The photographers Raúl and Charly were invited by ArianeGroup to Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, to capture the Ariane 5 launch that took place on December 13, 2022. Here we report on this first collaboration with these two talented photographers who tell us about their experience.
Tell us about your trip to the spaceport
“It was absolutely incredible. In a way, everything was new to me, I mean in terms of the approach to photography and the visual discovery. It was a mind-blowing experience for both Raúl and me
for the whole ten days.”
“The first building we visited was the Ariane 6 assembly hall. When the doors opened to reveal the launcher, we could feel the whole team’s emotion because it is only shown on very rare occasions.”
How did the launch of Ariane 5 go off?
“On the day of the launch, all the teams at the spaceport were totally focused on one thing, the launch. The atmosphere was tense, especially as far as I’m concerned, because I didn’t want to miss a single thing. I had always wanted to see a launch live, but being able to take pictures of it for ArianeGroup was just out of this world. The lift-off was incredible. It all happened so fast. I managed to capture the launcher just as it lifted off, and then I took a few moments to take in the sight while I got my breath back.”
“We were split into two groups. Raúl’s team went to the Toucan site, which is the closest viewing site to the launch pad, to capture the launch by the usual procedure, and I went onto the beach to take shots of the launch from a more ‘cultural’ perspective. People get together to watch the lift-off like they would a football match, it’s quite crazy. And I was really able to capture their admiration when the Ariane rocket actually lifted off.”
How did you feel at that very moment?
“Watching a rocket launch is not just about what you see, but what you hear too. A few seconds before lift-off, I can remember how the din made by the crowd suddenly stopped and there was complete silence. The control center’s countdown starts… then I can picture the launcher taking off and a deep noise I had never heard before getting louder and louder. You can actually feel all the vibrations.”
“It all takes place very fast and I didn’t stop shooting for a whole three minutes. Then my brain had to try and figure out what had just happened. It was the first time I saw something other than a plane or a helicopter in the sky. The launcher goes so fast, it’s like something out of a sci-fi movie. Honestly, it’s beyond description. One of the best memories of my whole life. “