Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the world from the edge of space? To witness the Earth’s curvature and breathtaking views from a U2 spy plane soaring high above? Well, wonder no more because the world’s first U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot at the edge of space has just taken place, capturing extraordinary images that will leave you in complete awe. This unprecedented event, organized by a team of aviation enthusiasts and daring photographers, pushed the limits of human exploration and technology to bring us a glimpse of the world like never before. So, fasten your seatbelts and join us on this exhilarating journey to the edge of space!
The World’s First U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot at the EDGE OF SPACE!
Hey, I’m Blair Bunting. I’m going to go into a spacesuit inside of a Cold War spy plane that’s going to then be chased by another Cold War spy plane to the edge of space to do a photo shoot, and then I’m going to land and drink.
Documenting the Unprecedented
Hey, it’s Chris Nichols here from Petapixel, and we are here at Beale Air Force Base to document something that has never been attempted before. Now, this project is only possible because, first off, we have the right photographer, Blair Bunting, but also because the U.S Air Force has given us incredible access. So, we’re very grateful for that. Blair has a harrowing journey ahead. It is dangerous, and he has a lot of training to do. So, let’s join him on his journey to make this happen.
Blair Bunting: The Photographer
My name is Blair Bunting. I am a commercial photographer that usually photographs people, advertising campaigns of celebrities and athletes. Very rarely a plane or two.
Tell us about the photograph that you’re going to take. It originally started out as the idea of going up and photographing the curvature of the Earth because the altitude that we’ll be at, you’ll be able to start and see where black space bends the horizon. But somewhere along the lines, the idea of can we also throw another plane up there and fly in formation right next to each other got put into the mix, not by me, and I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance it works.
The Risks and Training
We don’t send a lot of folks up there because of all the training. Going up that high, you have to be in a full pressure suit, or the spacesuit as we call it. So if you’re up there without a spacesuit and you have an explosive decompression and you’re above Armstrong’s line, your blood will start boiling, so you have only about nine seconds until you’re dead. Additionally, there’s the parachute training and familiarization with the ejection seat. It’s a big ask for us to get civilians up there.
You’re gonna be falling for a little bit, right? Violent, like let go and do that three or four times? This morning was tough because you have to hear a lot of different ways that you could die. This is a situation that can get deadly, and if you can’t accept that, you shouldn’t be doing it.
The U2 Spy Plane
The U2 was originally designed by the Skunk Works, the Lockheed Skunk Works program headed by Kelly Johnson in 1955, and was housed in Area 51 and all those storied locations. What height is Blair going to be getting up to? We’re allowed to say the U2 goes above 70,000 feet, and Blair will be crossing that threshold. It’s about the legacy of the U2 and documenting it in a way that it hasn’t been shown because obviously, it is a secret aircraft or there are aspects of it that are classified. So, it doesn’t get the photo opportunities. They said, “You know, this plane has been around this long. Let’s finally give it the recognition it deserves,” and I was fortunate that they asked me to be the one to do that.
The People Behind the Plane
It’s all about the plane, but that’s kind of cutting it short because to talk about the U2, you talk about the people that support it, and that’s even more interesting than the plane to me, honestly. It’s the legacy of the U2 and Beale Air Force Base. So, we got brought on to make the images that haven’t been made, unfortunately, of it.
Fighter Jet to Spy Plane
Blair, you’ve taken pictures in fighter jets of other fighter jets before. What was that like? Fighter jet to fighter jet, it’s an adrenaline rush. They’re hot rods in the sky. This one is different. There’s not a lot of g-forces. It’s essentially a large Lazy Boy. It’s the severity of the environment that scares the living hell out of me more than any fighter jet would.
Dedication and Sacrifice
This project has cost me about six months of my life, and as soon as we heard that Washington had greenlit the program, you don’t sleep anymore, at least not without waking up dreaming of what you’re gonna see and then not being able to go back to bed because of the responsibility. I haven’t really been able to be fully in a conversation for six months with anyone because it’s always there, and yeah, that’s been tough in the last few months family life-wise.
Preparing for the Journey
Day to day, he is a bit more distracted. Blair is training and trying to take care of his mental health so that when he gets out here for something like this, he’s prepared in all aspects. So, we’ve definitely seen a lot of different physical, mental, all sorts of changes that we’ve made to make sure that he’s taking care of himself and being as healthy as possible, so he can be here in person.
The Spacesuit Fitting
When the project got greenlit from Washington, I flew out to the base, and we did our very first spacesuit fitting. My expectations were that it was going to be this experience where it’s just that quiet breathing, and it’s the polar opposite of that. It was loud, and it was scary. You hear just non-stop breathing, and you hear motors that are keeping your body alive. There was so much jarring from that that it scared me. So, when we actually went and tried it on the day, I knew what I was going into, and it was peaceful. I was able to breathe a little easier.
The Equipment and Preparations
The gloves have this texture right here, so you can actually grip onto any dial, shadow button, and everything. You don’t need to worry. Some people thought that we were going to need extended shutter buttons, but overall, the function of a camera with this is really easy, unless you go to decompression. They are really pushing the idea of having water bottles in there as well with me. They want at least two to three because if you don’t have enough water on that large of an ascent, you’ll have a microstroke. So, the water needs to be there, and that takes the place of a lens. It’s a trade-off. If I can hide a lens somewhere, I will, but at the end of the day, there’s no space.
These last few days on base, he’s had even higher highs and even lower lows. He’s gotten the briefings on what to expect and some of the worst-case scenarios that they have to be prepared for. This information, although necessary, has probably added additional stress to his already higher stress levels than usual.
How do you think you’re going to feel seeing the Earth the way that you’re about to see it tomorrow? I think it should be hard. Yeah, I don’t know, but I don’t think I’ll be able to talk about that much. But I think it’s going to be hard.
The Final Moments
They had to adjust a helmet in and then apparently, I had a regulator fail on mine or valve or something. That was actually the calmest I was the whole day because I got to watch how hard they were working to fix this and how much the safety mattered. Everybody ready? Yes, we’re on their way out right now, blasting up to altitude. Another check is done. So right now is kind of an exhilarating part of the journey…
Frequently Asked Questions – The World’s First U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot at the EDGE OF SPACE!
1. What is the U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot at the Edge of Space?
The U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot at the Edge of Space is a groundbreaking project that captures stunning photographs of the Earth’s surface from the stratospheric altitude where the U2 spy planes operate.
2. How does it work?
Specialized cameras attached to a U2 spy plane capture high-resolution photographs while flying at extreme altitudes near the edge of space. These photographs provide a unique perspective and reveal remarkable details of our planet’s surface.
3. What is the significance of this photo shoot?
This photo shoot allows us to witness the Earth from a perspective that few have experienced. By capturing images at the edge of space, we can better understand our planet’s features, climate, and changes over time.
4. Who is behind this project?
This project is a collaboration between renowned aviation experts, photographers, and scientists. Their combined expertise makes this unique venture possible.
5. Are the U2 spy planes modified for this purpose?
Yes, the U2 spy planes utilized in this photo shoot are equipped with advanced modifications to ensure stable flight and optimal camera positioning for capturing the Earth’s surface at high altitudes.
6. How can I see the photographs taken during the U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot?
The stunning photographs captured during the U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot will be made available through various channels, including online galleries and exhibitions. In the future, there may also be opportunities to purchase prints or books showcasing these exceptional images.
7. Can anyone join the U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot at the Edge of Space?
Participation in the U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot is limited to a select group of experts involved in the project. However, as the initiative gains traction, there may be possibilities for public involvement, such as contests or events.
8. What are the future goals of this project?
The project aims to expand its scope by capturing photographs from other spy planes and high-altitude vehicles, actively pushing the boundaries of aerial photography while enhancing our understanding of the Earth’s stunning landscapes.
9. How can I stay updated with the latest developments?
You can stay connected with the U2 Spy Plane Photo Shoot at the Edge of Space project by visiting our official website, subscribing to our newsletter, and following our social media channels. There, you will find the latest news, captivating images, and updates about upcoming events.
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