June 25, 2012 at 7:38 PM ET
While parts of the International Space Station have been in space for years, one thing it is never short on is cameras. Scientific instruments and imaging satellites are all well and good, but there's no replacement for the eye of a skilled photographer aiming several thousands of dollars worth of DSLR equipment at the Earth. Don Pettit is a frequent orbiter, and has produced some amazing images and time-lapse images. Here you can see a a picture of just how many cameras they keep on hand to capture those photographs.
All the cameras are Nikons, you'll notice; it may be that he's just a Nikon guy, but NASA chose to buy and modify Nikon bodies years ago, so chances are at least some of the ones Pettit is using are from the 2009 fleet of D3s DSLRs they sent up — certainly at least one, by his right shoulder, and you can spot new D2Xs in this follow-up picture. While they do bring up new ones, they are unlikely to bring them back down; some are even allowed to burn up during reentry.
Wondering why they might need so many? With a big crew working on many different projects, it's probably good to have spares. But as Pettit himself shows in this photo, some setups require more than one camera or location — for capturing panoramas, for instance.
And anyway, leaving them in place might be preferable; who wants to drag around a camera with a two-foot lens through narrow corridors in zero gravity?
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website is coldewey.cc.