NASA astronaut photographs national parks from space

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NASA astronaut Megan McArthur has been training spotting national parks 250 miles above Earth and plans to return with a portfolio of spaced parks photos.

In a live interview with NASA TV this morning, floating in the air on the International Space Station and sporting a “Protect Our National Parks” t-shirt, McArthur described how she spotted and captured photos of the Grand Canyon, from Zion and other national parks across the Southwest.

“I first noticed Zion simply because my eyes were drawn to the incredible pattern of this region 250 miles above sea level,” she said in the interview. “I took all the pictures and then I tried to figure out what it was and I realized, ‘Oh my God, this is Zion from space’, and it was absolutely amazing. “

Some national parks are large enough to be easily spotted, like the Grand Canyon, she said. Others she learned to spot by identifying the urban areas around them.

McArthur also needs to get the footage quickly. The International Space Station goes from New York to California in about 10 minutes and orbit the world in just 90 minutes, she said.

She was unable to spot many marine national parks, but said she was working with her crew to identify and capture them in real time.

A park enthusiast during her time on Earth, McArthur said seeing parks forming space brings back memories of visiting them on foot, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks. She also got a glimpse of parks she has never visited before, which makes her want to visit them once back on earth, she said.

“I used to go to Yosemite all the time with my growing parents,” she said. “I went to the Grand Canyon with my college roommates – it sure reminds me of all those memories.”

She added that visiting national parks can also spark interest in astronomy if you just look up. Many parks are far away from light pollution and urban centers, so night skies in parks are great places to connect with space.

“One of the memories I have is a trip to Canyon lands with my fellow astronauts and cosmonauts,” she said.

“We take these trips to be explorers on earth; everyone who explores the outdoors is like space explorers. We all have this in common: we are explorers.


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