CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – Mike Killian has covered the space program as a photographer for a relatively short time. He has only been at it a scant 2 years. In that time however – he has recorded history. He covered the end of the shuttle program, the launch of probes to both worlds close as well as those impossibly far away. Also like his fellow photographers he has fought tooth-and-nail to tell the space flight story.
“Photography is pretty much like anything else,” said Killian during a recent interview. “It’s all about timing – being at the right place – at the right time.”
Killian was present during one of these periods, during one of the evenings prior to the final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour. He turned his camera to the sky and managed to catch lightning as it arced across the Florida sky. For the 27-year-old it was one among many of amazing opportunities that has presented itself as he pursues covering something that has inspired him his entire life – space flight.
Killian, like so many of his colleagues, has begun working with remote cameras. These cameras have batteries that can last several days and are usually activated by either light or sound. He also takes picture on his own from wherever he is during launch. Killian uses 2 Canon Rebel XSi cameras due to the cameras affordability and versatility.
Over the last two years he has managed to cover some very historic events in and around NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Unlike most other photographers – he does have one photo in particular that stands out as his favorite.
“My favorite shot thus far is of a lightning storm over KSC for the night launch of Discovery on STS-128. That storm scrubbed the launch attempt, but the images I captured that night were unreal,” said Killian. “This particular photo has so much going on – Discovery basking in xenon lights atop launch pad 39A fully fueled with her crew onboard, lightning racing through the clouds directly above KSC, & the shuttle training aircraft flying over the storm (upper left of photo) on weather recon trying to determine if there would be any chance the storm could let up in time to support a launch that night. It’s very unique, not your typical launch photo.”
For Killian photographing various elements of the space program allows the new father to combine his love of photography with the passion he feels for the U.S. Space Program. Killian currently works for the ARES Institute as well as Spacearium and has no plans to stop photographing the space program anytime soon. For him this is not about the money, it’s about the history of thunder and the wonder of light and like so many of his fellow photojournalists he feels privileged to be able to do what he does.
“I have loved the space program since I was a child,” Killian said. “Most folks that come out here and do this I doubt very highly that they do it thinking they will get rich. They do it because what they are showing the world is so important, so awe-inspiring…and so beautiful.”