Astronaut Looks at Earth: 'It's Too Beautiful'

Earth is the only planet in our solar system where the atmosphere contains oxygen, allowing Earth to support human life.
(Image credit: NASA)

HOUSTON - There may be no way to truly describe how theEarth looks from space without physically going there. But that hasn?t keptveteran astronaut Michael Massimino, now working at the Hubble Space Telescope,from trying to give people a glimpse of their home planet from afar.

?I felt like I was almost looking at a secret... that humansweren?t supposed to see this. This is not anything you?re supposed to see. It?stoo beautiful,? Massimino told before flight as he recalledthe sight.

Massimino spent a grueling eight hours working with crewmateMichael Good in a Sunday spacewalk to overhaul Hubble. The mission is NASA?slast-ever flight to upgradeHubble. Today, he?s inside the space shuttle Atlantis, helping two otherspacewalkers do the same.

But before launching toward Hubble aboard NASA?s shuttleAtlantis on May 11, Massimino tried to explain to how Earthand space look through the thin glass of a spacesuit helmet:

?There?re no words to describe how beautiful things are outthere,? Massimino said. ?So I like to describe what was going through my mindat the time.?

Massimino is making his second spaceflight on Atlantis andsecond trip to Hubble, during which time he made two spacewalks. On his firstcareer spacewalk in 2002, he was so busy helping give Hubble newsolar wings he didn?t dare look at the Earth. But on his second excursion,the view hit him, and hit him hard.

?It was a day pass and I could view the Earth very clearly.It was right there,? Massimino said. ?And my first reaction was to look awayfrom it. That it was so beautiful, people weren?t supposed to see it."

And then he did what to most people on Earth would beunthinkable.

?I actually turned my head. I thought, I?m not supposed tobe looking at this. This was too much to see,? Massimino said.

The grandeur of the planet struck Massimino as somethingmore than just beautiful. Something he can pictureso clearly, but words fail to explain fully.

?It was like looking into absolute paradise,? saidMassimino, adding that the view was more than heavenly. ?I?m looking forward todoing that again.?

On Sunday, after a marathon eight hours of spacewalkingpeppered by stubborn bolts and dead power tool batteries, Massimino ventedfrustration at times while trying to revive a dead instrument.

But he and Good were eventually successful, despite theirsetbacks. Near the end, Massimino sounded reluctant to leave the view of Earthbehind.

"It's time for me to go inside?" he asked crewmateJohn Grunsfeld, who was inside Atlantis.

?It's time for you to go inside,? Grunsfeld replied.

?Okay, well ? it's just, it's turned into a beautiful dayout here,? he said. ?I'll take one last look and then go.? is providing continuous coverage of NASA's lastmission to the Hubble Space Telescope with senior editor Tariq Malik in Houstonand reporter Clara Moskowitz in New York. Click here for missionupdates, live spacewalk coverage and's live NASA TV videofeed.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.