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NASA Reveals Winners of Its Photographer of the Year Competition

An astronaut portrait, a wind tunnel, a vibe table and a lunar geology test come out on top.

NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn looks out from a spacesuit helmet in a side portrait with dramatic lighting.
A cropped look at NASA photographer Josh Valcarel's portrait of astronaut Thomas Marshburn.
NASA/Josh Valcarel

There are some knockout photography competitions out there, like this one for comedy wildlife and that one for astronomy. NASA, too, runs a Photographer of the Year competition. Its contest honors the shutterbugs who work for the space agency. 

The NASA Headquarters Photo Department revealed the winners of its fourth annual awards last week. They show the depth and breadth of what goes on at NASA. Each one is a beauty. The competition has four categories: documentation, portrait, people and places. 

Photographer Norah Moran took top honors in the documentation division for a fascinating view of two NASA testers working through lunar field geology tasks at night at the Johnson Space Center Rock Yard, a place that mimics landscape features of the moon and Mars. Future moon-exploring astronauts will be investigating the geology of the lunar surface.

Two NASA testers try out lunar field geology tasks at night at the Johnson Space Center Rock Yard, a place that mimics landscape features of the moon and Mars.

NASA/Norah Moran

Spacesuit-wearing astronaut Thomas Marshburn posed for photographer Josh Valcarel for a dramatically lit black-and-white portrait. Marshburn had a busy 2021 as part of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station.   

NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn looks out from inside a spacesuit.

NASA/Josh Valcarel

Goddard Space Flight Center photographer Denny Henry captured an action shot in mid-2021 of engineering technician Ryan Fischer prepping a table used for vibration testing of spacecraft in Maryland. It's a behind-the-scenes look at the physical work that can go into NASA's spacecraft development. It took first place in the people division.

A man works a large torque wrench while bracing against a spacecraft vibration testing table.

It takes a lot of effort to tune the "vibe table" used for testing spacecraft at the Goddard Space Flight Center. 

NASA/Denny Henrty

The winner of the places category looks like a CGI shot from a sci-fi film. Photographer Dominic Hart snapped the imposing view of the US Navy Blue Angels crew touring a wind tunnel facility at NASA's National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex at the Ames Research Center in California. The structure towers over the people.

First place in the place category went to this view of a massive wind tunnel facility in California.

NASA/Dominic Hart

The top winners are just a small sampling of the tremendous output of the photographers who document NASA's every move, from building spacecraft to training future astronauts. Be sure to check out the second place and third place winners for more gems.