Just how much activity on Earth can be seen from orbit? In the dark of night, the Soyuz rocket launch on March 29/28, 2013 was bright enough to be seen by the International Space Station crew 350 km (220 miles) above. "Soyuz Rocket Launch – the moment of ignition, as-seen from their target, the Space Station," tweeted ISS commander Chris Hadfield in sharing this image.
The new fast-track trajectory used for the first time for a crewed Soyuz has the rocket launching shortly after the ISS passes overhead, and so the ISS was in the perfect spot for the crew to witness the launch with their own eyes—at least with a camera and a zoom lens. The Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft launched at 2:43 a.m. Friday local time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (4:43 p.m. EDT, 20:43 UTC on March 28), carrying the crew of Pavel Vinogradov, Aleksandr Misurkin and Chris Cassidy.
The fast-track launch had the crew arriving in just 5 hours and 45 minutes after launch. This is the first crew to use this quick trajectory. It came with the added bonus of the launch being visible from space.
Explore further: ISS crew prepares for repositioning