ISS: Sample Imagery
ISS Utilization: Sample imagery taken by astronauts on and from the ISS + Events
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 .
Note: As of February 29, 2020, the previously large ISS-Imagery2 and ISS-Imagery files have been split into five files, to make the file handling manageable for all parties concerned, in particular for the user community.
• This article covers the ISS-Imagery plus some status in the period 2020
Mission status and some sample imagery of 2020
• September 9, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano provides words of wisdom to young people on how investing their time wisely today can help build a better tomorrow. 1)
Figure 1: In this video, Luca recalls his own childhood and says, the most valuable resource we have as young people is time. He encourages the next generation to continue having fun, but to do so while investing in their own education as they plant the seed for a successful future (video credit: ESA)
- Success, Luca says, is not measured by being an astronaut or by being rich, but by committing to projects that give you satisfaction and contribute to a better world. If you choose something you love, and you love what you do, you will never work one day in your life.
- As an ESA astronaut of Italian nationality, Luca has served two six-month space missions on the International Space Station. During his last mission, known as Beyond, in 2019/2020 he became the third European and first ever Italian in command of the Space Station.
- Luca continues to work as an astronaut in Europe, inspiring the next generation of explorers, and supporting European efforts to enhance life on Earth and the future of space travel through human and robotic exploration.
• September 6, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph highlighting the water surface in the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea. The tight angle of the coastline, close to the point where Iran and Turkmenistan meet, is a readily recognizable landmark for ISS crews. The region has a generally arid climate, but thick forests blanket the rain-catching slopes of the Elbrus Mountains that fringe the sea. 2)
- The image shows patterns of swirls on the sea surface as revealed by reflected sunlight, or sunglint. This circulation has been studied through both remote sensing and in situ techniques—in this case floating drifters that take direct measurements in the water column as their movements are tracked by GPS.
- Thanks to such data, scientists now know that the water in this corner of the Caspian Sea circulates slowly in a counterclockwise direction, making a broad current pattern termed a gyre. This flow appears to astronauts as a complicated pattern of smaller eddies or swirls; they are larger where the water is deeper (top center) and much smaller near the shoreline, where the water is shallower.
Figure 2: This astronaut photograph ISS061-E-6914 was acquired on October 18, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 240 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 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• August 30, 2020: Charleston, the capital city of West Virginia, is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, one of the smaller ranges running through the Appalachians. The brown-hued, textured areas—not yet painted green by springtime—highlight the ruggedness of the surrounding terrain and allow local cities, roads, and mines to stand out in this photograph taken by an astronaut from the ISS (International Space Station). 3)
- Established in the 1700s, Charleston sits in a river valley at the confluence of the Kanawha and Elk rivers. The Kanawha River, named after the Kanawha Native American tribe, is a tributary of the Ohio River and is only about 160 kilometers (100 miles) long. Due to the region’s undulating topography, much of the Allegheny Mountain Range was historically difficult to travel across as early European settlers headed west. Throughout Charleston’s development and expansion, its riverside location made it a welcome resting spot for settlers along their route west, and many chose to stay in the region permanently.
- Salt works, logging, and mining would become the city’s leading economic industries. Brine has been pumped from wells in this area for its salt content for hundreds of years. Logging became prevalent due to the abundance and variety of trees in the mountains.
- Underground coal mines, which date back to the early 1800s, are scattered throughout West Virginia. In the 1970s, coal operations started using a process known as mountaintop mining: the removal of rock and soil from mountaintops to reach coal seams. Since the process starts with the complete deforestation of an area, such surface mines can bring large-scale changes to the landscape and environment.
Figure 3: The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-124061 was acquired on April 3, 2020, 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sara Schmidt)
• August 23, 2020: This photograph, taken by an International Space Station astronaut while in orbit over the Caribbean Sea, captures one of Earth’s most alluring ocean locations. The Great Blue Hole lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef atoll, about 80 km (50 miles) from the coast of mainland Belize. The exceptional clarity of the water, characteristic of atolls in the Caribbean, allows the deeper (darker) hole to stand out against the shallower (lighter) waters of the reef. 4)
- The mysterious Great Blue Hole most likely formed during the last Ice Age, when global sea level was much lower. This marine sinkhole contains many geologic features, including limestone stalactites and stalagmites. It stretches 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) across and reaches depths of more than 120 meters (400 feet). The depths and compelling rock formations within the Great Blue Hole are intriguing to seasoned divers. While the reefs around it are teeming with life, the poor circulation of oxygen and lack of light at the bottom of the hole creates an inhospitable environment for most life forms.
- Lighthouse Reef and the Great Blue Hole are just small pieces of the Belize Barrier Reef system, one of the world’s most pristine marine ecosystems. Comprised of fringing, barrier, and atoll reefs, the area supports a rich diversity of species. There are several natural monuments within the atoll, including Half Moon Caye, a marine protected area created by the Belizean government to support rare bird species.
- The Belize Barrier Reef is an integral part of the greater Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second longest in the world. Stretching along 1000 kilometers (600 miles) of the coastlines of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, the reef system is a major hub for marine species and one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.
Figure 4: The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-81945 was acquired on March 5, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 380 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)
• August 21, 2020: Flying 400 km above our heads, the International Space Station (ISS) is the world's laboratory in space. But what kind of research is done there and how does it affect our lives on Earth? 5)
Figure 5: ESA expert Dr. Jason Hatton discusses notable research from the ISS and how the unique location of this facility allows us to explore never-before-seen phenomena in this episode of Meet the Experts (video credit: ESA)
• August 19, 2020: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during his 2018 stay on the International Space Station, with two floating SPHERES robots, tethered to a container of liquid, serving to simulate the experience of pulling a derelict satellite out of orbit. 6)
- The sloshing of liquid inside a partially filled fuel tank can alter its trajectory – like throwing a half-filled bottle of water through the air. The Station’s freeflying Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) were used to test out how sloshing might affect the towing of a partially fuelled satellite out of orbit, as a means of tackling space debris.
- The liquid-filled container was tethered between two gas-propelled SPHERES to be pulled in a pre-programmed trajectory. The results have been studied by ArianeGroup in Germany in a recently concluded project, supported through ESA’s General Support Technology Program, contributing to detailed software modelling of the container’s sloshing motion.
- ESA, in partnership with the Netherlands, has previously flown an entire satellite to investigate sloshing behavior, which is also important for the flight of launchers and spacecraft: FLEVO-Sloshsat, in 2005.
Figure 6: The Tether Slosh project was a collaboration of researchers, scientists, and developers from Airbus Defence and Space/ArianeGroup in Bremen, Germany and Houston; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tencors from Florida, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston (image credit: NASA/ESA)
• August 16, 2020: Two of Earth’s most colorful upper atmospheric phenomena, aurora and airglow, met just before dawn in this photo shot by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS). Wavy green, red-topped wisps of aurora borealis appear to intersect the muted red-yellow band of airglow as the ISS passed just south of the Alaskan Peninsula. The rising Sun, behind Earth’s limb at the time of this photo, adds a deep blue to the horizon. Light from cities in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, joins starlight to dot the early morning skyscape. 7)
- Though they appear at similar altitudes, aurora and airglow are produced by different physical processes. Nighttime airglow (or nightglow) is a type of chemiluminescence—the emission of light from chemical interactions between oxygen, nitrogen, and other molecules in the upper atmosphere. Airglow occurs all around the Earth, all the time. However, “nightglow” is much easier to spot over a dark Earth than “dayglow,” as airglow is just one billionth as bright as the Sun.
- Auroras, on the other hand, stem from interactions between solar energy and Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic field funnels the energy into the upper atmosphere, where it interacts with the same atoms as airglow (mainly oxygen and nitrogen). This is why both phenomena can produce similar colors. The dynamic nature of Earth’s magnetic field moves the solar energy in irregular ways, causing each aurora event to be visually unique.
- Recently, the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA’s Johnson Space Center used machine learning to identify all of the photos that astronauts have taken of auroras over the past few decades. Search the Gateway to Astronaut Photograph of Earth database for “aurora” to see more than 270,000 photos of these magnetic marvels.
Figure 7: This astronaut photograph ISS062-E-98264 was acquired on March 16, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 50 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Alex Stoken)
• August 9, 2020: This photograph, taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS), captures the bright urban lights of two Chinese port cities. Xiamen and Quanzhou stand out amidst a complex network of roads and railways and the night-darkened waters of the South China Sea. 8)
- Inland areas are mountainous here, with less urban development to illuminate the landscape. Smaller towns and roads zig-zag through the valleys. Closer to the coast, several islands and small harbors make up one of China’s most highly trafficked port regions. Offshore, two bright clusters of pixels are likely ships traveling to or from one of the harbors.
- The ancient city of Quanzhou was once one of the most important ports along the Maritime Silk Road. Beyond its role as a major center of commerce and trade, Quanzhou remains a major manufacturing center in China.
Figure 8: The astronaut photograph ISS060-E-60237 was acquired on September 12, 2019, with a Nikon D5 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)
• August 2, 2020: Red-tinted sands and dark green braided streams provide a colorful contrast within Australia’s Channel Country. As the International Space Station (ISS) was passing over southwest Queensland, an astronaut took this photo of the Cooper Creek floodplain. 9)
- The Barcoo and Thomson rivers flow southwest and converge north of the town of Windorah to form Cooper Creek, a major river system that flows toward Lake Yamma Yamma and Lake Eyre (both outside this frame). The broad, gently sloping floodplain—more than 50 kilometers (30 miles) wide in some areas—allows for the development of a complex network of shallow channels carved by seasonal floods. The region provides significant habitat for water birds and has been classified by the Australian government as an Important Bird Area.
- Ancient linear dunes, trending in an east-west direction, rise above the floodplain. Their Mars-like red color comes from traces of iron that coat larger quartz grains. Lnown as paleodunes, these features point to a drier past climate during their formation and migration. As the climate in this region has become slightly wetter (but still arid), vegetation density has increased, reducing the impact of wind and water on the dunes and halting most of their migration. There is some reshaping of sediment at the top of the dunes due to winds.
- The combination of stable, ancient dunes and water channels displaying both braided and cross-connecting patterns make this region a planetary analogue for Mars. Studying the physical features of an arid land, whether from orbit or ground level, can prepare humans for exploration of worlds beyond our own.
Figure 9: The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-136862 was acquired on April 5, 2020, with a Nikon D5 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrew Britton)
• July 26, 2020: Even without knowing the location of the scene below, the lack of vegetation and standing water reveal this to be an arid place. Death Valley is known for its extreme dryness and dangerous heat records. However, traces on the land indicate that water sometimes flows here. 10)
- An astronaut onboard the International Space Station captured this view of the southern end of Death Valley National Park. High-resolution photography of bare landscapes can expose complex geology. Shadows accentuate the sharp angles and slot canyons of the Owlshead Mountains.
- Surrounding those rocky textured outcrops, alluvial fans and dry lake beds appear as smoother landscapes. When rare rains do fall, sediment is carried from the mountains and deposited as alluvial fans in the valleys. Dry lakes—such as Lost and Owl—can appear at the junctions of multiple alluvial fans, where water accumulates and then quickly evaporates away.
- Variations in rock colors and mountain shapes provide clues of previous seismic and volcanic activity here. The Owlshead Mountains are made of light-colored, older plutonic rocks and darker, younger volcanic rocks. The Amargosa River follows along a large fault zone leading to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America (north of this photo).
- Badwater Road appears in faint traces cutting across the fan. Between the road and the Owlshead Mountains, smaller strike-slip faults create slot canyons where people can hike through the remote area.
Figure 10: The astronaut photograph ISS061-E-31529 was acquired on November 5, 2019, with a Nikon D5 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 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• July 21, 2020: Expedition 63 Commander Christopher Cassidy and Joint Operations Commander Robert Behnken, both NASA astronauts, completed the three and a half year process of upgrading the International Space Station’s power systems during a spacewalk on 21 July.11)
- Upon exiting the Quest airlock, Cassidy and Behnken’s EVA-68 marked the 12th and final in a series of spacewalks to replace all of the aging Nickel-Hydrogen (Ni-H2) batteries located on the outside of the ISS with newer Lithium-Ion batteries.
Figure 11: The spacewalk, designated US EVA-68, marked the 10th EVA for both astronauts, who have each accumulated over 50 hours of spacewalking time each during their respective careers (image credit: NASA TV)
- The effort to replace the batteries began in January 2017 when Expedition 50 astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson ventured outside to begin the labor-intensive process on the S4 Truss segment.
- In the three and a half years since, NASA and International astronauts have carried out nine more EVAs as part of the replacement efforts, fully replacing the older batteries on the S4, P4 and P6 truss segments and leaving just the S6 Truss remaining.
- Chris Cassidy, who launched aboard Soyuz MS-16 in April of this year, and Behnken, who launched the following month aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission, had already completed two spacewalks focusing on the replacement of batteries on the S6 Truss element’s 1B electrical channel before moving on to the 3B power channel — work that completed today.
- The first of those two spacewalks for the 1B power channel occurred on 26 June, with the second following on 1 July.
- Each truss segment contains two power channels, each with its own solar arrays and set of batteries. Cassidy and Behnken’s first two EVAs successfully completed replacement of all six batteries of the 1B power channel on the S6 Truss.
- Behnken and Cassidy began work on the 3B power channel on the S6 truss last week with the goal of removing five of six 3B channel Ni-H2 batteries followed by installation of the first three lithium-ion batteries.
- Cassidy and Behnken worked so far ahead of the planned timeline on that spacewalk that they were actually able to remove all six Ni-H2 batteries instead of just the five per the original plan — which officially completed removal of all Ni-H2 batteries from the Station’s power systems.
- With the spacewalk successful, it marked the penultimate EVA in the effort to upgrade the batteries on the ISS.
- The final spacewalk, EVA-68, took place July 21st and saw Behnken and Cassidy complete the battery and electrical work, bringing an end to the three and a half year process.
- The six new lithium-ion batteries installed over Chris and Bob’s four spacewalks were delivered aboard the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kounotori-9 (HTV-9) resupply spacecraft, which berthed to the Station May 25th.
- Cassidy and Behnken also performed a host of other tasks on this EVAs, including — among other things — routing and connecting ethernet cables for external experiment data transmission to scientists.
- Toward the end of the spacewalk, Behnken and Cassidy made their way down from the S6 truss towards the Node 3/Tranquility module in order to prepare the module for installation of the commercially built Bishop CubeSat airlock module, which will be used to deploy small satellites from the ISS.
- NanoRacks, an American company that has built several technologies utilized today aboard the ISS, have developed Bishop alongside Thales Alenia Space and Boeing, and are set to see it launched in October this year as un-pressurized cargo aboard SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Services-21 (CRS-21) mission — the first flight of SpaceX’s upgraded Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft.
• July 19, 2020: The winding Mississippi River historically has been used to define many state lines in the United States. This photo, taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS), has been annotated to show the current state boundary (yellow line) between Arkansas and Mississippi. 12)
- As the Mississippi River meanders over time, the channels migrate across the floodplain. Due to these changes in the position of the channel, some farms, towns, and rural lands occasionally switch to the opposite banks of the river. For instance, Archer and Bell islands are still official parts of Arkansas, but they are now located east of the Mississippi River.
- Sunglint reflects off of the water surfaces, outlining the banks of the river and likely differentiating turbulent surface flow from slower moving water. Over thousands of years, the turbulent meandering of the river has transformed the floodplain, creating oxbow lakes and cutting new channels into the surrounding landscape. Lake Chicot is considered the largest oxbow lake in the United States, spanning 5,300 acres (2,145 hectares). In the photo, sunglint on the lake has a glossier appearance than the river, potentially due to less disturbance of the water surface.
- The Mississippi River Basin is home to many small towns and cities and a variety of agricultural activity. Nutrient-rich soil from sediment deposits throughout the floodplain supports productive cropland close to the river and its tributaries. In this photo taken during planting season, the farms are mostly distinguished by tan-brown rectangular fields, which will turn green as summer crops grow. Farming of cotton, corn, soybeans, and sweet potatoes makes up a significant portion of this area’s economic production.
- Life along the Mississippi River has its hazards, particularly flooding. Greenville and other nearby cities were almost completely submerged during the “Great Flood of 1927.” As recently as this winter, seasonal flooding took a toll on this area. To mitigate these risks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies regularly monitor river levels, weather, and crop growing conditions to help farmers to plan for the growing seasons and floods.
Figure 12: The wandering river is a boon to farming, but it has no interest in state borders. This astronaut photograph ISS062-E-121160 was acquired on April 2, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 240 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 62 crew. Note that north is to the left in this image (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sara Schmidt)
• July 14, 2020: Skygazers across the Northern Hemisphere are being treated to stunning views of comet NEOWISE as it streaks past Earth. Amateur astrophotographer Javier Manteca got a bonus: the International Space Station and the comet are both seen transiting Madrid in this photo captured 11 July. 13)
Figure 13: Taken at dawn, the picture is a composition of 17 stacked images exposed every 2.5 seconds to form the skyline. Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE is named after NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission that discovered it in March 2020. The comet completed its perihelion, or closest pass of the Sun, on 3 July and is headed back out of our Solar System, not to return for another 6800 years (image credit: Javier Manteca)
- Comets are the icy remnants from the formation of the planets 4.6 billion years ago, prompting scientists to think of them as cosmic time capsules. Comets have distinctive tails caused by dust grains being swept away from the comet’s nucleus.
- The comet's flyby of Earth is a rare opportunity to observe and collect data on these cosmic time capsules. Many spacecraft have observed the comet, including the ESA/NASA SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) as well as astronauts on board the International Space Station.
- ESA’s comet chaser Rosetta trailed comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko for two years before landing the Philae probe on its surface. The mission amassed a wealth of data that will be studied for years to come.
• July 12, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of Lake Rukwa, one of the smaller lakes of the East African Rift. The image captures the southernmost 100 km (60 miles) of the lake, one of several that occupy the deep, down-faulted depressions in Earth’s crust that characterize the region. 14)
- The straight margins of Lake Rukwa were formed by faults of the rift. Several deltas have formed along the lake margins, with the Songwe and Momba rivers building the largest.
- At the time of this photo in March 2020, the distributaries of the Momba and Songwe deltas were pulsing with muddy water. All of the rivers leading to these deltas appear to have brought down mud loosened by rains in the days before the photo was taken, giving Lake Rukwa a red-brown color. The thin darker, green streaks in the middle of the lake may be remnants of clear water from before the influx of mud, or they may be algae blooms. White patches on and near the Songwe River delta are small salt ponds and the open-cast pit of the New Luika gold mine.
- Lake Rukwa supports Tanzania’s third largest fishery. The long deep lakes of the Rift region—called the “great lakes of central Africa”—are major tourist attractions. The area to the west of Lake Rukwa (lower left) is part of the Uwanda Rukwa Game Reserve. Previous astronauts also have had their eyes drawn to Lake Bangweulu in neighboring Zambia.
Figure 14: The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-105915 was acquired on March 24, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 170 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• July 4, 2020: This photograph, taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS), illustrates several environmental wonders and highlights of the Pacific Northwest of the United States. 15)
- The Cascade Mountains, running north-south along the right side of the image, extend from southern British Columbia in Canada through Washington, Oregon, and Northern California in the U.S. The rugged terrain is largely masked by snow in this photograph from mid-April 2020. Several of the peaks are active volcanoes in the Cascade arc. Rising to an elevation of 10,525 feet (3,207 meters), Glacier Peak is one of the youngest and most active volcanoes in the range.
- Olympic National Park occupies the center of the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington. Naturalist John Muir, known as “the Father of the National Parks,” explored and documented this wilderness in the late 1800s, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the area as a national park in 1938. The park features a spectrum of ecosystems, from rugged coastline to temperate rainforests to the glaciated peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range.
- The Salish Sea encompasses several waterways, including the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound. Situated within these waterways is an archipelago called the San Juan Islands, which were formed from strong bedrock that resisted the glacial scouring of the surrounding straits. The islands were proclaimed a national monument by President Barack Obama in 2013 due to their ecological significance as a home to diverse species and several ecosystems ranging from sandy beaches to Douglas fir forests.
Figure 15: This astronaut photograph ISS062-E-148249 was acquired on April 13, 2020, with a Nikon D5 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)
• June 23, 2020: This panorama of the International Space Station is a wider view of what ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano was capturing on camera during the first of a series of historic spacewalks that took place in November 2019. 16)
Figure 16: Author, journalist and researcher Lee Brandon-Cremer created this photo by stitching together three images taken by Luca as he made his way to the worksite during the first Extravehicular Activity or EVA to service the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), the Station’s dark matter detector (image credit: L. Brandon-Cremer)
- "For every spacewalk there are thousands of images taken. Sometimes a few images jump out at me,” he explains. “One day I realized I could stitch these images together to expand the scene and show what the astronaut sees in a broader sense.”
- To create this view, Lee first went looking for images with common points. This proved tricky: of the 1000 or so images he scanned, he found three that could be worked into two expanded photos of the Space Station.
- He then joined and lightly edited the images to create a smooth photograph, a technique referred to as “stitching”.
- In the final image you can see the white panel radiators that keep the Space Station cool. The spacecraft on the left is a Soyuz. On the right is the Kibo module, with Japanese flag visible. The Space Station is flying to the right in this picture.
- Nowadays we are spoiled for space imagery. From satellites circling the Earth and spacecraft taking selfies to astronaut snaps from the International Space Station, there is no shortage of photographs at which to marvel – and they are easy to access.
- Aside from the critical role these images play in aiding scientific studies of Earth, the Solar System and outer space, they are important tools for science communication and public engagement.
- One advantage of space imagery made public is how it engages citizen scientists and students all over the world. Take two projects as examples:
- Cities at Night asks residents to identify major cities at night as seen by astronauts from the Space Station to help map out and combat light pollution. The Climate Detectives school project tasks students with investigating a local climate problem and proposing a solution by studying Earth observation satellite imagery.
- For others like Lee, the images are a source of inspiration and creativity.
- “It’s truly thrilling for me to recreate these broader views and it makes me wonder how many more unique views like this one captured by Luca are hiding in space agency archives,” Lee adds.
• June 21, 2020: A day after the summer solstice, a new Moon passed in front of the Sun to create an annular eclipse across large swaths of Asia and Africa. An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Moon’s shadow passing over China during the eclipse on June 21, 2020. 17)
- An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes in front of the Sun but is too far away from Earth to completely obscure the solar disk. From the ground, viewers can see a thin ring of sunlight around the Moon’s edge—hence why the event is affectionately called a “ring of fire” eclipse.
Figure 17: This astronaut ISS062-E-31769 was acquired on June 21, 2020, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 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 63 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, text by Kasha Patel)
• June 21, 2020: As the International Space Station (ISS) was passing over the Horn of Africa, an astronaut shot this photograph of Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu. This historic port on the coast of the Indian Ocean is home to more than 2 million people. 18)
- Just inland from the coast, sand dunes flank the urban area. Prevailing winds from the east-northeast shape the dunes into ridges perpendicular to the wind direction. Geologists call these “transverse dunes.” The red and orange colors in the dune fields are due to natural chemical and weathering processes that left behind traces of iron in the sandy minerals. These dunes stand in contrast to the lightly-colored, calcium carbonate-rich sands near the shore.
- Further inland, rectangular agricultural fields are visible near the town of Afgoye. A small segment of the vital Shebelle River is visible running through the farmland and town. The Shebelle starts in Ethiopia’s highlands and trends south towards the Jubba River (far outside this photo to the right).
Figure 18: The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-39375 was acquired on February 19, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 400 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrew Britton)
• June 14, 2020: Sunglint reflects off the Mediterranean Sea, highlighting the islands of Corsica and Sardinia in this photo taken as an astronaut was looking south from the International Space Station (ISS). The islands have rugged, mountainous terrain with small lakes that also reflect sunlight. 19)
- Clouds are scattered throughout the photo, with some of those over the water aligning with changes in sunglint patterns. That is, the wind is likely blowing in the same direction at the sea surface and where the clouds are. The intensity of sunglint depends on the Sun’s angle with respect to the ISS orbit path and the astronaut’s point of view. But it also depends upon the smoothness or roughness of the water surface.
- This photo shows the brightest sunglint along the eastern coasts of the islands (left sides in this view), where the sea is relatively calm. The high contrast between sunglinted water and land gives clarity to the jagged coastlines of Corsica and Sardinia. Sailors familiar with this area carefully navigate the rocky capes when seeking safe harbors.
- Westerly winds funneling between the islands at the Strait of Bonifacio disturb the sea surface and subdue some of the reflective glint off the water. The rough water surface scatters sunlight in many directions, resulting in less light reflected back towards the astronaut’s handheld camera.
- South of Sardinia, the coasts of Tunisia and Algeria also have the dark, vegetated hue indicative of the Mediterranean climate. Looking farther toward the horizon, the Sahara Desert stretches as far as the eye can see.
Figure 19: The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-44814 was acquired on February 21, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 58 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• June 10, 2020: Two inland deltas spring from the landscape near the confluence of the Blue and White Niles. An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this oblique photograph showing a swath of southeastern Sudan near Ethiopia. The White Nile River snakes diagonally across the frame, splitting the tan and brown tones of the arid Sahara Desert from the wetter, greener Sahel. 20)
- The White Nile carries sediment from its source region in central Africa. The sediment can make the water appear light-toned in comparison to the clearer water of the Blue Nile, which carries less sediment. The two rivers join to form the River Nile at a confluence near the city of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.
- High annual rainfall associated with the Ethiopian Plateau and its foothills (top right) supplies the Blue Nile with large quantities of water; in the rainy season it amounts to nearly 70 percent of the water in the River Nile north of the confluence. The Blue Nile makes irrigation possible on 400,000 hectares (one million acres) of land, partly for the cultivation of cotton.
- The irrigated zone south of Khartoum (north is to the left) is the inland delta of the Blue Nile, a wide area of soft river sediment laid down by the river. The photo also includes the inland delta generated by a tributary of the White Nile.
- Inland deltas are roughly triangular, delta-shaped plains of sediment deposited over thousands of years, but without the influence of a body of water like “true” deltas. Inland deltas are often termed megafans to show this difference. The inland deltas along the Nile have been ideal locations for cultivation not only because of the water supply, but also because they are topographically flat and therefore easily plowed and irrigated.
Figure 20: This astronaut photograph ISS061-E-21164 was acquired on October 29, 2019, with a Nikon D5 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 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• June 9, 2020: Did you know that in microgravity you can better study the boiling process? — Boiling is a very common process in our everyday life. For instance, we usually boil water to cook or to clean. The boiling process is common in many engineering fields such as environmental applications and industrial chemical processes. 21)
- Understanding the dynamics of boiling is essential to improve energy production and conversion in power plants, and to design future space applications like cryogenic fuel storage and propulsion.
- On Earth the process happens too fast to be accurately observed and measured. But experiments conducted in low gravity environments, like on the International Space Station, allow us to observe phenomena like phase transition and the onset of bubbles much more clearly.
- Such studies may lead to increase the energy efficiency of several application also here on Earth, from Power plants to thermal management systems used in electric vehicles, laptops, and smartphones just to cite a few examples.
Figure 21: This video interviews Peter Stephan of the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany talking about the Reference mUltiscale Boiling Investigation experiment, known affectionately as Rubi. Paolo Di Marco of the University of Pisa in Italy talks about pulsating heat pipe experiments and Catherine Colin from the Institut de Mécanique des Fluides de Toulouse in France talks about heat transfer flow boiling and how to keep electronics cool. Lastly Giuseppe Zummo, of Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, ENEA, explains how parabolic flights are used to test new two-phase flow heat transfer in weightlessness (video credit: ESA - European Space Agency)
- Do take advantage of the opportunities and capabilities that are available for your research and development to further grow and extend your achievements. Take the next step ... the step to Space. We did it already.
• June 2, 2020: ESA Education, in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, are excited to announce that 6350 teams of students and young people, from all 25 eligible countries, successfully entered Mission Zero, and had their programs run on the Astro Pi computers on board the International Space Station for 30 seconds each! 22)
Figure 22: Chris Cassidy overseeing the Mission Zero experiments (image credit: ESA/NASA)
- The teams measured the temperature inside the ISS Columbus module, and used the Astro Pi LED matrix to display the measurement together with a greeting to the astronauts, including Chris Cassidy, who oversaw this year’s experiments.
- In addition, 208 teams of students and young people are currently participating in Phase 4 of Mission Space Lab. Over the last few weeks, each of these teams has had their scientific experiments run on either Astro Pi Ed or Astro Pi Izzy or 3 hours each.
- Astro Pi Ed was helping the participants investigate life in space, using sensors to measure the conditions on the ISS and even mapping the magnetic field of Earth. Teams used Astro Pi Izzy’sr near-infrared camera to investigate life on Earth, such as vegetation health and the impact of human life on our planet.
Figure 23: Astro Pi experiment (image credit: ESA/NASA)
- All Mission Space Lab teams have now received their data back from the ISS to analyze and summarize in their final scientific reports. Teams are receiving special guidance and advice on how best to collaborate remotely to write these reports during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been given an extended submission deadline of 3 July 2020.
Program deployment, but not as we know it
- This year, we encountered a problem during the deployment of some Life on Earth experiments. When we downloaded the first batch of data from the ISS, we realized that Astro Pi Izzy had an incorrect setting, which resulted in some pictures turning pink! Furthermore, the CANADARM was the middle of the window view.
- Needless to say, this would have had a negative impact on many experiments, so we put in a special request to NASA to remove the CANADARM arm and we reset Izzy. This meant that the process took longer than normal, but we managed to re-run all experiments and capture some fantastic images!
Figure 24: CANADARM from Astro Pi Izzy’s view of Earth (image credit: ESA/NASA)
Celebrating your achievements
- Every team that participated in Mission Zero or Mission Space Lab this year will receive a special certificate as in recognition of each teams' achievements during the challenge. The Mission Zero certificates will feature the coordinates of the ISS when your programs were run! We’d love to see pictures of these hanging in your homes, schools or clubs! The programs received this year were outstanding in quality, creativity, and technical skill.
Who will win Mission Space Lab 2019/2020?
- A jury of experts appointed by ESA and the Raspberry Pi Foundation will judge all of the reports, then select the 10 best reports; these teams will become the winners of the European Astro Pi Challenge 2019/20. Each of the 10 winning teams will receive a special prize.
- Finally, congratulations to all the teams that have taken part in Astro Pi Mission Space Lab this year. We hope that you found it as interesting and as fun as we did, we can’t wait to read your reports!
• June 2, 2020: For the first time in nine years, NASA astronauts were launched from American soil on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). For the first time in history, those astronauts flew on a commercially built and operated spacecraft. 23)
- The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley lifted off at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30, 2020, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft was launched atop a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The black and white infrared image above highlights the combustion powering the rocket as it soared above the Florida coast.
- Behnken and Hurley named their spacecraft Endeavour as a tribute to the first space shuttle that both astronauts had flown aboard. Endeavour also flew the penultimate mission of the Space Shuttle Program, launching in May 2011 from the same pad.
- Dragon Endeavour docked successfully with the ISS about nineteen hours after reaching orbit. It arrived at the station’s Harmony port while both were about 262 miles (422 kilometers) above the northern border of China and Mongolia. The photograph of Figure 25 shows the spacecraft approaching the space station with part of southwestern Turkey—including the coastal city of Demre—in the background.
Figure 25: May 31, 2020: This photo shows the spacecraft just before docking (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, the image was taken by a member of the Expedition 63 crew with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 600 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center)
- Known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, the mission is a test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking, and landing operations. It was SpaceX’s second spaceflight test of its Crew Dragon, and its first test with astronauts aboard. The mission will pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
- “It’s difficult to put into words how proud I am of the people who got us here today,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “When I think about all of the challenges overcome—from design and testing, to paper reviews, to working from home during a pandemic and balancing family demands with this critical mission —I am simply amazed at what the NASA and SpaceX teams have accomplished together.
Figure 26: Photo of the Crew Dragon approaching the ISS (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, the image was taken by a member of the Expedition 63 crew, caption by Adam Voiland and Michael Carlowicz based on information from NASA press releases)
- Located in central Hungary, Budapest is home to approximately 20 percent of the country’s population. The core of the city is divided by the Danube River, visible here as the dark void between the central lights of the downtown areas. The Danube is Europe’s second-longest river, and it flows through the city from the north and continues until it empties into the Black Sea. The two sides of Budapest are connected by several bridges visible near the city center.
- The different concentrations of lights on the two sides of the river are indicative of the population and structure of the modern city. Budapest is a unification of three different cities: Buda, Pest, and Obuda (a historical city). Buda, on the west bank of the river, is more residential and compact because of the constraints of steeper terrain. Pest, on the east bank, has a flatter topography leading to a more sprawling, radial structure stretching outward from the center.
Figure 27: Budapest at night. The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-102615 was acquired on March 18, 2020, 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)
• May 17, 2020: Popcorn clouds dot the landscape over the Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Gonçalo in this photograph taken by an astronaut looking down from the International Space Station (ISS). Rio de Janeiro is home to more than 6.5 million people. 25)
- Clouds had formed over rural areas and densely populated cities but are noticeably absent above Guanabara Bay, the coastal lagoons, and the ocean due to the mechanisms of cloud formation. Heat from the Sun warms the land surfaces in the area, which then warms the air directly above it. That warm air, and all of its cloud-making water vapor, then rises and condenses into clouds.
- Bodies of water, on the other hand, do not change temperature as rapidly; the water remains cooler even during full Sun exposure. The water does not heat up enough to significantly warm the air above it, preventing air from rising to make clouds. This, and many additional climate processes, can be traced to the different average heat capacity of water and land.
- The cloudless window over Guanabara Bay allows for a view of its largest island, Governador Island. A sharp boundary separates the telltale shapes the runways of Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport’s and the densely populated eastern half of the island. The famed beaches of the area, such as Copacabana, line the Atlantic shore.
Figure 28: The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-113274 was acquired on March 25, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 140 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Alex Stoken)
• May 15, 2020: Research activities conducted aboard the International Space Station the week of May 11 included studies of fire safety in space and plant-water dynamics and several ongoing astrophysics investigations. 26)
- Now in its 20th year of continuous human presence, the space station provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space. Experience gained on the orbiting lab supports Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.
- Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:
Burning a safe distance away
- After the Cygnus cargo craft departed the space station on Monday, May 11, its Slingshot mechanism deployed several small satellites. Cygnus also provided a safe environment for a study of fire in microgravity, hosting operations of the Spacecraft Fire Safety Experiment – IV (Saffire-IV) after its departure. Understanding how fires spread in space is vital for developing flame-resistant materials and fire prevention measures, but it is difficult to perform flame growth and prevention experiments aboard an occupied spacecraft. Saffire-IV examines fire growth in different materials and environmental conditions and demonstrates fire detection, monitoring and post-fire cleanup capabilities.
Untended astrophysics and quantum mechanics investigations
- Thanks to increasing automation and careful planning, more and more investigations aboard the space station require little or no crew involvement. Examples of such investigations currently operating include the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer - 02 (AMS-02), Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI).
- Scientists theorize that stars, planets and the molecules they contain represent less than five percent of the mass-energy content of the universe. The rest is dark energy and dark matter, which cannot be directly detected. AMS-02 looks for evidence of this mysterious substance by recording cosmic rays, highly energetic particles that bombard Earth from space. Originally planned as a three-year mission, AMS operated for more than 8 years before astronauts repaired and upgraded it, a process that took four spacewalks. Scientists now expect to collect data from AMS for many more years, including through a complete solar cycle. Its repairs notwithstanding, AMS typically operates autonomously, requiring only a power source from the space station.
- Earlier this year, astronauts also performed major upgrades for CAL. This instrument produces clouds of atoms chilled to near absolute zero, much colder than the average temperature of deep space. This low temperature slows down atoms significantly so scientists can study fundamental behaviors and quantum characteristics that are difficult or impossible to probe at higher temperatures. CAL hardware is powered continuously, with operations conducted for 8 hours per day during crew sleep. It requires crew involvement only for installation, operation updates and, eventually, decommissioning.
- Another automated instrument, MAXI, continuously surveys X-ray sources and variabilities as the space station orbits Earth. Operating since 2009, so far MAXI has discovered new black hole candidates, reported more than 20 binary X-ray pulsar outbursts, detected X-ray flares from 12 stars and observed for the first time the instant that a massive black hole swallowed a star. The investigation also released a catalog for high Galactic-latitude sky sources and revealed the existence of a hypernova remnant estimated to be 3 million years old, likely the first in our galaxy.
Monitoring plants from space
- The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) records high space-time resolution thermal infrared measurements of the surface of Earth at varying times during daylight. These measurements could help answer several key questions about water stress in plants and how selected regions of the planet may respond to future changes in climate. ECOSTRESS collects data whenever the space station passes over a target, with start and stop times programmed weekly from the ground, without need for crew involvement. Data are compressed and stored in memory then downlinked as bandwidth is available.
Other investigations on which the crew performed work:
a) Astrobee tests three self-contained, free-flying robots designed to assist astronauts with routine chores, give ground controllers additional eyes and ears and perform crew monitoring, sampling and logistics management.
b) AstroPi includes two augmented Raspberry Pi computers equipped with cameras and hardware that measures the environment inside the space station, detects how the station moves through space and picks up the Earth’s magnetic field. The ESA (European Space Agency) AstroPi Challenge offers students and other young people the opportunity to conduct scientific investigations in space by writing computer programs or code for the computers.
c) ISS Ham gives students an opportunity to talk directly with crew members via ham radio when the space station passes over their schools. This interaction engages and educates students, teachers, parents and other members of the community in science, technology, engineering and math.
Figure 29: NASA's Space to Ground is your weekly update on what's happening aboard the International Space Station (video credit: NASA/JSC)
• May 10, 2020: A surging dust storm and trailing dust cloud captured an astronaut’s attention as the International Space Station (ISS) was passing over South America. Dust storms are common in Patagonia and familiar for people in Comodoro Rivadavia, a coastal city in southern Argentina. 27)
- The primary source of dust is Lago Colhué Huapí, a shallow lake adjacent to the much deeper Lago Musters. During Patagonia’s dry season, the water levels of Colhué Huapí drop significantly due to evaporation, leaving loose silt exposed at the surface. In this photograph, the lake is almost entirely obscured by dust and clouds. At the western margin of the storm, dust lifted off from the ground in the form of dust streamers, which were aligned with the wind direction. These surface dust features are also observed on Mars.
- This striking weather event carried dust more than 120 kilometers (80 miles) east over land and eventually out over Golfo de San Jorge and the Atlantic Ocean. Many studies have shown that such dust activity is a major source of nutrients in the South Atlantic.
- The conditions promoting dust storms in the Patagonian desert tend to arise late in the afternoon, after most polar-orbiting satellites have passed overhead (typically at the same local time every day). The orbit of the ISS allows astronauts to view areas of Earth at different times of day, providing unique views of such natural phenomena.
Figure 30: Astronaut photograph ISS062-E-85589 was acquired on March 7, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 170 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrew Britten)
• May 3, 2020: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph using a short camera lens, capturing almost all of Mexico in one shot. The wide field of view is framed by the center window of the ISS Cupola module and includes a solar array of the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft. 28)
- This view encompasses most of Mexico’s mountain ranges and long coastlines, though details like individual cities and volcanoes are not readily distinguishable. Active volcanoes like Popocatepetl, Colima, and Pico de Orizaba are nestled throughout the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains. Mexico City, which is regularly rattled by earthquakes, sits at the foot of Popocatepetl.
- Different climate zones are broadly visible in the image. On the southern coast facing the Gulf of Mexico, the climate is tropical and wet. Forests and coastal plains appear with a slight green tone. Looking inland, clouds tend to form around the mountains and often shroud tall volcanic peaks. The lighter toned tan-brown terrain of the interior is mostly desert country that stretches north across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Figure 31: The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-112947 was acquired on March 23, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 16 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• April 28, 2020: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet in the Japanese HTV-6 cargo ferry during his six-month Proxima mission on the International Space Station on 13 December 2016. 29)
Figure 32: Thomas wrote this caption for the image: "This is what the inside of the HTV looks like. 2600 kg of science, equipment and supplies, very neatly packed and strapped to resist a launch to space! For first ingress into a cargo vehicle – after we equalize the pressure and open the hatch – we always wear a mask and take samples of the atmosphere. Safety first! Some dust or small debris could have gotten loose and become a hazard for the crew, and the atmosphere might be somehow polluted. Not the case with our pristine HTV-6!"(image credit: ESA/NASA)
• April 28, 2020: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet (left) and NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (Figure 33) using the European Microgravity Science Glovebox in the International Space Station during Thomas' six-month Proxima mission 13 February 2017. 30)
- The device allows astronauts to run experiments in a sealed and controlled environment, isolated from the rest of the International Space Station.
Figure 33: The gloves are the access points through which astronauts manipulate experiments, in the field of material science, biotechnology, fluid science, combustion science and crystal growth research (image credit: ESA/NASA)
- Scientific gloveboxes are common on Earth. To build a glovebox that will last at least ten years in weightlessness, however, was a much tougher proposition. The Microgravity Science Glovebox had to fit in a standard International Space Station equipment rack and be versatile enough to accommodate a huge range of experiments and materials - including a few that no one had thought of during the design stage.
• April 27, 2020: Take a break with ESA astronauts Alexander Gerst, Samantha Cristoforetti, Luca Parmitano and Thomas Pesquet as they discuss living and working in space. In this video, our astronauts talk about their experiences of landing in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft upon returning from the International Space Station. 31)
- During a shared coffee break, Luca compares his first landing to his most recent landing – the second of which he found much softer than the first. Thomas finds humor in his experience of landing horizontally, while Alex describes a particularly high gravitational load on his return to Earth.
Figure 34: This clip is part of a series of four filmed in February 2020, following Luca’s return from the ISS mission on 6 February. It was filmed in the crew quarters of the German Aerospace Center DLR’s :envihab facility next to ESA’s European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany (video credit: ESA)
• April 26, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this oblique photograph of the Great Lakes in late winter. The international border between Canada and the United States snakes down the middle of lakes Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. The spike of land jutting into Lake Superior is the Keweenaw Peninsula, the northern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (which you can also see here). 32)
- From late February to early March in most years, the winter cold freezes much of the surface area of the lakes. However, almost no ice is visible on any of the lakes in this view from February 21, 2020, except for a small accumulation around the Straits of Mackinac. The 22 percent ice cover at that point was significantly lower than the long-term average of 55 percent, and one of the lowest percentages on record.
- Small towns are difficult to see under snow, but you can make out Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Lake-effect snow appears “downwind” of Lake Michigan (on the lower peninsula of Michigan) and downwind of Lake Huron in Ontario.
Figure 35: Astronaut photograph ISS062-E-44966 was acquired on February 21, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 50 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• April 19, 2020: Farm fields of varying shapes and sizes cover many rural areas of Europe. The very narrow, rectangular plots in this photograph caught the eye of an astronaut as the International Space Station passed over west-central Poland. A tributary of the Oder River, the Warta River flows past the town of the same name (Note that north is to the right in this photo). 33)
- Damming of the Warta River in the 1980s created one of the largest reservoirs in the Lodz region of Poland. The dam was intended for agricultural irrigation, recreation, and for flood mitigation in the Warta River Valley. The upper end of the reservoir appears in the lower right of the image.
- The rural town of Warta, an agricultural community established in the mid-1200s, is home to many small, privately owned farms that mostly produce grains. Research suggests that there are old historical roots for those long and thin agricultural sections.
- During the spring and summer months, the southern part of the Jeziorsko Reservoir tapers off into a wet, marshy delta; it also serves as an ornithological refuge to protect species of wetland birds that live near or travel to the reservoir. The Jeziorsko Nature Reserve is the largest reserve in the Lodz Province. It is one of the many protected areas in the Natura 2000 program, designed to protect endangered species and habitats throughout Europe. Natura 2000 refuges make up nearly 20 percent of Poland’s area.
Figure 36: Narrow, rectangular farm plots with historic roots spread across the landscape near Warta. The astronaut photograph ISS048-E-7144 was acquired on June 26, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 800 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 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sara Schmidt)
• April 18, 2020: Understanding how Earth’s climate behaves is a significant, but important, challenge that NASA supports through data collection. When scientists better comprehend and monitor water and energy cycles, ecosystem changes, sea levels, geological hazards and population migrations, they can provide useful information to decision makers and the broader public regarding climate changes. Earth observations taken from space have provided decades of data that revolutionized weather tracking and forecasting, and provided insights into geophysical and atmospheric changes. 34)
- To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we look at how the International Space Station has contributed to this important data set for the nearly 20 years that humans have been constantly on board, and its state-of-the-art tools monitoring our planet right now. The space station does much more than just snap photos of our planet. It has evolved into a robust platform for researchers studying Earth’s water, air, land masses, vegetation, and more, contributing new capabilities and unique data using systems mounted both inside and outside the orbiting laboratory.
- At 51 degrees inclination and a 90-minute orbit, the station affords a unique perspective with an altitude of approximately 400 km and an orbital path over 90 percent of the Earth’s population. This orbital path can provide improved spatial resolution and variable lighting conditions compared to the sun-synchronous orbits of typical Earth remote-sensing satellites.
- Several external instruments, including ECOSTRESS, GEDI, OCO-3, DESIS, and HISUI, obtain useful information for researchers looking to better understand Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and surface. Though they individually collect data, in combination they provide a unique set of measurements that could push the leading edge of environmental research.
- One Earth observation sensor on the space station, the NASA ECOSTRESS (Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station), measures vegetation temperatures to examine how plants interact with the global water cycle and where they are experiencing heat stress. By observing how Earth’s foliage responds to water availability, scientists aim to identify crucial thresholds for water use, obtain factors that help predict plant water uptake, and measure agricultural use to aid in drought response planning.
Figure 37: Image of ECOSTRESS data taken over Peru during 2019 wildfires that shows vegetation temperatures in response to water availability. The flame symbols show the locations of the fires whereas the colors indicate the level of evaporative stress. The browner a region is, the less water is available for plants (image credit: NASA)
- Two instruments that collect detailed information about materials that make up Earth’s surface are the Hyperspectral Imager Suite (HISUI) developed by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry and the German Space Agency (DLR) Earth Sensing Imaging Spectrometer (DESIS). The sensors detect many wavelengths of light reflected by different materials. These light measurements define signatures that are unique to different materials, thus can support resource identification, exploration, agriculture, forestry and other environmental uses.
Figure 38: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst preparing the DESIS instrument for installation aboard the space station. The DESIS instrument works by measuring hyperspectral reflections from Earth’s surface which contributes to resource management, ecosystem health monitoring and urban development (image credit: NASA)
- Other instruments on the station are looking at how Earth’s carbon cycles behave, as well as what factors influence it. The NASA Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) system uses high resolution lasers to collect observations of Earth’s 3D vegetation structure. These data help researchers understand the impact of carbon sinks, or areas such as forests that absorb carbon dioxide, on the carbon cycle. Scientists are using data collected from GEDI to gain insight into the carbon balance of Earth’s forests, how the planet’s surface reduces atmospheric carbon, and the implications forests have on biodiversity and habitat quality, as well as to support land use efficiency.
- While GEDI is looking at the surface implications of changes to carbon sinks, NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) sensor uses sunlight reflections through the atmosphere to quantify variations in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The variability in the space station’s orbit allows OCO-3 to build on similar data collected from free-flying satellites, particularly over low latitudes. Scientists are using OCO-3 to build targeted “snapshot” maps of Earth’s carbon exchange cycle over urban areas, forests, mangroves, oceans and agricultural regions. With OCO-3, researchers will gain a better understanding of how vegetation carbon sinks behave, as well as how human activities and development are affecting them.
Figure 39: A chart of OCO-3 data that shows solar-induced fluorescence in western Asia. Areas with lower plant glow, indicating lower photosynthesis activity, are shown in light green. Areas with higher photosynthesis activity are shown in dark green (image credit: NASA)
- Remote sensing instruments on the space station complement research on the ground to develop new models, calibrate data and contextualize existing information that can aid researchers in establishing baselines and improving predictive models. While information from each sensor can be interpreted individually, a single orbital platform that collects multiple types of data for the same site or region provides the opportunity for enhanced scientific discovery and deeper understanding. This creates a kind of “observational symbiosis” in which different sensor datasets can inform and expand the science analysis done with other sensor data. For example, the 3D observations obtained from GEDI can be used alongside HISUI’s hyperspectral surface material signatures to help visualize Earth’s ecosystems. Together, all of the space station Earth observation instruments are helping scientists understand how Earth is changing, as well as how to best use and manage the resources it provides.
- Though every day may not be Earth Day, the work done by scientists and station instruments is continuously informing our understanding of the planet and how to protect it.
• April 17, 2020: NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan returned to Earth Friday, along with Soyuz Commander Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. 35)
- The trio departed the International Space Station at 9:53 p.m. EDT Thursday and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing at 1:16 a.m. Friday in Kazakhstan (11:16 a.m. local time), southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan. During their first spaceflight, Morgan and Meir contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.
- Morgan’s nine-month mission began July 20, 2019. His 272-day flight spanned Expeditions 60-62, encompassing a total of 4,352 Earth orbits and a journey of 115.3 million miles. Morgan’s extended stay in space will increase knowledge about how the human body responds to longer-duration spaceflight, through the various investigations he supported, including the Fluid Shifts study. He also conducted seven spacewalks – totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes – four of which were to improve and extend the life of the station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer as it looks for evidence of dark matter in the universe.
- Meir and Skripochka, who launched on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft Sept. 25, 2019, spent 205 days in space, making 3,280 orbits of Earth during a trip of 86.9 million miles. During her first spaceflight, Meir conducted the first three all-woman spacewalks with crewmate Christina Koch of NASA, totaling 21 hours and 44 minutes. Among the investigations to which she contributed is a study co-led by a former colleague of hers, examining how human heart tissue functions in space. Skripochka is completing his third spaceflight for a cumulative 536 days in orbit.
- After post-landing medical checks, the crew will return by Russian helicopters to the recovery staging city in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where they will split up. Morgan and Meir will board a NASA plane located in the adjacent city of Kyzlorda, Kazakhstan, for a flight back to Houston. Skripochka will board a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft in Baikonur to return to his home in Star City, Russia.
- Among the research experiments to which the Expedition 62 crew contributed was the Droplet Formation Study, which evaluates water droplet formation, water flow and, indirectly, the perceived pressure of current shower head technology as compared to the industry-standard use of jet nozzles. The study examines droplet size and speed and how they affect the feeling of increased pressure for the end user. Another experiment to which the crew contributed was Mochii, a miniature scanning electron microscope used to conduct real-time, on-site imaging and composition measurements of particles. Analysis of small and microscopic particles is a critical need for human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit when samples cannot be returned to Earth immediately for analysis.
- When the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with Meir, Morgan and Skripochka departed, Expedition 63 officially began aboard the station, with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy serving as station commander and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner serving as flight engineers.
- The crew members of Expedition 63 are scheduled to be aboard the station to welcome NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, the first astronauts to launch from American soil to the space station since 2011, on NASA’s upcoming SpaceX Demo-2 flight test.
Figure 40: NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and Soyuz Commander Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos on the International Space Station ( image credit: NASA)
• April 16, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Drew Morgan take you on a unique tour of the International Space Station shot in one take with two cameras strapped together. Luca and Drew take it in turns to guide you through the modules and spacecraft docked to the orbital outpost.36)
- Starting from the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft that bought Drew to the Space Station, the duo show each module and spacecraft docked with the International Space Station at the time it was recorded around the New Year 2020. Passing colleagues include NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Christina Koch exercising and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka. The tour ends with a view from the Station’s Cupola observatory.
Figure 41: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Drew Morgan take you on a unique tour of the International Space Station shot in one take with two cameras strapped together. Luca and Drew take it in turns to guide you through the modules and spacecraft docked to the orbital outpost (video credit: ESA/NASA)
- This is the first tour of the International Space Station with two astronauts presenting and the first done in a single take.
- At the time of recording three supply vehicles were docked, the Russian Progress MS-13, Space-X’s Dragon-19 and Northrup Grumman’s Cygnus-12, as well as two astronaut vehicles the Soyuz MS-15 and Soyuz MS-13.
- The map overlay graphic erroneously shows the future Nauka module instead of Pirs. The Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module Nauka is planned for launch in the future and will replace Pirs, but we put it on the map already.
• April 15, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano tested the new functionality for the astronaut aid CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN) relating to mood detection and enjoyed a few favorite songs on the first weekend of February 2020, his last weekend in space for the Beyond mission on the International Space Station. 37)
- CIMON is a 3D-printed plastic sphere designed to test human-machine interaction in space. It was developed and built by Airbus in Friedrichshafen and Bremen, Germany, on behalf of German aerospace center DLR and uses artificial intelligence software by IBM Watson. Ludwig Maximilian University Clinic in Munich (LMU) is in charge of the project’s scientific aspects. CIMON was first used by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during his 2018 Horizons mission.
- CIMON has a mass of ~5 kg on Earth and has a display screen at its center. Its main aim is to support and increase astronaut efficiency by displaying and explaining information needed to carry out scientific experiments and repairs.
- Other applications include mobile photography and videography and the ability to document experiments, search for objects and maintain an inventory. CIMON can also see, hear and understand what it observes and is equipped with an autonomous navigation system, allowing astronauts to issue voice commands like you would to virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri or Cortana on the ground.
Figure 42: Luca Parmitano tested new functionality for the astronaut aid CIMON relating to mood detection and enjoyed a few favorite songs on the first weekend of February 2020, his last weekend in space for the Beyond mission on the International Space Station (video credit: ESA/DLR/NASA)
- Orbiting our planet at 28,800 km/h, the International Space Station offers space for six astronauts to conduct experiments for researchers all over the world in weightlessness as well as test and demonstrate techniques needed to further explore our Solar System.
- Europe’s laboratory Columbus was launched over 10 years ago and more than 200 experiments have been done inside. Columbus houses as many disciplines as possible in a small volume, from astrobiology to solar science through metallurgy and psychology. Countless papers have been published drawing conclusions from experiments performed in Columbus, and CIMON is another example of the research conducted in space.
• April 12, 2020: The Susquehanna River cuts through the folds of the Valley-and-Ridge province of the Appalachian Mountains in this photograph taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and a few smaller towns stand along the banks of the river. 38)
- The Valley-and-Ridge province is a section of the larger Appalachian Mountain Belt between the Appalachian Plateau and the Blue Ridge physiographic provinces. The northeast-southwest trending ridges are composed of Early Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. The valleys between them were made of softer rocks (limestone and shales) that were more susceptible to erosion; they are now occupied by farms. The Susquehanna River cuts through several ridges as it flows south.
- The Susquehanna River flows 444 mi (714 km) from upstate New York to Maryland, draining into the Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehanna watershed covers more than 27,000 square miles(70,000 km2) and is the source of more than half of the fresh water in the Bay. Farms like the ones in this photograph are a mainstay of Pennsylvania’s economy. However, they also contribute a large influx of nutrient and sediment pollution flowing into the Bay.
Figure 43: This astronaut photograph ISS061-E-98033 was acquired on December 24, 2019, with a Nikon D5 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 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)
ISS: Sample Imagery continued
• April 9, 2020: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, along with Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos joined Expedition 62 Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 12:28 p.m. EDT. 39)
- The Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft carrying Cassidy, along with Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, docked to the station’s Poisk service module at 10:13 a.m. after a four-orbit, six-hour flight. Their Soyuz spacecraft launched at 4:05 a.m. EDT (1:05 p.m. Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Figure 44: The new Expedition 63 crew joined the Expedition 62 crew today a board the International Space Station. Front row from left: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Back row from left: NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir (image credit: NASA TV)
- The arrival temporarily restores the station’s crew complement to six for the remainder of Expedition 62.
- Cassidy, Morgan, and Meir are set to participate in a crew news conference at 10:45 a.m. EDT Friday, April 10. The teleconference will stream on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Recorded video of the crew working on the International Space Station will air at 10:30 a.m.
- Skripochka, Morgan, and Meir will undock in their Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft to return to Earth April 17. At the time of undocking, Expedition 63 will begin with Cassidy as the commander for a mission of more than six months during which they will conduct about 160 science investigations in fields such as, biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development. Work on the unique microgravity laboratory advances scientific knowledge and demonstrates new technologies, making research breakthroughs that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars.
- The crew members of Expedition 63 are scheduled to be aboard the station to welcome the first commercial crew spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who will arrive on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test, currently targeted to launch in mid-to-late May.
- It is the third spaceflight for Cassidy and Ivanishin and the first for Vagner.
• April 9, 2020: Did you know that in microgravity you can better study the behavior of fluids’ mixtures when a thermal field is applied? 40)
- Gravity on Earth influences the kinetics and dynamics of mixtures causing sedimentation and convection effects.
- Oil and water can be mixed into an emulsion but gravity will quickly separate the two liquids, moving the less dense oil to the top and the water to the bottom of the container. This does not happen ins space making it a great environment to study phenomena that cause the separation of mixtures.
- When heat is applied to a liquid mixture one component “likes” the hot temperature side more than the another – separating through a phenomenon called thermodiffusion.
- Thermodiffusion has been known since long time, however a theoretical explanation of this phenomenon has not yet been widely agreed, so studying it in space is revealing more.
- A number of industrial sectors can benefit from a better knowledge of the behaviors of fluids mixtures: oil and gas, cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical industries are just a few examples.
- The step to space research is closer than you might think. Get involved with spaceflight research via www.esa.int/spaceflightAO. Find out about our commercial partnerships and opportunities in human and robotic exploration via www.esa.int/explorationpartners to run your research in microgravity as well.
Figure 45: Fluid mixtures. We research. You benefit (video credit: ESA)
• April 8, 2020: When remote sensing scientists observe Earth, they often look for heat signatures. Fires, volcanoes, ice, water, and even sunlit or shaded landscapes emit and reflect heat and light—energy—in ways that make them stand out from their surroundings. NASA scientists recently used a new sensor to read some of those signatures more clearly. 41)
- Through nearly a year of testing on the International Space Station (ISS), the experimental Compact Thermal Imager (CTI) collected more than 15 million images of Earth, and the results were compelling. Researchers were impressed by the breadth and quality of the imagery CTI collected in 10 months on the ISS, particularly of fires.
- For instance, CTI captured several images of the unusually severe fires in Australia that burned for four months in 2019-20. With its 80-meter (260 foot) per pixel resolution, CTI was able to detect the shape and location of fire fronts and how far they were from settled areas—information that is critically important to first responders.
- For the past two decades, scientists have generally relied upon coarse resolution (375–1000 m) thermal data from the satellite-based Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensors to monitor fire activity from above. During its flight test, CTI made observations of fires with 20 times more detail than VIIRS and 190 times more detail than MODIS.
Figure 46: This image highlights the observation difference between CTI and VIIRS. Large fires are burning in the Gondwana Rainforests of New South Wales on November 1, 2019. The VIIRS fire detections of the same area and day are marked with red diamonds. The data were overlaid on a natural-color image acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat-8 [image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, images by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey, VIIRS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview and the Suomi NPP mission, topographic data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), and modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019) processed by the European Space Agency. CTI data courtesy of the CTI team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The sensor was developed with QmagiQ and funded by the Earth Science Technology Office (ESTO). Story by Adam Voiland]
Figure 47: This image was acquired on 1 November 2019 by the Sentinel-2 satellite of ESA, showing a more detailed view of one of the fire clusters, along with the CTI data (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)
- “CTI’s deployment on the space station was primarily a test of how well the hardware would perform in space. It was not initially designed as a science mission,” explained Doug Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Nonetheless, CTI data proved scientifically useful as we monitored several high-profile fire outbreaks this past summer.”
- One aspect of CTI’s mission that was of particular interest to Morton was the timing of the images. MODIS and VIIRS have polar orbits and make observations over a given area at the same time each day (roughly 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.). Imagers on the ISS provide more variety and less consistency in timing, as the orbit of the International Space Station is more variable, as is the lighting and angles as it passes over different locations.
- “We ended up getting these amazing images of fires at times of the day when we don’t usually get them,” said Morton. Fire researchers are eager to have more views of fires around dawn and dusk, which are sometimes missed by MODIS and VIIRS. “It was a reminder of how much critical science we could do if we had a whole fleet of sensors like CTI giving us such detailed measurements multiple times a day.”
- CTI was designed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and installed on the ISS in 2019 as part of the Robotic Refueling Mission 3. It used an advanced detector called a strained layer superlattice (SLS), an improved version of the detector technology that is part of the Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) of Landsat-8 and -9.
- “The new SLS technology operates at a much warmer temperature with greater sensitivity and has a broader spectral response than the TIRS technology, resulting in a smaller and less costly instrument to design and build,” said Murzy Jhabvala, principal investigator for CTI. “SLS has proved itself. This technology is now a viable candidate for the future Landsat-10 and a variety of other lunar, planetary, and asteroid missions.”
• April 5, 2020: The Hawaiian Islands are split into two groups: the populated, eastern land masses are the Windward Islands and the uninhabited western islands are named the Northwestern Islands. The westernmost and smallest of the Windward group is Ni’ihau, a privately-owned isle nicknamed the “Forbidden Island.” An astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) recently took this photograph of it. 42)
- Ni’ihau has a semiarid climate and low yearly rainfall. Much of the precipitation headed toward the island is captured by the high mountains of its sister island to the east, Kaua’i. Ni’ihau receives an average of 56 cm (22 inches) of rain per year, a small fraction of the Windward Island average.
- Despite a dearth of rain, Ni’ihau is home to two of the larger bodies of water in Hawaii. The spring-supported Halulu Lake is the largest body of water in Hawaii—at least it is when neighboring Hālali’i Lake is dry. Hālali’i is an ephemeral lake, so depending on the season and rainfall, it can either dwarf Halulu and become Hawaii’s largest or it can be a dry lakebed dotted with an occasional pond. In exceptionally low precipitation years, both lakes can be mostly dry. The reddish hue of both lakebeds may be a result of the deposition of upland soils from the iron-rich volcanic rock that forms most of the island.
- The island was purchased from the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 1860s. Over the decades, its owners have undertaken a massive tree-planting effort to try to offset the lack of rainfall and to provide cover for the 170 inhabitants of the island, all of whom live in Pu’uwai Village.
Figure 48: The astronaut photograph ISS061-E-117671 was acquired on January 3, 2020, with a Nikon D5 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 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Alex Stoken)
• March 24, 2020: An astronaut's tips for living in space or anywhere. — One thing astronauts have to be good at: living in confined spaces for long periods of time. Here are some tips for all who find yourself in a similar scenario. 43)
- Nearly 20 years successfully living on the International Space Station and more than 50 flying in space did not happen by accident. NASA astronauts and psychologists have examined what human behaviors create a healthy culture for living and working remotely in small groups. They narrowed it to five general skills and defined the associated behaviors for each skill. NASA astronauts call it "Expeditionary Behavior," and they are part of everything we do. When it goes well, it's called "good EB."
Figure 49: Anne McClain on board the International Space Station (image credit: NASA)
- Here are the five good expeditionary behavior skills.
Skill 1: Communication
- Definition: Communication means to talk so you are clearly understood. To listen, and question to understand. Actively listen, pick up on non-verbal cues. Identify, discuss, then work to resolve conflict.
- To practice good Communication EB, share information and feelings freely. Talk about your intentions before taking action. Use proper terminology. Discuss when your or others' actions were not as expected. Take time to debrief after success or conflict. Listen, then restate messages to ensure they are understood. Admit when you are wrong.
Skill 2: Leadership/Followership
- Definition: How well a team adapts to changed situations. A leader enhances the group's ability to execute its purpose through positive influence. A follower (aka a subordinate leader) actively contributes to the leader's direction. Establish an environment of trust.
- To practice good Leadership/Followership EB, accept responsibility. Adjust your style to your environment. Assign tasks and set goals. Lead by example. Give direction, information, feedback, coaching and encouragement. Ensure your teammates have resources. Talk when something isn't right. Ask questions. Offer solutions, not just problems.
Skill 3: Self-Care
- Definition: Self-Care means keeping track of how healthy you are on psychological and physical levels. It includes hygiene, managing your time and your stuff, getting sleep, and maintaining your mood. Through self-care, you demonstrate your ability to be proactive to stay healthy.
- To practice good Self-Care EB, realistically assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and their influence on the group. Learn from mistakes. Identify personal tendencies and their influence on your success or failure. Be open about your weaknesses and feelings. Take action to mitigate your own stress or negativity (don't pass it on to the group). Be social. Seek feedback. Balance work, rest, and personal time. Be organized.
Skill 4: Team Care
- Definition: Team Care is how healthy the group is on psychological, physical and logistical levels. Recognize that this can be influenced by stress, fatigue, sickness, supplies, resources, workload, etc. Nurture optimal team performance despite challenges.
- To practice good Team Care EB, demonstrate patience and respect. Encourage others. Monitor your team for signs of stress or fatigue. Encourage participation in team activities. Develop positive relationships. Volunteer for the unpleasant tasks. Offer and accept help. Share credit; take the blame.
Skill 5: Group Living
- Definition: Group Living skills are how people cooperate and become a team to achieve a goal. Identify and manage different opinions, cultures, perceptions, skills and personalities. Demonstrate resilience in the face of difficulty.
- To practice good Group Living EB, cooperate rather than compete. Actively cultivate group culture (use each individual's culture to build the whole). Respect roles, responsibilities and workload. Take accountability; give praise freely. Then work to ensure a positive team attitude. Keep calm in conflict.
- You can be successful in confinement if you are intentional about your actions and deliberate about caring for your team. When we work together, we will continue to be #EarthStrong.
• March 8, 2020: Celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. — As of March 2020, 65 women have flown in space. Of these, 38 have visited the International Space Station (ISS) as long-duration expedition crewmembers, as visitors on Space Shuttle assembly flights or as Space Flight Participants on short-duration Soyuz missions. It is fitting to recognize the significant accomplishments of these women as well as the pioneering women who preceded them into space. This article cannot recognize all the great contributions by women to make ISS the unique laboratory in space and only strives to capture significant firsts. Many other women contributed to the assembly of the station and the research being conducted aboard on a daily basis. These include not only the astronauts who flew the daring missions but also the many women on the ground who as center directors, managers, flight directors and in many other roles continue the exploration of space, as NASA endeavors to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon and possibly send the first crews to Mars in the coming decades. 44)
- Soviet cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova made history on June 16, 1963, when she launched aboard Vostok 6 as the first woman in space. Soviet plans to launch other female cosmonauts in the 1960s never materialized and nearly 20 years passed before another woman flew in space. In January 1978, NASA announced the selection of 35 new astronauts including six women for the Space Shuttle program. In response, the Soviet Union secretly selected a group of nine women cosmonauts in 1980. On Aug. 19, 1982, one of those, Svetlana Y. Savitskaya, launched with her two crewmates aboard Soyuz T-7 to spend a week aboard the Salyut-7 space station. The next day they joined the two long-duration resident crewmembers aboard, marking the first time a space station hosted a mixed-gender crew. Ten months later, astronaut Sally K. Ride made history on June 18, 1983, becoming the first American woman in space, spending seven days aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-7 mission.
Figure 50: Left: Tereshkova just before boarding her Vostok 6 capsule. Right: Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-7 mission (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Savitskaya made history again on July 25, 1984, as the first woman to participate in a spacewalk or Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) during her second flight to Salyut 7. Less than three months later, on Oct. 11, Kathryn D. Sullivan completed the first EVA by an American woman from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-41G mission. With Ride as one of Sullivan’s crewmates, the flight marked the first time that two women flew on the same mission.
Figure 51: Left: Savitskaya during her EVA outside Salyut-7. Right: Sullivan (at left) and Ride aboard Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-41G mission (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- The honor of the first woman to complete a long-duration mission in space belongs to Russian cosmonaut Elena V. Kondakova. She launched aboard the Soyuz TM20 spacecraft on Oct. 3, 1994, and spent 169 days aboard the Mir space station as part of Expedition 17, returning to Earth on March 22, 1995. The first American woman to complete a long-duration mission, Shannon W. Lucid launched on March 22, 1996, aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis. The second astronaut to fly as part of the Shuttle-Mir Program she spent 188 days aboard Mir as part of Expeditions 21 and 22, returning to Earth with STS-79 on September 26.
Figure 52: Left: Kondakova (second from right) aboard Mir during the handover between Expedition 16 and 17. Right: Lucid (at left) with her Mir Expedition 21 crewmates (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- As on-orbit assembly of ISS commenced in 1998, women were literally on board from the very beginning. As the first woman to reach ISS, Nancy J. Currie participated in the first assembly mission, STS-88 in December 1998, using the Shuttle’s robotic arm to precisely join the American Unity Node 1 module to the Russian-built Zarya module, launched three weeks earlier.
Figure 53: Left: Currie (in front at right), the first woman to reach ISS with her STS-88 crewmates. Right: Currie at work in the Zarya module (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- The second Space Shuttle assembly mission, STS-96 in May 1999, included three women on the crew – Tamara E. “Tammy” Jernigan, Ellen L. Ochoa and Julie Payette. Jernigan became the first woman to participate in an EVA at ISS to install crane equipment for future assembly tasks, with Ochoa as the robotic arm operator. Payette became the first Canadian of any gender to visit ISS, and became the first Canadian to make a second visit to ISS during STS-127 in 2009.
Figure 54: Left: STS-96 crew in the Unity Node 1 module, with Jernigan and Payette in the top row and Ochoa at bottom right. Middle: Jernigan during the STS-96 EVA. Right: Payette in the Unity Node 1 module (image credit: JASA/JSC)
- Astronaut Pamela A. Melroy was the first woman to serve as Pilot on a Shuttle flight to ISS, STS-92 in October 2000, the mission that added the Z1 truss, control moment gyros and a Pressurized Mating Adaptor to the developing station. She returned to ISS as Pilot of STS-112 in October 2002 and as Commander of STS-120 in October 2007. Astronaut Susan J. Helms holds several distinctions for women. As a member of Expedition 2, she became the first woman to complete a long-duration mission on ISS, a 167-day flight between March and August of 2001. She had previously flown to ISS during STS-101, making her the first woman to visit the station twice. Helms was the first woman with a military background to visit ISS, having graduated in the U.S. Air Force Academy’s first woman-inclusive class of 1980. She co-holds the record for the longest EVA to date, 8 hours and 56 minutes, completed with her Expedition 2 crewmate James S. Voss.
Figure 55: Left: STS-92 Pilot Melroy shortly after reaching orbit. Right: Expedition 2 Commander Yuri V. Usachev (at left) coaxing a reluctant Flight Engineer Helms to leave ISS at the end of their mission (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Eileen M. Collins had already made history twice before, first in 1995 as the first female Pilot of a Space Shuttle mission and again in 1999 as the first woman Shuttle Commander. In 2005, Collins became the first woman to command a Shuttle mission to the ISS, the Return to Flight STS-114 mission, the first after the Columbia accident two years previously. Heidemarie M. “Heidi” Stefanyshyn-Piper was the first woman to conduct an EVA from the station’s Quest Joint Airlock Module on September 12, 2006, during the STS-115 mission that installed the P3/P4 truss segment on ISS.
Figure 56: Left: STS-114 Commander Collins (at left) with Pilot James M. “Vegas” Kelly on the flight deck of Discovery. Right: Piper working on the P3/P4 truss segment during an EVA on STS-115 (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Peggy A. Whitson became the first woman Commander of ISS during Expedition 16 in 2007, her second long-duration mission to the station. Expedition 16 was notable for the addition to ISS of the Harmony Node 2 module, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Columbus research module, the first of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) elements and the arrival of the first of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo resupply vehicles named Jules Verne. As noted above, Melroy commanded STS-120, the October 2007 mission that brought Columbus to ISS, marking the first and only time that Commanders of both ISS and the visiting Space Shuttle were women. In 2017, during Expedition 51 Whitson became the first woman to command ISS for a second time. As of March 2020, Whitson holds the record for most cumulative spaceflight time for a woman as well as for any American astronaut. Over the course of three long-duration missions aboard ISS, she spent a total of 639 days or about 1.75 years in space. She also holds the record for the most EVA time for a woman – over her three missions, she spent 60 hours and 21 minutes outside the station in the course of 10 EVAs.
Figure 57: Left: During the change of command ceremony, Expedition 16 Commander Whitson (top right) hangs the crew’s patch in the Destiny module. Right: STS-120 Commander Melroy (at left) and ISS Expedition 16 Commander Whitson meet at the hatch between the two vehicles (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Between May 16 and 23, 2010, for the first time four women were aboard ISS at one time. Expedition 23 Flight Engineer Tracy E. Caldwell Dyson had been living and working since April when STS-131 arrived, with Dorothy M. “Dottie” Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie D. Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki as part of the Shuttle crew. The mission brought four new research facilities to the station. Three weeks after the Shuttle’s departure, Caldwell Dyson and her crewmates welcomed a new trio of long-duration crewmembers including Shannon Walker, making Expedition 24 the first to include two women. The next two-woman expedition took place between November 2014 and March 2015 – Expedition 42 included Elena O. Serova, the first Russian woman to make a long-duration flight aboard ISS, and Samantha Cristoforetti from Italy, the first female ESA astronaut on a long-duration mission.
Figure 58: Left: Four women aboard ISS (clockwise from top left) Metcalf-Lindenburger, Yamazaki, Wilson and Caldwell Dyson. Middle: Caldwell Dyson (middle) and Walker (right) with their Expedition 24 crewmate Douglas H. “Wheels” Wheelock. Right: Serova (at left) and Cristoforetti in the ATV-5 cargo vehicle Georges Lemaître during Expedition 42 (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Expeditions including two women have recently become more common. During Expedition 57, Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor and Anne C. McClain overlapped by about three weeks in December 2018, between March and June 2019 McClain and Christina Hammock Koch were aboard as part of Expedition 59, and Jessica U. Meir joined Koch in September of that year during Expedition 61. Koch returned to Earth in February 2020, completing a flight of 329 days, the longest to date by a woman.
Figure 59: Left: Auñón-Chancellor (at left) and McClain working together in the Kibo module during Expedition 57. Right: McClain (at left) and Koch demonstrating weightlessness during Expedition 59 (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- The Expedition 61 crew conducted a record nine EVAs between October 2019 and January 2020. Koch and Meir made history on Oct. 18 when they floated outside ISS to carry out the first all-woman EVA, one of several spacewalks to replace the station’s batteries. The capsule communicator (Capcom), the astronaut in Mission Control who communicates with the astronauts in space, for this historic EVA was three-time Space Shuttle veteran Stephanie Wilson (who as noted above took part in the first four-woman gathering on ISS), assisted by space station veteran Mark T. Vande Hei. "As much as it's worth celebrating the first spacewalk with an all-female team, I think many of us are looking forward to it just being normal," astronaut Caldwell Dyson said during live coverage of the spacewalk. As if to prove her point, Koch and Meir conducted two more all-woman EVAs in January 2020.
Figure 60: Left: Space suited astronauts Meir (at left) and Koch, assisted by their Expedition 61 crewmates, prepare for the first all-woman EVA. Right: CAPCOMs Wilson (at left) and Vande Hei assist Meir and Koch during the first all-woman EVA (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- The story of women in space would not be complete without mention of the two women from the People’s Republic of China who have flown in space. China’s first female astronaut, Yiu Yang, launched on June 16, 2012, aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft with her two crewmates, docking with the Tiangong-1 space station two days later. The trio returned to Earth after a 13-day mission. One year later, on June 11, 2013, Wang Yaping and her two crewmates launched aboard Shenzhou 10 for a 14-day visit to Tiangong-1. Wang conducted science experiments and taught a live physics lessons to school children from aboard the station.
Figure 61: Left: Liu, China’s first woman in space, aboard the Tiangong-1 space station. Middle: Wang teaching a physics lesson live from Tiangong-1. Right: The Tiangong-1 space station as seen during the approach by the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft (image credit: NASA/JSC)
• February 29, 2020: This photograph, taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS), shows the only atoll in the South Atlantic Ocean. Rocas Atoll is part of the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, located approximately 260 kilometers (160 miles) off the northeastern coast of Brazil. This image clearly captures the defining boundary between the outer algal ridge, the open ocean, and the sandy bottom closer to the atoll’s center. 45)
- An atoll is usually a circular or oval-shaped reef structure with a lagoon in the center. These structures typically form around a volcanic island that has subsided while the coral continues to grow upward. These reef structures are self-contained environments that create ideal conditions for a diverse habitat. Coral reefs are considered among the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
- In 1978, Rocas Atoll was named a national biological reserve due to the large populations of migratory and resident seabirds. As the first marine reserve to be established in Brazil, it is the strictest type of protected area, specifically focused on the conservation of biodiversity such that no recreational activity or resource exploitation is permitted.
Figure 62: The astronaut photograph ISS061-E-52673 was acquired on November 21, 2019, with a Nikon D5 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 61 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)
• February 26, 2020: The three-member Expedition 62 crew split its time today between biomedical studies and space physics. The microgravity research aboard the International Space Station helps scientists, doctors and engineers provide unique solutions that could improve life for humans on Earth and in space. 46)
- Astronauts living in space experience a condition that mimics osteoporosis on Earth. The lack of gravity quickly weakens a crewmember’s bones unless they counteract it with daily exercise and proper nutrition. This is one of many challenges NASA faces as it plans to send humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
- NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan this week are helping doctors to compare bone cells in space with samples on Earth that are levitated magnetically. The observations from the OsteoOmics-02 study could provide deeper insights into bone ailments on Earth, including osteoporosis.
- Meir also serviced a 3D bioprinter today replacing components inside the device that manufactures complex organ structures aboard the orbiting lab. She later joined Morgan for more eye checks this week using optical coherence tomography in the station’s Harmony module.
- On the Russian side of the orbiting complex, station Commander Oleg Skripochka continued exploring plasma physics. The veteran cosmonaut set up a device that traps clouds of particles creating plasma crystals and observes their dynamics. At the end of the day, he swapped out a lens on an Earth observation camera controlled by students on Earth.
Figure 63: From top to bottom, NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and Roscosmos Commander Oleg Skripochka pose for a playful portrait (image credit: NASA)
• February 25, 2020: When it comes to grasping an object, our eyes, ears and hands are intimately connected. Our brain draws information from different senses, such as sight, sound and touch, to coordinate hand movements. 47)
- Researchers think that, on Earth, gravity is also part of the equation – it provides a set of anchoring cues for the central nervous system. Human evolution has balanced its way across millennia with visual references, self-orientation and the help of the vestibular system.
- ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano got a handle on how microgravity affects our ability to grab and manipulate objects in space with the Gravitational References for Sensimotor Performance (Grasp) experiment.
- To get an idea of the differences in how our brains work both with and without gravity’s pull, the Grasp experiment is also conducted back on Earth. Following his 201-day mission in space, Luca is continuing to work with researchers to collect scientific data while he undertakes a comprehensive rehabilitation program.
- During Grasp, Luca’s eyes, ears and hands are suited up with a set of sensors – including a virtual reality headset – that gather information about his actions as he carries out a range of tasks. Rotating his hand to align with a visual object is the main activity, couched in a sort of video-game target practice.
- Armed with an enhanced understanding of the physiology behind eye-hand coordination, researchers hope to better understand and treat disorders relating to vertigo and dizziness, balance, spatial orientation and other aspects of the vestibular system. It will also be helpful in guiding astronauts during spacewalks and in developing the most effective ways of controlling robots remotely.
- During his second mission, known as ‘Beyond’, Luca supported more than 50 European and over 200 international experiments and gained the European record for longest cumulative spacewalking time.
Figure 64: By analyzing patterns in the way Luca aligns his hands to the target, researchers seek to better understand how the central nervous system integrates the role of gravity in the neural processes underlying eye-hand coordination (image credit: ESA, Franceso Algeri)
• February 16, 2020: Shot by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS), this photograph highlights several snow- and ice-capped volcanoes as they cast early morning shadows over a mountainous region of Bolivia and Chile. Such long shadows often accentuate the three-dimensional sense of the landscape. 48)
- Nevado Sajama is an inactive stratovolcano that rises more than 6.5 km (21,000 feet) above sea level, making it the highest mountain in Bolivia. It also stands 2.4 km (7,800 feet) above the surrounding landscape. The low Sun angle in the morning casts a shadow about 20 km long, nearly eight times the mountain’s topographic relief.
- Nevado Sajama is the centerpiece of Sajama National Park, Bolivia’s oldest conservation land. The volcano and others in the area are part of the Andean Volcanic Arc, where volcanic activity is generated by the subduction of the Nazca Plate below the South American Plate.
- The volcanoes west of Nevado Sajama (north is upper left in the image) delineate the border between Bolivia and Chile. Parinacota volcano is believed to still be active, though it has not erupted in recent recorded history. The lack of erosional features on its slopes—such as alcoves and steep valleys—implies that it is a geologically young surface.
Figure 65: Astronaut photograph ISS059-E-67743 was acquired on May 19, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 170 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 59 crew. (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrew Britton)
• February 9, 2020: An astronaut on the International Space Station took this oblique photograph of the Maiella Massif, which stands amidst Italy’s Central Apennine Mountains. Located just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Adriatic Sea coastline, the Maiella Massif abruptly rises more 2700 meters (9000 feet) above sea level. Shadows and the oblique viewing angle give a strong three-dimensional sense to the steep, blocky cliffs and the dendritic drainage channels leading to the coast. 49)
- Complicated tectonics elevated the Maiella Massif from rock layers that were originally deposited at the bottom of the sea between 23 and 100 million years ago. The highest peak of the massif, Monte Amaro, is made of a light-colored limestone. Below the noticeably bare high plains, the tree line cuts across steep slopes. Since the photo was shot during local autumn, the tree line has a dark, reddish hue of fall color.
- The massif is a geologic formation called an anticline, an arch-like structure of folded rock layers that can trap petroleum. Maiella was important to Italy’s oil industry in the 19th and 20th centuries, though far fewer exploration wells have been drilled there in recent years.
- In 1991, Maiella National Park was created to preserve the area’s unique biodiversity and archaeological significance in the Apennines.
Figure 66: The astronaut photograph ISS061-E-6413 was acquired on October 15, 2019, with a Nikon D5 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 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• February 6, 2020: Setting a record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman, NASA astronaut Christina Koch, Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) landed on Earth at 4:12 a.m. EST in Kazakhstan, southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan. The trio departed the International Space Station in their Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft at 12:50 a.m. 50)
- For Luca Parmitano and Alexander Skvortsov, this landing completed a 201-day stay in space, 3,216 orbits of Earth and a journey of 85.2 million miles.
- Koch’s first journey into space became a 328-day mission in which she orbited Earth 5,248 times, a journey of 139 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 291 trips to the Moon and back. She conducted and supported more than 210 investigations during Expeditions 59, 60, and 61, including as a research subject volunteer to provide scientists the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman as the agency plans to return to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for human exploration of Mars.
- One particular research project in which Koch participated is the Vertebral Strength investigation, which better defines the extent of spaceflight-induced bone and muscle degradation of the spine, and the associated risk for broken vertebrae. This timely endeavor is expected to provide insight into the development of future countermeasures, such as preventative medicine or exercise. These results also could provide recommendations for limiting the amount of force astronauts are subjected to during launch.
- Koch lived in space with four fellow NASA astronauts and classmates: Anne McClain, Nick Hague, Andrew Morgan, and Jessica Meir as well as four Russian cosmonauts, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, and visiting astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Figure 67: Astronaut Christina Koch smiles as she gives a “thumbs up” sign shortly after being extracted from the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship that brought her home after 328 days in space (image credit: NASA TV)
• February 6, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano returned to Earth today alongside NASA astronaut Christina Koch and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, marking the end of his second six-month International Space Station mission known as ‘Beyond’. 51)
- Returning in the same Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft that flew Luca, Alexander and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan to the Space Station on 20 July 2019, the trio touched down in about 30 cm of snow in the Kazakh Steppe on 6 February at 09:12 GMT (10:12 CET), as scheduled. The Soyuz landed upright and all three crew members emerged from the module smiling and looking well.
- Luca will now fly directly to Cologne, Germany, where he will continue to be monitored by ESA’s space medicine team as he readapts to Earth’s gravity at ESA’s European Astronaut Center (EAC) and DLR’s ‘:envihab’ facility.
- Luca’s return to Earth marks the successful conclusion of his Beyond mission. During this mission Luca became the third European and first Italian in command of the ISS, performed four complex spacewalks to maintain the cosmic-ray-detecting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer AMS-02, gained the European record for most cumulative hours spent spacewalking at 33 hours and 9 minutes, remotely operated a rover in the Netherlands as part of the Analog-1 experiment, delivered an important climate change message to leaders at the UN climate change conference in Madrid, and supported over 50 European experiments as well as 200 international experiments in space.
Figure 68: The 3500 m2 :envihab building in Cologne is near ESA’s EAC (European Astronaut Center) on the research campus of DLR German Aerospace Center in Cologne, Germany. It houses specialized laboratories for studying the effects of extreme environmental conditions on humans. Eight modules, built as a 'house-within-a-house', include a short-arm centrifuge that can be used for cardiovascular, bone and muscle research. There are also laboratories for studying the effects of reduced oxygen and pressure on humans, MRI facilities, rooms for psychological stress simulation and rehabilitation, and microbiological and molecular biological research tools, as well as places to house and monitor test subjects. (image credit: ESA, Andreas Schütz)
- Thursday 6 February marked day 201 of his Beyond mission and Luca has now spent 367 noncumulative days in space across two missions – this is the longest of any ESA astronaut.
- Back on Earth, Luca will continue working with European researchers on experiments including Acoustic Diagnostics that looks into the impact of the Space Station environment on astronaut hearing, the TIME experiment that looks at whether astronauts judge time differently in space, and two experiments known as Grip and GRASP that look into the physiology behind eye-hand coordination and the role of gravity in regulating grip force, among others.
Figure 69: Early image of ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano back on Earth at the Soyuz MS-13 landing site, following his six-month Beyond mission on the International Space Station (photo credit: ESA)
- The findings of research conducted as part of Luca’s Beyond mission will help shape the future of human and robotic exploration while enhancing technological developments on Earth.
• February 4, 2020: The crew aboard the ISS (International Space Station) is preparing to split up while also getting ready for a U.S. space delivery. 52)
- NASA astronaut Christina Koch is packing up and cleaning her crew quarters today ahead of her return to Earth early Thursday. She will board the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship on Wednesday about 9:30 p.m. EST with crewmates Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency).
- The trio will undock Thursday at 12:50 a.m. then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 4:12 a.m. (3:12 p.m. Kazakh time). NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 9 p.m. when the departing crew says farewell to their station counterparts and closes the Soyuz hatch.
- This will cap a 328-day-long mission for Koch that began on March 14. She is now in second place for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut surpassed only by former astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days during his final station mission.
- Expedition 62 will officially begin when Koch and her Expedition 61 crewmates undock from the Poisk module. Continuing their stay in space will be Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan. They will end their stay aboard the orbiting lab and return to Earth in April.
- Meir and Morgan are getting ready for another mission that begins Sunday when Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft lifts off at 5:39 p.m. It will rendezvous with the station Tuesday where the duo will be in the cupola to capture Cygnus at 3:30 a.m. with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Figure 70: Clockwise from left are, NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano is the Expedition 61 Commander leading Flight Engineers Koch, Morgan and Meir aboard the International Space Station (image credit: NASA)
• February 4, 2020: After six months on the International Space Station and just over four as commander, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will return to Earth together with US astronaut Christina Koch and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov in the Soyuz-MS13 spacecraft. 53)
- The trio will land in the steppes of Kazakhstan on Thursday 6 February.
- Return to Earth: The ride home for Luca, Christina and Alexander is shorter than the ride up: after six months in space, and a whole year for Christina, it is less than four hours from undocking to landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan.
- Shortly after undocking, the Soyuz spacecraft separates into three parts. The orbital and service modules burn up on reentry in the denser layers of Earth’s atmosphere. The descent module turns to position its heatshield towards the direction of reentry, so that it can handle the 1600°C created by the friction with our atmosphere.
- Reentry starts at an altitude of about 120 km, when their cruising speed of 28,800 km/h is reduced dramatically and the crew are pushed back into their seats with a force of 4–5 g. This is equivalent to four to five times their own body weight.
- Parachutes deploy to reduce speed even more and the astronauts sit in custom-fitted seats that absorb the shock of impact. At the last moment, retrorockets fire before touchdown to limit the impact to around 5 km/h.
- After landing, the crew deploy a communication antenna, so that the rescue teams can pinpoint them, but usually search and rescue teams are already on site to retrieve the space voyagers.
- The spacecraft is cramped and astronauts return to Earth in a weakened state, so pulling the crew out of their capsule one by one can take some time.
Figure 71: Soyuz MS spacecraft infographic - Modules and Specs (image credit: ESA)
Figure 72: International Space Station with Soyuz. This image taken by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano from outside the International Space Station on the second spacewalk to service the cosmic ray detecting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) on 22 November 2019. The Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft that bought Luca, NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and Roscosmos commander Alexander Skvortsov to space is visible docked to the Zvezda service module of the International Space Station. Due to the AMS worksite being difficult to reach on top of the Station’s S3 Truss structure between a pair of solar arrays and radiators, Luca travelled to and from the site on the end of the robotic arm operated by NASA astronaut Jessica Meir from inside the Station (image credit: ESA–Luca Parmitano, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)
• February 2, 2020: Using a short lens, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured this expansive view of 800 kilometers (500 miles) of Peru’s coastline. The wide viewing angle gives the impression of a near-vertical view in the foreground and a distinctly oblique view at the top. 54)
- The steep-sided, 2800-meter (9,200-foot) deep Cotahuasi Canyon and the white icecap of Nevado Coropuna volcano (6425 meters or 21,079 feet) stand in the foreground. The lighter-toned Atacama Desert hugs the coast, bordered inland by the darker-toned rocks of the high Andes Mountains.
- The Andean plateau, mainly under cloud on this day, rises 4000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level, with volcanic peaks (such as Corapuna) rising much higher. Numerous steep-sided canyons descend from the plateau to the coast. The rivers that cut these canyons provide water for irrigating agricultural fields in the desert. (The farmlands appear as darker patches amid the tan of the desert.)
- The Sun’s reflection off of the Pacific Ocean reveals wind streaks produced by the strong southerly winds. Inland, Laguna Parinacochas is distinctly visible because it also reflects the Sun.
- In the distance, almost invisible under a layer of smog, lies the capital city of Lima.
Figure 73: The astronaut photograph ISS059-E-39541 was acquired on May 1, 2019, with a Nikon D5 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 59 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• January 27, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (middle) and NASA astronaut Drew Morgan (left) work on get-ahead tasks during the fourth spacewalk to service the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). 55)
- Saturday’s spacewalk, which lasted five hours and 55 minutes, was the last in a four-part series to extend the life of the particle physics detector that was not designed to be maintained in space.
- Installed on the outside of the International Space Station in 2011, the instrument out-lived its three-year mission time to provide researchers with invaluable data on cosmic rays that bombard our planet. When the cooling pumps for AMS-02 began to fail, plans were made to service the instrument in space and give it a new lease on life and science.
- During the first three spacewalks Luca and Drew replaced the old cooling system with a new one using a tube-tying technique known as swagging that was quite the feat to perform in space gloves.
- On this final spacewalk, where Drew held the lead role of EV1, the pair set out to check the tubes that connect the cooling system to the larger instrument for any leaks.
- When a leak was found in tube number five, Luca tightened this connection and waited around an hour before checking the tube again. Upon this second check, a leak was still present, but thankfully after re tightening once more and waiting again the leak was overcome and the system was declared leak-free.
- In between these leak checks, the duo worked on get-ahead tasks, activities that often set the stage for future spacewalks, should the astronauts have extra time on their hands.
- Once all leaks were addressed, Luca and Drew wrapped things up by installing a mud flap between the new pump and vertical support beam before removing a cover known as a shower cap to expose the new radiator system.
- Five hours and two minutes into Saturday’s spacewalk, Luca broke the European record for the most time spent spacewalking. He has now clocked in 33 hours and nine minutes, beating previous record holder Swedish ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang’s 31 hours and 54 minutes.
Figure 74: NASA astronaut Drew Morgan (left) and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (middle) are seen in this photo on their last AMS-2 EVA (image credit: NASA, ESA)
• January 26, 2020: Two of the largest freshwater lakes in Turkey are featured in this photograph, taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS). Lake Beysehir and Lake Egirdir are situated in the Turkish Lakes Region, a highly active tectonic area on the Anatolia Plateau.
- There are several shallow lakes in the region that are replenished through precipitation, limestone springs and streams, and runoff from the Sultan Mountains. The water levels of these lakes change seasonally, mainly due to their usage as a drinking water source and as irrigation for local agriculture. As water levels drop, the light-colored limestone sediments on the lake beds become more apparent, giving the water a lighter color (as with Lake Beysehir, Figure 75).
- Lake Beysehir and Lake Egirdir have been designated by global conservation organizations as important bird and plant habitats. At least 181 bird species use the shorelines and small islands within the lakes as nesting and breeding grounds.
Figure 75: This astronaut photograph ISS061-E-14342 was acquired on October 26, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 95 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 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sara Schmidt)
• January 25, 2020: Expedition 61 crew members Andrew Morgan of NASA and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) concluded their spacewalk at 1:20 p.m. EST. During the 6 hour, 16 minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully completed leak checks for the cooling system on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and opened a valve to being pressurizing the system. Preliminary testing shows AMS-02 is responding as expected. 56)
Figure 76: A helmet camera attached to the spacesuit of astronaut Andrew Morgan pictures astronaut Luca Parmitano during the final spacewalk to repair a cosmic ray detector AMS-02 (image credit: NASA)
- Ground teams will work over the next several days to fill the new AMS thermal control system with carbon dioxide, allow the system to stabilize, and power on the pumps to verify and optimize their performance. The tracker, one of several detectors on AMS-02, should be collecting science data again before the end of next week. The upgraded cooling system is expected to support AMS-02 through the lifetime of the space station.
- The astronauts also completed an additional task to remove degraded lens filters on two high-definition video cameras.
- This was the fourth spacewalk by Morgan and Parmitano to repair the spectrometer and the 227th in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades. For Morgan, it was the seventh spacewalk of his career, for a total of 45 hours and 48 minutes, and the sixth for Parmitano, with a total of 33 hours and 9 minutes, who will return to Earth Feb. 6 in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to complete a six-and-a-half month mission on the outpost. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 59 days 12 hours and 26 minutes working outside the station. This was also the ninth spacewalk for the Expedition 61 crew, more than in any other increment in the history of the station.
• On January 22, 2020, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of resuspended ash near Taal Volcano island. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, strong low-level winds lifted ash lying on the volcano, and sent it streaming southwest toward the town of Dacanlao. Following an eruption in early January 2020, Taal remains on a Level 4 alert, with a hazardous eruption still possible. 57)
Figure 77: Low-level winds lifted ash lying on and around the volcano after its recent eruption. The astronaut photograph ISS061-E-138244 was acquired on January 22, 2020, with a Nikon D5 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 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Text by Kasha Patel)
• January 22, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is returning to Earth after six months on the International Space Station. He will land with Alexander Skvortsov and Christina Koch in Kazakhstan on 6 February 2020 after 201 days in space. Luca will fly directly to ESA’s European Astronaut Center (EAC) in Cologne for an expected arrival around 21:00 GMT (22:00 CET). 58)
- Luca was launched into space on 20 July 2019 in a Soyuz spacecraft with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. His seven-month mission saw him take command of the International Space Station and conduct complex spacewalks to repair the cosmic-particle-hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer instrument, AMS-02.
- Luca supported more than 50 European experiments and 200 international experiments in space. Other highlights were Luca making the first ‘live DJ session’ in Earth orbit, addressing world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 25 and talking to Nobel Laureates about exoplanets and the chemistry of batteries.
• January 22, 2020: Sometimes doing science is as simple as wiping up. NASA astronaut Jack Fisher is seen here using a wet wipe on the surfaces of the European Cupola module of the International Space Station. 59)
- Doubling as both Station maintenance and science experiment, Jack collected microbes living on the surfaces of his orbital home for ESA’s Extremophiles experiment. Headed by Dr. Christine-Moissl Eichinger from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, the experiment studies how microbes settle into the harsh environment of space.
- Cosmic radiation exposes not only humans but also bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms to cellular stress. A typical stay in microgravity for an astronaut weakens the immune system and causes more health issues, prompting researchers to ask whether the same was happening to microbiomes, or the organisms found in a particular environment, and whether they resist treatment, becoming ‘super bugs.’
- Because the Space Station is a closed environment, microbes can only arrive with new crew and cargo. The Station has accumulated a core group of 55 microbes over 20 years of continuous human inhabitants.
- Researchers tested these against microbes found in a similar environment on Earth: spacecraft cleanrooms. They found that space-based microbes did not have a higher resistance and were not more stressed than Earth-based ones.
- In short, microbes are no more extremophilic – able to survive in uninhabitable environments – in the weightless and radiative environment of space. The results were recently published in a paper in Nature Communications. 60)
- Interestingly, researchers found that space-based microbiomes can react negatively to metal surfaces, especially when those surfaces are wet. As they struggle to adapt to their environment, they attack the metal surfaces they find themselves on by corroding them or creating biofilm.
- Researchers and crew are monitoring the situation by keeping metal surfaces dry and easily accessible for regular cleaning and sampling.
- After all, there is no getting rid of microbes or any need to. They are a fact of human life.
Figure 78: Microbial wipe down (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• January 20, 2020: At 1:33 p.m. EST, Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch of NASA concluded their third spacewalk together. During the six hour and 58-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully completed the battery upgrade for one channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. 61)
- Today’s work included removing the last two nickel-hydrogen batteries from this area of the station’s backbone near the port solar array and moving them to an external platform. The batteries will be stored there until they can be disposed of in the next Japanese HTV cargo spacecraft after it delivers tons of supplies to the space station later this year. Meir and Koch also installed the sixth and final new lithium-ion battery, and ground controllers verified the new batteries powered up successfully to provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for station operations.
- The spacewalkers concluded their work by paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Meir said he was a personal hero and looking down on planet Earth reminded her of his words: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” Koch noted how much is owed to those who worked for civil rights and inclusion and “paved the way for not only us, but so many who have a dream.”
- This was the second spacewalk outside the station in 2020. Space station crew members have now conducted 226 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have spent a total of 59 days, 6 hours, and 10 minutes working outside the station. It is the third time all spacewalkers have been women and the 45th spacewalk to include women.
- NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and space station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will conduct the next spacewalk Saturday, Jan. 25, to finish installing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) new cooling apparatus and lines and verify they are ready for use. Morgan and Parmitano began that work during three spacewalks in November and December 2019.
- Today’s spacewalk was the third for Meir, who now has spent a total of 21 hours and 44 minutes spacewalking, and the sixth for Koch for a total of 42 hours and 15 minutes. Koch is third place behind Peggy Whitson and Suni Williams for cumulative time by a female spacewalker and 21st on the all-time spacewalk list for aggregate time.
- Koch arrived to the orbiting laboratory in March 2019 and is nearing the end of an extended duration mission. She holds the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman and will return to Earth on Feb. 6. Her extended mission provides researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman to prepare for human missions to the Moon and Mars. Meir arrived in Sept. 2019 and is due to return in April.
Figure 79: NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock to complete a spacewalk after swapping batteries on the International Space Station that store and distribute solar power collected for the solar arrays (image credit: NASA)
• January 20, 2020: Every January, bits of asteroid 2003 EH1 cross paths with Earth’s orbit to create a beautiful annual meteor shower: the Quadrantids. As the fragments collide with our atmosphere, they disintegrate and create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky. On January 4, 2020, astronauts saw the spectacle from above. 62)
- The composite image of Figure 80 was taken by astronaut Christina Koch as the International Space Station (ISS) passed over Edmonton, Canada, around 4:30 a.m. local time (11:30 UTC). She also captured an aurora over the region around the same time. The image of Figure 81 shows the position of the aurora in relation to the ISS orbit. The image was created using data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) “day-night band” from the Suomi NPP satellite and Black Marble data.
- “Meteors fly by the ISS all the time, but the astronauts don’t see them. The meteor is just a little piece of rock, but it is so dark and moves so fast that you don’t see it whiz by,” said Bill Cooke, lead at the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office. “Astronauts see the meteors when they look down and see them burning up near Earth’s atmosphere, appearing as streaks of light.”
Figure 80: The astronaut photograph composite including ISS061-E-119857 was acquired on January 4, 2020, 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 of the Quadrantids was taken by Christina Koch, a member of the Expedition 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image by Joshua Stevens, Story by Kasha Patel)
- Quadrantids are generally faint but periodically have bright fireball meteors—large explosions of light and color. Fireballs last longer than the average meteor streak because they are born from larger pieces of material. The bright meteors in Koch’s picture are fireballs. Even from space though, astronauts may struggle to see the flashes due to bright city lights below or from the moonlight, said Cooke.
- The Quadrantids differ from most meteor showers. While the majority of meteor showers originate from comets, the Quadrantids appear to come from an asteroid. As asteroid 2003 H1 travels around the Sun, it sheds dust. This dust gradually spreads into a debris trail, which Earth passes through in early January every year. Discovered in 2003, asteroid 2003 EH1 is small and measures only about two miles (three kilometers) in diameter. However, some scientists think it might be related to a dead comet called C/1490 Y1 or fall under a new type of object called a “rock comet.”
- At its peak, the Quadrantids register around 80 meteors per hour observed in an area. Peak activity only lasts for a few hours (as opposed to days as with other meteor showers) because of the thinner stream of particles. Earth also crosses through the stream at a perpendicular angle. The meteors are best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Astronaut Chris Hatfield once wrote that seeing a meteor from space was a “reminder of living in a shooting gallery.” However, the chances of the ISS getting hit by a small meteor are low. Cooke says the ISS is armored against meteors and the odds of a meteor penetrating the station is very small. The greatest risk occurs when an astronaut is outside of the space station performing a spacewalk and could potentially come into contact with a small meteor. Cooke’s office generates meteor forecasts to help assess the safety for astronauts venturing outside the station.
• January 19, 2020: The divide between lush forest and desert is striking in this photograph taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Meandering rivers and farmland comprise most of the lower right half of the photo, while the upper left shows part of the Atacama Desert just beyond the Andes Mountains. 63)
Figure 82: Astronaut photograph ISS061-E-40134 was acquired on November 13, 2019, with a Nikon D5 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 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)
- The Bermejo River originates in the Andes Mountains in Bolivia and flows into the Paraguay-Paraña Rivers. The Bermejo is notably lighter in color than other stream courses because of the abundance of sediment it carries. The river channel also moves regularly due to the combined processes of erosion and deposition along its banks, as evidenced by the meandering pattern.
- The Andes are one of the most biodiverse regions of the world. The small portion of the mountain range shown in this photo (from southwest Bolivia and northwest Argentina), provides a great example of the contrast between the high mountain desert and temperate Yungas and Chaco forests.
• January 14, 2020: The first of three spacewalks planned for January begins Wednesday to continue upgrading International Space Station power systems and a cosmic ray detector. While the spacewalkers ready their suits and tools, the rest of the Expedition 61 crew is on science and maintenance duty today. 64)
- NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir is partnering for a second time with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch for a pair of spacewalks set for January 15 and 20. The duo is finalizing preparations for the two six-and-a-half hour spacewalks to replace batteries that store and distribute solar power. They will set their U.S. spacesuits to internal power at 6:50 a.m. and translate out to the Port-6 truss structure. Once there they swap out old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries. NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. EST.
- A third spacewalk is planned for Jan. 25 with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). They will finish the thermal repair work on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer they began last year.
- Meanwhile, Morgan and Parmitano were on science duty today. The astronauts took turns safely burning fabric and acrylic samples to help scientists understand how flames spread in space. Results may inform the design of fire safety products and procedures on Earth and in space. The two crewmates also drew their blood samples, spinning them in a centrifuge for later analysis.
- Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov spent the day servicing Russian life support equipment. On the science schedule, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka continued setting up and testing hardware that will observe the Earth’s mesosphere at different wavelengths.
Figure 83: NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are pictured preparing to begin the historic first-ever all-female spacewalk on Oct. 18, 2019 (image credit: NASA)
• January 14, 2020: Another pair of eyes provides a sobering perspective on the fires ravaging Australia. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano took images such as this one on 12 January from his vantage point of the International Space Station. 65)
- From satellite imagery tracing smoke and pollution, to images from the ground depicting apocalyptic red skies, there is no denying the fires’ devastating effect.
- Starting in New South Wales and extending into Victoria, the ferocious bushfires have been raging since September and are fuelled by record-breaking temperatures. In the midst of a climate crisis, 2019 was the hottest year on record in Australia and with drought and wind, the fires have raged beyond seasonal expectations.
- Winds have blown smoke over New Zealand and crossed the South Pacific Ocean, even reaching Chile and Argentina.
- A staggering 10 million hectares of land have been burned, at least 24 people have been killed and it has been reported that almost half a billion animals have perished.
- Damage to wildlife notwithstanding, the fires have had a serious effect on air quality. Earth observation satellites like Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor has traced increased concentrations of carbon monoxide in the past months along Australia’s southeast coast.
Figure 84: This image was taken as the Station flew above Fraser Range, in Western Australia, near the Dundas Nature Reserve. Luca posted images of the fire to social media and said: “Talking to my crew mates, we realized that none of us had ever seen fires at such terrifying scale”(image credit: ESA)
- Astronaut photographs of Earth from space complement satellite imagery, allowing experts and the general public more insight on global events.
- Like Luca, the world continues to monitor the fires. If there is a silver lining around the smoke, it is the increased awareness of and calls for urgent action on climate change that is continuing to sweep the globe.
• January 5, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of stark desert contrasts in northwestern Chad. The geologically young, dark lava flows of the Toussidé volcano stand out from the older, lighter rocks of the Tibesti Mountains and the sands of the central Sahara Desert. 66)
- A large portion of the Tibesti Mountains is volcanic in origin. Successive effusive eruptions have formed extensive plateaus that cover older sedimentary rocks. Looking north of Toussidé (left in this image of Figure 85), erosion has helped carve the expansive network of canyons. Eolian activity has also played a role: that is, winds have brought lightly colored sands from the north into low-lying areas between the mountainous ridges.
- The contrast of color created by flows from Toussidé and other volcanoes in northern Africa has captured astronauts’ attention for decades. The terrain of the Tibesti mountains is difficult to access, but remote sensing provides a useful means to perform geologic investigations here.
Figure 85: Geologically young, dark lava flows stand out from older, lighter rocks and the sands of the central Sahara. The astronaut photograph ISS060-E-77289 was acquired on September 23, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 95 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 60 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrew Britton)
• January 3, 2020: ISS astronaut successfully treated for blood clot on-orbit. Serena Auñón-Chancellor, M.D., M.P.H., Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at LSU (Louisiana State University) Health New Orleans School of Medicine’s branch campus in Baton Rouge, is the lead author of a paper describing a previously unrecognized risk of spaceflight discovered during a study of astronauts involved in long-duration missions. The paper details a case of stagnant blood flow resulting in a clot in the internal jugular vein of an astronaut stationed on the International Space Station. The paper is published in the January 2, 2020 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, available here. 67)
- “These new findings demonstrate that the human body still surprises us in space,” notes Dr. Auñón-Chancellor, who also remains a member of NASA’s Astronaut Corps and is board certified in both internal and aerospace medicine. “We still haven’t learned everything about Aerospace Medicine or Space Physiology.”
- Eleven astronauts were involved in the vascular study, which sought to help close gaps in knowledge about circulatory physiology that will not only benefit patients on Earth, but could be critical for the health of astronauts during future space exploration missions to the moon and Mars. The study measured the structure and function of the internal jugular vein in long-duration spaceflight where astronauts are exposed to sustained headward blood and tissue fluid shifts.
- Ultrasound examinations of the astronauts’ internal jugular veins were performed at scheduled times in different positions during the mission. Results of the ultrasound performed about two months into the mission revealed a suspected obstructive left internal jugular venous thrombosis (blood clot) in one astronaut. The astronaut, guided in real time and interpreted by two independent radiologists on earth, performed a follow-up ultrasound, which confirmed the suspicion.
- Since NASA had not encountered this condition in space before, multiple specialty discussions weighed the unknown risks of the clot traveling and blocking a vessel against anticoagulation therapy in microgravity. The space station pharmacy had 20 vials containing 300 mg of injectable enoxaparin (a heparin-like blood thinner), but no anticoagulation-reversal drug. The injections posed their own challenges – syringes are a limited commodity, and drawing liquids from vials is a significant challenge because of surface-tension effects.
- The astronaut began treatment with the enoxaparin, initially at a higher dose that was reduced after 33 days to make it last until an oral anticoagulant (apixaban) could arrive via a supply spacecraft. Anticoagulation-reversing agents were also sent.
- Although the size of the clot progressively shrank and blood flow through the affected internal jugular segment could be induced at day 47, spontaneous blood flow was still absent after 90 days of anticoagulation treatment. The astronaut took apixaban until four days before the return to Earth.
- On landing, an ultrasound showed the remaining clot flattened to the vessel walls with no need for further anticoagulation. It was present for 24 hours after landing and gone 10 days later. Six months after returning to Earth, the astronaut remained asymptomatic.
- The astronaut had no personal or family history of blood clots and had not experienced headaches or the florid complexion common in weightless conditions. The changes in blood organization and flow, along with the prothrombotic risk uncovered in the study show the need for further research.
- Concludes Auñón-Chancellor, “The biggest question that remains is how would we deal with this on an exploration class mission to Mars? How would we prepare ourselves medically? More research must be performed to further elucidate clot formation in this environment and possible countermeasures.”
- Internal jugular venous thrombosis has most often been associated with cancer, a central venous catheter, or ovarian hyperstimulation. Recently, it has been found in a growing number of IV drug abusers who inject drugs directly into the internal jugular vein. The condition can have potentially life-threatening complications, including systemic sepsis and pulmonary embolism.
- Other members of the research team included James M. Pattarini, M.D., M.P.H., National Aeronautics and Space Administration Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX; Stephan Moll, M.D., University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC; and Ashot Sargsyan, M.D., KBR, Houston, TX.
- The study was funded by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) under the Human Research Program (grant NNJ11ZSA002NA).
• January 2, 2020: Blood clot expert Stephan Moll, MD, professor of medicine in the UNC (University of North Carolina) School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, consulted NASA on how to treat a U.S. astronaut’s deep vein thrombosis during a mission on the International Space Station. Moll co-wrote a case study on the successful treatment that has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 68)
- “My first reaction when NASA reached out to me was to ask if I could visit the International Space Station (ISS) to examine the patient myself,” said Stephan Moll, MD, UNC School of Medicine blood clot expert and long-time NASA enthusiast. “NASA told me they couldn’t get me up to space quickly enough, so I proceeded with the evaluation and treatment process from here in Chapel Hill.”
- Moll was the only non-NASA physician NASA consulted when it was discovered that an astronaut aboard the ISS had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – or blood clot – in the jugular vein of their neck. The astronaut’s identity is being kept anonymous for privacy reasons, so identifying information such as when this event happened is being omitted from the case study. We do know that the astronaut was two months into a six-month mission on the ISS when the DVT was discovered.
- This was the first time a blood clot had been found in an astronaut in space, so there was no established method of treatment for DVT in zero gravity. Moll, a member of the UNC Blood Research Center, was called upon for his vast knowledge and treatment experience of DVT on Earth.
- “Normally the protocol for treating a patient with DVT would be to start them on blood thinners for at least three months to prevent the clot from getting bigger and to lessen the harm it could cause if it moved to a different part of the body such as the lungs,” Moll said. “There is some risk when taking blood thinners that if an injury occurs, it could cause internal bleeding that is difficult to stop. In either case, emergency medical attention could be needed. Knowing there are no emergency rooms in space, we had to weigh our options very carefully.”
- Moll and a team of NASA doctors decided blood thinners would be the best course of treatment for the astronaut. They were limited in their pharmaceutical options, however. The ISS keeps only a small supply of various medicines on board, and there was a limited amount of the blood thinner Enoxaparin (Lovenox®) available. Moll advised NASA on what dosage of Enoxaparin would effectively treat the DVT while also lasting long enough, until NASA could get a new shipment of drugs – which Moll helped select – to the ISS.
Figure 86: You could call it the ultimate telemedicine. A UNC expert enlisted by NASA to help treat an astronaut during a mission on the ISS. Hear about the experience from Dr. Stephan Moll in his own words (video credit: UNC Health Care)
- The course of treatment with Enoxaparin – a drug delivered by an injection into the skin – lasted for around 40 days. On day 43 of the astronaut’s treatment, a supply of Apixaban (Eliquis®) – a pill taken orally– was delivered to the ISS by a supply spacecraft.
- Throughout the treatment process, which lasted more than 90 days, the astronaut performed ultrasounds on their own neck with guidance from a radiology team on Earth in order to monitor the blood clot. Moll was also able to speak to the astronaut during this period through email and phone calls.
- “When the astronaut called my home phone, my wife answered and then passed the phone to me with the comment, ‘Stephan, a phone call for you from space.’ That was pretty amazing,” said Moll. “It was incredible to get a call from an astronaut in space. They just wanted to talk to me as if they were one of my other patients. And amazingly the call connection was better than when I call my family in Germany, even though the ISS zips around Earth at 17,000 miles per hour.”
- Four days before the astronaut’s journey home to Earth, they stopped taking Apixaban. Moll and his NASA counterparts made that decision because of how physically demanding and potentially dangerous the re-entry process can be for astronauts, and they did not want an injury to be exacerbated by the use of blood thinners. The astronaut landed safely on Earth and the blood clot required no more treatment.
- This astronaut’s blood clot was asymptomatic – they didn’t have any symptoms that would have otherwise made them aware of the clot. The DVT was discovered when the astronaut was taking ultrasounds of their neck for a research study on how body fluid is redistributed in zero gravity. If it wasn’t for the study, there’s no telling what the outcome could have been. That’s why Moll continues to work with NASA and says there’s a need for more research of how blood and blood clots behave in space.
- “Is this something that is more common in space?” posed Moll. “How do you minimize risk for DVT? Should there be more medications for it kept on the ISS? All of these questions need answering, especially with the plan that astronauts will embark on longer missions to the moon and Mars.”
Figure 87: Dr. Stephan Moll at NASA (image credit: NASA, UNC)
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The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (email@example.com).