Staring into the Abyss

Contributed by
Aug 14, 2005

The mission for Discovery last week was varied, but to me the most interesting aspect was the amount of inspection -- and introspection -- done, both on the ground and on orbit. The Shuttle was examined like never before, every square centimeter gazed at, pored over, and, uh, scrutinized under.

I doubt there was much different with the Shuttle on this mission, physically, than with any other mission, but this time we could see what happened. There's nothing like a good look to let you know what's going on.

So this look in the mirror, so to speak, taught NASA a lot about what the Shuttle goes through during launch. I also strongly suspect that NASA itself will be looking in the mirror very closely for a while, at least. The new Administrator, Mike Griffin, has an engineering background, has a history of telling it like it is, and he has my very favorite trait of all: he admits it when he doesn't know something. If only all politicians were so forthright.

So to start off this week, I give you not just a metaphorical gaze in the mirror, but an actual one: this image of astronaut Steve Robinson, who performed a spacewalk on STS 114. While outside the Shuttle, he turned the camera around and snapped this image of himself, with everything dizzyingly reflected in his visor. Click the image to go to the NASA gallery, where you can download a ginormous version of this image (3000 x 2000 pixels).

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