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The 'most terrifying photo' ever taken in space explained

The 'most terrifying photo' ever taken in space explained

NASA captured an eerie snapshot of an astronaut adrift in space, encircled by darkness with Earth below

We all appreciate some level of stability, or being grounded. Whether it's gravity keeping us centred or a planet keeping us together.

However, one man experienced being completely free when he was detached from any of those things - creating the most terrifying photo ever taken in space.

In the vast expanse of space - among the iconic moments of Apollo 13 and Armstrong's moon landing - one photograph stands out, simultaneously expressing freedom and vulnerability.

Bruce McCandless II/NASA
Bruce McCandless II/NASA

It was captured after Bruce McCandless II, a mission specialist on STS-41B, boarded the tenth flight of the shuttle program. The flight launched on 3 February, 1984.

Just a few days later, on 7 February, 1984, McCandless II and his fellow astronaut, Bob Stewart, secured themselves into Manned Manoeuvring Units (MMUs) and left their ship behind entirely to embark on an unnerving, but extraordinary journey through space.

Reaching speeds of 28,900 kilometres per hour (18,000 miles per hour), the astronauts hurtled through the emptiness. Of course, however, speeds in space are different to those of us on Earth.

McCandless and Stewart were going were at a more graceful pace, propelled using nitrogen for thrust. Not only that, another astronaut, Joe Allen, described MMUs as 'overstuffed rocket chairs'. So comfort didn't seem to pose an issue either.

Making the first leap into nothing but open space, McCandless marked a historical moment. He became the first human ever to make an untethered spacewalk. And thanks to space cameras, the moment was captured forever.

Image credit: Bruce McCandless II/NASA
Image credit: Bruce McCandless II/NASA

The photo shows McCandless looking small and vulnerable surrounded by nothing but darkness, and Earth below his feet. An unsettling image for many of us on Earth to say the least. However, McCandless felt nothing but accomplishment.

McCandless reported on his experience to the Guardian: "It was a wonderful feeling, a mix of personal elation and professional pride: it had taken many years to get to that point.'"

And we're definitely not disappointed!

Furthermore, McCandless compared the experience to that of Neil Armstrong's moon landing and wanted to say something similar in his victorious moment.

He put it nicely: "It may have been a small step for Neil, but it’s a heck of a big leap for me."

And if making the leap wasn't scary enough whilst being watched by his fellow astronauts, McCandless commented to the Guardian in 2015 that his wife was at mission control at the time, which cause 'quite a bit of apprehension.'

Featured Image Credit: Bruce McCandless II/NASA