Astronauts open up world to Earthlings via photos

November 20, 2010 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
This image provided by NASA and posted to Twitpic by astronaut Douglas Wheelock on Nov. 18, 2010 shows the Aurora Borealis as seen from the International Space Station. Earthlings are seeing their planet in a whole new light, thanks to NASA and its astronauts aboard the Internet-wired space station. They're beaming down dazzling images and guess-this-mystery-location photos via Twitter. (AP Photo/NASA via Twitpic, Douglas Wheelock)

(AP) -- Earthlings are seeing their planet in a whole new light, thanks to NASA and its astronauts aboard the Internet-wired space station. They're beaming down dazzling images and guess-this-mystery-location photos via Twitter and have even launched a game. Landlubbers the world over are eating it up. From schoolchildren to grown-up business entrepreneurs and artists, the public is captivated and can't seem to get enough.

It's clear from the why orbiting astronauts rate Earth-gazing as their favorite pastime.

"The Earth never disappoints," the commander of the , Douglas Wheelock, said in a broadcast interview Thursday.

Known to his nearly 68,000 followers as Astro-Wheels, Wheelock has been posting impressive photos of the Earth and some of his thoughts ever since he moved into the space station in June, five months after it got Internet access.

"It's been a real thrill to be able to do that," said Wheelock.

Wheelock's photos this week included Mount Fuji in Japan as well as the aurora borealis, or northern lights, with a glittering space station solar wing in the foreground.

"Aurora Borealis as I will forever paint it in my dreams. Almost time to return home," wrote Wheelock, whose mission ends next week.

Jason Major, a Dallas-based graphic designer for a sunglass company, responded with a "beautiful" via Twitter.

"Just to get a perspective like that from 225 miles up is really incredible," Major told The Associated Press on Friday. "As I sit here at my desk and go about my day, to see what they're doing and their perspective of the world is really amazing."

Major has a website to showcase snapshots of "our cosmic backyard." He provides links to some of the astronauts' photos.

"When they're looking down, we're looking up at the same time," said Major. "It's not just these quote-unquote dusty, old archive photos that you're looking at. You're looking at something as it's happening right now."

The space station's newest American resident, Scott Kelly, has gotten into the act and already has nearly 10,000 followers on Twitter from around the world. Just this week, he kicked off a geography trivia game, posting an image of twinkling lights at night and what looks to be the outline of a boot.

"This country's contributions to science include the barometer, electric battery, nitroglycerin and wireless telegraphy to boot. Name it!" Kelly wrote in his Twitter account Monday.

Most guessed Italy, including MrsQclasstweets.

Mrs. Q is actually Heather Quasny, a third-grade math and science teacher at Ralph Parr Elementary School in League City, Texas, just several miles from NASA's Johnson Space Center. She said her students enjoy trying to identify a place on Earth from an actual photo rather than an atlas or map. It's a way to excite a new generation of learners, she said.

"It's really cool to see them so engaged," she said.

For Quasny, the photos provide an opportunity to discuss space station life with her students.

"One of the things we talk about are, what are they actually doing up there? What is the point? They don't go up there for a good time," said Quasny, who happens to be married to a space station flight controller.

Eileen Hughes, who runs an online fabric shop with her daughter in Pennsauken, N.J., looks forward to getting the astronauts' pictures. She was fascinated with this week's "mystery island" shot by Wheelock, which turned out to be Juan de Nova Island near Madagascar.

"It's awesome," she said.

As for Kelly's game - which will continue throughout his six-month mission - he announced a winner Friday afternoon. It was the first person to answer correctly, via a tweet.

"Now play," he urged.

Explore further: NASA astronaut checks in to Foursquare from space

More information:

Astronauts on Twitter:

Lights in the Dark:


Related Stories

First NASA Astronaut on Twitter Tops a Million Followers

October 6, 2009

( -- The first astronaut to tweet from space has passed another social media milestone. NASA's Mike Massimino, known as @Astro_Mike on Twitter, now shares his daily experiences with more than a million followers ...

Astronauts 'tweet' from space

May 12, 2009

Astronauts are giving a behind the scenes look at the space shuttle Atlantis's high-risk mission to service the Hubble telescope, thanks to micro-blogging sensation Twitter.

NASA Extends the World Wide Web Out Into Space

January 22, 2010

( -- Astronauts aboard the International Space Station received a special software upgrade this week ? personal access to the Internet and the World Wide Web via the ultimate wireless connection.

Space Station video now live on Internet -- mostly

March 11, 2009

(AP) -- NASA has started beaming live video from just outside the International Space Station, but there's a catch: The online feeds are available only when the station's crew is asleep or off duty.

Recommended for you

JPL deploys a CubeSat for astronomy

December 8, 2017

Tiny satellites called CubeSats have attracted a lot of attention in recent years. Besides allowing researchers to test new technologies, their relative simplicity also offers hands-on training to early-career engineers.

Black holes' magnetism surprisingly wimpy

December 7, 2017

Black holes are famous for their muscle: an intense gravitational pull known to gobble up entire stars and launch streams of matter into space at almost the speed of light.

NASA Mars rover team's tilted winter strategy works

December 7, 2017

NASA's senior Mars rover, Opportunity, has just passed the shortest-daylight weeks of the long Martian year with its solar panels in encouragingly clean condition for entering a potential dust-storm season in 2018.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (4) Nov 20, 2010
Congratulations, NASA!

May this be a new page in the history of NASA - our once proud space agency!

I know that many of your talented staff members look forward to using NASA's resources to provide useful information to our citizens, rather than using those resources to promote propaganda for misguided world leaders like Al Gore and the UN's IPCC.

See: "Earth's heat source - the Sun", Energy & Environment 20 (2009) 131-144 http://www.youtub...QSSHIe6k

Again, congratulations!

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.