Book Review: The NASA Northrop T-38

Spend enough time with anything and it begins to acquire a personality beyond its mere physical presence. If your life relies upon that particular object, as with a pilot and their plane, then the intensity of the relationship increases even more. The consequence, as shown in the book “The NASA Northrop T-38, Photographic Art from an Astronaut Pilot” by Lance and Ann Lenehan and Story Musgrave, can be a step beyond simple observation and appreciation. It can be an exulting testimonial.

NASA uses the Northrop T-38 to train and maintain the skills of its astronauts. Given it’s been around for over 50 years and many astronauts have come, gone and continue to be at NASA, this plane has more than ample opportunity to show its worth. Also, as it remains the mainstay of the fleet, we can safely assume that it continues to faithfully fulfil its mandate. Lastly, given the typical high skill level of the personnel of the astronaut corp, there’s every expectation that the planes will be given the chance to shine, as happens in this book.

In brief then, this book contains a large collection of Story Musgrave’s photographs, either of the T-38 or from the T-38. The photographs are large, spanning either one or two pages. The images are crisp and the colours pronounced. A brief passage of text highlights the significance of the view and the impression that is trying to be relayed. Some, such as with the shuttle’s vehicle assembly building in the background, illustrate the close association with the space program. Others showing cloud formations and contrails relay the feeling of a pilot who’s living in a domain vastly different from us common pedestarians. Yet, all photographs seem to relay motion, sky and purpose. Even the few photos dedicated to the ground crew have a sense of preparation and direction. Given the book’s hundreds of pages, nearly every view of the T-38, and many vantage points of Earth, get their chance to sparkle.

This book would be a joy for those who have felt the tug of the sky’s attraction. Perhaps it could also further inflame the passion of a young, potential astronaut. As well, everyone who’s flown in or has been associated with the T-38 would appreciate the memories of this fine looking craft. However, with this book’s singular focus upon the T-38, people with a general interest might be mystified at the large number of similar looking photographs of the exact same type of plane. As well, many photographs seem to be included so as to highlight a photographic technique, such as lighting, background composition or perspective. This somewhat confuses the general direction of what otherwise is a magnficent testimonial of a flying machine.

Yet, the T-38 has very photogenic lines. Whether on the tarmac or silhouetted against clouds, it’s like a sleek, swift dart made for flight. As shown in “The NASA Northrop T-38, Photographic Art from an Astronaut Pilot” by Lance and Ann Lenehan and Story Musgrave, this craft is a capable flyer, a wonderful subject for photography and a great vantage point for capturing some natural artwork.

One Reply to “Book Review: The NASA Northrop T-38”

  1. Great to see a book for general readers that points out the T-38s long relationship with NASA and he astronaut corps. About time!

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