Woman's plane photos of space shuttle go viral

May 17, 2011 By MATT SEDENSKY , Associated Press
Woman's plane photos of space shuttle go viral (AP)
This citizen journalism photo taken with a cell phone by Stefanie Gordon aboard a passenger flight from New York to Palm Beach, Fla. shows the space shuttle Endeavor as it streaks toward orbit shortly after liftoff Monday May 16, 2011. Gordon says she had just awakened from a nap on the flight when the pilot announced the shuttle might come into view. (AP Photo/Stefanie Gordon) PREMIUM CONTENT - SPECIAL RATES APPLY ; NO SALES; MAGS OUT; TV OUT

(AP) -- Groggy from a late night watching the Yankees, frigid from a chilled airplane cabin, Stefanie Gordon stirred to action after the pilot's announcement. Lifting her iPhone to the plane's window, she captured an otherworldly image that rocketed around the globe as fast as her subject: Space shuttle Endeavour soaring from a bank of clouds, its towering plume of white smoke lighting the azure sky.

She had never imagined the response her airborne image - capturing the last of Endeavour and the next-to-last space shuttle flight - would ignite. The images and video have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter alone, landed on network newscasts and been published in newspapers worldwide.

In turn, they've made a photographic celebrity of sorts of the unemployed 33-year-old from Hoboken, N.J.

"It just blew up," she said of the attention.

Gordon caught an early Delta flight from New York to West Palm Beach on Monday to visit her parents and had a whole row to herself, never imagining the history she would record.

She stretched out and took a nap. Then she awoke shortly before the pilot announced the descent had begun and a sighting of the shuttle was possible. She had forgotten Endeavour was even taking off at 8:56 a.m. EDT, but readied her iPhone just in case.

Then, the pilot came on again, alerting passengers the shuttle was in sight.

"Everybody ran over to the east side of the plane," Gordon said Tuesday, "and all of a sudden there it was in the clouds."

All told, she shot 12 seconds of footage of the shuttle arcing on its simple stream of smoke into space. She also shot three still photographs.

The plane landed minutes later in West Palm Beach and while she was waiting at the luggage carousel, at 9:31 a.m., she began uploading to . As she waited for her father to pick her up, she realized her work was making a splash.

"My phone just started going crazy," she said.

Among those who reached out to Gordon was Anne Farrar, a photo editor at The Washington Post, who saw the images after they were posted by a friend on Facebook. She said she'd never seen anything quite like this view of a shuttle launch before.

"It was just a really imaginative way to bring it to our readers," Farrar said. "It's almost like an underwater view."

Endeavour is on a 16-day trip - the second to last flight. Its main mission is to attach to the space station a $2 billion physics experiment.

As for Gordon, she lost her job at as a meeting planner at a nonprofit organization last month. If the exposure from her pictures helps land her dream job of working in the sports field on special events and promotions, she said, it would all be worth it. Or if someone thinks her photographic eye qualifies her for a permanent job shooting video or photos, she wouldn't turn that down either.

For now, she's basking in the afterglow of her launch shots and hoping for some rest once the media frenzy passes.

"Laying by the pool would be really nice," she said.

Explore further: N. America treated to partial solar eclipse Thurs.

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2.3 / 5 (7) May 17, 2011
She isn't the first to take pictures like this. I'm not sure what makes her so special.
2.8 / 5 (6) May 17, 2011
@aroc91 Clearly, what makes her special is the fact that she used an iPhone to shoot the photo. Also, the fact that she was in the right place at the right time, had a good story for the media to tell, when the shuttle is making headlines helped. But, clearly it was the use of her magical electronic device that made her special.
5 / 5 (3) May 18, 2011
You guys need to cheer up. It's a great photo. I have never seen one like this before, and it's great that the media has latched onto it either way.
5 / 5 (1) May 18, 2011
One thing that comes to mind is, that if everybody didn't have iPhones and other crummy cellphone cameras, it would've been more likely that at least one of the passengers had carried a proper camera capable of capturing the moment with a bit more fidelity. Perhaps even zoom in to have a closer look.

5 / 5 (1) May 18, 2011
If you haven't seen it, as 4 million or so have already: http://www.youtub...USPTmYXM
not rated yet May 18, 2011
had carried a proper camera capable of capturing the moment with a bit more fidelity. Perhaps even zoom in to have a closer look.

Maybe if they had a 12 inch telescope. I have a 26x camera that wouldn't help that situation. You really aren't getting a better picture then that from a couple miles away.

I am curious if NASA paid for a t-38 to fly around while a photographer captured the flight?
not rated yet May 18, 2011
lol @ people voting down my comment. As if I care. I'm just pointing out that if you google "shuttle launch aerial view", you'll find plenty of similar pictures. What really irks me is that she thinks this picture might somehow help her get a job.
not rated yet May 18, 2011
"A photograph is a brief collusion between foresight and chance" Gjon Mili. Bravo!