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Orbital Planes is Roland Miller’s intimate photographic view of the Space Shuttle Program. It explores the Space Shuttle orbiters―both inside and out―along with related facilities, including rocket engine test sites, Solid Rocket Booster and External Tank manufacturing facilities, orbiter manufacturing and maintenance facilities, launch sites and more. Miller started photographing the Space Shuttle in 1988, and began his focused work for Orbital Planes in 2008, continuing for the duration of the Space Shuttle Program.
Through a combination of documentary and abstract photographs made around the US, Orbital Planes tells an expansive story of the Space Shuttle Program in a visually arresting style, describing the distinctive design of these spacecraft and the facilities where they were maintained and launched. The drama and danger of spaceflight are seen in the wear and tear visible on the orbiters. The book also chronicles the story of Miller’s interactions with Space Shuttle workers and the impacts of the Challenger and Columbia accidents.
A Chicago native, Roland Miller (born 1958) taught photography at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida, for 14 years, where he began photographing nearby NASA launch sites. Miller’s project and book, Abandoned in Place: Preserving America’s Space History (University of New Mexico Press, 2016), documents deactivated and repurposed space launch and test facilities around the US. His collaborative project and book, Interior Space: A Visual Exploration of the International Space Station (Damiani, 2020), with Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, examines the interior of the International Space Station. His photographs are part of permanent collections at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago and the NASA Art Collection in Washington, DC. Miller’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and National Geographic UK.