pick out of the thousands of people at the site.  After I get my photographs, I'll be the one cheering Atlantis on to the stars.  It will be an honor and a privilege to do so.  Go Atlantis!

For more on STS-135 Atlantis, pick up the June 23, 2011 issue of The Observer News.

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