Astronaut, racer and racing photographer “from” the stars Andrew “A.J.” Feustel is back on Earth, completing a 197-day mission aboard the International Space Station.
Feustel, flight engineer Ricky Arnold and Soyuz commander Oleg Artemyev from Russian space agency Roscosmo touched down at 7:44 a.m. ET on Thursday after finishing his command of Expedition 56, the fifth and final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope that improved the observatory’s capabilities through 2014. Among his distinguished accomplishments, Dr. Feustel served on the crew of STS‐125, the final space shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, and he also launched on Space Shuttle Endeavour’s final mission to the International Space Station on STS‐134.
From up above, Feustel – who’s told his 29,000 Twitter followers he raced Enduro Karts as a youth at Road America – has been capturing photos of the world’s most recognizable racetracks during his time more than 200 miles above us.
“It’s pretty tricky,” Feustel said of the process in an interview with the Indy Star and James Hinchcliffe from the ISS in May. “It takes a lot of effort and a lot of time … the windows we use are quite small, about 12 inches in diameter, and so I sort of have to plan. The ground gives me a good heads up when the targets are coming or at least a map that lets me zoom in on what it is I want to take a picture of. And they provide some products that show a picture of what it might look like from, say, 250 miles away, 50 miles away, and then zoomed in.
“So I look for those features on the ground, and when the time is right and the clouds are clear, I can snap usually several pictures in the time it takes to pass overhead, which is between two to eight minutes depending on the angle of approach coming over the top.”
“You’d be surprised at how many shots I’ve missed and how many times I’ve been down there looking out the window and realized something passed me right by. When you look through this lens, all I see is something that’s the size of a couple football fields, maybe 10 football fields laid out in a square. So what I see without looking through the lens and what I see looking through the lens is totally different. So I have to aim the whole camera in the general direction and hope that I see it, and then start a scan pattern with my eye, and all this while traveling 300 miles a minute.”
Here’s a look at some of Feustel’s work from space: