Marco Island space photographer Scott Schilke was elated when the SpaceX launch successfully launched its first two people into orbit, ushering in a new age of human spaceflight in the United States.
It was the first manned flight in over 9 years.
Schilke, a longtime condominium manager on the island, admits he likes living on the edge when he’s behind the lens of his cameras. Schilke’s photography is well known in the car racing, storm chasing and rocket launching worlds.
He was thrilled that the SpaceX mission was a success Saturday, after being scrubbed due to weather conditions on Wednesday.
When the rocket launch was scrubbed on Wednesday, Schilke was in his familiar digs among his fellow space photographers, two miles from the launch pad. On Saturday, he had to give other photographers their turn.
“My one shot was Wednesday,” Schilke said. “I shot the rocket on the pad with the astronauts onboard. My team got rotated out on Saturday. And to be a team player you have to agree to that.”
Consequently, Saturday’s experience was a little different for Schilke, who had to photograph among the general public due to an 80% reduction in press credentials due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. However, he said his more-restricted location held thrills of its own.
“The crowds made it very, very special,” Schilke explained. “A great turnout. I’m normally not with them. So I’ve never experienced the heartache that entails—the traffic, the parking. Very difficult, packed and crowded. Getting set up with multiple tripods was a challenge.
“What I got over and over again was how excited they were—for many of them, this was their first launch ever. They were here to see history. The excitement they shared was not something we get to experience at Cape Kennedy when we’re only two miles away—and we’re all media. Because we’re in a highly restricted area. Here, this was a whole unique experience I’ve never gone through before.
“My photos were not great, they really aren’t. It was very hazy. But the crowd reaction as it started to lift off—the whooping and the hollering—they saw an amazing moment in American history. This is the start of the second golden era of space flight. I think they felt that. There were a lot of people there, and they were excited. It was a feeling I don’t get when I’m around the media professionals. This was a totally different experience.”