Mind-blowing, large-format photographic prints by NASA astronaut Donald Pettit from the International Space Station are set to fill Rochester Institute of Technology’s University Gallery as “Portraits of a Planet: Photographer in Space” runs from March 19-April 28.
Pettit’s work provides stunning views of cities at night and planetary phenomena captured with time-lapse, long exposure and split-second timing.
The show’s reception is scheduled for 3-6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 22, in the gallery. Opening remarks will be given by Pettit and School of Photographic Arts and Sciences alumnus Peter A. Blacksberg ’75.
The reception is just one of several activities on March 22 during which Pettit will share his experiences combining science, technology, engineering, art and math with the RIT community and public. Having spent 370 days in space, he offers unique perspectives on innovation and discovery.
Pettit will meet with College of Science students and faculty and College of Imaging Arts and Sciences students and faculty from its photographic sciences program at 9 a.m. in room 1275 of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. Students will be sharing their research and projects with the astronaut.
Then, from 12:45-1:45 p.m. in University Gallery, Pettit will donate four of the zero-gravity drinking cups he and a team of Portland State University researchers invented to the Vignelli Center for Design Studies’ Product Timecapsule. The innovative drinking cups allow astronauts to consume liquids from an open container, rather than through a straw, in low gravity, which provides a touch of home during space travel.
The Product Timecapsule initiative is a collection of significant artifacts that creates a comprehensive understanding of the design process, with each donation telling a story of its place in design history.
During the event, Pettit will present his contributions to RIT, which include a flown-in-space prototype of his cup design, a version of the cup that was tested at Johnson Space Center and two handmade, signed porcelain cups Pettit created as artistic renditions of that version. Additionally, industrial design students and faculty can discuss product design for zero-gravity environments with Pettit.
To wrap up the day, Pettit is scheduled to deliver a free, open-to-the-public talk titled “Techno-Stories from Space” from 5-7 p.m. in Ingle Auditorium (located in the Student Alumni Union). A question-and-answer session will follow. The lecture is sponsored by RIT and the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.
Pettit’s multiple visits to RIT are far from the university’s only connection to NASA. Imaging and photographic technology alumni Crystal Marsh (’98), Paul Reichert (’01) and Mark Sowa (’87) have all made photography contributions to NASA as either employees or contractors.