Poster Boys (and Girls)
Astronauts show a lighter side in their unofficial crew posters.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, July 08, 2011
Courtesy Sean Collins, Robert Markowitz (photographer), and NASA.
When you think of astronauts, several descriptions come to mind: Brave. Intelligent. Heroic. Probably not “humorous.” But once you’ve taken a look at their crew posters, you may change your mind.
Shuttle and space station crews customarily take a series of photographs near the end of their pre-mission training, all shot on the same day. There’s a group photo, individual photos, family shots, and pictures taken with co-workers, foreign aides, and the crew secretary. But the last 15 minutes of the photo shoot are set aside for what has come to be known as a “fun photo.” Over time, the fun photo has transformed into a parody, due to the efforts of one man, Sean Collins, the graphics technical lead at NASA's Johnson Space Center.
The Space Station Expedition 26 poster (above) is typical of Collins’ meticulous work. Having decided it should parody The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album cover, he contacted EMI Music in England to ask about the original photo. Unfortunately, Iain Macmillan, who had done the Abbey Road shoot, died in 2006, and it wasn’t clear who retained the copyright to the image. “So I went over to Building One at Johnson Space Center,” says Collins, “and talked the guard into blocking off traffic. That street was the closest thing I could find that looked like Abbey Road.” In place of the white Volkswagen in the Beatles’ original, Collins inserted a lunar electric rover, and he changed the crosswalk to the Roman numerals 26.
Then he posed the astronauts, with careful attention to posture and hand placement. From left to right are European astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri as “George Harrison”; Cady Coleman as “Paul McCartney” (“Cady was a real good sport,” says Collins. “She took her shoes off and said ‘Can you fix my toenail polish? It’s chipped on one side.’ Instead of a cigarette, I had her hold a shuttle pin that I had in my office.”); Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka as “Ringo Starr”; and station commander Scott Kelly as “John Lennon.”
See more crew posters above, and learn how the tradition started.