Here are outer-space views -- tears and all -- of our planet


"One Strange Rock" is definitely not your ordinary TV series. The opener (10 p.m. ET Monday, March 26) has gorgeous visuals and music, smart writing ... and the perspective of astronauts. Several of them were at a Television Critics Association session; here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

It's tough enough to
float in space, tethered to a ship. Now try it when you're
(temporarily) blind.

That happened to
Chris Hadfield, one of the astronauts commenting in the “One
Strange Rock” series.

“There was
contamination in my suit,” Hadfield recalled. “It's going in one
eye. But without gravity, your tears don't drain out of your eye. So
the tear got bigger and bigger, until it ... contaminated both my
eyes. I was outside, blinded.”

The solution?
“Mission Control said, 'Open up the valve in your spacesuit and let
your oxygen hiss out to space, and maybe that will evapoate your
tears faster.'” It did.

Hadfield recalled
this in a calm way that seems very astronaut-like or very Canadian.
He's both, actually, the first Canadian to command the International
Space Shuttle. “We train ... in preparation for things to go
wrong,” he said.

But often, things go
right. Peggy Whitson said the space experience is like “I've lived
my whole life in a semi-dark room, and somebody turned on the
lights.”

Jeff Hoffman echoed
that. “It was that moment in 'The Wizard of Oz,' when Dorothy opens
the door and black-and-white turned into color.”

Added Nicole Stott:
“It's colors like you've never seen before, that brightness.”

She became the first
person to paint in space, Whitson had the most days in space (665),
Hoffman and Mike Massimino – who later did six “Big Bang Theory”
episodes -- fixed the Hubble Space Telescope.

Now “One Strange
Rock” views facets of the planet, aided by host Will Smith, lush
music and the spectacular visuals of director Darren Aronofsky
(“Black Swan,” “Pi”).

Then there are the
astronauts; Aronofsky feels that they bring a unique perspective.
“When we went to the moon, we actually discovered the Earth for the
first time.”

-- “One Strange
Rock,” 10 p.m. ET Mondays, National Geographic Channel.

-- Each hour
includes the perspective of one astronaut; the opener (March 26,
rerunning at 11:01) has Chris Hadfield