Space Station Astronauts Marvel at Planet Earth

Space Station Astronauts Marvel at Planet Earth
This image is a still from a high-definition April 5, 2008 (GMT) video of the Earth rising above the moon as seen by Japan's Kaguya lunar orbiter. The probe was about 236,121 miles (380,000 km) away from Earth at the time.
(Image: © JAXA/NHK.)

As EarthDay approaches, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have aunique perch from which to gaze at their home planet and ponder its future.

NASA astronautGarrett Reisman, an Expedition 17 flight engineer living aboard the spacestation, said the view of Earth from about 220 miles (354 km) up is bothtremendous and precious.

?It?sfantastically beautiful from our vantage point,? said Reisman, who is makinghis first spaceflight, in a recent televised interview. ?The other thing thatreally strikes you is how thin the atmosphere is. It?s such a tiny littlesliver of a band, and you get a definite impression of the fragility of it justby looking out the window at an angle.?

NASA isbroadcasting a series of high-definition (HD) views of Earth recorded by astronautsfrom the ISS and the agency?s space shuttles to commemorate Earth Day on April22, culminating with day-long HD broadcast on Tuesday.

Eachcontinent on Earth has its own character and hue which veteran spaceflyers canrecognize at a glance, Reisman said, adding that he hopes to gain suchexpertise during his flight.

Japan?sKaguya orbiter, currently orbiting the moon, has also beamedback high-definition videos of a distant Earth rising and setting on the lunarhorizon. The probe carries a special high-definition camera specifically designedto relay the stark beauty of the moon and Earth to the public, Japan AerospaceExploration Agency officials have said.

Two of thethree space station astronauts who returned to Earth Saturday agreed withReisman?s description of the Earth from space.

Beforeleaving the station, Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson and South Koreanastronaut So-yeon Yi told reporters that the Earth?s beauty was one of thehighlights of their respective spaceflights. They landedearly Saturday, off-target but safely, with Russian cosmonaut YuriMalenchenko to end the six-month Expedition 16 mission.

?I do thinkthere is a sense of fragileness to our planet just because of the thinness ofthe atmosphere,? Whitson said. ?It?s an incredibly beautiful place that we livein and this perspective that we have makes us want to cherish it even more.?

Yi, a29-year-old bioengineer who became SouthKorea?s first spaceflyer during her 10-day spaceflight, concurred.

?We are allin a really beautiful world,? she said. ?So we should make our lives more beautiful.?

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