Earth – An Astronaut’s View

February 25, 2007 at 9:03 pm Leave a comment

A Story shared by a participant in an environmental discussion group.
I’d been to a big airshow in the States and I got to sit in the VIP area and these three guys that were sitting next to me with all these flight suits on and I got talking to this guy and it turned out that they were space shuttle pilots and so I just said to this guy “You know, I’ve got to ask what’s it like?”

He said ” well, I think when someone becomes a Prime Minister or a President or a King or whatever part of the job should be that they should go on a shuttle flight”. I said ” Why?” and he said ” well, when you get up there and you see the planet for what it is that is when you appreciate what we are living on.

Do you know the story about the two fleas and the elephant?” I said “No, what is that one?” He said “there is these two fleas on this elephant and they are actually really intelligent fleas and they don’t realise it’s an elephant they are living on. They actually think its a planet. They circumnavigate the elephant and they actually map all the areas of the elephant- the flat bits, the round bits and all the other bits.

One flea says “I think there might actually be more to this thing we’re living on. It might actually be a living entity” and the other flea goes “Oh no way That’s stupid.” So the other flea gets all his energy up and gets down really low and he jumps as high as he can and he looks down at this thing and he realises that ” Wow, this is an elephant and it is actually on it’s own journey through life oblivious of the fleas that are living on it.” He tries to tell this to his friend but his friend won’t actually believe him until his friend actually has a look as well.

And this guy said “that’s a bit what it is like. We’re just fleas on this elephant until you get up there and see the elephant for what it is. It’s it’s own living entity, somewhat oblivious to us fleas running around on it’s surface.”

He said, “when we were orbiting, particularly when they were doing the high orbits we couldn’t tell where the Russian border was and where the good guys. It was just blue and white and brown and green depending on where you were.”

He said ” have you ever blown a soap bubble?” And I said, ” Yeh”. He said ” well you know how a soap bubble it floats and it has all those coloured swirly things? That is what the Earth looks like a soap bubble floating in space. What really hit me was every time we had time off we were just glued to that window. We didn’t sit back and read a book, we were just glued to the planet. It was such an attractive thing to see and it occurred to me while I was looking at the planet that just exactly what it is, a soap bubble floating in space. It would only take one stupid prick on this planet to burst our bubble and I didn’t see any other bubbles out there we could live on. That was it. It’s just that precious, just that fragile.”

The other thing he said too was “particularly when we orbited areas like Madagascar and the Amazon, you could literally see the deforestation happening, You could see the green going like that. The scary thing was particularly when we crossed the Amazon when the forests go, because it’s volcanic soil and the soil was red. It looks like a gravel rash on the planet, it looks like it’s skinned it’s knee or something.”

He said “then the most scary thing happens, when it rains and that red soil washes down into the creeks and rivers and deltas and it comes out into the oceans.” And he said “what that looks like from space is it looks like the planet’s bleeding. That’s what it is like, you know. We’re killing the planet”. He got really emotional about it because it’s true.” When you see the planet bleeding from space you realise just what’s going on.”.

He also said ‘when we go out and see that you can’t help but be touched and changed. You can’t just forget that and go about your daily life. It’s like seeing a baby being born. It’s a precious gem, you know.”


Entry filed under: Earth.

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