When I saw the Grand Canyon in person for the first time, I knew no photo could do it justice. But an image snapped by European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti comes close to encompassing the awe of beholding the natural wonder.
Cristoforetti shared the haunting view of the US national park on social media last week. The image shows wispy clouds framing the snaking, branching lines of the canyon against a brown and red landscape.
"Peaking through the clouds... the Grand Canyon! Amazing rock formations to make Jessica Watkins smile, but also teeming with life and home to diverse ecosystems across its impressive elevation span," the astronaut wrote. Watkins is a NASA astronaut and current ISS crewmate of Cristoforetti's. Watkins' science background includes a doctorate in geology and research into landslides on Earth and Mars.
For me, the ISS perspective on the Grand Canyon is inspirational in a different way than seeing the monument up close. It evokes memories of looking into the canyon's imposing depths, but also shows how one of the most gargantuan things I've ever witnessed is a small part of a much broader scene. It's humbling and majestic at the same time.
Cristoforetti has been on the station since arriving with the SpaceX Crew-4 mission in April. She showed off her photography skills the last time she was on the ISS and hasn't missed a step since then. You can follow her for more stunning Earth images.