INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION -- Orbiting Earth at about 17,500 mph, Dutch astronaut André Kuipers has a stunning perspective on the planet we call home.
Making more than 15 complete orbits every day at an altitude of about 205 miles, the International Space Station offers nearly endless opportunities to capture amazing images. Kuipers, who launched on Dec. 21, 2011 and is slated to return home on July 1, is taking advantage of that, tweeting some of his incredible pictures back to Earth.
"In my free time I like to contact people on Earth," Kuipers wrote in his blog. "For example, when we fly over Hawaii I try to phone a friend who lives there. Recently my family went skiing in Austria. I phoned them when we were flying over the Alps. It is a strange idea that they are somewhere on those mountains, while I am looking at the same mountains from a distance of 400 kilometres above."
While on board the ISS, Kuipers, who is also a scientist, doctor and teacher, has a full slate of scientific experiments and educational activities planned.
Kuipers joined the European Astronaut Corps in 1998 and is the only Dutch astronaut to have flown two space missions. His first foray into space was an 11-day mission to the ISS in April 2004.