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Vanishing Boundaries, A New View of the Cosmos


Last year Addison-Wesley, an American publisher, and Mir Publishers of Moscow jointly released ``The Home Planet,'' a book featuring spectacular color images from space, together with the words of American astronauts, Soviet cosmonauts, and other space travelers. Edited by Kevin W. Kelley for the Association of Space Explorers, the book also contains prefaces by Apollo 9 astronaut Russell L. Schweickart and Soyuz 12 cosmonaut Oleg G. Makarov. The photo (left) and the text (below) are reprinted from the book.

We could not immediately detect the fact that the Earth was shrinking as we sped away from it. The sensation was rather like watching the hand on a clock move. You know it is moving, but watching it you cannot see it move. Only after looking elsewhere for a time, then returning to the minute hand, can one realize it actually did move. The Earth would eventually be so small I could blot it out of the universe simply by holding up my thumb.

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- Buzz Aldrin,

Apollo 11, USA

My mental boundaries expanded when I viewed the Earth against a black and uninviting vacuum, yet my country's rich traditions had conditioned me to look beyond man-made boundaries and prejudices. One does not have to undertake a space flight to come to this feeling.

- Rakesh Sharma,

Soyuz T-11, India

The Earth is surrounded by blackness though you're looking through sunlight. There is only light if the sunlight has something to shine on. When the sun shines through space it's black. All because the light doesn't strike anything.... What are you looking at? What are you looking through? You can call it the universe, but it's the infinity of space and the infinity of time.

- Eugene Cernan,

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Apollo 10 and Apollo 17, USA

When the history of our galaxy is written ..., if the planet Earth gets mentioned at all, it won't be because its inhabitants visited their own moon. The first step, like a newborn's first cry, would automatically be assumed. What will be worth recording is what kind of civilization we Earthlings created and whether or not we ventured out to other parts of the Galaxy. Were we wanderers? Human history so far indicates we are indeed. It's human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand. Exploration is not a choice, really, it's an imperative.

- Michael Collins,

Apollo 11, USA

Now I know why I'm here. Not for a closer look at the moon, but to look back at our home the Earth.

- Alfred Worden,

Apollo 15, 1971, USA

The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God.

- James Irwin,

Apollo 15, USA

The first day or so we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day we were aware of only one Earth.

- Sultan Bin Salman al-Saud,

Discovery 5, Saudi Arabia

From space I saw Earth - indescribably beautiful with the scars of national boundaries gone.

- Muhammad Amhad Faris,

Soyuz TM-3, Syria

The peaks were the recognition that it is a harmonious, purposeful, creating universe. The valleys came in recognizing that humanity wasn't behaving in accordance with that knowledge.

- Edgar Mitchell,

Apollo 14, USA

Instead of an intellectual search, there was suddenly a very deep gut feeling that something was different. It occurred when looking at Earth and seeing that Sun, seeing it set in the background of the very deep black and velvety cosmos, seeing - rather, knowing for sure - that there was a purposefulness of flow, of energy, of time, of space in the cosmos - that it was beyond man's rational ability to understand, that suddenly there was a nonrational way of understanding that had been beyond my previous experience. There seems to be more to the universe than random, chaotic, purposeless movement of a collection of molecular particles. On the return trip home, gazing through 240,000 miles of space toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.

- Edgar Mitchell,

Apollo 14, USA

Of all those I've spoken to about the experience of space, only those closest to me can begin to understand. My wife knows what I mean by the tone of my voice. My children know what I mean by the look in my eye. My parents know what I mean because they watched me grow up with it. Unless you actualy go and experience it yourself you will never really know.

- Robert Cenker,

Columbia 7, USA

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