Nasa portraits

by Laara Matsen, photo editor D2 magazine

Taken by fellow astronaut Jack Schmitt as a sort of snapshot, and part of NASA’s extensive and wonderful archive of space imagery, this photograph is of Gene Cernan, Commander of Apollo 17, the last man to walk on the moon. I came upon it years ago, hanging on the wall at the Museum of Natural History in New York, and it resonates with me still. A man at work, covered in moon dust, exhausted and seemingly content, the image speaks to me of the quieter side of grand adventure. Exploration of the unknown is a romantic and exciting notion by nature, and one that led me to photography (among other endeavors) in the first place, but I am especially taken and moved by the less romantic aspects of exploration: the grit of the moon dust. This is a photograph taken after a significant event has occurred, post-climactic. I am often compelled by images of such after-moments, the almost forgotten underbelly of the “main attraction”. While the factual situation documented is anything but common (gunpowder-scented moon dirt clinging to skin, walking in space, probing into mysterious and dangerous territory), there is also something immensely accessible and intimate in this photograph. The simplicity of the moment is at once direct, calm, mundane and ephemeral.

Commander Eugene Cernan After Three Days of Lunar Exploration; Photographed by Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17, December 7-19, 1972, Michael Light, fra prosjektet Full Moon. Transparency NASA; digital image © 1999 Michael Light

Commander Eugene Cernan After Three Days of Lunar Exploration; Photographed by Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17, December 7-19, 1972, Michael Light, fra prosjektet Full Moon. Transparency NASA; digital image © 1999 Michael Light