What Does Earth Look Like From Space? An Astronaut’s Perspective

-All of us are wired to appreciate natural
beauty. At any time in history, in any culture, if you look at an ocean, a mountain or a beautiful
forest scene, everyone appreciates that. It hits us fairly deep, we’re wired that way.
And when you see your planet that way, in its sum total from space, all those senses
get overwhelmed. – I first saw planet Earth from space still
during the launch, outside the atmosphere of Earth and we were over the Pacific Ocean,
and just looking at that gorgeous blue, dotted with white clouds and the black of space. -This impossibly blue planet in this impossibly
black sky just hanging out there. It is really breathtaking. -Even though you’ve seen the Earth through
movies, pictures, when you look at the Earth with your own eyes, changing very fast at
the speed of 8km per second, what you see is beautiful. you have tears in your eyes.
Even if you are a tough person you can’t avoid becoming a child again. We wish all human
kind could epxperience this view of Earth. -It is this perpetual dynamic picture show
that you never get tired of. Even 6 months into the flight, if you pass by a window,
it’s like a magnet that draws you to it, you want to pick up a camera and take pictures
of it. -As we fly around the Earth, every 92 minutes
the Earth has twisted around by about 13 degrees underneath us, so the next time you fly another
orbit the Earth has moved round again so you get yet another view, which is one of the
reasons why it’s so beautiful. It’s entrancing. This constantly moving Earth is something
that nobody ever gets tired of looking at. -You could spend hours a day for months looking
out the window, and never get tired of it. You could never learn all of the Earth and
it’s very dynamic. Things change with seasons. There are always lightning storms going on
somewhere on Earth at night, and you can never fail to see these lightning flashes. -It lights up a whole circle of clouds around
it, and that seems to set off another flash a few hundred miles away somewhere else, so
you get this dudududuh, of lightning, then another bit somewhere else: dudududuh. -You can see the Northern Lights like you’ve
never seen them before, which is just unbelievable from space because you’re looking at a huge
spectrum of the geomagnetic field that produces the aurora. The other big feature is city
lights. You see the distribution of people on the planet based on the lights of the cities.
It’s really striking. -We’re only a couple hundred miles away. We’re
circling the planet. But just that change in perception, you’re ability to step back
that far, prioritizes how you feel about the planet. -You believe that Earth is a spaceship. You
can’t avoid the comparison between Earth, looking like a finite object in front of your
eyes, and your own spaceship which is closed with limited resources. All humankind being
part of the same unique crew. -Certainly you know that there’s conflict
down there. Certainly you know that there’s pain and suffering and injustice, all these
things that you certainly feel strongly when you’re on the Earth, and you know that they’re
still there. But that’s replaced for a moment by how beautiful it is. I remember thinking,
‘I wish everyone could experience this view of their home planet so that maybe it would
reprioritise what’s important to them, and make them less angry t their neighbours and
more concerned about doing what they can so that we preserve the beautiful planet we live
on. -You look at that vastness of infinite stars,
and that’s when you start to realise how insignificant not just you as an individual are, but how
insignificant the Earth is. how insignificant the whole human race actually is. Great to
think about our place in that, but then beyond: what does that mean, when you go further and
further? We like to wonder what our boundaries really are, and I’d like to think we don’t
really have any boundaries.


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