New Space Special Issue


National Geographic’s space special issue, Space: The Once and Future Frontier, hit newsstands on Saturday. It’s an image-packed space bonanza that really puts the current state of exploration into perspective. And if that’s not enough for you, the foreword is by Ray Bradbury.

Saturn backlit by the sun

—Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This summer I had a chance to sit down with senior editor Bill Douthitt to talk to him about the images he was researching for the issue. We ended up putting together two video slide shows narrated by Bill, one about Mars exploration, the other about Jupiter and its moons Io and Europa. Bill is passionate and very knowledgeable about space, so these slide shows are well worth checking out.

Something fascinating that Bill mentioned to me, and I later confirmed on the NASA website, is that there are two planets in the space issue cover image (see image above). Obviously, one of the planets is Saturn, but you might be surprised to hear that the other is Earth. If you’re having trouble spotting Earth, don’t feel bad. It’s not that easy to see from Saturn’s vantage point. We Earthlings are all on the tiny speck just above Saturn’s bright inner rings. That makes me feel really small.


The full-sized version of this view of Saturn was created by stitching together 165 images taken by the Cassini orbiter while it was in Saturn’s shadow in 2006, according to NASA. The sunlight shining through Saturn’s rings lets us see intricate details and gives this image its stunning radiance.

A close-up view of part of the larger image above

showing Saturn’s rings and Earth (the annotations are mine)

—Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

On a personal note, I’d like to thank Victoria Jaggard for inviting me to guest blog while she’s away. I’m really looking forward to writing about space this week. And, don’t forget that Susan Poulton will be filling in next week with her blogs from the Endeavour launch pad. Endeavour is due to launch on November 14, according to the Associated Press.

–Stephen E. Mather

Human Journey