The astronaut is Chris Hadfield. The cartoonist is Randall Munroe. The conversation at The Guardian is marvellous:
Randall Munroe I spent the whole of that movie trying to recognise the Earth’s terrain in the background of scenes. I’ve always been a geography enthusiast and I kept wanting to identify where they were in their orbit. I’m curious whether, when you looked out the window on the International Space Station, did you always know where you were from a glance? What’s the longest you have to go thinking, “Well, that looks like Jamaica…”?
Chris Hadfield North is never up, which is disorienting when you grew up with maps. You have to break that bias, and be able to recognise Madagascar upside down. If you ever see a coastline, you can immediately work out where you are. And you’re often in sight of some island; the Canaries might help you. The Sahara is obvious – it’s the Sahara. You always know the Outback, the Mongolian desert. Europe is harder, the borders are hazy – you’re looking for the big rivers, mountain ranges. After a while, after a thousand times around the Earth, you get to know the world pretty well. It becomes intuitive, and you can just glance: “Oh, there’s Vesuvius.”