Space

A World Undivided (When Seen From Space)

"I was simply taking photographs of what I thought was striking and beautiful," says astronaut Tim Peake.Sunday, October 28, 2018

By Tim Peake
Photographs By Tim Peake
The shallow waters and reefs surrounding Cuba (foreground), Florida (middle), and the Bahamas (right), as seen from the International Space Station.

In these photographs, taken from the International Space Station, I tried to capture what I was feeling as I looked at Earth. It was impossible not to be mesmerised by the fragile beauty of our planet. I was struck by just how thin our atmosphere—that tiny strip of gas that sustains all life and differentiates Earth from the barren, hostile conditions of Mars or Venus—really is.

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It was difficult to spot signs of human habitation by day. Instead, our planet revealed itself as a vast geologi- cal puzzle sculpted by nature’s forces and the passage of time. It was clear to see how water is shaping Earth: glaciers carve out entire mountain ranges as they grind inexorably toward the oceans and vast rivers create striking patterns on their leisurely journeys.

Tim Peake practises controlling the space station’s robotic arm, which requires a minute degree of precision.

We often think of the world as divided into countries and peoples, but when you look at the planet from space you don’t notice borders. The only divisions are those crafted by nature, 4.5 billion years in the making.An incredible sequence of events enabled intelligent life to evolve on Earth, allowing us to develop the technology necessary to leave the sanctuary of our home planet and to reflect upon our existence from the unique vantage point of space. And it is a vantage point filled with awe and wonder.

The Bahamas reveals its fifty shades of blue. Some historians believe the name of the archipelago and country comes from the Spanish baja mar, meaning 'low sea'. Tim Peake says that he didn’t have a political agenda when he took his photos: “I was trying to capture Earth as I saw it, but inherent in that is the fact that you don’t see countries and borders from space.”

The November issue of National Geographic, guest edited by Tim Peake, goes on sale on 31 October.