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July 6, 2012

Astronaut in the Grass

This photo has been stuck in my head for days. The caption reads:

Russian space agency rescue team members carry U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit (C) shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz TMA-03M space capsule, about 150 km south-east of the Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan on July 1, 2012. The Soyuz capsule, which carried U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, and Netherlands’ astronaut Andre Kuipers safely returned to Earth on July 1 after a half-year stint on the international space station, with a landing on the Kazakh steppe. (Mikhail Metzel/AFP/Getty Images)

I’m not sure why it grabs me so much. Does it put the degree of trust between the U.S. and Russia to the test? And, does anyone else get a Francis Gary Powers vibe?  (What about Andrew Wyeth?) Is the scene that surreal or does it have something to do with the fact I just saw the new Wes Anderson movie? Finally, astronaut in the grass not weird enough, maybe what’s just as bizarre in these days of economic frustration and sleep debt is just to see anybody in public looking that blissed out.  Thoughts?

  • bks

    The weird part is that he has to be carried.  Don’t they have a tractor or a jeep?


    • bystander

       Well, in the background are clearly alternatives for conveyance, so not only can the alternatives get out there, they were available.  I can posit three possibilities: (1) they are carrying Pettit to a motorized conveyance of some kind – though it looks like they’ve hauled his butt farther than they needed to the hard way,  (2) it’s a staged photo op, which might explain Pettit’s expression, (3) or there is something about that “cradle” he’s in/part of(?) the integrity of which has to be preserved.  Getting Pettit+cradle to some special conveyance in its precise spatial orientation can only be accomplished by carrying the whole kit-n-caboodle the way they are.

  • robert e

    1. I think the primeval vibe is very strong here: the setting–savanna or prairie or steppe; no vehicles, except those relegated to the far background like so many large grazing animals; the tribe’s warriors carrying some important member or emissary or sacrifice. The disconnect between these primitivistic cues and the state-of-the-art space suit is sublime. It’s where we came from and where we’re going all in one photo.

    2. There’s no telling between American and Russian, but for insignias and uniform styles.

    3. I don’t get FG Powers so much as “first contact”, or The Man Who Fell To Earth, or Herman Cortes. Maybe even Planet of the Apes.

    – robert e

  • Scarabus

    Whatever’s going on, the visuals are striking!

    Was it a rescue or a recovery team? The Russians do land on dirt, not water; and muscles can atrophy quickly in space.

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