Have you ever seen a rocket launch — from space? This isn’t an experience most of us can ever have, but astronauts aboard the International Space Station, with the help of a little technology, have recorded the experience for us.
This timelapse video compresses about fifteen minutes of time into roughly 90 seconds. What you’re watching is the 2018 launch of a Russian Soyuz-FG rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on its way to the ISS with a Progress MS-10 module full of needed supplies to the space station.
Highlights in the video include city lights and clouds visible on the Earth on the lower left, blue and gold bands of atmospheric airglow running diagonally across the center, and distant stars on the upper right that set behind the Earth. A lower stage can be seen falling back to Earth as the robotic supply ship fires its thrusters and begins to close on the ISS; the space station itself has been in service almost 22 years now, and counting.
It doesn’t look so spectacular, does it? It’s just a bunch of little white dots. And then it starts to sink in as to exactly what you’re looking at.
The planet Earth revolving below is the real planet, not a special effect, and it’s gorgeous and soul stirring just to see that. The little white dots? Naturally occurring fusion furnaces light years away, mostly vastly larger than our own sun. Why are they all moving at once? They aren’t. Our time-compressed viewpoint is just hurtling around the Earth at roughly 2856 miles per hour – except for the dots that are moving the other way. Those are the rocket parts rising from the surface of the Earth, fighting against the gravity caused by the enormous dent the Earth makes in the fabric of space-time.
With the proper context, little white dots suddenly take on enormous, profound meaning.
This is why science fiction fans love space exploration and everything about it. We are this. This is us. We are Humanity, and if we put our minds to it, we can do anything – and that gives us hope for the future.