Minimize ISS: Sample Imagery

ISS Utilization: Sample imagery taken by astronauts on and from the ISS + Events

References 

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 2021

ISS-Imagery in the period 2020

ISS-Imagery in the period 2019

ISS-Imagery in the period 2018

ISS-Imagery in the period 2017-2016

ISS-Imagery in the period 2015-1998




Mission status and sample imagery of 2021

• July 18, 2021: Sand dunes, ancient rocks, a solar power plant, and the Orange River stand out in this image of the southern Kalahari Desert taken by a camera system on the International Space Station. 1)

- The dark line of South Africa’s largest river, the Orange, winds across farm-covered floodplains toward the Atlantic Ocean. Populations are small in this desert region. The small farming town of Groblershoop is barely visible compared to the local main roads, which show up as white lines etched across the landscape.

- The strong orange color in this image is mostly due to geologically young dunes (only a few million years old) in what is known locally as the Duineveld (dune country). Poking up through the sands are sinuous hills made up of very ancient, dark-toned rocks. These rocks were folded and faulted around one billion years ago by mountain-building forces similar to those currently raising the Himalayas. The ancient mountains were later planed off by erosion over millions of years to form the dune-covered plains and low hills we see today.

- Alongside one of the main roads lies a small, bright rectangular shape: This is the Bokpoort solar power plant. It was constructed specifically to take advantage of the high number of sunny days in the Kalahari Desert. The plant includes nearly 240,000 mirrors covering 0.65 km2 (about 0.25 square miles). Unlike the photovoltaic solar panels at many traditional installations, this power plant uses mirrors to focus the Sun’s energy on a large salt-filled storage tank (too small to see in this image). The focused sunlight melts the salt, which has a high heat storage capacity. This heat in turn drives steam turbines that can generate power long after sunset. This renewable-energy plant came online in 2015.

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Figure 1: This EarthKAM photograph 313841 was acquired on November 15, 2020, with a Nikon D2X DSLR digital camera using a 180 millimeter lens. The photo has been enhanced to improve contrast. It is provided by the Sally Ride EarthKAM@Space Camp on the International Space Station. The caption is provided by the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center. EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) is a NASA educational outreach program that enables students, teachers, and the public to learn about Earth from the unique perspective of space. During Sally Ride EarthKAM missions, middle school students around the world request images of specific locations on Earth (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)

• July 14, 2021: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is spending six months on the International Space Station as part of his second mission Alpha. In his free time, like many astronauts, he enjoys looking out of the Cupola windows at Earth. This collage of pictures shows Paris, France, made from many pictures mapped together, digitally rotated and assembled into this large collage of 21211 by 20289 pixels.

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Figure 2: Paris as observed from the ISS by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Thomas asked to have the series of highly zoomed-in pictures aligned into this collage to show the area in detail (image credit: ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet/W. Harold)

• July 12, 2021: While in orbit over central Sudan, an astronaut on the International Space Station took this photograph featuring Lake Tana and the Ethiopian Highlands. The oblique angle and shadows help emphasize the rugged terrain of the Ethiopian Plateau, while Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia, appears mirror-like due to sunglint. The low-lying, tectonically active East African Rift Valley is bounded by the eastern edge of the Ethiopian Highlands. 2)

- The Semien (or Simien) Mountains tower over the plateau. With a peak rising 4,533 meters (14,926 feet) above sea level, Ras Dashen is the highest point in Ethiopia. Much of the Ethiopian Highlands are part of a large igneous province — a region with a significant accumulation of large lava rocks. The Semien Range was formed due to volcanic activity about 31 million years ago.

- Although the highlands are surrounded by deserts, their elevation results in a temperate climate with ample rainfall. Lake Tana and its tributaries support an important fishing industry, in addition to agriculture in the surrounding wetlands. The lake also feeds the Blue Nile, which runs through northern Ethiopia and southern Sudan and delivers water to many communities. The river flows out of the south side of Lake Tana, through lower canyon areas south of the lake, and then east to ultimately join the White Nile in Sudan.

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Figure 3: The astronaut photograph ISS061-E-113632 was acquired on January 3, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 50 mm. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 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 Sara Schmidt)

• July 7, 2021: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is spending six months on the International Space Station as part of his second mission Alpha. In his free time, like many astronauts, he enjoys looking out of the Cupola windows at Earth. This collage of pictures shows London, United Kingdom, made from many pictures mapped together, digitally rotated and assembled into this large collage. 3)

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Figure 4: Greater London as observed from the ISS by Thomas Pesquet. Thomas asked ESA to have the series of highly zoomed-in pictures aligned into this collage to show the area in detail. The International Space Station flies at roughly 400 km altitude so Thomas uses the longest lenses available onboard (image credit: ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet/W. Harold)

• July 4, 2021: The original layout and design of Washington, D.C., comes to life in this springtime photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station. The near-nadir, high resolution photo offers a view of the city’s layout that its architects, Peter L‘Enfant and Andrew Ellicott, could only imagine when they drew up plans for the District of Columbia in the 1790s. Nestled at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, today the city serves as both the seat of the U.S. government and as a tribute to the history of the nation. 4)

- From above, the city layout draws the eye to the Capitol. This was the architects’ starting point, and the rest of the city was built in quadrants defined by axes extending in cardinal directions from this “center” of American government. These axes orient the rest of the D.C. street grid, with one notable exception. Wide, diagonal avenues radiate from the Capitol outward through the city, meeting with other diagonals to form parks and public spaces. These diagonals, named after the first states, are the main thoroughfares. The most famous of these avenues is a direct line between two branches of government—Pennsylvania Avenue physically links the White House with the Capitol.

- L‘Enfant left a mile long stretch west of the Capitol as a grand avenue for the public interest. It was not until the early 1900s that the National Mall and Tidal Basin had enough monuments and museums that it began to take the form that appears in the image. At the turn of the 20th century, the Washington Monument, seen here casting a long shadow, was the only monument completed within the National Mall. The next hundred years saw the construction of additional monuments, memorials, and museums that commemorate U.S. history and achievements.

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Figure 5: The astronaut photograph ISS064-E-40657 was acquired on March 3, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1200 mm focal length 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 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Caption by Alex Stoken)

• July 1, 2021: An uncrewed Russian Progress 78 spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station’s Poisk module on the space-facing side of the Russian segment at 8:59 p.m. EDT, two days after lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Sunday, Tuesday June 29 at 7:27 p.m. (4:27 a.m. Wednesday, June 30, Baikonur time). The spacecraft were flying over southeast Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile at the time of docking. 5)

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Figure 6: ISS configuration on 1 July 2021: Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Cargo Dragon spaceships and Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship and ISS Progress 77 and 78 resupply ships (image credit: NASA TV)

- Carrying more than 3,600 pounds (1630 kg) of food, fuel, and supplies for the Expedition 65 crew, the Progress 78 resupply spacecraft will spend almost five months at the station. The cargo craft is scheduled to perform an automated undocking and relocation to the new “Nauka” Multipurpose Laboratory Module in late October. Named for the Russian word for “science,” Nauka is planned to launch to the space station in July.

• June 27, 2021: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of Christchurch and the Banks Peninsula, a distinct feature protruding from the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Shades of blue along the coastline accent sediment-laden waters from where the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers enter the sea. The city of Christchurch and Lake Ellesmere flank the peninsula. 6)

- Christchurch is the largest city on South Island and the second most populated city in New Zealand. Situated on the north side of the Banks Peninsula, this city is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Port Hills to the south. The hills, harbors, and coves of the Banks Peninsula are remnants of extinct, eroded volcanoes.

- The sources of the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers are found in the Southern Alps, a mountain range that runs along most of South Island’s west coast. The rivers transport large amounts of sediment from the mountains and into the lower Canterbury Plains before flowing into the Pacific Ocean. Groundwater from the Waimakariri and Rakaia also feeds the brackish Lake Ellesmere. The volume and particle size of the sediment results in the formation of braided rivers. In the case of the Waimakariri, the river course has been further channelized to reduce flooding.

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Figure 7: This astronaut photograph ISS064-E-44621 was acquired on March 18, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 116 mm. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 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)

• June 20, 2021: NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet concluded their spacewalk at 2:10 p.m. EDT, after 6 hours and 28 minutes. In the eighth spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two astronauts completed the deployment of a new ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) on the far end of the left (port) side of the station’s backbone truss structure (P6). 7)

- Kimbrough and Pesquet successfully unfolded the solar array, bolted it into place, and connected cables to the station’s power supply to complete deployment. Additionally, the astronauts removed and stowed hardware in preparation for releasing the second iROSA from the flight support structure for installation. The pair will work toward the second solar array upgrade – this one on the P6 truss’ 4B power channel – during another spacewalk, tentatively scheduled for June 25.

- NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays to ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization.

- This was the eighth spacewalk for Kimbrough, the fourth for Pesquet, and the fourth they have conducted together. Kimbrough has now spent a total of 52 hours and 43 minutes spacewalking, and Pesquet’s total spacewalking time is 26 hours and 15 minutes.

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Figure 8: Spacewalkers Shane Kimbrough (foreground) and Thomas Pesquet work to prepare the second roll out solar array ready for installation an upcoming spacewalk (image credit: NASA TV)

• June 20, 2021: This photo of the Sonoran Desert in Southern California was taken with a camera mounted on the outside of the International Space Station. Blocky patches of farmland are concentrated on both ends of the Salton Sea, and a short section of U.S Interstate 10—which stretches over 2,400 miles (3,800 km) from California to Florida—passes through the flat areas between the mountains. An array of solar panels stands north of the interstate. 8)

- The nearby Orocopia and Chocolate Mountains are comprised of a mix of sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks along the San Andreas Fault, allowing a variety of geologic features to be studied within a short distance. The mountains were among the locations that Apollo crews visited to train for their trips to the Moon. These “outdoor classrooms” allowed the astronauts to learn the skills necessary to make scientific observations in barren and challenging landscapes. Such field work is still a part of astronaut training.

- The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, started growing in 1905 after an irrigation canal broke and allowed the Colorado River to fill the basin. This lake has no natural outlet, so water must evaporate to leave the system; this makes it saltier than the ocean. Water continues to flow into the Salton Sea from agricultural runoff, but that runoff has decreased over time and does not balance out the water lost to evaporation. Because of this, the lake is expected to become saltier with time.

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Figure 9: Chocolate mountains and a salty lake highlight this desert landscape. The ISS External High-Definition Camera photograph ISS064-E-8944 was acquired on December 1, 2020, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a focal length of 85 mm. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken during Expedition 64. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Wenzel)

• June 19, 2021: In the early 1800s, privateers and smugglers who were involved in the slave trade periodically used Galveston Island as an outpost for operations. The sandy barrier island in what is now Texas appealed to smugglers because of its proximity to Caribbean slave-trading islands, its natural harbor, and the abundance of streams and rivers that could serve as hiding places. 9)

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Figure 10: The issuing of General Order No. 3 by Union troops on June 19, 1865, marked the official end of slavery in Texas and the U.S. The astronaut photographs ISS062-E-61896 and ISS055-E-110079 were acquired on February 27, 2020 and April 16, 2019 (Figure 11), with a Nikon D4 digital camera using 400 and 110 mm lenses and are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The first image was taken by a member of the Expedition 62 crew. The second image was taken by a member of the Expedition 55 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth observatory, Story by Adam Voiland)

- By 1860, about one-third of Galveston’s population lived under the oppression of chattel slavery. Even after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, in the midst of America’s Civil War, change came slowly to Galveston. Most enslaved people were unaware of Lincoln’s executive order, and the practice of buying and selling Black people based on race continued in Galveston and other parts of Texas until well into 1865. As long as the Confederate Army still held power in the region, there was no way to enforce Lincoln’s order.

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Figure 11: Photo of the Houston area from the ISS taken on 16 April 2019 (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

- Circumstances changed in April 1865 with the arrival of U.S. Major General Gordon Granger and 2,000 Union troops. On June 19, 1865, Granger issued General Order No. 3 and Union troops marched through Galveston and read the order aloud at several locations, including Union Army headquarters at the Osterman building.

- “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” the order stated. “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

- As news of the order spread, spontaneous celebrations broke out in African-American churches, homes, and other gathering places. As years passed, the picnics, barbecues, parades, and other celebrations that sprang up to commemorate June 19th became more formalized as freed men and women purchased land, or “emancipation grounds,” to hold annual Juneteenth celebrations.

- The location of one of these areas—Emancipation Park in Houston—is marked in the astronaut photograph above. Reverend Jack Yates, a Baptist minister and former slave, worked with his congregation and other leaders to pool money to buy the land as a site for Juneteenth celebrations in 1872. The city of Galveston and the sediment-rich waters of Galveston Bay appear on the right side of the image.

- The Texas legislature formally recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday in 1980. Dozens of other states also began to recognize the holiday in the following decades. On June 17, 2021, the U.S. Congress passed and the President signed a law declaring Juneteenth to be a federal holiday. The holiday is sometimes also called Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day.

• June 18, 2021: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet snapped this image of the Tyrone Mine, USA during his second long-duration mission known as Alpha. He posted it on social media saying: "An early morning pass over USA. The most vivid and contrasted colors are obtained in the middle of the day, but I like the shadows and pastel tones of the early morning. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!" 10)

- Thomas was launched to the ISS for his second mission, Alpha, on 23 April 2021. He will spend six months living and working on the orbital outpost where he will support more than 200 international experiments in space.

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Figure 12: The Tyrone Mine is located in the Burro Mountains Mining District, Grant County, New Mexico, USA (image credit: ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet)

• June 16, 2021: Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of France and Shane Kimbrough of the United States were floating outside the International Space Station on Wednesday as they began the painstaking process of installing new solar panels to boost the orbital outpost's deteriorating power systems. 11)

- It is the first of several excursions to augment the ISS's existing eight solar arrays, with the first pair operating continuously since December 2000.

- The spacewalking duo were installing the first of six new rollout panels — but problems with display and controls on Kimbrough's spacesuit forced him to return to the station to reset his systems, and the time lost meant they will not complete the process Wednesday.

- The spacewalks "are going to be very challenging, very complex, so we've got to make sure that we're both on the same page for every movement that we do," Kimbrough said ahead of leaving the airlock Wednesday morning.

- Part of the installation procedure has to be carried out while the ISS is in the Earth's shadow, when the station is operating on battery power.

- The combination of the original arrays and six smaller arrays that are more efficient will restore power by 20 to 30 percent.

- "Together in combination they generate more power than what our original array when it was new did on its own," Dana Weigel, deputy manager, of the International Space Station program said.

- When the mission is complete, the ISS will be back to operating at 215 kW. For comparison, a desktop computer and monitor runs at around 270 watts, and a small refrigerator uses about 725 watts.

- The new arrays can be rolled out like yoga mats and are smaller and lighter than traditional solar panels.

- NASA hopes to move forward with the technology for the Artemis mission to return to the Moon, and similar panels will likely be used on a future lunar station called Gateway.

- It was Pesquet's third spacewalk and Kimbrough's seventh.

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Figure 13: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet (R) checks cables in order to install the new iROSA (ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays) on June 16, 2021 (Handout NASA TV/AFP)

• June 15, 2021: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, according to one of the three laws of robotics imagined by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. On board humanity’s only outpost in space, this obedience has turned into cooperation. Astronauts and robots are working together. 12)

- The latest robot to service the International Space Station is the European Robotic Arm (ERA). This android automaton is much like a human arm. It has an elbow, shoulders and even wrists, and it the first robot able to ‘walk’ around the Russian part of the Space Station.

- The arm will be launched into space together with the Multipurpose Laboratory Module, called ‘Nauka’, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, on 15 July 2021 at 19:18 CEST.

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Figure 14: ESA astronaut André Kuipers is seen in this picture during his first space mission in 2004, with a scale model of the European Robotic Arm on his chest. The real thing has a length of over 11 m, and has the ability to anchor itself to the Station in multiple locations, moving backwards and forwards with a large range of motion (image credit: ESA/NASA)

- “I am happy to see the European Robotic Arm fly next month. It was a real pleasure to help prepare this fantastic piece of robotics for its duties on the International Space Station”, says André, who trained under water with a real-size model of the robot at Star City, in Russia, before his spaceflight.

- Astronauts will find in ERA a most valuable ally – it will save them precious time to do other work in space. ERA will transfer payloads from inside to outside the International Space Station, but it will also help spacewalkers by transporting them around like a cherry-picker crane.

- The crew can control ERA from both inside and outside the Space Station, a feature that no other robotic arm has offered before. The robotic arm can perform many tasks automatically, and it can be controlled in real time or preprogrammed. ERA’s first tasks in orbit are to set up the airlock and install a large radiator for ‘Nauka’.

- ERA is 100% made-in-Europe. A consortium of European companies led by Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands designed and assembled it for ESA.

- The story of the European Robotic Arm is one of perseverance – it has survived four changes of scenario, dealt with different space agencies and coped with budget shortfalls while keeping an international team motivated.

- After two decades of technical and programmatic challenges, the long-awaited premiere of ERA in space is finally happening.

• June 13, 2021: This photograph, taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS), captures the estuarine ecosystem of the Loza Bay wetlands in northwest Madagascar. Estuaries are coastal habitats where fresh water from rivers—in this case, the Ankofia and Maevarano—mixes with salt water from the ocean in partially enclosed basins. 13)

- Rivers carry oxidized sediment loads down from Madagascar’s high central plateau toward the Mozambique Channel (not pictured). This reddish-brown sediment-laden freshwater mixes with the clearer, blue saltwater that sloshes in and out of the estuary from the sea with the movement of the tides.

- Mangrove forests are common around Madagascar’s major estuaries as the brackish waters create the environmental conditions in which the trees thrive. Mangrove forests play a vital role in sustaining coastal communities—not only as resources for agriculture and aquaculture, but as sources for fuelwood, charcoal production, and timber. However, the unsustainable harvesting of these mangroves and other local vegetation and wildlife threatens the biodiversity of coastal Madagascar.

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Figure 15: Sediment-rich water from the interior of Madagascar meets the sea in mangrove-fringed Loza Bay. This astronaut photograph ISS064-E-14839 was acquired on December 19, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 400 mm. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Amber Turner)

• June 6, 2021: An astronaut aboard the ISS focused a camera lens on Delhi, the capital city and center of the largest urban region in India and fifth largest in the world. Including the surrounding metropolitan areas, the population of Delhi in 2021 surpassed 31 million people. 14)

- The conurbation now links the surrounding cities of Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Faridabad, and Gurgaon; collectively, this urbanized area stretches for 70 kilometers (45 miles) along the Yamuna River. These cityscapes display the typical light-toned grays of building materials in the region.

- The government center, New Delhi, is an inner sector of Delhi that hosts India’s parliament, ministries, and presidential palace. An abundance of trees and parks makes New Delhi appear as a darker-toned region straddling the Yamuna River. This part of Delhi also houses national sports stadiums and major cultural buildings, such as the Hindu Akshardham Temple. It is home to the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India; it was completed in 1656 during the period of the Mughal Empire.

- Smaller cities surrounding the urban region include Panipat, Rohtak, Rewari, and Mathura west of the river and Meerut and Aligarh on the east side. The cities are, in turn, surrounded by hundreds of small towns and villages, which show up as small gray dots scattered across the view. The rust color south of the metro region is due to reddish rocks that appear at the land surface.

- A short reach of the Ganga River (Ganges) appears at the top right. The width of the Ganga is greater than that of the Yamuna, indicating its larger flow and wider channel. These rivers drain water from the Himalaya Mountains, and both are critical to the water supply of the Delhi region. Water from the Ganga is led along the Upper Ganga Canal, which was built in the 1800s to bring water to the city and the rich farmland of the surrounding plains.

- Delhi’s large footprint also stands out in nighttime photos taken by ISS astronauts in August 2020 and August 2011.

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Figure 16: This astronaut photograph ISS064-E-37008 was acquired on February 23, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 78 mm. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)

• June 2, 2021: Expedition 65 Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos have completed a spacewalk lasting seven hours and 19 minutes. 15)

- The two cosmonauts opened the hatch to the Poisk docking compartment airlock to begin the spacewalk at 1:53 a.m. EDT. They re-entered the airlock and closed the hatch at 9:12 a.m.

- During the spacewalk, the duo disconnected the external mechanical links between Pirs and the space station, relocated spacewalk hardware including a telescoping crane, and reconfigured antennas to prepare the Pirs module for undocking and disposal. Additionally, the cosmonauts replaced a fluid flow regulator panel on the nearby Zarya module, jettisoned the old panel as planned, and replaced biological and material science samples on the exterior of the Russian modules.

- Pirs will be replaced by the new Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module, named “Nauka,” which is Russian for “science.” The undocking of Pirs is scheduled for this summer, about two days after Nauka launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

- This was the first spacewalk for both cosmonauts and the 238th spacewalk overall in support of International Space Station assembly, maintenance, and upgrades. It also marks the sixth spacewalk of 2021.

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Figure 17: Pyotr Dubrov’s helmet camera spots Oleg Novitskiy on the other end of the 46-foot-long (14 meters) Strela boom, a Russian crane, that the spacewalkers detached from the Pirs airlock (image credit: NASA)

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Figure 18: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet captured this image of fellow cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov during a spacewalk on 2 June 2021 (image credit: ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet) 16)

• June 1 marked the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ends Nov. 30. After 2020 brought a record number of named storms in the North Atlantic basin, NASA is once again prepared to help understand and monitor these storms from the unique vantage point of space and is providing experts to discuss hurricanes and other extreme weather events. 17)

- Climate change is increasing the heat in the ocean basins and already making it more likely that storms will intensify faster and become stronger, a phenomenon NASA scientists continue to study.

- Using data from its 20-plus earth-observing satellites, NASA plays a foundational role in the science of hurricanes. But when it comes to operational forecasting, the agency’s main role is through its crucial partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NASA designs, builds, and launches NOAA’s suite of satellites that provide the data that specifically feed numerical weather prediction models.

- “NASA’s cutting-edge science helps us answer questions that nobody else can, especially when it comes to understanding hurricanes and their impacts before, during, and after they make landfall,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “As climate change intensifies and makes natural hazards like hurricanes more damaging, NASA is more committed than ever to innovative Earth science research. Our next-generation Earth System Observatory will build on NASA’s existing capabilities to provide an unprecedented understanding of the Earth from bedrock to atmosphere, so we are better prepared to protect our communities from hurricanes and other extreme weather events.”

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Figure 19: Hurricane Florence is pictured from the International Space Station as a category 1 storm as it was making landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, Sept. 14, 2018 (image credit: NASA)

- NASA's goal for disaster preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery is bridging the gap between data and the people who need it. Before, during, and after a hurricane or storm makes landfall, NASA satellites are in prime position to identify impacts.

- NASA works with local officials and first responders, federal agencies such as FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and infrastructure experts to determine what information they need and to supply it in usable formats in real time. Examples include information on infrastructure failures and disruptions, contaminated water supplies and other hotspots for urgent response needs.

- NASA welcomes media inquiries about its role in studying and understanding hurricanes. The following NASA scientists, who represent a cross-section of expertise in hurricane science and application, are available for media interviews as scheduling allows:

a) Mara Cordero-Fuentes, an atmospheric scientist/meteorologist, fluent in both English and Spanish, with published research in hurricane science, plus 10 years’ experience in data assimilation systems, tropical meteorology, climate interpretation, and weather forecasting.

b) Scott Braun, a research meteorologist who specializes in using computer modeling to recreate the components of hurricanes, including winds, rainfall, and in-cloud heating.

c) Dalia Kirschbaum, whose work focuses on rainfall-triggered landslide modeling, monitoring and mapping.

d) Will McCarty, a research meteorologist at NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office.

e) Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, ocean physicist and program manager of the physical oceanography program at NASA Headquarters, who can speak to sea level rise, ocean warming, and the interplay between the oceans and tropical storms.

f) Mayra Oyola-Merced, an expert in atmospheric physics, field research, numerical weather prediction, and operational forecasting.

g) Patrick Duran, who specializes in the synthesis of satellite observations with idealized modeling to explore the dynamics of tropical cyclone intensification.

h) Tim Hall, a senior researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, who specializes in tropical cyclones’ relationship to climate and the hazard they pose to coastal communities.

- To inquire about interview availability with one or more of these scientists, please contact Peter Jacobs at: peter.jacobs@nasa.gov.

• May 30, 2021: While orbiting over the Gulf of Mexico, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Isla del Carmen, a barrier island on the Yucatan Peninsula (Figure 20). The population boomed here in the 1970s with the discovery of oil in the shallow offshore waters. Today the Mexican city is a hub for fishing and petroleum industries. The island is connected to the mainland by the Zacatal Bridge, one of the longest in Central America. 18)

- Several rivers discharge freshwater and sediment into the lagoon, and inlets on either side of the island create a circulatory water exchange. In the photo, dark, sediment-laden water flows out of Laguna de Términos, while white streaks trace the wakes of ships moving through the plume. Water flows out of the lagoon via Carmen Inlet, and the sediment mixes and disperses in the blue waters of the Bay of Campeche.

- Laguna de Términos is the largest coastal lagoon in Mexico and likely along the entire Gulf Coast (including the United States). The area is home to a variety of protected flora and fauna, including bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and mangroves, which appear as dark green shoreline vegetation in the photo. The less populated, marshy mainland to the left side is a protected area for many coastal plant and bird species.

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Figure 20: Circulation patterns stir up abundant sediment around the largest coastal lagoon on the Gulf Coast. The astronaut photograph ISS064-E-7784 was acquired on November 29, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 800 mm. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sara Schmidt)

• May 25, 2021: This oblique photograph of Figure 21 captures an astronaut’s perspective of Thailand at night as viewed from the International Space Station. The prominent lights of Bangkok—Thailand’s capital and most populous city—are the focal point, with the lights of other cities lining the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. 19)

- The dark swath of land in the top left is the Malay Peninsula, which separates the Andaman Sea from the Gulf of Thailand. The darker, forested Tenasserim Hills stand out from the lighter-toned, lower coastal plains to the east.

- Bangkok is considered a primate city—where the population is at least double the size of the country’s second largest city. Bangkok’s population of more than 10 million is many times greater than Chon Buri (population 1.4 million), the next largest. City lights provide a visual indication of the high population density in and around the city center.

- Laem Chabang is visible along the eastern coast of the Bay of Bangkok. It is the country’s largest deep seaport and sees most of the international shipping reaching Thailand.

- The green dots sprinkled throughout the Gulf are fishing boats using lights to attract plankton and squid. Fishing is an important industry, as most of Thailand’s consumption of animal protein comes from seafood. Companies around the Gulf of Thailand are also among the largest foreign suppliers of fish to the United States.

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Figure 21: Thailand’s capital and most populous city lights up southeast Asia. The astronaut photograph ISS064-E-37842 was acquired on February 26, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 58 mm. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 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)

• May 18, 2021: Like an infant adjusting to the new world, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is relearning how to move around the weightless environment of space. His cradle is a familiar place though – this is Thomas’s second mission to the International Space Station, the orbiting lab where he where he broke records for science during his first six months in orbit. 20)

- In the same way one never forgets how to ride a bike, Thomas’s cognitive and muscle memory is helping him to adapt much faster this time. And he is already working on some of the 232 experiments he will support during his Alpha mission.

Dexterous science

- As babies on Earth, we learn to adjust our grip to the weight and gravitational force of an object. In microgravity, objects have no weight and the inner ear no longer tells us which way is up or down. In two familiar space experiments, Thomas has been reaching for virtual objects. The results will help researchers understand the importance of gravity compared to other senses.

- The GRIP experiment studies how long it takes for the nervous system to adjust to the absence of gravity. After setting the experiment up in Europe’s Columbus laboratory, Thomas completed his first science sessionholding an object equipped with sensors between his right thumb and index finger.

- He moved his arm between two targets with eyes open and shut, and did a series of taps both sitting and in supine postures. Without the signals of gravity to tell Thomas which direction was “up”, how will his brain and body adjust the grip force?

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Figure 22: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet configures equipment for an experiment called GRIP that studies astronauts' perception of mass and movement and how they interface with the human body and change in microgravity, Thomas recently shared this image on his social media channels saying: "An old friend of mine: the ESA GRIP experiment! On my first parabolic flight in 2010, we took part in a safety analysis of the hardware, then during my first flight in 2017 I performed the on-orbit commissioning. It has been going strong since with 6 subjects (including ESA astronauts @astro_alex_esa and @astro_luca), and I should be one of the last ones! It is complex, with lots of cables… always hard to manage when you’re free-floating. The experiment is under the responsibility of CADMOS, the French User Operations Centre based in Toulouse. They do an excellent job of sorting out the cables and telling us what goes where." (image credit: ESA/NASA - T. Pesquet)

Figure 23: Timelapse video made during ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s second mission to the International Space Station, “Alpha”. The camera is setup to take pictures at regular intervals, the pictures are then played quickly after each other at faster than normal speed. The video shows Thomas running a session on the Grasp (Gravitational References for Sensimotor Performance) experiment in the European Columbus laboratory. GRASP seeks to better understand how the central nervous system integrates information from different senses, such as sight, sound and touch, to coordinate hand movements and determine what role gravity plays (video credit: ESA/NASA)

- Whether gravity is the main driver for movement is also the focus of the GRASP experiment. In a seated posture and also while free floating, Thomas wore a virtual reality headset as he carried out a range of tasks. Researchers are curious to understand how the nervous system integrates information from different senses, such as sight and touch.

Muscle up

- Astronauts exercise two hours a day to compensate for the loss of bone and muscle mass from living in weightlessness. To help Thomas break the monotony of daily workout in NASA’s Destiny laboratory, the Immersive Exercise experiment uses virtual reality.

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Figure 24: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is here working out while his crew mate NASA astronaut, Shane Kimbrough, takes pictures of Earth. Thomas recently shared this image on his social media channels saying:"A typical view on the International Space Station's NASA Destiny laboratory. The legs sticking out are Shane's who was opening the shutters to admire the view after an exercise session. The window he is looking out looks straight down at Earth and when we fly over Europe it is often my legs sticking out :)" (image credit: JAXA/NASA–A. Hoshide)

- Thomas and his crewmate NASA astronaut Megan McArthur performed their first session of the Myotones experiment designed to monitor the tone, stiffness and elasticity of their muscles. A non-invasive, portable device delivers a short pressure pulse on Thomas’s back, shoulders, arms and legs – areas known to be affected by atrophy during extended periods of inactivity. The European astronaut will also take ultrasound and blood tests.

- They are two of the 12 astronauts to take part in this experiment that could improve the lives of many people affected by strained muscles with new strategies for rehabilitation treatments as well as people who have been inactive for long periods of time.

Time flies

- It feels like yesterday when ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst kicked off the Time experiment during his mission to the Space Station in 2018. This European research that looks into how perception of time seems to change for astronauts living in space, has now been completed.

- NASA’s Victor Glover and JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi were the last test subjects to have their reaction times recorded. They used virtual reality to gauge how long a visual target appeared on a screen and measure whether their perception of time speeds up when living in microgravity.

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Figure 25: Time keeping. This picture shows NASA astronaut Victor Glover as test subject for ESA’s Time experiment on 26 March 2021. This experiment uses virtual reality to chart whether our perception of time changes when living on the International Space Station. Since perceptions of time and space are believed to share the same neural processes, and research on depth perception in weightlessness has shown that astronauts often underestimate distance, scientists speculate that, for astronauts, time also flies in space. The Time experiment on the International Space Station investigates the claim that time subjectively speeds up in microgravity (image credit: NASA)

- Thomas is making time to bring some bonus science for the researchers of this experiment during his mission. He will conduct his first session this week.

- Thomas's stay in space coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Space Station’s largest scientific instrument. It has been a decade since the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) began looking for dark matter and antimatter, and measuring cosmic rays. These are high energy particles that travel through space at close to the speed of light.

- ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano took part in four spacewalks to repair the cosmic ray detector’s cooling system – a complex task that ensured the cosmic-particle-hunting continues to collect data and provide more groundbreaking science, 10 years and more than 175 billion cosmic rays later.

Feel the heat

- While astronauts slept, the Material Science Laboratory (MSL) kept the heat on for the CETSOL experiment. Europe’s space furnace heated up metals with temperatures as high as 880° C to study microstructures during the solidification of metallic alloys.

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Figure 26: The Columbus laboratory is Europe’s largest single contribution to the International Space Station. Permanently attached to the Harmony module, this pressurized laboratory allows researchers on the ground, aided by the Station’s crew, to conduct a wide variety of research in a weightless environment. Experiments in space science, Earth observation and technology can also be conducted outside the module, thanks to four exterior mounting platforms that are exposed to the vacuum of space. During his Alpha mission, Thomas will continue this research and experimentation on the ISS supported by his crewmates and ground teams from ESA, the US space agency NASA, Russian space agency Roscosmos, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japanese space agency JAXA. This enduring international partnership is a key feature of the Space Station as nations work across cultures and borders, performing science, research and engineering that has led to breakthroughs in disease research, materials science, Earth observation, our understanding of Earth’s origins and more. This work helps humankind explore even farther while enhancing life here on Earth – setting Europe in good stead for its journey forward, beyond low Earth orbit to the Moon (image credit: ESA/NASA)

- Most metals used today are mixtures of different metals, known as alloys. These alloys combine properties to make new materials and are found everywhere from your smartphone to aircraft.

- Scientists want to better understand the melting-solidification processes in alloys, and they took organic compounds to the Space Station as analogues for experimentation. The Transparent Alloys experiment, completed last week, observed their formation unaffected by convection.

• May 17, 2021: Ensuring that plants receive the nourishment they need through proper irrigation is an age-old challenge for farmers here on Earth. It is also a challenge in space. NASA is one step closer to determining the most effective way to provide adequate hydration and aeration for plants to grow in space after completing NASA Glenn’s Plant Water Management (PWM) project. 21)

- This project is part of ongoing NASA research to learn how to feed astronaut crews during long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars, as they spend weeks, months, and even years in space.

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Figure 27: Astronaut Mike Hopkins works with the PWM hydroponics test cell on the space station (image credit: NASA)

- “In the past, NASA has shown that plant growth in space is feasible as a food source,” said PWM Project Scientist Tyler Hatch. “From a gardening perspective, it’s possible.”

- In prior projects, researchers found that providing adequate hydration and aeration to the root zone of the plant in zero gravity is an issue. Roots grow differently in space compared to on Earth due to the difference in gravity.

- Hatch’s team worked with plant biologists at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to determine the needs of plants and issues that arise when attempting to grow vegetation on the International Space Station.

- Researchers concentrated on the delivery of water throughout the entire life cycle of the plant by looking at two main ways water can reach the plant’s root zone. The first focused on the traditional manner with the use of soil. The second method involved hydroponics. In this method, no soil is present, and the plant sits directly in water.

- The team developed artificial, or simulated, plants for use during the project. Using live plants would pose a challenge, mostly for shelf-life purposes. They used felt fabric, foam, and sponges to create simulated plants that mirrored the root system and evaporation rate of a live plant, among other physical characteristics. This way, the team did not have to match the biology of working with a real plant.

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Figure 28: The PWM Hydroponics Test Cell was used to help researchers determine the most effective way to provide adequate hydration and aeration for plants to grow in space (image credit: NASA)

- When running the experiment, fruit punch containing nutrients and sugar, helped simulate more Earth-like plant conditions. Additionally, the color of the juice could be easily seen during plant absorption.

- Data collection centered on visual aspects of the experiment, and how quickly the plants absorbed the fruit punch. Cameras captured video of the PWM (Plant Water Management) process on the space station, which was then relayed to Glenn researchers.

- The PWM project completed the first set of space station operations at the end of February and completed its final iteration in early April. The team gathered valuable data and hopes to run more tests in the future.

- “It was rewarding to work on an experiment that went into space and could impact food supplies for future astronauts,” said Hatch. “Running the experiment and obtaining the data within a year or two was an amazing opportunity.”

• May 16, 2021: In this photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS), white wakes mark the paths of ships passing under the Sunshine Skyway, a main thoroughfare between parts of Tampa Bay. Appearing as a large bite out of the western coastline, Tampa Bay is one of the defining features of the Florida coast when viewed from the ISS by day and by night. The different shades of color in and around the bay illustrate variations in water depth and the movement of suspended sediment. 22)

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Figure 29: The astronaut photograph ISS064-E-26355 was acquired on January 23, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 800 millimeter focal length. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Alex Stoken)

- Until 1954, travel between the various cities within the Tampa Bay area was primarily ferry-based. The original Sunshine Skyway Bridge, stretching between St. Petersburg and Palmetto, sought to connect the regions of the bay. For a time it was the longest pre-stressed bridge in the United States, according to the Tampa Bay Times. After a major ship-related accident in 1980, the bridge was dismantled and turned into piers that now appear like branches when viewed from above. The piers stand on the southwestern side of the new bridge, also named the Sunshine Skyway.

- In addition to the Skyway—the tallest manmade point in Tampa—smaller bridges have been built to connect other keys that lie around the mouth of Tampa Bay. The keys are small, sandy buildups on the surface coral reefs, and they have been joined by man-made islands and piers. Florida granted a multitude of dredge and fill permits in the mid-1900s, allowing developers to dig sand from the bay and use the material to augment and adapt the existing landscape. These developments have become densely populated neighborhoods between the undeveloped—and now often protected—natural keys.

• May 15, 2021: Looking down from space, the human presence is starkly apparent in the way we light our cities, transport our manufactured products, and grow our food. Even the way we play is visible from hundreds of miles above. 23)

- On May 1, 2021, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado. More than 100 trails sweep down the eastern side of Tenmile Range, a portion of the Southern Rocky Mountains located about 60 miles (100 km) west-southwest from Denver. Part of the Copper Mountain resort is also visible in the lower-left corner.

- Notice that even in May, the trails are still blanketed in white. This is typical for the Tenmile Range, which retains snow at higher elevations into the summer months. As of mid-May, the snow water equivalent—the depth of water in the snowpack if it were all melted—was very close to the 1981–2010 average in the Breckenridge and Copper Mountain areas. That’s not the case everywhere, however, and the state’s varied topography can lead to vastly different amounts of snow cover.

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Figure 30: More than 100 trails sweep down the side of Tenmile Range, a portion of the Southern Rocky Mountains located west-southwest from Denver. The astronaut photograph ISS065-E-13520 was acquired on May 1, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 65 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Kathryn Hansen)

- The Tenmile Range is named for the distance spanned by 10 of the range’s peaks, each about a mile apart and named in numerical order. The slopes of five of these peaks—Peak 6 through Peak 10—are within the Breckenridge resort. Peak 8 was the first to be developed and opened to skiers in December 1961. Peak 8 Ski Area, as it was named at the time, consisted of 1,764 acres, one chair lift, and fewer than 10 trails. Since then, Breckenridge Ski Resort has expanded to nearly 3,000 skiable acres, 34 chair lifts, and 191 trails.

- More than 500 of those acres opened to skiers and snowboarders for the 2013-2014 winter season following the development of Peak 6, visible in the detailed view above. The additional runs —not yet present when we last showed the area in 2008—are visible where they cut through the forest. At higher elevations, Peak 6 trails include the area’s first bowl-shaped terrain above the tree line rated for intermediate skiers.

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Figure 31: Detail image of the Breckenridge ski slopes (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

- The U.S. Forest Service had to deliberate carefully before deciding to approve projects on Peak 6. Land managers had to weigh public and economic benefits against potential effects that forest removal could have on lynx habitat, water resources, and overall forest health. Breckenridge is not alone, as many other ski resorts across Colorado currently look to expand.

• May 13, 2021: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet was launched to the International Space Station for his second mission, Alpha, on 23 April 2021. He will spend six months living and working on the orbital outpost where he will support more than 200 international experiments in space. 24)

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Figure 32: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet snapped this image of the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia during his second long-duration mission known as Alpha. He posted it on social media saying "So bright at night that it ended up overexposed, as I wanted to see the city lights too. Happy end of Ramadan!" (image credit: ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet)

• May 9, 2021: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Southern Alps. This mountain range forms the spine of New Zealand’s South Island, where plate tectonics and glaciers have dramatically shaped the land through earthquakes, mountain building, and erosion. 25)

- New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook, reaches 3,724 meters (12,218 feet) above sea level. South of Aoraki, puffy clouds fill a major valley. Rivers run through deep glacial valleys; their tan and gray colors are due to the load of sediment (including glacial flour) they carry down from the mountains.

- Along the west coast, wide river channels travel short distances from the Alps to the sea. On the east side, the rivers run through deep valleys and into a series of turquoise, parallel lakes that were originally carved out by large glaciers. Around 20,000 years ago, during the most recent glacial maximum, most of this area was covered by massive glaciers that later scraped and scoured the surface when they retreated.

- The Southern Alps create an orographic effect that separates New Zealand’s wettest and driest climates. The narrow strip of green, vegetated land along the coast receives the country’s highest annual rainfall due to westerlies that blow in from the Tasman Sea and drop their moisture as they run into the mountains. In contrast, New Zealand’s driest areas lie just southeast of the mountains, where the brightly colored lakes stand out against the dry, tan landscapes.

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Figure 33: Plate tectonics and glaciers dramatically shaped the landscape of the New Zealand island. The astronaut photograph ISS064-E-44615 was acquired on March 18, 2021, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 95 mm. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

• May 07, 2021: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet configures equipment for an experiment called GRIP (Dexterous Manipulation of Objects in Weightlessness) that studies astronauts' perception of mass and movement and how they interface with the human body and change in microgravity. 26)

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Figure 34: Thomas recently shared this image on his social media channels saying:"An old friend of mine: the ESA GRIP experiment! On my first parabolic flights in 2010, we took part in a safety analysis of the hardware, then during my first flight in 2017 I performed the on-orbit commissioning. It has been going strong since with 6 subjects (including ESA astronauts @astro_alex_esa and @astro_luca), and I should be one of the last ones! It is complex, with lots of cables ... always hard to manage when you’re free-floating. The experiment is under the responsibility of CADMOS, the French User Operations Centre based in Toulouse. They do an excellent job of sorting out the cables and telling us what goes where."

• May 06, 2021: One of the perks of being an astronaut living and working on the International Space Station is the chance to see up to 16 sunrises and sunsets every day. Astronauts occasionally photograph them from the Cupola (Figure 38), the window-filled lookout on the space station's Tranquility module. The dome-shaped structure allows astronauts to look sideways rather than just straight down and easily photograph the edge of the atmosphere and the horizon, which is sometimes called Earth’s limb. 27)

- From an average altitude of 400 km (250 miles) above the surface of Earth, the brilliant shades of orange and red along our planet’s curving limb are often stunning. They also showcase an area of considerable scientific interest.

- “During sunsets and sunrises, the Sun is close to the horizon, so light has to travel through the atmosphere before reaching the space station,” explained NASA atmospheric scientist Jean-Paul Vernier. “This gives gases and particles there opportunities to scatter light in certain parts of the spectrum.”

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Figure 35: Astronaut photos of sunrises and sunsets occasionally include stunning views of high-flying aerosol plumes. In this photograph, the presence of small airborne aerosol particles, such as sea salt and dust, has likely colored the air orange in the lower part of the atmosphere over the South Atlantic Ocean on February 12, 2020. Some of the small particles scatter shorter wavelengths (blue and green light) more than other wavelengths, enriching the dimmed light that remains with reds and oranges. Higher up, aerosols are rare and molecules of gas primarily scatter light, making that part of the atmosphere appear blue. The astronaut photograph ISS062-E-5419 was acquired on February 12, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 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, Story by Adam Voiland)

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Figure 36: Astronaut photographs can be especially useful for visualizing aerosols in the stratosphere, a layer of the atmosphere that begins roughly 7 km (4 miles) above the surface near the poles and 20 km above the surface closer to equator. “One of the key things about limb photographs like this is that they can tell us the vertical distribution of aerosol plumes,” said Vernier (image credit; NASA Earth Observatory)

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Figure 37: In between, a concentrated smoke layer sits between 23 and 30 km in the stratosphere. The smoke was lofted there by an unusually fierce outbreak of wildfires in Australia in 2019-2020. Several extreme fires built tall pyrocumulus clouds that lofted wildfire smoke higher than scientists have ever observed with satellites. The second image shows a closer view of the smoke plume. The image shows smoke from the same fires as observed by the CALIPSO satellite on January 23, 2020 (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

- In the stratosphere, aerosols from fires or volcanic eruptions can function like a shade, reflecting light and resulting in a cooling effect. Vernier is working with NASA’s Crew Earth Observations team, which trains astronauts and develops procedures on how to take photos, of such aerosol plumes so that both scientists and non-specialists can better visualize the role that stratospheric aerosols can have on climate. Their most recent target was the volcanic ash that reached the stratosphere after the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in April 2021.

- While cameras generate some of the most dramatic images from the space station, NASA scientists also have another sensor to study the atmosphere from that platform. The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III (SAGE-III) views Earth’s limb at sunrise and sunset and makes use of a technique called solar occultation to observe ozone, aerosols, and water vapor in the stratosphere. SAGE III was installed on the ISS in 2017, the latest in a line of four instruments flown on satellites since the late 1970s.

- “The stratosphere is quite different than the troposphere,” said Vernier. “And astronaut photographers and limb-viewing sensors are well positioned to see it.” One of the most obvious differences is temperature. Unlike in the troposphere, the stratosphere gets warmer with increasing height due to chemical reactions involving ozone. Temperatures in the lowest part of the stratosphere average about -55º Celsius (-67º Fahrenheit). At the top of the stratosphere, they increase to about -15 °C (5 °F).

- Another difference is clouds. While common in the turbulent, moist air of the troposphere clouds are mostly absent from the stratosphere’s dry air. The exceptions are spectacular, including the occasional overshooting tops of thunderstorms poking up from below or the emergence of wispy polar stratospheric clouds.

- “While sophisticated instruments exist to study the stratosphere, it is often a gray area for non-experts because of the lack of images that show this layer. Although many people have flown through the stratosphere in an airplane, they don’t have much of a sense of what it is like,” said Vernier. “By having astronauts take pictures of Earth’s horizon at sunset and sunrise, we hope to communicate stratospheric science more easily and demonstrate why instruments that study this layer, such as SAGE III, are so important.”

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Figure 38: Cupola photo of Samantha Cristoforetti. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti on the International Space Station 3 February 2015 during her Futura mission (image credit: ESA/NASA)

• May 02, 2021: From low-Earth orbit, an astronaut looked south from the International Space Station (ISS) and shot this photograph of coastal Ghana. The image shows the Volta River Delta, with a smooth sandbar closing off Keta Lagoon from the Gulf of Guinea. Distributary channels of the delta show that the Volta River used to flow into the lagoon. 28)

- Keta Lagoon is one of approximately 90 lagoons along Ghana’s coast, and it supports subsistence and commercial fisheries for local communities. The country’s tropical climate also supports mangrove forests.

- Vast river systems—including the Volta—flow down from highlands in Burkina Faso, south across Ghana, and into the Gulf of Guinea. These rivers support the farms that sustain the country’s economy, producing crops such as yams, grains, cocoa, and oil palms.

- As climate change contributes to sea level rise, coastal flooding and erosion pose an imminent threat to Ghana’s coastal communities. Along a narrow strip of land between the lagoon and the gulf, the fishing village of Fuvemeh has been essentially swallowed by the sea, displacing its inhabitants. The shoreline here has been eroding at rates up to 2 meters per year, a dangerously rapid rate for coastal communities.

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Figure 39: The astronaut photograph ISS064-E-15818 was acquired on December 26, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 340 mm. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Amber Turner)

• April 26, 2021: Thomas Pesquet was launched to the International Space Station for his second mission, Alpha, on 23 April 2021. He will spend six months living and working on the orbital outpost where he will support more than 200 international experiments in space. 29)

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Figure 40: JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi snapped this image of the full ISS crew after the arrival of Thomas Pesquet and his Crew-2. Thomas shared this image on his social media platforms saying: "It is good to be back! We just called our friends and families to reassure them we arrived in good health, the smiles on our faces (no masks up here!) speak volumes. It is a great feeling to be weightless again in the Space Station. It feels familiar in a way, but also very special. The space is less tidy than last time, but this is simply because there is more equipment We now have a few hours to install our sleeping bags, toiletries, sport gear and so on, afterwards ... to work!" (image credit: JAXA/NASA–S Noguchi)

• April 20, 2021: This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first European mission to the International Space Station (ISS). 30) 31)

Figure 41: On 19 April 2001, Italian ESA Astronaut, Umberto Guidoni launched to the ISS on space shuttle Endeavour for a mission that included installing the Canadarm2 robotic arm and transferring scientific equipment and experiments (video credit: ESA)

- Since then, there have been a further 26 European missions to the ISS and three ESA astronauts have served as commander. ESA astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Matthias Maurer will both launch to the ISS this year.

- The ISS has hosted more than 3000 scientific experiments and is providing vital insights on the effects of long duration spaceflight for future human missions to the Moon and Mars.

- A-roll includes newly-digitized archive of Umberto’s flight and new interviews with astronaut and head of the European Astronaut Centre, Frank De Winne (via zoom), and Nicole Buckley, SciSpace Team leader, ESA (in-person filming at ESTEC).

- B-roll includes additional soundbites (also in French and Dutch), further archive and new footage of ESA astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Matthias Maurer during training for their forthcoming missions.

- Umberto Guidoni went on to become a member of the European Parliament after his historic flight.

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Figure 42: Umberto flew to the Space Station on the US Space Shuttle STS-100 mission that was launched on 19 April 2001. This picture shows him in the Russian Zvezda Service Module after opening the hatch on 23 April between the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station. The 11-day STS-100 mission was the 9th Shuttle visit to the International Space Station and included two spacewalks (image credit: NASA)

• April 18, 2021: A cosmonaut aboard the International Space Station focused a camera on the Russian city of Orenburg, located near the border with Kazakhstan. Orenburg lies at the southern tip of the Ural Mountains, which geographers regard as the divide between Europe and Asia. Because of this location, Orenburg became a railroad transportation hub. 32)

- Taken in the depth of winter, this photograph shows the city under complete snow cover. Snow typically persists well into mid-March, when even the daily high temperatures remain below freezing. A power station at the northern end of the city produces a long cloud of steam that trails to the east and casts a large, elongated shadow.

- The snow helps highlight the radial or star pattern of major roads that spread out from the old city center near the Ural River. The powerful magnification of the 1000-millimeter camera lens allows major buildings to be discerned, such as the cathedral and railway station near the city center. Large apartment blocks are accentuated by the long shadows that the buildings cast across the snow.

- Areas that appear dark are mostly forests where tall trees obscure the snow below. The largest forested areas lie on the floodplains along the two major rivers in the region, the Ural and Sakmara. Major parks and cemeteries with thicker tree cover also appear as if they are snow-free.

- One of the classic forested shelterbelts of the Russian plains is visible at the top. These rows of trees and shrubs are designed to reduce wind speed, both to protect crops and, after harvest, to slow soil erosion. A space station crew member shot a closer view of Russian shelterbelts in 2017.

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Figure 43: This astronaut photograph ISS064-E-35934 was acquired on February 20, 2021, with a Nikon D850 digital camera using a 1000 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 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)

• April 17, 2021: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, returned to Earth on Saturday, following six months living and working aboard the International Space Station. 33)

- The crew departed the station in their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft at 9:34 p.m. EDT Friday (16 April) and landed safely under parachutes at 12:55 a.m. (10:55 a.m. Kazakhstan time) Saturday southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. It was the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov.

- Rubins will return to her home in Houston, and Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will return to their homes and training base in Star City, Russia.

- During their mission, Rubins and her crewmates welcomed NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts aboard the first long-duration commercial crew spaceflight. Rubins completed two spacewalks alongside NASA astronaut Victor Glover and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, bringing her career total to four spacewalks. She returns to Earth with a total of 300 days across her two flights, the fourth most days in space by a U.S. female astronaut.

- Rubins spent hundreds of hours working on new space station experiments, building on investigations she conducted during her first mission, including heart research and multiple microbiology studies. She advanced her work in DNA sequencing, which could allow astronauts to diagnose an illness in space or identify microbes growing at the space station. Rubins collected hundreds of microbial samples at different locations within the space station for the 3DMM study to construct a 3D map of bacteria and bacterial products throughout the station. By advancing understanding of the orbiting laboratory’s microbiome, this work helps identify potential risks and supports developing countermeasures to mitigate those risks.

- Rubins also worked on the Cardinal Heart experiment, which studies how changes in gravity affect cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue levels. Results could provide new understanding of heart problems on Earth, help identify new treatments, and support development of screening measures to predict cardiovascular risk prior to spaceflight.

- Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov’s mission began Oct. 14, 2020, when their spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Their spacecraft docked to the Earth-facing port of the Rassvet module after a two-orbit, three-hour flight.

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Figure 44: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is helped out of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft just minutes after she, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov, landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov returned after 185 days in space having served as Expedition 63-64 crew members aboard the International Space Station (image credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

- On March 19, the trio donned their spacesuits and boarded the Soyuz MS-17 for a port relocation maneuver, moving the spacecraft from the Rassvet module to the space-facing port of the Poisk module. The relocation allowed the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft and its crew to dock to the Rassvet module upon their arrival on April 9.

- When Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov departed the station, Expedition 65 officially began with NASA astronaut Shannon Walker serving as station commander, marking the first time that a Houston native has done so. Walker will lead the crew until the departure of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience on Wednesday, April 28, when command of the station will be handed over to JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.

- On Thursday, April 22, the Expedition 65 crew will grow to 11 with the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2, composed of NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and JAXA’s Hoshide. Crew-2 will be the second long-duration mission to fly as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, continuing to provide the capability of regularly launching humans from American soil.

- In November 2020, the International Space Station surpassed a 20-year milestone of continuous human presence, providing opportunities for unique technological demonstrations and research that help prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars while also improving life on Earth. To date, 243 people from 19 countries have visited the orbiting laboratory that has hosted nearly 3,000 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.

• April 15, 2021: The International Space Station has been orbiting Earth for over two decades, and the first European astronaut to arrive was Umberto Guidoni on 21 April 2001. Time is one of the Space Station’s main assets for running experiments in micro-gravity, as it is the only laboratory that can offer long-term exposure to a weightless world. But how do astronauts themselves perceive time when in space, and could this influence their operational ability when docking spacecraft or controlling robotic arms far from home? 34)

- Since perceptions of time and space are believed to share the same neural processes, and research on depth perception in weightlessness has shown that astronauts often underestimate distance, scientists speculate that, for astronauts, time also flies in space.

- The Time experiment on the International Space Station investigates the claim that time subjectively speeds up in microgravity.

- Astronauts gauge how long a visual target appears on a laptop screen and their reaction times to these prompts are recorded to measure speed of response and any changes over time.

- Scientists are collecting more than just data on the neurological mechanisms at work here. The relativity of time, after all, implies that it is all in your head. As much as we can objectively measure and plot time, how individual humans perceive it is not just neurological but also psychological.

- Time flies, and flying at 28,800 km/h time actually slows down according the theory of relativity. This month is a bumper month of celebrations for ESA and international spaceflight as we celebrate 20 years of Europeans on the International Space Station, 60 years since the first human Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth and the launch of ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet to the International Space Station on a Crew Dragon on 22 April. Thomas will be the first ESA astronaut to fly to space on a different vehicle than the US Space Shuttle or Russian Soyuz.

- Thomas set-up the Time experiment during his first mission, Proxima, in 2017. He will now return to the outpost on his Alpha mission and will be the one of the last astronauts to be part of the Time experiment as a test subject. Since Umberto Guidoni arrived on the Space Station all those years ago, 16 ESA astronauts have visited the Station. ESA’s 2009 recruits have cumulatively spent over 7 years in orbit, conducting over 227 experiments in the Europe’s Columbus laboratory module alone. But who is keeping time?

- If you would like to follow in the footsteps of these space explorers and float around the Space Station, now is the time as ESA is recruiting new astronauts. Find your way to space here: www.esa.int/yourwaytospace. The application process closes 28 May 2021.

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Figure 45: This picture shows NASA astronaut Victor Glover as test subject for ESA’s Time experiment on 26 March 2021. This experiment uses virtual reality to chart whether our perception of time changes when living on the International Space Station (image credit: NASA)

• April 11, 2021: While passing over California’s Central Valley, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station looked east and shot this photograph of Lake Tahoe, Walker Lake, and Mono Lake. December snow cover accents the climatic transition between the colder, higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada and the warmer, lower valleys of the adjacent Great Basin desert. 35)

- Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, straddles the state line between California and Nevada. Tahoe is 501 meters (1,645 feet) deep, making it the second deepest lake in the United States (after Crater Lake in Oregon). This area, while popular year-round, is a major tourist attraction during the winter because the surrounding mountains make for great skiing and snow sports.

- Located on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. Mono Lake is an endorheic basin; it has no outflow, so evaporation is the only natural way water leaves the system. Farther into the Great Basin lies Walker Lake. Fed by the Walker River to the north and by groundwater flow, Walker Lake also has no natural outlet. With no outflow, the lakes are rich in dissolved salts, which leads to high pH and high salinity that can fluctuate depending on their respective water inflows. Some of the historical water levels of Mono Lake are marked by lighter “bathtub rings” around the shoreline that indicate where the lake surface once stood. Past shorelines are similarly visible around Walker Lake.

- Perhaps most interesting about this photo is that all three lakes are different colors. This can be partially attributed to varying water depths, but Mono Lake is unique. Because of high salinity levels and a dearth of fish, brine shrimp call this lake home while feasting on algae. When the populations of shrimp are low, the algae can thrive and turn the lake green.

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Figure 46: An astronaut captured this view of three basins—Tahoe, Walker, and Mono—straddling two different climates. This photograph ISS064-E-9397 was acquired on December 3, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 78 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 64 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)

• April 9, 2021: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and two Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station Friday, bringing its number of residents to 10 for the coming week. 36)

- The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft carrying Vande Hei and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, docked to the station’s Rassvet module at 7:05 a.m. EDT. Docking occurred two orbits and about three hours after a 3:42 a.m. launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

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Figure 47: The Soyuz MS-18 crew ship is pictured on final approach to its docking port on the space station’s Rassvet module (image credit: NASA TV) 37)

- Vande Hei, Novitskiy, and Dubrov will join the Expedition 64 crew when hatches open about 9 a.m. Expedition 65, with NASA astronaut Shannon Walker as commander, will begin Friday, April 16, upon the departure of NASA’s Kate Rubins, Roscosmos’ Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, and departing station commander Sergey Ryzhikov. The trio will land in Kazakhstan following a six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory.

- The change of command ceremony with all crew members is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. Thursday, April 15, and will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

- This marks the second spaceflight for Vande Hei, the third for Novitskiy, and the first for Dubrov. During a six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, the trio will work on science and research in technology development, Earth science, biology, human research, and more.

- During Expedition 65, the arrival of Crew-2 aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon will bring four more members to the International Space Station. Crew-2 is currently scheduled for launch on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22. Crew-1, the first long-duration commercial crew mission, will return to Earth on April 28.

- In November 2020, the International Space Station surpassed its 20-year milestone of continuous human presence, providing opportunities for unique technological demonstrations and research that help prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars while also improving life on Earth. To date, 243 people from 19 countries have visited the orbiting laboratory that has hosted nearly 3,000 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.

• April 7, 2021: Tech on Deck: Robotic External leak Locator and Robotic Tool Stowage. Part of living in space means making sure your habitat isn’t leaking any critical resources, like the ammonia that helps keep the International Space Station's cooling system working properly. In this week’s episode of Tech on Deck, learn about the Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL) tools used by the space station to detect and confirm repairs for external leaks, and the housing unit called Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS), that allows them to be stored outside station and more easily deployed. 38)

Figure 48: Just like a ship, the International Space Station is carrying precious lives and cargo through an unforgiving environment—and its operators want to make sure that its critical resources, like the ammonia that helps keep the station’s cooling system working properly, do not escape into space. - The Station has two remote-controlled tools, RELL (Robotic External Leak Locators) units, that can help detect the location of an external leak and quickly confirm a successful repair. To allow mission operators to more easily deploy these important tools using Station’s Dextre robot, the RELLs recently received a new home on the outside of Station—a protective housing unit called RiTS (Robotic Tool Stowage), video credit: NASA's Exploration and In-space Services) 39)

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Figure 49: The Robotic External Leak Locator on the end of the Dextre robot in February 2017 (image credit: NASA TV)

• April 5, 2021: A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft moved from one docking port to another on the International Space Station April 5, marking the start of a busy month spacecraft arrivals and departures on the station. 40)

- The Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience undocked from the forward port on the station’s Harmony module at 6:30 a.m. Eastern. The spacecraft, with four astronauts on board, moved out 60 meters from the station, then shifted into position to dock with the module’s zenith port. The Crew Dragon docked with that new port at 7:08 a.m. Eastern.

- The port-relocation maneuver, the first done by a commercial crew vehicle at the station, is part of a complex choreography of vehicle activity at the station. This maneuver will allow the next Crew Dragon spacecraft to dock to the forward port when it arrives at the station later this month on the Crew-2 mission.

- This, in turn, will free up the zenith port after Resilience returns to Earth in late April for the next cargo Dragon mission, scheduled for June. The cargo Dragon spacecraft needs to dock with the zenith port so that the station’s robotic arm can retrieve equipment stowed in the spacecraft’s trunk section, which is not accessible if the cargo Dragon docks with the forward port.

- While the port-relocation maneuver is brief, it is complex. “It is a pretty amazing thing to do a flyaround,” said Kate Rubins, a NASA astronaut on the ISS who participated in a similar maneuver involving the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, which moved from a docking port on the Rassvet module to one on the Poisk module March 19. That maneuver will free up the Poisk module’s airlock after Soyuz MS-17 returns to Earth for later spacewalks from the station’s Russian segment.

- “It’s all of the fun and the work of undock day, plus all of the fun and the work of docking day,” she said during an April 2 appearance on NASA TV. “It’s a lot of activity, but it’s pretty cool.”

- That appearance was an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the commercial crew program at NASA, although work on commercial crew at the agency started well before the program formally started in 2011. The Crew Dragon at the station is flying the first operational commercial crew mission, Crew-1, which launched in November.

- Among other benefits, the program now allows the station to have seven people on the station at a time, which includes four NASA astronauts and a fifth from the Japanese space agency JAXA. “It’s been really enabling for the station and what we can do up here,” said Mike Hopkins, commander of Crew-1, during that NASA TV event.

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Figure 50: The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience approaches the ISS to dock during a port-relocation maneuver on 5 April (image credit: NASA TV)

- Rubins noted the advantage of the additional crew during a recent series of spacewalks. “We were able to have four people really fully focus on EVAs and Shannon [Walker] was able to keep all of the station things running that we normally have to stop when we get into EVA season,” she said, such as science experiments.

- The relocation of the Dragon kicks off a busy month of station activities that will result in a complete change of the station’s crew by the end of the month. On April 9, the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft will launch to the station, carrying Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vander Hei. On April 17, Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will return to Earth on Soyuz MS-17.

- The Crew-2 mission is scheduled to launch April 22 on the Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour, the same capsule that flew the Demo-2 mission last summer. It will bring to the station NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide to the station, docking about a day after launch.

- The Crew-1 mission will end April 28 with a splashdown off the coast of Florida, returning to Earth Hopkins, Walker, NASA astronaut Victor Glover and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi. That capsule will be refurbished for a SpaceX commercial flight, the Inspiration4 mission, scheduled for no earlier than mid-September.

- When the other commercial crew vehicle, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, will next fly is uncertain. That spacecraft was to make a second uncrewed test flight early this month, but NASA postponed it because of delays in vehicle preparations. A crowded schedule of ISS activities, as well as another Atlas 5 launch scheduled for mid-May, has pushed back that mission likely to some time this summer, after the next cargo Dragon mission.

- That would, in turn, delay a crewed flight test of the Starliner with three NASA astronauts that had been scheduled for September. At the April 2 NASA TV event, Steve Stich, NASA commercial crew program manager, noted NASA was still planning four flights in the program this year, which would include SpaceX’s Crew-2 and Crew-3 missions as well as the two Starliner test flights.

• April 4, 2021: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of a pair of volcanic peaks—one active and one extinct. The active Colima and extinct Nevado de Colima are both andesitic stratovolcanoes in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, a large volcanic arc that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. The Colima Volcano Complex rises above the Mexican states of Jalisco and Colima. 41)

- Recent lava flows appear as long, gray ribbons down the flanks of Colima, settling alongside some pyroclastic flows, lahars, and lava domes that have characterized the volcano’s geologic history. It is one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico, with its most recent eruption coming in 2019.

- Such activity has earned the 3,820 meter (12,533 foot) peak the local nickname “Volcán Fuego,” which translates to “fire volcano.” The ongoing activity means the appearance of the volcano is ever changing. A lava dome which stood out in a 2011 satellite image of the area has since been paved over by more recent eruptions. The pyroclastic flow highlighted in the ISS photo comes from a 2015 eruption that was the largest at Colima since 1913.

- Just to the north, Nevado de Colima is known more for its height than its volcanic history, rising 4,271 meters (14,015 feet) into the sky. Nevado is inactive so vegetation has had ample time to grow undisturbed on its slopes. Despite being one of the highest peaks in Mexico and having a name that generally translates to “Snowy Colima,” Nevado de Colima sometimes lacks snow cover during the dry season (December through May).

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Figure 51: Astronaut photograph ISS064-E-16968 was acquired on December 30, 2020, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 600 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 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Alex Stoken)

• March 28, 2021: Looking down from the International Space Station (ISS), an astronaut captured this view of the northwest coastline of Saudi Arabia, where up to 260 coral reef species thrive. The salty, warm waters off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula create an optimal environment for coral reefs to grow, mainly in shallow lagoons where the shoreline meets the Red Sea. The water transitions from bright turquoise in the lagoons to deep blue as depth increases. 42)

- Fringing reefs, which start at the shore and grow toward the sea, line the northwestern Saudi Arabian coastline. Coral reef biodiversity increases to the south, where patch and barrier reefs combine with fringing reefs to form rich ecosystems. Coral reefs are known as “rainforests of the sea” for their biodiversity and their functionality in nature—providing a food source for other sea life and humans, while also protecting shorelines.

- With the human population growing on the arid Arabian Peninsula, there is increasing demand for a freshwater supply. That demand is often met by the use of desalination plants. Currently, the country is home to the world’s largest desalination plants, which produce freshwater and brine, a salty wastewater byproduct. Some brine flows back into the Red Sea and can decrease the dissolved oxygen in aquatic ecosystems. This is known as hypoxia, and it can pose a serious threat to coral reef ecosystems and biodiversity in the Red Sea.

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Figure 52: The astronaut photograph ISS064-E-6296 was acquired on November 26, 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 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Amber Turner)

• March 21, 2021: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photo of the Texas Gulf Coast. The field of view is about the same as what astronauts see with their unaided eyes from station windows. The photo centers on Houston, home to NASA Johnson Space Center, where astronauts live and train. They get part of their education from the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, which works with them to achieve the diverse science objectives of astronaut photography of Earth. 43)

- Lining the Texas coast are long, narrow barrier islands that create protective bays between the Gulf of Mexico and the mainland. The Gulf Coast region is a center for offshore oil and gas drilling and associated infrastructure. Channels between the barrier islands allow ships to bring crude petroleum products to ports and refineries along the bays—especially Corpus Christi, Houston, and Beaumont.

- East of Houston, pine forests and swamps dominate the coastal landscape. Several artificial reservoirs have been constructed to impound rivers flowing toward the coast. The greater Houston area depends on nearby reservoirs such as Lake Livingston for its water supply. Although groundwater exists in aquifers beneath Houston, limits on groundwater extraction have been put in place to reduce land subsidence in the region.

- West and northwest of Houston, the cities of San Antonio and Austin border a central Texas geographic region called the Edwards Plateau. The region marks changes in topography, geology, ecology, and climate from flat and humid coastal wetlands to rocky hills with woodlands (dark green in the image). The area is known regionally as the Texas Hill Country.

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Figure 53: The astronaut photograph ISS064-E-15994 was acquired on December 25, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 24 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 64 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

Minimize ISS: Sample Imagery continued

• March 19, 2021: The Expedition 64 crew members who arrived to the International Space Station Oct. 14, 2020, have successfully relocated their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA and Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, undocked from the Earth-facing port of the station’s Rassvet module at 12:38 p.m. EDT, and Ryzhikov successfully piloted the spacecraft and docked again at the space-facing Poisk port at 1:12 p.m. 44)

- The relocation opens the Rassvet port for the arrival April 9 of another Soyuz, designated Soyuz MS-18, which will carry NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos’ Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov to join the space station crew after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

- Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov will conclude their six-month science mission aboard the station and return to Earth April 17 in the Soyuz MS-17.

- This was the 19th overall Soyuz port relocation and the first since August 2019.

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Figure 54: The Soyuz MS-17 crew ship, with three Expedition 64 crew members inside, is pictured after undocking from the Rassvet module beginning its short trip to the Poisk module (image credit: NASA TV)

• March 16, 2021: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will serve as commander of the International Space Station towards the end of his second mission, called Alpha, currently slated to begin on 22 April this year. The announcement was made during today’s press briefing. 45)

- Thomas will be the fourth European to hold the post of commander, after ESA astronauts Frank De Winne, Alexander Gerst and Luca Parmitano. During the briefing, Thomas remarked how three back-to-back European commanders underscores the growing role of Europe in space exploration and is a testament to the hard work of ESA colleagues.

- ‘I am unbelievably humbled and honored’, said Thomas.

- During his six-month Alpha mission, Thomas will continue the program of research that often spans multiple missions and a wide range of scientific disciplines spanning materials science and radiation to educational activities.

- The end of Thomas six-month stay on board will overlap with the start of German ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer’s first mission to the Space Station, called Cosmic Kiss, which will be followed by Samantha Cristoforetti’s second tenure in space, marking three back-to-back missions for ESA astronauts.

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Figure 55: Thomas will be the first ESA astronaut to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon launching on a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida, USA. He will accompany NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide (image credit: NASA–Bill Stafford)

• March 16, 2021: In between ongoing investigations to further our understanding of how spaceflight impacts the human body, the Expedition 64 crew devoted time to brushing up on procedures to relocate the Soyuz MS-17 to another port on the International Space Station — a reconfiguration maneuver that hasn’t been done since August 2019. 46)

- Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of Roscosmos, as well as NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, reviewed the timeline and operations plan to accomplish the port relocation, which will free up the Rassvet port for the docking of Soyuz MS-18. That vehicle will carry three Expedition 65 crew members to the orbiting laboratory after launch April 9 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan: NASA’s Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos’ Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov.

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Figure 56: The Soyuz MS-17 crew ship that carried the Expedition 64 crew to the International Space Station on Oct. 14, 2020, is pictured Oct. 18, 2020, docked to the Rassvet module (image credit: NASA)

- Later, Rubins joined fellow NASA astronaut Victor Glover in the Kibo laboratory module to field questions from students during a Senate Youth Forum event involving multiple members of Congress, allowing participants a glimpse of some of the cutting-edge research being performed around the clock in space.

- Glover also teamed up with crewmates Michael Hopkins and Shannon Walker to work with Myotones, a study that observes how long-term exposure to a spaceflight environment influences the biochemical properties of muscles — qualities like muscle tone, stiffness, and elasticity.

- Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), meanwhile, worked to unfreeze samples as part of the Ribosome Profiling investigation. This experiment uses a state-of-the-art technique to decode gravity’s role in gene expression, and will one day help scientists understand how space impacts age-related changes in astronauts.

• March 15, 2021: Ol Doinyo Lengai—known to the local Maasai people as the “Mountain of God”—is a stratovolcano in Tanzania with unique geological characteristics. This photograph, taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS), captures the symmetric volcano as well as canyons and lava flows formed by previous volcanic activity. 47)

- The summit of Ol Doinyo Lengai is topped by a light-colored ash cone and crater, the site of the most recent eruptive activity. It also has developed numerous side vents that surround its cone. Active and ephemeral stream channels cut through the volcano’s flanks, with the majority feeding into Lake Natron (just out of frame to the north).

- Like many volcanoes in the area, this cone formed in response to the development of the East African Rift system and has been intermittently active for the past 15,000 years. This region of Africa has been tectonically active for more than 25 million years, resulting in highly variable topography compared to much of the continent. This divergent plate boundary caused the building of the two highest peaks in Africa—Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya—which are located near Ol Doinyo Lengai to the east and north.

- Ol Doinyo Lengai is the only active volcano known to emit natrocarbonatites, a rare type of volcanic rock that is rich in sodium, potassium, and calcium carbonate, but low in silica. Lava with less silica has a lower viscosity, leading Ol Doinyo Lengai to have some of the fastest flowing lava in the world. In this photo, the volcano has several light-colored lava flows on its flanks. Initially dark lavas can lighten rapidly due to chemical reactions with rainwater and moisture in the air.

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Figure 57: This astronaut photograph ISS063-E-104178 was acquired on October 6, 2020, with a Nikon D5 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 63 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sara Schmidt)

• March 13, 2021: NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins concluded their spacewalk at 3:01 p.m. EST, after 6 hours and 47 minutes. In the fifth spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two astronauts successfully completed tasks to service the station’s cooling system and communications gear. 48)

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Figure 58: NASA astronauts (from left) Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins conducted their third spacewalk together on Saturday morning (image credit: NASA)

- The duo began their work on the station’s port truss, or “backbone,” completing tasks that were deferred from previous spacewalks. The spacewalkers successfully vented the early ammonia system, relocated one of its jumper lines, and serviced the Columbus Bartolomeo payload platform, including routing three of four cables on the Payload Position (PAPOS) interface and configuring a cable for an amateur radio system. The astronauts deferred the task of installing clamps on Bartolomeo in order to route cables for high-definition cameras. The pair also replaced a wireless antenna assembly on the Unity module and installed hardware to provide additional structural integrity on the airlock.

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Figure 59: In this image provided by NASA shows NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins on a spacewalk outside the ISS on Saturday, March 13, 2021. The astronauts are rearranging space station plumbing and tackling other odd jobs. The work should have been completed a week ago, but power upgrades took longer than expected (image credit: NASA)

- This was the fourth career spacewalk for Glover and the fifth in Hopkins’s career. Glover has now spent a total of 26 hours and 7 minutes spacewalking. Hopkins now has spent a total of 32 hours and 1 minute spacewalking.

- Space station crew members have conducted 237 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 62 days, 3 hours and 54 minutes working outside the station.

• March 7, 2021: Astronaut Andrew Morgan shot this wide-angle photograph from the central Cupola window of the International Space Station (ISS) in August 2019. The Soyuz capsule and the Canadarm2 frame this image of the southeastern Mediterranean coastline. The 16 mm fisheye lens, though infrequently used, allows for a unique view encompassing landscapes from two continents—the Nile Delta in Africa and the Sinai Peninsula and the Levant in southwest Asia. 49)

- The Nile Delta formed where the lower Nile flows north into the Mediterranean Sea. This fertile, vegetated region makes a sharp contrast with the surrounding desert; it has been the center of agriculture in the region for thousands of years. East of the delta, the Sinai Peninsula acts as a land bridge between the African and Asian continents. South of the Sinai, the Red Sea separates the Arabian Peninsula from Egypt.

- The Levant derives it name from Italian and French references to the Sun rising in the east. The region including present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine. Straddling the border of Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank, the Dead Sea is visible beneath a small patch of clouds. The Dead Sea has the lowest land elevation on Earth (430 meters/1,412 feet below sea level) and is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world.

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Figure 60: Astronaut Andrew Morgan used a fisheye lens to capture the intersection of two continents. The astronaut photograph ISS060-E-37265 was acquired on August 18, 2019, 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 60 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)

• March 6, 2021: The International Space Station (ISS) is constantly in motion. The football pitch-sized object cruises at about 29,000 kilometers (18,000 miles) per hour—so fast that it orbits Earth every 90 minutes. 50)

- For astronaut photographers on board, that motion has consequences. For one, it makes it challenging to take photos. Even with digital cameras that take pictures within 1/1000th of a second, the Space Station moves so quickly that images can easily lose focus or become distorted.

- However, the same motion makes it possible to shoot spectacular photos like the one above. The image is compiled from a series of photographs taken by NASA astronaut Don Pettit while he was onboard the ISS in April 2012. This composite was made from more than 72 individual long-exposure photographs taken over several minutes as the ISS traveled over the Caribbean Sea, across South America, and over the South Atlantic Ocean.

- As Pettit explained in a blog post, long-exposure pictures from the Station show star trails as circular arcs, with the center of rotation being the poles of the station. Stars close to the center of rotation make the tight circles near the middle of the image, while stars farther from it make the larger arcs visible along the edges.

- “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes,” Pettit wrote. “However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures, I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then stack them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”

- The image includes many natural and artificial lights that astronauts see while passing over the night side of Earth. On the ground, stationary features like cities appear as pale yellow-white streaks. The thinner, dotted lines with orange hues are likely caused by small fires burning in South America.

- Looking toward the horizon, thunderstorms dot the landscape. Many of the compiled frames captured bright white lightning flashes. Above the horizon, a faint green-yellow phenomenon called airglow hugs the upper atmosphere. Look carefully at the large version of this image for at least one streak of light that is not aligned with all the others. That is satellite.

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Figure 61: A compilation of dozens of long-exposure photographs taken from space turns stars into stunning rings and city lights and fires into colorful streaks. The astronaut photographs ISS030-E-271644 – ISS030-E-271714 were acquired on April 23, 2012, 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 30 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Adam Voiland)

• March 5, 2021: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi have begun their spacewalk outside the International Space Station to complete the installation of modification kits in preparation for upcoming solar array upgrades. 51)

- The spacewalkers switched their spacesuits to battery power at 6:37 a.m. EST to begin the spacewalk, which is expected to last about six and a half hours.

- Rubins is extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing a spacesuit bearing red stripes and using helmet camera #22. Noguchi is extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the spacesuit without stripes and helmet camera #20.

- Rubins and Noguchi will traverse out the station’s backbone truss structure to the far left (port) side set of solar arrays, the first pair of solar arrays deployed in December 2000. The spacewalkers will work together to complete the installation and configuration of modification kits on solar arrays 4B and 2B, which will enable new solar arrays to be installed to augment the space station’s power supply. Rubins and fellow NASA astronaut Victor Glover began installing the modification kits during the Feb. 28 spacewalk.

- Following the solar array modification kit configuration, Rubins will conduct cable routing for the Bartolomeo platform Parking Position Interface (PAPOS) on the Columbus module, Noguchi will replace a Wireless Video System External Transceivers Assembly (WETA), and the pair will perform other get-ahead work as time permits.

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Figure 62: From left: Astronauts Soichi Noguchi and Kate Rubins work to install a solar array modification kit during the fourth spacewalk of 2021 (image credit: NASA)

- NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi concluded their spacewalk at 1:33 p.m. EST, after 6 hours and 56 minutes. In the fourth spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two astronauts successfully completed the installation of modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades. 52)

- Due to time constraints, the secondary tasks of troubleshooting the Columbus Parking Position (PAPOS) Interface and removing and replacing a Wireless Video System External Transceivers Assembly (WETA) were deferred to a later spacewalk. The astronauts did, however, complete an additional task of relocating an Articulating Portable Foot Restraint (APFR).

- NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays, which will be delivered on SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission. The new solar arrays, a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts and ensuring sufficient power supply for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond. The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life.

- This was the fourth career spacewalk for both Rubins and Noguchi. Rubins has now spent a total of 26 hours and 46 minutes spacewalking. Noguchi now has spent a total of 27 hours and 1 minute spacewalking.

• March 4, 2021: Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot these photographs of the Himalayas, the Tibetan Plateau, and the Indo-Gangetic plain. 53)

- Due to the oblique viewing angle from the ISS, the curve of Earth’s limb defines the horizon visible from orbit. This photo view is close to the magnificent view that would have greeted Pettit’s eyes that day because the lens he used (16 mm) is fairly close to the focal length of the human eye (about 25 mm). To the unaided eye, Chomolungma/Mount Everest, the highest peak on Earth (8,848.86 meters or 29,031.7 feet) is indistinguishable in this panoramic view.

- The wide view image of Figure 63, taken in May 2012 by astronaut Don Pettit shows a dramatic 1000 km (600 mile) stretch of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. The Ganges/Ganga Plains occupy the foreground, and the numerous lakes and mountain glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau are visible beyond the mountains. The major rivers on the plains—the Ganges, Ghaghara, and Gandak—have transported vast amounts of sediment from the Himalayas over millions of years and deposited much of it in very large alluvial fans.

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Figure 63: This astronaut photograph ISS031-E-67020 was acquired on May 23, 2012, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 16 mm lens. Both images were provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The images were taken by members of the Expedition 31 and Expedition 53 crews (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)

- The image of Figure 64 was shot by astronaut Randy “Komrade” Bresnik in December 2017 while looking southwest through a much longer lens (420 mm). It shows details from the part of the range that includes Mount Everest, which appears without its usual cloud cover. The extensive monsoon cloudiness that brings rain had not yet set in, though southerly winds blew up some of the major valleys onto the Tibetan Plateau, causing cloud streamers to rise. Two of the largest valleys that cut through the Himalaya Range lie just east and west of Chomolungma/Everest.

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Figure 64: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-317703 was acquired on December 5, 2017, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 420 mm lens. Both were provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

- Another reason for the clarity of the air on this day was that the usually hazy air pollution of the region was blown away by the winds. A gray mass of air pollution (upper left) still obscured some of the landscape detail on the plains.

• March 2, 2021: Long-sustained westerly winds shaped the dunes surrounding the Saudi Arabian oasis of Jubbah in this photograph shot by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS). Jubbah sits in the protective wind shadow of Jabel Umm Sinman, which roughly translates from Arabic as “two camel-hump mountain.” The hard, black rock of the mountain disrupts wind flow and blocks dunes from forming on its lee side. The area around Jabel Umm Sinman has been at the center of significant climatic and anthropological shifts during the Holocene, a geologic term for the past 10,000 years. 54)

- Jubbah is built in the basin of a paleolake in the middle of the Nefud Desert, about 650 kilometers (400 miles) northwest of Riyadh. A paleolake is an area where a lake previously existed, but no longer holds any water due to a change in climate. Today the ancient lakebed rests hundreds of feet below the neighboring dunes.

- Prior to the desertification of the Arabian Peninsula, Jubbah Lake was one of a network of freshwater sources in what was then a more humid environment. Even as the region became more arid, Jubbah Lake likely continued to hold freshwater for some time due to its position amid the groundwater-recharging dunes. This continuous, extended period of freshwater made Jubbah a destination for early humans and animals in the Nefud Desert.

- Among the dunes to the north of the city, a highway extends north-south through the desert, following a path historically taken by caravan traders. The highway and the modern agriculture—evident in the telltale circular fields of center-pivot irrigation—are just the latest iteration of human activity in the area. The mountain also contains petroglyphs that record the lifestyle and culture of early inhabitants. The petroglyphs, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have been instrumental for archeologists and historians seeking to understand occupation and settlement patterns in the region.

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Figure 65: The astronaut photograph ISS064-E-6310 was acquired on November 26, 2020, 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 64 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Alex Stoken)

• March 2, 2021: Italian ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti poses in the Cupola module of the International Space Station with two 100-day patches to mark her 200th day in space. She is now set to return to her ‘home away from home’ for even more days in space. 55)

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Figure 66: Samantha first flew to the International Space Station on a Soyuz spacecraft in 2014 for a mission known as ‘Futura’. Her second flight follows the second missions of her fellow 2009 astronaut classmates Alexander Gerst in 2018, Luca Parmitano in 2019 and Thomas Pesquet in 2021. It could also see a direct on-Station handover with Matthias Maurer who is scheduled to fly his first mission to the Space Station later this year. The spacecraft Samantha will fly on is not yet confirmed, but could be a SpaceX Crew Dragon or the Boeing CST-100 Starliner (image credit: ESA/NASA)

- During Futura, Samantha supported an extensive scientific programme of experiments in physical science, biology and human physiology as well as radiation research and technology demonstrations.

- She also oversaw the undocking of ESA’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). This marked the end of a successful programme that paved the way for the European Service Modules currently being produced for NASA’s Orion spacecraft that will travel around and to the Moon.

- Training for Samantha’s second mission is already underway and has included International Space Station refresher sessions at ESA’s astronaut centre in Cologne, Germany, and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

- In the coming months, her schedule will intensify as she brushes up on Space Station systems and procedures and trains for the specific experiments and tasks she will perform in space.

- ESA is also in the process of recruiting its next class of astronauts. For more on the upcoming selection visit esa.int/YourWayToSpace.

• February 28, 2021: NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover concluded their spacewalk at 1:16 p.m. EST, after 7 hours and 4 minutes. In the third spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two NASA astronauts began work to install modification kits required for upcoming solar array upgrades. 56)

- The duo worked near the farthest set of existing solar arrays on the station’s left (port) side, known as P6. Glover built a bracket structure and worked with Rubins to attach the bracket and support struts to the mast canister, the base, of one of the P6 solar arrays, known as 2B. One of the bolts did not fully engage on the first attempt, so Rubins used a power drill to back it out and reseat it, then used a ratchet wrench to tighten the bolt, reaching a safe configuration. The bolt likely will need to be secured further before installing one of the new solar arrays that will be delivered to the space station later this year aboard SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission.

- Rubins and Glover then moved to begin identical assembly work for the bracket for the second of the P6 solar array pair, known as 4B. They completed the construction of upper support hardware and secured it to the space station’s exterior structure until work can be completed on the next spacewalk on Friday, March 5.

- To ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization, NASA is augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays. The new solar arrays, a larger version of the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, ultimately increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts. The current solar arrays are functioning well but have begun to show signs of degradation, as expected, as they were designed for a 15-year service life.

- This was the third career spacewalk for both Rubins and Glover. Rubins has now spent a total of 19 hours and 50 minutes spacewalking. Glover now has spent a total of 19 hours and 20 minutes spacewalking.

- Space station crew members have conducted 235 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 14 hours, and 11 minutes working outside the station.

- During the spacewalk March 5, Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will venture outside the orbiting outpost to complete the installation of the 4B array modification kit and are expected to tackle additional work, including the venting of ammonia from the Early Ammonia System.

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Figure 67: Spacewalkers Victor Glover and Kate Rubins are pictured at the mast canister, installing bracket support struts to the base of the solar array on Feb, 28th 2021 (image credit: NASA TV)

• February 28, 2021: This photograph, taken by astronaut Randy “Komrade” Bresnik from the International Space Station (ISS), shows nighttime lights over Japan on November 6, 2017. The lights are concentrated around three of the country’s major cities: Tokyo (top cluster), Nagoya (middle), and Osaka (bottom). The contrast of the bright lights against the dark landscape makes this a favorite astronaut photo. 57)

- The Greater Tokyo area, which is home to more than 30 million people, is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. However, Tokyo has a smaller energy consumption per capita compared to other megacities such as New York City. Primary energy consumption across the country has decreased over the past decade due to better energy efficiency and conservation and changes in economic growth. Renewable energy sources, such as solar power, are rapidly replacing fossil fuels as the country aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent between 2013 and 2030. Overall, Japan was the fifth-largest energy consumer in the world in 2019.

- Researchers have used nighttime imagery of lights to better understand human activity. The images can reveal population changes, urban development, energy use, economic activities, and changes in types of lighting.

- The contrast of the bright lights against the dark landscape is also beautiful. The photo above is one of Bresnik’s favorites. He shot it during ISS Expedition 52/53, his second excursion on the station.

- While astronauts receive training on how to shoot photos from the space station, Bresnik’s first photography lessons occurred long before he was selected to be an astronaut. From a young age, Bresnik learned to develop photographs in a dark room with his grandfather, who was a photographer for Amelia Earhart. His father was also a photographer, and Bresnik embraced photography and made a camera and lenses one of his first purchases when he got a job and had his own money. While living and working on the ISS, Bresnik shot several photographs of places on Earth that he could matching with pictures he took of the locations on the ground. He promoted those pairs with #OneWorldManyViews on social media.

- Learn more about astronaut photography in the Picturing Earth video series: part 1 Astronaut Photography in Focus; part 2 Window on the World; and part 3 Behind the Scenes.

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Figure 68: The astronaut photograph ISS053-E-209380 was acquired on November 6, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 24 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 53 crew (image credit: Earth Observatory, caption by Kasha Patel)

• February 27, 2021: There are few experiences quite like witnessing the aurora borealis. Commonly known as the northern lights, these colorful ribbons of light appear to dance in the sky over the planet’s high latitudes, attracting sky chasers and photographers. The light also catches the eye of astronauts, who have snapped numerous photos of northern and southern lights from their unique perch on the International Space Station. 58)

- The lights are the result of interactions between solar emissions and Earth’s magnetic field. The specific color depends on the atmospheric gas and the amount of energy involved. For example, bursts of green light occur after oxygen atoms are energized by collisions with fast-moving electrons.

- Other sources of light are also visible, including high-latitude cities that dot the landscape below. And looking in the distance toward the Earth’s limb, you can see the distinct layer of airglow—light emitted from chemical reactions caused by sunlight in the upper atmosphere. Finally, the bright blue-white glow near the horizon is the pending sunrise—one of 16 sunrises visible from the space station each day.

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Figure 69: Astronauts have snapped numerous photos of the light show from their unique perch on the International Space Station. Astronaut Randy “Komrade” Bresnik shot this photograph on September 15, 2017, as the space station passed over Ontario, Canada. Curtains of green—the most familiar color of auroras—dominate the light show, with hints of purple and red. This astronaut photograph ISS053-E- 23965 was acquired with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 24 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Kathryn Hansen)

- About a week after Bresnik acquired the image at the top of this page, astronauts captured another display of the northern lights over Canada featured in the video below. The video is a time-lapse, compiled from nearly 1,000 still frames shot over a span of 15 minutes on September 28, 2017. The space station was passing from the northwestern United States toward the southeast at the time.

Figure 70: “The time-lapse imagery that we’ve been able to get of auroras is just fascinating to watch,” said Will Stefanov, ISS program scientist for Earth observations at Johnson Space Center. “And just strikingly beautiful to be able to see that process, how the aurora shifts and moves like a live thing. And knowing that for that particular stretch of time, you are pretty much seeing what the crew saw in orbit.” (video credit: This video was taken by the Expedition 53 crew on board the International Space Station. The sequence of shots was taken on September 28, 2017, from 07:38:56 to 07:55:34 GMT, on a pass from the northern Pacific Ocean, just south of Alaska, to the Gulf of Mexico, south of Florida. The north-facing camera catches the Aurora Borealis over Canada as the ISS travels from northwestern Unites States southeast. Large cities like Chicago, Nashville, and Atlanta stand out as the ISS flies southeast toward Florida)

• February 26, 2021: NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins harvested ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce grown in the Vegetable Production System (Veggie) aboard the International Space Station on Feb. 2, 2021. This experiment, VEG-03J, demonstrated a new way of storing, handling, and planting seeds in space. 59)

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Figure 71: Aaron Curry, a research scientist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, cuts strips of seed film – a new seed handling material containing red romaine lettuce seeds – inside the Space Station Processing Facility on Jan. 16, 2020. NASA sent these seeds as part of the VEG-03J experiment to the International Space Station on Feb. 15, 2020, and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins planted the lettuce on Jan. 4, 2021 (image credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

- NASA is studying how to effectively grow crops in space so plants can provide supplemental nutrients to astronaut crews on long-duration missions, such as a mission to Mars.

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Figure 72: ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce grown for experiment VEG-03J in the Vegetable Production System (Veggie) aboard the International Space Station exhibited some of the best overall uniformity and crop size for red romaine lettuce grown in space. This experiment demonstrated a new way of storing, handling, and planting seeds in space, using seed film, a water-soluble polymer, similar to a breath freshener strip, that contained the seeds (image credit: NASA)

- Researchers in previous Veggie experiments planted seeds in small pouches called plant pillows while on the ground at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. VEG-03J studied astronauts planting crops in space using a specially designed seed film. The film uses a water-soluble polymer, similar to a breath freshener strip, and aims to gives astronauts more flexibility for growing plants in space.

- Normally, the research team glues seeds onto a wick and places them in the plant pillows along with controlled release fertilizer and calcined clay – one of the materials used on baseball infields to manage moisture. In this experiment, Kennedy researchers cast the seeds into the film, then cut the film into postage stamp-sized squares and packed them separately from the plant pillows. On Jan. 4, Hopkins placed the seed film squares into the wicks. After adding water to the plant pillows, the film dissolved, and the seeds germinated.

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Figure 73: NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins, the commander of Crew-1, has tended to several NASA space crop experiments since arriving on the International Space Station in November. In the VEG-03J experiment, Hopkins grew Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce; however, instead of having researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center plant crop seeds on the ground like in other experiments in the Vegetable Production System, this experiment sent the seeds to space in a stamp-sized, water-soluble polymer, which Hopkins planted at the start of VEG-03J (image credit: NASA)

- “The lettuce became established 1-2 days ahead of previous Veggie experiments aboard station, and the uniformity and overall crop size were amongst the best researchers have seen in Veggie,” said Matt Romeyn, a space crop production project scientist and science lead for the VEG-03J investigation. Samples of the lettuce will soon return to Earth for analysis to ensure they are safe to eat.

- The seed film idea debuted in October 2016 at a Kennedy innovation event, where employees with promising ideas made short presentations to kick-start their projects. Romeyn presented an idea for testing microgreens for use in space. Microgreens are vegetables harvested and consumed when they are very young and packed with nutrients, which make them ideal for testing and consuming in space.

- Romeyn’s idea required a way to grow mats of microgreens in microgravity, which also requires managing large amounts of planted seeds. He gathered the materials for seed film and partnered with Trent Smith, then the Veggie project manager. Smith used his polymer chemistry background to help develop the idea further. Before using it with microgreens, they decided to demonstrate seed film with a crop that had previously grown several times in Veggie.

- Surprisingly, seed film is a well-known seed-placement technology with patents spanning back to 1895, though the commercially available seed tapes didn’t meet NASA’s needs to enable astronauts to handle and plant seeds in microgravity,” said Smith, who now manages Kennedy’s Technology Transfer office.

- Smith and Romeyn tested several different compositions of the film to find the right mix. In the spring of 2018, NASA intern Niki Padgett began assisting the team. She now works at Kennedy as a scientist who does life sciences processing for the International Space Station.

- “I had an amazing experience as an intern,” Padgett said. “I was given the tools and full creative control to develop a method for delivering a consistent volume of water, enabling the seeds to imbed in the film while retaining their viability.”

- Aaron Curry, a research scientist, assisted with the final design, addressing seed orientation and ease of use for the crew.

- “The project appears simple but carries the weight of expanding options and generating flexibility for plant-based experiments in space moving forward,” Curry said. “Seed film hopefully gives current and future crew members more freedom in their dietary supplementation.”

- While this experiment has been a low-cost and successful first step, NASA has more work to do to further advance the technology for future missions. Smith said seed film must be easy to handle yet stiff enough to easily insert into the Veggie pillows in microgravity. It also must dissolve away to allow the seeds to germinate while also withstanding the sanitizing and aseptic processing used to minimize possible microbial growth after planting.

- “Nothing like that existed before,” Smith said. “But with some innovative thinking and using our diverse skills, we developed a solution, and this new technology will help drive space exploration.”

- NASA is innovating sustainable space food systems via multiple avenues, even sourcing potential solutions outside the agency and aerospace sector. NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge offers prize money for food system designs that can provide adequate nutrition for future long-duration mission explorers.

- The Biological and Physical Sciences Division (BPS) of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington is sponsoring the VEG-03J investigation as part of its mission to conduct research that enables human spaceflight exploration.

• February 23, 2021: Does this image make you anxious or are you already tracking where all the wires go? If the latter, you might have what it takes to be an astronaut! 60)

- It is an exciting time for space. With NASA’s latest rover safely on Mars and ESA’s call for the next class of astronauts and, in a first, parastronauts, the space industry is teeming with possibilities.

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Figure 74: This image, taken in ESA’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station, is a snapshot of the many opportunities in space research and exploration. In the center is the Biolab facility, a fridge-sized unit that hosts biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. Performing life science experiments in space identifies the role that weightlessness plays at all levels of an organism, from the effects on a single cell up to a complex organism including humans (image credit: ESA/NASA)

- The facility has enabled researchers to make some remarkable discoveries, most notable that mammalian immune cells required a mere 42 seconds to adapt to weightlessness, prompting more questions but also an overall positive outlook for long-duration human spaceflight.

- The pink glow in the image is from the greenhouse that has enabled many studies on plant growth in space.

- With plans to visit the Moon and Mars, future astronauts will need a regular, fresh source of food as they take on these missions farther away from home. In addition to providing much-needed vitamins and minerals, growing plants in space contributes to sustainability and adds a homey touch to exploration.

- Growing plants in the microgravity conditions of the International Space Station has allowed researchers to fine tune the approach: European research showed plants respond best to red and blue light, giving the Columbus module a disco feel.

- If you look closely, you can spot Astro Pi Ed to the left of Biolab. As part of ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s Principia mission (2015–2016) to the ISS, two space-hardened Raspberry Pi computers, called Astro Pis and nicknamed Ed and Izzy, equipped with environmental sensors, were sent to the Space Station. They are regularly used to run students’ and young people’s programs as part of the Astro Pi Challenge.

- Of course, a whole host of researchers, ground control crew, and mission support specialists make space research and exploration possible. The excitement of space continues.

- If you think you have what it takes, apply to be part of the team.

• February 21, 2021: The Kamchatka Peninsula of far eastern Russia has more than 300 volcanoes, 29 of which are active. This photo, taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station, captures a few the region’s active volcanoes—with some showing signs of recent eruptions. The photo was taken at a highly oblique angle with a long camera lens, giving a strongly three-dimensional perspective of the towering peaks. 61)

- In this snow-covered landscape, the peaks of Klyuchevskoy and Bezymianny volcanoes are notably darker. The astronauts were able to see evidence of ash deposits from recent eruptions. Days before this photo was taken, Bezymianny had a significant ash eruption that was recorded by the Kamchatka Volcanic Eruption Response Team. The plume drifted northwest and deposited ash in the valley between Bezymianny and Ushkovshy volcanoes.

- Photographing an ongoing volcanic eruption anywhere on Earth is a matter of luck for most astronauts, but Klyuchevskoy is so active that it has actually been captured spewing ash several times. In 1994, astronauts on the STS-068 mission on Space Shuttle Endeavour captured a large eruption at Klyuchevskoy using a Hasselblad film camera. More recently, astronauts on the ISS took a similar oblique shot of a long plume extending from the volcano in 2013.

- Given the ongoing activity on Kamchatka Peninsula and the continued presence of humans in low-Earth orbit, the chances of photographing another volcanic eruption may just be an orbit away.

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Figure 75: This astronaut photograph ISS064-E-319 was acquired on October 23, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1200 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 64 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

• February 18, 2021: In the vastness of one of the world’s oldest deserts lies a relatively recent geologic feature: the Roter Kamm crater (“Red Comb” in German). An astronaut onboard the International Space Station photographed the crater while orbiting over the Namib Desert. It is approximately 130 meters (430 feet) deep and 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) in diameter. 62)

- Geologists estimate that a meteorite the size of a large motor vehicle soared across the sky and crashed into the sea of red sand dunes approximately 5 million years ago. It created an impact crater that has since been filled with orange and red sand carried in by winds.

- Across millions and billions of years, many meteoroids, comets, and asteroids have passed through Earth’s atmosphere and left scars on the planet in the form of impact craters. More than 100 tons of material from near-Earth objects—particles and rock fragments from asteroids and comets ranging from dust-sized to 1 meter in diameter—bombard the Earth daily. Sometimes they visibly disintegrate as meteors or “shooting stars” in the mesosphere before reaching the ground.

- A meteoroid capable of causing significant damage to Earth’s surface occurs far less often: about once every 2000 years. Impactors large enough to cause extinction-level events on Earth—such as the Cretaceous-Tertiary (KT) boundary mass extinction—reach the surface at the rate of once every few million years.

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Figure 76: The Namib Desert bears a scar from a meteor impact. This astronaut photograph ISS062-E-103112 was acquired on March 20, 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 Amber Turner)

• February 10, 2021: What is blue, witnessed by few human eyes, and zips across the sky in less than a second? The answer, “blue jet,” might sound like some kind of fictional superhero. But these jets—generated during thunderstorms—are real. They are also a challenge to observe. 63)

- In recent years, cameras and sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) have been helping scientists to characterize blue jets, blue flashes, and other natural light shows produced at the tops of thunderstorms. Scientists want to know how often they occur, the conditions that produce them, and how they might affect Earth’s atmosphere.

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Figure 77: A blue jet is basically a type of lightning. But unlike the traditional lightning that we see from the ground, blue jets shoot upward from the tops of thunderstorms toward the edge of space. In less than a second, a jet can reach the stratopause (50 km above Earth’s surface). Cameras and sensors on the International Space Station have been helping scientists to characterize the natural light shows produced at the tops of thunderstorms (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using data courtesy of Neubert, T. et al. (2021). Astronaut video (still) courtesy of ESA, NASA, and DTU Space. Story by Kathryn Hansen)

- A first-of-its-kind color video shot from the ISS on September 8, 2015, allowed scientists to get a closer look. Floating in the cupola as the ISS passed over India, astronaut Andreas Mogensen noticed an intense thunderstorm developing over the Bay of Bengal. He shot 160 seconds of video with a Nikon D4, capturing 245 brief blue discharges in the top layer of a cloud. One of those discharges rose above the cloud into the stratosphere, as is visible in the image at the top of this page (a still captured from that video). This is a blue jet. The thundercloud is illuminated by traditional lightning.

- Scientists examined the electrical light show captured in Mogensen’s video and published an analysis in January 2017. The remarkable video remains one-of-a-kind, but researchers have since started to make more continuous observations with instruments mounted on the outside of the space station. NASA installed the Lightning Imaging Sensor in 2017, and the European Space Agency added the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) in 2018.

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Figure 78: Recently, researchers used ASIM (Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor), an ESA science instrument to characterize a thunderstorm that occurred in February 2019, near the island of Nauru in the South Pacific Ocean. In that storm, ASIM cameras observed a pulsating blue jet—the same blue lightning phenomenon captured by Mogensen in the 2015 video (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

- Using ASIM photometers, scientists also detected other shorter-lived features coming from the cloud top as well—five intense “blue flashes,” each lasting about 10 microseconds. The locations of the flashes on the thunderstorm cell are marked on the map above. One of those flashes—shown in the spectral measurement above—generated the blue jet.

- Torsten Neubert, a scientist at the Technical University of Denmark, and colleagues described the events in a 2021 paper in Nature. The researchers think blue flashes at the tops of thunderstorms might be common—an important factor when considering their effect on Earth’s atmosphere.

• February 9, 2021: NASA astronaut Victor Glover installs the Fluidics (Fluid Dynamics in Space experiment). Fluidics is the black cylinder pictured in the foreground of the European Columbus module of the International Space Station. 64)

- Developed by CNES, the French Space Agency and co-funded by Airbus, the Fluidics experiment is probing how fluids behave in weightlessness.

- The experiment is made up of six small, transparent spheres housed in the black centrifuge seen here and is studying two phenomena.

- The first is ‘sloshing’ or how liquids move inside closed spaces, which is hard to predict both with and without gravity. Think how frustrating it can be to get the last drop out of a packet of orange juice, then imagine the challenge for engineers designing satellites to use every drop of fuel in weightlessness, or designing rockets with fuel tanks that must deliver fuel to the engines under extreme loads. Insights can help industry design better satellite fuel-systems to increase their life and make them less expensive.

- A second part of the experiment looks at wave turbulence in liquids. On Earth, gravity and surface tension influence how energy dissipates in waves or ripples. In space, scientists can observe how surface forces behave without gravity and single out interactions. This could help us improve climate models forecasting the sea states and better understand wave formation on Earth, like rogue waves for example.

- The centrifuge contains two spheres with water for wave-turbulence research and four spheres dedicated to ‘sloshing’, of which two hold a special liquid with low viscosity and little surface tension for optimum sloshing.

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Figure 79: The Fluidics experiment was first run on the Station by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet during his Proxima mission in May 2017, with the most recent session completed by NASA astronaut Victor Glover in the European laboratory last month. Thomas will return to the International Space Station this year for mission Alpha (image credit: ESA/NASA)

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Figure 80: Fluidics: infographic (image credit: ESA)

• February 7, 2021: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of numerous gold prospecting pits in eastern Peru. The pits—usually hidden from an astronaut’s view by cloud cover or outside the Sun’s glint point—stand out brilliantly in this image due to the reflected sunlight. The multiple meandering channels of the Inambari River are visible on the left side of the image. The river and the pits cut through the otherwise unbroken Amazon rainforest in Peru’s Madre de Dios state. 65)

- In this very wet climate, the prospecting pits appear as hundreds of tightly packed water-filled basins. Likely dug by garimperos (independent miners), each pit is surrounded by de-vegetated areas of muddy spoil. These deforested tracts follow the courses of ancient rivers that deposited sediments, including gold. For scale, the western tract at image center is 15 kilometers (10 miles) long.

- Peru is the sixth largest producer of gold in the world, and Madre de Dios is home to one of the largest independent gold mining industries in the world. Mining is the main cause of deforestation in the region, and it also can cause mercury pollution from the gold-extraction process. Yet tens of thousands of people earn their living from this unregistered mining.

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Figure 81: This astronaut photograph ISS064-E-16203 was acquired on December 24, 2020, 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 64 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)

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Figure 82: The small town of Nueva Arequipa is just visible along the Southern Interoceanic Highway. Inaugurated in 2011, the highway, is the only road connection between Brazil and Peru. It was intended to stimulate trade and tourism, but due to the great expansion of surface prospecting, deforestation may be the larger result of the highway. Some areas in the state are protected from mining, such as the Tambopata National Reserve (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

• February 1, 2021: NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover concluded their spacewalk at 1:16 p.m. EST, after 5 hours and 20 minutes. In the second spacewalk of the year, the two NASA astronauts completed work to replace batteries that provide power for the station’s solar arrays and upgrade several of the station’s external cameras. The duo finished their planned tasks ahead of schedule and also complete several get-ahead tasks in preparation for future spacewalks. 66)

- This spacewalk completes a four-year effort to upgrade the batteries of the International Space Station’s power system, replacing 48 aging nickel-hydrogen batteries with 24 new lithium-ion batteries and adapter plates. With the battery work complete, the focus turns to solar array augmentation.

- Two additional spacewalks are planned for the near future. During the next spacewalk, Glover and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will work outside the station to prepare its power system for the installation of new solar arrays to increase the station’s existing power supply. For a following spacewalk, Rubins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi will continue upgrading station components. NASA will air a briefing and preview of the next two spacewalks after the dates are set.

- This was the fourth spacewalk in Hopkins’ career, and the second for Glover.

- Hopkins has now spent a total of 25 hours and 14 minutes spacewalking. Glover now has spent a total of 12 hours and 16 minutes spacewalking.

- Space station crew members have conducted 234 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 61 days, 7 hours, and 7 minutes working outside the station.

- Note: The space station’s primary power system originally used nickel-hydrogen batteries for storage. In 2009, the International Space Station Program conducted a preliminary risk and feasibility study to evaluate the use of lithium-ion batteries to replace the power storage system. In early 2011, the program approved development of the new battery. Production started in late 2014, and in December 2016, NASA began the process of replacing the aging batteries with new lithium-ion batteries. After four flights of the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) cargo spacecraft and 13 different astronauts conducting 14 spacewalks, the primary power system has now been fully upgraded to lithium-ion technology.

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Figure 83: The seven-member Expedition 64 crew poses for a portrait inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module of JAXA (image credit: NASA TV)

• January 31, 2021: An astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of a portion of Padre Island, a long barrier island along the southern Texas coast. 67)

- Once an unbroken stretch of land, the island was separated into North and South Padre with the cutting of Mansfield Channel in 1962. The channel connected the fishing community of Port Mansfield to the Gulf of Mexico and established a new harbor between Corpus Christi and Brownsville.

- Jetties mark the entrance from the Gulf into the channel; dredge spoils from the excavation line the southern side. Those jetties disrupt the natural longshore transport of sediment along the coast, causing sand to erode on the north side and build up on the south side. For this reason, the beach appears wider and extends farther seaward on South Padre Island. Stretching north from the channel, Padre Island National Seashore protects nearly 80 miles (130 kilometers) of beaches for nature and recreation.

- North and South Padre Islands are well known for attracting tourists and beachgoers, but they have also intrigued scientists. This photograph was taken in response to a request made by scientists to the NASA Crew Earth Observations team. Researchers are investigating changes in dune morphology and in the microorganisms that live on the surface of the island.

- As is typical of many barrier islands, sand dunes line the coast of Padre, forming a natural barricade and mitigating inland damage from storms like hurricanes. Extensive microbial mats — multi-layered sheets of microorganisms such as bacteria—take advantage of this natural protection and thrive in the protected tidal flats along the backshore of Padre Island. These areas of rich microbial life stand out as darker sections of beach in the photo. Microbial mats like these are among the oldest forms of life that have been identified within Earth’s rock record. Many scientists believe that such mats are the best astrobiological analogues for how life might have existed on Mars.

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Figure 84: This astronaut photograph ISS063-E-76217 was acquired on August 20, 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 63 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sara Schmidt)

• January 24, 2021: The Persian Gulf forms the center of this photograph taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS). The nighttime lights mark the larger cities and highways of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The brightest lights are concentrated along the southern and western coastlines, where the major cities of Kuwait City, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai stand out. Several smaller port cities line the northern coast at the foot of the Zagros Mountains. 68)

- The lights speckled across the dark waters of the Gulf indicate ships passing through one of the world’s major trade routes. The narrowest section is the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman. The Strait varies in width between 39 and 96 kilometers (21 to 90 nautical miles) and represents an important chokepoint in the global trade network that funnels millions of barrels of crude oil and petroleum products per day through the region.

- This photograph provides an excellent example of the wide field of view that crew members have from their perch on the ISS. Tehran, the capital of Iran, is visible near the Earth limb and stands approximately 1200 kilometers (750 miles) from Dubai.

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Figure 85: The astronaut photograph ISS063-E-81262 was acquired on August 31, 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 was taken by a member of the Expedition 63 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)

• January 18, 2021: ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer is preparing for his mission to the International Space Station, scheduled for launch in late 2021. This mission is known as Cosmic Kiss. 69)

Figure 86: In this video log from his current training base at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, USA, Matthias shows a space food tasting session and shares how astronauts maintain their fitness for a safe return to Earth (video credit: ESA)

- Astronauts exercise for two hours a day, six days a week while on the International Space Station to combat muscle and bone loss caused by an extended stay in microgravity. Diet also plays an important role in maintaining physical and mental wellbeing.

- Due to the current situation with COVID-19, all personnel are required to adhere to special safety precautions while training. These include wearing a mask – as seen in the clip.

- Matthias will continue his training for Cosmic Kiss at partner agencies around the world over the next weeks and months. Stay tuned for further footage of his training and experiences.

• January 17, 2021: Cleveland, Ohio, and its expansive suburbs stretch inland from Lake Erie in this slightly oblique photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS). The metropolitan area’s layout has evolved as time and technology have advanced. From the perspective of the ISS, different urban neighborhoods and suburbs have distinct features based the era when they were developed and planned. 70)

- Throughout the 1800s, most Clevelanders lived, worked, and walked within the tight borders of Cleveland proper—today’s downtown area. The arrival of streetcars—first horse-drawn, then electric—allowed residents to live on the outskirts but still maintain an urban lifestyle. By the early 1900s, communities like Lakewood grew from this streetcar-fueled suburban revolution. The 1920s through 1940s paved the way for the next great transportation revolution and continuing suburban evolution. With automobiles in vogue, communities like Seven Hills developed even farther from the urban core.

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Figure 87: In this photo, streetcar-based suburbs like Lakewood appear dense and grid-like, while automobile-based suburbs (Seven Hills)—less concerned with supporting a walking population—are more expansive and have flourishes like cul-de-sacs. Astronaut photograph ISS062-E-121292 was acquired on April 16, 2020, 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 62 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Alex Stoken)

- As the city advanced, it became an aviation hub. When the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was searching for a location for a new aviation laboratory, Cleveland was a top choice. This lab, now NASA Glenn Research Center, will celebrate the 80th anniversary of its groundbreaking on January 23, 2021. Beyond the main campus, NASA built an advanced test facility at Plum Brooke Station, 50 miles (80 kilometers) away on the edge of Lake Erie (out of the frame to the west). In December 2020, Plum Brooke was renamed the Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility after the Ohio native, Moon-walking astronaut, and former Glenn employee. This facility is now playing a critical role in testing the Orion spacecraft that will return to the Moon in the Artemis program.

• January 5, 2021: NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins performs the Grasp experiment in the Columbus module of the International Space Station ahead of the New Year. The experiment studies how the central nervous system, specifically hand-eye coordination, adapts to microgravity. 71)

- GRASP (Gravitational References for Sensimotor Performance) seeks to better understand how the central nervous system integrates information from different senses, such as sight, sound and touch, to coordinate hand movements and determine what role gravity plays.

- How does the experiment work? Mike dons virtual reality (VR) gear that is coupled with a laptop and driven by an audio/graphics system. The VR headset simulates a series of tasks for the him, while a 3D motion tracker updates the display in real time in response to his hand, body and arm movements. Measurements are taken on ground and during spaceflight.

- ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet was the first to use the VR gear to perform the experiment during his 2016 mission. ESA astronauts Alexander Gerst and Luca Parmitano followed suit during their respective missions. Watch a video of Alexander performing the experiment.

- Researchers suspect that, on Earth, the brain uses gravity as a reference. When reaching for an object, the brain uses visual clues as well as how your shoulder muscles counteract the downward force of gravity to keep your arm straight to calculate the distance between your hand and the object.

- However, the sensation of floating for months on end is something our brains did not have to deal with until last century. Seeing how they adapt to this environment offers valuable insight.

- Spearheaded by researchers at French national space agency CNES, the study helps us identify the workings of the vestibular system that keeps our balance, and how it connects to the other sensory organs. In other words, Grasp investigates the physiology behind hand-eye coordination, shedding light on how to treat patients showing a loss of vestibular function on Earth.

- For astronauts, the research will be useful during spacewalks, where coordination in weightlessness with few visual clues is vital.

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Figure 88: NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins performs the Grasp experiment in the Columbus module of the ISS ahead of the New Year (image credit: ESA/NASA)



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2) ”Lake Tana and the Ethiopian Highlands,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for12 July 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148549/lake-tana-and-the-ethiopian-highlands

3) ”London complete,” ESA Science & Exploration, 07 July 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int/About_Us/Week_in_images/Week_in_images_05_-_09_July_2021

4) ”The Avenues of America,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 4 July 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148534/the-avenues-of-america

5) Mark Garcia, ”Russian Cargo Ship Docks to Station After Two-Day Trip,” NASA Space Station, 1 July 2021, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2021/
07/01/russian-cargo-ship-docks-to-station-after-two-day-trip/

6) ”Banks Peninsula, New Zealand,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 27 June 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148499/banks-peninsula-new-zealand

7) Mark Garcia, ”Spacewalkers Complete First Roll Out Solar Array Installation,” NASA Space Station, 20 June 2021, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2021/06/20/
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8) ”Sweet and Salty Sonora,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 20 June 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148458/sweet-and-salty-sonora

9) ”Juneteenth in Galveston,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 19 June 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148454/juneteenth-in-galveston

10) ”Near Burro Peak,” ESA Science & Exploration, 18 June 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int/About_Us/Week_in_images/Week_in_images_14_-_18_June_2021

11) ”Astronauts install new rollout solar panels on International Space Station,” AFP Washington, 16 June 2021, URL: https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/
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13) ”An Entanglement of Land and Sea,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 13 June 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148427/an-entanglement-of-land-and-sea

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17) ”NASA Scientists Available for Interviews Throughout Hurricane Season,” NASA Press Release M21-069, 2 June 2021, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/
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19) ”One Night in Bangkok,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 25 May 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148346/one-night-in-bangkok

20) ”Back to the space cradle,” ESA Science & Exploration, 18 May 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int
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21) Adam Schabel, ”Project Examines How to Water Plants in Space,” NASA Feature, 13 May 2021, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/glenn/2021/project-examines-how-to-water-plants-in-space

22) ”The Bridges of Tampa Bay,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 16 May 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148318/the-bridges-of-tampa-bay

23) ”Bird’s-Eye View of Breckenridge,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 15 May 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148321/birds-eye-view-of-breckenridge

24) ”Mecca,” ESA Science & Exploration, 13 May 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int
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25) ”South Island Alps,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 9 May 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148290/south-island-alps

26) ”Cable management,” ESA Science & Exploration, 07 May 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int
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27) ”Smoke in the Stratosphere,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 6 May 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148276/smoke-in-the-stratosphere

28) ”Ghana by the Sea,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 02 May 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148256/ghana-by-the-sea

29) ”Group photo,” ESA Science & Exploration, 26 April, 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int/About_Us/Week_in_images/Week_in_images_26_-_30_April_2021

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34) ”Time keeping,” ESA Science & Exploration, 15 April 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int
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35) ”Western Lake Trio,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 11 April 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148165/western-lake-trio

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41) ”Two Volcanic Peaks that are Far from Twins,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 4 April 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148133/two-volcanic-peaks-that-are-far-from-twins

42) ”Red Sea Rainforests,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 28 March 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148104/red-sea-rainforests

43) ”Texas Gulf Coast,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 21 March 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148066/texas-gulf-coast

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45) ”Keeping up with Thomas,” ESA Science & Exploration, 16 March 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int
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46) Catherine Williams, ”Crew Furthers Human Research While Prepping for Soyuz Relocation,” NASA Space Station, 16 March 2021, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2021/
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47) ”Ol Doinyo Lengai,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 15 March 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148042/ol-doinyo-lengai

48) Mark Garcia, ”NASA Astronauts Complete Year’s Fifth Spacewalk at Station,” NASA Space Station, 13 March 2021, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2021/03/
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49) ”Fisheye Over Sinai,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 7 March 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147993/fisheye-over-sinai

50) ”Stars in Motion,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 6 March 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147990/stars-in-motion

51) Mark Garcia, ”Astronauts Begin Spacewalk for Solar Array Modifications,” NASA Space Station, 5 March 2021, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2021/03/05
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52) Mark Garcia, ”U.S., Japanese Astronauts Conclude Solar Array Mods Spacewalk,” NASA Space Station, 5 March 2021, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2021/03/
05/u-s-japanese-astronauts-conclude-solar-array-mods-spacewalk/

53) ”Himalayas, Near and Far,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 4 March 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147980/himalayas-near-and-far

54) ”A Long-Ago Lake Amid the Dunes,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 2 March 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/148005/a-long-ago-lake-amid-the-dunes

55) ”Cristofoready,” ESA Science & Exploration, 02 March 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int
/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2021/03/Cristofoready

56) Norah Moran, ”Spacewalkers Conclude Today’s Spacewalk,” NASA Space Station, 28 February 2021, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2021/02/28/spacewalkers-conclude-todays-spacewalk/

57) ”Japan at Night,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 28 February 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147987/japan-at-night

58) ”Cruising Past the Aurora Borealis,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 27 February 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147984/cruising-past-the-aurora-borealis

59) Leejay Lockhart, James Cawley, ”Seed Film Brings New Way to Grow Plants in Space,” NASA Feature, 26 February 2021, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/seed-film-brings-new-way-to-grow-plants-in-space

60) ”Space snapshot,” ESA Science & Exploration, 23 February 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2021/02/Space_snapshot

61) ”Hints of a Recent Eruption,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 21 February 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147955/hints-of-a-recent-eruption

62) ”The Red Comb,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 18 February 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147921/the-red-comb

63) ”Bolts of Blue,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 10 February 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147900/bolts-of-blue

64) ”Keeping it fluid,” ESA Science & Exploration, 9 February 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2021/02/Keeping_it_fluid

65) ”Gold Rush in the Peruvian Amazon,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 7 February 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147891/gold-rush-in-the-peruvian-amazon

66) Mark Garcia, ”Spacewalkers Wrap Up Battery Work and Camera Installations,” NASA Space Station, 01 February 2021, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2021/
02/01/spacewalkers-wrap-up-battery-work-and-camera-installations/

67) ”Sands and Mats at Padre Island,” NASA Earth Observatory, 31 January 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147859/sands-and-mats-at-padre-island

68) ”Bustling Persian Gulf at Night,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 24 January 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147825/bustling-persian-gulf-at-night

69) ”Astronaut vlog: space food and fitness,” ESA Science & Exploration, 18 January 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2021/01/Astronaut_vlog_space_food_and_fitness

70) ”From Automobiles to Armstrong,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 17 January 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147803/from-automobiles-to-armstrong

71) ”A good GRASP on the New Year,” ESA Science & Exploration, 5 January 2021, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2021/01/A_good_GRASP_on_the_New_Year


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 (herb.kramer@gmx.net).

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