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Tue, Jul 12, 2005

When You Look Closely At A Shuttle Crew...

NASA Had Some Fun With The STS-114 Official Photo

It's hard to see in the Aero-News 400-pixel limit, but the official photo of the STS-114 Crew is loaded with symbology... and maybe a few Easter Eggs that reward the hunt.

The first thing you notice is that six astronauts are dressed in orange spacesuits, and two in white ones. There's meaning to that! The white suits are Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) suits, and the two men wearing them in the photo are indeed the astronauts scheduled to take a [space] walk under the stars -- three of them, in fact. Left: Steve Robinson; right: Soichi Noguchi.

If you look at the astronauts, you'll notice that every one of them has the mission patch on his or her chest, and most of them have the US flag on their left shoulders. The exception is the big guy in the EVA suit on the right; he has no American flag, but a red dot.

Well, that "red dot" is the ancient symbol of Japan, the Rising Sun, and that's because that fellow is a Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut.

The other five astronauts are wearing the orange pressure suits worn for ascent and descent. (In orbit, the astronauts are often in a shirtsleeve environment; the high-risk operations of launch and recovery are when they wear the bulky pressure suits). From left to right those astronauts are: Pilot Tom "Vegas" Kelly, Mission Specialists Andy Thomas, Wendy Lawrence, and Charlie Camarda, and mission commander Eileen M. Collins.

Two of the astronauts are holding helmets on their knees. These are the pilots! Left, Tom Kelly, and right, mission commander Eileen Collins. If you look carefully at the insignia they wear, you can see that the pilots wear different wings from those worn by the mission specialists.

But there's something unusual about those helmets! Take a look -- each one has an illustration on its visor. Tom Kelly's helmet displays the International Space Station, which STS-114 is scheduled to visit and resupply, and Eileen Collins's has a Shuttle launch!

That's the kind of imagination that everybody in the space program used to have. And... maybe they still do!

FMI: www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/shuttleoperations/www.nasa.gov/returntoflight

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