ISS: Sample imagery - Part 2
ISS Utilization: Sample imagery taken by astronauts on and from the ISS (Part 2)
This file is a loose collection of some imagery samples taken by astronauts off and from the ISS (International Space Station). Astronauts who experience Earth from orbit often report feelings of awe and wonder, of being transformed by what they describe as the magic such a perspective brings. This phenomenon is called the "overview effect." The short descriptions in the following entries are presented in reverse order .
• October 19,2018: NASA astronaut Nick Hague told NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine that he was impressed by the teamwork of the rescue crew that helped him and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to get out of the rescue capsule after their recent emergency return to Earth over launch vehicle failure. 1)
Figure 1: The Soyuz MS-10 landing capsule (image credit: Sputnik News)
- "They had three pararescue jumpers. As soon as they had found where we were at... they jumped in to get to us as quick as they could... In a handful of minutes, somebody was tapping on the window next to me, giving me the OK symbol, and I was answering back with a big smile, and then they had the hatch open," Hague said on Wednesday (17 Oct.), as broadcast by NASA.
- The astronaut added that he was "amazed" at the quick response of the rescue crew.
- "You know, they practice this all the time, but they haven't had to put it to use in 35 years... To respond the way they did is a true testament to how seriously they take their responsibilities, and their job," Hague noted. He praised the professionalism of the Russian team engaged in spaceflight preparations and conduct.
- "I was not surprised by their support and how well they worked. It's on display every day over there, and it's a privilege to be part of it," he stressed.
- Hague said that he was feeling "great," and his physical condition was "awesome," as he had 10 miles (16 km) run with his wife on Wednesday morning.
- Earlier, Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos said that Ovchinin and Hague would fly to the ISS in spring 2019, while the exact date would be specified later.
- On October 11, the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle failed to launch the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft, with Hague and Ovchinin on board, toward the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
- Just minutes after the liftoff, the mission was aborted due to the booster's malfunction. The two-man crew escaped in a rescue capsule and returned back unharmed. Immediately afterward, an investigation into the incident was launched in Russia.
• October 18, 2018: Two Expedition 57 astronauts are working to understand what happens to fluids being transported by spacecraft today. Another crew member also worked on combustion science gear as well as Japanese and Russian systems. 2)
- Fluid physics and combustion research on the International Space Station helps scientists understand how well-known phenomena on Earth behaves in microgravity. For instance, fluids sloshing around inside fuel tanks can impact how a spaceship steers in space. The way flames burn and create soot in space can also create safety issues for crews.
- Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) explored how fluids affect spacecraft maneuvers today. The duo set up a pair of tiny mobile satellites known as SPHERES for the test inside Japan's Kibo lab module. The SPHERES Tether Slosh experiment is observing what happens when the satellites tow a liquid-filled tank versus a solid mass body with a Kevlar tether.
- Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack in the afternoon and replaced manifold bottles that contain gases for flame experiments. The flight engineer also packed items for disposal on a Japanese cargo ship and checked on Russian ventilation and air conditioning systems.
• October 17, 2018: Last week saw the installation of ESA's next-generation life-support system on the ISS (Figure 6). The new facility recycles carbon dioxide in the air into water that can then be converted into oxygen reducing supplies sent from Earth by half. 3)
- Installing the life support rack in NASA's Destiny laboratory is no easy task as the facility is larger than a human being and weighs over 650 kg on Earth. In addition many cables and pipes need to be connected to the Station's infrastructure – including a pipe that vents waste methane from the recycling process directly into space.
Figure 2: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is installing ESA's next-generation life-support system on the ISS. The new facility recycles carbon dioxide in the air into water that can then be converted into oxygen reducing supplies sent from Earth by half (image credit: NASA/ESA)
- ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst set up the air and water drawer of the facility, including part of the Sabatier reactor on 10 September but was given an extra helping hand from ground control with an operational aid called the ‘mobile procedure viewer' or mobiPV.
- Usually an astronaut would have a computer nearby with step-by-step instructions to follow, but anybody who has tried repairing their car or even assembling furniture will agree this way of working has room for improvement – laying down tools to consult instructions is time-consuming and interrupts the work flow.
- ESA's solution to this problem sees astronauts wearing a smartphone on their wrist that connects to the Space Station's procedure library and shows the instructions on-screen. Alexander could concentrate on the work at hand, without going back and forth to the computer.
Figure 3: Alexander follows procedures on a mobile (image credit: NASA/ESA)
• October 17, 2018: Spaceflight was a challenge in 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to successfully and safely orbit Earth. While advances in technology have made spaceflight a regular occurrence, it can still be a risky endeavor. 4)
- Cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin of Roscosmos, and NASA astronaut Nick Hague, reminded the world of this fact last week when they set off for the International Space Station.
- Their Soyuz rocket took off at 10:40 CEST 11 October for a four-orbit, six-hour journey to the International Space Station. The launcher's four boosters take only two minutes to burn their fuel in the so-called first stage – by this time Alexei and Nick were travelling at around 6500 km/h. However, two minutes 45 seconds after liftoff, a malfunction of the second stage ignition was reported causing the launch to be aborted. The crew returned to Earth in a ‘ballistic descent mode'.
- In a ballistic reentry the Soyuz capsule spins around its trajectory axis to increase stability and behaves like a spherical object.
- The crew were able to make radio contact with mission control and were quickly recovered from their landing site and returned to the Baikonur, where they were greeted by relieved family members.
- Launch failures are a rarity in human spaceflight. This is only the third time in the history of the Soyuz launcher that an emergency rescue system had to be activated with a crew aboard. The last time this reliable rocket failed was 35 years ago with the Soyuz T-10A. The launch escape system of the Soyuz spacecraft fired two seconds before the launch vehicle exploded, saving the crew.
- All astronauts are trained countless times to deal with emergency situations. Simulators help them practice flight maneuvers and learn the best response to all situations, from a communications glitch to a full-blown emergency like this one.
- There is always the possibility of an emergency landing in a far-away place. Astronauts go through survival courses in extreme environments, preparing themselves to face all kinds of situations in isolation and under psychological stress. Crews have to learn to survive in harsh climates while waiting for rescue, only relying on very basic items and the emergency pack in their Soyuz capsule.
Figure 4: Human and robotic exploration image of the week: Expedition 57 crew return to Baikonur after an aborted launch. Cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin of Roscosmos, left, and NASA astronaut Nick Hague, right, reminded the world of this fact last week when they set off for the International Space Station (image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
• October 15, 2018: Celestial view of Earth's atmospheric glow and the Milky Way. 5)
Figure 5: The ISS was orbiting about 400 km above South Australia when a camera on board the orbital complex captured this celestial view of Earth's atmospheric glow and the Milky Way (image credit: NASA)
• October 09, 2018: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst installed the ACLS (Advanced Closed Loop System) on 1 October in the International Space Station. This Life Support Rack recycles carbon dioxide into oxygen and will allow for significantly less supplies which are needed to be shipped from Earth – as much as 400 liters less water a year sent by supply spacecraft. 6)
- The ACLS facility, a technology demonstrator, is the size of an International Standard Payload Rack – about 2 m high, 1 m wide, and 85.9 cm deep – with a mass of over 670 kg on Earth, but Alexander could move it easily the few meters from the Japanese HTV-7 cargo spacecraft to its installation site in the US Destiny space laboratory due to the wonders of weightlessness.
- Astronauts will connect the facility's cables, pipes and filters this week, with checkout operations foreseen for 6 November. The system collects carbon dioxide in the air and processes it to create methane and water. Electrolysis then splits the water back into oxygen while the methane is vented into space.
- Once up and running the facility should generate about 50% of the water needed for oxygen production on the Space Station.
- The system is a huge step for human spaceflight as space agencies prepare for exploring further from Earth. Sustainable life-support systems are needed for longer missions such as to the lunar Gateway that is the next structure to be built by the partners of the International Space Station. Foreseen as a staging post for missions to the Moon and even Mars the Gateway will be further away from Earth, making it harder and more expensive to ferry supplies.
Figure 6: Photo of Alexander trying to move the ACLS facility in weightlessness into its designated place (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• October 07,2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Figure 7). Morning sunglint silhouettes Lake Superior's shoreline and highlights smaller lakes and mine tailings ponds on the land. 7)
- The subdued, orange sunglint and hazy atmosphere may be due to wildfires that occurred in August 2017 throughout the northwestern United States and parts of Canada. Smoke particles in the atmosphere can cause the scattering of light waves and create pale orange-red hues at dusk or dawn, when Sun elevation is low relative to the local horizon.
- The Upper Peninsula has long been known for its copper and iron resources, with native peoples mining Keweenaw copper as far back as 7,000 years ago. Modern iron mining began in the Upper Peninsula in 1845, with the Tilden Mine still in production today.
Figure 7: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-2095 was acquired on 3 September 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 210 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
- Logging was also prevalent in the Upper Peninsula from the mid-1800s to about 1900. Trees were cut in the winter and brought to rivers by sleigh. In spring time, when snowmelt fed the rivers, timber was floated downstream to be sorted. These logs were marked with axe-cut symbols—similar to cattle branding—to avoid confusion about ownership as the logs floated to lake ports.
- This extensive logging left much of the Upper Peninsula without trees. In 1931, the Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests were established in the area to promote reforestation, scientific forestry, and the protection of wildlife, soil, and water resources. Today, fishing in lakes and streams is a popular activity for locals and tourists. Lake Superior, Earth's largest freshwater lake by surface area, can be fished year round, including ice fishing in the winter.
• October 01, 2018: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst works with NASA crew mate and commander Drew Feustel of the International Space Station on an experiment from DLR that uses an innovative 3D fluorescence microscope to observe cell changes in real time. This experiment provides a whole new insight into human tissue, cell cultures, microorganisms and plants in space. 8)
- Alexander will take over as commander of the International Space Station for the second half of his Horizons mission when Drew returns to Earth, 03 October 2018.
Figure 8: FLUMIAS experiment on the International Space Station (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• September 30, 2018: Samoa's two largest islands, made by volcanoes, have productive reefs and fertile soils. This photograph, taken from the International Space Station as it passed over the South Pacific Ocean, captures the two largest Samoan Islands as they were highlighted by the optical effect of sunglint. 9)
- Savai'i, the westernmost Samoan Island, is 80 kilometers (50 miles) long; Upolu is nearly as long (74 kilometers/46 miles). The dark green centers of the islands reflect the denser tropical forests and higher elevations in comparison to the lower, light-green coastal regions around the edges.
- The top of Mount Silisili, an active volcano, forms the center of Savai'i and is the highest point at 1,858 meters. Savai'i's elevation likely contributes to a wind shadow on the west side of the island; this shows up as a region with no sunglint, indicating a smooth water surface. Upolu's highest point, Mount Fito, reaches 1,100 meters.
- The narrow stretch of water separating the islands is known as Apolima Strait. Coral reef ecosystems surround the islands and appear as light-blue regions due to shallow water depths. (These are reminiscent of the waters surrounding the Bahamas.) While ferries and ships use the Apolima Strait for tourism and commerce, swimmers also sometimes race across the strait, which is about 22 kilometers wide.
- Both islands are volcanic in origin, with nutrient-rich basaltic soils that are good for farming. According to the 2015 Report by the Samoa Agriculture Survey, 97 percent of Samoan households grow crops; of these, 60 to 70 percent grow taro root or coconuts. Located on the north side of Upolu, Apia is the capital of Samoa and the center for export and commerce of these crops.
Figure 9: This astronaut photograph ISS055-E-70602 was acquired on May 13, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 70 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 55 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Thomas)
• September 18, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Green River flowing through red rock canyons in eastern Utah (Figure 10). A main tributary of the Colorado River, the Green flows 730 miles (1175 km) through Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. The portion of the Green River in this image is just north of Canyonlands National Park. 10)
- Bowknot Bend was named by John Wesley Powell in 1869 during his first expedition through the region because of the way the river loops back on itself. Located in Labyrinth Canyon about 25 miles west of Moab, Utah, this river bend runs 7.5 miles (12 km) in a circular loop and ends up 1,200 feet (360 m) from where it first started, on the opposite side of a narrow saddle. When the two sides of the river cut through the saddle and merge someday, Bowknot Bend will break off from the main channel and form an oxbow lake.
- High contrast from the dark shadows along the river give some three-dimensional perspective to the 1,000 foot (300 m) canyons that have deepened over geologic time from erosion. Similar to the formation of the Grand Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon started to form when regional uplift of the Colorado Plateau caused the Green River to cut down through the rocks to its current depth. Some inactive uranium mines, such as the Aileen Mine, are located along the canyon walls. Uranium ore deposits are concentrated in much older fluvial sandstones.
- Bowknot Bend is a popular destination for hiking, canyoneering, and river rafting. Visitors can explore the multitude of caves and alcoves located within Labyrinth Canyon. They also hike to various lookouts, particularly the saddle of Bowknot Bend. Several sections of the Green River can be rafted, kayaked, or canoed until it meets with the Colorado River (south of this image).
Figure 10: The astronaut photograph ISS055-E-31251 was acquired on April 22, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 55 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick, Jacobs)
• September 12, 2018: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst took this image of Hurricane Florence on 12 September 2018, from the International Space Station. He is on his second six-month Space Station mission. 11)
- He commented: "Watch out, America! Hurricane Florence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide angle lens from the International Space Station, 400 km directly above the eye. Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you."
Figure 11: Hurricane Florence as seen by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from the ISS on 12 September 2018 (image credit: ESA/NASA, A. Gerst)
• September 11, 2018: Drew Feustel, commander of International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 56, counts automotive racing among his many interests. That led him to shoot this high-resolution photograph of Circuit Paul Ricard, a distinctive racetrack in Le Castellet, Var, in southeastern France. 12)
- Built on a plateau at approximately 400 meters above sea level, the track is extremely flat and sits within a warm, temperate climate. The conditions are ideal for vehicle testing by racing teams throughout the year, though the track's watering system also can simulate rainy driving conditions, if desired. The unique blue and red appearance of the track is due to vehicle run-off areas: the "red zone" is a deeper runoff with a more abrasive surface to maximize braking effectiveness compared to the "blue zone."
- The 5.84 kilometers (3.63 miles) of track allows for 167 possible configurations. Circuit Paul Ricard has been the course for the famous Formula One French Grand Prix at least 15 times. However, 2018 marked the return of the French Grand Prix after a decade away.
- The namesake of the track, Paul Ricard, was a French industrialist who gained his fortune by marketing an anise-based liquor, pastis, in the 1930s. As a forward thinker in advertising, he paved the way for commercial sponsorship for the Tour de France. The Circuit Paul Ricard was another sport sponsorship to support his pastis brand, only this time he wanted to own the venue.
- Le Castellet International Airport runs parallel to the race track. North (left in this photo) of Circuit Paul Ricard are several solar power plants that reflect a recent shift to renewable energy in France. This region has the highest degree of insolation in the country, making it an ideal location for solar power generation.
Figure 12: This astronaut photograph ISS056-E-6257 was acquired on June 9, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier Thomas)
• September 5, 2018: There are many possible reasons to trigger the alarm on the International Space Station, from fire to toxic leaks and loss of pressure. When an alarm sounds the six astronauts that live above our planet need to react quickly and securely. 13)
- Much like on Earth emergency drills are practiced to make sure that when a real emergency occurs the astronauts are ready to react. In this picture ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is wearing a mask during an emergency drill held on 28 August 2018. He was a volunteer firefighter in his school years.
- Fire or toxic leaks are a large concern for space stations even more so than on Earth because the astronauts live in a closed system, there is no way to open a window to allow come fresh air in or an external evacuation meeting point. Instead astronauts convene at a safe place on the Space Station where they have access to their Soyuz spacecraft that act as lifeboats and could bring them home if the worst happens. Once together the crew will work with mission control to identify the cause of any emergency and agree on the actions to be taken.
- Last week mission control noticed a small loss of pressure in the International Space Station but it was so small no emergency was declared. Nevertheless the astronauts convened and searched for the leak using an "ultrasound sniffer" that detects the sound of air moving. The leak was found in the Soyuz orbital module, a section of the spacecraft that doesn't return to Earth but burns up harmlessly on re-entry. Thanks in part to the frequent training and diligence of the astronauts the leak was quickly found and patched.
- Alexander commented on Twitter about the incident that it "showed again how valuable our emergency training is. We could locate and stop a small leak in our Soyuz, thanks to great cooperation between the crew and control centers on several continents."
- Pay attention at during all safety briefings, practice makes perfect and repetition makes sure you can rely on knowledge in an emergency situation.
Figure 13: Human and robotic spaceflight image of the week: Alexander Gerst during safety drill on the International Space Station (image credit: NASA/ESA)
• September 2, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) centered this photograph on Belle Isle, an island in the Detroit River. Late 17th century French settlers called the waterway Rivière Détroit, which translates to "River of the Strait." 14)
- The Detroit River stretches approximately 45 kilometers (30 miles) and provides connectivity between the upper Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Iron ore, mined from Michigan's Upper Peninsula and northern Minnesota, makes up more than 50 percent of the commodities passing through the Port of Detroit. In the photo, a few large ships are visible passing along the narrow strait. The river serves as the international border between the United States and Canada, following along the southern channel and making Belle Isle part of the U.S.
- Belle Isle is a park with attractions including a museum, zoo, aquarium, conservatory, and athletic fields. Since 1992, the island has been temporarily transformed into a raceway several times to host what is formally known as the Detroit Grand Prix.
- On the U.S. side of the river lies Michigan's most populous city, Detroit, famously nicknamed the Motor City. Automobile production has driven the economy in Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, since the early 1900s, with the largest American automotive companies headquarters around and within Detroit. More than 2 million motor vehicles per year have been produced in Michigan in nearly every year since 1990.
- The Detroit-Windsor international crossing has the highest number of freight truck containers passing across the U.S.–Canadian border each year, with automobiles and vehicle parts being one of the top commodities.
Figure 14: Astronaut photograph ISS055-E-23376 was acquired on April 12, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 55 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• August 26, 2018: This oblique nighttime image of Figure 15, taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, reveals Indonesia's main island chain. With coasts illuminated by city lights, the islands stand out against the darkness of the Indian Ocean. The island of Java is the geographic and economic center of Indonesia. With a population of more than 141 million people, it is the world's most populous island. 15)
- Java is part of the Greater Sunda Islands, a chain of active volcanoes that form an island arc. The volcanoes constrain the growth of populated areas and can be distinguished at night as a line of dark circles surrounded by city lights. These densely populated islands are at risk of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis due to tectonic activity from the Sunda Subduction Zone that formed the islands.
- The brightest urban area is Java's port city of Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city and the capital of the province of East Java. The Port of Tanjung Perak, located at Surabaya, is Indonesia's second busiest sea port. Ships arriving and departing transport over 33 million tons of cargo and 9 million people annually. Individual and clustered lights seen around Java are ships and fishing boats. The fishing boats emit bright lights of different colors to attract fish, squid, and plankton.
Figure 15: The astronaut photograph ISS056-E-6994 was acquired on June 9, 2018 with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 28 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Sarah Deitrick, Jacobs, and Andrea Meado, Jacobs)
• August 19, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a camera lens on the Sun's reflection point, roughly 1700 km to the northeast of the spacecraft's position over Massachusetts at the time this image was taken. This oblique photograph shows the horizon and coastline of the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, with Quebec further inland. 16)
- There was only a narrow window of opportunity for this sunglint photograph. The Sun's reflection was moving across the narrows (separating the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador) and in a break between two cloud banks. Clouds are so common in this part of the world that images of the region are not often acquired from the ISS.
- From their altitude in the space station, the astronauts were seeing an early sunrise, which was timed at 4:41 a.m. at Goose Bay in Labrador on the day this photograph was taken. The Sun would only rise at 5:20 a.m. for people on the ground in Massachusetts directly below the spacecraft.
- Three airplane condensation trails appear in the left half of the image, and another is visible on the right margin. All of them are oriented along the shortest air route to Europe (over eastern Canada), which is one of the most densely travelled air routes between North America and Europe.
Figure 16: This astronaut photograph ISS056-E-77502 was acquired on July 5, 2018, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 145 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• August 12, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this photograph of part of Lake Van in Turkey, the largest soda or alkaline lake on Earth. Generally, soda lakes are distinguished by high concentrations of carbonate species. Lake Van is an endorheic lake—it has no outlet, so its water disappears by evaporation—with a pH of 10 and high salinity levels. 17)
- Waters near the city of Erciş (population 90,000) are shallow, but other parts of the lake can be up to 450 meters (1,467 feet) deep. Lake Van water levels have changed by 100s of meters over the past 600,000 years due to climate change, volcanic eruptions, and tectonic activity.
- Turbidity plumes, which appear as swirls of light- and dark-toned water, are mostly comprised of calcium carbonate, detrital materials, and some organic matter. High particle fluxes occur in Lake Van during spring and fall, when phytoplankton and aquatic plants grow and produce a lot of organic carbon. The lake also hosts the largest known modern microbialite deposits.
Figure 17: The astronaut photograph ISS049-E-3464 was acquired on September 12, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 290 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 49 crew (image credit: (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• August 10, 2018: The crew members aboard the International Space Station spent this week conducting science, helping out with student robotic competitions, and preparing for next week's Russian spacewalk when cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev will work outside the station's Russian segment for about six hours of science and maintenance tasks. 18)
- SPHERES investigations soar through the station: Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), three free-flying, bowling-ball sized spherical satellites used inside the space station to test a set of well-defined instructions for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking maneuvers, are used for a variety of investigations aboard the orbiting lab.
- The SPHERES-Zero-Robotics investigation provides an opportunity for high school students to conduct research aboard the station. As part of a competition, students write algorithms for the satellites to accomplish tasks relevant to potential future missions. The most promising designs are selected to operate the SPHERES satellites aboard the station as a part of the competition.
Figure 18: Two of the free-flying spherical robots used by the SPHERES investigations. SPHERES-Zero-Robotics gives students the chance to develop software to guide robots through a virtual obstacle course aboard the space station. This week, the crew members conducted dry runs in preparation for the final competition, which occurred on 10 August (image credit: NASA)
- The SPHERES Tether Slosh investigation combines fluid dynamics equipment with robotic capabilities aboard the station. In space, the fuels used by spacecraft can slosh around in unpredictable ways making space maneuvers difficult. This investigation uses two SPHERES robots tethered to a fluid-filled container covered in sensors to test strategies for safely steering spacecraft such as dead satellites that might still have fuel in the tank.
- Crew members use sextant to identify stars for use in future navigation: A tool that has helped guide sailors across oceans for centuries is now being tested aboard the station as a potential emergency navigation tool for guiding future spacecraft across the cosmos. The Sextant Navigation investigation tests use of a hand-held sextant aboard the space station.
- Sextants have a small telescope-like optical sight to take precise angle measurements between pairs of stars from land or sea, enabling navigation without computer assistance. Sextants have been used by sailors for centuries, and NASA's Gemini missions conducted the first sextant sightings from a spacecraft. Designers built a sextant into Apollo vehicles as a navigation backup in the event the crew lost communications from their spacecraft, and Jim Lovell demonstrated on Apollo 8 that sextant navigation could return a space vehicle home. Astronauts conducted additional sextant experiments on Skylab.
Figure 19: NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor conducting a star identification session as a part of the Sextant Navigation investigation (image credit: NASA)
- This week, the crew calibrated the sextant and performed the second star identification and sighting session of the investigation with ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. This session placed an emphasis on position stabilization and sighting.
- Investigation studies how Earth's magnetic field interacts with electrical conductor; sample exchanges begin: ESA's MagVector investigation studies how Earth's magnetic field interacts with an electrical conductor. Using extremely sensitive magnetic sensors placed around and above a conductor, researchers gain insight into ways that the magnetic field influences how conductors work. This research not only helps improve future experiments aboard the station and other electrical experiments, but it could offer insights into how magnetic fields influence electrical conductors in general, the backbone of our technology on Earth.
- Replacements completed in preparation for CLD Flames: The ACME (Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment) investigation is a set of five independent studies of gaseous flames to be conducted in the CIR (Combustion Integration Rack), one of which being Coflow Laminar Diffusion Flame (CLD Flame). ACME's goals are to improve fuel efficiency and reduce pollutant production in practical combustion on Earth and to improve spacecraft fire prevention through innovative research focused on materials flammability.
Figure 20: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst working within the CIR on the ACME CLD Flame investigation (image credit: NASA)
- Other work was done on these investigations: CEO, Story Time From Space, Food Acceptability, SPHERES, Fluid Shifts, ACME CLD-Flame, Angiex Cancer Therapy, Microbial Tracking-2, Barrios PCG, Chemical Gardens, MSG, SABL, Manufacturing Device, Cold Atom Lab, CASIS PCG-13, BEST, and BCAT-CS.
• August 5, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this photograph of the northernmost portion of Australia's Northern Territory, including Melville, Bathurst, and several other Tiwi Islands. With an area of 5,786 km2 (2,234 square miles), Melville is the largest Australian island. 19)
- Northern Territory is an Australian federal division characterized by open, sparsely populated land that ranges from wetlands in the north to desert in the south. Rivers flow north from higher elevations to a relatively flat coast and carry reddish-tan sediment into the sea, coloring the waters. As in other Australian territories, most of the population resides along the coast. Darwin is the capital and largest city in the area, with an estimated population over 148,000 (as of 2017).
- Although the first settlers of this area were indigenous Australians, many of the place names come from explorers and the days of European settlement in the early 1800s. For example, Beagle Gulf is named after the HMS Beagle, the vessel that Charles Darwin famously sailed on. The Port of Darwin was named after the well-known evolutionary biologist even though he never visited the region.
- Travelling inland, a large portion of the territory is designated as national park or conservation land. Kakadu National Park is the largest national park in Australia. Djukbinj National Park, approximately 80 km east of Darwin, is mainly comprised of wetlands. Litchfield National Park attracts tourists with several waterfalls, the Blyth Homestead (a 1920s remnant of a typical pioneer home), and enormous termite mounds. The Cobourg Peninsula (top right) separates the Arafura Sea and Van Diemen Gulf and is designated as the Garig Gunak National Park.
Figure 21: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-53588 was acquired on August 14, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 78 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier Thomas)
• August 3, 2018: California burning. Alexander Gerst said: "These fires are frightening to watch, even from space. Here's a shout-out from space to all firefighters on this planet, my former colleagues. Stay safe my friends!" 20)
Figure 22: This image of the California wildfires was captured from the ISS by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and shared on his social media channels on 3 August 2018 (image credit: NASA / ESA - A. Gerst)
• July 22, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of Mount St. Helens 37 years after the cataclysmic volcanic eruption (Figure 23). Fifty-seven people lost their lives and thousands of animals were killed by the violent eruption that lasted nine hours and dramatically changed the landscape. 21)
- On the morning of May 18, 1980, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake caused the north face (facing right in this image) of the stratovolcano to detach and slide away, creating the largest landslide ever recorded. The great movement of mass and weight by the landslide allowed for the partially molten, highly pressurized, gas-rich rock inside the volcano to erupt. A column of ash rose 80,000 feet (~24 km) from the summit into the atmosphere and deposited ash across 12 U.S. states. Nearly 150 square miles (388 km2) of forest were blown over from the turbulent wind generated by the pressurized gas explosion.
- A mixture of lava and rock fragments (pyroclastic deposits) spilled down the north face of the mountain toward Spirit Lake, resulting in the characteristic horseshoe-shaped crater. The heat released during the eruption caused the glaciers on the volcano to melt and mix with rocks and ash. These lahars, or volcanic mudslides, flowed as far as the Columbia River (approximately 80 km away).
- The volcano continued to erupt less violently until 1986, with volcanic activity transitioning to thick flows and lava dome growth. The volcano is still actively monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey for gas emissions and earthquakes.
- In the years after the initial eruption, the land around the volcano was passed from the Burlington Northern Railroad to the U.S. Forest Service. In 1982, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created, and the environment was left to respond naturally to the disaster. The area has gradually come back to life since the late 1980s. The minerals and nutrients deposited in Spirit Lake during the eruption are responsible for the vibrant and rapidly growing trout and aquatic vegetation populations. With the volcano currently in a relatively quiet state, it is now a popular tourist destination for climbers to make the journey to the crater rim.
Figure 23: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8512 was acquired on June 25, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick)
• July 15, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph (Figure 24) of the West Region of Ireland, along the Atlantic Ocean. It can be rare to see any part of the British Isles without clouds from orbit. 22)
- At the center of the image lies Connemara National Park, one of six managed by Ireland's National Parks and Wildlife Service. Shadows on the western faces of the mountains indicate that the photo was taken before local noon. Twelve Bens, a famous mountain range in the Connemara region, is a dominant feature of the countryside, with peaks rising to 729 meters. Avid climbers attempt to hike all twelve of the peaks in one day.
- The park's valleys were once used for agriculture, while the bogs were mined for peat fuel. Peat is decayed organic matter, rich in natural heaps of carbon that can be burned for energy. With increased heat and pressure, peat becomes low-grade coal known as lignite.
- The photo also shows several lakes, with Lough Corrib standing out as the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland. Lough Carra, Lough Mask, and Lough Corrib are limestone lakes connected not only by surface streams, but also by at least one underground waterway—a typical feature of limestone terrains. All three lakes drain to the Atlantic Ocean.
- Over the past 1.7 million years, the island of Ireland has experienced several intermittent ice ages, followed by warmer interglacial periods where ice sheets melted and scoured the landscape. The landforms left over from this ice movement include steep, eroded mountainsides, U-shaped valleys, and drumlins—whale-back shaped mounds of rock fragments formed under the ice sheets as they flowed slowly towards the coast.
Figure 24: Sculpted by ice ages, the west coast of Ireland is rich in rugged natural beauty. This astronaut photograph ISS054-E-58026 was acquired on 26 February 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 290 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• July 11, 2018: As the International Space Station flew overhead, NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold captured this photograph of a changing landscape in the heart of Madagascar, observing drainage into the sea in the Betsiboka Estuary due to decimation of rainforests and coastal mangroves. 23)
Figure 25: The heart of Madagascar drains into the sea due to decimation of rainforests & coastal mangroves (image credit: NASA, Ricky Arnold)
• July 10, 2018: This gadget (Figure 26) looks like a precursor to the devices medical officers use to scan patients in science fiction, and it is not far off. The MyotonPRO tests muscle tension and stiffness. 24)
- By default, our muscles are always slightly contracted. This is how we maintain posture and respond quickly to sudden movements. Our muscles reflexively tense to maintain balance and reduce damage when unexpectedly pulled or stretched. Muscle tension and stiffness are also good indicators of flexibility, strength, and general health.
- Of course, our muscles evolved to do this on Earth. In weightlessness, muscles lose functionality and mass. This phenomenon is well studied, and astronauts exercise for approximately two hours a day to prevent muscle wasting away.
- The Myotones experiment is focusing on resting muscle tone, about which researchers know much less. Sponsored by ESA, German Aerospace Center DLR and the UK Space Agency, the experiment is run by the Center of Space Medicine at the Charité University Medicine Berlin.
- During his mission, Alexander will take readings from different muscles using the device, which emits a painless pressure pulse and records how the tissue responds. This video of a Myotones session on the sole of Alexander's foot shows its ease of use.
- As with most experiments on the Space Station, the data recorded in space will be compared to those taken before and after flight.
- The MyotonPRO device is also demonstrating this non-invasive technology that delivers data more quickly. While not quite the futuristic scanner we see in science fiction, this could still make for a more efficient diagnostic tool for terrestrial and extra-terrestrial medical professionals.
- In addition to keeping astronauts fit and healthy on longer missions, the results of Myotones will aid in diagnosing and rehabilitating people with muscle degeneration or injury such as the elderly, the bed-ridden, load-carrying workers, and athletes.
Figure 26: The device is being used on the International Space Station by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. Part of the Myotones experiment, Alexander is using the smart-phone-sized device to investigate the human resting muscle tone system (image credit:ESA, DLR )
• July 6, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of Marseille, the second largest city in France. Known as Massalia in the days of the Roman Empire, the city sits along the Mediterranean coast. 25)
- From above, Marseille has a distinct red hue due to the clay terra cotta tiles covering the roofs of most buildings. Clay deposits are mined locally in Var, northeast of Marseille. Those signature roof tiles have influenced architectural styling in parts of Australia and New Zealand since the late 1800s.
- The international spread of French culture and products can be attributed to Marseille's coastal location. The city has been a major trading port since 400 BC, and the current Port of Marseille-Fos serves as the second largest port on the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the city is known for international trade and commerce of hydrocarbon products, iron, steel, ships, construction materials, alcohol, and food.
- Adjacent to Marseille lies Calanques National Park, Europe's first peri-urban national park—it is located at the transition between town and country. Founded in 2012, the park encompasses both land and water, while protecting the region's natural landscapes, terrestrial and marine biodiversity, and cultural heritage.
Figure 27: The astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51867 was acquired on February 19, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• July 4, 2018: The analyzer measures the amount of nitric oxide in exhaled air. Too much nitric oxide suggests inflammation. Causes can be environmental, like dust or pollution, or clinical, such as asthma – at least on Earth, but what happens in space? 26)
Figure 28: Developed by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the Airway Monitoring experiment measures astronauts' breath to determine the health of their lungs. The potential findings will go towards developing better diagnostic tools for airway disease in patients on Earth (image credit: NASA/ESA)
- To find out, astronauts breathe into an analyzer at normal pressure and then in the reduced pressure of the Quest airlock, which simulates the pressure of future habitats on Mars and lunar colonies. The measurements are then compared to the same reduced and ambient pressure data taken before flight to understand the effects of weightlessness on airway health.
- This information is key to ensuring the health and safety of astronauts on long missions taking them further from Earth.
• June 29, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a camera on the brilliant reflection of sunlight —sunglint—on three sweeping meanders of the Amazon River (Figure 29). The numerous thinner lines show the many remnants of prior channels of this highly mobile river. The reflected sunlight even shows numerous ponds (top left) in this very rainy part of the world. These ponds are usually not visible due to the dense forest cover in central Amazonia. 27)
- The Amazon River is the largest by water volume and sediment discharge in the world. The scale of the meanders here are immense compared with other large rivers. The amplitude from the top of the meander to the lower curves of the neighboring meanders is 18 km. Average meander amplitudes on the Mississippi River near New Orleans measure 6 km.
Figure 29: The astronaut photograph ISS052-E-39523 was acquired on August 9, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 500 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
- And the meander amplitude is increasing along this stretch of the river. Images from the late 1960s show the meanders as less winding. Since then, the loops have expanded, eroding the outside edges. Measurements taken from a 1969 photo and from this one show erosion has pushed the outer banks out by more than 1.2 km, while depositing new sediment on the inside of the meander loops.
• June 19, 2018: A tool that has helped guide sailors across oceans for centuries is now being tested aboard the International Space Station as a potential emergency navigation tool for guiding future spacecraft across the cosmos. The Sextant Navigation investigation tests use of a hand-held sextant aboard the space station. 28)
- Sextants have a small telescope-like optical sight to take precise angle measurements between pairs of stars from land or sea, enabling navigation without computer assistance. Sextants have been used by sailors for centuries, and NASA's Gemini missions conducted the first sextant sightings from a spacecraft. Designers built a sextant into Apollo vehicles as a navigation backup in the event the crew lost communications from their spacecraft, and Jim Lovell demonstrated on Apollo 8 that sextant navigation could return a space vehicle home (Figure 31). Astronauts conducted additional sextant experiments on Skylab.
- "The basic concepts are very similar to how it would be used on Earth," says principal investigator Greg Holt. "But particular challenges on a spacecraft are the logistics; you need to be able to take a stable sighting through a window. We're asking the crew to evaluate some ideas we have on how to accomplish that and to give us feedback and perhaps new ideas for how to get a stable, clean sight. That's something we just can't test on the ground."
- The investigation tests specific techniques, focusing on stability, for possibly using a sextant for emergency navigation on space vehicles such as Orion. With the right techniques, crews can use the tool to navigate their way home based on angles between the moon or planets and stars, even if communications and computers become compromised.
- "No need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to celestial navigation," Holt says. "We want a robust, mechanical back-up with as few parts and as little need for power as possible to get you back home safely. Now that we plan to go farther into space than ever before, crews need the capability to navigate autonomously in the event of lost communication with the ground."
- Early explorers put a lot of effort into refining sextants to be compact and relatively easy to use. The tool's operational simplicity and spaceflight heritage make it a good candidate for further investigation as backup navigation.
Figure 30: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst learns how to use a sextant. "I learned how to navigate after the stars using a sextant," said Gerst. "It's actually a test for a backup nav method for Orion & future deep space missions." (image credit: NASA)
Figure 31: Jim Lovell demonstrated on Apollo 8 that sextant navigation could return a space vehicle home (image credit: NASA)
Figure 32: The astronaut photo ISS054-E-53958 was acquired on February 24, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 200 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
- Over the years, adventurous swimmers have attempted to swim the 35 km from Dover, England, to the French coastline at Cap Gris-Nez. Swimmers commonly follow a curved path due to tidal currents, making the actual route longer than the projected straight-line distance between the coasts. This challenge can take swimmers 7 to 20 hours to complete one-way, and few have chosen to swim back.
- Dover is famous for its White Cliffs, a section of coastline with abrupt cliffs made of a stark white chalk. The same geologic formation is found across the channel at Cap Blanc-Nez, indicating that the land surface between the two coasts was once continuous. Erosion of this surface over hundreds of thousands of years, followed by rising sea levels in the past 10,000 years, created the English Channel.
- Beneath the Strait of Dover, the undersea Channel Tunnel allows trains and cars to quickly travel from southern England to northern France. This helps decrease maritime traffic, as more than 400 commercial vessels cross the Strait daily. Dozens of ships are visible in this photograph.
• June 19, 2018: Have you ever considered yourself capable of manipulating gravity? When you grip an object, you are doing just that. Gravity is constantly exerting its force on objects, most notably by keeping everything weighed down. But when you lift a cup to your mouth, you are playing against gravity. 30)
- Despite gravity being a force of nature, living with it does not come naturally to humans; we learn how to work with gravity in infancy when we pick up objects and learn to adjust our grip to its weight and gravitational force. - How our brains learn this process is at the core of the Grip experiment, being performed in this image by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst on the International Space Station on his current Horizons mission.
- In the weightless environment of the Station, astronauts are like infants learning to adjust to the world in which they find themselves.
- In microgravity, objects have no weight, which is an important indicator to our brain of how much grip force to apply to an object when moving it up or down. Furthermore, the inner ear no longer tells us which way is up. Naturally, our brains are a little thrown off and our coordination is disturbed. Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience in Brussels are studying how long it takes our brains to adjust to this dynamic.
- How does the experiment work? Alexander performs a series of movements while gripping a purpose-built sensor that measures grip-forces, moisture and acceleration, and more to assess how the body adapts to situations in which there is no up or down.
- Alexander will carry out three sessions of the experiment during his mission. As with most experiments flown on the Space Station, the data will be compared to preflight and postflight sessions.
- The Grip experiment has flown on 20 parabolic flight campaigns. Results indicate that short-term exposure to microgravity induces subtle changes in how the forces used in gripping an object are coordinated. Our brains anticipate the effects of gravity even when it is not there. On the Space Station, researchers can now observe the long-term effects. The experiment was first commissioned by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet during his mission in 2016.
- These experiments are designed to help us better understand human physiology and disease diagnosis on Earth. They are also helpful to engineers designing prosthetic limbs on Earth and will be used to help design robot-human interfaces so astronauts can command robots on other planets, allowing us to further explore our Solar System.
Figure 33: Photo of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst running the Grip experiment (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• June 10, 2018: The city of Charleston, South Carolina—which is surrounded by meandering rivers and a marshy landscape—caught the eye of an astronaut flying aboard the International Space Station. The region has been a focal point for American history and for shipping. 31)
- Charleston Harbor is part of the U.S. Intracoastal Waterway and will soon include one of the deepest channels on the East Coast. Federal funding was recently allocated to dredge the channels to 16 m to allow larger, heavier, previously restricted ships to pass through. Some of those ships will likely continue on up the Cooper and Ashley Rivers, dock along the coast, or make their way to the Port of Charleston.
- Much of the US East Coast is a topographically low and flat region known as the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and South Carolina is a prime example. The plain was formed by the deposition of sediments from the eroding Appalachian Mountains and the Piedmont Plateau to the west. Over a period of approximately 100 million years, rivers carried sediment to the coast and, through several changes in sea level and climate, formed landmasses that include numerous small islands, estuaries, and marshy lagoons.
- Charleston is full of early American history. The city was established in 1670 by English settlers as a colonial seaport. Following the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Charleston served as the capitol of South Carolina until 1786 (when the capitol moved to Columbia). Fort Sumter became a major focal point in 1861 when it was seized by Confederates in one of the first battles of the American Civil War. Today, Fort Sumter is visited by thousands of tourists a year.
- In 1901, the Charleston Naval Shipyard was authorized for U.S. Navy ship assembly and repair, with the first construction of vessels beginning in 1910. The naval base brought an influx of jobs and a major community identity to North Charleston. In 1996, the base closed for good, and parts of the base have since been converted to various government, private, and community uses.
Figure 34: The astronaut photograph ISS053-E-20193 was acquired on September 13, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 800 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• June 8, 2018: Three new Expedition 56 crew members were welcomed aboard the International Space Station today. Hatches between the space station and Soyuz opened at 11:17 a.m. EDT, marking the arrival of Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos. 32)
- The Soyuz MS-09 carrying the trio launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:12 a.m. Wednesday, June 6. They joined Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos aboard the orbiting laboratory.
- The crew members are also being greeted by family and friends who watched the docking and hatch opening from the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow.
Figure 35: The newly-expanded Expedition 56 crew gathers in the Zvezda service module for a crew greeting ceremony with family, friends and mission officials in Moscow. In the front row from left are new Flight Engineers Sergey Prokopyev, Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor. In the back row are Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev, Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold (image credit: NASA TV)
- The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked to the Rassvet module of the International Space Station at 9:01 a.m. EDT while both spacecraft were flying over eastern China. 33)
- Following their two-day trip, astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos docked to the space station. Their arrival restores the station's crew complement to six as they wait to join Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Figure 36: The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft is pictured moments after docking to the space station's Rassvet module (image credit: NASA TV)
• June 6, 2018: In March 2000, the largest iceberg ever recorded broke away from Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf. Now, after 18 years drifting with the currents and being battered by the wind and sea, a piece of this original berg could be nearing the end of its voyage. 34)
- When iceberg B-15 first broke away, it measured about 160 nautical miles long and 20 nautical miles wide. That equates to an area of 3,200 square nautical miles, or about the size of Connecticut. B-15 has since fractured into numerous smaller bergs, and most have melted away. Just four pieces remain that meet the minimum size requirement—at least 20 square nautical miles—to be tracked by the U.S. National Ice Center.
- When astronauts aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph on May 22, 2018, B-15Z measured 10 nautical miles long and 5 nautical miles wide (Figure 37). That's still well within the trackable size. But the iceberg may not be tracked much longer if it splinters into smaller pieces. A large fracture is visible along the center of the berg, and smaller pieces are splintering off from the edges.
Figure 37: This astronaut photograph ISS055-E-74583 was acquired on May 22, 2018, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 200 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Kathryn Hansen)
- Melting and breakup would not be surprising, given the berg's long journey and northerly location. A previous image showed B-15Z farther south in October 2017, after it had ridden the coastal countercurrent about three-quarters of the way around Antarctica bringing it to the Southern Ocean off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Figure 38: Currents prevented the iceberg from continuing through the Drake Passage; instead, B-15Z cruised north into the southern Atlantic Ocean. When the May 2018 photograph was acquired, the berg was about 150 nautical miles northwest of the South Georgia islands. Icebergs that make it this far have been known to rapidly melt and end their life cycles here (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Kathryn Hansen)
• June 4, 2018: Taken through a window on the ISS (International Space Station) by the EarthKAM camera, this photograph shows the boundary between a major dune field and dark hills along the border between Algeria and Libya. These landscapes are among the driest parts of the Sahara Desert. For scale, the dune margin shown in this photo is slightly more than 100 km long (Figure 39). 35)
- Large dune fields are known to geologists as "ergs," the Arabic term for these extensive regions of sand. This eastern erg (known as the Oriental) of Algeria includes hundreds of dune mounds. From more detailed images we know that these are "star dunes." The erg itself occupies a vast area of approximately 600 km x 200 km.
- Many winding water courses are visible on the right half of the photo. These typically dry channels drain occasional rain water towards the edge of the vast erg. Sediment carried by such streams has accumulated over a few million years to make the dunes. The margin in the image marks the line between a zone dominated by wind as the main landforming agent and a zone dominated by water movement.
- The wind-sculpted hills—sometimes called grooved terrain—have a remarkably straight pattern because they were eroded by one-directional winds from the north. A dry desert lake appears as a white surface near straight roads that cross this desert. Another lake appears as a dark patch due to the vegetation that grows in its shallow water.
- A dense cluster of date-palms indicates the location of the Libyan town of Ghadames, population 10,000. The old part of the town is walled and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Figure 39: This EarthKAM photograph CCFID_152293_2017304121045 was acquired on October 31, 2017, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 50 mm lens. The photo in this article has been enhanced to improve contrast. It is provided by the Sally Ride EarthKAM@Space Camp on the ISS. The caption is provided by the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA/JSC. EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) is a NASA educational outreach program that enables students, teachers, and the public to learn about Earth from the unique perspective of space (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• May 27, 2018: About 200 km southwest of Berlin lies an area of Germany known as Neuseenland ("New Lakelands"). Located in the Leipzig district, this area is the site of a massive project to transform the landscape into a series of lakes and interconnected rivers. In this photograph taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, we see two manmade lakes surrounded by rapeseed, wheat, and potato fields (Figure 40). 36)
- The Zwenkauer See, first excavated in 1921, and the Cospudener See, dug in 1981, started as open-pit lignite mines. They yielded a combined total of 610 million tons of lignite, a type of brown coal used extensively by Germany. As a result of these mining operations, the nearby land was severely scarred: rivers were redirected, forests were cut down, and thousands of nearby residents were relocated.
- Activism by the citizens of Zwenkau and Markkleeberg in the early 1990s resulted in the permanent shutdown of the mines. Rehabilitation of the region began shortly thereafter. Both mines were slowly flooded over a period of eight years through a process of river channeling, and they have become two of the largest lakes in the area. The Harth Canal is now under construction today between the Zwenkauer and Cospudener Sees. It will enable boats to sail from Zwenkau Harbor to the city of Leipzig, about 12 km to the northeast.
- Thanks to the development of the lakes, surrounding towns such as Markkleeberg and Zwenkau are becoming more popular with tourists.
Figure 40: This astronaut photograph ISS047-E-108766 was acquired on May 9, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 47 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Sarah Deitrick, Jacobs, and Justin Wilkinson)
• May 14, 2018: This oblique photograph (Figure 41), taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station, shows the city of Bangkok illuminated by city lights. As the capital and largest city in Thailand, Bangkok is home to more than 9 million people. 37)
- The adjacent waters of the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand are illuminated by hundreds of green lights on fishing boats. Fishermen use the lights to attract plankton and fish, the preferred diet of commercially important squid. As the bait swims to the surface, the squid follow to feed and get caught by fishermen. The same fishing practices are used off the Atlantic coast of South America.
- In the photo, the border between Thailand and neighboring Cambodia to the east is distinguished by a marked difference in the number of city lights. Cambodia has less urbanized area and its population and is smaller than that of neighboring countries. The majority of Cambodia's population lives in rural farming areas where electricity is sparse. Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city in Cambodia, with a population of approximately 1.5 million people.
Figure 41: Astronaut photograph ISS053-E-451778 was acquired on December 10, 2017, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 24 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, caption by Andi Hollier)
• April 23, 2018: Looking out from a window on the International Space Station, an astronaut captured this rare photograph of the Scottish Highlands. Cloud-covered skies are common for the region and typically prevent landscape photography from space, especially during the winter months (when this image was taken). 38)
- The topography of the Scottish Highlands (Figure 42) is the result of geological processes spanning billions of years. The snow-capped mountains north of Glen Mor include some of the oldest rocks in Europe, and they were subsequently rearranged by tectonic forces hundreds of millions of years ago. The rocky landscape also shows signs of reshaping by flowing glaciers during the most recent Ice Ages.
- Also known as the "Great Valley" or "Great Glen," Glen Mor is a fault zone marked by numerous elongated lakes (or lochs), one of which is the famous Loch Ness. In the early 2000s, locals built a pathway through the area—the Great Glen Way—for walkers and cyclists.
Figure 42: This astronaut photograph ISS054-E-54109 was acquired on February 25, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 290 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew (image credit: NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, caption by Andi Hollier)
• April 9, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station focused a high-resolution lens on the city of Medina (Madinah in official documents) in western Saudi Arabia (Figure 43). Medina is the second holiest city of Islam, and the site of the Prophet's Mosque (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi) and the Prophet's Tomb. The mosque, one of the largest in the world, is the focal point of the city. 39)
- Immediately east of the Mosque is an area with no buildings. (Note that north is to the right in this photo.) It is the site of the Al-Baqi' cemetery, the resting place of many of the Prophet's relatives and companions. The cemetery used to lie on the outskirts of early Medina. Fourteen centuries ago, the city was only about the size of the modern mosque complex.
- Although people of many religions and nationalities live in the city, the core haram zone (meaning "sanctuary" or "holy shrine"), generally within King Abdullah Road, is only open to people of Muslim faith. (For scale, the diameter of the King Abdullah ring road is about 7 to 9 km . Increasing numbers of expatriate workers—from other Arab countries, from South Asia, and from the Philippines—now live in Medina.
- The Saudi Arabian government has begun a major new building project known as Knowledge Economic City just east of the closed zone (lower center of the image). This partly open land (visible on either side of King Abdul Aziz Branch Road) is being set aside for new residential and commercial development, especially high-tech, as well as hotels, museums, and educational facilities for non-Muslim tourists.
Figure 43: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8496 was acquired on June 25, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• April 3, 2018: An astronaut flying aboard the ISS took this long lens photograph of part of Doha, the capital city of Qatar, located on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The Pearl-Qatar, a man-made island spanning approximately 1.5 km2, extends from the mainland and is among the first properties in Qatar that can be owned by non-Qataris. Deep canals have been cut around the islands, and they lead out into the Persian Gulf. 40)
- The Pearl-Qatar infrastructure was built to resemble a string of pearls in recognition of the historical pearl-diving sites upon which the island complex is built. The proposal of the artificial islands started in 2004 and construction is expected to end in 2018 with ten precincts, 31 towering buildings, and 4,700 apartments.
- With more than 2 million inhabitants, Doha is a center of economic activity for the region. The city will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the first time the soccer tournament will be held in the Middle East. With this large population and a push for tourism comes challenges in finding sustainable supplies of drinking water. Qatar has an arid desert climate with hot, long summers (March to September), and annual rainfall is scarce and unpredictable. The Doha Groundwater Basin sits below the city and is mainly used for irrigation. In consequence, the city is turning to desalination of sea water to supply potable water to residents.
Figure 44: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-127736 was acquired on October 23, 2017, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• March 25, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph while flying over Asia and looking southeast toward the horizon. Astronauts have unique opportunities to photograph Earth from various angles while orbiting in the thermosphere layer of Earth's upper atmosphere. 41)
- In the foreground we see Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan. The lake's main sources of water come from the Ili and Karatal (also Qaratal) Rivers. The Ili River Delta is a megafan deposit that forms a conical shape along the shores of Lake Balkhash. The cloud-covered Tian Shan Mountains of northwest China feed snowmelt waters to the Ili River and Lake Balkhash.
- Set against the darkness of space, the Moon appears to hover over the landscape. Astronauts on the ISS see the same lunar phases as we do on the ground. The steep color gradient in the upper third of the photo marks the edge of Earth's atmosphere and is known as the limb. The Moon does not have a gradually darkening limb because it lacks an atmosphere; the lunar limb appears simply as a sharp demarcation between the surface and the darkness of space.
Figure 45: This astronaut photograph ISS048-E-2035 was acquired on June 19, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 116 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• March 19, 2018: An astronaut aboard the ISS focused a camera lens on a brilliant spot in Iran: the sun reflecting off Darodzan Lake (Figure 46). This waterbody in the desert, surrounded by the Zagros Mountains, is impounded behind a dam wall just upstream of the town of Darodzan. 42)
- Winds ruffle the water surface so that the reflection pattern is quite varied; it changes by the minute when viewed from the ISS. At the moment this image was taken, the sunglint effect was strongest near the dam wall. (The science of sunglint is explained here.) Other bright streaks in the middle of the lake show the counter-clockwise circulation of water. Yet more streaks show the direction of the wind (from the west).
- Agricultural fields in deserts are closely tied to sources of water. In this region, fields are clustered along the river that feeds the lake. The river enters Darodzan Lake at a small delta (image left). Other fields are clustered downstream of the dam wall, next to the town. The dam wall itself was built at a narrow gap in steep ridges.
Figure 46: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-45251 was acquired on August 12, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• March 5, 2018: In October 2017, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station focused a camera lens on Lake Garda or Lago di Garda, Italy's largest lake. Nestled halfway between the major cities of Venice and Milan, Lake Garda is situated where the southern Alps meet the Po River Valley. The lake is 54 km long and varies in width from 3 to 18 km (Figure 47). 43)
- The mild sub-Mediterranean climate and the Alpine topography have made Lake Garda a popular destination for tourism and watersports. It is well known for wind surfing and sailing due to dependable daily and seasonal wind patterns. These thermally driven winds are caused by the interaction of weather fronts between the mountains to the north and the plains to the south.
- Beyond outdoor activities, some people are attracted to the region for its historical importance. A few notable battles have been fought around Lake Garda, including the Roman Battle of Lake Benacus in 269 CE, the Battle of Solferino in 1859, and several events during World War I.
- The Po River Valley, south of Lake Garda, is also an important area for agriculture, producing rice, soybeans, corn, and wheat. The rich farmland is fed by glacial streams from the Alps.
Figure 47: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-136542 was acquired on October 27, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 290 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• February 25, 2018: An astronaut aboard the ISS (International Space Station) focused a camera lens on the Bonneville Salt Flats of northeast Utah—the light-toned, patchy feature in the middle of the image (Figure 48). The flats are famous for being one of the flattest places on Earth, and racing enthusiasts flock to the region each year to watch new attempts to set land-speed records. 44)
- East of the Bonneville Flats lies the growing urban area around Salt Lake City, which is barely visible to astronauts during the day due to the low contrast with the surrounding mountains. In contrast, the colorful waters of the Great Salt Lake stand out against the desert landscape.
- The Bonneville Salt Flats are remnants of a large lake that inundated much of Utah between 14,000 and 32,000 years ago. The greatest extent of ancient Lake Bonneville was about 520 km long and 220 km wide. The lake was fed by glacial melt water during the spring and summer seasons of the most recent glacial period. Since Lake Bonneville had no outlet, that water eventually evaporated in place and left behind white salt minerals.
- From the vantage point of the ISS, landscape patterns reveal the intermingling of older geologic formations and more recent landforms in this region. The relatively young (in geologic terms) Bonneville Salt Flats are located within the Basin and Range Province, a region that formed from the stretching of Earth's crust by massive tectonic forces over the past 17 million years. At the top left, we see a different style of geology: the Middle Rocky Mountain region, separated by the active Wasatch Fault zone. This fault zone has violently disrupted the region with at least 22 large-magnitude earthquakes in the past 6,000 years.
Figure 48: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-134166 was acquired on October 24, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 50 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• February 19, 2018: An astronaut aboard the ISS (International Space Station) took this oblique photograph of smoke-filled canyons along the eastern margin of the Andes Mountains. The desert plateau of Bolivia lies in the foreground, with the southern end of Lake Titicaca at image lower left. The desert is known as the Altiplano ("high plain") because of its great altitude—just over 4000 meters. The city of La Paz, Bolivia's capital, lies on the edge of the Altiplano. 45)
- The smoke in the valleys comes from several fires on the upper margin of the montane forest. These forests, known locally as the Yungas, appear dark green in the image. The Yungas is forested because it is a relatively wet zone and is often cloudy. In fact, astronauts see the Yungas much less often than they see the usually cloudless Altiplano.
- A narrow mountain range known as the Cordillera Oriental (image center) lies between the Yungas and Altiplano regions; it is a sub-range of the Andes Mountains. Peaks are so high here—almost 6400 meters—that they are capped by small ice sheets and glaciers, which appear as bright white spots in the image. The highest peaks are Mount Ancohuma (far left) Cerro Gigante, and Nevado Illimani (image center of Figure 49).
Figure 49: Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-43418 was acquired on July 23, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 65 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• January 29, 2018: While flying over eastern Europe, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the Kaniv Reservoir on the Dnieper River, approximately 72 km (45 miles) south of Kiev, Ukraine. Neon green algae blooms, young forests that cover old crops, and variegated patches of agriculture—each of these unique features of the landscape are connected through history and its consequences. 46)
- In the early 1920s, a policy known as "collectivization" was adopted by the Soviet Union. For Ukrainians, the agricultural policy meant that most farming took place in kolkhozes (collective farms), with a large percentage of harvests being sent to urban centers. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, land in Ukraine was divided into small sections among the rural population, with each plot representing a former kolkhoz farmer.
- Today agriculture is still a major part of the Ukrainian economy, with more than 70 percent of the country's land area devoted to husbandry. Most of the agricultural plots are still used for growing crops, though some are fallow or abandoned and some overgrown with young forests. As a consequence of the pervasive agricultural land use, an abundance of fertilizer runs off into the nearby rivers and reservoirs, leading to phytoplankton (often algae) blooms. The algae seen here, and the nutrients they consume, also travel down the Dnieper River and its tributaries to the Black Sea, where larger phytoplankton blooms can occur.
Figure 50: Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-67483 was acquired on August 26, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 290 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• January 22, 2018: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station focused a camera on the delta of the Rhône River in southern France (Figure 51), with its long beaches on the Mediterranean Sea coast. Using a long lens for detail, the photographer captured a part of the delta where the bigger branch of the river, the "Grand Rhône," enters the sea. The smaller arm of the river is the "Petit Rhône" which is further west and beyond the lower edge of the image. The long beaches are favored by tourists because they are some of the least developed in the Mediterranean. 47)
- Numerous lakes are found on the delta. Some have been converted into the colorful, angular salt ponds near the aptly named town Salin-de-Giraud. Salt winning (from evaporation) has been a local industry for centuries.
- The Rhône delta is famous in Europe as a wilderness. This mainly rural region boasts a surprisingly rich natural environment known as the Camargue, based on the grasslands and many marsh ponds. The pastures are famous for rearing animals for bull-running sport and the bullfighting rings of Spain. The Camargue is also home to more than 400 species of birds and has been assigned the status of an Important Bird Area. It provides one of the few European sanctuaries for the greater flamingo.
- Unlike the mouths of most large rivers in Europe, the Grand Rhône is not dominated by a major city. The small Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône (population roughly 8,500) is a port annex of the major city of Marseille, which is 50 kilometers to the east.
Figure 51: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-15820 was acquired on July 14, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• January 2, 2018: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst floats inside the International Space Station's European Columbus laboratory. The image was taken during his first flight in 2014 (Figure 52). The lights in the laboratory are dimmed to a pinkish glow during the crew's off-duty time. Columbus houses NASA's Veggie greenhouse, where researchers are growing lettuce in weightlessness. Previous experiments showed that red light is best for growing plants in space. 48)
- Veggie is already a favorite experiment for astronauts because it offers fresh food at the end of a harvest. Learning how to grow food in space is essential for longer trips further from Earth.
- Nearly a decade ago, the Columbus laboratory set sail to become Europe's largest single contribution to the International Space Station. Shortly after, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle – the most complex spacecraft ever built in Europe – arrived at the orbital outpost.
- There is a lot to celebrate in 2018: the 10th anniversary of the Columbus laboratory and the Automated Transfer Vehicle series, plus Alexander's second mission to the Space Station.
- He will be launched in June on Soyuz MS-09 together with NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev. He will fulfil the role of commander during the second part of his six-month.
- This is the second time a European astronaut will be commander of the Station – the first was Frank De Winne in 2009.
Figure 52: Photo of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst floating inside the Columbus Laboratory of the ISS (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• January 1, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph (Figure 53) of the Ticino River as it winds through Bellinzona Commune in the Lepontine Alps, Switzerland. The afternoon sunlight highlights the western mountain faces and contrasts with the mountain shadows, creating image depth and dimension. 49)
- Settlements like this one are typical of the Alpine foothills because of the flat land in the valley. Bellinzona City is the capital of Canton Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. The Ticino River empties into Lake Maggiore, the largest lake in southern Switzerland, approximately 14 km from the city.
- Switzerland is a federal state, meaning powers are divided amongst the confederation, cantons, and communes. The communes are the smallest political entity, but they have their own parliaments. Communes will sometimes consolidate regulation of schools and welfare, energy supplies, roads, local planning, and local taxation. Prior to 2017, there were at least fifteen communes identifiable in this image. On April 2, 2017, an aggregation combined smaller municipalities into one commune named Bellinzona. Most map annotations do not reflect this recent change. The number of communes in Canton Ticino have been reduced by half in the past eight years.
- There are three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bellinzona: Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro. A defensive wall (referred to as the murata) links the castles and recalls the Medieval period, when this tactical Alpine pass was protected from outsiders travelling to northern Italy.
Figure 53: This astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12869 was acquired on August 12, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• December 28, 2017: The crew aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the city lights of Naples and the Campania region of southern Italy (Figure 54). The Naples region is one of the brightest in the country; roughly three million people live in and around this metropolitan area. 50) 51)
- The different colors of lights in the scene reflect some of the history of development in the area. The green lights are mercury vapor bulbs, an older variety that has been replaced in newer developments by orange sodium bulbs (yellow-orange). To the northeast, the lightless gaps between the homes and businesses are agricultural fields. The bright yellow-orange complex amidst the fields is the CIS emporium, the largest commercial retail facility in Europe. The large black circular area in the photo is Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano on Europe's mainland. Vesuvius is a stratovolcano, made up of different materials—pyroclastic flows, lava flows, and debris from lahars—that accumulated to form the volcanic cone. Although any volcanic materials can endanger surrounding communities, pyroclastic flows of superheated ash and gas are among the most dangerous, moving at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per hour. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed in 79 AD by pyroclastic flows, which trapped more than 16,000 people.
- Such historic catastrophes—and the fact that 600,000 people live in the immediate vicinity—are the reason the volcano is one of the most heavily monitored in the world, with several dozen sensors located at many points on and around the cone. By dating lavas, scientists know that Mount Vesuvius has had eight major eruptions in the past 17,000 years.
- Vesuvius is part of the Campanian Volcanic Arc which includes the Campi Flegrei caldera/geothermal field to the west of Naples near Agnano and Mount Etna in Sicily.
- The astronauts and cosmonauts on the Space Station take pictures of Earth nearly every day, and over a year that adds up to thousands of photos. The staff at the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston had the enviable job of going through this year's crop to pick their top 17 photos of Earth for 2017—here's what they chose! Watch the video in 4K: https://youtu.be/NqWwhY_8j0I
Figure 54: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-37024 was acquired on January 30, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 400 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• December 23, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station focused a long-lens camera on the southern coastline of Lake Erie (Figure 55). The curved peninsula of Presque Isle State Park juts into the Great Lake, while the city in the lower part of the image is the deep-water port of Erie, Pennsylvania. Several V-shaped wakes show boat traffic around the port. 52)
- The lake water just offshore tends to be light-toned because significant river and beach sediment is regularly moved eastward by the action of wind and waves. The detailed image shows the swells made by these winds.
- Sediment has piled up to build this sand spit over thousands of years. Now covered with vegetation, Presque Isle State Park includes dozens of beach ridges—with each line representing a coastline from the past. The formation of the peninsula also has enclosed Presque Isle Bay, the site of modern port facilities.
- Because the sediment is constantly moved along the shore by waves, the exposed beach facing the lake has been protected from erosion. To do this, many short breakwaters (barriers) have been built just offshore for nearly the entire length of the beach.
Figure 55: The curved peninsula of Presque Isle State Park juts into the Great Lake, while the city in the lower part of the image is the deep-water port of Erie, Pennsylvania. This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-6364 was acquired on June 21, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew)
Figure 56: Detail image of Presque Isle State Park, this astronaut photograph ISS052-E-6364 was acquired on June 21, 2017 (image credit: NASA/JSC)
• December 14, 2017: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and his colleagues Randy Bresnik (Expedition 53 commander) of NASA and Sergei Ryazansky of Roscosmos returned to Earth from the International Space Station on 14 December in their Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft landing at 08:37 GMT in Kazakhstan. 53) 54)
- The ride home from the International Space Station saw the trio brake from 28 800 km/h to a standstill at touchdown in barely three hours.
- Paolo completed more than 60 experiments during his Vita mission, which stands for Vitality, Innovation, Technology and Ability.
- Paolo's body was itself an arena for research: his eyes, headaches, sleeping patterns and eating habits were monitored to learn more about how humans adapt to life in space. Temperature recordings, muscle exercises and plenty of blood and saliva samples will add to the picture and prepare humans for missions further from Earth.
- During his time on the orbital complex, Bresnik ventured outside the confines of the space station for three spacewalks. Along with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, Bresnik lead a trio of spacewalks to replace one of two latching end effectors on the station's robotic arm, Canadarm2. They also spent time lubricating the newly replaced Canadarm2 end effector and replacing cameras on the left side of the station's truss and the right side of the station's U.S. Destiny laboratory.
- Sergei Ryazansky of Roscosmos conducted one spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin in August to deploy several nanosatellites, collect research samples, and perform structural maintenance.
Figure 57: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli (left) and crewmates Randy Bresnik of NASA (right) and Sergei Ryazansky of Roscosmos in their Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft wearing their Sokol launch and entry suits. The veteran space travelers were preparing for their return to Earth after 139 days in space (image credit: ESA, NASA) 55)
- Tempus Pro, a portable vital-signs monitor capable of telemedicine via satellite, is helping medics at ESA astronaut landings.56) On Sept. 29, 2017, Thomas Pesquet was the first to benefit following his Proxima mission.
- At Paolo Nespoli's landing a set of features of this device including the ultrasound probe, developed during the ESA Amazon project, were used under the harsh Kazakh winter conditions.
- Remote Diagnostic Technologies in the UK developed the Tempus device with funding and support from the Business Applications part of ESA's Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems program.
Figure 58: Health check for Paolo Nespoli using Tempus Pro (image credit: ESA, Stephane Corvaja, 2017)
Figure 59: NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik is being helped by ground personnel after his landing in Kazakhstan (image credit: NASA TV)
• December 11, 2017: This photograph of Figure 60, taken from the ISS (International Space Station), shows the sweep of the coastline of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The cluster of lights at image center includes the major population centers of the Levant. The brightest lights are the cities of Tel Aviv in Israel, Amman in Jordan, and Beirut in Lebanon. Other light clusters include the Nile Delta in Egypt, and a nearby thin string of lights revealing the Suez Canal. The more scattered lights of the Turkish coastline and the country's mountainous interior arc from top left to top center. 57)
- Populations are small in the deserts of the Middle East, so few lights appear in vast portions of Saudi Arabia (right), Syria (top center) and Iraq (top right). The largest population centers cluster where water is available, especially along the great rivers of the region, the Tigris and Euphrates. In Iraq, the capital city Baghdad stands as the brightest spot where these rivers meet.
- Images such as this also show the hints of conflict. In Syria, darkness now reigns along a 300 km stretch where lights use to line the Euphrates River in the east of the country. This has left most of eastern Syria in the dark.
Figure 60: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-50422 was acquired on September 28, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 24 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• December 5, 2017: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli completes some tests in the BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) on the International Space Station (Figure 61). The crew routinely monitors the new expandable habitat for its suitability in space. The module was compressed for launch and expanded to its full volume in space, offering low-mass but larger constructions than traditional hulls. BEAM serves as an additional storage facility on the ISS, also used for crew operations. 58)
- As for beaming back to Earth, Paolo will rely on a Soyuz rather than a Scotty.
- Paolo and Expedition 52/53 crewmates Randy Bresnik of NASA and Sergei Ryazansky of Roscosmos will record a total of 139 days in space when they return to Earth on 14 December. They will hitch a ride back to Earth in Soyuz MS-05, landing on the Kazakh steppe in the early hours.
- By the end of his Vita mission, Paolo will have completed over 60 experiments covering biology, material sciences, technology, education and human research. During this time Paolo, Randy and Sergei also welcomed five visiting vehicles – a Soyuz crew vehicle and four cargo ferries – two of which Paolo captured with the 16 m-long Canadarm2 robotic arm.
- With the 139 days of Vita, Paolo totals 313 days in space across his three flights.
Figure 61: Photo of Paolo Nespoli in the BEAM wrapping up his mission prior to his returm flight to Earth next week (image credit: ESA, NASA)
• December 4, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station focused a camera on the geometric patterns of farms on some plateaus in northeast Brazil. Here the fields, mainly soybeans and maize, have been planted right up to the edges of the small plateaus. The edges are ragged lines marked by cliffs (Figure 62). 59)
- The many flat plateau surfaces of southern Maranhão State are ideal for the wheeled machinery of mechanized agriculture. In fact, the capital city of the region, Balsas, is known as the "capital of mechanized agriculture."
- The steep-sided river valleys—such as that of the Balsas River—lie fully 200 meters below the plateaus. Numerous finger-like tributaries are eroding and creating smaller valleys, which are poor landscapes for mechanized farming. One result is that the forests around the valleys remain in their pristine form, even though southern Maranhão is part of Brazil's long "arc of deforestation" on the southern margin of a dense forest zone.
Figure 62: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-16508 was acquired on July 19, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 210 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• November 16, 2017: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are now busily unloading nearly four tons of science experiments, research gear, station equipment and crew supplies – following the launch of the Orbital ATK Antares rocket earlier this week on Sunday Nov. 12 from Virginia's eastern shore that propelled the Cygnus cargo freighter to an on time arrival two days later on Tuesday Nov. 14. The Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft was christened the S.S. Gene Cernan and named in honor of NASA's Apollo 17 lunar landing commander, Gene Cernan. 60)
Figure 63: The six-member Expedition 53 crew poses for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module with the VICTORY art spacesuit that was hand-painted by cancer patients in Russia and the United States. On the left (from top to bottom) are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei with cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos. On the right (from top to bottom) are European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA (image credit: NASA/ESA/Roscosmos)
• November 13, 2017: The scale and form of many impressive features on Earth's surface can only be fully appreciated through an overhead view. The astronauts onboard the International Space Station may enjoy the best overhead view of all. 61)
- The Zagros Mountains of southeastern Iran are the location of numerous salt domes and salt glaciers, formed as a result of the depositional history and tectonic forces operating in the region. While many of these landscape features are named on maps, the salt glacier in this photograph remains unnamed on global maps and atlases (Figure 64).
- The vaguely hourglass (or bowtie) shaped morphology of the salt glacier is due to the central location of the salt dome, which formed within the central Zagros ridge crest (top and lower left). Salt extruded from the dome and then flowed downslope into the adjacent valleys. For a sense of scale, the distance across the salt glacier from northwest to southeast is approximately 14 km.
- Much like what happens in flowing ice glaciers, concentric transverse ridges have formed in the salt perpendicular to the flow direction. While bright salt materials are visible in stream beds incising the salt glacier, older surfaces—those farther from the central salt dome—appear dark, most likely due to windblown dust deposition over time or entrainment of sediments in the salt during flow.
Figure 64: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8401 was acquired on June 24, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a, 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by William L. Stefanov)
• November 9, 2017: A Full Moon is a sight to behold on or off planet. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli didn't miss the chance to photograph this one. Taken from the International Space Station – its solar panels take up much of the frame – the Moon still manages to draw the eye (Figure 65). 62)
- After more than 40 years, the Moon is once again in the spotlight of space agencies worldwide, as a destination for both robotic missions and human explorers.
- Why now? Relying on the success of the International Space Station partnership, the space community sees the Moon as a springboard to continue human exploration of the Solar System, with Mars as the next goal.
- Moving away from one-shot orbital missions, bold ambitions foresee humans exploring the polar regions hand-in-hand with robots, in international cooperation and commercial participation.
- This return to the Moon envisages a series of human missions starting in the early 2020s that would see astronauts interact with robots on the surface from orbit. Robots will land first, paving the way for human explorers.
- Lunar rovers, telerobotics and hybrid surface power are some of the innovative approaches that are being developed to support these early missions.
Figure 65: Paolo took this image of the ISS solar panels and of the Moon from his room (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• November 7, 2017: Life on Earth has a myriad of problems, but gravity isn't one of them – staying grounded means organisms can soak up the light and heat that enables growth. — It's no wonder that the free-floating environment of space stresses organisms, which survive only if they can adapt. Like humans, plants have proven their robustness in space. Now, thanks to the International Space Station, we know more on how they cope with weightlessness. 63)
- To understand how light and gravity affect plant growth, researchers from the US and Europe have grown more than 1700 thale cress seedlings in Europe's Columbus module.
- Germinated in prepacked cassettes and monitored by ground control, the seedlings were harvested after six days, frozen or preserved and returned to Earth for inspection.
- Researchers are now working with realtime images of the seeds as they grew and genetic and molecular analyses of the returned seedlings.
- What were they hoping to find? — On Earth, roots grow down into the soil, reaching for water and minerals. Weightless disrupts this natural route, altering cell growth unless the plant can overcome it.
- The results so far are pointing to some interesting conclusions. Obviously, seedlings in microgravity grew random roots but they still managed to grow. Plant genes known to overcome environmental stresses on Earth – heat, frost, salinity – kick into gear. Red light seems to help re-regulate cell growth interrupted by weightlessness.
- The most recent lettuce harvest on the Space Station shows plants can already mature in space. So why study the seedlings?
- In this case, knowledge of how plants overcome gravitational stress to mature into harvestable crops is growing power.
Figure 66: Growing seedlings: NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn with the Seedling Growth-1 seeds ready to load into the EMCS (European Modular Cultivation System) on the International Space Station (image credit: ESA/NASA)
- The new results suggest gravity may not be the biggest obstacle to growing plants in space, which is good news for future Moon and Mars colonies. We won't make it far into space if we can't grow our own food along the way.
- Back on Earth, global climate change is affecting agriculture, and understanding how plants respond to stress and adapt at genetic and molecular levels means we can help to increase agricultural efficiency in general.
- It may be a while before space farm to space table becomes the next big thing, but the latest experiments have taken us one step closer.
Figure 67: Space lettuce. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and crewmates enjoyed the latest lettuce harvest for dinner on the International Space Station (image credit: ESA)
• October 30, 2017: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station photographed Lake Hazlett and Lake Willis in Western Australia's Great Sandy Desert (Figure 68). Hundreds of ephemeral salt lakes are peppered throughout the arid Australian Outback. When occasional flood waters pour into the lakebeds and then evaporate, they leave salt mineral deposits and create bright, expansive layers that are readily visible from space, as seen in this image taken by the Expedition 52 crew on the station. 64)
- The reddish-brown linear sand dunes are slightly higher in elevation (1.5 to 3 meters) and align with the general east to west wind flow in the region. Approximately 32 km south of the lakes lies Lake Mackay, the fourth largest salt lake in Australia. The Pintubi tribe and other Australian Aborigine survived around these lakes for thousands of years in what is now called the Kiwirrkurra Community.
Figure 68: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-20826 was acquired on July 26, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens; it is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• October 24, 2017: Astronauts have a wealth of knowledge to absorb before they can fly to the International Space Station: from piloting spacecraft to conducting spacewalks and maintaining one of the most advanced structures ever built by humans. -Having intricate knowledge of every component is impossible, so astronauts do regular refresher trainings while in space and ground control helps during complex operations. 65)
- Detailed checklists with step-by-step instructions are sent to the Space Station's computers for the astronauts to follow, but this has a large drawback: reading and clicking on to the next step in the instructions requires that the astronaut has to let go of any tools and divert attention to the detailed procedure list.
- ESA is working on the MobiPV mobile procedure viewer, which allows ground control to see what the astronauts sees and the wearer to work hands-free. MobiPV has been tested underwater and in space using commercially available parts but, just like mobile phones, the engineers are constantly upgrading the system to do more.
- Here, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli has set up the latest version of MobiPV to check the system is working as planned (Figure 69).
- This model allows multiple ground control stations to watch the video streamed from a camera in the glasses – useful for tasks that involve researchers and engineers from different countries as the International Space Station is run by USA, Japan, Russia, Canada and ESA.
- The download and upload speed has been improved, while the software was upgraded to allow for situations when there is no direct contact with ground control, preparing for missions further afield such as on the Moon or Mars.
- Unlike with mobile phones, any updates to MobiPV cannot cause unintended effects – performing any task in space allows no room for error. A lost connection or problem with the system cannot be allowed to impair the astronaut in any way, so MobiPV is robust.
- Paolo is set to use MobiPV to maintain a water pump in Europe's Columbus space laboratory.
Figure 69: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli has set up the latest version of MobiPV to check the system is working as planned (image credit: ESA)
• October 23,2017: Looking down on the desert vistas of the southwestern United States, an astronaut took this photograph of a short section of the Colorado River. This reach of the river is marked by dark-toned agricultural fields, both rectangular and round, restricted to the narrow zone of arable land on the floodplain close to the river. For scale, the larger crop circles are 750 meters in diameter. Note that from the astronaut's perspective here, north is to the left. 66)
- The towns of Fort Mohave and Mesquite Creek are more difficult to see and occupy slightly higher ground—separated from the floodplain by steep bluffs that appear along the lower margin of the image. This area lies within the Fort Mohave Indian Reservation; it is also where the state boundaries of Arizona, Nevada, and California meet. The Mohave people have leased much of the reservation to agribusinesses for cultivation of commodity crops such as alfalfa, corn, and soybeans. This has led to an influx of non-native people, such that the Mohave now make up less than half of the population of the reservation.
Figure 70: Astronaut photograph ISS051-E-13172 was acquired on April 14, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• On 20 October 2017, two NASA astronauts floated outside the International Space Station for the third spacewalk this month aimed at repairing the orbiting outpost's robotic arm and replacing old video cameras. During a six hour, 49 minute spacewalk, NASA's Joe Acaba and Randy Bresnik put the finishing touches on repairs to the 17 m long Canadarm 2. 67)
- Canadarm 2 has been a key piece of equipment at the orbiting outpost for 16 years, but in August it lost its ability to grip effectively.
- Astronauts inside the station maneuver the external arm to latch on to incoming spaceships that are packed with food and supplies for the rotating crew of six living in low-Earth orbit. It is also used to move equipment and people around outside the space station.
- The next US supply shipment, delivered on an unmanned Cygnus cargo ship launched by Orbital ATK, is expected to arrive November 13.
- In a rush to get the repairs done before then, NASA organized a rapid-fire succession of three spacewalks in three weeks — October 5, October 10 and October 20.
- During the October 20 outing, the astronauts replaced a poorly focusing camera system at the end of the robotic arm — necessary to get a good view of the approaching cargo ships — and fixed a fuse on the robotic arm's extension, called Dextre.
- They also installed another new high definition video camera outside the ISS.
Figure 71: US astronauts Joe Acaba and Randy Bresnik float outside the ISS as they repair the outpost's robotic arm on October 20, 2017 (image credit NASA) 68)
• October 16, 2017: An astronaut aboard the ISS captured this photograph of Lagoa dos Barros and crescent-shaped barchan dunes on the Atlantic coastline of southern Brazil. Lagoa dos Barros is approximately 4.5 km long. The lagoons along the Brazilian coast formed around 400,000 years ago as part of the cyclic rise and fall of sea level—known to geologists as the transgression-regression cycle. The formation of Lagoa dos Barros is similar to what occurred alongside Lagoa Mirim, 340 kilometers to the south-southwest. 69)
- Strong winds blowing in from the Western Atlantic sculpt the sand along the coast into distinctive crescent shapes. Multiple dunes have overlapped and coalesced to form dune fields, with prominent examples visible to the northeast and southwest of the lake. The tips of barchan dunes point downwind, indicating the prevailing wind direction. These fragile formations act as barriers keeping the wind and waves from penetrating inland, blunting the effect of storms and minimizing coastal erosion.
Figure 72: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-14188 was acquired on July 9, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• October 10, 2017: Talk about an image making your head spin: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli took this stunning image of NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hai during last week's spacewalk (Figure 73). 70)
- During this excursion, the duo replaced part of the Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. The spacewalk took just under seven hours and saw the astronauts not only complete their main task but also accomplish some ‘get-ahead' tasks.
- Spacewalks are intensive for both crewmembers and ground support, so any opportunity to get ahead is welcomed.
- This is the first of three spacewalks planned this month. Randy and Mark will venture out again on 10 October, followed by Randy and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba on 20 October.
- The next spacewalks will again work on the robotic arm and replace some of the Station's cameras.
- Paolo will remain inside the Station and help the spacewalkers in and out of their suits. He will also be sure to take more stunning photographs.
Figure 73: Human Spaceflight and robotic exploration image of the week: Spacewalking astronauts (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• September 29, 2017: Tempus Pro, a portable vital-signs monitor offering telemedicine via satellite, is helping medics at ESA astronaut landings. Thomas Pesquet was the first to benefit at the end of his mission in May. Remote Diagnostic Technologies in the UK developed the Tempus device with funding and support from the Business Applications part of ESA's Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems program.
- Astronauts returning from space must readjust to life on Earth. Gravity influences the body's balance, cardiovascular functions, and especially the muscles, so astronauts are carefully monitored as soon as they are out of their reentry capsule.
- As he was feeling gravity for the first time in six months, several sensors were attached to his body and connected to the device to gather important medical information.
- This was repeated in the medical tent, during the helicopter ride back to Karaganda in Kazakhstan and on the aircraft back to Cologne in Germany, to allow doctors to detect any changes in his condition.
- "In the challenging environment of an astronaut landing, Tempus Pro allowed us to track and log medical information quickly and easily and to share this in real time with our medical colleagues at ESA's European Astronaut Center in Cologne," commented Sergi Vaquer, ESA's flight surgeon. - The secured satellite link with the astronaut center required a portable satellite antenna connected to the unit.
Figure 74: Health check for Thomas Pesquet after landing in Kazakhstan from his mission on the ISS. ESA medical staff stood by with the Tempus Pro device (image credit: ESA)
- All data were recorded in his encrypted patient record on the device and sent from Kazakhstan via a secured satellite link to the rest of the medical team at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne.
- Tempus Pro is compatible with all conventional instruments typically used for emergency monitoring and intensive care such as blood oxygen saturation and contact temperature sensors, electrocardiogram leads, laryngoscope and a USB ultrasound probe. It includes a GPS chip and has wi-fi, Bluetooth, GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and Ethernet connectivity, and can exchange voice, video and medical data.
Figure 75: Tempus Pro (on the table at left), a portable vital-signs monitor capable of telemedicine via satellite, was used by medics at the landing of ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet following his Proxima mission (image credit: ESA)
• During the week of 25-29 September 2017, the space community has gathered in Adelaide, Australia for the 68th IAC (International Astronautical Congress), the largest yearly event of the space community. At this conference, astronauts, researchers, space agencies and industry are discussing the latest in space exploration, including human and robotic villages on the Moon and Mars. - While scientific discoveries are important, the increasing role of business is a major theme of discussions. 71)
- ESA Director General Jan Woerner joined counterparts from Russian, American, Japanese, Canadian, Chinese and Indian space agencies in a plenary session to present ESA's plans to increase scientific research via new business opportunities.
- ESA has already taken the first steps in exploration innovation: last week, commercial enterprises were invited to submit proposals for technology, landers and payloads to help shape humanity's sustainable return to the Moon.
- A demonstrator mission is just one of ESA's ambitious plans for the next decade of exploration to take us from the Space Station to the Moon, a deep-space gateway and a Mars landing.
- This new age of exploration will be achieved not in competition, but through international cooperation. ESA is already working with partners globally to achieve its exciting vision of human and robotic exploration.
- While ESA targets deep space, the agency is still investing in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) facilities like the International Space Station. ESA will continue to support the Station to the end of its life in 2024 because it offers out-of-this-world facilities for science as well as stunning photographs such as this one taken by ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in 2015 (Figure 76).
Figure 76: Astronaut photo of Adelaide, acquired by Samantha Cristoforetti in 2015 from the ISS. Adelaide is the capital city of the state of South Australia, and the fifth-most populous city of Australia with a population of 1.35 million (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• September 25, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a camera on the Bosphorus (or Bosporus), also called the Istanbul Strait, which famously divides Europe (lower half of the image) from Asia (upper). Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, flanks both shorelines (Figure 77). 72)
- Forested parks (lower left) contrast with the red roof tiles of the cityscape, one of the most striking features of Istanbul when viewed from space. Three bridges connect the opposite shores, two of which appear in the image—the Bosphorus Bridge and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, which is named for Mehmed the Conqueror.
- Highways lace the city, connecting clusters of high-rise buildings that stand out from the tiled roofs and cast more shadow than shorter buildings. Taksim Square is the center of modern Istanbul. It appears as an open space near the Dolmabahce Palace, the administrative heart of the Ottoman Empire in pre-republic centuries.
- The Bosphorus enables significant amounts of international shipping to move between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. It is especially important as an outlet for Russian oil products.
- In this photograph, a few ships are visible in the waterway. At several points they need to make dangerously sharp turns, with coastlines obstructing visibility. This is especially true at Yeniköy and Kandilli Point. Navigation is made more hazardous because currents can reach 7 to 8 knots (3.6 to 4.1 m/s). The risks of navigating the Bosphorus are multiplied by the heavy ferry traffic linking the European and Asian shores.
- To reduce the number of ships and to improve safety in this narrow waterway—just 1050 m at the Bosphorus Bridge—officials have proposed to dig a new waterway. The Kanal Istanbul would connect the Mediterranean and Black Sea at a point 70 km to the west of Istanbul.
Figure 77: This astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12977 was acquired on April 13, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• September 1, 2017: This weekend ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli will say farewell to three of his crewmates who will leave the International Space Station back for Earth. 73)
- Fyodor is the current commander of the Space Station so he will hand over duties to NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik on Friday, 1 September at 20:30 CEST (Central European Standard Time) in a formal ceremony that will be broadcast live via NASA television. This ceremony will mark the end of Expedition 52.
- The flight home for the trio will leave late at night European time with Peggy, Fyodor and Jack saying goodbye at 20:00 CEST and closing the hatch between Soyuz MS-04 and the Space Station at around 20:40 CEST. The spacecraft is scheduled to undock around midnight CEST with landing at 3:22 CEST on Sunday morning.
- Paolo will stay in space with Randy and Roscosmos astronaut Sergei Ryazansky looking after the Space Station and continuing their science duties.
- The next trio to visit are already gearing up for launch on 12 September. NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba will join Russian commander Alexander Misurkin in their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft.
- Peggy Whitson returned to Earth on September 3, 2017 after she accrued a total of 665 days in space over the course of her career. This total was more time in space than any other woman worldwide and any other American of any gender.
Figure 78: Farewell photo of Expedition 52 crew. From left: Randy Bresnik (NASA), Sergey Ryazansky (Roscomos), Peggy Whitson (NASA), Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscomos), Jack Fisher (NASA), Paolo Nespoli (ESA), image credit: NASA, posted by Chiara)
• August 22, 2017: Aboard the International Space Station, NASA Flight Engineer Randy Bresnik took still images of the partial solar eclipse as seen from the unique vantage of the Expedition 52 crew on August 21. Witnessing the eclipse from orbit with Bresnik were NASA's Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, ESA (European Space Agency's) Paolo Nespoli, and Roscosmos' Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergey Ryazanskiy. The space station crossed the path of the eclipse three times as it orbited above the continental United States at an altitude of 400 km. 74)
- On August 21, 2017, the Earth crossed the shadow of the moon, creating a total solar eclipse. Eclipses happen about every six months, but this one is special. For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon's shadow passed through the continental United States.
Figure 79: Image of the partial eclipse as seen from the unique vantage of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA)
Figure 80: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli took this picture from the ISS during the total solar eclipse of the Sun over the US on 21 August 2017 - showing the Moon's shadow on Earth (image credit: ESA/NASA) 75)
• August 21,2017: Looking down on the narrow seas between Europe and England, an astronaut took this photograph of the small town of Zeebrugge, one of Europe's most important modern ports (Figure 81). This Belgian town has just 4,000 inhabitants, but it takes 11,000 people to operate the port, so workers stream in from neighboring coastal towns such as Knokke-Heist, Heist-aan-Zee, and Blankenberge. 76)
- Zeebrugge is a town of superlatives. It is the world's largest port for the import and export of new vehicles, with more than 1.6 million handled in 2010. Zeebrugge is also the site of Europe's largest LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) terminal, receiving the gas via an undersea pipeline from the North Sea.
- The port at Zeebrugge accommodates "ultra-large" container ships, so it is one of the most important European hubs for containerized cargo. The most important function of the port is intense "RoRo traffic" (roll-on roll-off) between cities on the Continent, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and Southern Europe. The port handles more than 2.5 million standard containers,TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) and 50 million tons of cargo each year.
- Being close to the United Kingdom, the coastal town also functions as a passenger ferry terminal. It attracts tourists to its cruise ships as well as its beaches, which are well developed north of the harbor in Albertstrand. Zeebrugge is also Belgium's most important fishing port, and its wholesale fish market is one of the largest in Europe.
- Hundreds of years ago, an arm of the sea extended well inland as far as the village of Damme, which acted as a port for centuries. When this inlet silted up, Zeebrugge became the port for the famous historical inland city of Bruges (just outside the lower right of the photo) with which it is still connected by a straight canal. Zeebrugge means Bruges by the sea.
Figure 81: This astronaut photograph ISS051-E-13055 was acquired on April 13, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• Aug. 16, 2017: One of the most recognizable points on the Earth for astronauts to photograph is the Bahamas, captured in striking images many times from the vantage point of the International Space Station. Expedition 52 Flight Engineer Randy Bresnik of NASA took this photo on Aug. 13, 2017, and shared it with his followers on social media (Figure 82). Bresnik said, "The stunning Bahamas were a real treat for us. The vivid turquoise of the water over the reef was absolutely captivating." 77)
Figure 82: The Bahamas as seen from the space station. The image was captured by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik on Aug. 13, 2017 (image credit: NASA)
• August 3, 2017: The newest crewmember on the International Space Station, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, has hit the ground running. After arriving in the early hours of 29 July and taking the rest of the day off, Paolo and the crew were back to work by 30 July. 78)
- First up on Paolo's schedule is a human physiology experiment using the Mares (Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System). MARES, housed in Europe's Columbus laboratory module, is a three-in-one muscle-measuring machine that monitors astronauts' muscles as they work out. - Muscle strength decreases during spaceflight and researchers need to know why in order to prepare for long missions and safe space tourism.
- The measurements are part of the Sarcolab-3 experiment that is assessing how weightlessness affects the calf and ankle muscles, the parts of the leg that carry the load of the rest of the body. "This is important, as establishing the mechanisms involved in space-related muscle deterioration will help us to devise optimized countermeasures," says Thu Jennifer Ngo-Anh, head of ESA's Human Research Office.
- Sarcolab-3 is a unique experiment, involving scientists from NASA, ESA and the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems – an example of international cooperation benefitting scientific research.
Figure 83: Human spaceflight image of the week: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli tests his muscles (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• July 31, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of Crater Lake, in the Cascade Mountains of southwest Oregon. Snow still blankets most of the slopes surrounding the crater in late June, and clouds cast dark shadows on the lake surface. Wizard Island, a cinder cone volcano, is almost hidden by the clouds over the western part of the lake (Note that north is to the bottom of the photo). 79)
Figure 84: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8744 was acquired on June 26, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
- Crater Lake is the surface expression of a caldera that formed when Mount Mazama—a composite volcano whose peak once towered 3,600 meters above sea level—exploded and collapsed in a catastrophic eruption approximately 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. The lake now stands 1,883 meters above sea level.
- Fed by rain and snow, and with no rivers flowing in or out, Crater Lake is the deepest in the United States and ninth deepest in the world. The depth of the lake (592 m) was first calculated by geologist Clarence Dutton and his team using 168 measurements made with piano wire and lead weights. He was assisted by William Steel, who later campaigned to establish Crater Lake as a national park in the late 1800s. The original measurement of depth was only 53 feet off from modern sonar measurements.
- The lake is 8.0 by 9.7 km across, with a caldera rim ranging in elevation from 2,100 to 2,400 m and an average lake depth of 350 m. The lake's maximum depth has been measured 594 m which fluctuates slightly as the weather changes.
- In 1902, Crater Lake and the surrounding 740 km2 were established as Crater Lake National Park. In 2016, more than 750,000 people visited the park. Part of the reason the lake has so many visitors is the fishing. In the late 1800s, Steel and colleagues introduced six species into the lake, though there are only rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon (the landlocked version of sockeye salmon) remaining today. Since none of them were native to the lake, fishermen are not required to obtain a permit.
• July 17, 2017: Astronauts aboard the ISS (International Space Station) took this photograph of the south end of Chilko Lake in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia (Figure 85). Seen here are the southern 11 km of the lake (with a total length of 65 km, a surface area of 184 km2 and a water volume of 21.2 km3). The lake surface lies at 1,175 m in elevation, with neighboring mountains reaching so high (more than 2,200 m) that they support permanent ice fields and glaciers. 80)
- Occupying a valley carved by glaciers, the remote lake dominates Ts'yl-os Provincial Park (pronounced "sigh-loss"). The lake, 250 km north of Vancouver, is the largest natural high-elevation lake in Canada. The park is administered as the traditional territory of the Xeni Gwet'in people, one of the First Nations of British Columbia. The park is also named Ts'il-os in the Athabaskan Chilcotin (Tsilhqot'in) language. Ts'il-os is also the Tsilhqot'in name for Mount Tatlow 3,063 m, which stands in the ranges between the Chilko and Taseko Lakes.
- Edmond Creek has built a small delta at the head of the lake. Its glacial meltwater feeds fine white sediment (glacial flour) into the lake, changing its color. Most of the lake appears a deep blue color because of its depth (366 meters), but the glacial flour lightens the water color near the delta. The pattern of light-colored water hugging the southeastern shoreline shows that currents in the lake flow counter-clockwise and draw the muddy water northward. The currents are driven by the dominant westerly winds in this region of Canada.
- Seen from space, the extreme topography of the Canadian Coast Mountains creates a distinctive contrast between snowpack and ice on high peaks, such as Snow White Mountain, and dark valleys nearby. The valleys are dominated by forests and are often in shadow, partly because of the low sun angle at this latitude (51°16'N 124°3'W). Some north-facing slopes never receive direct sunlight.
Figure 85: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8635 was acquired on June 26, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• July 10, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph (5 m spatial resolution) of Washington D.C., the capital of the United States of America (Figure 86). Here the Potomac River flows south toward Chesapeake Bay and forms the geographic boundary between Virginia and Washington (as well as Maryland), while the Anacostia River links to the Potomac on the eastern side of the city. 81)
- Wedged between Maryland and Virginia, the District of Columbia was established in 1790 to serve as the permanent seat of the U.S. federal government. Originally the territory was relinquished by Virginia and Maryland as a 100-square-mile plot (259 km2) on both sides of the Potomac River. At the time, Georgetown, Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia (just out of the scene to the lower left), were successful ports located on the eastern and western sides of the river. Georgetown remains as an historic neighborhood of Washington, D.C. In 1846, Virginia gained back the land contributed to the District of Columbia as a result of neglect of the area by Congress (known as retrocession). Those areas eventually became the cities of Arlington and Alexandria. There are 40 boundary stones that mark the original District boundary and stand as the oldest federal monument in the country.
- The past 200 years have painted Washington rich with social and political history. Hundreds of monuments and sculptures are peppered throughout the city to honor the nation's founders, its presidents, its military and cultural heroes, and other men and women who have shaped the nation. Among the most popular places are the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall, the White House, and the United States Capitol.
- According to the US Census Bureau, more than 681,000 people reside in Washington. Commuters from Virginia and Maryland swell the daytime, work-week population past one million.
Figure 86: This astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12656 was acquired on April 11, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• July 2, 2017: While passing over the Great Australian Bight and the cloud-covered Indian Ocean, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer looked south from the International Space Station and photographed the glowing green lights of the aurora australis. The blue glow of dawn appears at the far left, the ISS solar arrays jut into the foreground, and stars fill the space above the edge of the atmosphere. 82)
- The aurora australis (southern lights) occurs when charged particles from the magnetosphere (the magnetic space around Earth) are accelerated by the solar wind or storms from the Sun. The pressure and magnetic energy of solar plasma stretches and twists the magnetic field, particularly on the night side of Earth. This energizes particles trapped in our magnetic field, and that energy is released suddenly as the field lines snap the particles down field lines toward the north and south magnetic poles.
- These fast-moving electrons collide with Earth's upper atmosphere, transferring their energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules and making them chemically "excited." As the gases return to their normal state, they emit photons—small bursts of energy in the form of light. The color of light reflects the type of molecules releasing it; oxygen molecules and atoms tend to glow green, white, or red, while nitrogen tends to be blue or purple. This ghostly light originates at altitudes of 100 to 400 km.
- The fainter arc of light that parallels the horizon—airglow—is another manifestation of the interaction of the Earth's atmosphere with radiation from the Sun.
Figure 87: Astronaut photograph ISS052-E-4998 was acquired on June 19, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 24 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Mike Carlowicz)
• June 26, 2017: An astronaut on the International Space Station took this photograph of a strip mine in Germany (Figure 88), located along the Polish border at the Neisse River (Nysa in Polish). Here lignite, also known as soft brown coal, is being mined in large quantities to supply one of Germany's largest power stations near the village of Jänschwalde. 83)
- Using a long lens, the astronaut managed to capture the size and detail of the artificial landscape that results from strip mining. The rock face that is being actively worked casts a series of straight, dark shadows. Another strip mine is active immediately south (lower right).
- Immense excavator machines rip up the lignite; these can be seen at the west end of the face in the high-resolution download of the image. At this mine, the machines scrape off the overlying non-fuel rock layer (known as overburden), dig up the lignite, and then replace the mined strip with the overburden material as the rockface advances. This reclaimed "backfill zone" appears in the image as a series of lines parallel to the mining front, but lacking the shadow.
- Jänschwalde power station (just outside the bottom of the photo) is the third largest in Germany, with yearly power output of 22 billion kilowatt hours. At peak production it requires 80,000 tons of lignite fuel daily. Lignite is only economically mined if it lies near the surface and spread over a wide area. The area set aside for this mine is greater than 30 km2.
Figure 88: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-52210 was acquired on February 16, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• June 19, 2017: An astronaut took this photograph of a section of Isla Mayor, an island in the delta of the Guadalquivir River in southwestern Spain (Figure 89). The Doñana National Park is a marshland nature reserve that has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site. The larger, multi-colored geometric shapes in the scene are fish ponds, while the smaller, dark rectangles are rice fields. 84)
- The fish farming practiced here tries to mimic natural conditions—maintaining the original wetland conditions—more closely than many "intensive" fish farms around the world. These larger ponds are fed with river water, which contains natural food types, especially algae and shrimp, without commercial fish feed or antibiotics. Such larger fish ponds reduce problems, such as fish diseases and degradation of the pond water, and raise marketability. Species farmed here include sea bass, grey mullet, meagre, and shrimp.
- Cattle raising and rice farming are being progressively phased out of the area as part of a wider plan to surround the Doñana park with environments that resemble the original wetlands. The region is becoming one of the largest bird refuges in Europe, attracting almost 250 species of migratory birds each year. Fish taken from the ponds by birds—amounting to about 20 percent of the fish population—are viewed as part of an ecosystem in balance.
Figure 89: Astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12705 was acquired on April 12, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• June 15,2017: Space is an inhospitable environment for the human body but we adapt remarkably well. Within hours, the brain adjusts to the lack of an up or down, as if floating is all it has ever known. Now researchers are learning how our internal clock similarly adjusts to the restrictions of space. An ESA-sponsored experiment has found that while you can take the body out of Earth, you can't take an Earth-based rhythm out of the body. 85)
- At the core: Circadian rhythms describe the changes our bodies undergo over about 24 hours. This internal clock is regulated by core temperature, which tells our bodies when its day or night and triggers systems such as metabolism and the sleep cycle.
- On Earth, our core temperature is a steady 37°C, with half a degree decrease in the early morning and increase in the early evening.
- "If our bodies are an orchestra, core body temperature is the conductor, signalling when hormones and other systemic functions should come into play," explains Dr. Hanns-Christian Gunga of the University of Berlin, principle investigator of the experiment.
- The circadian rhythm is a smooth wave that synchronizes with our day of 24 hours. — What happens to this wave in space? Researchers predicted that the lack of regular sunlight and the artificial environment of the ISS (International Space Station) would flatten it. In other words, core temperature would drop and the human body would lose its rhythm.
- To test this theory, 10 astronauts measured their core temperatures for 36 hour periods before, during and after spaceflight using two sensors strapped to the forehead and the chest.
- The results so far have amazed researchers. Core body temperature increased overall, and the half-degree fluctuations within 24 hours gradually shifted by about two hours.
- In order to keep its rhythm going, the body works harder and runs warmer. Triggers to eat, metabolize and sleep, for example, shift to account for this. Researchers are not yet sure why this is the case, but these initial results have important implications.
- Astronauts are shift workers with tight schedules. To ensure they work when they're most alert and focused and rest when they need to, we must understand and anticipate enhanced circadian rhythms during spaceflight. Mission controllers can then more effectively plan longer missions to ensure crew are healthy and efficient.
- The role of core temperature in tuning our clocks also suggests important research avenues for shift work studies on Earth. The non-invasive sensor developed to measure temperature on the Station can also be used to conveniently track core temperature in clinics or field studies.
Figure 90: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti participated in the Circadian Rhythms experiment during her mission on the International Space Station in 2014–15. The sensor is a non-invasive thermometer worn on the forehead and on the sternum that continuously monitors core body temperature. Participating astronauts track temperature for 36-hour periods many times during their missions as well as before and after spaceflight (image credit: NASA/ESA) 86)
Figure 91: Alexander tweeted this image during his six-month Blue Dot mission with the text: "Dual Science – wearing a circadian rhythm sensor while working in the glovebox" (image credit: ESA/NASA)
- ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli will be the next astronaut to take part this year, followed by Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai in 2018, by when the experiment will have collected all of its data and more conclusions can be made.
• June 12, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of eastern New Orleans, along the southeastern shores of Lake Pontchartrain (Figure 92). Known as the rural side of New Orleans, the landscape is largely lakes, marshes, and bayous, widely dispersed suburbs, and Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, the largest urban refuge in the United States. 88)
- The geographic names of the region—Point aux Herbes, Lake Maisson, Irish Bayou—reflect the influence of European settlers. New Orleans was established by French colonists in the 1700s, later ruled by Spain, and then finally sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The Irish cultural heritage stems from a wave of immigration in the early nineteenth century.
- In contrast with the significantly older downtown area, most of the development in Eastern New Orleans began in the 1960s. Hurricane Katrina (2005) caused extensive damage to this area, closing a large number of businesses and halting development—a situation from which the area has not yet recovered.
- Interstate 10, the fourth largest and the southernmost interstate highway in the U.S., runs through the scene. It stretches from downtown New Orleans (approximately 33 km south of Blind Lagoon) and across the Twin Span Bridge at the top of the image.
- According to National Weather Service records, an estimated 106 tropical cyclones have hit Louisiana since the 1850s, or every 2.8 years. With an average elevation below sea level, the entire New Orleans area is particularly vulnerable to these violent storms. The geometry of the eastern Louisiana coastline and of the Mississippi River delta creates a "corner" that sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico. When there is a storm surge, it is amplified by these coastal features, frequently leading to severe flooding.
Figure 92: Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51291 was acquired on February 18, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• May 26, 2017: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet at work on the International Space Station during maintenance of the Biolab. Biolab is an experiment facility located in the European Columbus laboratory that supports biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. Performing life science experiments in space identifies the role that weightlessness plays at all levels of an organism, from the effects on a single cell up to a complex organism including humans. 89)
Figure 93: Photo of Thomas Pesquet doing maintenance work in ESA's Biolab of the European Columbus module (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• May 22,2017: This photograph (Figure 94), taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, shows the straight line of the Corinth Canal as it crosses a narrow isthmus between mainland Greece (right) and the Peloponnese Peninsula. The canal cuts through the narrowest part of the isthmus of Corinth. The towns of Corinth and Isthmia stand near the west and east ends (north is to the upper right). Near the center of the image, a highway crosses the canal and connects Athens to the Peloponnese. 90)
- Twenty-six hundred years ago, the ruler of Corinth—Periander—proposed digging a canal to connect the central Mediterranean Sea (via the Gulf of Corinth) to the Aegean Sea (via the Saronic Gulf). The goal was to save ships from the dangerous 700 km voyage around the ragged coastline of the peninsula. But the canal was still too ambitious a digging project and construction was not started.
- Not Julius Caesar, nor the Roman Emperors Caligula or Nero, were able to complete their plans for this ambitious project. The Venetians laid plans to dig the canal in the late 1600s but they never started it. In lieu of a water passage, boats have been hauled overland for centuries on a portage created by Periander. It runs roughly along the line of the modern canal.
- Construction of the modern Corinth Canal — which is 6.4 km — was started in 1882 and completed by 1893. The canal is narrow (only 21.3 meters), making many ships too wide for it. Landslides from the steep walls have occasionally blocked the canal, while channeled winds and tides also can make navigation difficult.
- An overview of the location of the Corinth Canal within Greece is provided in Figure 95.
Figure 94: Astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12940 was acquired on April 13, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• July 14, 2014: This photo from an astronaut on the International Space Station shows much of the nation of Greece. The urban region of Athens is recognizable due to its size and light tone compared to the surrounding landscape; the smaller cities of Megara and Lamia also stand out. Dark-toned mountains with snow-covered peaks contrast with warmer, greener valleys where agriculture takes place. The intense blue of the Mediterranean Sea fades near the Sun's reflection point along the right side of the image, and numerous wind streaks in the lee of the islands become visible. 91)
- The Peloponnese—home in ancient times to the city-state of Sparta—is the great peninsula separated from the mainland by the narrow isthmus of Corinth. Several times over the centuries these narrows have acted as a defensive point against attack from the mainland. More recently in 1893, the narrows provided a point of connection when a ship canal was excavated between the gulfs to the west and to the east.
Figure 95: Astronaut photograph ISS039-E-3505 was acquired on March 21, 2014, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 28 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 39 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• May 15, 2017: The city of Burlington, Iowa, is situated on high bluffs next to the Mississippi River. The city thus has a commanding view of the wooded, finger-like creeks that lead down to the river; of the low floodplain and its farm fields; and the forested islands in the middle of the river. The Mississippi narrows significantly at Burlington, making a convenient location for two bridges. (For scale, the Interstate 34 bridge is 660 meters long.) A dam slows flow of the Mississippi River, but includes a lock to allow barge traffic to pass. 92)
- Major floods along the Mississippi tend to spill water onto the low floodplain, such that the view from Burlington—which stands about 40 meters above the river—would show the islands and floodplain entirely under water. The largest flood recorded at Burlington occurred in June 2008, when the river rose to 7.84 m, more than 3 m above flood stage.
Figure 96: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51403 was acquired on February 19, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• May 12, 2017: Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 1:21 p.m. EDT (17:21 GMT). During the spacewalk, which lasted just over four hours, the two astronauts successfully replaced a large avionics box that supplies electricity and data connections to the science experiments. 93) 94)
- The astronauts also completed additional tasks to install a connector that will route data to the AMS-02 (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02), repair insulation at the connecting point of the Japanese robotic arm, and install a protective shield on the PMA-3 (Pressurized Mating Adapter-3). This adapter will host a new international docking port for the arrival of commercial crew spacecraft.
- Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 1,247 hours and 55 minutes working outside the station during 200 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. The first spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance was conducted on Dec. 7, 1998, by NASA astronauts Jerry Ross and Jim Newman during space shuttle Endeavour's STS-88 mission. Astronauts completed attaching and outfitting of the first two components of the station, the Russian Zarya module and the U.S. Unity module.
Figure 97: Astronaut Jack Fischer is tethered to the outside of the International Space Station during the 200th spacewalk to install and repair gear with astronaut Peggy Whitson (image credit: NASA TV)
• May 10, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this view of the southeastern portion of Monterrey, capital of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon (Figure 98).
- Mount Silla—also referred to as Cerro De La Silla or Saddle Hill—is an iconic landscape feature of the region. When viewed from the west, the ridges and peaks resemble a saddle. Mount Silla has been declared a natural monument under the guidelines of the World Commission on Protected Areas. The Monterrey metropolitan area sits 1300 m below the steep, forested flanks of the mountain.
- Monterrey straddles several large rivers flowing out of the mountains. The Santa Catarina River cuts through the older parts of the city (such as Monterrey Antiguo). Major highways follow the river to the nearby cities of Guadalupe, San Pedro Garza, and Santa Catarina. Rio La Silla (Chair River) flows from the northern Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range and joins the Santa Catarina just outside the top left corner of the image. The semi-arid climate keeps these rivers dry for much of the year.
- Nuevo Leon state is home to the third largest economy in Mexico thanks to Monterrey's extensive manufacturing facilities and infrastructure. The size and reputation of Monterrey was built by the concentration of national and foreign industries; various metal products, chemicals, textiles, plastics, and glass are all made here. The city is also home to the massive Bancomer Stadium and one of Mexico's largest universities, the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.
Figure 98: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51179 was acquired on February 17, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA/JSC, caption by Andi Hollier)
• May 01, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station centered this photograph on the largest group of lights in the northeastern United States (Figure 99). New York City and Newark, New Jersey, lie at the center of a string of city lights stretching roughly 300 kilometers from Philadelphia to Hartford. The characteristic shape of Long Island, during night and daylight overpasses, is one of the most recognizable features to an astronaut looking at the Northeast coast. 95)
- Night-light intensity indicates population densities, a phenomenon well-known to urban geographers. An important pattern is the progressive decline of population density away from the cores of the largest cities. Lower population densities appear in the southern counties of New Jersey, though the barrier islands are defined by narrow shoreline developments. Some rural areas in the photo have fewer lights than shipping lanes of the North Atlantic Ocean.
- A network of thin lines indicates highways and main roads—which can be difficult to discern in daylight images—radiating from the major cities. One of the brightest lines is Interstate 95 (I-95), which crosses the entire image from a point west of Philadelphia through New York—where it is overwhelmed by city lights—and along the coast of Connecticut.
Figure 99: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-29655 was acquired on January 10, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 45 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image caption by Andi Hollier)
• April 28, 2017: Astronauts in space are valuable sources of scientific data. Researchers collect blood and urine samples to understand what effects living in weightlessness has on their bodies. For one experiment, investigators are interested in their breath. The Airway Monitoring experiment measures the level of nitric oxide in astronauts' lungs, a naturally occurring molecule produced in the lungs to help regulate blood flow. Small amounts are normal, but excess levels indicate airway inflammation caused by environmental factors such as dust and pollutants or diseases like asthma. — The Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, is analyzing astronauts' exhaled air to probe lung health. The results so far have been breathtaking. 96)
- A breath of pressurized air: With each lungful of air, our bodies absorb oxygen and exhale waste-product molecules such as carbon dioxide – and the important signalling molecule nitric oxide. The Airway Monitoring experiment looks at the amount of nitric oxide the astronauts expel in the airlock. 97)
- Aboard the Station, astronauts breathe into an analyzer at normal pressure and in the reduced pressure of the Quest airlock – similar to the pressure in future habitats on Mars and lunar colonies. The measurements are then compared to those taken before flight.
- Preliminary results are surprising. While nitric oxide levels were lower throughout astronauts' stays in space, as expected, they found that the levels initially decreased just before flight. Researchers are not yet sure why this is the case. - But the lower nitric oxide levels in astronauts' lungs means researchers have to reset the level considered to be ‘healthy' for spaceflight.
- If what is considered a normal level of nitric oxide in humans on Earth could in fact be a sign of airway inflammation for astronauts in space, researchers have a more accurate standard from which to conduct further research on lung health in space.
- This information is key to ensuring the health and safety of astronauts on longer missions further from Earth. Understanding the effects of weightlessness and reduced pressure on airway health allows us to solve future problems. This in turn will help space explorers monitor, diagnose and treat lung inflammation during spaceflight.
- For now, data from the remaining astronaut participants are needed before definitive conclusions can be made. But, overall, researchers have a better understanding of the lungs that will go a long way towards developing better diagnostic tools for airway diseases in patients on Earth.
Figure 100: Samantha Cristoforetti on the ISS is working with equipment for the Airway Monitoring investigation (image credit: ESA/NASA, released on march 9, 2015)
• April 24, 2017: 534 days, 2 hours, 49 minutes and counting. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson flew through the standing record for cumulative time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut at 6:27 GMT on April 24, 2017, and with the recent extension of her stay at the International Space Station, she has five months to rack up a new one. 98)
- Record holder is a familiar title for Whitson – she's held several over the course of her NASA career. In 2008, Whitson became the first woman to command the space station, and on April 9 became the first woman to command it twice. In March, she seized the record for most spacewalks by a female. Now, after launching on Nov. 17 with 377 days in space already under her belt, she's surpassed astronaut Jeff Williams' previous United States record of 534 days, 2 hours and 48 minutes of cumulative time in space.
- This is Whitson's third long-duration stay onboard the space station, and in March her mission was extended into September, increasing the amount of valuable astronaut time available for experiments on board the station. When she returns to Earth, she'll have spent more than 650 days in space, and decades supporting spaceflight from the ground.
- Whitson began her NASA career in the 1980s. With a doctorate in biochemistry, she held a number of research-related positions, and in 1992 was named project scientist of the Shuttle-Mir Program. She also served as deputy division chief of the Medical Sciences Division at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group before being selected as an astronaut in 1996.
Figure 101: Photo of Peggy Whitson in the Cupola of the ISS (image credit: NASA)
• April 24, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured these photographs of agricultural patterns in the Riverland region of South Australia. The use of a powerful lens makes it possible to see individual buildings in the small towns, a bridge joining the towns, and one of the many locks on the river. 99)
- Renmark is one of the major towns in a line of settlements along the Murray River. The image of Figure 102 shows the winding course of the Murray in a wide floodplain, with numerous small farm plots clustered along its banks. This heavily irrigated country is a mix of grapevines, almond groves, stone-fruit orchards (like peaches and apricots), and citrus orchards. More than half of South Australia's famed wine production comes from this area.
- The intensely farmed landscape contrasts with the arid landscape in Figure 103, which shows an area just 20 km south of Renmark. A large, dry lake is crossed by a winding road. Rounded, ancient dunes stand south of the settlement of Taldra. The dry lake has been the site of growth trials for a salt-tolerant giant cane crop, according to local agriculture officials.
- Surrounding the lake is sparser vegetation that allows the underlying linear dunes to remain visible from space. The surrounding fields show faint parallel lines that indicate a plowing pattern. These fields are part of a mixed farming agriculture in which crops (mainly wheat and barley) are grown for two years, after which the fields provide pasture for grazing livestock.
Figure 102: The astronaut photograph ISS050-E-36713 was acquired on January 27, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
Figure 103: The astronaut photograph ISS050-E-36717 was also acquired on January 27, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• April 20, 2017: If anything should break in space, let it be records. The astronauts of Expedition 50 have done just that by setting a new record for most time spent on scientific research on the International Space Station. ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, and cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Andrei Borisenko and Sergei Ryzhikov clocked a combined 99 hours of science in the week of 6 March. 100)
- To put this into perspective, astronauts average a 40 hour working week split between science experiments, Station maintenance and exercising for 2.5 hours a day. The record-breaking hours exclude these non-science tasks.
- Mission control tracks these statistics, as the number of hours devoted to science has fluctuated over the years on account of the Station's construction. Built over the years in segments, astronauts needed to assemble and maintain the orbital complex while also running experiments.
Figure 104: Expedition 50 is a record-breaking team. ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, and cosmonauts (bottom row) Oleg Novitsky, Andrei Borisenko and Sergei Ryzhikov clocked a combined 99 hours of science in the week of 6 March 2017 (image credit: ESA/NASA)
Figure 105: NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson measures pressure in ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet's eyes for the Fluid Shift experiment. Weightlessness tends to weaken an astronaut's vision. Monitoring why and to what degree can lead to preventive measures. Experiments like this are one of many astronauts conduct during their missions on the ISS (image credit: ESA/NASA) 101)
• April 17, 2017: Shot by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, this oblique photograph (Figure 106) shows most of the Kingdom of Denmark. This Nordic country lies between the Baltic Sea to the east and the North Sea to the west. The winding channels that connect the two seas are international waterways known as the Danish Straits. 102)
- The long Jutland Peninsula of western Denmark is connected to northern Germany, while the eastern half is comprised mostly of smaller islands in the Danish Archipelago. The larger islands are joined by some of the longest bridges in the world—the Storstrom, the Great Belt, and the Oresund, which joins Denmark to Sweden. The names correspond to the straits between the islands.
- During the last Ice Age (referred to as the Pleistocene Epoch), much of northwest Europe was covered with thick glaciers. Glacial deposits and kettle lakes were left behind when the ice retreated. Lowland areas now dominate Denmark, which has a mean elevation of just 34 meters above mean sea level.
- Much of the landscape is covered by wetland ecosystems of bogs filled with peat. This decayed plant matter is used as a natural resource in energy production in several northern European countries. Bogs in Europe often contain major archeological sites, and peat harvesters have stumbled upon ancient human remains that tend to be very well preserved by the highly acidic peat. The most famous Denmark "bog body" is Tollund Man, who lived in the 4th century BCE (Before Common Era).
Figure 106: Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51156 was acquired on February 15, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 48 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image caption by Andi Hollier)
• May 13, 2016: The Expedition 47 crew poses for the 3 millionth image taken aboard the International Space Station. For more than 15 years, station crews have been taking photographs of the Earth and inside activities. In the photo: (front row from the left) ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Timothy Peake, NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. (back row from left) Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin along with NASA astronaut Jeff Williams. 103)
Figure 107: Image of the Expedition 47 crew aboard the ISS (image credit: NASA)
• February 26, 2016: The stellar views from the International Space Station are not the only things to take an astronaut's breath away: devices like this are measuring astronauts' breath to determine the health of their lungs. ESA astronaut Tim Peake took part in the Airway Monitoring experiment during his Principia mission in 2016. 104)
- Developed by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the experiment draws on a study of airway inflammation that ran on the Station from 2005 to 2008.
- The analyzer measures the amount of nitric oxide in exhaled air – a signalling molecule produced in the lungs to help regulate blood vessels. Too much nitric oxide suggests inflammation. Causes can be environmental, like dust or pollutants, or biological, such as asthma – at least on Earth, but what happens in space?
- Researchers compare measurements from astronauts taken before their flights to those taken in space to understand the effects of weightlessness on airway health. Astronauts in space are essentially fish out of water. Understanding how to track, diagnose and treat lung inflammations is important for their safety.
- The experiment began with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristofretti's 2015 mission and measurements have been gathered by six astronauts. Four more astronauts will conduct the experiment next year.
Figure 108: Photo of Tim Peake during a breathing test checking his lung health (image credit: ESA/NASA)