Out of This World: The Tale of One Lucky Photograph

Here at The Center, we are used to seeing all sorts of artwork and family heirlooms come from worldwide locations, but we’ve never had an item come to us from out of this world! This particular story started off a little something like this…

The countdown began; ten, nine, eight, seven.  The family watched as the space shuttle was about to lift from the launch pad; three, two, one, Blast Off! 

Finished project: Family photo displayed with the space memorabilia from the journey. 

 Paul, a recent client of The Center here in Chicago asked his mother to pick out her favorite family portrait. Little did she know, this photo was going to be taking a very long, very high speed trip to the International Space Station. “I plucked it out of my album without her knowing what its journey would be!” says Paul, and “then surprised my parents and brother with the news shortly before its launch” Together, the family watched live on NASA TV as their photograph started its cosmic journey.  

How does something like this make it into orbit? Well, by way of PPK of course! Bringing anything personal into space can be a difficult feat, as each astronaut is allotted a half kilogram of personal items in their PPK, or personal preference kit. Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, carried the family photograph with him during the same trip to space in 2015, where he broke the world record for a human spending the most time in space. Padalka’s fellow astronauts included, American Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko, who took flight on March 27, 2015 from Russia's launch facility Balkonur, in Kasakstan.

Family photo in the cupola, showing the best view from the International Space Station.

Family photo that was selected for this honorable trip to space, showcasing the ISS stamp at the top. 

While on board, the photograph was embossed with a stamp that resides on the International Space Station. Therefore, only an object that has traveled to the space station can have this imprint. The photograph spent 168 days in orbit and safely landed back on Earth September 12, 2015.  As an added memento, Padalka took a picture of the photograph floating in front of the cupola, which Paul shared is “the International Space Station’s best observation window.”

After the momentous flight, this portrait went from being a family keepsake to a family heirloom. Paul decided to frame the family portrait alongside its space "selfie" as a way to preserve it for the entire family to enjoy for years to come. The simple yet classic framing showcases the items perfectly, and Paul and his family are thrilled with the results. “It's currently on proud display at our family cottage in Indiana.” Due to Paul’s interest in preserving this photograph, and the amazing journey it went on, this work will be viewed and protected for many years to come.



Interested in learning more? Check out these resources to learn more about flight Soyuz TMA-16M.

Russian cosmonaut record-breaker Padalka returns to Earth"

“Soyuz TMA-16M”