I think the vulnerability of the open face combined with the piercing power of the girl's eyes looking directly at you make the chosen portrait far more powerful than this almost-was selection. Not that this alternate choice is anything but great, but I don't think it had a chance of becoming iconic.
Mssimo: 2.5 billion dollars for a 2MP camera? Really NASA?
And that all electronics for a spacecraft have to been radiation hardened.
I agree the LR database is slow, in both workflow and navigation. However, it's important to realize that LR is *not* a RAW converter. It doesn't read RAW and spit out a final file. In fact, that's contrary to its concept.
Rather, LR is a RAW workflow. There is no output file unless you need to move images out of LR entirely. You carry around processing instructions with the RAW and move freely between modules without ever doing something destructive like flattening your edits.
This workflow requires holding your processing instructions alongside each file. DNG does this natively. Other types require either keeping this info in the LR catalog or exporting a sidecar file (which can get separated from its associated RAW).
So, removing LR's catalog entirely might not make sense unless files are converted to DNG first or have sidecar files hanging around. A lighter-weight catalog that builds on the fly without an explicit import step would be the preferred solution.
Dr. Fossum also participates in the forums here, so it's possible to find him and ask any questions you may have.