Marion “Ed” Thomas was the official astronaut photographer at Kennedy Space Center for 25 years. In addition to having close personal relationships with NASA’s finest, Thomas was senior photographer and team leader for all phases of pre-launch, launch, and post launch activities spanning the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Soyuz, and Space Shuttle programs.
In a 1973 Today article, Thomas was nonchalantly quoted as saying, “they needed a photographer and I happened to be there.” Ed knew every astronaut during his tenure, and captured the entirety of NASA from Von Braun’s early rocketry, through to the Shuttle. Thomas was witness to both the comedy and the tragedy of the Space program,” including capturing images of the Apollo 1 crew a mere 20 minutes before the tragic January 27, 1967 fire.
Thomas witnessed the tense preparation for the first lunar landing mission, Apollo 11, of which this year is the landmark 50th Anniversary. The American Space Program’s incredibly high stakes and occasional sorrow was countered by the levity in the astronauts’ practical jokes and good naturedness. The NASA shutterbug quipped, “I would continually catch them off-guard...it got so they would come up and stick their thumbs over my lens.”
More than a mere, photographer, Thomas was welcomed into the astronaut’s lives—he even pitched to Apollo 17 Commander Gene Cernan, who nearly broke his leg rounding the bases for a home run forever outlawing pre-launch NASA baseball games. Every laugh, every launch, and every landing, for two and a half decades, Ed was there to document it all.
RR is offering this once-in-a-lifetime collection—highlighted by a remarkable full-sized Book of Mormon flown on Apollo 16 for Thomas by Commander John Young—thereby telling a visual story, mission by mission through the most vibrant years of the space program. From rare early rocketry photography, to captivating images of the man who declared we “go to the moon,” vintage Mercury shots from Shepard to Cooper, behind-the-scenes Gemini prep, every Apollo mission, and more, this incredible compendium is truly a sight to behold.