The Interest in space has been stirred up again by the Herculean accomplishment of the Red Bull Stratos team and Austrian Skydiver Felix Baumgartner — who became the first human to break the sound barrier during freefall. It’s been over a year since Atlantis blasted off for the last time to deliver parts and cargo to the International Space Station, and the suburban sprawl surrounding Cape Canaveral on the East coast of Florida — also known as the “Space Coast” — has lost what truly made it special: launching space shuttles into the unknown.
Photographer David Ryle took these pictures in 2009 to commemorate Atlantis’s Hubble Telescope mission. The photos from this event speak in a language of longing and emptiness. The shimmering high-tech NASA base and the nearness it brings us to space, clashes with the humble surroundings of strip malls, long stretches of empty beaches, lazy sunbathers, and a lone spaceman on a roof.
“I decided that the project would be about not only the technical aspects of space flight, but the beautiful-but-banal things nearby.”
The minimalist composition of the photos make the idea of a rejuvenated space program look bleak and unpromising. Which is how some might see the future or space exploration today. NASA is working hard on other projects like the Mars Curiosity Rover, and NuSTAR (mission to search for black holes, map supernova explosions, and study the most extreme active galaxies). Until the US can ferry humans to space again, we can pay tribute to the retired space shuttle, the symbol it has become of man’s interest to explore the unknown, and enjoy its recent celebrity: a piggyback flyby, and parading in the streets of Los Angeles on the way to its final destination.