SpaceX Crew-2 astronaut launch and booster return, ‘Shot on iPhone’ edition

On April 23 at 5:49 a.m. EDT, SpaceX launched their Crew-2 mission. Its Falcon 9 rocket carried astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet to the International Space Station in Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour.

This is SpaceX’s first crewed mission to launch on a reused Falcon 9 booster, B1061, and the first to reuse a Dragon capsule. Endeavour first flew during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission last year, carrying astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Many reporters, photographers and space fans gathered to capture the launch with expensive cameras, but many others had only smart phones.

The advancement of image processing technology has allowed for the small sensors inside of iPhones to make the most out of the very small amount of light that arrives at their sensors. I personally make use of various iPhones on a regular basis to supplement the photos and videos that I capture with my professional gear. Using a phone mount, cheap light stands and ball mounts, I can capture a stable video shot of each launch.

Crew-2 Launch video on iPhone

While I primarily use iPhone for video at launches, there are also times when I take photos. After the recent astronaut launch, I was in a rush to get all of my gear packed up and my cameras were already in their bags, but the morning light was just starting to reach the clouds and I loved the look of the exhaust high up in the atmosphere being illuminated. The bright exhaust and dark water is really hard to capture so I was surprised how well the iPhone managed to capture it.

Booster Return photos on iPhone

After SpaceX launches, the company attempts to land their Falcon 9 first stage booster on a droneship out at sea. The booster is then secured and delivered into Port Canaveral to be refurbished and flown again. On Sunday, around 5 p.m. EDT, the droneship Of Course I Still Love You arrived into Port Canaveral.

I was already near the coast for other purposes and was caught by surprise at the early return. I had been expecting the booster to arrive early on Monday morning so I did not have any of my normal photography or video gear with me. There wasn’t enough time for me to drive back to my house, and I was worried I would be unable to capture anything—but the best camera is the one you have with you, and I had my iPhone in my pocket.

I started off shooting RAW images on my phone with the Lightroom Mobile app so I could edit them later, but I was impressed how well the native iPhone camera app processed the images so I ended up using a lot of photos directly from the iPhone.

Crew-2 visible across Florida

The launch of Crew-2 was visible all across Florida and up the East Coast of the United States. Many space fans captured spectacular images from across the state with their iPhones and shared them on social media. The ability to have a camera in your pocket at all time allows people to never miss a moment. Whether special time with your friends and family or historic launches to space, anyone can capture the moment to share with others around the world.

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