Thursday, December 10, 2009
When I was talking to Chris Rapley about that warmist piece, he said he had worked with the astronaut Bruce McCandless. Rapley was very moved by this picture from 1984. It shows McCandless in orbit wearing a Manned Manoeuvring Unit. It is extraordinarily beautiful, perhaps because its content and form are one. The awkward angle between man and horizon and the way his left foot just crosses the horizon line reflect the precariousness of the situation. Also McCandless is made anonymous by the mass of machinery and protection required to keep him there. He could be a machine and yet, poignantly, we know he isn't. Rapley pointed out that he was untethered. If one of the tiny rockets on the MMU had stuck open, he would have been pushed beyond rescue and would have died slowly. Then there are the millions of dollars and man hours required to keep him there. Heroic and humbling, it is, I think, the greatest of all space pictures.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 10:20 am