The mission completed by 38-year-old German astronaut, geophysicist and volcanologist Alexander Gerst was fittingly named “Blue Dot”. The name dates back to an expression used by US astronaut Carl Sagan in 1990 to describe the Earth from the Voyager probe, at an altitude of 6 billion kilometers. In these thousands of photographs taken from space, Earth indeed appears disconcerting, beautiful and above all fragile.
Gerst’s photos fire our imagination and most of all provide us with information on the extent of urban lighting, the masses of clouds above the oceans, the aurora borealis, deforestation, the sunset, etc. All these images have been assembled in an incredible six-minute time-lapse in 4k resolution. At more than 20,000km/h, the space station takes just 90 minutes to travel around the world. That means that the ISS astronauts witness 16 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours!
In another novel aspect of the Blue Dot mission, these photos have been shared by Gerst via his Twitter and Flickr accounts, resulting in tens of thousands of views and more than 200,000 dedicated followers. Gerst was not the first astronaut to share his work on social networks. In 2013, Chris Hadfield used his Twitter account to relate his experiences on the International Space Station.
Gerst’s mission was not limited to photography, however. While programming his cameras to take pictures at regular intervals for 166 days, Alexander Gerst also had time to carry out dozens of experiments, taking advantage of a microgravity environment to explore the physical properties of certain materials (soap bubbles, metal, etc.) and the reactions of living organisms (bacteria, rats and… mussels) in space.
With Blue Dot, Alexander Gerst has paved the way for a new generation of astronauts connected to social networks who want to share scientific advances with as many people as possible while raising awareness of environmental problems.