NASA STS-72 mission
America’s fleet of space shuttle orbiters were in service for 30 years, but after 135 missions the era of the NASA space shuttle has now ended. Each shuttle was named after a pioneering sea vessel that established new frontiers in research and exploration. In 1986 the Challenger orbiter was destroyed shortly after lift-off, it was replaced in 1987 by the Endeavour (OV–105).
In 1995, I was granted unprecedented access to the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, and the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, USA, to document the final months of a yearlong intensive training program preparing for the NASA Space Transportation System mission (STS-72) in January 1996.
After a flawless launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, Endeavour (OV-105) began the nine-day mission. The primary objectives whilst in orbit were to retrieve the Japanese Space flyer unit (SFU) launched by the Japanese in March 1995. Additionally, the crew deployed and retrieved a second spacecraft carrying NASA-sponsored experiments. Later in the mission crewmembers Dan Barry, Leroy Chiao, and Winston Scott conducted two six-and-a-half-hour spacewalks to test hardware and tools that were to be used in the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) that became operational in 1998.
These images, taken 25 years ago, have recently become the focus of my attention once again. After revisiting them in 2020 during the Covid19 lockdown, which allowed him the time to edit “without the pressures of the original deadline”, he discovered an abundance of photographs that had been overlooked. Bringing them together, along with hundreds of images he uncovered at the US National Archives that were made in Earth’s orbit and captured by the original STS-72 crew, he created this new work. Titled NASA STS-72 the project pays tribute to a remarkable group of astronauts at a crucial point in the Space Shuttle programme.
Since the first manned space mission, some of the most important items that the astronauts have brought back from space have been their photographs, which have over the years permanently changed the way we think, feel, and see our place in the universe.
John Angerson is a Guest Contributor for Panorama
John Angerson (b.1969 Bristol, England) started his career in the early 1990s, covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and the changing geopolitical landscape of Eastern Europe. Since then, his work has continued to explore the different languages of documentary photography, focusing on how specific communities form, shift and develop. His projects have garnered critical acclaim and have been exhibited at major art institutions in the UK and overseas. His monograph – Love, Power, Sacrifice (published by Dewi Lewis, Manchester) documented the Jesus Army over twenty years and peers into a microcosm of a fanatical religion. His most recent book; English Journey (published by B&W studio, Leeds) was a 4-year photographic travelogue across England in the footsteps of Bradford author J.B. Priestley. The work presents a purposefully non-nostalgic, contemporary view of England. It casts the lens on the globalized economic framework at call centres, transnational hotel chains and the co-dependency of international outsourcing. The work was shown in exhibitions across the UK and Europe and the book has sold across three continents since its publication. He now splits his time between shooting personal projects, teaching at various Universities and shooting features and portraiture for a range of magazines, charities and design agencies.
NASA STS-72 book can be purchased here: https://www.johnangerson.com/shop/nasa-sts