NASA Astronaut Sets Record for Most Photographs

Commander Virts shares spectacular images of Earth from outer space in his new book View From Above.

NASA Astronaut Sets Record for Most Photographs

Commander Virts shares spectacular images of Earth from outer space in his new book View From Above.

“I had never seen that shade of blue before.”

Cmdr. Terry Virts, NASA astronaut, National Geographic photographer, and author, was awestruck by his first flight into space. During his stint as commander of the International Space Station (ISS), he set the record for most photos ever taken during a space mission. In his new book, View From Above, Virts illustrates his unique perspective of our planet through stories and awe-inspiring photographs.

When asked why he wanted to document his time in space this way, Commander Virts replied, “The mission of the Space Station is always science … But unless people on Earth can experience it, and share the excitement and the adventure of space flight, it doesn’t really matter.”

Ever since growing up in Maryland, Virts has been an enthusiastic photographer. Over the course of the 200 days he spent in the ISS, he took more than 319,000 photographs. Taking pictures of Earth through the Cupola, the seven-windowed observatory module of the ISS, became Commander Virts’s hobby while in space. He is very active on social media and posts pictures regularly to give his followers (half a million on Instagram alone) a glimpse into the majesty of planet Earth.

Fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a mentor and close friend, wrote the book’s foreword. The pages that follow include personal stories from Commander Virts detailing his adventures and life in space. These anecdotes are coupled with “Viewfinder” sections comprised of stunning photographs of Earth’s geological wonders, showing glimpses of what life looks like from above the clouds.

In one chapter, the commander talks about how he learned to see the Earth in terms of colors. When the space station turned red and pink, he knew that they were above Australia; during winter, Canada stood out because it was “nothing but white”; the Bahamas (which have the most beautiful color, according to Virts) were recognized as a “large turquoise pattern.” The commander learned to see the world in a completely new way—and he wants to share this experience with others.

View Images
New York City and Long Island ablaze at night, with Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., to the left. The concentration of city lights on Earth was an indication not just of population but of wealth. By night most of Africa, even heavily populated regions, lay in dark.

“My goal is to make [this book] a little bit unique in the space book universe ... I wanted to take my mission and put it in book format so you can experience a space mission through photographs, but also through the stories, which are just as important in a book,” said Commander Virts.

Through stunning imagery and vivid storytelling, View From Above reveals a new perspective of our world and helps us to better appreciate this beautiful planet that we call home.