Protecting the Earth: A view from space

By Amarachi Orie, CNN

Updated 3:40 AM ET, Mon January 24, 2022
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In 2021, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He says that when you see the Earth from space, "you suddenly understand that we live in an oasis in the cosmos. All around us is nothing ... apart from this blue ball with everything we need to sustain human life, and life in general, which is absolutely fragile."
Pesquet says that the impacts of climate change are increasingly visible from space. He took this image of the Upsala Glacier, in Patagonia, South America, from the ISS last year. "The majestic spectacle with slow ice waves that flow into the blue water is beautiful but also worrying," he wrote. "Glaciers are getting smaller and this is very noticeable for astronauts in space. Earth observation satellites also monitor this progression, providing scientists with the data which confirms climate change."
ESA/NASA - T. Pesquet
This image from a Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite shows plumes of smoke from a number of wildfires. Hundreds of wildfires broke out in Siberia in July 2019, caused by record-breaking temperatures and lightning, and affecting millions of hectares of land, according to the European Space Agency. Wildfires release pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
This image from a Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite, from June 24, 2019, shows wildfires east of Phoenix, Arizona. It also shows the red lines of flame retardant sprayed from aircraft and colored red so firefighters can see it. The climate crisis is promoting wildfires throughout the western US.
contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Captured by a Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite, this image shows Cyclone Idai on March 13, 2019, west of Madagascar and heading for Mozambique. The storm caused destruction in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing hundreds.
contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
This image from Copernicus Sentinel-1 shows flooding in Mozambique, on March 19 2019, following Cyclone Idai. Flooding is shown in red, around the port town of Beira. Warmer oceans due to climate change are causing higher storm surges, increased rainfall and rising storm intensity.
contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
While aboard the ISS, Pesquet photographed the Earth's beauty in its many forms -- natural and man-made. Pesquet took this selfie on his 100th day in space on the Alpha mission on July 29 2021. He wrote that he was "still seeing new things all the time." Here, his view of the Earth's horizon from the ISS Cupola. ESA/NASA--T. Pesquet
Pesquet took this photograph of sand dunes in the Sahara Desert in September 2021. He read the book "Dune" by Frank Herbert as a teenager and took a copy to space. "I look at the dunes dotted around Earth and think the world Frank Herbert created could very well look like the Sahara," he wrote. ESA/NASA--T. Pesquet
Taken by Pesquet in July 2021, this photograph shows Bora Bora and its turquoise lagoon protected by a coral reef. Sea level rises due to climate change could pose a threat to French Polynesian islands like this one. ESA/NASA--T. Pesquet
Pesquet took this photograph of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at night. It was taken around 400 kilometers above the Earth, using the longest lenses on board the ISS.
ESA/NASA - T. Pesquet
A view of Las Vegas -- "the City that Never Sleeps" -- at night in August 2021. The most light appears from the Las Vegas Boulevard (or "Strip"), which is famous for its hotels and casinos. ESA/NASA
Captured here are pyramids in Egypt, and the Suez Canal. "Egypt is one of the most easily recognizable countries and one of the most photogenic places to picture from space," wrote Pesquet. ESA/NASA--T. Pesquet
This image was made from a stack of 59 shots, each with a 30-second exposure. Each star leaves a small trail in each photograph and the combination of all these trails creates the circles that you see. They form circles because the ISS constantly rotates. ESA/NASA--T. Pesquet/A. Conigli
Pesquet was taken back to Earth on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, and landed in the Gulf of Mexico on November 8 2021. (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
Taken in June 2021, this photograph shows the sun setting on Earth. Pesquet says that he is "optimistic for the future" of our planet. "If we can make a space station fly, then we can save the planet." ESA/NASA--T. Pesquet/A. Conigli