Microgravity and great view make space travel amazing, says astronaut


Two of the best things about flying in space are weightlessness and the view back towards Earth. Together they are “absolutely amazing”, said astronaut Paolo Nespoli.

Mr Nespoli is a member of the European Space Agency astronaut corps. He spent 159 days on board the International Space Station in 2010-11 and also flew a space shuttle mission. He will speak to 250 primary and 250 secondary school students today as part of the Science Week programme.

Drifting about in the space station can leave one feeling a bit of a superman, he said. Microgravity has its drawbacks, however, including objects drifting away from under your nose.

For all the inconvenience, weightlessness is a memorable part of being an astronaut. “It is absolutely invigorating.”

Nor did he tire of looking back at Earth. “You are supposed to go to bed but in an hour and a half you go completely around the world. It is just amazing,” he said.

Mr Nespoli became something of a space celebrity while on board the station. He opened a Twitter account so he could tweet from space and in the first two months attracted 50,000 followers, he said. Before he returned from the station in May 2011 he had more than 75,000.

Part of the reason was his photography. He used telescopic lenses to take pictures of the pyramids and other features, shooting hundreds of pictures a day. During his six months in space he took 26,000 shots, sending many back as tweets. He also recorded videos, answered questions and gave virtual tours to people on Earth.

Space tourism will come as people seek an opportunity to experience microgravity and see the Earth from 400km up, he said.

“These two things are so great, so fulfilling, that people will pay money for them.”