After four missions to space and 2,500 trips around the Earth, astronaut Chris Hadfield (perhaps best known, outside astronaut circles, for his amazing cover of Space Oddity) ended up with a staggering 45,000 photographs from orbit.
It’s not meant to be a typical coffee table book. “I didn’t want people to idly leaf through it and say, ‘Oh, that’s pretty,'” Hadfield says. “I wanted it to be, ‘This is ugly, this is weird, this is really interesting, and wow, that’s not how I thought that looked.’ I wanted the pictures to be inherently clear on what the world really looks like.”
Most of us, Hadfield points out, have only hazy mental images of other parts of the world. “People talk globally, but very few people see globally, and they don’t really think globally,” he says. “You become quite familiar with the region that you run into all the time. But how do you actually picture the Sudan? What’s your mental image of Patagonia, or of Auckland, New Zealand? What do you actually picture in your mind when someone says those places? And how do you make good judgments if you’ve never actually even seen them?”
The book takes readers on a virtual tour of one full orbit around the Earth, and includes images like the desert in Mauritania, wetlands in Argentina, oil and gas sites in New Mexico, and a lit-up nighttime view of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “If I was at the window with someone who had never been around the world, what would I want to show them?” he says of how organized the project. “Where couldn’t I help myself from grabbing them by the shoulder and saying, “Hey, look at that?” ….
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