Few people have the chance to see the beauty of earth from space.
But retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott has tried to recreate the stunning views from the International Space Station at her first ever art exhibition, which has opened in the Isle of Man.
‘Around the World in 90 Minutes: An Astronaut’s Perspective’, held at the Sayle Gallery in Douglas, showcases Nicole’s impressions of the stunning views of earth during her time living and working in space through paintings and photography.
‘Looking out the window there’s no way to describe it,’ she said. ‘The pictures from space are really beautiful but they just don’t get quite the way the earth glows or the colours.
‘I get goosebumps thinking about it. It is overwhelmingly impressive, it is just stunning. There is a glow about the planet, it looks alive. Lightning looks like the nervous system of the planet and the clouds make it look like it’s breathing.’
Nicole, who lives in Houston, retired from NASA last year after 27 years with the space agency and is now a full-time artist and motivational speaker.
She is a veteran of two spaceflights and spent 104 days in space, on both the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS). She flew three Space Shuttle missions and two ISS missions, and carried out one spacewalk.
While on board the ISS, she painted her first piece with a small watercolour kit. She is the first NASA astronaut to paint in space and the piece is on display at the exhibition in Douglas.
Nicole was born in Albany, New York and brought up in Clearwater, Florida but has a particular connection to the Isle of Man as she is married to Manxman Chris Stott, who is chairman and CEO of island company ManSat.
‘Aside of my husband and my family being here, I feel a connection to the island,’ Nicole said. ‘I love the character of the island, I love the sea, I love the people and it’s a very comfortable size.
‘The other thing I love is you can go around the island and in one place it’s like you’re in North Carolina and then in another it’s like being on the coast of Maine.’
Nicole said it was a scary prospect moving into art and presenting her first exhibition.
‘It’s kind of the start of this whole next adventure and as I was putting the stuff up I was thinking you really put yourself out there when you do something like this - it’s kind of like exposing yourself, almost, but in a totally different way.
‘My hope with all of this and why I chose to do this kind of thing after retiring is because I feel really blessed to have had the experience I had and I feel obligated to share that experience,’ she said.
‘I’ve always loved art and painting so this just felt like a natural way to continue after NASA and it’s a unique and different way to share that story. If I can present these things and get people thinking about space, what we’re doing there, what goes on at the Space Station and how that’s helping to improve life on earth, as well as exploring the relationships between the different countries participating in that, then that’s a good thing.
‘In particular if I can reach out to kids, even if they never want to do anything with space, or be an astronaut, or science, and get them thinking about things that they might not have thought about, then it’s worthwhile.’
Talking about her time in space, she said the most surreal moment was going on a space walk.
‘It wasn’t really scary, it was just you in your spacesuit crawling around the outside but floating, there’s something about that. Pushing off the wall and moving from one place to another without any effort at all, looking out the window of the space craft, hanging out with your crew mates, floating around the dinner table, just everything about it was awesome.
‘I had very high expectations about what it would be like, and everything about it was better than I imagined and that’s from cleaning the toilet to doing a space walk. The novelty never wore off.’
Nicole’s exhibition in Douglas showcases a variety of photos and paintings of earth she has taken from space. She uses a mixed media approach to her art with sea glass fragments, stones, and textured gels allowing her to express the many shapes and forms on show when viewing the earth at 17,500 mph from 250 miles up.
‘Around the World in 90 Minutes: An Astronaut’s Perspective’ is open until June 26 at the Sayle Gallery in the Villa Marina Colonnade.