Space Wonder from Earthling Eyes

French photographer Thierry Legault takes some amazing photographs of our spacecraft. See what I mean?

STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery approaching Space Station to dock. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery approaching Space Station to dock. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Spacewalk as seen from Earth. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-133 Spacewalk as seen from Earth. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Goosebumps!

You are looking at images of Space Shuttle Discovery’s final mission to Space Station. Soak in the significance of these images. We are closing out the final chapter in our nation’s Space Shuttle program. (But you already knew that, right?) So cool that we have photographers like Thierry out there caring enough to record this journey for us.

Let me share the back story of our NASA relationship with Thierry.

It all began back in September 2006, when Space Shuttle Atlantis launched to orbit for STS-115, a 11 day-19 hour-6 minute mission to Space Station and back. Thierry captured this image.

STS-115 Atlantis & Station in front of the sun. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-115 Atlantis & Station in front of the sun. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Note: Space Station had a totally different shape then. We were only six years into the decade-long construction project.

I saw this picture in a magazine and tracked Thierry down through his photography service in France. On April 24, 2007, I wrote him this email:

Thierry,
Your image of Station and Shuttle in front of the sun is absolutely FABULOUS! May we have permission to use the photo with our NASA exhibits?  We would give you credit, of course! Your image is the most striking I’ve ever seen, and the fact that the Shuttle and Station are in the same shot from Earth is incredible. The general public has trouble getting excited about Station because we’ve built it in orbit. They’ve never seen it, except in our images from space. Your image allows them to touch space from home.

He contacted me almost immediately and agreed to let us use his photo. We were thrilled! For me, the story this image tells is that humans (and the things we create) are SO tiny against the awesome backdrop of the universe we live in. Wow! Plus, we can allow folks at home a glimpse of of the incredible engineering marvel we’re building UP IN SPACE.

Fast forward to August 2008, we received an email from Thierry that he was interested in taking pics of his beloved Atlantis during the STS-125 Hubble servicing mission. The only problem was, Hubble orbits 35o miles over Earth. Space Station orbits 220 miles overhead. He couldn’t afford the special lens required to capture the image – an additional 130 miles UP in the sky. He wanted to know if we had one, or were willing to buy one, so that he could record such an historic event — the final Space Shuttle repair mission to Hubble.

Intrigued, we did a bit of research to see if we had any NASA camera equipment that met the specs. Nope. Our next option was to look into purchasing the lens, but we needed to find other uses of the equipment after Thierry borrowed it for the mission. NASA photographer, Bill Ingalls, raised his hand (or more accurately, jumped up and down with glee) at the opportunity to get his hands on the lens. Done. (And, just so you know, the price of the lens dropped significantly by the time we purchased it. We snagged a great lens at a great price.)

Thierry traveled from France to Florida for the STS-125 mission. Our own excellent Bill took Thierry along with him for all his official duties, giving Thierry access to the best NASA locations to photograph the mission.

What did we get out of the deal? Incredible images of Space Shuttle Atlantis and Hubble in front of the Sun, that’s what!

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit

The images went viral. Newspapers, websites, blogs, tweets around the world gushed about Thierry’s images of our spacecraft. What’s not to love?

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis and Hubble Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

STS-125 Atlantis Solar Transit. Credit: NASA/Thierry Legault.

Thank you Thierry for sharing your photos (and your amazing talent) with us. You’ve perfectly captured the drama and awe and wonder of space.

What an out-of-this-world sight!

Hot off the presses (or email): After posting this morning, Thierry sent me more images to share with you. How many times can I say WOW!!! Simply breathtaking!

Space Station during Lunar Eclipse 12/20/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Lunar Eclipse 12/20/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with Space Station 05/16/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docking with Space Station 05/16/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Station 05/22/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Station 05/22/2010. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Solar Eclipse 01/04/2011. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Space Station during Solar Eclipse 01/04/2011. Permission granted by Thierry Legault.

Thierry, keep ‘em coming!

1 Comment

Filed under Earth, NASA, space, technology

One response to “Space Wonder from Earthling Eyes

  1. Alas, Beth your official NASA SOMD websites are incapable of posting these wonderful images. FAIL.

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