About Me

Welcome to my Art, Astronomy and Photography Blog. In my professional life I am an Art Director and Production Designer in the animation industry. Some of my film credits include "Anastasia", "Titan AE" and "Barnyard the Original Party Animals". I have also worked on TV Shows like "The Simpsons", "Beavis and Butthead", "Back at the Barnyard" and "Planet Sheen". If you would like to see my work related art please click on the Go For Launch Productions link below. Although I am very passionate about what I do for a living my other passions are photography, painting, astronomy, astrophotography and anything to do with NASA so the subject matter of most of my paintings is related to the space program and I have enhanced some of my photographs to give them an extraterrestrial feel. My paintings and photographs are organized into several catagories in the links below. Browse around and enjoy.

Space Shuttle Art

NASA's Space Shuttle Program began in 1981 and came to a close in 2011 after completing 135 missions. The Shuttle was designed as a rocket launch, orbital, and re-entry vehicle. Missions included the launching of many satellites, interplanetary probes and conducting science experiments. There were 37 missions for the constructing and servicing of the International Space Station. The concept of the Shuttle dates back to as early as 1954 but did not really start to take shape until the late 1960s during the Apollo era. In all there were 5 space worthy Shuttles built, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor. Inspiration was also built but not for space travel; it was a mock-up and resides at the entrance to the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Enterprise was built to test gliding, landing and piggybacking the shuttle on top of a Boeing 747.

The Space Shuttles to this day remain the most complicated machine mankind has ever built. If it were not for the Shuttle Program there are many things we would not have today. Our new understanding of the cosmos came from The Hubble Space Telescope and without the Shuttles the Hubble Telescope would not be working. Our International Space Station would not be in orbit if it were not for the Shuttles. The list of new science created by the Shuttle program is too long to note. New technologies came from the building and upgrades of the Shuttles that we all use in everyday life.

Thank you to all the great people at NASA and its partners for a very special 30 years of human space flight.    

"Shuttle Atlantis, Last Landing"

Prior to getting back into the atmosphere the Shuttle is completely under the control of the computers. There are many different maneuvers the Shuttle needs to do that quite frankly are best left to the computer systems on board. These procedures could be done manually if an emergency arose. Once the Shuttle has made it back into the earth's atmosphere the commander then takes over the controls from the computer and then glides the Shuttle down for landing. This is similar to a plane but without engines and much, much faster. This painting shows the shuttle racing through earth's atmosphere with vapor trails coming off the wings and tail. At touchdown the Shuttle is moving at about 350 km per hour. Not bad considering it was travelling at Mach 25, 30,000 km per hour while in the lower thermosphere, but that is for another story. The Space Shuttle Program ended with the last flight of Atlantis landing July 21, 2011 at 9:57 UTC at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In total Atlantis had orbited the earth 4,848 times travelling nearly 126 million miles in space.

"Shuttle Atlantis Above the Earth"

Once in space the Shuttle settles into orbit at about 200 miles out but sometimes would go out as far as 400 miles. In the 1990s many of the Shuttle missions involved launching a new probe or satellite into space. Later in the 2000s most of the focus shifted to servicing the International Space Station. In the early days, 1980s, many of the flights involved space science. The Shuttle would settle into orbit and become a spacelab. While in orbit the Shuttle would point almost nose down toward the earth, as depicted in this painting. The main reason for this was simple, the windows were at the front. Not to mention if it did face the other way, we would not have all those amazing photographs that have been taken over the years of our home.....earth.

"Shuttle Atlantis Breaks Orbit"

Before the Shuttle can  re-enter earth's atmosphere it must first break orbit. This is done by firing the Orbital maneuvering system engines while flying upside down and backwards first in the opposite direction to the orbital motion. It does this for aproximatly 3 minutes causing the shuttle to slow down by 200 mph. This lowers its orbital perigee down into the upper atmosphere. The Shuttle then rolls nose down almost doing a 180' turn with its belly facing the earth. This whole proccedure starts half way around the earth from the landing site. In my painting here the shuttle would be travelling right to left as the engines are ignited for breaking orbit.

"Space Shuttle, Last Light"

In astrophotography when a piece of equipment like an optical tube assembly (OTA) or a camera gets used for the first time imaging a star, planet or deep sky object it is refered to as, "First Light". This painting, "Last Light" is a tribute to NASA, its partners and the astronauts from around the world for 30 years of the Space Shuttle Program.

"Atlantis Last Burn"

There is nothing simple about getting the Space Shuttle into space and into orbit and the same is true for returning it and the crew to safely earth. Once orbit is broken the Shuttle starts to enter the lower thermosphere at about 400,000 ft travelling at Mach 25, 18,000 mph. The vehicle flies 40' nose up producing high drag to slow it down and to reduce re-entry heating. The Shuttle then performs a series of S-shaped banking manouvers up to 70' of bank while still maintaining the 40' nose up attack. This dissipates speed sideways rather than upwards. This is the hottest part of re-entry causing the heat shields to glow red hot. By the end of the last bank the wings are levelled and the nose lowered into a shallow dive and begins final approach to the landing site. All of these proceedures are computer controlled but final landing is done manually.

"Shuttle Discovery Final Glide"

Space Shuttle Discovery was one of NASA's fleet leaders having flown 39 succesful missions in over 27 years of service. Discovery (STS-133) made its final landing at the Kennedy Space Center on March 9, 2011 at 10:57:17 CST. It had spent a cumulative total of one full year (365 days) in space. Discovery not only performed as a space science lab, it also did many missions performing assembly of the International Space Station. For me its greatest mission was getting the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit in 1990. This changed our view of the cosmos for ever.

"Shuttle Atlantis Orbits"

Space Shuttle Atlantis orbits silently in space before doing a 90' roll upside down to earth for re-entry. "I wonder what was going through the minds of the 4 man crew knowing that it would be the last time Atlantis would be in space and the last time they would be in a Shuttle in space"? This was most likely the last thought of Chris Ferguso'sn, Commander; Doug Hurley's, Pilot; misson specialists Rex Walheim's and Sandy Magnus' minds.  I can't help but think that there was a little pause and reflection for all of them and the ground crews for just a moment. Shuttle Atlantis STS-135 was the final mission in the American Spcae Shuttle Program ending a 30 year era in manned space flight. Atlantis touched down at Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011 at 5:57:00 am EDT. Nose gear touch at 5:57:20 am EDT and wheelstop occured at 5:57:54 am EDT.

After decomisioning Atlantis' new permanent home will be at the Kennedy Space Center for all to see and enjoy. On January 8, 2012 a ground breaking ceremony took place to officially launch construction of a new 65,000 sft exibit at the complex's Space Shuttle Plaza, where NASA's fourth space-rated orbiter will be the main attraction.    

"The Space Shuttle"

"About my painting of the Space Shuttle and my Painting Technique"
The entire image of the Shuttle is painted in Photoshop CS4. Prior to starting the actual paint work I spend many hours researching. This includes looking at what I can find in the NASA archives on their site. I also use Wikipedia and Google images extensively during the research phase. Even once I start the paint work the research continues almost until I am finished. As a Production Designer in the film industry it is important to have a clear understanding of what you are designing in order to get it right. This extends to knowing what all the little gadgets and details are for and what role they play in the whole. In other words knowing what I am painting and why. The Space Shuttle was a case of, "What is that for and what does it do?".

I paint everything on layers in Photoshop using a styles pen and a Wacom Tablet. The tablet acts as my canvas and the pen as my brush. The Space Shuttle is made up of 931 layers.

For more complete information on the Space Shuttle Program,
visit the two sites below