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‘If we can make a space station fly, we can save the planet’: An astronaut’s view on protecting the Earth Words and video by Stefanie Blendis, Updated 0848 GMT (1648 HKT) January 24, 2022 Hide Caption 15 of 15 Photos: 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.” Hide Caption 1 of 15 ()French astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent six months aboard the International Space Station last year, and his view of the Earth was as alarming as it was breathtaking. Long periods with his feet off solid ground gave him a unique and privileged perspective on our planet. His Instagram account is bursting with beautiful images of “the blue ball we call home.” But the beauty is tainted. Pesquet says that even from space the effects of climate change are visible. He says that since his previous visit to space, in 2016, the consequences of human activity have become even more apparent, with glaciers visibly retreating, and a rise in extreme weather events. Environmental concern motivated him to become a UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Goodwill Ambassador. As an astronaut on board the ISS he supported the FAO’s research into agricultural innovation and methods of food production. Limited resources in space provide an opportunity to model human behavior on a planet with dwindling resources, and Pesquet wants to
are the real effects of climate change that are visible from space? Pesquet: You can see a lot of the consequences of human activities from space. Some of them are from climate change, and some of it is just plain old pollution, e.g. river pollution, air pollution. The most visual visible effect is glaciers retreating year after year and mission after mission. But what you can see as well is extreme weather phenomena. They’re getting stronger and stronger year after year. My first mission was 2016-2017, and my second mission was five years later in 2021. I could see a net increase in the frequency and the strength of extreme weather phenomena like hurricanes, like wildfires. Read: Explorer’s mission to photograph a century of climate change in Patagonia : What contribution can an astronaut make? Pesquet: There’s a ton that you can do from space to help out on the planet. First of all, as a space agency, we have satellites that can observe the Earth and measure variables such as the heights of waves, the temperature of the sea, ice on the polar caps retreating. But we can also go a little bit deeper. We have experiments that are geared towards protecting the planet — for example, experiments on fluids. Fluids in orbit behave differently, so our research is trying to understand the motion of the magma and lava inside the planet, and the movement of waves in the ocean. This can help us predict some of the extreme weather events that affect our environment. Crucially, we have to manage our limited resources
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