SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket photobombs the moon in incredible award-winning shot

A rocket transiting the moon is a pretty rare sight. Capturing a good photo of that kind of transit takes some serious skill. 

That skill is worthy of some major praise. Pascal Fouquet, a photographer from Orlando, Florida, captured such a shot, and was chosen as the United States' National Award first place winner for the Sony World Photography Awards 2024. The awards program comes out of a partnership between Sony and the World Photography Organization, and receives hundreds of thousands of photo submission from across the globe. 

Fouquet captured his Falcon Heavy photo just before the new year, when SpaceX launched the United States Space Force X-37B spaceplane on the USSF-52 mission. The uncrewed X-37B spacecraft lifted off atop Falcon Heavy from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Dec. 28, at 8:07 p.m. EST (0107 GMT on Dec. 29).

Related: SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launches mysterious X-37B space plane for US Space Force

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket transits the full moon during the launch of USSF-52, Dec. 28, 2023. (Image credit: Pascal Fouquet, United States, Winner, National Awards, Sony World Photography Awards 2024)

Fouquet realized the upcoming opportunity to try and nail that shot less than 48 hours before the launch took place, he told "Scouting for an ideal location proved challenging, given the limited spots available for capturing the shot. Ultimately, I settled on a somewhat unconventional choice—an open field behind a hospice center 13.8 miles away from the launch pad," he said in an email.

The trick, Fouquet said, was to expose the camera to capture the details of the moon, not the rocket. Shot with a Nikon D850, Fouquet set his shutter speed to just 1/1600 of a second, capturing the split second moment Falcon Heavy passed in front of the moon.

This was the seventh launch for the Space Force's secretive X-37B space plane, which remains in orbit at the time of this publication. On its last mission, X-37B broke its own on-orbit record after returning from its mission that lasted 908 days. 

Fouquet's winning Falcon Heavy shot can be seen on the World Photography Organization's 2024 National & Regional Awards Winners & Shortlist page, on their website, alongside winners from the award's other categories.

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Josh Dinner
Writer, Content Manager

Josh Dinner is's Content Manager. He is a writer and photographer with a passion for science and space exploration, and has been working the space beat since 2016. Josh has covered the evolution of NASA's commercial spaceflight partnerships, from early Dragon and Cygnus cargo missions to the ongoing development and launches of crewed missions from the Space Coast, as well as NASA science missions and more. He also enjoys building 1:144 scale models of rockets and human-flown spacecraft. Find some of Josh's launch photography on Instagram and his website, and follow him on Twitter, where he mostly posts in haiku.

  • thablakester
    I HAVE to ask (can't help myself) has anyone not heard of Trevor Mahlmann? He's been taking these exact photos of SpaceX rockets (Falcon 9 & Falcon Heavy) traversing the Moon & Sun long before this.

    I just had to add that in here for some context because the guy has been doing these same photos for years now & I do understand that this photo won an award but just so it's said, Trevor also has many shots just like this on his socials. ;-)