David Morrissey narrates a unique journey around the weird and wonderful planet that we call home. What would you see during just one orbit of the Earth?
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Ten, nine, eight...
Go for main engine start. six, five, four, three, two, one
..and zero and lift off of space shuttle Atlantis.
Powering away from Earth at an incredible 10,000 miles per hour,
Shuttle Mission 132 is heading for the International Space Station.
When the engines light, it's like being kicked in the back. It's an enormous smash,
then this whole 2,000-plus-tonne ship just lifts off, shaking and into the sky.
Shuttle Atlantis will fly for the very last time this summer.
50 years after man first experienced being blasted into space.
The sky goes very quickly. Blue, blue, blue, black! Then you're out in space, out of the atmosphere.
You suddenly find yourself flying around the world at five miles per second.
You go from being pressed in your seat at 3G, being mashed into your seat.
Suddenly there's a big bang, the engine is cut off and everything is floating around the cabin.
Mission specialist Piers Sellers, there on the left.
In the five decades that we have been travelling into space,
the greatest insights we have gained have not been about out there, but about down here.
About the small, jewelled ball of rock on which all our lives depend.
I think space, the exploration of space is absolutely essential for the future of humanity.
Being able to look down and understand how things are interconnected.
We're starting to understand how we influence both the natural world and each other.
I think the future of space is incredibly exciting.
It inspired a three-year-old kid to become a space scientist - me.
If we can make the most out of it and get commercial viability out of it as well,
it's a no-brainer. We have got to make the most of it.
It takes the International Space Station just 90 minutes to orbit the Earth.
The astronauts on board see 16 sunrises and sunsets every day.
'Beautiful. Look at that.'
In just one of those orbits, those same astronauts can look down
on everything that our planet has to offer us.
From this extraordinary viewpoint, they can also begin to see
and understand all the ways that we are changing and altering that world.
Over the next hour, we will follow one single 90-minute orbit
of the International Space Station around our globe,
taking a fresh look down on the Earth upon which we all depend.
A world that is changing measurably with every passing minute.
A world that is normally only seen through astronauts' eyes.
220 miles above the Earth, the crew of Shuttle Mission 132
are preparing to dock with the International Space Station.
It is an extraordinary ballet of almost 2,500 tonnes of space hardware.
Atlantis, go for docking.
Atlantis, copy. Go for docking. Thank you.
You have got these two vehicles going around the world
at five miles per second. Pretty fast.
Standing by for contact and capture.
But they come together at one inch per second and the accuracy has got to be about that much.
It has got to be within that kind of a box to officially dock.
Houston and stationed. Capture confirmed.
It is one of the wonders of the universe that we can pull that kind of thing off.
It is another wonder of the universe that the space station stays in orbit at all.
It is actually falling.
Falling at over 17,000 mph towards the Earth.
And constantly missing it by just 220 miles.
This is Mission Control, Houston. The hatches between the two spacecraft now open.
With docking complete, the shuttle crew make their way across to the ISS.
It has been a month since the space station last received visitors from Earth.
It is our pleasure to welcome them so soon.
We are really glad...
The shuttle crew are about to begin an extraordinary journey.
One that will ultimately take them almost 200 times around our planet.
But every journey needs a starting point.
How do astronauts tell where they are above the Earth?
Well, the zero point of all journeys on Earth and even in orbit around it
is a line drawn through an eastern suburb of London.
Greenwich. The historic heart of maritime Britain.
For centuries we set out from here in search of new worlds and discoveries.
In fact, by the 19th century, Britain had become so synonymous with global travel
that when it came to deciding where the world's starting line should be, Greenwich won the honour.
This line, marked in the ground at the Royal Observatory, was declared zero degrees longitude.
The place from where all the vertical lines of longitude which divide up our world are measured.
The Royal Observatory had a reputation for cutting-edge technology and the most accurate
measurements of the stars, planets and the moon that was available.
That information was vital for navigators.
Greenwich was decided by international agreement in 1884
as the location of the Prime Meridian because our astronomical measurements were incredibly accurate.
Also because we were a major seafaring power.
Two-thirds of all the shipping in the world, all the traffic,
based its navigation on data provided by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.
So we were, effectively, the GPS service of the day.
But our sailing forebears could never have imagined the voyages
that we could now map out in the heavens above our heads.
Hurtling at almost 18,000 mph through the skies,
the ISS has already left zero degrees far behind.
Swinging out of the Atlantic, the crew of six will be able to
briefly glimpse one of the most violent and changeable spots on our planet.
At 21 degrees west lies the island of Iceland.
Iceland has the greatest concentration of volcanoes in the world.
In the last 1,000 years, a third of the lava to reach the planet's surface has emerged here,
creating an island that won't stop growing.
It is only by journeying into space that we have really begun
to understand the significance of this geological cauldron.
Satellite measurements have revealed that Iceland and the mid-Atlantic ridge
on which it sits are slowly pushing the entire Atlantic Ocean apart.
With every orbit of the ISS, the Atlantic grows by 0.003 mm.
That's about the same rate of growth as your fingernails.
I think the most amazing thing is the satellites over the last 50 years
have given us a true insight into how the earth is moving.
To be able to use that from space and actually monitor our planet,
to actually take the temperature of the planet almost,
to understand its health, is absolutely unprecedented.
The more we can understand these tectonic powers and strength
and how volcanoes and earthquakes are created, the more we can do to actually save people's lives.
'We are one happy crew.'
The human desire to discover and understand our universe
and our world is the most basic purpose of the International Space Station.
It is a venture unique in human history.
16 countries worked together to create it.
More than a dozen modules devoted to different areas of scientific study.
It was thought that if you actually built a space station
where you could do long-term and short-term experiments, this would be of great benefit to mankind.
The problem with space is it is incredibly expensive.
To get 1kg of stuff into low Earth orbit costs about £20,000.
The idea was to get many nations to collaborate together
to have a joint facility used by many, many different people.
That was the concept behind the International Space Station.
Over the last ten years, the ISS has grown ever larger.
Now, it's the size of a football field.
Life in the ISS now is borderline luxurious.
We have six people living on board and a lot of space.
It's the equivalent of about two jumbo jets with all the seats stripped out.
So there's plenty of room, you can get away from people if you want to.
But however luxurious the accommodation,
the greatest privilege the astronauts have is to be able to gaze down on the amazing view below.
The first rays of sunshine, there, hitting the upper atmosphere of the Earth
as the station and the shuttle are out over the ocean.
There is a belly turret underneath the space station called a cupola,
which is a whole windowed little bubble underneath the space station.
So you can sit in there, stick your head in and watch the world go by all around you.
It's like actually floating outside in space, it's just beautiful.
Even from 220 miles up, the crew of ISS astronauts
can glimpse not just our planet's great natural evolutions, but also how we, too, are changing our world.
In just 15 minutes more, they have crossed the Atlantic, reaching the coastline of South America.
The Amazon rainforest covers around 1.5 billion acres of land.
Not only is it the home to thousands of species of plants and animals,
but as we now know, this forest is one of the lungs of the planet -
absorbing carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and replacing it with oxygen.
It keeps the planet's climate and atmosphere in balance.
But again, it's only from space that we can get a sense of just how delicate that balance really is.
I spent my whole life studying the climate system
and working on trying to simulate it better and observe it better, and experiments to understand it.
I really thought I had a pretty good grip on it before I went into space.
But when I got up there,
the thing that really surprised me was how thin the atmosphere is, compared to the size of the world.
The world is this enormous ball of rock,
then there's this thin little onion skin of atmosphere around it,
and that's the climate that we experience when you walk out the door.
So it's a very thin, little volume which is obviously easy to affect because it's so small.
That really made an impression on me.
A man-made scar on our world visible from orbit.
But our ability to look down from hundreds of miles above has also
began to allow us to slow that destruction.
There are satellites now monitoring every corner of the Amazon Basin.
Satellite data has completely changed the way we look
at deforestation because it allows us to
actually see where it's happening, the extent that it's happening and how much damage it's doing.
The fantastic thing is, in Brazil, since 1965, they've had a law
that says you cannot deforest 80% of your land in Amazonia.
However, they've never had the tools until very recently to enforce it.
Now they have two satellites called Amazonas 1 and 2,
which basically fly over and take photographs of the Amazon, and they can see landowners and actually show
when they've actually deforested more than that, and find them.
The rate of deforestation in the Amazon has slowed significantly in the last few years.
However, every 90 minutes, it's estimated that 447 acres of the Amazon rainforest will be lost.
But even as our orbiting astronauts begin to grasp our ability to transform and change our planet,
they are constantly reminded of the sheer power of the forces it can unleash upon us.
On the dark side of the Earth, the surface constantly flickers with the light of electrical storms.
You can see huge lightning flashes going on below your boots,
and some of these set each other off.
So you'll see a lightning flash and it goes "pow", and then "pow, pow, pow, pow, pow".
It kind of walks along for hundreds of miles, setting off other flashes.
So it's really spectacular.
And just a few degrees west of the Amazon lies one of the most
spectacular storm spots on the planet, Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela.
Around 160 nights a year, three-mile-high clouds form
over the lake and lightning arcs back and forth for ten hours at a time.
Here you can see the longest single display of continuous lightning in the world.
It's thought the mix of weather fronts from the Andes,
and methane gas rising off the marshy lake, create the perfect conditions for this lightning.
The bolts strike up to 40 times a minute and can be seen from over 250 miles away.
And even from orbit.
The monitoring of our planet's weather has been completely revolutionised by space technology.
Satellites now continuously keep an eye on weather systems across the planet,
right down to the scale and intensity of a single storm.
Oh, my God! Did you see that?
It's this technology that has saved countless lives.
If we look back at the past before satellites were in the sky and able
to look at storms, Galveston in the USA in 1900 was hit by a hurricane,
no warning, 8,000 people died.
In the 1970s, Bangladesh was hit by a number of cyclones and over 300,000 people died in those storms.
Now, with satellite, we can actually track
the actual inception, the birth of these storms and how they then move across the land in real time.
We can actually give real-time warnings to people on the ground.
These satellites have their work cut out.
1,800 storms take place back on our fragile planet every 90-minute orbit of the space station.
Back on board the ISS, the astronauts are learning to live and work in microgravity.
Setting their clocks to Greenwich Mean Time, they work a regular nine-to-five day.
Routine tasks, though, do come with their own space problems.
Everybody who goes to space first time has the first two or three days losing stuff.
It's hard to keep your stuff under control, it just wants to get away from you.
You turn your back for a second, you think it's sitting there
quite comfortably and it gets away from you.
Luckily, the air flow in the station with the fans suck everything towards the filters so if you lose something,
after a day or so it'll end up there.
Mike, just a heads-up that the pump module's right behind your feet.
Getting used to living in microgravity can be difficult for astronauts at first,
especially as it has a drastic effect on the body.
When astronauts are in space initially,
they often feel quite sick because all their internal organs start moving.
At the moment, I'm sitting here, my internal organs are being pulled down by the force of gravity.
In a microgravity environment, everything lifts up a bit,
your stomach might get compressed a bit so, often, astronauts feel sick.
This dies down after a few days but initially that happens.
But it's not all losing things and indigestion.
Weightlessness has its benefits too.
Don't try this at home!
Astronauts playing games in space gets lots of circulation - it is fun,
floating around doing a few tricks, making bubbles out of water, things like that.
That is fun and it brings across to people what a strange and wonderful environment space is.
But most of the time you're up there,
every minute is precious, someone's paying a lot of money for it and you're working hard.
Space travel is almost impossibly expensive.
Just one shuttle mission costs at least half a billion dollars.
Every drop of water, every bit of food has to be sent up from Earth using state-of-the-art technology.
But that's nothing compared to the efforts we're using back on Earth to create that food in the first place,
as we can see a few minutes on at our next stop.
More land is farmed in Texas than in any other state in America.
There's around 16 million cattle charging around this great expanse of land.
The ranches are so huge, the only way to manage this livestock is by a helicopter.
It's testament to the fact that we've been rearing cattle like these
for thousands of years that they'll stand for this.
Most animals would go berserk or drop down dead with fright if you chase them around in a helicopter!
The price they pay for this compliance is that in the 90 minutes it takes to complete
one orbit of the planet, 49,657 of them will be slaughtered for food.
But if you think the scale in which we grow our food is absurd,
just 16 degrees westward takes us on to whole new level.
The city of Las Vegas.
Las Vegas breaks all the rules on where to build a city.
A temple to gambling and entertainment,
it sits slap-bang in the middle of a desert on the road to nowhere.
And just like on board the space station, everything has to be shipped in.
Every ounce of flour, every chocolate biscuit and every slice of bacon has to be brought in.
Meanwhile, every 90 minutes
Las Vegas uses 69,437,500 litres of water.
That is the equivalent of 2,778 articulated tankers.
With all the vast expense and effort to keep the city fed,
Las Vegas also manages to be one of the fattest places in America.
Almost two-thirds of the Las Vegas population are overweight.
And it's not just the city's waistline that's expanding.
Its population has almost doubled since 1990,
and it's a trend we're seeing across the world.
It's estimated that by 2050, there will be nine billion people on the planet
and that is going to stretch the resources we have to produce food,
to distribute food, and to ensure everybody has enough.
I think if we are to address that challenge,
we really have to look at how we balance the personal freedoms and choice we value so much around food
with our responsibilities to live within our environmental limits.
What's absolutely clear is that if we are to feed nine billion people by 2050,
we cannot continue eating the way we eat in Britain or indeed the United States today.
Unhappily, there's no sign of us giving up on our appetite for ever more and ever faster food.
Every 90 minutes, two million hamburgers are eaten across the world.
Back up on the space station, the cuisine is surprisingly cosmopolitan.
I think it's the same thing.
-No hamburgers here.
-Genuine Russian food.
International food here on the International Space Station! We got yakitori,
we got Russian chicken with rice there.
-I have a pork chop.
-Oh, that's good, that's good.
This is the way to eat - on top of the world!
It is essential astronauts keep fit and healthy to combat the effects of microgravity.
When you put someone in space, space is a fairly hostile environment
because of the microgravity - that has various effects on one's body.
The calcium in our bones starts to leach out
because our bones aren't loaded any more and the calcium starts to leach out - it's effectively osteoporosis.
But it happens much quicker in space.
So trying to find ways to stop that from happening,
the astronauts must do additional exercise - resistance exercises.
We can learn from their experience and then transfer that back here to Earth.
Astronauts have to spend two hours every day exercising to keep in shape.
In space, we appreciate just how precious our bodies are.
It gives us a global perspective on our health.
It's not just about how much we consume, it's also what we're throwing away.
Eight minutes on, and we're swinging out beyond the United States, towards the islands of Hawaii.
2,500 miles off the coast of California lies Hawaii, the most isolated population on Earth.
Here there are sun-kissed beaches, wonderful surf, exotic wildlife and dramatic, volcanic landscapes.
Thousands of stressed-out holidaymakers arrive on these shores every year.
But they are not alone.
It turns out when we throw something away, there is a good chance this could be where it turns up.
Vast swirling currents gather up all the tonnes of waste
we throw into the sea, creating enormous floating rubbish dumps.
The beautiful Hawaiian beaches are right in the path of one of these vast oceans of waste.
The most lethal is the plastic.
Plastic never breaks down so every yoghurt pot, Frisbee and washing-up bowl
in creation is still out there somewhere being broken down into smaller and smaller pieces.
Once these pieces get small enough,
they have another devastating effect.
One of the problems is that as these microscopic plastic particles
get into the food chain, they mimic hormones
and these hormones can affect the life cycles.
They can turn some of the marine shellfish into hermaphrodites.
That basically means they can't reproduce and that means
the whole life cycle of certain species could be disrupted forever.
In the long term, this could mean we see mass extinction of certain types of marine animal and plant.
Every 90 minutes, we produce 40,000 tonnes of plastic worldwide,
the majority of which will end up being thrown away.
The greatest irony is that nature could be just as capable of dealing with our waste problems.
Off the coast of Hawaii, the oceans teem with trillions of these strange creatures - salps.
Bizarre, gelatinous, jellyfish-like creatures.
And these salps' favourite food is phytoplankton who, in turn, like to eat CO2 in our atmosphere.
Great shoals of these salps could ultimately be our most effective protection against global warming.
A protection that nature itself has created.
The salp will take a phytoplankton, convert it into detrital matter and excrete it.
That matter will sink to the sea bed.
It locks the carbon from the phytoplankton in the seabed for millions of years.
If we look at the rainforest as a comparison,
a tree has a lifespan of maybe 100 - 200 years.
So the tree is locking up carbon for a much shorter period.
We're talking tens to hundreds of years rather than millions of years.
Back up in orbit, our whirling astronauts are continually reminded
how much our planet does to protect and sustain its cornucopia of life.
In the darkness of night, they will witness one amazing example of this in action.
The northern and southern lights flickering around the poles.
Our planet is under constant bombardment from highly charged plasma
escaping from the surface of the sun.
But we are protected from this solar wind
by a magnetic field that extends out from the poles, enveloping the planet in a protective bubble.
Without this, the Earth would be hell, blasted by radiation.
The flickering illumination of the northern and southern lights
are the edges of this protective magnetic field in action.
Good morning, Atlanta. A special good morning to you today, Piers.
'And good morning to everyone down there on the home planet.
'We are awake and ready for another day.'
Along with a new crew, the shuttle mission 132
has delivered dozens of new experiments to the International Space Station.
Fortunately I have no idea what's in these tubes.
Piers knows, right, Piers?
Piers, can you explain what's really going on, as opposed to Gareth's lack of description?
It's a vaccine? I think it's one,
we've got various strains of bug in here, like MRSA, stuff like that, and we grow them in a host worm,
in a worm, I think this is the one, and we expose them to a space environment and,
generally speaking, those bugs get more virulent, the longer they are in a space environment,
so we take them back and use them to develop better vaccines on Earth.
So there you go. Don't lick any stuff that spills out of it.
-And this is why Piers is our science officer and Big G is not.
My job is to turn the crank.
He's a crank turner!
The kit might look simple, but the results from these orbital studies could be momentous.
One of the biggest advantages of working on the International Space Station
is the microgravity environment.
Through this people have been making fairly complex 3D protein structures.
These structures can help with the testing of drugs in the future
so, potentially, the cure for Aids or cancer may reach the streets a lot quicker
because of proteins made on the International Space Station.
The space station itself is a testament
of centuries of breakthroughs in science and technology.
Back on Earth, technology is also changing the very way we live.
We're over halfway round the world.
Next stop, South Korea.
South Korea is one of the technology capitals of the world.
In the 1960s, this country had a level of national wealth on a par with Afghanistan.
Now it is the 13th richest country in the world.
The key to this is the silicon chip.
The Koreans now lead the way in the design and manufacture of every form of consumer electronics.
This obsession with technology is altering the way South Koreans live.
The streets of Seoul are lined with PC bangs,
gaming cafes where the young gather to wage endless war across a virtual battlefield.
Whilst in most countries stadiums are full of people watching football or tennis,
in South Korea, computer games are a major spectator sport.
But the Koreans are just in the vanguard.
In the time it takes the space station to complete one orbit,
we'll have spent over 12 million on computer games.
South Korea's transformation may be breathtaking,
but it is a mere minnow in the world compared to its vast neighbour, China.
Just 50 years ago, this nation was a rural economy based on farming.
Life expectancy was little more than 40 years.
The average wage just over 20.
Today, China is the world's leading manufacturing nation.
More than a quarter of everything made on Earth is now produced in China.
The wealth of that nation has increased almost a hundredfold.
All that we know about how to harness the world's resources
and turn them into wealth is being applied here on an epic scale and at breakneck speed.
However, China's economic transformation has come at a price.
This country needs almost limitless energy to satisfy the world's demands for its goods and services.
As they build more and more factories and power stations to feed them,
so they have also become the world's largest polluter.
Large zones of the country are continually covered
in a haze of air pollution that's visible even from space.
Over China you can see big palls of brown-orange haze,
pollution over the bigger cities.
So thick sometimes you can't see the city underneath it.
The American and European cities, you don't see that.
So, 40 years of clean air have really worked.
We have nice clean air in our cities.
If there's one country on air that understands the dilemmas facing us
in our stewardship of the planet, it is China.
China is in that major dilemma.
They completely understand climate change.
They have their own satellites to understand how it's affecting their country,
but they have that demand for energy and what they're trying to do
is build a portfolio, to actually throw anything at the energy demand that they can so, ideally,
they would love to generate all their energy from clean sources such as wind, solar,
but that just isn't enough.
So China's great coal-fired energy plants are unlikely to stop turning any time soon.
They will burn just over 600,000 tonnes of coal
in the 90 minutes it will take the ISS to orbit the Earth.
In orbit, our astronauts breathe the cleanest if strangest atmosphere anywhere on earth.
Spacewalks have been essential to complete the ISS.
And the 30 million suits the astronauts wear
have to supply everything our planet gives us down below.
But up here, their environment has been tweaked in some very strange ways.
Good. A bit more.
Forward a bit more, up.
'To make it easier to work, we reduce the pressure inside the suit to one-third of sea level.'
You couldn't breathe air at one third sea level - you would pass out. So it's pure oxygen in the suit,
but very thin, one-third sea-level pressure.
So when you're breathing, you can hardly feel
the gas going in and out of your body, but you are alive, which is miraculous. It works perfectly.
In fact you feel good because you're on pure oxygen.
But that one-third sea-level pressure allows you to bend the arms,
bend the fingers, bend your arms and legs much more easily than if it was blown up very tight like a balloon.
It takes almost half a day just to get the suit on and ready.
And actually getting out of the ISS is a pretty undignified process.
After a while, they stuff you into the airlock and,
the way it works is, you put one guy in head first with his nose against the hatch,
then the other guy comes in feet-first above you,
and then put all the bags of tools and stuff that you will need
on the space walk, cram them in around you,
close the hatch, and you almost can't move in there, you're stuffed inside a phone box.
Finally, after several hours of decompression, the astronauts make it outside into space.
Alongside the air supply, the astronauts' space suits
carry one other essential for human life - water.
In orbit, this precious resource is carefully collected.
Fresh water is recycled from the astronauts' own urine.
A stark contrast from the scene 220 miles below at our next stop.
Cherrapunji in northern India.
Cherrapunji is the wettest place on the planet.
It sits on the hills above the plains of Bangladesh.
This high ground is the first obstacle in the path of the monsoon storms
that sweep in from the Bay of Bengal.
Rain clouds that have gathered over thousands of miles
suddenly release their vast load over this tiny village.
Rainfall here can measure over 12 metres a year.
It can rain all year round.
Some locals claim it once poured down for two years without a break.
Whether it's raining or not in Cherrapunji,
it will certainly be pouring down somewhere in the world, right now.
Every 90 minutes, 89.1 trillion litres of fresh water will fall as rain on the planet.
As the ISS circles on, the astronauts will pass over a very different scene -
a scar on our planet's landscape as large as the one we have left in the Amazon.
The Aral Sea in Kazakhstan.
50 years ago, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, launching from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.
Back then, Kazakhstan was the home to a wonder of the world,
the Aral Sea, one of the largest freshwater lakes on the planet.
But in just five decades, we have drained it dry.
A transformation captured by the unblinking gaze of satellites
circling high above.
The satellite images produced from the space station
have been absolutely iconic because they really show
the extent of the devastation and, if you look at the Aral Sea,
the most recent images, and you look at them from the 1970s,
you see a large lake, and you look at them now,
and you can barely detect there's a lake there at all.
Those kind of images really show the extent
of the human impact on the environment, at such a vast scale.
The Aral Sea has shrunk by nearly 90% since the 1960s.
The water was diverted away from the two main rivers that flowed
into the sea to feed enormous cotton and rice plantations.
As the sea-level drastically declined,
great ships were left high and dry on the sand dunes.
I've seen the Aral Sea every time I've flown.
It looks like a pretty shrunken relic of what it used to be.
There was a big project that diverted all the water away
and I think there's a move now to try and turn some of it back.
But it looks pretty ugly.
The Aral Sea is now an environmental disaster zone.
A swirling cloud of dust and salt, heavily contaminated with toxic agricultural chemicals.
Across the planet, we are radically changing landscapes in our quest for greater supplies of fresh water.
Every time the ISS circles our planet,
34 square kilometres of land will become desert,
somewhere on the planet.
Back in space, the astronauts are beginning their work outside the ISS.
Their spacewalk will involve making repairs and installing new equipment.
Piers Sellers has clocked up six spacewalks in total.
I can remember almost every minute of each of those.
It's burned on my memory.
The very first time I went on a spacewalk,
I was the first guy out the hatch, so I opened the hatch,
I backed out, and I found myself
above this huge shining Earth that was spinning by me
and the big silver spaceship above me and I was hanging on by a hand rail
and for a horrible second I felt that everything was upside down and the wrong way round.
I got complete vertigo for about 30 seconds.
Couldn't figure out where I was or how anything was oriented.
And I think it was just the overload of seeing all this bright material,
the Earth, the bright, white sun in a black sky,
huge spacecraft above me, completely disoriented me.
After about 30 seconds, everything went whoosh!
And lined up and I never got it back.
The astronauts will work for up to eight hours at a time outside.
It's a strange and eerie world out there.
The sounds in space,
it's odd to have a hammer or a metal tool,
and bang it against something and hear absolutely nothing.
Sound won't travel in a vacuum, so there you are outside, and you can be hitting something, no sound at all.
On the other hand, if somebody comes up and starts hitting your spacesuit
or bumps your helmet, you can hear it because it conducts through.
And you can actually talk to each other, if your radios have failed, by putting your helmets together
and you can talk person to person through your helmets.
Have a secret conversation.
By the time the astronauts make it back through the airlock, they're exhausted.
But still, the average astronaut makes it outside rather more often
than many of the crew of another far more lethal tin can,
floating in the Arabian Gulf 200 miles below.
This is the USS Nimitz, one of the largest warships in the world.
It's like a floating Las Vegas, but dedicated to destruction.
She stands over 23 storeys tall, with a complement of 90 jets and helicopters.
MUSIC: "Shoot Speed/Kill Light" by Primal Scream
For these aircraft to drop a set of bombs, a vast machine kicks into action.
The ship itself is a floating city of over 5,000 men and women.
But as they sail through the balmy waters of the Arabian Gulf,
the vast majority of the crew hardly ever see daylight.
The flight deck is far too dangerous to have people wandering around,
so those not directly involved in the flying spend months on end
living deep within the bowels of this gigantic steel tank
with only a rare glimpse of the sun.
This extraordinary vessel sits at the apex of military power,
but being the toughest kid on the block doesn't come cheap.
During the brief time it will take the ISS to complete an orbit of the globe,
governments around the world will spend 257 million
on weapons and war.
We are now two-thirds round the world,
and from a tale of destruction to one of creation.
Our next stop is Ethiopia.
This is part of the Rift Valley in Ethiopia.
It's believed modern man originated from around here 160,000 years ago.
The earliest recorded human fossils have been found in this region,
and genetic evidence from modern populations around the world
also point to an African origin for modern man.
The key to why mankind first emerged from here is because,
like our first stop, Iceland, it is a place of great change.
The reason why the African Rift
appears to have been so attractive to early human evolution
has to do with the geological instability of the rift
as a geological structure.
It's a very dynamic landscape, it's a very changeable landscape,
with earthquakes, faulting, volcanic activity.
It sounds like a dangerous place.
In fact, those geological processes
appear to create very attractive landscapes for human evolution
and for human settlement.
We are truly a creation of the unstable,
geologically unstable planet on which we live.
And if we're going to survive on our small ball of rock,
it looks like we're going to have to be prepared for even greater change and instability.
We're nomads, really, at root.
And most of our problems come, and have come,
from settling down and trying to live in one place,
permanently, in large population numbers.
Very definitely, in terms of the population centres where we live,
many population centres that are currently important
are going to be flooded by sea level rise.
Some are going to be affected by climate change.
They're going to become less attractive.
And I think one lesson that we have to learn from the past
and that we're certainly going to have to build into our response
to future challenges is that we have to be prepared to move.
MUSIC: "Sabali" by Amadou and Mariam.
For human life to continue to prosper, it seems we're going to have to relearn to be adaptable.
How we eat, drink, work and where we live will need to change in the long term
if we want to sustain an ever-growing human population.
After all, with every orbit of the International Space Station,
23,019 children are born on our planet.
We have almost completed our orbit around the world.
From our vantage point high above,
we've seen how nature is constantly reshaping our home.
Every 90 minutes, the Atlantic gets a little bigger.
Fierce storms and rain clouds rip cross continents.
And our oceans teem with exotic and wonderful life.
We can see how humankind has also changed this landscape.
And usually not for the better.
Our precious rainforests get smaller.
Pollution covers our cities.
Waste clogs up our oceans and beaches.
And we seem determined to simply consume ever more.
Maybe we can learn a lesson from the last stop on our journey.
Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union,
but its population is just over nine million.
Only two million more than London.
It's one of the most stable, prosperous and healthy nations in the world
and uniquely, also the most charitable.
I think Sweden is an incredibly important example, the reason being
is the UN have suggested the rich countries of the world should aim to
give three-quarters of a percent of what they earn every year, to try and help the rest of the world develop.
It's important because Sweden have seen this and said, "We can go way beyond that.
"We're incredibly rich, incredibly fortunate. We can do better."
Just imagine if every other country in the world decided
that they could also afford over 1% of what they earn.
Imagine the trillions of dollars that would be generated to lift billions of people in the world
out of poverty and give them the same rights
to food, clean water, education that we have now.
Every 90 minutes,
people in Sweden give half a million pounds to charity.
I'm pretty confident that humans will eventually figure out how to look after our planet better.
I think if you talk to individuals,
they're concerned about the environment,
they just want to know what to do.
So do companies, I think, too.
They want to set a fair rule that everyone has to keep to.
I'm optimistic that ultimately, we'll get to grips with it
and everyone will get on board with the programme.
Clean up the world.
We've completed our imaginary orbit of the Earth,
swinging back over Greenwich and the Prime Meridian.
220 miles above the planet, the crew from the shuttle Atlantis
prepare for their journey home to Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
We now have set the stage for the undocking of Atlantis from the International Space Station.
We'll close the hatch shortly.
We're going to depart and as always, it'll be a little bit sad,
but we'll see you on the surface of planet Earth again soon.
Space shuttle Atlantis departing.
The shuttle is now 506 feet away
from the International Space Station.
Most times on a shuttle mission, you're ready to come home, you're pretty tired.
We get about a day to hang out in orbit while they get everything ready for landing.
It's a nice time to relax,
have a bite and look out of the window
and enjoy the space experience for the last time.
The shuttle Atlantis will have travelled 4.8 million miles
in its 12-day round trip to the International Space Station.
It now begins its descent back to Earth.
Space shuttle Atlantis now in its final moments of flight.
Copy. It's a beautiful day.
Atlantis, you're approaching, no changes to winds or weather.
Sitting upstairs on the flight deck of a shuttle during re-entry and landing is spectacular.
First of all, you come into the atmosphere and the outside of the spacecraft starts to get
really hot and you have red plasma flowing by the windows.
It's really incredible.
We came up over the Pacific, we saw the sun rise over the world
through the red plasma, which was spectacular.
It was like several beautiful things happening at once.
You come down very fast and you end up at a relatively low altitude,
about 200,000 ft above the world,
which is five or six times higher than an airliner,
but you're doing around Mach 20, 20 times the speed of sound. Stuff is streaking by.
All the clouds whizzing down below you. You're going incredibly fast.
Space shuttle Atlantis now travelling 389 mph on final approach to Kennedy Space Center.
You use the atmosphere as a brake and eventually pop out, subsonic, overhead Kennedy Space Center.
Come down through this screaming, diving approach,
30 degree dive, 300 knots.
Pull out at the last moment, plop it onto the runway.
You land about three miles from where you took off.
It's really good planning.
You left all your stuff there!
Space shuttle Atlantis comes home to Kennedy Space Center for the final time.
25 years, 32 flights.
More than 120 million miles travelled.
The legacy of Atlantis now in the history books.
We're happy to be home and enjoy some time with our families. Thanks.
Space exploration is important.
It's important at all sorts of levels.
More important, space travel is about the future.
All of us in some way are excited about the future and what we'll learn and see and where we'll go.
When people first went into space, one of the most
iconic pictures that was taken was of the whole planet Earth.
Seeing our planet isolated like that in space puts things into perspective.
We know our planet isn't everlasting.
It's there and it's vulnerable and we need to take care of it.
It's only been in the last 50 years that we can look at our planet as a whole planet
and all the interconnectedness, including ourselves and nature.
Space is essential for the soul of humanity,
but also our economic drives into the future.
It's just one little planet with seven billion of us rattling around on it
with all our problems and disputes, but it's only one place.
It encourages one to think about solutions to problems between people
and how they can be solved. It really does.
Space science allows us to monitor and comprehend the effect we have on our world.
Simply travelling into orbit gives us an extraordinary new perspective on the Earth below.
Our single orbit has given us a brief glimpse of the story of our planet today.
The future health of ourselves and the Earth
will perhaps rest on our ability to see our home as we do from space.
Just as one fragile, bright blue planet.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
A unique journey around the weird and wonderful planet that we call home.
When Yuri Gagarin was blasted into space he became the first human to get a proper look at where we live. 'The Earth is blue,' he exclaimed, 'how amazing!'. Suddenly our perspective on the world had changed forever. We thought we were going to explore the universe, yet the most extraordinary thing we discovered was our own home planet, the Earth.
So what would you see during just one orbit of the Earth? Starting 200 miles above the planet, this film whisks you around the planet to show what changes in the time it takes to circumnavigate the Earth just once. We hear from British-born astronaut Piers Sellers on what it's like to live and work in space, and also to gaze down and see how we are altering and reshaping our world.
We marvel at the incredible forces of nature that brings hundred-mile wide storms and reshapes continents, and also discover how we humans are draining seas and building cities in the middle of the desert. We also visit the wettest place on Earth, as well as the most volcanic.
Narrated by David Morrissey, this inspirational trip around the planet will make you view our home as you've never seen it before.