from space, a plea for the planet by Thomas Pesquet

published on Monday, October 31, 2022 at 07:44

From space, the Earth appeared to him as a fragile “island of life”: during his second mission in orbit, Thomas Pesquet immortalized new spectacular views of a planet whose state of degradation jumped out at him.

The French astronaut, who came down from the International Space Station (ISS) a year ago, transmits his unique testimony with a selection of his most beautiful shots: 300 shots gathered in “The Earth between our hands”, beautiful book to be published Wednesday at Flammarion editions, and whose royalties will be donated to Restos du Coeur.

He writes in the preamble to have “caught the photo bug” during his first mission in space (2016-2017) and tells how during his second, (“Alpha”, from April to November 2021) he n ceased machine-gunning the planet. This time by passing on his passion to his traveling companions on the ISS.

“At first I was a bit of a Sunday photographer, then I really took a liking to it,” Thomas Pesquet told AFP. “When we arrive in the Station, we have the smartphone reflex: we see something great, we immortalize it… but quickly we are confronted with limits if we want to take photos at night, for example, to take precise targets with big goals, etc. It’s difficult because everything is manual”.

On board, a dozen cameras are available to astronauts, some of which are permanently installed in the Cupola, the famous panoramic observation window of the ISS, or in the American laboratory, a porthole looking vertically towards the Earth.

He took about 245,000 of them, during his few hours of daily leisure. “Many are missed but in six months there is a real progression curve”. Seas, rivers, islands, deserts, mountains, sunsets and sunrises: faced with the beauty of the Earth, the “wonder” of the astronaut was always there.

“The planet is so vast and diverse that you don’t feel like you’ve seen everything. Even after 400 days in orbit, there are still things that surprise me, places I haven’t seen “. At 28,000 km/hour, the Station’s scrolling means that “we are never above the same areas at the same times of day”.

The big news? The northern lights, some of which are bluish, to his great surprise: furtive moments but which he managed to capture this time thanks to his American teammate Shane Kimbrough: like a lookout, he saw them coming from his “bedroom, that gave us time to configure our devices”.

– “Sinister spectacle” –

From this “picture book in love with the Earth”, Thomas Pesquet also shares pictures “that we hate to see”, to warn of its fragility: the “sinister spectacle” of hurricanes, tornadoes and fires which shook the planet during its 200 days in orbit. Which he attended, “helpless”.

“What struck me the most were the fires. We could see the flames, the smoke very clearly, of an impressive magnitude”, giving an impression of “end of the world”.

“Like in the movies”, he saw entire regions engulfed: southern Europe, British Columbia, the plain of California “little by little eaten by a blanket of smoke”…

“The difference in four years, I saw it. My first mission happened in winter, my second in summer, so it’s normal that there are more fires but overall, I attended to more violent phenomena”, he laments.

This palpable reinforcement of extreme climatic phenomena, “which we know are linked to climate change, has convinced me that we have not done enough to protect our planet”, writes the astronaut.

Without science – climate experts, measurements of the effects of the disruption thanks to satellites – “we would be lost in the face of the magnitude of the issues”, he pleads.

“It’s not too late but the longer we wait… But unfortunately we have the impression that everyone is looking at each other like a faience dog: every year we say + now is the time to act + and it’s It’s the same the year after, we only do small actions without a strong overall impact” on the environment, he regrets.

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