The vast majority of humanity can only imagine what it’s like to spend your days travelling around the planet and watching its changing clouds, landscapes, cities and lights from far, far above.
But we’re lucky to live at a time when astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) can use the internet to readily share the beautiful things they see – for example, by creating a mindblowing music video that’s haunting and mesmerising all at once.
NASA’s Johnson Space Center has a very active social media presence, including their amazing YouTube channel which has brought us such hits as the fidget spinner in microgravity, liquid pingpong, and this hour-long festival of Earth in 4K.
But their latest video compilation of footage taken by current Expedition 53 members is truly someting, not least thanks to their great choice of music.
Two years ago, American heavy metal band Disturbed released a dramatic, haunting cover of the classic Paul Simon piece The Sound of Silence, which quickly propelled up music charts and even earned them a Grammy nomination.
Now the NASA Johnson media team have outdone themselves by combining this beautiful music with stunning visuals captured from aboard the ISS, courtesy of Commander Randy Bresnik and flight engineers Sergey Ryazanskiy and Paolo Nespoli.
In the video, we get sweeping vistas from across our planet’s surface, with brief glimpses of thunderstorms as seen from space, myriad city lights glittering in the night, and even auroras swirling across the skies.
The footage and photography was captured in low-earth orbit from August to October this year, making up just a small slice of the thousands of photos astronauts have taken while making a full orbit of our planet every 90 minutes.
The Sound of Silence is a lovely metaphorical choice as well, since we often associate space with being this vast vacuum where we can’t hear any sound travelling. However, the reality for ISS astronauts isn’t quite as silent.
As former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman explained to Slate a few years ago, there are still noises when an astronaut steps outside the airlock of the ISS to perform a spacewalk.
“Mostly what you hear is the sound of the pumps and fans that circulate air and water through your suit,” he said.
“It’s not terribly annoying or anything, but it’s not the silent lonely environment with no sound other than your own breathing like often depicted in the movies.”
But you can still get an eerie experience of silence due to the vacuum surrounding the space station.
“[S]ound cannot travel in a vacuum so you do not hear things outside. When you drive a bolt or tap a piece of equipment with a tool, you don’t hear a thing,” said Reisman.
Certainly, for an astronaut hanging out in the cupola of the station, watching the planet below, Earth looks distant and very much silent.
“Sharing the incomparable silent beauty of our planet with all our fellow travelers on this, our Spaceship Earth,” NASA Johnson writes in the video caption.
“Our thanks to all the people within the partnership of the International Space Station who show us daily what heights we can achieve together.”