European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst may have just captured one of the most spectacular clips ever taken from space.
Taken from the European-built Cupola module on the International Space Station, Gerst’s footage shows the precise moment Russian cargo spacecraft Progress MS-10 launches out of the Earth and escapes its atmosphere, carrying vital supplies for his survival.
The Progress’ mission was to send some 2564kg of food, fuel and other supplies to the ISS. Most importantly, the precious shipment included 75kg of oxygen and air, 440 litres of water and around 750kg of propellant.
Progress launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 18:14 GMT on November 16 and docked safely with the ISS two days later. The ISS is equipped to withstand up to 90 days without resupply, but these missions are normally carried out every two months.
That spectacular dissolving flash you see in the clip around the 20-second mark is the core stage separation. From that point, you can see the core stage burning in the atmosphere until the Progress spacecraft finally separates completely from the rocket 34 seconds into the video.
At the 38-second mark, you can even see the discarded rocket parts disintegrating in the atmosphere at re-entry.
If you ever want to see the ISS itself cruising across the sky with your own eyes, NASA has a free web service called Spot the station which shows the exact location, date and time when the ISS will be visible above your head.
The spacecraft is the third brightest object in the sky and it’s pretty easy to spot with the naked eye. I’ve seen it many times and it’s a fantastical and humbling experience. You realise you’re watching, in real-time, a friggin’ spaceship roaring through space built by humans. How awesome is that?
Video not available in your region? Watch it on YouTube.