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Which Are The Real Photos of Spacecraft? They’re Out There and They’re Amazing

The internet. It gives us an instant connection to the sum of human knowledge, but it also lets misinformation travel at the speed of light. Everyday I get comments about how people will believe we’ve been to space after I show them evidence of actual spacecraft taken in space and not CGI mock-ups.

Challenge accepted. Here come a whole bunch of photos of spacecraft taken in space. Actually, I don’t really care if you believe it or not. I was just so excited about some of the fantastic pictures of spacecraft – taken by spacecraft – that I decided to dedicate a whole episode to it.

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Team: Fraser Cain – @fcain / frasercain@gmail.com
Karla Thompson – @karlaii / https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEItkORQYd4Wf0TpgYI_1fw
Chad Weber – weber.chad@gmail.com
Chloe Cain – Instagram: @chloegwen2001

For starters, I’ve got to address the elephant in the room. Why are there so many illustrations and computer graphic images of spacecraft and not real photos of spacecraft?

Here’s the answer. Spacecraft aren’t equipped with selfie sticks. I mean, it would be cool to have the spacecraft take a picture of itself while Saturn photobombs the background, but that weight is better used with additional fuel or scientific payload.

Scientists are completely unconcerned about having to prove anything to anyone, and they’d prefer to maximize the science coming back from their spacecraft.

So, whenever you see an image of a spacecraft that’s out there in space, all alone, then it’s going to be an artist’s illustration.

Here’s the Voyager spacecraft flying through space, except it’s a computer graphic, obviously. Here’s the Pioneer passing Jupiter. I mean, here’s a painting of Pioneer and Jupiter, because there’s no way to actually take a photograph of this moment.

NASA and the other space agencies will also create CGI renderings of spacecraft that don’t exist yet, to give us an idea of what it might look like when it gets created. Like the James Webb Space Telescope that hasn’t even been launched yet. Here’s what it really looks like, getting worked on in the lab here on the ground before its launch.

I provide you with plenty more examples. But in general, if you see a “photograph” or video of a spacecraft, and you’re not sure if it’s real or not, just ask yourself, who could have taken the picture. Also, if the image looks too good and clean, then it’s probably computer graphics.

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