Statements by people who have orbited planet Earth

After an orange cloud – formed as a result of a dust storm over the Sahara and caught up by air current – reached the Philippines and settled there with rain, I understood that we are all sailing in the same boat.   Vladimir Kovalyonok, USSR

From space I saw Earth – indescribably beautiful with the scars of national boundaries gone.  Muhammed Ahmad Faris, Syria

The first day or so we all pointed to our countries.  The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents.  By the fifth day we were aware only of one Earth.  Sultan Bin Salman-al-Saud, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

As I looked down, I saw a large river meandering slowly along for miles, passing from one country to another without stopping.  I also saw huge forests, extending across several borders.  And I watched the extent of one ocean touch the shores of separate continents.  Two words leapt to mind as I looked down on all this: commonality and interdependence.  We are one world.  John-David Bartoe, USA

During a space flight, the psyche of each astronaut is reshaped.  Having seen the sun, the stars, and our planet, you become more full of life, softer.  You begin to look at all living things with greater trepidation and you begin to be more kind and patient with the people around you.  Boris Volynov, USSR

One morning I woke up and decided to look out the window to see where we were.  We were flying over America and suddenly I saw snow, the first snow we ever saw from orbit.  Light and powdery, it blended with the contours of the land, with the veins of rivers.  I thought – autumn, snow – people are busy getting ready for winter.  A few minutes later we were flying over the Atlantic, then Europe, then Russia.  I have never visited America, but I imagined that the arrival of autumn and winter is the same here as in other places, and the process of getting ready for them is the same.  And then it struck me that we are all children of our Earth.  It does not matter what country you look at.  We are all Earth’s children, and we should treat her as our Mother.  Alexander Aleksandrov, USSR

Before I flew I was already aware of how small and vulnerable our planet is: but only when I saw it from space, in all its ineffable beauty, did I realize that humankind’s most urgent task is to cherish and preserve it for future generations.  Sigmund Jahn, Germany


Instead of an intellectual search, there was suddenly a very deep gut feeling that something was different.  It occurred when looking at Earth and seeing this blue-and-white planet floating there, and knowing it was orbiting the Sun, seeing that Sun, seeing it set in the background of the very deep Black and velvety cosmos, seeing – rather than knowing for sure – that there was a purposefulness of flow, of energy or time, of space in the cosmos – that it was beyond our rational ability to understand, that suddenly there was a non-rational way of understanding that had been beyond my previous experience.  There seems to be more to the universe than random, chaotic purposeless movement of a collection of molecular particles.

On the return trip home, gazing through 240,000 miles of space toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.  The peaks were the recognition that it is a harmonious, purposeful, creating universe.  The valleys came in recognizing that humanity was not behaving in accordance with that knowledge.

We went to the moon as technicians; we returned as humanitarians.  Edgar Mitchell, USA


From Endymion, by John Keats

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Its loveliness increases. It will never

Pass into nothingness, but still will keep

A bower of quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Therefore, on every morrow, we are wreathing

A flowery band to bind us to the earth,

Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth

Of noble natures, of the gloomy days

Of all the unhealthy and o’erdarkened ways

Made for our searching.  Yes, in spite of all,

Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

From our darkened spirits.


The Bright Field, by R. S. Thomas

I have seen the sun break through

to illuminate a small field

for a while, and gone my way

and forgotten it.  But that was the pearl

of great price, the one field that had

the treasure in it.  I realize now

that I must give all that I have

to possess it.  Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after

an imagined past.  It is the turning

aside like Moses to the miracle

of the lit bush, to a brightness

that seems as transitory as your youth

once, but is the eternity that awaits you.


The First Spring Day, by Christina Rossetti

I wonder if the sap is rising yet,

If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,

If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun

And crocus fires are kindling one by one:

Sing, robin, sing;

I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.


I wonder if the springtide of this year

Will bring another Spring both lost and dear;

If heart and spirit will find out their Spring,

Or if the world alone will bud and sing:

Sing, hope, to me;

Sweet notes, my hope, soft notes for memory.


The sap will surely quicken soon or late,

The tardiest bird will twitter to a mate;

So Spring must dawn again with warmth and bloom,

Or in this world, or in the world to come:

Sing, voice of Spring,

Till I too blossom and rejoice and sing.


Religion in everything, by John Ruskin

There is religion in everything around us, a calm and holy religion in the inbreathing things in Nature.  It is a meek and blessed influence, stealing in as it were unawares upon the heart.; it comes quickly, and without excitement; it has no terror, no gloom, it does not rouse up the passions; it is untrammeled by creed…

It is written on the arched sky, it looks out from every star; it is on the sailing cloud and in the invisible wind; it is among the hills and valleys of the earth where the shrubless mountain-top pierces the thin atmosphere of eternal winter; or where the mighty forest fluctuates before the strong wind, with its dark waves of green foliage; it is spread out like a legible language upon the broad face of an unsleeping ocean; it is the poetry of Nature, it is that which uplifts the spirit within us… And which opens to our imagination a world of spiritual beauty and holiness.


White Heron, by John Ciardi

What lifts the heron

leaning on the air

I praise, without a name.

A crouch a flare, a long stroke

Through the cumulus of trees

A shaped thought at the sky

Then gone.  O rare!


St Francis, being happiest on his knees,

would have cried, “Father!”

Cry anything you please, but praise.

Praise the white original burst

of those two soft hissing kites.

When saints praise heaven, lit by doves and rays

I sit by pond scum till the air recites its heron back

And doubt all else,

but praise.


Through the Earth I am aware, by Elizabeth Birtles

I am a part of the earth.

I am a part of the solid, unshakeable,

Immutable rock

Of the mountain.

A part of the stark, rain-washed slabs of slate,

A part of the crumbling granite of shining boulders.

I am part of what makes

The green rounded hill

With its splashes of laughing yellow gorse.

Through the earth I am aware

of what I am:

All that is firmly fixed and endures forever,

All that is shifting imperceptibly,

Being gently folded and unfolded,

All that holds the possibility

Of shattering violence and eruption;

All that is contained in

Is, and Was, and Shall Be.


For such awareness, coming from the Earth,

I give my thanks today

For the earth, and my part in it.