Astronaut Mark Kelly says New York’s Times Square is the brightest place on Earth when looking down from space. After that, the next brightest is the Strip in Las Vegas. What may not be readily seen from space is Flagstaff, the first International Dark Sky City. That’s a designation he and his wife, former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, fully support. Kelly recently spoke on the campus of Northern Arizona University.
“My wife Gabby, one of her first successful pieces of legislation when she was in the state house, was a dark skies bill to put some regulation in there on how we light the skies, to try to preserve this great resource we have here in Arizona,” he said.
Kelly, former commander of the Space Shuttle Endeavor, always wanted to be the first person to walk on Mars. Although he didn’t meet that goal, he’s excited about the next great space accomplishments. He says the Kepler Planet Finder — a space observatory launched by NASA — has discovered a huge number of Earth-like planets orbiting other stars.
“As we get better at astronomy and better at astrophysics and places like the Lowell Observatory here in Flagstaff improves its capability, we’re going to start to learn more about these planets that we’ve just started to find,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s next endeavor includes near-space travel for private citizens. Through his Tucson-based company, World View, he says for about 75-thousand dollars a ride, tourists could be flying at an altitude of 110-thousand feet — that’s almost entirely above the atmosphere. More of us could be observing Earth as a floating planet as early as 2016.