The European Space Agency recently released a group of photos taken by astronaut Alexander Gerst showing the International Space Station at night. The only real contextual information provided is that “the six astronauts on the weightless research centre live by GMT, and generally sleep at the same time.”
Gerst—so close to Geist!—thus took advantage of the downtime to produce some images that make the ISS look uninhabited, a dead mansion rolling through space.
This is perhaps what it would look like to arrive somewhere in the middle of night, hoping to say hello to your comrades, only to find that you’ve actually boarded the Mary Celeste.
The dimly lit corridors of this house of sleeping astronauts take on the atmosphere of film noir, as if this is secretly a crime scene, still flickering with the last lights of its drained batteries, and these are the first photos to be taken upon arrival.
Small details take on narrative suspense. Why was that cupboard door left open, its contents bare for all to see? And are those objects messily scattered about, as if a struggle has taken place, or is this just the normal state of things in zero-g?
Where is everyone? Imagine performing forensic crime-scene analysis in the absence of gravity, three-dimensionally reconstructing a moment of violence by tracking objects back along all of their possible trajectories; you would need holographic models of every legally admissible collision and variation.
In any case, to browse more of astronaut Gerst’s collection, you can basically start at this image and click backward through the rest; one or two, unfortunately, feature other astronauts drifting around, perhaps staring down at the earth through the red eyes of insomnia, which ruins the illusion of this being a ruin, but the photos are still worth a glimpse.
Finally, proving that international scientific organizations have an active sense of humor, the photos were actually released on Halloween.