An astronaut's away-from-home movie: Fragile Oasis

By Phil Plait | November 21, 2011 9:11 am

Astronaut Ron Garan’s photography is a common feature here at BA Central, and although his still photos are incredible, he hadn’t tried time-lapse photography until his last trip up to the space station.

He took a series of images and he himself created a video from them, called "Time Lapse From Space – Literally. The Journey Home". It’s similar to the time lapse I posted recently of the Earth from space, but has some new stuff in it:

Breathtaking, isn’t it?

This is part of a project Ron is working on called Fragile Oasis, an effort to get everyone to see the Earth as a single home for humanity, and to inspire people to make a difference, change things for the better. About his feelings as he gazed down on the Earth from space, Ron writes:

It was very moving to see the beauty of the planet we’ve been given. But as I looked down at this indescribably beautiful fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us and has protected all life from the harshness of space, I couldn’t help thinking of the inequity that exists.

I couldn’t help but think of the people who don’t have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, of the social injustice, conflict, and poverty that exist.

The stark contrast between the beauty of our planet and the unfortunate realities of life for many of its inhabitants reaffirmed the belief I share with so many. Each and every one of us on this planet has the responsibility to leave it a little better than we found it.

I can’t argue with that. In fact, I strongly support this effort, and hope everyone out there spreads the word.

Related posts:

JAW DROPPING Space Station time lapse!
The twice reflected Moon light
A new day, from space
Expedition 28 from the ISS lands safely in Kazakhstan

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

Comments (18)

  1. DrFlimmer

    Each and every one of us on this planet has the responsibility to leave it a little better than we found it.

    I think, everyone agrees with it. The big resulting problem is merely that everyone has different opinions of how to achieve this goal. And that’s where everything and everyone begins to become wrong….

    Anyway, beautiful video, absolutely.

  2. Radwaste

    There is a load of irony in this too-wonderful feature: it is competition, inequality, that has produced each and every advance you can name.

    “Fairness” does not exist in nature, and human efforts to extend the idea beyond “equal protection before the law” are doomed to failure. Hundreds of millions have *died* in social experiments professing to extend the talents of the few to the many.

    I’ve seen the population curve, and figures on natural resources, and noted just how many are incapable of planning their own personal lives. I am not optimistic. I hope, hope, hope that the intelligent among us are not killed by mobs, as they have been on occasion through the millennia.

  3. artbot

    That’s one of the most amazing space videos I’ve ever seen. Great song selection, too (for a change).

    But the idea of calling earth an “oasis” rings false. Doesn’t an “oasis” imply a place of respite from an inhospitable place? Maybe space qualifies as that, but my point is the analogy doesn’t work since the possibility of going or living there doesn’t exist for anyone but a few astronauts, and even then it’s only due to the work and support of many thousands of people on earth and a very large amount of money and resources. I’m not trying to detract from the beauty of this or the technical accomplishment involved, but let’s keep things in perspective.

    There’s long been a “one world” hippie-type tendency to look upon the earth from space as a safe and beautiful place, but that seems illusory to me. It is, in many ways, a harsh and difficult place to live, even more so when you include the disparity of wealth, power, and access to safe habitation and living supplies. But to paraphrase the quote about democracy, it’s the worst planet to live on, except for all the others.

  4. Very beautiful. At 6:16 I could see my place! With the volcanic plume of Cordón Caulle blowing over the Pacific (for once!) and the huge region of ashfall eastward, over Patagonia… All this ash is keeping my telscope stored…

  5. Fritriac

    Another nice time-lapse, notably with the background music from Peter Gabriel!

    /gimme moar

  6. Calli Arcale

    artbot: that’s one definition for oasis. But it’s not the original definition. The original definition is a freshwater spring or lake supporting a tiny spot of lush vegetation in the middle of a desert. Oases are lovely, so they came to be seen as places where one might put a vacation spot, or an inn for weary travelers crossing the desert. But there are people who live at oases, and certainly whole ecosystems which would perish if anything happened to the oasis.

    An oasis in the desert is a bit of water surrounded by lush, fertile soils teeming with life. And a few feet further away, sand. Lots and lots of sand. Miles of it. You could easily die trying to flee an oasis, and the life that flourishes on its verge are utterly dependent on its fragile existence. If the oasis dries up, the plants will all die, and most of the animals will die with them. (A few will be able to migrate to another oasis. Birds, camels, humans.) It may seem as if it is totally lifegiving and miraculous, but only a tiny change in conditions and everything there will die.

    Oases dry up from time to time, spelling doom for all that cannot flee them in time. But for those who must live there, it is their only hope of survival. Yes, our planet is an oasis.

  7. Couldn’t have picked a better song in my opinion. Now I must watch Wall-E again. :)

  8. DeepField

    There is a sequence titled “Aurora Australis over Madagascar” at about 2:00, but Madagascar is just below the equator…

  9. artbot

    @Calli: So what you’re saying is, Our planet is an oasis that we can simply leave it if it suddenly becomes uninhabitable? Like I said, an oasis implies that there is something or somewhere to go beyond the life-giving conditions of the oasis, but space is not that place – at least not now.

    Now, you could get all speculative and say we might *eventually* migrate to another habitable planet, but that is far, far off in the distant future if it ever comes to pass at all (my semi-educated guess is that it probably won’t happen. Humans will likely be destroyed by one calamity or another in the next 100-10,000 years.) It’s a pretty appealing idea, to be sure, but to me it’s right up there with the myth of an afterlife.

  10. MadScientist

    Unfortunately many politicians live in an alternate reality. As I see it, governments are now promising to do nothing to reduce CO2 emissions or encourage the development of alternative energy sources until 2020 – at which point it will be the usual “we’re very disappointed but …” yet again. If you want anything done right, don’t ever involve politicians.

  11. CR

    I love how we can see the underside of the aurorae as they appear just over the horizon, then as the planet passes beneath us, we transition to being ABOVE the aurorae. Really gives a sense of the atmoshpere being a clear ‘shell’ surrounding our planet. Just when I didn’t think there was any way to make aurorae any more beautiful, I am astounded anew by them in this video. (They were beautiful in the last one, too, but I hadn’t noticed the ‘shell’ effect then.)

    Great music choice, by the way, though after last time, I’d be interested in seeing what other choices people may have…

  12. Marvellously splendid work. Thankyou. :-)

    Great words by Ron Garan – it’s also great to have the descriptions of what we’re flying over included here. :-)

    (Whoah, hurricane Irene sure looks one huge storm on one tranquil blue planet! 😮 )

  13. @13. CR :

    Great music choice, by the way, though after last time, I’d be interested in seeing what other choices people may have…

    Well my original choices from here :

    Comments # 106- 109 there still hold.

    With this one :

    perhaps seeming even more apt than before. Or maybe add this one :

    which I hadn’t included in the long alternative soundtrack list before that could work aptly too – until the last scene anyhow. 😉

    Plus there’s one more which could work – nice, jazzy & upbeat with neat animation – click on my name to see / hear. 😉

  14. STevepr

    Awesome video. The storms and aurora were just amazing

    Two questions;
    1. Large parts of the video showed no stars. Didn’t seem to be angle as other parts showed lots of stars coming up from the same apparent angle. eg 1:37 to 1:58 ish & 2:28 to 2:50. Why is that?

    2. The thin green atmosphere layer in large parts of the video. That a discrete part of the atmosphere or just refraction


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