Ask the Astronaut: Has space travel changed your life?

The aurora as seen from the International Space Station. (NASA)

Q: Has your space travel changed your life—the way you look at life and our mother planet? (Youssef Nibouguy, Casablanca, Morocco)
I certainly gained an overall perspective on the fragility of the Earth’s atmosphere and biosphere. From space, the atmosphere looks very tenuous, yet it must protect us from radiation and asteroid strikes, and furnish us with oxygen and clean air to breathe. I routinely saw heavily polluted cities and industrial regions dirtying the atmosphere. I could also see the effects of deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, both in the form of fires burning and heavy loads of silt carried to the oceans by muddy rivers. So yes, we should put our best efforts and technology into protecting the environment.
Perhaps the most moving experience of space travel for me was seeing the Earth set against the vast cosmos—of which our world is a tiny part. It’s awe-inspiring to think of one’s self as an insignificant human living on our small planet, set in the immensity of Creation—the universe—we’re a part of. I felt that perspective was simultaneously humbling and an intensely personal gift from God.

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About Tom Jones

Former astronaut Tom Jones is a scientist, author, and pilot. In more than eleven years with NASA, Tom flew on four space shuttle missions to Earth orbit. On his last flight, he led three spacewalks to install the centerpiece of the International Space Station, the American Destiny laboratory. He has spent 53 days working and living in space. He is is currently writing “Space Shuttle Voices,” recording astronaut experiences during the space shuttle’s 30-year career. See his full bio here.

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