This astronaut got a once-in-a-lifetime view of the planet. Here's what he learned.

"So there I am one day, a few years back, doing a spacewalk outside the space station."

This is how Piers Sellers, an astronaut, begins his story.

The space station was flying across the Atlantic Ocean, headed toward Europe as the sun was setting.

And Sellers was "hanging out underneath the vehicle itself, this 500-ton space station gleaming in the sunlight, the shuttle docked on the end of it."


Photo by NASA/Newsmakers.

Sellers is describing an experience that only a couple hundred people have had. Ever.

Not many people have been 200 miles above the planet, looking down with nothing between them and the massive blue ball except for empty space and the glass of their helmets.

Floating gently over the European night sky, the sun dwindling behind the horizon, Sellers watched as the cities below him came to life.

Sellers was struck by his once-in-a-lifetime view of the world and the people in it.

After all, there he was on a space station, tethered to $100 billion of the most advanced technology humanity is capable of, watching millions of people going about their lives at once.

He's right — there's an undeniable romance to the fact that, in the relatively short time humans have existed on Earth, we've gone from looking at cave paintings to orbiting our planet on a space station.

And it was all of that art, science, engineering, and creativity that got us — that got him and his fellow astronauts — there.

But, Sellers points out, sometimes with all that creativity, art, science, and engineering, humans can get themselves into trouble.

It doesn't take a trip to space to care about the health of our planet. Just this week we've learned that sections of the Middle East may soon be uninhabitable, we've seen massive coral damage off the coast of Miami, and Louisiana had its first group of climate change refugees.

So, yes, it's easy to get caught up in the despair and pessimism often associated with climate change issues.

Floating in orbit outside the space station, feeling protective of this great blue and green ball we all call home, Sellers was filled with hope.

"The human creativity that got us into this [climate change] mess, I'm pretty sure could get us out," he says.

"I've always had faith in humanity," Sellers concludes. "But to see humanity living and breathing down there ... somehow made me feel better."

Here we are, six months into the coronavirus pandemic, and people are tired. We're tired of social distancing, wearing masks, the economic uncertainty, the constant debates and denials, all of it.

But no one is more tired than the healthcare workers on the frontline. Those whom we celebrated and hailed as heroes months ago have largely been forgotten as news cycles shift and increased illness and death become "normal." But they're still there. They're still risking themselves to save others. And they've been at it for a long time.

Mary Katherine Backstrom shared her experience as the wife of an ER doctor in Florida, explaining the impact this pandemic is having on the people treating its victims and reminding us that healthcare workers are still showing up, despite all of the obstacles that make their jobs harder.

Keep Reading Show less
Mozilla
True
Firefox

When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less

Kids say the darnedest things and, if you're a parent, you know that can make for some embarrassing situations. Every parent has had a moment when their child has said something unintentionally inappropriate to a stranger and they prayed they wouldn't take it the wrong way.

Cassie, the mother of 4-year-old Camryn, had one of the those moments when her child yelled, "Black lives matter" to a Black woman at a Colorado Home Depot.

But the awkward interaction quickly turned sweet when the Black woman, Sherri Gonzales, appreciated the comment and thanked the young girl.

Keep Reading Show less