Sussex astronaut Piers Sellers took these amazing pictures as he soared high above the planet we call home. Here he opens his photo album for the first time and talks about life in space.

Piers Sellers glanced down between his feet as he took a walk in space and his heart missed a beat.

Miles below him on the fragile blue sphere we inhabit was the place he calls home.

Crowborough where he was born and Seaford where he went to school swept by in the blink of an eye.

Even now the veteran of three space shuttle flights still cannot believe the beauty of our planet.

He said: “I looked down between my boots and there it all was. I recognised Ireland and then saw England coming into view.

“You could see London and the River Thames. You could even see the bridges over the Thames and jets going in and out of Heathrow Airport.

“It goes by fast and before you know it you are over Paris.”

Piers, 55, who was made an OBE in January for services to science, spoke of his experiences in space after the shuttle Atlantis landed back on Earth for the final time last week.

The astronaut, who now lives in Houston, Texas, has been part of the crew on three of NASA’s 135 missions.

He flew aboard Atlantis last year and in 2002 and on Discovery in 2006.

Piers said: “The most important thing that came out of the shuttle programme was we took the business of working and assembling things in space to a high level of artistry.

“If we go somewhere else such as Mars we will have to assemble our spaceships in orbit. We know how to do that now.”

He said life on board the shuttle takes getting used to because everything is much harder to do.

Your food floats around at the same time as you and using the toilet can be tricky, and messy, if you don’t follow the instructions.

He added: “Being in space for a while affects your balance. You can’t stand up straight.

“I find it very hard to sleep on the space station. As soon as I nodded off I felt like I was falling.

“Close your eyes and you feel like you’ve stepped off a ten-storey building.

It is the falling sensation that wakes you up.

“You do get used to it if you are up there a long time.”

Piers was on one of the first flights to the international space station after the Columbia disaster in 2003.

He said: “It takes a few days to get there and when you dock you are pretty tired.

“When we went on Discovery the guys there were extremely glad to see us.

“We were the second shuttle in threeand-a-half years after Columbia and took up an extra crew member.

“That flight put the whole business back on a normal track.”

He spoke of the awesome power the crew feels as the shuttle’s engines ignite at launch to thrust them into space.

Piers said: “I felt the engines powering up and then a huge bang under my rear end.

“Then it is like a big hand shoving you up in the air.

“You are going at five miles a second at the end of a powered flight.

“Then suddenly there is a bang when the engines cut off and you’re floating in orbit.

“You unstrap and float from your seat and everything else is floating around you.”

Dr Sellers said the view of the earth below as he worked outside the space shuttle was remarkable.

He added: “You are flying around the world and you can see the curve of the Earth.

“Sometimes it looks like a big blue ball below you. It is like all the little detail – the clouds, the mountains – are glued on. It is just beautiful.

“You have 45 minutes of night and you turn your headlight on and work away in the dark.

“Then dawn comes up and it is like a nuclear explosion, a white flash on the horizon.

“You see a little blue line around the edge of the world and they you see the sun climb up into the white sky very fast.

“It is remarkable."