Holiday calendar: NASA salutes Nelson Mandela

A picture from the International Space Station looks across South Africa to the South Atlantic. NASA tweeted the picture "in honor of Nelson Mandela." Chris Hadfield via NASA / Twitter

NASA joined the worldwide wave of tributes to South African statesman Nelson Mandela by highlighting an image of his native land as seen from the International Space Station.

"In honor of the anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who passed away today at the age of 95, here is an image of Cape Town, South Africa, from space," the space agency said Thursday on its Google+ page. "This photo was taken on May 9, 2013, by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield while living and working aboard the International Space Station. Hadfield tweeted this image and wrote, 'Cape Town, South Africa and the South Atlantic calling to forever.'"

The picture went out to NASA's 5.4 million Twitter followers as well as the agency's 1.7 million Google+ followers.

Tributes to Mandela came from other quarters of the space effort as well. "Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela," Elon Musk, SpaceX's billionaire founder and a native of South Africa, wrote in a Twitter update. "A man both good and great."

Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin voiced a similar sentiment, calling Mandela "a true inspiration and role model for peace and international collaboration."

"We will continue to learn from him," Aldrin said in a Twitter update.

The space station's view of South Africa serves not only as a tribute to Mandela, but also as the latest offering from the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which will feature views of Earth from space every day through Christmas. For space-based calendars in a similar vein, check out The Atlantic's Hubble Advent CalendarZooniverse's Advent calendar and the Galileo's Pendulum Science Advent Calendar.

Previously on the Space Advent Calendar:

Alan Boyle is's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.