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Smog clouds view from space station

Mikhail Tyurin, left, Frank Culbertson, center and Vladimir Dezhurov
Mikhail Tyurin, left, Frank Culbertson, center and Vladimir Dezhurov  

LONDON, England -- The Earth is becoming less blue and more blurred when viewed from space, because of increased levels of smog, astronauts say.

United States astronaut Frank Culbertson, who currently is in command of international space station Alpha, said Earth is becoming less clear as forests are burned and gas emissions rise.

He said the view from space has changed markedly since his first mission in 1990.

"There is smoke and dust in wider spread areas than we have seen before, particularly as areas like Africa dry up in certain regions,'' he told the BBC.

"I have seen changes in what comes out of some of the rivers, in land usage. We see areas of the world that are being burned to clear land, so we are losing lots of trees."

He said the changes were a cause for concern. "We have to be very careful how we treat this good Earth we live on," he added.

Space station Alpha
Space station Alpha  

Culbertson, who piloted space shuttle missions in 1990 and 1993, said he was also struck by the number of lights glowing on the Earth at night.

"It's quite amazing to see how many people actually live down there and how much of an effect they are having on the environment and the land we live on."

Culbertson is the commander of the third crew to live and work on Alpha. His crewmates are Russian pilot Vladimir Dezhurov, a former Mir commander and Russian engineer Mikhail Tyurin. Tyurin is on his first mission to space.

The three will live on the station for four months, conducting experiments and collecting data.

• Earth from Space
• Oceanography from the Space Shuttle
• The Space Shuttle Clickable Map
• NASA Space Shuttle Virtual Tour

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