Imagine the mild stress of tackling something new at your job for the first time. Now imagine that something is an extravehicular servicing mission, conducted at 17,000 miles per hour, on the outside of the International Space Station. Hey, at least your workspace has a view.
This photo was taken last month by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst on his first-ever spacewalk outside the ISS. Joining him was NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, who was also on his first foray outside ISS.
In a weightless world where there is no up or down, the pair worked together to move a 385 kg pump from the Station's truss to a permanent stowage location near the US Destiny module.
Alexander strapped himself to the Station's robotic arm and held on to the unit while NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore operated the 16 m-long Canadarm from inside the orbital outpost. While moving, Alexander held on to the pump unit with flexed arms to absorb any shocks.
After working with Reid to attach the pump, Alexander took the arm for a last ride to park it and prepare it for its next use, berthing visiting spacecraft. Here, Alexander had his hands free and time to take a few photographs, such as this one.
My favorite thing about this photograph – apart from the view, of course – is the hand-written serial number on the module to the left (it reads: "S/N 1004"). I have no idea if it was put there before it made its way to space or after, but I like to think it was the latter. Just imagine: There you are, hundreds of miles above Earth's surface, coursing around the planet once every 90 minutes in your very own body-shaped space-capsule , scrawling a serial number on the side of a $150-billion orbital outpost. With a sharpie.
It wouldn't be unprecedented. Consider this handwritten message, left last year by astronaut Luca Parmitano before installing a new adapter on the ISS's Canadarm 2:
There are messages inside the ISS, as well. On a wall beside the funnel-capped hose that serves as the crew's urinal, there is a helpful reminder, written in Sharpie: "Blessed are those who wipe the funnel."