NASA’s Photographer of the Year Awards Showcase Stellar Shots

NASA Photographer of the Year

NASA has announced the winners of its fifth annual Photographer of the Year awards. The winning photos showcase NASA’s people, places, and projects, as captured by NASA’s talented photographers.

12 photos won awards this year, with first, second, and third-place winners selected across four categories: Documentation, portrait, people, and places.


In the documentation category, photographer Eric Bordelon earned the top honor with his photo of the Artemis I Prelaunch. Bordelon’s telephoto image was shot with a Nikon Z7 and 150-600mm telephoto lens at 210mm. The photo shows NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard a mobile launcher at Launch 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The prelaunch photo was captured on August 30, 2022.

NASA Photographer of the Year
Documentation, 1st Place | © Eric Bordelon/NASA

Photographer Bill Ingalls earned second place with his image of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Freedom spacecraft preparing to land off the coast of Florida, with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti aboard.

NASA Photographer of the Year
Documentation, 2nd Place | © Bill Ingalls/NASA

Bridget Caswell’s photo of an engineer mapping out the position of rocks during VIPER testing at NASA’s Glenn Research Center won the bronze in the Documentation category. A test version of the VIPER rover is helping NASA prepare for its mission later this year to find water at the Moon’s South pole. The test rover navigates a simulated lunar surface inside NASA’s SLOPE lab, providing critical feedback to engineers.

NASA Photographer of the Year
Documentation, 3rd Place | © Bridget Caswell/NASA


Photographer Josh Valcarcel won the portrait category with his fantastic portrait of NASA astronaut Bob “Farmer” Hines in an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit at the NASA Johnson Space Center photo studio.

PetaPixel recently interviewed Valcarcel to discuss his incredible Artemis II crew portraits. In the interview, Valcarcel discusses his photographic background, including training as a photographer in the Navy, the in-depth planning and execution of the Artemis II crew portraits, and what it’s like to be a NASA Scientific Photographer.

NASA Photographer of the Year
Portrait, 1st Place | © Josh Valcarcel/NASA

For her portrait of NASA quality engineer John Tota, photographer Desiree Stover earned second place. Tota is posing inside NASA’s Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI) chamber, where Tota works to ensure the quality of the flight hardware builds on the Ocean Color Instrument (OCI). OCI is an advanced optical spectrometer that will be used to measure properties of light over portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, and it will deliver more precise wavelength resolution than previous NASA satellite sensors.

NASA Photographer of the Year
Portrait, 2nd Place | © Desiree Stover/NASA

Valcarcel also earned third place in the portrait category for his hair flip portrait of NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara.

NASA Photographer of the Year
Portrait, 3rd Place | © Josh Valcarcel/NASA


Compared to the “portrait” category, NASA’s Photographer of the Year “people” category celebrates images of people that aren’t strictly portraits. For example, Jordan Salkin’s image of the Moog Hover Test shows a lone individual walking through the fog at the NASA Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field.

NASA Photographer of the Year
People, 1st Place | © Jordan Salkin/NASA

Bill Stafford’s second-place photo shows a NASA JETT3 engineering night run in Arizona. It was NASA’s third simulated moonwalk in preparation for future Artemis missions. During Artemis III, astronauts will visit the lunar South Pole region, an area no person has ever explored.

NASA Photographer of the Year
People, 2nd Place | © Bill Stafford/NASA

Valcarcel is back again, with an image of a Navy pilot and NASA astronaut candidate Jack “Radio” Hathaway inside a NASA T-38 jet. This image was captured during a mission to photograph the Artemis I on the launchpad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

NASA Photographer of the Year
People, 3rd Place | © Josh Valcarcel/NASA


Rounding out the awards is the “places” category, recognizing excellent images that show the environments where NASA’s diverse team of astronauts, researchers, and engineers work.

Photographer Jef Janis won first place with a mind-boggling image of the Aero-Acoustic Propulsion Laboratory (AAPL). Located at Glenn Research Center, AAPL is a world-class facility for conducting aero-propulsion noise reduction research.

NASA Photographer of the Year
Places, 1st Place | © Jef Janis/NASA

Josh Valcarcel’s aerial photo of a squadron of T-38 jets flying overheard the Artemis I rocket on Launch Pad 39B won second place in the category. The image was captured during the same mission on August 23, 2022, as Valcarcel’s second-place winning image in the “people” category.

NASA Photographer of the Year
Places, 2nd Place | © Josh Valcarcel/NASA

Valcarcel earned third place, too, with an image of astronaut Loral O’Hara, of hair-flip portrait acclaim, commanding a virtual frontier within the mock-up cupola in NASA’s Systems Engineering Simulator at Johnson Space Center.

NASA Photographer of the Year
Places, 3rd Place | © Josh Valcarcel/NASA

More Great NASA Photographs

Many talented photographers work alongside the astronauts and scientists at NASA, and it’s always amazing to see behind-the-scenes looks at the important work NASA conducts. Even more great photos are available in PetaPixel’s coverage of last year’s NASA Photographer of the Year Awards.

There’s a lot of detailed information about the work of NASA photographers like Josh Valcarcel in PetaPixel’s recent interview with him about his Artemis II crew portraits.

Image credits: Images courtesy of NASA