NASA space images — of the Earth, of our Pacific Northwest, of the Milky Way — are available online, and you can make prints to hang on your wall. We’ll never be able to see Earth how the astronauts have. But those NASA photos, they sure give you pause.
In these turbulent times, do you know what you need? Something to give you a bigger perspective.
You need NASA space images — of the Earth, of our Pacific Northwest, of the Milky Way.
That’ll give you the bigger picture.
Say, for example, a high-resolution, majestic photo taken during the Apollo 8 manned mission to the moon.
Consider the one called “Earthrise,” taken by astronaut Bill Anders on Dec. 24, 1968, and called by Time magazine one of the 100 most influential images of all time.
A recording at the time has Anders exclaiming, “Oh, my God! Look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!”
Taking a look through these images is a fine way to commemorate the historic journey that John Glenn took 55 years ago, on Feb. 20, 1962, in which he became the first American to orbit the Earth.
He also was the first human to take photos in outer space, although it wasn’t planned at first. NASA didn’t want to distract him from his primary goals, but Glenn finally got permission.
At the time, says a NASA history, “Everything that John Glenn did was deemed an experiment. At the beginning of the program, no one knew for certain whether weightlessness would prevent a man from seeing, or from breathing, or from eating and swallowing.”
He bought the camera himself — a 35mm Minolta Hi-Matic — in a drugstore in Cocoa Beach near Cape Canaveral, Fla., where he had stopped after a haircut.
The camera met his needs. It was one of the first cameras that automatically advanced the film between shots. NASA engineers attached a pistol grip with buttons so it could be used with bulky astronaut gloves.
Astronauts are not chosen for their evocative skills but for their technical abilities.
So in its history of Glenn’s flight, NASA said he used “understated eloquence” after splashing down.
Glenn said, “It was quite a day. I’m not sure what you can say about a day in which you see four beautiful sunsets in one day, but it’s pretty interesting.”
In the movie “Contact,” the character played by Jodie Foster, a scientist chosen to make first contact with extraterrestrial life, says in trying to describing a celestial light show, “They should have sent a poet.”
The term for what astronauts experience is “The Overview Effect,” and there exists The Overview Institute to try to explain it:
“From space, the astronauts tell us, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide us become less important …”
The problem is, “It has proven quite difficult for them to communicate more than just a portion of this potentially revolutionary experience to their listeners, despite their best efforts.”
The astronauts try.
At a 2013 “Overview” panel discussion at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., former astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria joked, “Thank you for coming to my personal therapy session.”
He talked about trying to “communicate touchy-feely things.”
Greg Johnson, 62, is a 1972 West Seattle High grad who became an astronaut and logged 13 days in space. He lives in Dickinson, Texas, and is chief of aircraft operations at NASA.
“I think I became more of an environmentalist at the end of that flight,” he says in a phone interview. “You look at Earth and it’s the only place to go. You really want to take care of it.”
He remembers looking at major rivers. “How wide the Amazon is. How long the Nile is.”
He remembers seeing the coral reefs off the coast of Florida. “It made you more aware of how fragile the Earth was.”
That “Earthrise” image, printed and mounted to 30 inches wide and 20 inches high, can be had for as little as $60.50, since it’s owned by the taxpayers. A bargain by fine-art standards.
There are thousands more available at the NASA Images website.
• A panorama of the Pacific Northwest, taken Feb. 28, 2015, from the International Space Station on a remarkably clear day.
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• What the powerful Pacific Northwest windstorm from Dec. 14, 2006, looked like from up above, as winds reached 113 mph. Some 240,000 customers lost power and 10 people died from causes related to the storm.
• Various photos of Mount St. Helens, as mosses, grasses, shrubs, and then trees reclaimed the landscape in the years after the volcano erupted on May 18, 1980.
We’ll never be able to see Earth how the astronauts have seen, and felt it.
But these NASA prints, they sure give you pause.
Here are links to the NASA photos at the top of this story:
- Panoramic image of the West Coast.
- Earth lights at night.
- The turbulent Earth.
- The “Picture of the Century.”
- Good morning, Seattle!
- NASA astronaut on moon stands by flag.
- John Glenn’s 1962 photo of sunrise from space.
- Even four years after 1980 eruption, devastation still over much of Mount St. Helens.
- Wildfires in 2015 stretch from Montana to Pacific Northwest.
- Glittering fireworks of young stars flaring to life.
- The powerful 2006 Hanukkah Eve windstorm with winds to 113 mph.