ISS Utilization: Sample Imagery Part 2
ISS Utilization: Sample imagery taken by astronauts on and from the ISS (Part 2)
This file is a loose collection of some imagery samples taken by astronauts off and from the ISS (International Space Station). Astronauts who experience Earth from orbit often report feelings of awe and wonder, of being transformed by what they describe as the magic such a perspective brings. This phenomenon is called the "overview effect." The short descriptions in the following entries are presented in reverse order .
• May 14, 2018: This oblique photograph (Figure 1), taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station, shows the city of Bangkok illuminated by city lights. As the capital and largest city in Thailand, Bangkok is home to more than 9 million people. 1)
- The adjacent waters of the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand are illuminated by hundreds of green lights on fishing boats. Fishermen use the lights to attract plankton and fish, the preferred diet of commercially important squid. As the bait swims to the surface, the squid follow to feed and get caught by fishermen. The same fishing practices are used off the Atlantic coast of South America.
- In the photo, the border between Thailand and neighboring Cambodia to the east is distinguished by a marked difference in the number of city lights. Cambodia has less urbanized area and its population and is smaller than that of neighboring countries. The majority of Cambodia's population lives in rural farming areas where electricity is sparse. Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city in Cambodia, with a population of approximately 1.5 million people.
Figure 1: Astronaut photograph ISS053-E-451778 was acquired on December 10, 2017, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 24 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, caption by Andi Hollier)
• April 23, 2018: Looking out from a window on the International Space Station, an astronaut captured this rare photograph of the Scottish Highlands. Cloud-covered skies are common for the region and typically prevent landscape photography from space, especially during the winter months (when this image was taken). 2)
- The topography of the Scottish Highlands (Figure 2) is the result of geological processes spanning billions of years. The snow-capped mountains north of Glen Mor include some of the oldest rocks in Europe, and they were subsequently rearranged by tectonic forces hundreds of millions of years ago. The rocky landscape also shows signs of reshaping by flowing glaciers during the most recent Ice Ages.
- Also known as the "Great Valley" or "Great Glen," Glen Mor is a fault zone marked by numerous elongated lakes (or lochs), one of which is the famous Loch Ness. In the early 2000s, locals built a pathway through the area—the Great Glen Way—for walkers and cyclists.
Figure 2: This astronaut photograph ISS054-E-54109 was acquired on February 25, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 290 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew (image credit: NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, caption by Andi Hollier)
• April 9, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station focused a high-resolution lens on the city of Medina (Madinah in official documents) in western Saudi Arabia (Figure 3). Medina is the second holiest city of Islam, and the site of the Prophet's Mosque (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi) and the Prophet's Tomb. The mosque, one of the largest in the world, is the focal point of the city. 3)
- Immediately east of the Mosque is an area with no buildings. (Note that north is to the right in this photo.) It is the site of the Al-Baqi' cemetery, the resting place of many of the Prophet's relatives and companions. The cemetery used to lie on the outskirts of early Medina. Fourteen centuries ago, the city was only about the size of the modern mosque complex.
- Although people of many religions and nationalities live in the city, the core haram zone (meaning "sanctuary" or "holy shrine"), generally within King Abdullah Road, is only open to people of Muslim faith. (For scale, the diameter of the King Abdullah ring road is about 7 to 9 km . Increasing numbers of expatriate workers—from other Arab countries, from South Asia, and from the Philippines—now live in Medina.
- The Saudi Arabian government has begun a major new building project known as Knowledge Economic City just east of the closed zone (lower center of the image). This partly open land (visible on either side of King Abdul Aziz Branch Road) is being set aside for new residential and commercial development, especially high-tech, as well as hotels, museums, and educational facilities for non-Muslim tourists.
Figure 3: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8496 was acquired on June 25, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• April 3, 2018: An astronaut flying aboard the ISS took this long lens photograph of part of Doha, the capital city of Qatar, located on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The Pearl-Qatar, a man-made island spanning approximately 1.5 km2, extends from the mainland and is among the first properties in Qatar that can be owned by non-Qataris. Deep canals have been cut around the islands, and they lead out into the Persian Gulf. 4)
- The Pearl-Qatar infrastructure was built to resemble a string of pearls in recognition of the historical pearl-diving sites upon which the island complex is built. The proposal of the artificial islands started in 2004 and construction is expected to end in 2018 with ten precincts, 31 towering buildings, and 4,700 apartments.
- With more than 2 million inhabitants, Doha is a center of economic activity for the region. The city will host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the first time the soccer tournament will be held in the Middle East. With this large population and a push for tourism comes challenges in finding sustainable supplies of drinking water. Qatar has an arid desert climate with hot, long summers (March to September), and annual rainfall is scarce and unpredictable. The Doha Groundwater Basin sits below the city and is mainly used for irrigation. In consequence, the city is turning to desalination of sea water to supply potable water to residents.
Figure 4: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-127736 was acquired on October 23, 2017, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• March 25, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph while flying over Asia and looking southeast toward the horizon. Astronauts have unique opportunities to photograph Earth from various angles while orbiting in the thermosphere layer of Earth's upper atmosphere. 5)
- In the foreground we see Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan. The lake's main sources of water come from the Ili and Karatal (also Qaratal) Rivers. The Ili River Delta is a megafan deposit that forms a conical shape along the shores of Lake Balkhash. The cloud-covered Tian Shan Mountains of northwest China feed snowmelt waters to the Ili River and Lake Balkhash.
- Set against the darkness of space, the Moon appears to hover over the landscape. Astronauts on the ISS see the same lunar phases as we do on the ground. The steep color gradient in the upper third of the photo marks the edge of Earth's atmosphere and is known as the limb. The Moon does not have a gradually darkening limb because it lacks an atmosphere; the lunar limb appears simply as a sharp demarcation between the surface and the darkness of space.
Figure 5: This astronaut photograph ISS048-E-2035 was acquired on June 19, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 116 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• March 19, 2018: An astronaut aboard the ISS focused a camera lens on a brilliant spot in Iran: the sun reflecting off Darodzan Lake (Figure 6). This waterbody in the desert, surrounded by the Zagros Mountains, is impounded behind a dam wall just upstream of the town of Darodzan. 6)
- Winds ruffle the water surface so that the reflection pattern is quite varied; it changes by the minute when viewed from the ISS. At the moment this image was taken, the sunglint effect was strongest near the dam wall. (The science of sunglint is explained here.) Other bright streaks in the middle of the lake show the counter-clockwise circulation of water. Yet more streaks show the direction of the wind (from the west).
- Agricultural fields in deserts are closely tied to sources of water. In this region, fields are clustered along the river that feeds the lake. The river enters Darodzan Lake at a small delta (image left). Other fields are clustered downstream of the dam wall, next to the town. The dam wall itself was built at a narrow gap in steep ridges.
Figure 6: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-45251 was acquired on August 12, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• March 5, 2018: In October 2017, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station focused a camera lens on Lake Garda or Lago di Garda, Italy's largest lake. Nestled halfway between the major cities of Venice and Milan, Lake Garda is situated where the southern Alps meet the Po River Valley. The lake is 54 km long and varies in width from 3 to 18 km (Figure 7). 7)
- The mild sub-Mediterranean climate and the Alpine topography have made Lake Garda a popular destination for tourism and watersports. It is well known for wind surfing and sailing due to dependable daily and seasonal wind patterns. These thermally driven winds are caused by the interaction of weather fronts between the mountains to the north and the plains to the south.
- Beyond outdoor activities, some people are attracted to the region for its historical importance. A few notable battles have been fought around Lake Garda, including the Roman Battle of Lake Benacus in 269 CE, the Battle of Solferino in 1859, and several events during World War I.
- The Po River Valley, south of Lake Garda, is also an important area for agriculture, producing rice, soybeans, corn, and wheat. The rich farmland is fed by glacial streams from the Alps.
Figure 7: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-136542 was acquired on October 27, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 290 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• February 25, 2018: An astronaut aboard the ISS (International Space Station) focused a camera lens on the Bonneville Salt Flats of northeast Utah—the light-toned, patchy feature in the middle of the image (Figure 8). The flats are famous for being one of the flattest places on Earth, and racing enthusiasts flock to the region each year to watch new attempts to set land-speed records. 8)
- East of the Bonneville Flats lies the growing urban area around Salt Lake City, which is barely visible to astronauts during the day due to the low contrast with the surrounding mountains. In contrast, the colorful waters of the Great Salt Lake stand out against the desert landscape.
- The Bonneville Salt Flats are remnants of a large lake that inundated much of Utah between 14,000 and 32,000 years ago. The greatest extent of ancient Lake Bonneville was about 520 km long and 220 km wide. The lake was fed by glacial melt water during the spring and summer seasons of the most recent glacial period. Since Lake Bonneville had no outlet, that water eventually evaporated in place and left behind white salt minerals.
- From the vantage point of the ISS, landscape patterns reveal the intermingling of older geologic formations and more recent landforms in this region. The relatively young (in geologic terms) Bonneville Salt Flats are located within the Basin and Range Province, a region that formed from the stretching of Earth's crust by massive tectonic forces over the past 17 million years. At the top left, we see a different style of geology: the Middle Rocky Mountain region, separated by the active Wasatch Fault zone. This fault zone has violently disrupted the region with at least 22 large-magnitude earthquakes in the past 6,000 years.
Figure 8: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-134166 was acquired on October 24, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 50 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• February 19, 2018: An astronaut aboard the ISS (International Space Station) took this oblique photograph of smoke-filled canyons along the eastern margin of the Andes Mountains. The desert plateau of Bolivia lies in the foreground, with the southern end of Lake Titicaca at image lower left. The desert is known as the Altiplano ("high plain") because of its great altitude—just over 4000 meters. The city of La Paz, Bolivia's capital, lies on the edge of the Altiplano. 9)
- The smoke in the valleys comes from several fires on the upper margin of the montane forest. These forests, known locally as the Yungas, appear dark green in the image. The Yungas is forested because it is a relatively wet zone and is often cloudy. In fact, astronauts see the Yungas much less often than they see the usually cloudless Altiplano.
- A narrow mountain range known as the Cordillera Oriental (image center) lies between the Yungas and Altiplano regions; it is a sub-range of the Andes Mountains. Peaks are so high here—almost 6400 meters—that they are capped by small ice sheets and glaciers, which appear as bright white spots in the image. The highest peaks are Mount Ancohuma (far left) Cerro Gigante, and Nevado Illimani (image center of Figure 9).
Figure 9: Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-43418 was acquired on July 23, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 65 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• January 29, 2018: While flying over eastern Europe, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the Kaniv Reservoir on the Dnieper River, approximately 72 km (45 miles) south of Kiev, Ukraine. Neon green algae blooms, young forests that cover old crops, and variegated patches of agriculture—each of these unique features of the landscape are connected through history and its consequences. 10)
- In the early 1920s, a policy known as "collectivization" was adopted by the Soviet Union. For Ukrainians, the agricultural policy meant that most farming took place in kolkhozes (collective farms), with a large percentage of harvests being sent to urban centers. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, land in Ukraine was divided into small sections among the rural population, with each plot representing a former kolkhoz farmer.
- Today agriculture is still a major part of the Ukrainian economy, with more than 70 percent of the country's land area devoted to husbandry. Most of the agricultural plots are still used for growing crops, though some are fallow or abandoned and some overgrown with young forests. As a consequence of the pervasive agricultural land use, an abundance of fertilizer runs off into the nearby rivers and reservoirs, leading to phytoplankton (often algae) blooms. The algae seen here, and the nutrients they consume, also travel down the Dnieper River and its tributaries to the Black Sea, where larger phytoplankton blooms can occur.
Figure 10: Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-67483 was acquired on August 26, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 290 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• January 22, 2018: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station focused a camera on the delta of the Rhône River in southern France (Figure 11), with its long beaches on the Mediterranean Sea coast. Using a long lens for detail, the photographer captured a part of the delta where the bigger branch of the river, the "Grand Rhône," enters the sea. The smaller arm of the river is the "Petit Rhône" which is further west and beyond the lower edge of the image. The long beaches are favored by tourists because they are some of the least developed in the Mediterranean. 11)
- Numerous lakes are found on the delta. Some have been converted into the colorful, angular salt ponds near the aptly named town Salin-de-Giraud. Salt winning (from evaporation) has been a local industry for centuries.
- The Rhône delta is famous in Europe as a wilderness. This mainly rural region boasts a surprisingly rich natural environment known as the Camargue, based on the grasslands and many marsh ponds. The pastures are famous for rearing animals for bull-running sport and the bullfighting rings of Spain. The Camargue is also home to more than 400 species of birds and has been assigned the status of an Important Bird Area. It provides one of the few European sanctuaries for the greater flamingo.
- Unlike the mouths of most large rivers in Europe, the Grand Rhône is not dominated by a major city. The small Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône (population roughly 8,500) is a port annex of the major city of Marseille, which is 50 kilometers to the east.
Figure 11: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-15820 was acquired on July 14, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• January 2, 2018: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst floats inside the International Space Station's European Columbus laboratory. The image was taken during his first flight in 2014 (Figure 12). The lights in the laboratory are dimmed to a pinkish glow during the crew's off-duty time. Columbus houses NASA's Veggie greenhouse, where researchers are growing lettuce in weightlessness. Previous experiments showed that red light is best for growing plants in space. 12)
- Veggie is already a favorite experiment for astronauts because it offers fresh food at the end of a harvest. Learning how to grow food in space is essential for longer trips further from Earth.
- Nearly a decade ago, the Columbus laboratory set sail to become Europe's largest single contribution to the International Space Station. Shortly after, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle – the most complex spacecraft ever built in Europe – arrived at the orbital outpost.
- There is a lot to celebrate in 2018: the 10th anniversary of the Columbus laboratory and the Automated Transfer Vehicle series, plus Alexander's second mission to the Space Station.
- He will be launched in June on Soyuz MS-09 together with NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev. He will fulfil the role of commander during the second part of his six-month.
- This is the second time a European astronaut will be commander of the Station – the first was Frank De Winne in 2009.
• January 1, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph (Figure 13) of the Ticino River as it winds through Bellinzona Commune in the Lepontine Alps, Switzerland. The afternoon sunlight highlights the western mountain faces and contrasts with the mountain shadows, creating image depth and dimension. 13)
- Settlements like this one are typical of the Alpine foothills because of the flat land in the valley. Bellinzona City is the capital of Canton Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. The Ticino River empties into Lake Maggiore, the largest lake in southern Switzerland, approximately 14 km from the city.
- Switzerland is a federal state, meaning powers are divided amongst the confederation, cantons, and communes. The communes are the smallest political entity, but they have their own parliaments. Communes will sometimes consolidate regulation of schools and welfare, energy supplies, roads, local planning, and local taxation. Prior to 2017, there were at least fifteen communes identifiable in this image. On April 2, 2017, an aggregation combined smaller municipalities into one commune named Bellinzona. Most map annotations do not reflect this recent change. The number of communes in Canton Ticino have been reduced by half in the past eight years.
- There are three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bellinzona: Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro. A defensive wall (referred to as the murata) links the castles and recalls the Medieval period, when this tactical Alpine pass was protected from outsiders travelling to northern Italy.
Figure 13: This astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12869 was acquired on August 12, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• December 28, 2017: The crew aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the city lights of Naples and the Campania region of southern Italy (Figure 14). The Naples region is one of the brightest in the country; roughly three million people live in and around this metropolitan area. 14) 15)
- The different colors of lights in the scene reflect some of the history of development in the area. The green lights are mercury vapor bulbs, an older variety that has been replaced in newer developments by orange sodium bulbs (yellow-orange). To the northeast, the lightless gaps between the homes and businesses are agricultural fields. The bright yellow-orange complex amidst the fields is the CIS emporium, the largest commercial retail facility in Europe. The large black circular area in the photo is Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano on Europe's mainland. Vesuvius is a stratovolcano, made up of different materials—pyroclastic flows, lava flows, and debris from lahars—that accumulated to form the volcanic cone. Although any volcanic materials can endanger surrounding communities, pyroclastic flows of superheated ash and gas are among the most dangerous, moving at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per hour. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed in 79 AD by pyroclastic flows, which trapped more than 16,000 people.
- Such historic catastrophes—and the fact that 600,000 people live in the immediate vicinity—are the reason the volcano is one of the most heavily monitored in the world, with several dozen sensors located at many points on and around the cone. By dating lavas, scientists know that Mount Vesuvius has had eight major eruptions in the past 17,000 years.
- Vesuvius is part of the Campanian Volcanic Arc which includes the Campi Flegrei caldera/geothermal field to the west of Naples near Agnano and Mount Etna in Sicily.
- The astronauts and cosmonauts on the Space Station take pictures of Earth nearly every day, and over a year that adds up to thousands of photos. The staff at the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston had the enviable job of going through this year's crop to pick their top 17 photos of Earth for 2017—here's what they chose! Watch the video in 4K: https://youtu.be/NqWwhY_8j0I
Figure 14: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-37024 was acquired on January 30, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 400 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• December 23, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station focused a long-lens camera on the southern coastline of Lake Erie (Figure 15). The curved peninsula of Presque Isle State Park juts into the Great Lake, while the city in the lower part of the image is the deep-water port of Erie, Pennsylvania. Several V-shaped wakes show boat traffic around the port. 16)
- The lake water just offshore tends to be light-toned because significant river and beach sediment is regularly moved eastward by the action of wind and waves. The detailed image shows the swells made by these winds.
- Sediment has piled up to build this sand spit over thousands of years. Now covered with vegetation, Presque Isle State Park includes dozens of beach ridges—with each line representing a coastline from the past. The formation of the peninsula also has enclosed Presque Isle Bay, the site of modern port facilities.
- Because the sediment is constantly moved along the shore by waves, the exposed beach facing the lake has been protected from erosion. To do this, many short breakwaters (barriers) have been built just offshore for nearly the entire length of the beach.
Figure 15: The curved peninsula of Presque Isle State Park juts into the Great Lake, while the city in the lower part of the image is the deep-water port of Erie, Pennsylvania. This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-6364 was acquired on June 21, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew)
Figure 16: Detail image of Presque Isle State Park, this astronaut photograph ISS052-E-6364 was acquired on June 21, 2017 (image credit: NASA/JSC)
• December 14, 2017: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and his colleagues Randy Bresnik (Expedition 53 commander) of NASA and Sergei Ryazansky of Roscosmos returned to Earth from the International Space Station on 14 December in their Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft landing at 08:37 GMT in Kazakhstan. 17) 18)
- The ride home from the International Space Station saw the trio brake from 28 800 km/h to a standstill at touchdown in barely three hours.
- Paolo completed more than 60 experiments during his Vita mission, which stands for Vitality, Innovation, Technology and Ability.
- Paolo's body was itself an arena for research: his eyes, headaches, sleeping patterns and eating habits were monitored to learn more about how humans adapt to life in space. Temperature recordings, muscle exercises and plenty of blood and saliva samples will add to the picture and prepare humans for missions further from Earth.
- During his time on the orbital complex, Bresnik ventured outside the confines of the space station for three spacewalks. Along with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, Bresnik lead a trio of spacewalks to replace one of two latching end effectors on the station's robotic arm, Canadarm2. They also spent time lubricating the newly replaced Canadarm2 end effector and replacing cameras on the left side of the station's truss and the right side of the station's U.S. Destiny laboratory.
- Sergei Ryazansky of Roscosmos conducted one spacewalk with fellow cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin in August to deploy several nanosatellites, collect research samples, and perform structural maintenance.
Figure 17: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli (left) and crewmates Randy Bresnik of NASA (right) and Sergei Ryazansky of Roscosmos in their Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft wearing their Sokol launch and entry suits. The veteran space travelers were preparing for their return to Earth after 139 days in space (image credit: ESA, NASA) 19)
- Tempus Pro, a portable vital-signs monitor capable of telemedicine via satellite, is helping medics at ESA astronaut landings.20) On Sept. 29, 2017, Thomas Pesquet was the first to benefit following his Proxima mission.
- At Paolo Nespoli's landing a set of features of this device including the ultrasound probe, developed during the ESA Amazon project, were used under the harsh Kazakh winter conditions.
- Remote Diagnostic Technologies in the UK developed the Tempus device with funding and support from the Business Applications part of ESA's Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems program.
Figure 18: Health check for Paolo Nespoli using Tempus Pro (image credit: ESA, Stephane Corvaja, 2017)
Figure 19: NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik is being helped by ground personnel after his landing in Kazakhstan (image credit: NASA TV)
• December 11, 2017: This photograph of Figure 20, taken from the ISS (International Space Station), shows the sweep of the coastline of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The cluster of lights at image center includes the major population centers of the Levant. The brightest lights are the cities of Tel Aviv in Israel, Amman in Jordan, and Beirut in Lebanon. Other light clusters include the Nile Delta in Egypt, and a nearby thin string of lights revealing the Suez Canal. The more scattered lights of the Turkish coastline and the country's mountainous interior arc from top left to top center. 21)
- Populations are small in the deserts of the Middle East, so few lights appear in vast portions of Saudi Arabia (right), Syria (top center) and Iraq (top right). The largest population centers cluster where water is available, especially along the great rivers of the region, the Tigris and Euphrates. In Iraq, the capital city Baghdad stands as the brightest spot where these rivers meet.
- Images such as this also show the hints of conflict. In Syria, darkness now reigns along a 300 km stretch where lights use to line the Euphrates River in the east of the country. This has left most of eastern Syria in the dark.
Figure 20: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-50422 was acquired on September 28, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 24 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• December 5, 2017: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli completes some tests in the BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) on the International Space Station (Figure 21). The crew routinely monitors the new expandable habitat for its suitability in space. The module was compressed for launch and expanded to its full volume in space, offering low-mass but larger constructions than traditional hulls. BEAM serves as an additional storage facility on the ISS, also used for crew operations. 22)
- As for beaming back to Earth, Paolo will rely on a Soyuz rather than a Scotty.
- Paolo and Expedition 52/53 crewmates Randy Bresnik of NASA and Sergei Ryazansky of Roscosmos will record a total of 139 days in space when they return to Earth on 14 December. They will hitch a ride back to Earth in Soyuz MS-05, landing on the Kazakh steppe in the early hours.
- By the end of his Vita mission, Paolo will have completed over 60 experiments covering biology, material sciences, technology, education and human research. During this time Paolo, Randy and Sergei also welcomed five visiting vehicles – a Soyuz crew vehicle and four cargo ferries – two of which Paolo captured with the 16 m-long Canadarm2 robotic arm.
- With the 139 days of Vita, Paolo totals 313 days in space across his three flights.
• December 4, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station focused a camera on the geometric patterns of farms on some plateaus in northeast Brazil. Here the fields, mainly soybeans and maize, have been planted right up to the edges of the small plateaus. The edges are ragged lines marked by cliffs (Figure 22). 23)
- The many flat plateau surfaces of southern Maranhão State are ideal for the wheeled machinery of mechanized agriculture. In fact, the capital city of the region, Balsas, is known as the "capital of mechanized agriculture."
- The steep-sided river valleys—such as that of the Balsas River—lie fully 200 meters below the plateaus. Numerous finger-like tributaries are eroding and creating smaller valleys, which are poor landscapes for mechanized farming. One result is that the forests around the valleys remain in their pristine form, even though southern Maranhão is part of Brazil's long "arc of deforestation" on the southern margin of a dense forest zone.
Figure 22: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-16508 was acquired on July 19, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 210 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• November 16, 2017: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are now busily unloading nearly four tons of science experiments, research gear, station equipment and crew supplies – following the launch of the Orbital ATK Antares rocket earlier this week on Sunday Nov. 12 from Virginia's eastern shore that propelled the Cygnus cargo freighter to an on time arrival two days later on Tuesday Nov. 14. The Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft was christened the S.S. Gene Cernan and named in honor of NASA's Apollo 17 lunar landing commander, Gene Cernan. 24)
Figure 23: The six-member Expedition 53 crew poses for a portrait inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module with the VICTORY art spacesuit that was hand-painted by cancer patients in Russia and the United States. On the left (from top to bottom) are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei with cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos. On the right (from top to bottom) are European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA (image credit: NASA/ESA/Roscosmos)
• November 13, 2017: The scale and form of many impressive features on Earth's surface can only be fully appreciated through an overhead view. The astronauts onboard the International Space Station may enjoy the best overhead view of all. 25)
- The Zagros Mountains of southeastern Iran are the location of numerous salt domes and salt glaciers, formed as a result of the depositional history and tectonic forces operating in the region. While many of these landscape features are named on maps, the salt glacier in this photograph remains unnamed on global maps and atlases (Figure 24).
- The vaguely hourglass (or bowtie) shaped morphology of the salt glacier is due to the central location of the salt dome, which formed within the central Zagros ridge crest (top and lower left). Salt extruded from the dome and then flowed downslope into the adjacent valleys. For a sense of scale, the distance across the salt glacier from northwest to southeast is approximately 14 km.
- Much like what happens in flowing ice glaciers, concentric transverse ridges have formed in the salt perpendicular to the flow direction. While bright salt materials are visible in stream beds incising the salt glacier, older surfaces—those farther from the central salt dome—appear dark, most likely due to windblown dust deposition over time or entrainment of sediments in the salt during flow.
Figure 24: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8401 was acquired on June 24, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a, 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by William L. Stefanov)
• November 9, 2017: A Full Moon is a sight to behold on or off planet. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli didn't miss the chance to photograph this one. Taken from the International Space Station – its solar panels take up much of the frame – the Moon still manages to draw the eye (Figure 25). 26)
- After more than 40 years, the Moon is once again in the spotlight of space agencies worldwide, as a destination for both robotic missions and human explorers.
- Why now? Relying on the success of the International Space Station partnership, the space community sees the Moon as a springboard to continue human exploration of the Solar System, with Mars as the next goal.
- Moving away from one-shot orbital missions, bold ambitions foresee humans exploring the polar regions hand-in-hand with robots, in international cooperation and commercial participation.
- This return to the Moon envisages a series of human missions starting in the early 2020s that would see astronauts interact with robots on the surface from orbit. Robots will land first, paving the way for human explorers.
- Lunar rovers, telerobotics and hybrid surface power are some of the innovative approaches that are being developed to support these early missions.
• November 7, 2017: Life on Earth has a myriad of problems, but gravity isn't one of them – staying grounded means organisms can soak up the light and heat that enables growth. — It's no wonder that the free-floating environment of space stresses organisms, which survive only if they can adapt. Like humans, plants have proven their robustness in space. Now, thanks to the International Space Station, we know more on how they cope with weightlessness. 27)
- To understand how light and gravity affect plant growth, researchers from the US and Europe have grown more than 1700 thale cress seedlings in Europe's Columbus module.
- Germinated in prepacked cassettes and monitored by ground control, the seedlings were harvested after six days, frozen or preserved and returned to Earth for inspection.
- Researchers are now working with realtime images of the seeds as they grew and genetic and molecular analyses of the returned seedlings.
- What were they hoping to find? — On Earth, roots grow down into the soil, reaching for water and minerals. Weightless disrupts this natural route, altering cell growth unless the plant can overcome it.
- The results so far are pointing to some interesting conclusions. Obviously, seedlings in microgravity grew random roots but they still managed to grow. Plant genes known to overcome environmental stresses on Earth – heat, frost, salinity – kick into gear. Red light seems to help re-regulate cell growth interrupted by weightlessness.
- The most recent lettuce harvest on the Space Station shows plants can already mature in space. So why study the seedlings?
- In this case, knowledge of how plants overcome gravitational stress to mature into harvestable crops is growing power.
Figure 26: Growing seedlings: NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn with the Seedling Growth-1 seeds ready to load into the EMCS (European Modular Cultivation System) on the International Space Station (image credit: ESA/NASA)
- The new results suggest gravity may not be the biggest obstacle to growing plants in space, which is good news for future Moon and Mars colonies. We won't make it far into space if we can't grow our own food along the way.
- Back on Earth, global climate change is affecting agriculture, and understanding how plants respond to stress and adapt at genetic and molecular levels means we can help to increase agricultural efficiency in general.
- It may be a while before space farm to space table becomes the next big thing, but the latest experiments have taken us one step closer.
Figure 27: Space lettuce. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and crewmates enjoyed the latest lettuce harvest for dinner on the International Space Station (image credit: ESA)
• October 30, 2017: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station photographed Lake Hazlett and Lake Willis in Western Australia's Great Sandy Desert (Figure 28). Hundreds of ephemeral salt lakes are peppered throughout the arid Australian Outback. When occasional flood waters pour into the lakebeds and then evaporate, they leave salt mineral deposits and create bright, expansive layers that are readily visible from space, as seen in this image taken by the Expedition 52 crew on the station. 28)
- The reddish-brown linear sand dunes are slightly higher in elevation (1.5 to 3 meters) and align with the general east to west wind flow in the region. Approximately 32 km south of the lakes lies Lake Mackay, the fourth largest salt lake in Australia. The Pintubi tribe and other Australian Aborigine survived around these lakes for thousands of years in what is now called the Kiwirrkurra Community.
Figure 28: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-20826 was acquired on July 26, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens; it is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• October 24, 2017: Astronauts have a wealth of knowledge to absorb before they can fly to the International Space Station: from piloting spacecraft to conducting spacewalks and maintaining one of the most advanced structures ever built by humans. -Having intricate knowledge of every component is impossible, so astronauts do regular refresher trainings while in space and ground control helps during complex operations. 29)
- Detailed checklists with step-by-step instructions are sent to the Space Station's computers for the astronauts to follow, but this has a large drawback: reading and clicking on to the next step in the instructions requires that the astronaut has to let go of any tools and divert attention to the detailed procedure list.
- ESA is working on the MobiPV mobile procedure viewer, which allows ground control to see what the astronauts sees and the wearer to work hands-free. MobiPV has been tested underwater and in space using commercially available parts but, just like mobile phones, the engineers are constantly upgrading the system to do more.
- Here, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli has set up the latest version of MobiPV to check the system is working as planned (Figure 29).
- This model allows multiple ground control stations to watch the video streamed from a camera in the glasses – useful for tasks that involve researchers and engineers from different countries as the International Space Station is run by USA, Japan, Russia, Canada and ESA.
- The download and upload speed has been improved, while the software was upgraded to allow for situations when there is no direct contact with ground control, preparing for missions further afield such as on the Moon or Mars.
- Unlike with mobile phones, any updates to MobiPV cannot cause unintended effects – performing any task in space allows no room for error. A lost connection or problem with the system cannot be allowed to impair the astronaut in any way, so MobiPV is robust.
- Paolo is set to use MobiPV to maintain a water pump in Europe's Columbus space laboratory.
• October 23,2017: Looking down on the desert vistas of the southwestern United States, an astronaut took this photograph of a short section of the Colorado River. This reach of the river is marked by dark-toned agricultural fields, both rectangular and round, restricted to the narrow zone of arable land on the floodplain close to the river. For scale, the larger crop circles are 750 meters in diameter. Note that from the astronaut's perspective here, north is to the left. 30)
- The towns of Fort Mohave and Mesquite Creek are more difficult to see and occupy slightly higher ground—separated from the floodplain by steep bluffs that appear along the lower margin of the image. This area lies within the Fort Mohave Indian Reservation; it is also where the state boundaries of Arizona, Nevada, and California meet. The Mohave people have leased much of the reservation to agribusinesses for cultivation of commodity crops such as alfalfa, corn, and soybeans. This has led to an influx of non-native people, such that the Mohave now make up less than half of the population of the reservation.
Figure 30: Astronaut photograph ISS051-E-13172 was acquired on April 14, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• On 20 October 2017, two NASA astronauts floated outside the International Space Station for the third spacewalk this month aimed at repairing the orbiting outpost's robotic arm and replacing old video cameras. During a six hour, 49 minute spacewalk, NASA's Joe Acaba and Randy Bresnik put the finishing touches on repairs to the 17 m long Canadarm 2. 31)
- Canadarm 2 has been a key piece of equipment at the orbiting outpost for 16 years, but in August it lost its ability to grip effectively.
- Astronauts inside the station maneuver the external arm to latch on to incoming spaceships that are packed with food and supplies for the rotating crew of six living in low-Earth orbit. It is also used to move equipment and people around outside the space station.
- The next US supply shipment, delivered on an unmanned Cygnus cargo ship launched by Orbital ATK, is expected to arrive November 13.
- In a rush to get the repairs done before then, NASA organized a rapid-fire succession of three spacewalks in three weeks — October 5, October 10 and October 20.
- During the October 20 outing, the astronauts replaced a poorly focusing camera system at the end of the robotic arm — necessary to get a good view of the approaching cargo ships — and fixed a fuse on the robotic arm's extension, called Dextre.
- They also installed another new high definition video camera outside the ISS.
Figure 31: US astronauts Joe Acaba and Randy Bresnik float outside the ISS as they repair the outpost's robotic arm on October 20, 2017 (image credit NASA) 32)
• October 16, 2017: An astronaut aboard the ISS captured this photograph of Lagoa dos Barros and crescent-shaped barchan dunes on the Atlantic coastline of southern Brazil. Lagoa dos Barros is approximately 4.5 km long. The lagoons along the Brazilian coast formed around 400,000 years ago as part of the cyclic rise and fall of sea level—known to geologists as the transgression-regression cycle. The formation of Lagoa dos Barros is similar to what occurred alongside Lagoa Mirim, 340 kilometers to the south-southwest. 33)
- Strong winds blowing in from the Western Atlantic sculpt the sand along the coast into distinctive crescent shapes. Multiple dunes have overlapped and coalesced to form dune fields, with prominent examples visible to the northeast and southwest of the lake. The tips of barchan dunes point downwind, indicating the prevailing wind direction. These fragile formations act as barriers keeping the wind and waves from penetrating inland, blunting the effect of storms and minimizing coastal erosion.
Figure 32: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-14188 was acquired on July 9, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• October 10, 2017: Talk about an image making your head spin: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli took this stunning image of NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hai during last week's spacewalk (Figure 33). 34)
- During this excursion, the duo replaced part of the Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm. The spacewalk took just under seven hours and saw the astronauts not only complete their main task but also accomplish some ‘get-ahead' tasks.
- Spacewalks are intensive for both crewmembers and ground support, so any opportunity to get ahead is welcomed.
- This is the first of three spacewalks planned this month. Randy and Mark will venture out again on 10 October, followed by Randy and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba on 20 October.
- The next spacewalks will again work on the robotic arm and replace some of the Station's cameras.
- Paolo will remain inside the Station and help the spacewalkers in and out of their suits. He will also be sure to take more stunning photographs.
• September 29, 2017: Tempus Pro, a portable vital-signs monitor offering telemedicine via satellite, is helping medics at ESA astronaut landings. Thomas Pesquet was the first to benefit at the end of his mission in May. Remote Diagnostic Technologies in the UK developed the Tempus device with funding and support from the Business Applications part of ESA's Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems program.
- Astronauts returning from space must readjust to life on Earth. Gravity influences the body's balance, cardiovascular functions, and especially the muscles, so astronauts are carefully monitored as soon as they are out of their reentry capsule.
- As he was feeling gravity for the first time in six months, several sensors were attached to his body and connected to the device to gather important medical information.
- This was repeated in the medical tent, during the helicopter ride back to Karaganda in Kazakhstan and on the aircraft back to Cologne in Germany, to allow doctors to detect any changes in his condition.
- "In the challenging environment of an astronaut landing, Tempus Pro allowed us to track and log medical information quickly and easily and to share this in real time with our medical colleagues at ESA's European Astronaut Center in Cologne," commented Sergi Vaquer, ESA's flight surgeon. - The secured satellite link with the astronaut center required a portable satellite antenna connected to the unit.
Figure 34: Health check for Thomas Pesquet after landing in Kazakhstan from his mission on the ISS. ESA medical staff stood by with the Tempus Pro device (image credit: ESA)
- All data were recorded in his encrypted patient record on the device and sent from Kazakhstan via a secured satellite link to the rest of the medical team at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne.
- Tempus Pro is compatible with all conventional instruments typically used for emergency monitoring and intensive care such as blood oxygen saturation and contact temperature sensors, electrocardiogram leads, laryngoscope and a USB ultrasound probe. It includes a GPS chip and has wi-fi, Bluetooth, GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and Ethernet connectivity, and can exchange voice, video and medical data.
Figure 35: Tempus Pro (on the table at left), a portable vital-signs monitor capable of telemedicine via satellite, was used by medics at the landing of ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet following his Proxima mission (image credit: ESA)
• During the week of 25-29 September 2017, the space community has gathered in Adelaide, Australia for the 68th IAC (International Astronautical Congress), the largest yearly event of the space community. At this conference, astronauts, researchers, space agencies and industry are discussing the latest in space exploration, including human and robotic villages on the Moon and Mars. - While scientific discoveries are important, the increasing role of business is a major theme of discussions. 35)
- ESA Director General Jan Woerner joined counterparts from Russian, American, Japanese, Canadian, Chinese and Indian space agencies in a plenary session to present ESA's plans to increase scientific research via new business opportunities.
- ESA has already taken the first steps in exploration innovation: last week, commercial enterprises were invited to submit proposals for technology, landers and payloads to help shape humanity's sustainable return to the Moon.
- A demonstrator mission is just one of ESA's ambitious plans for the next decade of exploration to take us from the Space Station to the Moon, a deep-space gateway and a Mars landing.
- This new age of exploration will be achieved not in competition, but through international cooperation. ESA is already working with partners globally to achieve its exciting vision of human and robotic exploration.
- While ESA targets deep space, the agency is still investing in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) facilities like the International Space Station. ESA will continue to support the Station to the end of its life in 2024 because it offers out-of-this-world facilities for science as well as stunning photographs such as this one taken by ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in 2015 (Figure 36).
Figure 36: Astronaut photo of Adelaide, acquired by Samantha Cristoforetti in 2015 from the ISS. Adelaide is the capital city of the state of South Australia, and the fifth-most populous city of Australia with a population of 1.35 million (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• September 25, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a camera on the Bosphorus (or Bosporus), also called the Istanbul Strait, which famously divides Europe (lower half of the image) from Asia (upper). Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, flanks both shorelines (Figure 37). 36)
- Forested parks (lower left) contrast with the red roof tiles of the cityscape, one of the most striking features of Istanbul when viewed from space. Three bridges connect the opposite shores, two of which appear in the image—the Bosphorus Bridge and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, which is named for Mehmed the Conqueror.
- Highways lace the city, connecting clusters of high-rise buildings that stand out from the tiled roofs and cast more shadow than shorter buildings. Taksim Square is the center of modern Istanbul. It appears as an open space near the Dolmabahce Palace, the administrative heart of the Ottoman Empire in pre-republic centuries.
- The Bosphorus enables significant amounts of international shipping to move between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. It is especially important as an outlet for Russian oil products.
- In this photograph, a few ships are visible in the waterway. At several points they need to make dangerously sharp turns, with coastlines obstructing visibility. This is especially true at Yeniköy and Kandilli Point. Navigation is made more hazardous because currents can reach 7 to 8 knots (3.6 to 4.1 m/s). The risks of navigating the Bosphorus are multiplied by the heavy ferry traffic linking the European and Asian shores.
- To reduce the number of ships and to improve safety in this narrow waterway—just 1050 m at the Bosphorus Bridge—officials have proposed to dig a new waterway. The Kanal Istanbul would connect the Mediterranean and Black Sea at a point 70 km to the west of Istanbul.
Figure 37: This astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12977 was acquired on April 13, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• September 1, 2017: This weekend ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli will say farewell to three of his crewmates who will leave the International Space Station back for Earth. 37)
- Fyodor is the current commander of the Space Station so he will hand over duties to NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik on Friday, 1 September at 20:30 CEST (Central European Standard Time) in a formal ceremony that will be broadcast live via NASA television. This ceremony will mark the end of Expedition 52.
- The flight home for the trio will leave late at night European time with Peggy, Fyodor and Jack saying goodbye at 20:00 CEST and closing the hatch between Soyuz MS-04 and the Space Station at around 20:40 CEST. The spacecraft is scheduled to undock around midnight CEST with landing at 3:22 CEST on Sunday morning.
- Paolo will stay in space with Randy and Roscosmos astronaut Sergei Ryazansky looking after the Space Station and continuing their science duties.
- The next trio to visit are already gearing up for launch on 12 September. NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba will join Russian commander Alexander Misurkin in their Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft.
- Peggy Whitson returned to Earth on September 3, 2017 after she accrued a total of 665 days in space over the course of her career. This total was more time in space than any other woman worldwide and any other American of any gender.
Figure 38: Farewell photo of Expedition 52 crew. From left: Randy Bresnik (NASA), Sergey Ryazansky (Roscomos), Peggy Whitson (NASA), Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscomos), Jack Fisher (NASA), Paolo Nespoli (ESA), image credit: NASA, posted by Chiara)
• August 22, 2017: Aboard the International Space Station, NASA Flight Engineer Randy Bresnik took still images of the partial solar eclipse as seen from the unique vantage of the Expedition 52 crew on August 21. Witnessing the eclipse from orbit with Bresnik were NASA's Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, ESA (European Space Agency's) Paolo Nespoli, and Roscosmos' Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergey Ryazanskiy. The space station crossed the path of the eclipse three times as it orbited above the continental United States at an altitude of 400 km. 38)
- On August 21, 2017, the Earth crossed the shadow of the moon, creating a total solar eclipse. Eclipses happen about every six months, but this one is special. For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon's shadow passed through the continental United States.
Figure 39: Image of the partial eclipse as seen from the unique vantage of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA)
Figure 40: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli took this picture from the ISS during the total solar eclipse of the Sun over the US on 21 August 2017 - showing the Moon's shadow on Earth (image credit: ESA/NASA) 39)
• August 21,2017: Looking down on the narrow seas between Europe and England, an astronaut took this photograph of the small town of Zeebrugge, one of Europe's most important modern ports (Figure 41). This Belgian town has just 4,000 inhabitants, but it takes 11,000 people to operate the port, so workers stream in from neighboring coastal towns such as Knokke-Heist, Heist-aan-Zee, and Blankenberge. 40)
- Zeebrugge is a town of superlatives. It is the world's largest port for the import and export of new vehicles, with more than 1.6 million handled in 2010. Zeebrugge is also the site of Europe's largest LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) terminal, receiving the gas via an undersea pipeline from the North Sea.
- The port at Zeebrugge accommodates "ultra-large" container ships, so it is one of the most important European hubs for containerized cargo. The most important function of the port is intense "RoRo traffic" (roll-on roll-off) between cities on the Continent, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and Southern Europe. The port handles more than 2.5 million standard containers,TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) and 50 million tons of cargo each year.
- Being close to the United Kingdom, the coastal town also functions as a passenger ferry terminal. It attracts tourists to its cruise ships as well as its beaches, which are well developed north of the harbor in Albertstrand. Zeebrugge is also Belgium's most important fishing port, and its wholesale fish market is one of the largest in Europe.
- Hundreds of years ago, an arm of the sea extended well inland as far as the village of Damme, which acted as a port for centuries. When this inlet silted up, Zeebrugge became the port for the famous historical inland city of Bruges (just outside the lower right of the photo) with which it is still connected by a straight canal. Zeebrugge means Bruges by the sea.
Figure 41: This astronaut photograph ISS051-E-13055 was acquired on April 13, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• Aug. 16, 2017: One of the most recognizable points on the Earth for astronauts to photograph is the Bahamas, captured in striking images many times from the vantage point of the International Space Station. Expedition 52 Flight Engineer Randy Bresnik of NASA took this photo on Aug. 13, 2017, and shared it with his followers on social media (Figure 42). Bresnik said, "The stunning Bahamas were a real treat for us. The vivid turquoise of the water over the reef was absolutely captivating." 41)
• August 3, 2017: The newest crewmember on the International Space Station, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, has hit the ground running. After arriving in the early hours of 29 July and taking the rest of the day off, Paolo and the crew were back to work by 30 July. 42)
- First up on Paolo's schedule is a human physiology experiment using the Mares (Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System). MARES, housed in Europe's Columbus laboratory module, is a three-in-one muscle-measuring machine that monitors astronauts' muscles as they work out. - Muscle strength decreases during spaceflight and researchers need to know why in order to prepare for long missions and safe space tourism.
- The measurements are part of the Sarcolab-3 experiment that is assessing how weightlessness affects the calf and ankle muscles, the parts of the leg that carry the load of the rest of the body. "This is important, as establishing the mechanisms involved in space-related muscle deterioration will help us to devise optimized countermeasures," says Thu Jennifer Ngo-Anh, head of ESA's Human Research Office.
- Sarcolab-3 is a unique experiment, involving scientists from NASA, ESA and the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems – an example of international cooperation benefitting scientific research.
Figure 43: Human spaceflight image of the week: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli tests his muscles (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• July 31, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of Crater Lake, in the Cascade Mountains of southwest Oregon. Snow still blankets most of the slopes surrounding the crater in late June, and clouds cast dark shadows on the lake surface. Wizard Island, a cinder cone volcano, is almost hidden by the clouds over the western part of the lake (Note that north is to the bottom of the photo). 43)
Figure 44: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8744 was acquired on June 26, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
- Crater Lake is the surface expression of a caldera that formed when Mount Mazama—a composite volcano whose peak once towered 3,600 meters above sea level—exploded and collapsed in a catastrophic eruption approximately 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. The lake now stands 1,883 meters above sea level.
- Fed by rain and snow, and with no rivers flowing in or out, Crater Lake is the deepest in the United States and ninth deepest in the world. The depth of the lake (592 m) was first calculated by geologist Clarence Dutton and his team using 168 measurements made with piano wire and lead weights. He was assisted by William Steel, who later campaigned to establish Crater Lake as a national park in the late 1800s. The original measurement of depth was only 53 feet off from modern sonar measurements.
- The lake is 8.0 by 9.7 km across, with a caldera rim ranging in elevation from 2,100 to 2,400 m and an average lake depth of 350 m. The lake's maximum depth has been measured 594 m which fluctuates slightly as the weather changes.
- In 1902, Crater Lake and the surrounding 740 km2 were established as Crater Lake National Park. In 2016, more than 750,000 people visited the park. Part of the reason the lake has so many visitors is the fishing. In the late 1800s, Steel and colleagues introduced six species into the lake, though there are only rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon (the landlocked version of sockeye salmon) remaining today. Since none of them were native to the lake, fishermen are not required to obtain a permit.
• July 17, 2017: Astronauts aboard the ISS (International Space Station) took this photograph of the south end of Chilko Lake in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia (Figure 45). Seen here are the southern 11 km of the lake (with a total length of 65 km, a surface area of 184 km2 and a water volume of 21.2 km3). The lake surface lies at 1,175 m in elevation, with neighboring mountains reaching so high (more than 2,200 m) that they support permanent ice fields and glaciers. 44)
- Occupying a valley carved by glaciers, the remote lake dominates Ts'yl-os Provincial Park (pronounced "sigh-loss"). The lake, 250 km north of Vancouver, is the largest natural high-elevation lake in Canada. The park is administered as the traditional territory of the Xeni Gwet'in people, one of the First Nations of British Columbia. The park is also named Ts'il-os in the Athabaskan Chilcotin (Tsilhqot'in) language. Ts'il-os is also the Tsilhqot'in name for Mount Tatlow 3,063 m, which stands in the ranges between the Chilko and Taseko Lakes.
- Edmond Creek has built a small delta at the head of the lake. Its glacial meltwater feeds fine white sediment (glacial flour) into the lake, changing its color. Most of the lake appears a deep blue color because of its depth (366 meters), but the glacial flour lightens the water color near the delta. The pattern of light-colored water hugging the southeastern shoreline shows that currents in the lake flow counter-clockwise and draw the muddy water northward. The currents are driven by the dominant westerly winds in this region of Canada.
- Seen from space, the extreme topography of the Canadian Coast Mountains creates a distinctive contrast between snowpack and ice on high peaks, such as Snow White Mountain, and dark valleys nearby. The valleys are dominated by forests and are often in shadow, partly because of the low sun angle at this latitude (51°16'N 124°3'W). Some north-facing slopes never receive direct sunlight.
Figure 45: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8635 was acquired on June 26, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• July 10, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph (5 m spatial resolution) of Washington D.C., the capital of the United States of America (Figure 46). Here the Potomac River flows south toward Chesapeake Bay and forms the geographic boundary between Virginia and Washington (as well as Maryland), while the Anacostia River links to the Potomac on the eastern side of the city. 45)
- Wedged between Maryland and Virginia, the District of Columbia was established in 1790 to serve as the permanent seat of the U.S. federal government. Originally the territory was relinquished by Virginia and Maryland as a 100-square-mile plot (259 km2) on both sides of the Potomac River. At the time, Georgetown, Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia (just out of the scene to the lower left), were successful ports located on the eastern and western sides of the river. Georgetown remains as an historic neighborhood of Washington, D.C. In 1846, Virginia gained back the land contributed to the District of Columbia as a result of neglect of the area by Congress (known as retrocession). Those areas eventually became the cities of Arlington and Alexandria. There are 40 boundary stones that mark the original District boundary and stand as the oldest federal monument in the country.
- The past 200 years have painted Washington rich with social and political history. Hundreds of monuments and sculptures are peppered throughout the city to honor the nation's founders, its presidents, its military and cultural heroes, and other men and women who have shaped the nation. Among the most popular places are the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall, the White House, and the United States Capitol.
- According to the US Census Bureau, more than 681,000 people reside in Washington. Commuters from Virginia and Maryland swell the daytime, work-week population past one million.
Figure 46: This astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12656 was acquired on April 11, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• July 2, 2017: While passing over the Great Australian Bight and the cloud-covered Indian Ocean, NASA astronaut Jack Fischer looked south from the International Space Station and photographed the glowing green lights of the aurora australis. The blue glow of dawn appears at the far left, the ISS solar arrays jut into the foreground, and stars fill the space above the edge of the atmosphere. 46)
- The aurora australis (southern lights) occurs when charged particles from the magnetosphere (the magnetic space around Earth) are accelerated by the solar wind or storms from the Sun. The pressure and magnetic energy of solar plasma stretches and twists the magnetic field, particularly on the night side of Earth. This energizes particles trapped in our magnetic field, and that energy is released suddenly as the field lines snap the particles down field lines toward the north and south magnetic poles.
- These fast-moving electrons collide with Earth's upper atmosphere, transferring their energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules and making them chemically "excited." As the gases return to their normal state, they emit photons—small bursts of energy in the form of light. The color of light reflects the type of molecules releasing it; oxygen molecules and atoms tend to glow green, white, or red, while nitrogen tends to be blue or purple. This ghostly light originates at altitudes of 100 to 400 km.
- The fainter arc of light that parallels the horizon—airglow—is another manifestation of the interaction of the Earth's atmosphere with radiation from the Sun.
Figure 47: Astronaut photograph ISS052-E-4998 was acquired on June 19, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 24 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Mike Carlowicz)
• June 26, 2017: An astronaut on the International Space Station took this photograph of a strip mine in Germany (Figure 48), located along the Polish border at the Neisse River (Nysa in Polish). Here lignite, also known as soft brown coal, is being mined in large quantities to supply one of Germany's largest power stations near the village of Jänschwalde. 47)
- Using a long lens, the astronaut managed to capture the size and detail of the artificial landscape that results from strip mining. The rock face that is being actively worked casts a series of straight, dark shadows. Another strip mine is active immediately south (lower right).
- Immense excavator machines rip up the lignite; these can be seen at the west end of the face in the high-resolution download of the image. At this mine, the machines scrape off the overlying non-fuel rock layer (known as overburden), dig up the lignite, and then replace the mined strip with the overburden material as the rockface advances. This reclaimed "backfill zone" appears in the image as a series of lines parallel to the mining front, but lacking the shadow.
- Jänschwalde power station (just outside the bottom of the photo) is the third largest in Germany, with yearly power output of 22 billion kilowatt hours. At peak production it requires 80,000 tons of lignite fuel daily. Lignite is only economically mined if it lies near the surface and spread over a wide area. The area set aside for this mine is greater than 30 km2.
Figure 48: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-52210 was acquired on February 16, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• June 19, 2017: An astronaut took this photograph of a section of Isla Mayor, an island in the delta of the Guadalquivir River in southwestern Spain (Figure 49). The Doñana National Park is a marshland nature reserve that has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage site. The larger, multi-colored geometric shapes in the scene are fish ponds, while the smaller, dark rectangles are rice fields. 48)
- The fish farming practiced here tries to mimic natural conditions—maintaining the original wetland conditions—more closely than many "intensive" fish farms around the world. These larger ponds are fed with river water, which contains natural food types, especially algae and shrimp, without commercial fish feed or antibiotics. Such larger fish ponds reduce problems, such as fish diseases and degradation of the pond water, and raise marketability. Species farmed here include sea bass, grey mullet, meagre, and shrimp.
- Cattle raising and rice farming are being progressively phased out of the area as part of a wider plan to surround the Doñana park with environments that resemble the original wetlands. The region is becoming one of the largest bird refuges in Europe, attracting almost 250 species of migratory birds each year. Fish taken from the ponds by birds—amounting to about 20 percent of the fish population—are viewed as part of an ecosystem in balance.
Figure 49: Astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12705 was acquired on April 12, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• June 15,2017: Space is an inhospitable environment for the human body but we adapt remarkably well. Within hours, the brain adjusts to the lack of an up or down, as if floating is all it has ever known. Now researchers are learning how our internal clock similarly adjusts to the restrictions of space. An ESA-sponsored experiment has found that while you can take the body out of Earth, you can't take an Earth-based rhythm out of the body. 49)
- At the core: Circadian rhythms describe the changes our bodies undergo over about 24 hours. This internal clock is regulated by core temperature, which tells our bodies when its day or night and triggers systems such as metabolism and the sleep cycle.
- On Earth, our core temperature is a steady 37°C, with half a degree decrease in the early morning and increase in the early evening.
- "If our bodies are an orchestra, core body temperature is the conductor, signalling when hormones and other systemic functions should come into play," explains Dr. Hanns-Christian Gunga of the University of Berlin, principle investigator of the experiment.
- The circadian rhythm is a smooth wave that synchronizes with our day of 24 hours. — What happens to this wave in space? Researchers predicted that the lack of regular sunlight and the artificial environment of the ISS (International Space Station) would flatten it. In other words, core temperature would drop and the human body would lose its rhythm.
- To test this theory, 10 astronauts measured their core temperatures for 36 hour periods before, during and after spaceflight using two sensors strapped to the forehead and the chest.
- The results so far have amazed researchers. Core body temperature increased overall, and the half-degree fluctuations within 24 hours gradually shifted by about two hours.
- In order to keep its rhythm going, the body works harder and runs warmer. Triggers to eat, metabolize and sleep, for example, shift to account for this. Researchers are not yet sure why this is the case, but these initial results have important implications.
- Astronauts are shift workers with tight schedules. To ensure they work when they're most alert and focused and rest when they need to, we must understand and anticipate enhanced circadian rhythms during spaceflight. Mission controllers can then more effectively plan longer missions to ensure crew are healthy and efficient.
- The role of core temperature in tuning our clocks also suggests important research avenues for shift work studies on Earth. The non-invasive sensor developed to measure temperature on the Station can also be used to conveniently track core temperature in clinics or field studies.
Figure 50: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti participated in the Circadian Rhythms experiment during her mission on the International Space Station in 2014–15. The sensor is a non-invasive thermometer worn on the forehead and on the sternum that continuously monitors core body temperature. Participating astronauts track temperature for 36-hour periods many times during their missions as well as before and after spaceflight (image credit: NASA/ESA) 50)
- ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli will be the next astronaut to take part this year, followed by Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai in 2018, by when the experiment will have collected all of its data and more conclusions can be made.
• June 12, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of eastern New Orleans, along the southeastern shores of Lake Pontchartrain (Figure 52). Known as the rural side of New Orleans, the landscape is largely lakes, marshes, and bayous, widely dispersed suburbs, and Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, the largest urban refuge in the United States. 52)
- The geographic names of the region—Point aux Herbes, Lake Maisson, Irish Bayou—reflect the influence of European settlers. New Orleans was established by French colonists in the 1700s, later ruled by Spain, and then finally sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The Irish cultural heritage stems from a wave of immigration in the early nineteenth century.
- In contrast with the significantly older downtown area, most of the development in Eastern New Orleans began in the 1960s. Hurricane Katrina (2005) caused extensive damage to this area, closing a large number of businesses and halting development—a situation from which the area has not yet recovered.
- Interstate 10, the fourth largest and the southernmost interstate highway in the U.S., runs through the scene. It stretches from downtown New Orleans (approximately 33 km south of Blind Lagoon) and across the Twin Span Bridge at the top of the image.
- According to National Weather Service records, an estimated 106 tropical cyclones have hit Louisiana since the 1850s, or every 2.8 years. With an average elevation below sea level, the entire New Orleans area is particularly vulnerable to these violent storms. The geometry of the eastern Louisiana coastline and of the Mississippi River delta creates a "corner" that sticks out into the Gulf of Mexico. When there is a storm surge, it is amplified by these coastal features, frequently leading to severe flooding.
Figure 52: Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51291 was acquired on February 18, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• May 26, 2017: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet at work on the International Space Station during maintenance of the Biolab. Biolab is an experiment facility located in the European Columbus laboratory that supports biological experiments on micro-organisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants and small invertebrates. Performing life science experiments in space identifies the role that weightlessness plays at all levels of an organism, from the effects on a single cell up to a complex organism including humans. 53)
Figure 53: Photo of Thomas Pesquet doing maintenance work in ESA's Biolab of the European Columbus module (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• May 22,2017: This photograph (Figure 54), taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, shows the straight line of the Corinth Canal as it crosses a narrow isthmus between mainland Greece (right) and the Peloponnese Peninsula. The canal cuts through the narrowest part of the isthmus of Corinth. The towns of Corinth and Isthmia stand near the west and east ends (north is to the upper right). Near the center of the image, a highway crosses the canal and connects Athens to the Peloponnese. 54)
- Twenty-six hundred years ago, the ruler of Corinth—Periander—proposed digging a canal to connect the central Mediterranean Sea (via the Gulf of Corinth) to the Aegean Sea (via the Saronic Gulf). The goal was to save ships from the dangerous 700 km voyage around the ragged coastline of the peninsula. But the canal was still too ambitious a digging project and construction was not started.
- Not Julius Caesar, nor the Roman Emperors Caligula or Nero, were able to complete their plans for this ambitious project. The Venetians laid plans to dig the canal in the late 1600s but they never started it. In lieu of a water passage, boats have been hauled overland for centuries on a portage created by Periander. It runs roughly along the line of the modern canal.
- Construction of the modern Corinth Canal — which is 6.4 km — was started in 1882 and completed by 1893. The canal is narrow (only 21.3 meters), making many ships too wide for it. Landslides from the steep walls have occasionally blocked the canal, while channeled winds and tides also can make navigation difficult.
- An overview of the location of the Corinth Canal within Greece is provided in Figure 55.
Figure 54: Astronaut photograph ISS051-E-12940 was acquired on April 13, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 51 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• July 14, 2014: This photo from an astronaut on the International Space Station shows much of the nation of Greece. The urban region of Athens is recognizable due to its size and light tone compared to the surrounding landscape; the smaller cities of Megara and Lamia also stand out. Dark-toned mountains with snow-covered peaks contrast with warmer, greener valleys where agriculture takes place. The intense blue of the Mediterranean Sea fades near the Sun's reflection point along the right side of the image, and numerous wind streaks in the lee of the islands become visible. 55)
- The Peloponnese—home in ancient times to the city-state of Sparta—is the great peninsula separated from the mainland by the narrow isthmus of Corinth. Several times over the centuries these narrows have acted as a defensive point against attack from the mainland. More recently in 1893, the narrows provided a point of connection when a ship canal was excavated between the gulfs to the west and to the east.
Figure 55: Astronaut photograph ISS039-E-3505 was acquired on March 21, 2014, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 28 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 39 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• May 15, 2017: The city of Burlington, Iowa, is situated on high bluffs next to the Mississippi River. The city thus has a commanding view of the wooded, finger-like creeks that lead down to the river; of the low floodplain and its farm fields; and the forested islands in the middle of the river. The Mississippi narrows significantly at Burlington, making a convenient location for two bridges. (For scale, the Interstate 34 bridge is 660 meters long.) A dam slows flow of the Mississippi River, but includes a lock to allow barge traffic to pass. 56)
- Major floods along the Mississippi tend to spill water onto the low floodplain, such that the view from Burlington—which stands about 40 meters above the river—would show the islands and floodplain entirely under water. The largest flood recorded at Burlington occurred in June 2008, when the river rose to 7.84 m, more than 3 m above flood stage.
Figure 56: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51403 was acquired on February 19, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)
• May 12, 2017: Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 1:21 p.m. EDT (17:21 GMT). During the spacewalk, which lasted just over four hours, the two astronauts successfully replaced a large avionics box that supplies electricity and data connections to the science experiments. 57) 58)
- The astronauts also completed additional tasks to install a connector that will route data to the AMS-02 (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02), repair insulation at the connecting point of the Japanese robotic arm, and install a protective shield on the PMA-3 (Pressurized Mating Adapter-3). This adapter will host a new international docking port for the arrival of commercial crew spacecraft.
- Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 1,247 hours and 55 minutes working outside the station during 200 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. The first spacewalk in support of International Space Station assembly and maintenance was conducted on Dec. 7, 1998, by NASA astronauts Jerry Ross and Jim Newman during space shuttle Endeavour's STS-88 mission. Astronauts completed attaching and outfitting of the first two components of the station, the Russian Zarya module and the U.S. Unity module.
Figure 57: Astronaut Jack Fischer is tethered to the outside of the International Space Station during the 200th spacewalk to install and repair gear with astronaut Peggy Whitson (image credit: NASA TV)
• May 10, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this view of the southeastern portion of Monterrey, capital of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon (Figure 58).
- Mount Silla—also referred to as Cerro De La Silla or Saddle Hill—is an iconic landscape feature of the region. When viewed from the west, the ridges and peaks resemble a saddle. Mount Silla has been declared a natural monument under the guidelines of the World Commission on Protected Areas. The Monterrey metropolitan area sits 1300 m below the steep, forested flanks of the mountain.
- Monterrey straddles several large rivers flowing out of the mountains. The Santa Catarina River cuts through the older parts of the city (such as Monterrey Antiguo). Major highways follow the river to the nearby cities of Guadalupe, San Pedro Garza, and Santa Catarina. Rio La Silla (Chair River) flows from the northern Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range and joins the Santa Catarina just outside the top left corner of the image. The semi-arid climate keeps these rivers dry for much of the year.
- Nuevo Leon state is home to the third largest economy in Mexico thanks to Monterrey's extensive manufacturing facilities and infrastructure. The size and reputation of Monterrey was built by the concentration of national and foreign industries; various metal products, chemicals, textiles, plastics, and glass are all made here. The city is also home to the massive Bancomer Stadium and one of Mexico's largest universities, the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.
Figure 58: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51179 was acquired on February 17, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA/JSC, caption by Andi Hollier)
• May 01, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station centered this photograph on the largest group of lights in the northeastern United States (Figure 59). New York City and Newark, New Jersey, lie at the center of a string of city lights stretching roughly 300 kilometers from Philadelphia to Hartford. The characteristic shape of Long Island, during night and daylight overpasses, is one of the most recognizable features to an astronaut looking at the Northeast coast. 59)
- Night-light intensity indicates population densities, a phenomenon well-known to urban geographers. An important pattern is the progressive decline of population density away from the cores of the largest cities. Lower population densities appear in the southern counties of New Jersey, though the barrier islands are defined by narrow shoreline developments. Some rural areas in the photo have fewer lights than shipping lanes of the North Atlantic Ocean.
- A network of thin lines indicates highways and main roads—which can be difficult to discern in daylight images—radiating from the major cities. One of the brightest lines is Interstate 95 (I-95), which crosses the entire image from a point west of Philadelphia through New York—where it is overwhelmed by city lights—and along the coast of Connecticut.
Figure 59: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-29655 was acquired on January 10, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 45 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image caption by Andi Hollier)
• April 28, 2017: Astronauts in space are valuable sources of scientific data. Researchers collect blood and urine samples to understand what effects living in weightlessness has on their bodies. For one experiment, investigators are interested in their breath. The Airway Monitoring experiment measures the level of nitric oxide in astronauts' lungs, a naturally occurring molecule produced in the lungs to help regulate blood flow. Small amounts are normal, but excess levels indicate airway inflammation caused by environmental factors such as dust and pollutants or diseases like asthma. — The Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, is analyzing astronauts' exhaled air to probe lung health. The results so far have been breathtaking. 60)
- A breath of pressurized air: With each lungful of air, our bodies absorb oxygen and exhale waste-product molecules such as carbon dioxide – and the important signalling molecule nitric oxide. The Airway Monitoring experiment looks at the amount of nitric oxide the astronauts expel in the airlock. 61)
- Aboard the Station, astronauts breathe into an analyzer at normal pressure and in the reduced pressure of the Quest airlock – similar to the pressure in future habitats on Mars and lunar colonies. The measurements are then compared to those taken before flight.
- Preliminary results are surprising. While nitric oxide levels were lower throughout astronauts' stays in space, as expected, they found that the levels initially decreased just before flight. Researchers are not yet sure why this is the case. - But the lower nitric oxide levels in astronauts' lungs means researchers have to reset the level considered to be ‘healthy' for spaceflight.
- If what is considered a normal level of nitric oxide in humans on Earth could in fact be a sign of airway inflammation for astronauts in space, researchers have a more accurate standard from which to conduct further research on lung health in space.
- This information is key to ensuring the health and safety of astronauts on longer missions further from Earth. Understanding the effects of weightlessness and reduced pressure on airway health allows us to solve future problems. This in turn will help space explorers monitor, diagnose and treat lung inflammation during spaceflight.
- For now, data from the remaining astronaut participants are needed before definitive conclusions can be made. But, overall, researchers have a better understanding of the lungs that will go a long way towards developing better diagnostic tools for airway diseases in patients on Earth.
Figure 60: Samantha Cristoforetti on the ISS is working with equipment for the Airway Monitoring investigation (image credit: ESA/NASA, released on march 9, 2015)
• April 24, 2017: 534 days, 2 hours, 49 minutes and counting. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson flew through the standing record for cumulative time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut at 6:27 GMT on April 24, 2017, and with the recent extension of her stay at the International Space Station, she has five months to rack up a new one. 62)
- Record holder is a familiar title for Whitson – she's held several over the course of her NASA career. In 2008, Whitson became the first woman to command the space station, and on April 9 became the first woman to command it twice. In March, she seized the record for most spacewalks by a female. Now, after launching on Nov. 17 with 377 days in space already under her belt, she's surpassed astronaut Jeff Williams' previous United States record of 534 days, 2 hours and 48 minutes of cumulative time in space.
- This is Whitson's third long-duration stay onboard the space station, and in March her mission was extended into September, increasing the amount of valuable astronaut time available for experiments on board the station. When she returns to Earth, she'll have spent more than 650 days in space, and decades supporting spaceflight from the ground.
- Whitson began her NASA career in the 1980s. With a doctorate in biochemistry, she held a number of research-related positions, and in 1992 was named project scientist of the Shuttle-Mir Program. She also served as deputy division chief of the Medical Sciences Division at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group before being selected as an astronaut in 1996.
Figure 61: Photo of Peggy Whitson in the Cupola of the ISS (image credit: NASA)
• April 24, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured these photographs of agricultural patterns in the Riverland region of South Australia. The use of a powerful lens makes it possible to see individual buildings in the small towns, a bridge joining the towns, and one of the many locks on the river. 63)
- Renmark is one of the major towns in a line of settlements along the Murray River. The image of Figure 62 shows the winding course of the Murray in a wide floodplain, with numerous small farm plots clustered along its banks. This heavily irrigated country is a mix of grapevines, almond groves, stone-fruit orchards (like peaches and apricots), and citrus orchards. More than half of South Australia's famed wine production comes from this area.
- The intensely farmed landscape contrasts with the arid landscape in Figure 63, which shows an area just 20 km south of Renmark. A large, dry lake is crossed by a winding road. Rounded, ancient dunes stand south of the settlement of Taldra. The dry lake has been the site of growth trials for a salt-tolerant giant cane crop, according to local agriculture officials.
- Surrounding the lake is sparser vegetation that allows the underlying linear dunes to remain visible from space. The surrounding fields show faint parallel lines that indicate a plowing pattern. These fields are part of a mixed farming agriculture in which crops (mainly wheat and barley) are grown for two years, after which the fields provide pasture for grazing livestock.
Figure 62: The astronaut photograph ISS050-E-36713 was acquired on January 27, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
Figure 63: The astronaut photograph ISS050-E-36717 was also acquired on January 27, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Justin Wilkinson)
• April 20, 2017: If anything should break in space, let it be records. The astronauts of Expedition 50 have done just that by setting a new record for most time spent on scientific research on the International Space Station. ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, and cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Andrei Borisenko and Sergei Ryzhikov clocked a combined 99 hours of science in the week of 6 March. 64)
- To put this into perspective, astronauts average a 40 hour working week split between science experiments, Station maintenance and exercising for 2.5 hours a day. The record-breaking hours exclude these non-science tasks.
- Mission control tracks these statistics, as the number of hours devoted to science has fluctuated over the years on account of the Station's construction. Built over the years in segments, astronauts needed to assemble and maintain the orbital complex while also running experiments.
Figure 64: Expedition 50 is a record-breaking team. ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, and cosmonauts (bottom row) Oleg Novitsky, Andrei Borisenko and Sergei Ryzhikov clocked a combined 99 hours of science in the week of 6 March 2017 (image credit: ESA/NASA)
Figure 65: NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson measures pressure in ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet's eyes for the Fluid Shift experiment. Weightlessness tends to weaken an astronaut's vision. Monitoring why and to what degree can lead to preventive measures. Experiments like this are one of many astronauts conduct during their missions on the ISS (image credit: ESA/NASA) 65)
• April 17, 2017: Shot by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, this oblique photograph (Figure 66) shows most of the Kingdom of Denmark. This Nordic country lies between the Baltic Sea to the east and the North Sea to the west. The winding channels that connect the two seas are international waterways known as the Danish Straits. 66)
- The long Jutland Peninsula of western Denmark is connected to northern Germany, while the eastern half is comprised mostly of smaller islands in the Danish Archipelago. The larger islands are joined by some of the longest bridges in the world—the Storstrom, the Great Belt, and the Oresund, which joins Denmark to Sweden. The names correspond to the straits between the islands.
- During the last Ice Age (referred to as the Pleistocene Epoch), much of northwest Europe was covered with thick glaciers. Glacial deposits and kettle lakes were left behind when the ice retreated. Lowland areas now dominate Denmark, which has a mean elevation of just 34 meters above mean sea level.
- Much of the landscape is covered by wetland ecosystems of bogs filled with peat. This decayed plant matter is used as a natural resource in energy production in several northern European countries. Bogs in Europe often contain major archeological sites, and peat harvesters have stumbled upon ancient human remains that tend to be very well preserved by the highly acidic peat. The most famous Denmark "bog body" is Tollund Man, who lived in the 4th century BCE (Before Common Era).
Figure 66: Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51156 was acquired on February 15, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 48 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image caption by Andi Hollier)
• May 13, 2016: The Expedition 47 crew poses for the 3 millionth image taken aboard the International Space Station. For more than 15 years, station crews have been taking photographs of the Earth and inside activities. In the photo: (front row from the left) ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Timothy Peake, NASA astronaut Timothy Kopra and Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko. (back row from left) Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin along with NASA astronaut Jeff Williams. 67)
Figure 67: Image of the Expedition 47 crew aboard the ISS (image credit: NASA)
• February 26, 2016: The stellar views from the International Space Station are not the only things to take an astronaut's breath away: devices like this are measuring astronauts' breath to determine the health of their lungs. ESA astronaut Tim Peake took part in the Airway Monitoring experiment during his Principia mission in 2016. 68)
- Developed by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the experiment draws on a study of airway inflammation that ran on the Station from 2005 to 2008.
- The analyzer measures the amount of nitric oxide in exhaled air – a signalling molecule produced in the lungs to help regulate blood vessels. Too much nitric oxide suggests inflammation. Causes can be environmental, like dust or pollutants, or biological, such as asthma – at least on Earth, but what happens in space?
- Researchers compare measurements from astronauts taken before their flights to those taken in space to understand the effects of weightlessness on airway health. Astronauts in space are essentially fish out of water. Understanding how to track, diagnose and treat lung inflammations is important for their safety.
- The experiment began with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristofretti's 2015 mission and measurements have been gathered by six astronauts. Four more astronauts will conduct the experiment next year.
Figure 68: Photo of Tim Peake during a breathing test checking his lung health (image credit: ESA/NASA)
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19) "Soyuz MS-05 crew," ESA, 12 Dec. 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/12/Soyuz_MS-05_crew
20) "Health check for Paolo Nespoli using Tempus Pro," ESA, 22 Dec. 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/12/Health_check_for_Paolo_Nespoli_using_Tempus_Pro
21) "Night Lights of the Levant," NASA Earth Observatory, 11 Dec. 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=91409&src=iotdrss
22) "Paolo in BEAM," ESA, Human Spaceflight image of the week, 5 Dec. 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/12/Paolo_in_BEAM
23) "Agricultural Fields and Flat Lands, Brazil," NASA Earth Observatory, 4 Dec. 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=91360&src=iotdrss
24) Mark Garcia, "Astronauts Take on Science, Plumbing and Cargo Duties Today," NASA, 16 Nov. 2017, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2017/11/16
25) "Salt Glacier, Zagros Mountains," NASA Earth Observatory, 13 Nov. 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=91264
26) "Look at the Moon, Human Spaceflight image of the week: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli's room with an atypical view," ESA, 9.Nov. 2017, URL:
27) "Stressed seedlings in space," ESA research human spaceflight and exploration, 7 Nov. 2017, URL: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Research/Stressed_seedlings_in_space
28) "Lake Hazlett and Lake Willis," NASA Earth Observatory, 30 October 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=91189
29) "Mobile upgrade," ESA week in images, 24 Oct. 2017, URL: http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/10/Mobile_upgrade
30) "Colorado River Agriculture," NASA Earth Observatory, 23 Oct. 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=91151&src=iotdrss
31) "Spacewalkers fix robotic arm in time to grab next cargo ship," Space Daily, 20 Oct. 2017, URL: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports
32) "US astronauts begin third October spacewalk to repair ISS robotic arm," Phys.org, October 20. 2017, URL: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-spacewalkers-october-mission.html
33) "Barchan Dunes and Lagoons, Southern Brazil," NASA Earth Observatory, 16 Oct. 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=91119
34) "Round and round they go," ESA, Oct. 10, 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/10/Round_and_round_they_go
35) "IAC in Adelaide," ESA Human spaceflight and robotic exploration image of the week, 26, Sept. 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/09/IAC_in_Adelaide
36) "Bridging the Bosphorus," NASA Earth Observatory, Sept. 25, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=91014&src=iotdrss
37) "Farewell and Hello," ESA, Sept. 1, 2017, URL:
38) "The Solar Eclipse umbra 2017 from Space," NASA, Aug. 22, 2017, URL:
39) "Moon's shadow on Earth," ESA, Aug. 21, 2017, URL: http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/08/Moon_s_shadow_on_Earth
40) "Zeebrugge, Belgium," NASA Earth Observatory, Aug. 21, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90780
41) Sarah Loff, "Space Station Flight Over the Bahamas," NASA, Aug. 16, 2017, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/space-station-flight-over-the-bahamas
42) "Paolo and Mares," ESA, 3 August, 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/08/Paolo_and_Mares
43) "Crater Lake," NASA Earth Observatory, July 31, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90647
44) "Chilko Lake," NASA Earth Observatory, July 17, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90581&src=iotdrss
45) "Washington on the Potomac River," NASA Earth Observatory, July 10, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90541&src=iotdrss
46) "Lights On and Over the Southern Horizon," NASA Earth Observatory, July 2, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90507
47) "Coal Mines, Eastern Germany," NASA Earth Observatory, June 26, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90477&src=iotdrss
48) "Fish Ponds and Rice Fields, Lower Guadalquivir River," NASA Earth Observatory, June 19, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90410
49) "Keeping the rhythm in space," ESA, 15 June 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Research/Keeping_the_rhythm_in_space
50) "Thermolab sensor on Samantha," ESA, Released 8 June v2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/06/Thermolab_sensor_on_Samantha
51) "Double space science," ESA, Released 28 October 2014, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2014/10/Double_space_science
52) "Eastern New Orleans," NASA Earth Observatory, June 12, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90369
53) "Biolab maintenance," ESA, May 26, 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/05/Biolab_maintenance
54) "Corinth Canal," NASA Earth observatory, May 22, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90261
55) "The Peloponnese," NASA Earth Observatory, July 14, 2014, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=84011
56) "Burlington, Iowa, and the Mississippi Floodplain," NASA Earth Observatory, May 15, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90229&src=iotdrss
57) Mark Garcia, "200th Station Spacewalk Comes to an End," NASA, May 12, 2017, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2017/05/12/200th-station-spacewalk-comes-to-an-end/
58) Pete Harding, "ISS astronauts complete 200th station EVA for maintenance tasks," NASA Spaceflight.com, May 12, 2017, URL:
59) "The I-95 Corridor at Night," NASA Earth Observatory, May 1, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90129&src=iotdrss
60) "Monitoring the airways," ESA, April 28, 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Research/Monitoring_the_airways
61) "Samantha working on Airway Monitoring," ESA, April 28, 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2015/03/Samantha_working_on_Airway_Monitoring
62) Mark Marcia, "Record-Breaking NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Sets New Record for Time in Space," NASA, April 24, 2017, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/feature
63) "South Australia, Wet and Dry," NASA Earth Observatory, April 24, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90080
64) "The record-breaking Expedition 50 crew," ESA, 20 April, 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/04/The_record-breaking_Expedition_50_crew
65) "In the name of science," ESA, 20 April 2017, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/04/In_the_name_of_science
66) "A Royal View of Denmark," NASA Earth Observatory, April 17, 2017, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=90031
67) "3 Millionth Image Taken Aboard the International Space Station," NASA, May 13, 2016, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/3-millionth-image-taken-aboard-the-international-space-station
68) "Taking Tim's breath away," ESA, Human spaceflight and robotic exploration image of the week, released on 20 April. 2017, URL: http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2016/02/Taking_Tim_s_breath_away
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).