NASA Photographer of the Year

The best shots from the agency’s own photographers in 2019.

Harlen Capen of the Langley Research Center took first in the "People" category for his photo of technicians installing a new flow survey rake for the supersonic Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel (UPWT).
Winner, "People" Category
Jordan Salkin of the Glenn Research Center's portrait of Tim Bencic, inventor of a tomography system for studying icing on airplanes.
Winner, "Portrait" Category
Chris Gunn of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland took this shot of the center’s Space Systems Development and Integration Facility. The entire wall is made up of HEPA filters that remove particles smaller than a red blood cell. A thousand times cleaner than a hospital operating room, the facility is used to test high-value instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope’s Optical Assembly.
Winner, "Places" Category
The Webb Telescope’s Optical Element is prepared for integration onto the Spacecraft Element in this shot by Chris Gunn of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Winner, "Documentation" Category
Technicians and engineers inspect the support structure holding one of the James Webb Space Telescope mirrors in place, as documented by Chris Gunn of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Tony Gray of the Kennedy Space Center captured this pre-dawn scene at Launch Complex 46, during preparations for testing of the Orion spacecraft's launch abort system.
Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson pauses while donning her spacesuit prior to an underwater test at NASA's Johnson Space Center, in this portrait by Bill Ingalls of NASA Headquarters.
Suit techs adjust NASA astronaut Mike Fincke’s visor as he is prepped for an official portrait in his “Boeing Blue” spacesuit, in this photo by Josh Valcarcel of the Johnson Space Center.
Robert Markowitz of the Johnson Space Center caught astronaut Reid Wiseman as he was about to be lowered into the pool-like Neutral Buoyancy Lab where astronauts practice for spacewalks.

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.

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