NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s space photos put your Insta feed to shame

After spending a year in space, astronaut Scott Kelly now has a pretty sweet photo album.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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Claire Reilly
3 min read
Scott Kelly/NASA

Admit it. When you travel, half of your Instagram photos are just to make your friends jealous.

But imagine you were going travelling for a year and your destination was the International Space Station. Now you'll have an idea of the kinds of photographs Scott Kelly had to send back home.

In March 2015, the retired test pilot and NASA astronaut blasted off for a year-long mission on the International Space Station. Over the next 340 days, Scott conducted experiments on the ISS, and he set the record for the most days spent in space by a US astronaut -- 520 days all up. (Peggy Whitson now holds that record with 665 days.)

He even did tests as part of a Twin Experiment to test the effects of space travel on the human body (Scott's twin Mark remained on the ground during the mission so NASA could compare their biological data from the period) -- you can learn more about that experiment in the video below.

Watch this: NASA is using twins and worms to examine aging in space

But perhaps one of the most lasting legacies of Kelly's mission was the stunning photography he captured from the ISS.

Now Kelly's collection of space photography and "Earth Art" has been collated into a book, "Infinite Wonder," documenting his year in space and his unique perspective of our planet.

Speaking to CNET, Kelly says he's glad to be back on Earth, but the photos are a reminder of his unique experience.

"I look at them with nostalgia of an incredible experience and privilege," he said.

While you can pick out geographical features in his photos, from the distance afforded by the ISS, his images take on a painterly quality.


An image of vivid colours across the Middle East, taken by Scott Kelly during his year in space. 

Scott Kelly/NASA

"Of course there was great subject matter -- Earth and space and the space station," he said. "I'm an OK photographer. I think my somewhat unique skill set was having an artistic eye when it came to photographing the earth, particularly the close-up photos I called 'Earth Art'.

Kelly mostly shot on a Nikon D4 , before transferring the images to a laptop. His photos went up on his Twitter feed and while he could live-tweet from the ISS, turns out space internet isn't the most reliable.


NASA astronaut Scott Kelly shortly after landing back on Earth from his year-long mission on the International Space Station.

Bill Ingalls/NASA

"I could do everything myself, but generally had some help from my wife, then partner on the ground," he said. "It was easier sometimes to email her the photo than to deal with the slow computer connection that would make posting myself laborious."

The photos now serve as a reminder of his time in space, but also as a way for the rest of us who haven't had that privilege to see our planet in a whole new light.

Kelly is glad to be back to earth, but says there are things that he misses, like the people he lived and worked with, and the work itself which was "technically challenging with significant consequences."

Despite having a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see our world's natural wonders, he said the isolation from earth and nature was one of the hardest things about being stuck on an orbiting space station.

And that return trip wasn't too great either.

"Gravity gives you a good beat-down."

19 photos from NASA astronaut Scott Kelly show Earth's 'Infinite Wonder'

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