In what may be the saddest photo ever taken from space, a space traveler aboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured an image of the Gaza Strip, as battle raged below.
Alexander Gerst was launched to the International Space Station as part of the Expedition 40/41 crew. While aboard the orbiting outpost, the space traveler noticed something he had never before seen on the surface of the Earth -- orange streaks traveling over land and erupting into circles. He drifted over to the Cupola window module for a better view. Gerst started to take pictures before realizing what he was seeing -- missiles flying and exploding in the Gaza Strip.
"Some things that on Earth we see in the news every day and thus almost tend to accept as a "given," appear very different from our perspective. We do not see any borders from space. We just see a unique planet with a thin, fragile atmosphere, suspended in a vast and hostile darkness. From up here it is crystal clear that on Earth we are one humanity, we eventually all share the same fate," Alexander Gerst wrote on a blog maintained by the European Space Agency.
Even though there are no explosions that can be seen in the photo released on Twitter, Gerst reports he saw several blasts from the weapons.
The 38-year-old space traveler and photographer is from Germany, and trained as a volcanologist and geophysicist. From 2005 to 2009, he researched geological processes during the first few seconds after a volcanic eruptions. His investigations led him to visit volcanoes around the world. He joined the ESA as an astronaut in May 2009, completing his training in November 2010.
Israel recently sent troops into the Gaza Strip, in the latest offensive during a series of attacks between people living in the region and Damascus. Each side is armed with advanced weapons, including modern missiles. The United States and the United Nations have each called for a cease-fire in the region, which has not been heeded by the warring forces. A series of deaths of young people on both sides of the fighting sparked the latest round of battles in the Gaza Strip.
"[I]f we ever will be visited by another species from somewhere in the universe, how would we explain to them what they might see as the very first thing when they look at our planet? How would we explain to them the way we humans treat not only each other but also our fragile blue planet, the only home we have? I do not have an answer for that," Gerst stated in his blog.