20 YEARS, ABOVE ALL

Photos: What the International Space Station has shown us

Aurora Borealis, seen from the ISS in 2015.
Aurora Borealis, seen from the ISS in 2015.
Image: NASA/Scott Kellly
By
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Russia launched the first component for the International Space Station 20 years ago today (Nov. 20). That Zarya module was joined in orbit a few weeks later by the first US-built module, Unity.

The ISS has provided an oasis of international cooperation and exploration about 250 miles above the Earth. With astronauts spending months at a time in the ISS, the experience provides plenty of time to see the world in a way few can.

Here’s a look back at the breathtaking and varied sights the ISS has allowed us to take in.

Mountains

Mount Kilimanjaro, photographed from the the International Space Station in 2018.
Mount Kilimanjaro, photographed from the the International Space Station in 2018.
Image: NASA
Mount Fuji seen in 2009.
Mount Fuji seen in 2009.
Image: NASA
Mount Hood in Oregon, in 2009.
Mount Hood in Oregon, in 2009.
Image: NASA

Deserts

Dunes around the Aorounga crater in Chad, seen in 2013.
Dunes around the Aorounga crater in Chad, seen in 2013.
Image: NASA
The Namib Desert.
The Namib Desert.
Image: NASA

Cities

Montreal, seen in 2010.
Montreal, seen in 2010.
Image: NASA
Dubai in 2014.
Dubai in 2014.
Image: NASA
London in 2015.
London in 2015.
Image: NASA

Natural disasters

Mount Etna erupting in 2001.
Mount Etna erupting in 2001.
Image: NASA
Volcanos seen from space
The Pavlof volcano in Alaska, seen in 2013.
Image: NASA
The 2017 Thomas Fire outside of Los Angeles.
The 2017 Thomas Fire outside of Los Angeles.
Image: NASA/Donald “Stu” Broce

The sea

The Black Sea, seen in 2013.
The Black Sea, seen in 2013.
Image: NASA
Nukuoro Atoll, part of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Nukuoro Atoll, part of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Image: NASA

The Northern Lights

Aurora Borealis seen in the distance while the ISS orbits over the midwestern US in 2011.
Aurora Borealis seen in the distance while the ISS orbits over the midwestern US in 2011.
Image: NASA
Aurora Australis in 2014.
Aurora Australis in 2014.
Image: NASA
Aurora Borealis, seen in 2015.
Aurora Borealis, seen in 2015.
Image: NASA/Scott Kellly