Since I have been posting so many images from STS-118 recently, I started rummaging through the Space Shuttle archives at the NASA website. One image stood apart from the rest as completely unreal. Even as a thumbnail, I assumed it was “space art” or some kind of promotional image used on a poster and almost didn’t even click on it. However, this is not a composite, collage or painting. It is actually an image of astronaut Joseph R. Tanner from STS-82 taken back in 1997.
Take a look at what can be seen in here. It is like the entire Shuttle program in one snapshot. There is the obvious… the sunburst, crescent Earth, back end of the Shuttle Orbiter itself and of course the astronaut. Take a closer look and there is more at a glance… In Tanner’s visor is the reflection of the other spacewalker Gregory J. Harbaugh who took the image and attached to Tanner’s arm is the small checklist of tasks that astronauts use on such difficult tasks such as spacewalks.
The original exposure was quite grainy and lots of color noise due to the low-light conditions. So it was cleaned up a bit color-wise and a duplicate of the image itself has been blurred and screened over the other. This gives the image a sort of “romantic” glow but more importantly helps reduce the noise while maintaining the image’s overall details.
On a note of interest, STS-82 also happens to be one of the Hubble Space Telescope repair missions which extended the life of that most valuable scientific program.