Nelson Mandela took the long view of South Africa. He saw the potential for prosperity and peace through equality during a time of repression, turmoil, and inequality. In tribute to Mandela, astronaut Chris Hadfield offered up his version of South Africa’s long view.
This photo was taken from the International Space Station on May 9, 2013, looking across the southwestern tip of the country. The image focuses on the mountainous Western Cape, dominated by the Great Escarpment, a 5,000-kilometer long mountain chain that marks the edge of the African plateau. The Cape of Good Hope hooks out from the mainland, with the city of Cape Town coloring the top in cement gray. To the east is Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the African continent where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean.
The view from above helps us see the geographic connections that bind humanity together on a single planet. Writing in Wired, Hadfield said: “While I was on the space station, I used Twitter to ask hundreds of thousands of people what they would like me to take a picture of. Resoundingly, the answer was ‘home.’ After millennia of wandering and settling, we are still most curious about how we fit in and how our community looks in the context of the rest of the world.”
Connection is something that Nelson Mandela understood on many levels. Speaking at Mandela’s memorial service on December 10, 2013, President Barack Obama stated: “Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa—Ubuntu—that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.”
As the world pauses to lay Nelson Mandela to rest on December 15, we salute the power of connections.
Astronaut photograph ISS035-E-026253 courtesy NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Holli Riebeek.