Frank leaned forward and peered through a viewing port towards the multifaceted jewel hanging weightlessly in the black vacuum of space. Unlike its companions, in the never-ending celestial waltz, whose inhospitable atmospheres would snuff out life long before their barren, sterile surfaces were even reached, this colourful gemstone, with its vast oceans and oxygen cocoon, glistened with life.
Off to his right the west coast of Africa had just slipped into darkness before it slowly disappeared from sight. Whilst off to his left the Sun, reflecting off the Pacific Ocean, dazzled like a spotlight on a glass stage.
There were distinct changes to some of the landmasses since he’d flown on his last mission during the construction of the space station. The Antarctic was now a desolate, mountainous landscape, with only the most southern section around the pole retaining ice; and the frozen Arctic Ocean in the north was also virtually gone. The beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere should have seen the pack ice as far south as Svalbard and southern Greenland. Instead, only the mountains on these most northern landmasses were covered in snow and a small skullcap of white was all that remained of the mighty ice flows.
Further south, Europe and parts of North Africa were unrecognisable, with thousands of miles of coastline beneath water, whilst some of the smaller islands had completely disappeared when they were swallowed up by the rising seas.