Ukraine War is Visible From Space, Astronaut Says

A German astronaut who has just returned to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) has spoken of his impressions of the war in Ukraine from space.

European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer, 52, said that while in orbit, he could see rocket impacts in Kyiv and clouds of smoke above the cities that had been bombarded.

"When you're in space, you feel so far away at first," he told German broadcaster ARD's Morgenmagazin program, according to a translation. "At the beginning of the war, the whole country went dark at night."

"People actually only recognized Kyiv," he said. "Then you could also see the impacts in the first days of the war. In Kyiv, you could see lightning at night" as well as the "rockets that hit."

Maurer, a materials scientist, became the 12th German astronaut in space and joined three other crewmates when they traveled to the ISS on November 11, 2021, for a mission called "Cosmic Kiss."

During his 177 days in orbit, he conducted dozens of experiments on human health and materials science. He returned after 177 days, splashing down in Crew Dragon Endurance in the Gulf of Mexico on May 6.

He said that the war "was clearly visible to the naked eye from space" and that at times, "events were clearly recognizable" such as when he could see "huge clouds of smoke over cities like Mariupol."

The southern port city had been bombarded relentlessly by Russian forces. The siege ended last week after some 2,500 Ukrainian fighters abandoned the Azovstal steel plant where they had made their stand.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities said that workers digging through the rubble of an apartment building in the city found 200 bodies in the basement, according to the Associated Press.

Heavy fighting continues in the Donbas region in Ukraine's east as Russian troops attempt to seize the territory. Russian troops have taken over the industrial town Svitlodarsk, which has a thermal power station, and have stepped up their efforts to capture Severodonetsk and other cities.

Amid international condemnation of Moscow's war, there is still cooperation aboard the ISS although the politics on Earth have reached space. On May 9, Russian cosmonaut, Oleg Artemyev, the ISS commander for the Expedition 67 research mission, wished "success" to Russian military service personnel in a statement to mark Victory Day in the country.

Maurer said that his view of things from above the Earth during the war ironically made him feel "much closer" to the Ukraine war than he would have done if he had remained in Germany.

"Our Earth is actually just a small planet compared to what's left out there," he said. "War seen from above is a hundred times more irrational than from the ground," he said, "Why don't we humans stick together?"

German astronaut Matthias Maurer
German astronaut Matthias Maurer, who just returned from a mission aboard the International Space Station, said he could see the consequences of the Ukraine war from space. Pictured, Maurer addresses a press conference in Berlin on September 10, 2021 prior to his ISS mission, called "Cosmic Kiss." PAUL ZINKEN/Getty Images