Growing up in southwest Florida, Nicholas D'Alessandro was always aware of the Space Program. But it wasn't until 2019, after selling the family business, that he had the time to invest in his passion for space photography. D'Alessandro even moved to Florida's Space Coast to be closer to the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. And years of honing his skills paid off when he was able to capture a SpaceX Falcon 9 in front of the full moon.
The image was captured on October 8 at Cape Canaveral during the SpaceX launch. To plan the photograph, D'Alessandro took advantage of software created by fellow rocket chaser Declan Murphy. The software lays any rocket launch trajectory over a map of the sky in real predictive time. This makes it possible for photographers like D'Alessandro to see what composition they can expect and to select the most optimal viewing position.
“On this last launch, I became aware that the Moon was increasingly more full and rising lower on the horizon with all clear weather as the days got closer to launch,” the photographer tells My Modern Met. “I checked the software and sure enough, there was a spot in Titusville where the shot could be achieved.”
As often happens with this type of photography, the shot almost didn't work out. The launch was canceled twice during a helium leak, and the third launch attempt was D'Alessandro's last chance to make the shot happen—as after that the full moon would have risen after the fourth launch attempt. Luckily, everything fell into place—including the weather—and D'Alessandro was able to get the image that he was after. And he wasn't alone in doing so.
The sounds of happy rocket photographers having days of hard work and planning finally pay off 🚀🌔 pic.twitter.com/HiJfgKAeP0
— Nicky D’Alessandro (@NickyXPhoto) October 10, 2022
“This third spot ended up on a private condo's pool deck, so proper permission had to be secured to shoot from the location as can often happen with such random yet precise locations,” he recalls. “To get the perfect lineup really does come down to a few yards one way or the other. Because of this, photographers that use the software for these kinds of shots will often find themselves running into each other in the field. There were actually seven to 10 other photographers at the location where I ultimately obtained the shot.”
The result is striking, with the fire from the Falcon 9's engine cutting across the Moon. As seen in a video that he published to Twitter, D'Alessandro had just seconds to take the photo before the rocket continued its journey. He hopes that people will see his work and realize that the space industry is accessible to anyone. Going from amateur rocket chaser to getting granted access to set up remote launch pad cameras on NASA and SpaceX missions in just 6 months, D'Alessandro certainly knows what he's talking about.
“It's been an amazing and unexpected journey. The incredible experiences I've been privileged to have through media access and the flood of new photography knowledge and techniques I see every day keeps me driving to always get better and always try something new at the next launch.”
You never know where the universe will take you if you just dive head first into the things you're passionate about.