Most of the time, all you see in the credit is “NASA.” Whether they’re capturing a spectacular launch, the intricate engineering of a Mars rover, or the emotions of an astronaut’s family saying goodbye, the professional photographers who take pictures at the space agency’s dozen or so centers remain mostly anonymous to the millions of us who enjoy their work daily.
Maura White wanted to change that. As the head of mission imagery at the Johnson Space Center’s multimedia office in Houston, she presided over the agency’s 2nd annual Photographer of the Year contest. “Since they work for the federal government, acknowledgement of a NASA photographer’s work usually goes unnoticed,” she explains. “This award ceremony allows for friendly competition, bragging rights, and acknowledgement for being so crucial to NASA’s mission.”
White pulled together a panel of expert judges, including astronaut Don Pettit and Air & Space’s Photo Editor Caroline Sheen, and asked them to review submissions from around 70 NASA photographers. The winning entries in four categories appear above, with a few of the runner-ups below. Judging from the quality this year, we can look forward to more great photos in the future.