Views from Space

Views from Space

The International Space Station orbits Earth at about 400 to 405 kilometers above us (accounting for monthly orbit decay and subsequent boosts), and makes about 15.5 trips around each day.  It is officially a Space Station, modular, and began its life in 1998.

Track the ISS

1998? Really? That recently? It feels like we have always had a space station if you are a Gen-Xer or younger. China has a manned space station in orbit, the Tiangong 1, and before those we had Skylab and MIR.

That’s Las Vegas as seen from the ISS. I happen to live in the dark square to the far right of the picture, just below center. How many of you have seen your home city as it appears from the International Space Station? Not the daylight shots that we get from a few miles or less in the air taken by Google Maps, but a nighttime shot from 250 miles above us?

Did you know you can even see the thing from Earth, and it doesn’t have to be pitch black. Depending on its particular angle in the sky and where you are, it appears as a silvery dot slowly flying through the sky, taking about 4 minutes to cross overhead when it’s directly above.Don’t ignore a look at this feat of human technology. There are people flying overhead, 20 times higher than in airplanes, working on scientific pursuits that have direct effects for us here on the ground. When you get a chance, go out and look at it, watch it pass overhead, and think of how far we’ve come in the last 50 years compared to the last 5000 years. From 3000 BCE to 1900 CE we didn’t make a lot of progress, although those who lived in 3000 BCE might dispute that compared to those in 1800 CE.

Yet in the last century or so, just a little more than 100 years, humans went from balloonists to astronauts. We went from the telegraph to the cell phone. We went from libraries to the Internet. We went from hard labor to robots. It’s downright scary in some ways, and miraculously amazing in others. That I can write this and send it all over the world by pushing a button is something I never even imagined until about 20 years ago.  Technology has opened up the entire world, literally. So go outside and look up when that space station goes by, and wave!

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