Earth views from space

Paolo Nespoli in the Cupola
11 February 2011

Paolo Nespoli, ESA’s astronaut working and living on the Space Station, is sharing his experience with the world via a constant flow of beautiful photos and tweets. Let’s hear from Paolo what he thinks about the photos, Twitter and being in space.

Paolo has been in space now for almost two months on his MagISStra mission, with a hectic schedule of working on experiments, doing International Space Station (ISS) housekeeping and maintenance, supporting the docking of two cargo craft and conducting robotic work, as well as daily training. But he has still found time to tweet from space.

Listen to Paolo about the Cupola:

I receive between 200–500 tweets a day and they are all extremely interesting!

In just two months his Twitter account (@astro_paolo) has gained almost 20 000 followers and his pictures on Flickr have had almost two million views.

His followers have nominated him for a Shorty award (the Twitter ‘Oscars’) and he is now shortlisted in the Science category.

"I wish that everybody could have a possibility of being up here and looking down to Earth, but as this is not possible so far I'm happy to provide these views and feelings to people."

Looking down from Cupola

The Moon said hello...

Cupola, with its seven big windows, is a unique place in the Space Station. From there, astronauts can see almost 180° to the Earth-facing side of the ISS.

“Flying in space and locating the objects around is not easy. The main reason for Cupola is doing robotics, moving cargo with the Station’s robotic arms, and in this Cupola really enhances our capability of being very efficient in space.”

What is the most beautiful view Paolo has seen?

Capital of Jilin province in China

But Cupola has also turned an orbiting laboratory into a home. “When I have free time, even only 5 minutes, I just hover in Cupola looking down,” explains Paolo.

“It is amazing, because I find constantly something new. As the Station is moving very fast, the view is changing all the time and the lighting conditions, season, position of the Sun and the whole situation is never the same.”

Paolo describes his feelings:

Desert, Somalia

“I have managed to get most of the targets I wanted to photograph, like the pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China, but there are still a few things I would like to catch. Like the Nazca Lines in Peru. I really would like to see those!”

Sometimes Paolo has a certain target in his mind, but often Paolo just snaps a photo when something interesting appears below.

Listen to Paolo:

The Artist and his model

Scene over Tietê River, Brazil

“Earth is a beautiful subject and one of the most magnificent models that a photographer can have,” says Paolo, but confesses: “It is also an easy target if you are up here and you have a good camera with a few lenses.”

“But it is also a challenging model, because we are flying so fast, the view changes continuously, the situations are practically never the same, the angle of the Sun varies, the clouds are moving, and so on.

What kind of model is our home planet for Paolo?

Cuba as seen from ISS

“Earth is different every single moment – and that is really the beauty of this model.”

Paolo about his photographing methods:

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