Minimize ISS: Sample Imagery Part 2

ISS Utilization: Sample imagery taken by astronauts on and from the ISS (Part 2)

2019 images    2018 images    2017 Images   References

This file is a loose collection of some imagery samples taken by astronauts off and from the ISS (International Space Station). Astronauts who experience Earth from orbit often report feelings of awe and wonder, of being transformed by what they describe as the magic such a perspective brings. This phenomenon is called the ”overview effect.” The short descriptions in the following entries are presented in reverse order .


• March 15, 2019: Three crew members have arrived safely at the International Space Station, following a successful launch and docking of their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft Thursday, 14 March 2019. 1)

- The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos launched at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. Friday Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Hague, Koch and Ovchinin docked to the space station’s Rassvet module at 9:01 p.m. after a four-orbit, six-hour journey, and are scheduled to open the hatch and be welcomed aboard the orbiting laboratory at approximately 11:10 p.m. Their mission, Expedition 59, officially began at the time of docking.

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Figure 1: This image compilation shows the Soyuz spacecraft carrying astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos at a distance of 70, 15 and less than two meters from the International Space Station, where it docked at 9:01 p.m. EST on 14 March 2019 (image credit: NASA Television)

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Figure 2: Expedition 59 crew members Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko, and David Saint-Jacques welcome their new crew members, Nick Hague, Christina Koch, and Alexey Ovchinin, who arrived to the International Space Station on 14 March 2019 (image credit: NASA TV)

- The trio’s arrival returns the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. McClain, Saint-Jacques and Kononenko are scheduled to remain aboard the station until June, while Hague, Koch and Ovchinin are set to return to Earth early this fall. 2)

- McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch also are all scheduled for the first spacewalks of their careers to continue upgrades to the orbital laboratory. McClain and Hague are scheduled to begin work to upgrade the power system March 22, and McClain and Koch will complete the upgrades to two station power channels during a March 29 spacewalk. This will be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers. Hague and Saint-Jacques will install hardware for a future science platform during an April 8 spacewalk.

- Three resupply spacecraft – a Russian Progress, Northrop Grumman Cygnus and SpaceX Dragon – are scheduled to arrive with additional supplies for the crew and various science investigations. The crew also is scheduled to be onboard during test flights of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will return human spaceflight launches for space station missions to U.S. soil.

- For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space, including the Moon and Mars. A global endeavor, 236 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 investigations from researchers in 106 countries. Investigations conducted on the International Space Station impact the daily lives of people on Earth and prepare the way for humans to venture farther into space.

• March 10, 2019: On a bright winter’s day, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a camera on the Grand Canyon and surrounding snowy landscapes in northern Arizona, many of which are federally protected lands. The Grand Canyon was declared a national park 100 years ago on February 26, 1919. 3)

- The photograph (Figure 3) shows the ragged, steep-sided canyon walls and its numerous side canyons that contrast with the flat surrounding plains. From viewpoints on the South Rim, the thin line of the Colorado River lies more than 1525 meters (5,000 feet) below.

- The Grand Canyon is one of the best-known natural wonders on Earth, but astronauts see very different patterns compared with the iconic ground-based views. Astronauts quickly learn that different land surface colors frequently indicate high and low parts of the scenery below them. In this photo, bright snow indicates high, cold plateaus, such as those within several Native American Indian reservations and the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Snow that fell at warmer, lower elevations—inside the Grand Canyon or in the parts of the nearby desert—melted quickly or did not reach the ground.

- Dense greens are another feature that help astronauts understand the landscapes they see from space. In the desert southwest of North America, higher elevations get more rain and snow. Thus the high Kaibab Plateau is wet enough for forests to thrive, while the main colors of the low country are browns and tans of rocks and desert soils.

- Astronauts also get some sense of topography from shadows and sunlight. This image was taken from an orbital vantage point over Las Vegas, nearly 400 kilometers (240 miles) to the west. The view is oblique enough to give a slightly three-dimensional view, especially from shadows like those cast by the Grand Canyon cliffs and the narrow canyons around the Colorado River.

- The same snow-covered and snow-free features can be recognized in this more vertical view shot the following day. This summertime view shows the area without snow.

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Figure 3: The astronaut photograph ISS058-E-1605 was acquired on December 29, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 116 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 58 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)

• March 3, 2019: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station captured this oblique photograph while looking southwest across the Congo River Basin. Located along the equator, the area is one of the cloudiest places on Earth. Low-altitude cumulus clouds, sometimes called popcorn clouds, trace the landscape over dense rainforests in this shot. 4)

- Note, however, that the skies above the Congo River and its many tributaries are noticeably free of clouds. The river can be up to 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide in many places—enough to deter cloud formation. Warm, humid air rises from the forest and cools as it rises, resulting in the development of clouds. But the river waters—and the air above them—are cooler, so there is less moisture rising into the air. Similar cloud patterns are common in the Amazon Rainforest.

- Toward the horizon, larger storm clouds are forming along the ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone). The ITCZ is a broad region of low atmospheric pressure that encircles the Earth near the equator. The ITCZ and its thunderstorms follow the seasonal position of the Sun, such that large storms appear south of the equator during Southern Hemisphere summer (when this image was taken).

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Figure 4: The astronaut photograph ISS057-E-58903 was acquired on 5 November 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 116 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 57 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

• February 27, 2019: Humankind's most distant outpost was recently captured crossing the face of our enormous and gleaming Sun. The fleeting transit of the International Space Station was over in the blink of an eye, but Ian Griffin, Director at the Otago Museum of New Zealand, made sure he was in the right place to capture it. 5)

- “A transit was predicted about 130 km from my home in Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island. So, I packed my telescope into my car and drove for approximately 2 hours”, explains Ian.

- “On Thursday 31 January, at 11:07 NZDT, the International Space Station crossed the Sun in less time than a human heart beats once, and I was there to witness it".

- The Space Station, slightly larger in size than a football field, orbits Earth every 92 minutes. It is one of the most remarkable endeavors our species has ever embarked upon, yet it pales in comparison to the size and power of our star. This remarkable spectacle serves as a much needed reminder that the people and technology we send into space can be affected by solar activity, and the changing environment.

- One of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, the Carrington event of 1859, was caused as a fast coronal mass ejection associated with an enormous solar flare struck Earth’s magnetosphere. The impact created auroras as far north as Queensland, Australia, and as far south as the Caribbean.

- Telegraph systems across Europe and North America failed, with reports of some operators receiving electric shocks and telegraph pylons sending out sparks.

- Today, a storm of this magnitude would create far greater disruption, as we become ever-more dependent on infrastructure in space and on Earth that is vulnerable to the outbursts of the Sun.

- As part of ESA’s Space Safety & Security activities, the Space Weather Office is working to minimize the potential damage and disruption these events can cause. The future Lagrange mission will keep a constant eye on the Sun, sending timely warnings via the Space Weather Service Network to operators and controllers of vital infrastructure, giving them time to take protective measures.

- This early warning system will also be of great importance to astronauts and future explorers to the Moon and Mars, who, vulnerable to the radiation emitted during these extreme events will need time to get to safety.

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Figure 5: The International Space Station captured transiting the Sun – a remarkable reminder that our Sun's moodswings affect people and technology in space (image credit: Ian Griffin)

• February 26, 2019: Einstein predicted that time slows down the faster you travel and the time-dilation hypothesis has since been proven by flying atomic clocks on aircraft. 6)

- The three fastest human beings at the moment are NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques (pictured) and Roscosmos astronaut Oleg Kononenko who are orbiting Earth on the International Space Station at a speed of around 28,800 km/h.

- They are travelling so fast that they will return home to Earth after their six-month spaceflight 0.007 seconds younger than if they had stayed with their feet on the ground.

- But how do astronauts perceive time in space? Space Station crew report that time seems to speed up in microgravity so European researchers are trying to find out more by immersing astronauts in virtual reality and testing their reaction times.

- A virtual reality headset is used to block external visual cues that could influence the results. The experiment focuses on how astronauts estimate time duration as well as their reaction times. They are asked gauge how long a visual target appears on screen. Their reaction times to these prompts are recorded to process speed and attention.

- The astronauts run the experiment before flight, on the International Space Station and again when they land to compare results. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst was the first test subject to take part in this experiment in 2018. Anne and David did a session in February in ESA’s Columbus laboratory.

- Understanding how time is perceived in space is important as astronauts are often required to conduct precision work where timing is everything. This research in microgravity will help reveal clues as to what helps keep our brains ticking the seconds accurately.

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Figure 6: Human and robotic exploration image of the week. An astronaut during a timing test in the ISS (image credit: NASA)

• February 24, 2019: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of historical lava flows near Puako and Waikoloa Villages on the island of Hawai’i. The villages (population 800 and 6,000, respectively) are underlain by lavas erupted from radial vents on the northwestern side of Mauna Loa volcano. 7)

- An eruption in 1859 produced an ‘a‘ā lava flow that destroyed a village south of Waikoloa and entered the ocean. The eruption lasted for about a year and also produced pāhoehoe flows that entered the ocean near Ohiki Bay and Pueo Bay.

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Figure 7: This astronaut photograph ISS056-E-5107 was acquired on June 4, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick)

- The island of Hawai’i is divided into nine hazard risk zones, each based on the proximity to volcanic summits and rift zones, frequency and area of lava coverage, and topography. Zone 1 represents the greatest hazard risk, but Waikoloa and Puako stand in a relatively less hazardous zone 3 due to the greater distances from the summit and rift zones of Mauna Loa. Along with volcanic eruptions and lava flows, the region is also affected by earthquakes. The epicenter of the 6.7 magnitude Kiholo Bay earthquake in 2006 was located just 21 km offshore of Puako.

- The Waikoloa region is also known for its thriving aquaculture. Located near Waikoloa Beach are the Anchialine Ponds. Native to the state of Hawaii, these natural ponds form in inland lava depressions connect to the groundwater table near the shore. They contain brackish water but no visible connection to the ocean. These pools range from small lava cracks to large fishing ponds and are home to multiple species of rare invertebrates, many of which are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.

- Waikoloa Beach is also known for the Ala Mamalahoa (King’s) Trail, part of the 175-mile long Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail that runs along the coastline of Hawai’i. The Ala Mahamaloa predates western contact with the island (1778). It was rebuilt and paved with stone in 1840. One of the main attractions of this trail are the ancient petroglyphs, which show the closest thing to a written language that the ancient Hawaiians used.

• February 18, 2019: An astronaut shot this oblique photograph of the Missouri Plateau, where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains of central-northwest United States (Figure 8). Across the scene, six national forests and grasslands stand at higher elevations in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Toward the horizon, the Missouri River is faintly visible snaking across North Dakota. 8)

- The Missouri Plateau is a gently sloping region that rises above the flatter plains. The lighter brown areas of land in the photo are deeply cut by braided rivers, and the land is often utilized for livestock pastures and farming.

- The western part of the plateau avoided glacial erosion during the most recent ice age. This prevented the Missouri Plateau from being flattened like the North Dakota plains beyond the Missouri River.

- The Black Hills of South Dakota stand out in stark contrast to the surrounding plains. Some of the rocks in those hills are 2.5 billion years old. A combination of Laramide tectonics (65 million years ago) and the erosion of younger sedimentary rock layers created and exposed the Black Hills.

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Figure 8: This astronaut photograph ISS057-E-55414 was acquired on October 19, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 68 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 57 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

• February 17, 2019: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Cologne, Germany. With more than one million people, it is the fourth most populous city in Germany. The city is the cultural, historic, and economic capital of the Rhineland, a vital inland port, and the busiest rail junction in Germany. 9)

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Figure 9: Astronaut photograph ISS057-E-51223 was acquired on October 13, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 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 57 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick)

- The Inner City of Cologne has a semicircular shape formed by a defensive wall that was built in medieval times to protect approximately 40,000 residents. This wall was demolished in the 1880s and replaced by a chain of semicircular roads called the Ringstrassen, which allowed development to spread beyond the confines of the old town. However, the Inner City is still the focal point for shopping, commerce, and historic buildings—including the Cologne Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in northern Europe and the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne.

- Due to the city’s location at the intersection of the Rhine River and one of the major trade routes between Eastern and Western Europe, Cologne became commercially important. Today it is a vital inland port and the busiest rail junction in Germany. The city is the cultural, historic, and economic capital of the Rhineland and is home to more than 30 museums and hundreds of galleries, ranging from contemporary graphics and sculpture to Roman archeological sites.

- As one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany during World War II, Cologne was almost destroyed. However, post-war efforts successfully rebuilt many historic buildings, which resulted in a distinct cityscape with a mixture of historic and 1950s modern-style buildings. The Cologne Cathedral was hit 14 times by aerial bombs during the war; despite being badly damaged, it remained standing in the flattened city. It was quickly rebuilt after the war and in 1996 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cathedral is now Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting 20,000 people per day.

• February 15, 2019: When astronauts take photographs of our planet while orbiting 400 km above our heads, they are doing much more than just taking pretty pictures. They are looking after the health of our planet and, ultimately, us too. 10)

- Techniques used by astrophotographers looking at the stars and space exploration come together to measure the environmental impact of artificial lights at night.

- The only night images of Earth in color that are freely available to the public are pictures taken by the astronauts from the International Space Station, and a few color composites made by ESA’s Rosetta satellite. NASA has a public database with over 1.3 million color photographs taken by astronauts since 2003.

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Figure 10: A series of night-time photos were taken by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli (VITA mission) to create this time-lapse of Earth as seen from the International Space Station flying over Earth from Spain to Russia. Note: In the video, south is at the top of the image (video credit: ESA/NASA, released: 13 December 2017)

- Now researchers are looking at these nocturnal images in a different light. A team of scientists came up with a method to classify outdoor lighting using color diagrams and calibration techniques. The resulting spectral information, such as color temperature, is a useful tool to assess the environmental impact of artificial light. 12)

- We hope to take photography from the Space Station to a new level,” says Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel, a research fellow at the UK’s University of Exeter and lead investigator of the Cities at night project that raises awareness of light pollution.

- Human vision from space: City lights are disruptive not only for the lives of nocturnal animals, who suffer from disorientation and behavioral and physiological changes, but also for people. An excess of artificial light before bedtime reduces melatonin production, a hormone linked to sleep. This suppression can lead to negative effects on our health, including breast and prostate cancer.

- In addition, streetlights account for a large chunk of a country’s energy consumption.

- “This is not only about being able to see the stars,” says Alejandro. “All living creatures on our planet, including us humans, suffer from artificial nighttime lighting. And only the humans living off planet Earth can help us.”

- Scientists use synthetic photometry to analyze the images, a mathematical technique that can help identify light sources under different light conditions and camera settings. The results give precise information about how color and brightness of street lamps can suppress melatonin production or obstruct the vision of the stars.

- Citizen science: Milan is a perfect case study for this research. This Italian city replaced its orange sodium lamps with white LED lamps. The study proves that the whiter light sources are worse for the local environment.

- “We provide a basis for creating risk maps of artificial lightning. Governments could use this information to reduce light pollution,” says Alejandro.

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Figure 11: Milan, before and after: The Italian city of Milan replaced its orange sodium lamps with white led lamps in 2015. These nighttime images from the International Space Station show the city before and after the conversion (image credit: ESA/NASA/A. Sánchez de Miguel et al. 2019)

• February 10, 2019: Taken through a window on the International Space Station with the EarthKAM camera, this photograph (Figure 12) shows the boundary between a light-toned dune field and dark hills in the very arid interior of Yemen. This remote region occupies the southern part of the vast Arabian desert, and lies inland from the southern end of the Red Sea (to the west). Only one settlement appears in this image—Deerat Al Hwelah—at the mouth of a valley. 13)

- The dark, convoluted landscapes are exposures of ancient Precambrian rocks (more than 540 million years old). Several rivers—almost always dry in the Arabian Desert—lead out of the hills via the light-toned valleys. On the few occasions when they flow, the rivers transport sediment (eroded from the hills) into the low dune country. Here, dominant winds from the northeast blow the sediments back toward the hills in the form of long, linear dunes. Southeasterly winds from the Gulf of Aden (out of the image, lower left) combine with the dominant winds to generate the broad curve of the dune alignments.

- The low country is light-toned because the hardest minerals carried from the hills are generally light-colored silicates (minerals rich in silicon). Darker-colored minerals found in the Precambrian rocks tend to weather and erode more easily to smaller particles, so they are more easily carried away by winds. However, some of the darker minerals appear to be accumulating along the crests of the dunes (image right).

- The river in the large valley at the bottom of the photo bifurcates into two channels. The larger course washes sediment slightly west, where winds blow some of it into dunes and ultimately back up the Deerat Valley.

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Figure 12: This EarthKAM photograph 152231 was acquired on October 31, 2017, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 50 mm lens. The photo in this article has been enhanced to improve contrast. It is provided by the Sally Ride EarthKAM@Space Camp on the International Space Station. [image credit: The caption is provided by the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center. EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) is a NASA educational outreach program that enables students, teachers, and the public to learn about Earth from the unique perspective of space. During Sally Ride EarthKAM missions, middle school students around the world request images of specific locations on Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson]

• February 04, 2019: Though all ESA astronauts are back on Earth, European science on the International Space Station is ongoing. Explore a few experiments underway right now in celebration of science at ESA. 14)

- Every ESA astronaut who flies to the International Space Station begins their training at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. Here, they learn the intricacies of ESA’s space laboratory Columbus.

- Many European experiments that run on the International Space Station when ESA astronauts are not present – such as those in the commercial ICE Cubes facility – require minimal manual input. Others, like Time Perception in Microgravity continue with current International Space Station crew members.

- With the undocking of two visiting vehicles and packing the NG-10 Cygnus for departure, January was a busy month for the crew of Expedition 58 NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and cosmonaut Oleg Kononeko. They also began upgrading an ESA facility that allows ground-based control of and telemetric data retrieval from miniaturized laboratories inside Columbus.

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Figure 13: Expedition 58 crew members gather inside the Zvezda service module onboard the International Space Station for a crew portrait. From left are, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques (image credit: NASA)

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Figure 14: Kubik on Space Station: A miniaturized laboratory inside the orbital laboratory that is ESA’s Columbus module, this 40 cm cube has been one of its quiet scientific triumphs. Kubik – from the Russian for cube – has been working aboard the International Space Station since before Columbus’ arrival in February 2008 (image credit: NASA)

- Because many biological systems are partially gravity-dependent, ‘removing’ the effects of gravity enables researchers to gain a broader understanding of how these systems work. Samples previously studied using Kubik facilities include: bacteria, fungi, white blood cells and stem cells from human bone marrow and umbilical cords, plant seedlings, and even swimming tadpoles. Upgrades will see this research continue into its second decade, offering even greater opportunities to examine life in space.

“Kubik hosts a wide range of life science experiments in weightlessness with minimal crew involvement,” explains Jutta Krause of ESA of the payload development team. “Research teams prepare their experiments and make use of existing or custom-built ‘experiment units’, which are each about the size of a box of pocket tissues.

“Once slotted into Kubik by an astronaut, they are automatically activated through internal electrical connections, running autonomously on a programmed timeline until they are finally retrieved for return to Earth.

“At the center of the temperature-controlled Kubik is a centrifuge to simulate gravity, so double experiments can be run with one unit in microgravity plus an Earth-gravity control or intermediate gravity level – giving researchers insight into whether any results they observe might be related to weightlessness or some other environmental factor, such as space radiation.”

The challenge for researchers is to miniaturize their experiments to fit within the confines of these compact units, adds team member Janine Liedtke: “We aim to refurbish experiment units as much as possible, so in some cases teams can adapt a previously flown unit, or else we can tailor new units to their needs.

“Why fly biological samples in weightlessness? Because we know many biological systems are partially gravity-dependent, so by ‘taking away’ gravity researchers can gain broader insight into how they work.

“To give an idea, Kubik has over the years hosted samples of bacteria, fungi, human white blood cells and stem cells from bone marrow and umbilical cords, plant seedlings, and swimming tadpoles. A pending payload is designed to examine how microbial biofilms interact with rock surfaces across different gravity levels, from weightlessness to Mars and Earth gravity.”

Experiment times are limited because the samples are biological – part of the work is carefully planning the mission scenario. Even the hours needed for the ascent and descent of the experiment unit to and from Columbus are carefully accounted for, to ensure that they are back again within a couple of weeks of launch, depending on the sensitivity of the samples.

“We’ve been using the Soyuz, and now the SpaceX Dragon,” adds Jutta. “Typically, when one vehicle goes up another one comes down. This ensures that experiments can be up- and downloaded rapidly.

“A fixative is often added to an experiment at its conclusion, so researchers get to examine it as it was in microgravity. Additionally, units can be refrigerated during their return trip.”

Twelve experiments from ESA and national space agencies have so far been run in Kubik, with ESA planning seven more by the end of this decade. The facility is due to be upgraded with new electronics, to offer more features and keep it fully operational into its second decade.

Table 1: Legend to 'Kubik on Space Station' — little labs of life science

- The crew also exchanged the sample chamber of European multi-user facility Electromagnetic Levitator (EML) to activate new material science experiments, and Anne donned the Circadian Rhythms hardware to begin a 36-hour recording session.

- Led by principal investigator Hanns-Christian Gunga of Charité University Clinic’s Center For Space Medicine (Berlin), Circadian Rhythms investigates the role of synchronized circadian rhythms, or the “biological clock”.

- Researchers hypothesize that a non-24-hour cycle of light and dark affects crew members’ natural rhythms. The investigation also addresses the effects of reduced physical activity, microgravity and an artificially controlled environment, as changes in body composition and body temperature can affect crew members’ circadian rhythms as well.

- Data is collected using a “double sensor” placed on an astronaut’s forehead and chest. This takes continuous core temperature measurements for extended periods before, during and after flight. These measurements are co-related with crew members’ pre and post-flight melatonin levels.

- Initial results show core body temperature does elevate gradually during long-duration spaceflight. It also rises faster and higher during physical exercise on the Station than it does on the ground. Understanding this and other effects of spaceflight on circadian rhythms will aid the design of future space missions and provide a unique comparison for sleep disorders, autonomic nervous system disorders, and shift work-related disorders on Earth.

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Figure 15: NASA astronaut and Expedition 58 flight engineer Anne McClain pictured inside the vestibule between the Harmony module and the Destiny laboratory module. She is wearing a sensor on her forehead that is collecting data for the Circadian Rhythms experiment researching how an astronaut's “biological clock” changes during long-duration spaceflight (image credit: NASA)

- Looking ahead: While all this science is happening in space, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano continues to train on the ground for his upcoming Beyond mission.

- Luca recently participated in ground-based sessions for two European experiments that look at how humans judge force and manipulate objects in weightlessness, GRIP and GRASP, and learnt more about an experiment to validate the behavior of fluids under microgravity, known as Fluidics.

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Figure 16: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (right) training with NASA astronaut and fellow crew member Andrew Morgan for his upcoming mission to the International Space Station. Luca is scheduled to fly (image credit: ESA)

• January 28, 2019: Last week, Expedition 58 crew members continued conducting science aboard the International Space Station along with packing the NG-10 Cygnus resupply vehicle for its departure from the station. Upon undocking, Cygnus will boost to an altitude and inclination ideal for satellite deployment and release small satellites from the SlingShot small satellite deployment system. The cargo craft will then begin its descent toward Earth for a fiery but safe demise over the Pacific Ocean. 15)

- The unique SlingShot deployers can accommodates any CubeSat format (3U, 6U, 12U, 27U and greater, rail, tab) and can be customized to accommodate larger satellites with thicknesses less than 200 mm.

- Upon successful installation of the SlingShot system into Cygnus, the vehicle unberths and navigates to an altitude of 450 – 500 km to deploy the satellites. This altitude and the 51.6º inclination are ideal for many satellite customers due to the satellite orbit lifespan, launch reliability, and price.

- The SlingShot system can also host fix-mounted payloads using Cygnus as a massive satellite bus for power, attitude control and communication for missions exceeding six months.

• January 15, 2019: Today astronauts use computer simulations to help prepare for life on the International Space Station, practising spacewalks and operating equipment in microgravity – all while never leaving the ground. 16)

- ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is hard at work preparing for his Beyond mission. In the image of Figure 17, Luca is navigating through a computer-generated environment to learn the route he might take outside the Space Station on a spacewalk, helping him to take decisions and act more quickly during the actual spacewalk. The training facility is part of Virtual Reality Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA.

- Luca is also getting reacquainted – Luca flew to the Space Station in 2013 – with safety procedures, robotic operations and learning about the experiments he will conduct in the orbital outpost.

- He will be launched for his six-month stay aboard the International Space Station in July as part of Expedition 60/61, alongside NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.

- Luca will serve as Space Station commander during the second half of his mission. This will be the third time a European astronaut has held this leadership role, but the first time by an Italian astronaut.

- How does Luca plan to take on this exciting yet challenging responsibility? “I see myself as a facilitator. My goal will be to put everybody in the condition to perform to the best of their capability,” he says.

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Figure 17: Usually associated with video games, virtual reality is an immersive technology that simulates physical presence and interaction. International cooperation in human spaceflight does not only take place on the Space Station but begins well before, during training. Astronauts prepare not only at NASA’s Johnson Space Center but also at Star City near Moscow, and of course at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany (image credit: NASA)

• December 25, 2018: Looking down from space, features on Earth appear in many familiar shapes—and Lake Dukan (Figure 18) just happens to look like a Christmas tree. 17)

- Lake Dukan is the largest lake—covering around 25,000 hectares (250 km2)—in Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region of northern Iraq. Arguably one of the most beautiful sites in the region, Dukan is a popular picnic destination where many tourists swim, boat, and fish in the lake.

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Figure 18: This image was taken on December 3, 2018, by astronaut Alexander Gerst. Lake Dukan is separated into two parts by a winding gorge. The larger portion looks like the body of an evergreen conifer, while the smaller lake is reminiscent of a tree topper. The “ornaments” on the tree (the dark circles) are artifacts from the astronaut’s camera lens (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, ISS photography by Alexander Gerst, European Space Agency/NASA. Story by Kasha Patel)

- Lake Dukan is actually manmade; it is a reservoir created by the construction of the Dukan Dam. One of the oldest dams in Iraq, the Dukan Dam was built in 1959 on the Little Zab River to control flooding, aid irrigation, and provide hydroelectric power to the town of Dukan. While the lake is fed by Little Zab, it also receives water from the Hizop stream. Both rivers are fed by rainfall and snowmelt, leading to peak discharge in the spring and low water levels in the summer and early fall.

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Figure 19: This image shows a wider view of the lake, acquired by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat-8 on November 20, 2018. Situated in the Zagros Mountains, the bright blue lake stands out against the surrounding yellow and green mounds. The swirls in the lake might be a phytoplankton bloom or suspended sediment (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Story by Kasha Patel)

- The lake supports a variety of life. The surrounding land is mostly used for agriculture and grazing, as more than 70 villages and towns are situated around the basin. Surveys of the region reported more than 180 species of birds. Two near-threatened species—the Eurasian otter and striped hyaena—have also been spotted in the region by local fishermen.

• December 21, 2018: NASA launched a 2540 kg care package to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on 5 December 2018. The spacecraft orbited Earth until it reached the station three days later. As the oversized parcel headed toward the orbiting laboratory, it traveled over beautiful Earth landscapes—from scenic snowscapes to desolate deserts. These images, taken by astronaut Alexander Gerst, show the Dragon capsule orbiting Earth on December 8, 2018. 18)

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Figure 20: This image, observed on 8 December, shows the spacecraft passing over the remote and pristine Ukok Plateau, located in the Altai Mountains of southwestern Siberia, Russia. Four countries come together in this region: Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia. The plateau, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the endangered snow leopard (image credit: ISS photograph by Alexander Gerst, ESA/NASA, story by Kasha Patel)

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Figure 21: This image, observed on 8 December, shows the Dragon capsule passing over Manifa, Saudi Arabia. Manifa is home to one of the world’s biggest oil fields, a part of which is visible in the upper left of the photo. These manmade islands—each the size of 10 soccer fields— serve as “onshore” drill sites above offshore oil fields. The emerald waters also house more than 85 species of fish and 50 species of coral (image credit: ISS photograph by Alexander Gerst, ESA/NASA, story by Kasha Patel)

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Figure 22: The image, observed on 8 December, shows the SpaceX vehicle over the Emi Koussi volcano in northern Chad, Africa (upper left of the photo). The volcano is the highest summit of the Sahara, standing at 3,414 meters above sea level. Its dark volcanic rocks stand out against the surrounding tan and light brown sandstone to the south and east (image credit: ISS photograph by Alexander Gerst, ESA/NASA, story by Kasha Patel)

- The cargo carrier arrived at the space station on the morning of 8 December; the ISS was over the Pacific Ocean north of Papua New Guinea at the time. Gerst reeled it in with the space station’s robotic arm. While the package included supplies, it also carried several science experiments—including a first-of-its-kind laser instrument GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation).

- GEDI, pronounced like “Jedi” of Star Wars fame, will be the first spaceborne laser instrument to measure the structure of Earth’s forests in high resolution and three dimensions. The measurements will help scientists understand how much carbon is stored in the world’s forests and how they may change as carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere rise. GEDI will make these measurements for two years while perched on the outside of the space station.

- The empty SpaceX Dragon capsule will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and splash into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California in January 2019.

• December 21, 2018: Alexander returned to Earth alongside crew mates Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Sergei Prokopyev on 20 December 2018 in the same Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft that flew them to the Station on 6 June 2018. 19)

Figure 23: Just hours after returning from his Horizons mission on board the International Space Station, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst gives a short interview at the German Aerospace Center’s :envihab facility in Cologne, Germany (video credit: ESA)

- The trio’s landing in the Kazakh steppe marked the successful conclusion of over six months in space during which Alexander conducted over 60 European experiments, became the second ever European commander of the International Space Station, welcomed six resupply vehicles, installed the first commercial facility for research in the Columbus laboratory, delivered an important message on climate change for leaders at the COP24 climate change conference, captured real-time footage of a Soyuz launch abort and much, much more.

- Horizons was Alexander’s second mission to the International Space Station – the first was Blue Dot in 2014. He has now spent 363 full non-consecutive days in space (he returned home on his 364th day).

- Now back in Cologne, Alexander will take his time to readapt to Earth’s gravity supported by ESA’s team of space medicine experts. He will also continue to provide ground-based data for researchers to support experiments performed in space.

• December 20, 2018: Three members of the International Space Station’s Expedition 57 crew, including NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Soyuz Commander Sergey Prokopyev, returned to Earth Thursday, safely landing at 12:02 a.m. EST (11:02 a.m. local time) in Kazakhstan. 20) 21)

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Figure 24: Russian Search and Rescue teams arrive at the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft shortly after it landed with Expedition 57 crew members Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, 20 December, 2018 (image credit: NASA, Bill Ingalls)

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Figure 25: Expedition 57 crew members Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) emerge one at a time from the Soyuz MS-09 that carried them home from the International Space Station Dec. 20, 2018, after a 197-day mission. The spacecraft touched down in Kazakhstan at 12:02 a.m. EST, marking the end of a voyage that took them around the globe 3,152 times, covering 83.3 million miles (image credit: NASA Television)

- The Expedition 57 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the world-class orbiting laboratory. Highlights included investigations into new cancer treatment methods and algae growth in space. The crew also installed a new Life Sciences Glovebox, a sealed work area for life science and technology investigations that can accommodate two astronauts.

- This was the first flight for Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev and the second for Gerst, who – with a total of 362 days in orbit – now holds the flight duration record among ESA astronauts.

- Prokopyev completed two spacewalks totaling 15 hours and 31 minutes. During a 7 hour, 45 minute spacewalk Dec. 11, he and Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos retrieved patch samples and took digital images of a repair made to the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 in which the Expedition 57 trio rode home. The space station crew located and, within hours of its detection, repaired a small hole inside the Soyuz in August. The spacecraft was thoroughly checked and deemed safe for return to Earth.

• December 20, 2018: Returning in the same Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft that flew them to the International Space Station on 6 June 2018, the trio landed (Expedition 57 crew) in the Kazakh steppe on 20 December at 05:02 GMT (06:02 CET). 22)

- Alexander is now flying directly to Cologne, Germany, where he will continue to be monitored by ESA’s space medicine team as he readapts to Earth’s gravity at ESA’s EAC (European Astronaut Centre) and DLR’s ‘:envihab’ facility.

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Figure 26: Soyuz MS-09 during spacewalk. On 11 December 2018 two Russian cosmonauts ventured outside the International Space Station to inspect the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev spent 7 hours and 45 minutes on their spacewalk to examine the hull of the Soyuz and apply a thermal blanket. They also retrieved science experiments from the Rassvet module before heading back inside (image credit: ESA/NASA, the image was taken by Alexander Gerst)

Legend to Figure 26: A leak was detected in the Soyuz MS-09's orbital module a few months earlier and repaired, the spacewalk was to get a better understanding of how it could have happened. The orbital module does not return to Earth but burns up harmlessly in the atmosphere. Astronauts return to Earth in the descent module.

- A number of scientific experiments also returned to Earth alongside the crew in the Soyuz. One of these, known as Dosis 3D, provides greater insight into the dose and distribution of radiation on board the Station. It is just one of many experiments that will deliver benefits for Earth as well as human and robotic exploration as Europe prepares for future missions to the Moon and beyond.

Figure 27: Experience magical moments from ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst’s Horizons mission in this timelapse of highlights from space. Combining thousands of images taken by Alexander over more than six months, this Ultra High Definition video provides a glimpse into spacecraft operations and the beauty of Earth as seen from the International Space Station (image credit: ESA)

• December 16, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the vast expanse of Egypt’s Western Desert, just west of the Nile River (Figure 28). This oblique view shows almost the entire southern half of Egypt, with a swath of parallel wind streaks marking the arid landscape. A line of small clouds casts shadows on the desert below. 23)

- Two darker patches in the photo stand out against the light desert sand. These are large agricultural projects at East Oweinat and Toshka New Valley, near Lake Nasser. Approximately one-third of the Egyptian labor force works in farming, with most agricultural production concentrated along the Nile Valley. The pioneering agricultural projects shown above were planned to encourage people to leave the very heavily populated Nile Delta and to seek economic opportunities in the desert.

- The New Valley farming project draws its water from the Toshka Lakes. Development began in the late 1990s. By the early 2000s, water levels dropped and the area of the lakes had shrunk (as did neighboring Lake Nasser) due to lower water inputs for a number of years. The lakes are barely discernable in this image.

- Fresh water for East Oweinat is pumped from underground aquifers, and it is a non-renewable resource. The fossil water underground accumulated between 20,000 and 5,000 years ago when the Sahara was much wetter.

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Figure 28: Astronaut photograph ISS054-E-54281 was acquired on 11 April 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 105 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)

• December 13, 2018: Astronauts Anne McClain and Serena Auñón-Chancellor Work Aboard the Station. 24)

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Figure 29: NASA astronauts Anne McClain (background) and Serena Auñón-Chancellor are pictured inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module aboard the International Space Station. McClain watched as Auñón-Chancellor trains on the robotics workstation ahead of the rendezvous and capture of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft on Dec. 8, 2018 (image credit: NASA)

• December 9, 2018: An astronaut aboard the ISS shot this oblique photograph of Mount Everest, Earth’s tallest mountain (when measured from sea level, Figure 30). Located on the border of China and Nepal, Everest is the centerpiece of the Great Himalaya Range, the highest and northernmost section of the Himalayas. Many of the world’s tallest peaks are found here, including Kanchenjunga (8,586 m) and Everest (8,850 m). Stretching 2,300 km across Pakistan, India, Nepal, and China, the mountain range has an average elevation above 6,100 m. The peaks of these mountains are a dramatic expression of massive tectonic forces pushing continents together. 25)

- The snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas persist year-round thanks to two main periods of precipitation. Winter snow accumulates from December through May, with greater snowfall occurring in the western part of the range. By the end of May, summer monsoon winds start to channel moist air toward the eastern Himalayas, where precipitation will occur as either rain or snow until September. The fairest weather in the region occurs from September through early December.

- The peaks of the Himalayas are a dramatic expression of the massive tectonic forces that drove the crustal plates of India and Asia into each other about 40 to 50 million years ago. The Himalayas as a whole started forming 25 to 30 million years ago, while the Great Himalaya Range began building up about 2.6 million years ago. These tectonic forces are still active today, causing Everest and the surrounding mountains to rise more than 1 cm/year.

- In addition to tectonic activity, the Himalayas have many active glaciers—the primary force behind the continuous erosion of Everest and the other peaks. As these glaciers melt, the water drains into rivers which find their way into catchments such as Lake Paiku, which collects glacial melt, snowmelt, and summer monsoon rains.

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Figure 30: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-357550 was acquired on 11 December 2017, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 500 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick)

• December 7, 2018: NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Oleg Konenenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos joined Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 2:37 p.m. EST on 3 December. 26)

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Figure 31: The six-member Expedition 57 crew. Back row (from left): Sergey Prokopyev, Alexander Gerst, Serena Auñón-Chancellor. New crew in front row: David Saint-Jacques, Oleg Kononenko and Anne McClain gather for a portrait (image credit: ESA, NASA)

Note: The image of Figure 31 was taken from ESA's page ”Week in images — Expedition 57 full crew ” 3-7 December 2018, URL: http://www.esa.int/Highlights/Week_In_Images_3_7_December_2018

- The arrival briefly restores the station’s crew complement to six until Auñón-Chancellor, Gerst and Prokopyev return to Earth on 20 December. Expedition 58 officially begins once the three departing spacefarers undock from the space station.

- McClain, Saint-Jacques and Konenenko will spend more than six months conducting hundreds of science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development, providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Some of the investigations they will conduct are sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory on the space station, which Congress designated in 2005 to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth. Highlights of upcoming investigations include experiments in forest observation, robotic refueling, and satellite deployment.

- The crew is scheduled to be onboard during the first test flights of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil.

- In March, the station will again return to a full complement of six crew members when they are joined for Expedition 59 by NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos.

- This is the first spaceflight for both McClain and Saint-Jacques and the fourth trip to the space station for Kononenko.

• December 5, 2018: Spaceflight affects not only the body but also the mind. Viewing Earth from space day in and out for six months is bound to change a human’s perspective on Earth’s future in our Galaxy. 27)

- Living on Earth it is easy to find it rich, vast, and powerful. However, seeing Earth suspended in the void of space with just a thin protective layer shielding all its inhabitants from cosmic radiation, extreme temperatures, and flying projectiles, our mothership suddenly seems so fragile.

- This cognitive shift is known as the overview effect that many astronauts report during and after spaceflight. It is an awareness brought on by countless hours of Earth viewing and the photographs taken, like this image captured by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station in November 2018, that shows just how thin Earth’s shield, our atmosphere, really is (Figure 32).

- It is hard to measure the thickness of our atmosphere, as it becomes thinner with increasing altitude. Though there is no definitive boundary line between it and outer space, atmospheric effects become noticeable when spacecraft reenter Earth at an altitude of 120 km.

- Regardless, it is the product of billions of years of biochemical change by the countless organisms able to survive on Earth thanks to this protective layer.

- However, should life on Earth continue in its industrial-era tracks, the threats to our planet are internal. Unchecked human consumption of natural resources is causing global temperatures to rise. The resulting change in climate is wreaking havoc on natural habitats and leading to major weather events.

- ESA’s Earth observation satellites, along with astronauts from the International Space Station, are witnesses to this global crisis and continue to provide us with data and imagery to inspire action.

- This week representatives from almost 200 countries have gathered in Katowice, Poland for the 24th conference of the Parties (COP24) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

- One of the most important tasks at the summit is to agree the course of action to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement – and, with the 2°C target now deemed not enough, to coordinate an international effort to halt warming at 1.5°C.

- The meeting focuses on a triangle of nature, man and technology, and will investigate how they can be used to reduce climate change and mitigate its effects.

- This will take determined and coordinated international effort to help protect our planet. In the meantime, astronauts will continue to share this overview to inspire action.

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Figure 32: A photo of Earth from the ISS, captured in November 2018, that shows just how thin Earth’s shield, our atmosphere, really is (image credit: ESA)

• December 4, 2018: A message from ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from on board the International Space Station to mark the start COP24, the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Katowice, Poland. 28) 29)

- From his vantage point on the Space Station, Alexander explains how from space he can see Earth’s beauty, but also the fragility, “It is crystal clear from up here that everything is finite on this little blue marble in a black space, and there is no planet B.

- This Space Station shows what is possible through cooperation across borders and generations. In 20 years of partnership we have carried out 100-fold more scientific research and exploration to benefit humanity than a single nation could do alone. I hope that same spirit of collaboration can help you find the best way forward.

Figure 33: From 400 km above planet Earth, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst has a message for COP24 as well as for all of us (image credit: ESA)

• November 25, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Rhône River winding through Geneva, Switzerland, and into Lake Geneva (also known as Lac Léman)—the largest lake in the Alps. 30)

- Alpine in character and perennial in flow, the river flows for 813 kilometers (505 miles) from the Rhône Glacier in the Swiss Alps to the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of France. Along the way, the river is a crucial resource for hydroelectricity, irrigation for agriculture, transportation, and tourism along its banks.

- Located in far western Switzerland, Geneva is among the largest cities on the river. Historically associated with watchmaking, Geneva is now equally well-known for precision machinery manufacturing. Among the city’s medieval structures, museums, and factories lies a history of international diplomacy. The League of Nations was headquartered in the city. Today it hosts the largest United Nations office outside of UN headquarters in New York City.

- Just south of the city center, the Rhône and Arve rivers join—a confluence visible from space due to the contrasting colors of the sediment-laden Arve and the milky-blue Rhône.

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Figure 34: The astronaut photograph ISS055-E-10916 was acquired on 6 April 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 55 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Thomas)

• November 24, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of the Horn of Africa, the easternmost portion of the continent. Raas Caseyr, historically known as Cape Guardafui, lies at the junction between the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. The coastline is rugged, with mountains, dry river beds, a small delta, and steep cliffs that cast shadows on the landscape. 31)

- This arid region is an extension of the Saharan and Arabian deserts. Strong southerly winds are common from May to October during the southwest monsoon season (when this image was taken). The winds transport sand across the cape and create a series of dunes (visible in the high-resolution download of this image). Sand is then transported into the Gulf as streamers that contrast with the darker sea surface.

- Dust storms are common in the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea region and have been photographed by astronauts on other occasions, including a wind storm near the southern Red Sea and a plume from Egypt. In May 2018, approximately one month before this image was taken, Somalia was hit by a tropical cyclone—a rare event for the region because dry desert air typically weakens storms.

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Figure 35: This astronaut photograph ISS056-E-5470 was acquired on June 4, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 170 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)

• On 15 November 2018 at 11:40 CET (Central European Time), the mission team in the BIOTESC (Biotechnology Space Support Center) at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Switzerland) watched with baited breath. After two-and-a-half years of highly intensive preparations, as well as countless testing and training sessions with CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN) on Earth, you could hear a pin drop – there was an atmosphere of total concentration and thrilled anticipation. After a software upload to the International Space Station, a software update for CIMON himself, an audio check and a test of the navigation camera, Alexander Gerst took a good look at his new robotic housemate and put him straight into operation. The world premiere lasted 90 minutes – the first 'rendezvous' between the German ESA astronaut and his autonomous mobile robot assistant. 32)

- Once Alexander Gerst had taken his manmade helper out of its box in the Columbus module of the ISS, the German astronaut woke him up with the words "Wake up, CIMON!" The answer came promptly: "What can I do for you?” After this initial banter, Gerst allowed CIMON to float around freely – initially by remote control from Earth. The guidance, navigation and control system was thus activated.

- Then came some autonomous navigation with multiple turns and movements in all directions. Once complete, CIMON was able to locate Gerst's face and make eye contact. To demonstrate its capabilities as an assistant, CIMON used its 'face' – a display at the center of the sphere – to show the instructions for a student experiment on crystallization and also played a song. It then recorded a video and photo of Alexander Gerst using its integrated cameras. Afterwards, Alexander Gerst brought CIMON back to its place in the Columbus module. "The voice communication worked perfectly and I am very relieved that the cooperation between CIMON and Alex ran so smoothly," says Gwendolyne Pascua, the BIOTESC project manager who spoke directly with Alexander Gerst during the commissioning phase to guide him through the experiment.

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Figure 36: CIMON nd Alexander Gerst: On 1 November 2018 CIMON, a technology experiment developed and built in Germany, was used for the first time aboard the ISS. The interactive and mobile astronaut assistant is equipped with artificial intelligence and is part of the current horizons mission of the German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst (image credit: ESA, DLR)

- "It is an incredible feeling and an absolute delight to witness how CIMON is seeing, hearing, understanding and speaking. For us, this first real deployment in space is part of history and is hopefully just the beginning of its usage on the ISS," says Dr Christian Karrasch, CIMON project manager from the DLR Space Administration. "Interaction with artificial intelligence fascinates me. As a system, CIMON is unparalleled elsewhere in the world and was designed specifically for deployment on the ISS. We are entering uncharted territory here and broadening technological horizons in Germany."

- "CIMON represents the embodiment of our vision," adds Till Eisenberg, project manager for CIMON at Airbus. "It is a huge step for human spaceflight and one that we are taking here as a team. In CIMON, we have laid the foundation for social assistance systems that can work even under extreme conditions."

- CIMON used the Wi-Fi on the International Space Station for data transmission and established an Internet connection to the IBM Cloud via satellite link and ground stations. "When CIMON is asked a question or when it is addressed, the Watson AI first converts the audio signal into text that can be understood or interpreted by the AI," says Matthias Biniok, IBM project manager, describing the processes taking place in CIMON's 'brain'. "IBM Watson is thus able to grasp the underlying intention, as well as the context of the words. The result is a pinpoint response, which is then converted back into language and beamed up to the ISS. This process enables a natural, dynamic spoken dialog."

- Bernd Rattenbacher, team leader at the BIOTESC Biotechnology Space Support Center of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, says: "The data connection to the Earth runs via satellite to NASA and to the Columbus Control Center at the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen. The signal travels from there to us, the CIMON ground station at BIOTESC in Lucerne, the Swiss User Support and Operations Center, which is connected to the IBM Cloud in Frankfurt by Internet. The runtime for the signal alone via the satellites is 0.4 second in one direction. A large number of firewalls and VPN tunnels are enabled to ensure data security."

- CIMON also has a scientific background. The consultants are Judith-Irina Buchheim and Professor Alexander Choukèr from the Department of Anesthesiology at LMU (Ludwig Maximilian University) Munich. "As an AI partner and companion, CIMON could support astronauts in their high workload of experiments as well as maintenance and repair work, thus reducing their exposure to stress," Buchheim says.

Developed and built in Germany, CIMON is a technology experiment to support astronauts and increase the efficiency of their work. CIMON is able to show and explain information, instructions for scientific experiments and repairs. The voice-controlled access to documents and media is an advantage, as the astronauts can keep both hands free. It can also be used as a mobile camera to save astronaut crew time. CIMON could perform routine tasks, in particular, such as the documentation of experiments, the search for objects and for taking inventory. CIMON is also able to see, hear, understand and speak. Its eyes are actually two cameras that it uses for facial recognition, as well as five other cameras for orientation and video documentation. Ultrasound sensors measure distances to recognize potential collisions. Its ears consist of eight microphones to identify directions, and an additional directional microphone to improve voice comprehension. Its mouth is a loudspeaker used to speak or to play music. At the heart of the AI for language understanding is the IBM Watson AI technology from the IBM Cloud. CIMON was not equipped with self-learning capabilities and requires active human instruction. The AI used for autonomous navigation was contributed by Airbus and is designed for movement planning and object recognition. Twelve internal fans allow CIMON to move and rotate freely in all directions. This means it can turn toward the astronaut when addressed. It can also nod or shake its head and follow through space either autonomously or on command.

Table 2: CIMON partners - The idea of CIMON

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Figure 37: The CIMON team at the BIOTESC User Support Center at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts was excited and relieved on 15 November 2018 following the first successful deployment of their 'protege' with Alexander gerst on the ISS (image credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

• November 12, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Volga River Delta, which stretches 160 km across Russia’s Astrakhan Oblast. It is Europe’s largest river delta, situated where the Volga pours its fresh water and sediment into the northwest sector of the Caspian Sea. 33)

- Over the past century, the Volga Delta has grown from 3,222 km2 in 1880 to 27,224 km2 today. This significant growth is due both to sea level changes in the Caspian and the broad, gentle slope of the delta. When water from the river enters the delta, it gets split up into hundreds of waterways, creating one of the world’s most complicated hydrographic networks. The upper delta is home to several cities and towns, including the city of Astrakhan, which lies 100 km from the shore.

- The delta is composed of three distinct zones. The first and most prominent includes the higher areas of the delta, which are dominated by linear mounds and basins known as “ilmens.” These parallel mounds range from 400 meters to 10 km long and stand as much as 8 meters high. They run east to west through the delta and are composed of clay-rich sands.

- The second zone of the delta has very low relief and is the site of active and abandoned water channels. The third zone is the submarine portion of the delta and is composed of a broad platform that extends 30 to 60 km offshore.

- The Volga Delta is home to myriad wildlife species protected in the Astrakhan State Nature Reserve, established in 1919. There are 283 recorded species of birds (155 of which migrate to the delta from March to November) and at least 50 different species of fish. The reserve was dedicated as a Wetlands Site of International Importance in 1976 and added to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1984.

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Figure 38: Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-63048 was acquired on August 21, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 78 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick)

• November 05, 2018: Despite humankind’s scientific prowess there are still many phenomena that defy explanation or a common agreement on why something happens. A ‘glory’ is a rare optical phenomenon that is mostly seen by pilots and mountain climbers looking down at mists or clouds. Forming a miniature circular rainbow, glories are seen when the Sun shines from behind and interacts with water droplets to refract light back to the observer. 34)

- To see a glory at the International Space Station’s cruising altitude of 400 km is surprising as they require specific atmospheric conditions.

- Our atmosphere extends to 480 km above the surface of Earth but most of it stays within 16 km, making the boundaries of where “space” begins hardly a defined point.

- The Kármán line at 100 km altitude is a generally accepted point that represents the boundary between Earth and space, but weather, and space weather, will often take no heed of boundaries defined by humans.

- In the upper reaches of our atmosphere many more phenomena have been spotted that we know little about, from noctilucent clouds to sprites, blue jets and elves, but the International Space Station offers a great platform to investigate these phenomena.

- The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) was installed this year as a dedicated facility outside the European space laboratory Columbus. The collection of optical cameras, photometers and X- and gamma-ray detectors are designed to look for electrical discharges born in stormy weather conditions that extend above thunderstorms into the upper atmosphere.

- This observatory is not designed to investigate glories but space events such as sprites and blue jets are just as awe-inspiring to view from space. ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen captured a sprite on camera from the International Space Station, proving the phenomenon can be observed from space – rare photos of the phenomena were also taken by pilots and researchers from mountaintops.

- Sometimes a simple photograph can spark scientific investigation or even full-blown scientific research. Alexander’s pictures of aurora from his last mission in 2014 are adding extra information for researchers analyzing these beautiful atmospheric displays of light.

- The International Space Station also hosted ESA’s Solar facility that monitored the radiation emitted by the Sun across the electromagnetic spectrum. For almost a decade it tracked the Sun to measure our star’s energy, delivering the most accurate data on the Sun’s power that influences our climate on Earth but also how satellites operate in space.

- The phenomenon in this picture is related to atmospheric physics and so strictly speaking not space weather. This week, however ESA is highlighting space weather, from the science behind it and how we study it, to its effect on satellites in space and ESA’s plans for the future. Keep your eye on ESA’s online channels to find out more, or follow these hashtags in social media: #SpaceWeather #SolarHazards #SafeguardingOurPlanet.

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Figure 39: This picture is an even more rare example of a glory seen from space. Snapped by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst on 14 September 2018 during his Horizons mission, he commented: “Surprised to see a pilot's glory from the International Space Station, an optical phenomenon that is often visible from aircraft, or on volcanoes when looking down in a foggy crater, with Sun in the back. Our shadow is (theoretically) right in the middle of the rainbow, but we don't have a core shadow due to our altitude.” Image credit: ESA/NASA

• November 04, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot the photograph of the Betsiboka River Delta in Madagascar. The braided Betsiboka River carries sediment from the island’s high central plateau and mountains toward the western coast, where it empties into Bombetoka Bay and the Mozambique Channel. The delta is comprised of complex woven channels flowing between vegetated islands of built up sediment. The small islands have erosional features along their edges where water flows down into the river channels. 35)

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Figure 40: The braided river carries iron-rich sediment from the high central plateau and mountains down through complex, woven channels and vegetated islands. The astronaut photograph ISS056-E-62768 was acquired on June 29, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 800 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew. (image credit: NASA/JSC, caption by Andrea Meado)

- Historical maps of Madagascar describe the sandy to clay-rich soils around the Betsiboka River as terres rouges, or “red lands.” (The island was a French territory from 1895 to 1960.) They were describing laterites—soils rich in iron oxides—that form in tropical climates from the chemical breakdown of iron-rich rocks. These soils and sediments lend the river a rusty orange color when the island experiences heavy seasonal rain or downpours from tropical cyclones. More than 30 years of astronaut photography have captured the delta evolving and islands growing from this sediment.

- The heavy sediment loads in the waters are also a result of extensive deforestation on the island since the 1950s. Since that time, at least 40 percent of Madagascar’s forest cover has been cut down. Slash-and-burn agricultural practices, livestock overgrazing, and wildfires have dramatically altered the island’s mangrove forests. So the Betsiboka River now cuts across thick, unstable soils that are prone to erosion.

- Mangrove trees create the dark areas within the small lenses of land. Mangroves thrive in estuaries, where salty sea water mixes with fresh water from the Betsiboka. The landscape helped Madagascar develop rich biodiversity, with a high number of plant and animal species endemic only to the island.

• October 22, 2018: What does our planet look like from space? Most are familiar with beloved images of the blue marble or pale blue dot — Earth from 18,000 and 3.7 billion miles away, respectively. But closer to home, at the boundary between Earth and space, you might encounter an unfamiliar sight. If you were to peer down on Earth from just 300 miles above the surface, near the orbit of the International Space Station, you could see vibrant swaths of red and green or purple and yellow light emanating from the upper atmosphere. - This light is airglow. 36)

- Airglow occurs when atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere, excited by sunlight, emit light to shed their excess energy. Or, it can happen when atoms and molecules that have been ionized by sunlight collide with and capture a free electron. In both cases, they eject a particle of light — called a photon — in order to relax again. The phenomenon is similar to auroras, but where auroras are driven by high-energy particles originating from the solar wind, airglow is energized by ordinary, day-to-day solar radiation.

- Unlike auroras, which are episodic and fleeting, airglow constantly shines throughout Earth’s atmosphere, and the result is a tenuous bubble of light that closely encases our entire planet. (Auroras, on the other hand, are usually constrained to Earth’s poles.) Just a tenth as bright as all the stars in the night sky, airglow is far more subdued than auroras, too dim to observe easily except in orbit or on the ground with clear, dark skies and a sensitive camera. But it’s a marker nevertheless of the dynamic region where Earth meets space.

Figure 41: Red, green, purple and yellow swaths of light — known as airglow — are seen in this video of Earth’s limb, shot from the International Space Station (image credit: NASA)

- Stretching from roughly 50 to 400 miles above the surface, this region, called the ionosphere, is an electrified layer of the upper atmosphere, cooked by extreme ultraviolet radiation from the Sun until molecules break apart, giving rise to a mix of charged ions and electrons. It’s neither fully Earth nor fully space, and instead, reacts to both terrestrial weather — the weather we experience on Earth — rippling up from below and solar energy streaming in from above, forming a complex space weather system of its own. Turbulence in this ever-changing sea of charged particles can manifest as disruptions that interfere with orbiting satellites or communication and navigation signals used to guide airplanes, ships and self-driving cars.

- Understanding the ionosphere’s extreme variability is tricky because it requires disentangling interactions between the different factors at play — interactions of which we don’t have a clear picture. That’s where airglow comes in.

- “Each atmospheric gas has its own favored airglow color depending on the gas, altitude region, and excitation process, so you can use airglow to study different layers of the atmosphere,” said Doug Rowland, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We’re not studying airglow per se, but using it as a diagnostic.”

- Airglow carries information on the upper atmosphere’s temperature, density, and composition, but it also helps us trace how particles move through the region itself. Vast, high-altitude winds sweep through the ionosphere, pushing its contents around the globe — and airglow’s subtle dance follows their lead, highlighting global patterns.

- Two NASA missions take advantage of our planet’s natural glow to study the upper atmosphere: ICON — short for Ionospheric Connection Explorer — and GOLD — Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk. ICON focuses on how charged and neutral gases in the upper atmosphere interact, while GOLD observes what’s driving change — the Sun, Earth’s magnetic field or the lower atmosphere — in the region. By watching and imaging airglow, the two missions enable scientists to tease out how Earth’s weather and space intersect, dictating the region’s complex behavior.

• October 21, 2018: Taken by the EarthKAM Mission on the International Space Station, this photograph shows numerous radial river channels on a large alluvial fan in the Taklimakan Desert of Western China. This is the active part of the fan, with several light-toned channels carrying water. The water flows into the desert from the snow-covered Kunlun Mountains to the south. The modern fan is 65 kilometers (40 miles) long, and its channels end in fields of dunes. 37)

- Population density is very low in this remote, dry region of western China. The only signs of people are two straight roads and a small reservoir, which supplies water to a small area of crops just outside the top of the image. (For scale, the reservoir is about 2 kilometers long.) In contrast, similar alluvial fans just to the west host major population centers and are covered with dense green fields, as seen from space.

- The smooth fan surface is disrupted by elongated hills. These are older, lithified fan sediment deposits that have been pushed up from the subsurface along geologic faults. Vertical rock movements along faults result from the tectonic forces that are presently building the Kunlun Mountains.

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Figure 42: Water from the Kunlun Mountains carves thin channels across the dry lands of Western China. This EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) photograph CCFID_155475_2017306054734 was acquired on November 2, 2017, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 180 mm lens, and is provided by Sally Ride EarthKAM@Space Camp on the International Space Station (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, the image in this article has been enhanced to improve contrast. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)

• October 19,2018: NASA astronaut Nick Hague told NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine that he was impressed by the teamwork of the rescue crew that helped him and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin to get out of the rescue capsule after their recent emergency return to Earth over launch vehicle failure. 38)

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Figure 43: The Soyuz MS-10 landing capsule (image credit: Sputnik News)

- ”They had three pararescue jumpers. As soon as they had found where we were at... they jumped in to get to us as quick as they could... In a handful of minutes, somebody was tapping on the window next to me, giving me the OK symbol, and I was answering back with a big smile, and then they had the hatch open," Hague said on Wednesday (17 Oct.), as broadcast by NASA.

- The astronaut added that he was "amazed" at the quick response of the rescue crew.

- "You know, they practice this all the time, but they haven't had to put it to use in 35 years... To respond the way they did is a true testament to how seriously they take their responsibilities, and their job," Hague noted. He praised the professionalism of the Russian team engaged in spaceflight preparations and conduct.

- "I was not surprised by their support and how well they worked. It's on display every day over there, and it's a privilege to be part of it," he stressed.

- Hague said that he was feeling "great," and his physical condition was "awesome," as he had 10 miles (16 km) run with his wife on Wednesday morning.

- Earlier, Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos said that Ovchinin and Hague would fly to the ISS in spring 2019, while the exact date would be specified later.

- On October 11, the Soyuz-FG launch vehicle failed to launch the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft, with Hague and Ovchinin on board, toward the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

- Just minutes after the liftoff, the mission was aborted due to the booster's malfunction. The two-man crew escaped in a rescue capsule and returned back unharmed. Immediately afterward, an investigation into the incident was launched in Russia.

• October 18, 2018: Two Expedition 57 astronauts are working to understand what happens to fluids being transported by spacecraft today. Another crew member also worked on combustion science gear as well as Japanese and Russian systems. 39)

- Fluid physics and combustion research on the International Space Station helps scientists understand how well-known phenomena on Earth behaves in microgravity. For instance, fluids sloshing around inside fuel tanks can impact how a spaceship steers in space. The way flames burn and create soot in space can also create safety issues for crews.

- Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) explored how fluids affect spacecraft maneuvers today. The duo set up a pair of tiny mobile satellites known as SPHERES for the test inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. The SPHERES Tether Slosh experiment is observing what happens when the satellites tow a liquid-filled tank versus a solid mass body with a Kevlar tether.

- Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack in the afternoon and replaced manifold bottles that contain gases for flame experiments. The flight engineer also packed items for disposal on a Japanese cargo ship and checked on Russian ventilation and air conditioning systems.

• October 17, 2018: Last week saw the installation of ESA’s next-generation life-support system on the ISS (Figure 48). The new facility recycles carbon dioxide in the air into water that can then be converted into oxygen reducing supplies sent from Earth by half. 40)

- Installing the life support rack in NASA’s Destiny laboratory is no easy task as the facility is larger than a human being and weighs over 650 kg on Earth. In addition many cables and pipes need to be connected to the Station’s infrastructure – including a pipe that vents waste methane from the recycling process directly into space.

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Figure 44: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is installing ESA’s next-generation life-support system on the ISS. The new facility recycles carbon dioxide in the air into water that can then be converted into oxygen reducing supplies sent from Earth by half (image credit: NASA/ESA)

- ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst set up the air and water drawer of the facility, including part of the Sabatier reactor on 10 September but was given an extra helping hand from ground control with an operational aid called the ‘mobile procedure viewer’ or mobiPV.

- Usually an astronaut would have a computer nearby with step-by-step instructions to follow, but anybody who has tried repairing their car or even assembling furniture will agree this way of working has room for improvement – laying down tools to consult instructions is time-consuming and interrupts the work flow.

- ESA’s solution to this problem sees astronauts wearing a smartphone on their wrist that connects to the Space Station’s procedure library and shows the instructions on-screen. Alexander could concentrate on the work at hand, without going back and forth to the computer.

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Figure 45: Alexander follows procedures on a mobile (image credit: NASA/ESA)

• October 17, 2018: Spaceflight was a challenge in 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first human to successfully and safely orbit Earth. While advances in technology have made spaceflight a regular occurrence, it can still be a risky endeavor. 41)

- Cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin of Roscosmos, and NASA astronaut Nick Hague, reminded the world of this fact last week when they set off for the International Space Station.

- Their Soyuz rocket took off at 10:40 CEST 11 October for a four-orbit, six-hour journey to the International Space Station. The launcher’s four boosters take only two minutes to burn their fuel in the so-called first stage – by this time Alexei and Nick were travelling at around 6500 km/h. However, two minutes 45 seconds after liftoff, a malfunction of the second stage ignition was reported causing the launch to be aborted. The crew returned to Earth in a ‘ballistic descent mode’.

- In a ballistic reentry the Soyuz capsule spins around its trajectory axis to increase stability and behaves like a spherical object.

- The crew were able to make radio contact with mission control and were quickly recovered from their landing site and returned to the Baikonur, where they were greeted by relieved family members.

- Launch failures are a rarity in human spaceflight. This is only the third time in the history of the Soyuz launcher that an emergency rescue system had to be activated with a crew aboard. The last time this reliable rocket failed was 35 years ago with the Soyuz T-10A. The launch escape system of the Soyuz spacecraft fired two seconds before the launch vehicle exploded, saving the crew.

- All astronauts are trained countless times to deal with emergency situations. Simulators help them practice flight maneuvers and learn the best response to all situations, from a communications glitch to a full-blown emergency like this one.

- There is always the possibility of an emergency landing in a far-away place. Astronauts go through survival courses in extreme environments, preparing themselves to face all kinds of situations in isolation and under psychological stress. Crews have to learn to survive in harsh climates while waiting for rescue, only relying on very basic items and the emergency pack in their Soyuz capsule.

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Figure 46: Human and robotic exploration image of the week: Expedition 57 crew return to Baikonur after an aborted launch. Cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin of Roscosmos, left, and NASA astronaut Nick Hague, right, reminded the world of this fact last week when they set off for the International Space Station (image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

• October 15, 2018: Celestial view of Earth's atmospheric glow and the Milky Way. 42)

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Figure 47: The ISS was orbiting about 400 km above South Australia when a camera on board the orbital complex captured this celestial view of Earth's atmospheric glow and the Milky Way (image credit: NASA)

• October 09, 2018: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst installed the ACLS (Advanced Closed Loop System) on 1 October in the International Space Station. This Life Support Rack recycles carbon dioxide into oxygen and will allow for significantly less supplies which are needed to be shipped from Earth – as much as 400 liters less water a year sent by supply spacecraft. 43)

- The ACLS facility, a technology demonstrator, is the size of an International Standard Payload Rack – about 2 m high, 1 m wide, and 85.9 cm deep – with a mass of over 670 kg on Earth, but Alexander could move it easily the few meters from the Japanese HTV-7 cargo spacecraft to its installation site in the US Destiny space laboratory due to the wonders of weightlessness.

- Astronauts will connect the facility’s cables, pipes and filters this week, with checkout operations foreseen for 6 November. The system collects carbon dioxide in the air and processes it to create methane and water. Electrolysis then splits the water back into oxygen while the methane is vented into space.

- Once up and running the facility should generate about 50% of the water needed for oxygen production on the Space Station.

- The system is a huge step for human spaceflight as space agencies prepare for exploring further from Earth. Sustainable life-support systems are needed for longer missions such as to the lunar Gateway that is the next structure to be built by the partners of the International Space Station. Foreseen as a staging post for missions to the Moon and even Mars the Gateway will be further away from Earth, making it harder and more expensive to ferry supplies.

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Figure 48: Photo of Alexander trying to move the ACLS facility in weightlessness into its designated place (image credit: ESA/NASA)

• October 07,2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Figure 49). Morning sunglint silhouettes Lake Superior’s shoreline and highlights smaller lakes and mine tailings ponds on the land. 44)

- The subdued, orange sunglint and hazy atmosphere may be due to wildfires that occurred in August 2017 throughout the northwestern United States and parts of Canada. Smoke particles in the atmosphere can cause the scattering of light waves and create pale orange-red hues at dusk or dawn, when Sun elevation is low relative to the local horizon.

- The Upper Peninsula has long been known for its copper and iron resources, with native peoples mining Keweenaw copper as far back as 7,000 years ago. Modern iron mining began in the Upper Peninsula in 1845, with the Tilden Mine still in production today.

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Figure 49: This astronaut photograph ISS053-E-2095 was acquired on 3 September 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 210 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

- Logging was also prevalent in the Upper Peninsula from the mid-1800s to about 1900. Trees were cut in the winter and brought to rivers by sleigh. In spring time, when snowmelt fed the rivers, timber was floated downstream to be sorted. These logs were marked with axe-cut symbols—similar to cattle branding—to avoid confusion about ownership as the logs floated to lake ports.

- This extensive logging left much of the Upper Peninsula without trees. In 1931, the Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests were established in the area to promote reforestation, scientific forestry, and the protection of wildlife, soil, and water resources. Today, fishing in lakes and streams is a popular activity for locals and tourists. Lake Superior, Earth’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, can be fished year round, including ice fishing in the winter.

• October 01, 2018: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst works with NASA crew mate and commander Drew Feustel of the International Space Station on an experiment from DLR that uses an innovative 3D fluorescence microscope to observe cell changes in real time. This experiment provides a whole new insight into human tissue, cell cultures, microorganisms and plants in space. 45)

- Alexander will take over as commander of the International Space Station for the second half of his Horizons mission when Drew returns to Earth, 03 October 2018.

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Figure 50: FLUMIAS experiment on the International Space Station (image credit: ESA/NASA)

• September 30, 2018: Samoa’s two largest islands, made by volcanoes, have productive reefs and fertile soils. This photograph, taken from the International Space Station as it passed over the South Pacific Ocean, captures the two largest Samoan Islands as they were highlighted by the optical effect of sunglint. 46)

- Savai’i, the westernmost Samoan Island, is 80 kilometers (50 miles) long; Upolu is nearly as long (74 kilometers/46 miles). The dark green centers of the islands reflect the denser tropical forests and higher elevations in comparison to the lower, light-green coastal regions around the edges.

- The top of Mount Silisili, an active volcano, forms the center of Savai’i and is the highest point at 1,858 meters. Savai’i’s elevation likely contributes to a wind shadow on the west side of the island; this shows up as a region with no sunglint, indicating a smooth water surface. Upolu’s highest point, Mount Fito, reaches 1,100 meters.

- The narrow stretch of water separating the islands is known as Apolima Strait. Coral reef ecosystems surround the islands and appear as light-blue regions due to shallow water depths. (These are reminiscent of the waters surrounding the Bahamas.) While ferries and ships use the Apolima Strait for tourism and commerce, swimmers also sometimes race across the strait, which is about 22 kilometers wide.

- Both islands are volcanic in origin, with nutrient-rich basaltic soils that are good for farming. According to the 2015 Report by the Samoa Agriculture Survey, 97 percent of Samoan households grow crops; of these, 60 to 70 percent grow taro root or coconuts. Located on the north side of Upolu, Apia is the capital of Samoa and the center for export and commerce of these crops.

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Figure 51: This astronaut photograph ISS055-E-70602 was acquired on May 13, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 70 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 55 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Thomas)

• September 18, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Green River flowing through red rock canyons in eastern Utah (Figure 52). A main tributary of the Colorado River, the Green flows 730 miles (1175 km) through Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. The portion of the Green River in this image is just north of Canyonlands National Park. 47)

- Bowknot Bend was named by John Wesley Powell in 1869 during his first expedition through the region because of the way the river loops back on itself. Located in Labyrinth Canyon about 25 miles west of Moab, Utah, this river bend runs 7.5 miles (12 km) in a circular loop and ends up 1,200 feet (360 m) from where it first started, on the opposite side of a narrow saddle. When the two sides of the river cut through the saddle and merge someday, Bowknot Bend will break off from the main channel and form an oxbow lake.

- High contrast from the dark shadows along the river give some three-dimensional perspective to the 1,000 foot (300 m) canyons that have deepened over geologic time from erosion. Similar to the formation of the Grand Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon started to form when regional uplift of the Colorado Plateau caused the Green River to cut down through the rocks to its current depth. Some inactive uranium mines, such as the Aileen Mine, are located along the canyon walls. Uranium ore deposits are concentrated in much older fluvial sandstones.

- Bowknot Bend is a popular destination for hiking, canyoneering, and river rafting. Visitors can explore the multitude of caves and alcoves located within Labyrinth Canyon. They also hike to various lookouts, particularly the saddle of Bowknot Bend. Several sections of the Green River can be rafted, kayaked, or canoed until it meets with the Colorado River (south of this image).

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Figure 52: The astronaut photograph ISS055-E-31251 was acquired on April 22, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 55 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick, Jacobs)

• September 12, 2018: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst took this image of Hurricane Florence on 12 September 2018, from the International Space Station. He is on his second six-month Space Station mission. 48)

- He commented: "Watch out, America! Hurricane Florence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide angle lens from the International Space Station, 400 km directly above the eye. Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you."

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Figure 53: Hurricane Florence as seen by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from the ISS on 12 September 2018 (image credit: ESA/NASA, A. Gerst)

• September 11, 2018: Drew Feustel, commander of International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 56, counts automotive racing among his many interests. That led him to shoot this high-resolution photograph of Circuit Paul Ricard, a distinctive racetrack in Le Castellet, Var, in southeastern France. 49)

- Built on a plateau at approximately 400 meters above sea level, the track is extremely flat and sits within a warm, temperate climate. The conditions are ideal for vehicle testing by racing teams throughout the year, though the track’s watering system also can simulate rainy driving conditions, if desired. The unique blue and red appearance of the track is due to vehicle run-off areas: the “red zone” is a deeper runoff with a more abrasive surface to maximize braking effectiveness compared to the “blue zone.”

- The 5.84 kilometers (3.63 miles) of track allows for 167 possible configurations. Circuit Paul Ricard has been the course for the famous Formula One French Grand Prix at least 15 times. However, 2018 marked the return of the French Grand Prix after a decade away.

- The namesake of the track, Paul Ricard, was a French industrialist who gained his fortune by marketing an anise-based liquor, pastis, in the 1930s. As a forward thinker in advertising, he paved the way for commercial sponsorship for the Tour de France. The Circuit Paul Ricard was another sport sponsorship to support his pastis brand, only this time he wanted to own the venue.

- Le Castellet International Airport runs parallel to the race track. North (left in this photo) of Circuit Paul Ricard are several solar power plants that reflect a recent shift to renewable energy in France. This region has the highest degree of insolation in the country, making it an ideal location for solar power generation.

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Figure 54: This astronaut photograph ISS056-E-6257 was acquired on June 9, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier Thomas)

• September 5, 2018: There are many possible reasons to trigger the alarm on the International Space Station, from fire to toxic leaks and loss of pressure. When an alarm sounds the six astronauts that live above our planet need to react quickly and securely. 50)

- Much like on Earth emergency drills are practiced to make sure that when a real emergency occurs the astronauts are ready to react. In this picture ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is wearing a mask during an emergency drill held on 28 August 2018. He was a volunteer firefighter in his school years.

- Fire or toxic leaks are a large concern for space stations even more so than on Earth because the astronauts live in a closed system, there is no way to open a window to allow come fresh air in or an external evacuation meeting point. Instead astronauts convene at a safe place on the Space Station where they have access to their Soyuz spacecraft that act as lifeboats and could bring them home if the worst happens. Once together the crew will work with mission control to identify the cause of any emergency and agree on the actions to be taken.

- Last week mission control noticed a small loss of pressure in the International Space Station but it was so small no emergency was declared. Nevertheless the astronauts convened and searched for the leak using an “ultrasound sniffer” that detects the sound of air moving. The leak was found in the Soyuz orbital module, a section of the spacecraft that doesn’t return to Earth but burns up harmlessly on re-entry. Thanks in part to the frequent training and diligence of the astronauts the leak was quickly found and patched.

- Alexander commented on Twitter about the incident that it “showed again how valuable our emergency training is. We could locate and stop a small leak in our Soyuz, thanks to great cooperation between the crew and control centers on several continents.”

- Pay attention at during all safety briefings, practice makes perfect and repetition makes sure you can rely on knowledge in an emergency situation.

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Figure 55: Human and robotic spaceflight image of the week: Alexander Gerst during safety drill on the International Space Station (image credit: NASA/ESA)

• September 2, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) centered this photograph on Belle Isle, an island in the Detroit River. Late 17th century French settlers called the waterway Rivière Détroit, which translates to “River of the Strait.” 51)

- The Detroit River stretches approximately 45 kilometers (30 miles) and provides connectivity between the upper Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Iron ore, mined from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern Minnesota, makes up more than 50 percent of the commodities passing through the Port of Detroit. In the photo, a few large ships are visible passing along the narrow strait. The river serves as the international border between the United States and Canada, following along the southern channel and making Belle Isle part of the U.S.

- Belle Isle is a park with attractions including a museum, zoo, aquarium, conservatory, and athletic fields. Since 1992, the island has been temporarily transformed into a raceway several times to host what is formally known as the Detroit Grand Prix.

- On the U.S. side of the river lies Michigan’s most populous city, Detroit, famously nicknamed the Motor City. Automobile production has driven the economy in Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, since the early 1900s, with the largest American automotive companies headquarters around and within Detroit. More than 2 million motor vehicles per year have been produced in Michigan in nearly every year since 1990.

- The Detroit-Windsor international crossing has the highest number of freight truck containers passing across the U.S.–Canadian border each year, with automobiles and vehicle parts being one of the top commodities.

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Figure 56: Astronaut photograph ISS055-E-23376 was acquired on April 12, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 55 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

• August 26, 2018: This oblique nighttime image of Figure 57, taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, reveals Indonesia’s main island chain. With coasts illuminated by city lights, the islands stand out against the darkness of the Indian Ocean. The island of Java is the geographic and economic center of Indonesia. With a population of more than 141 million people, it is the world’s most populous island. 52)

- Java is part of the Greater Sunda Islands, a chain of active volcanoes that form an island arc. The volcanoes constrain the growth of populated areas and can be distinguished at night as a line of dark circles surrounded by city lights. These densely populated islands are at risk of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis due to tectonic activity from the Sunda Subduction Zone that formed the islands.

- The brightest urban area is Java’s port city of Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city and the capital of the province of East Java. The Port of Tanjung Perak, located at Surabaya, is Indonesia’s second busiest sea port. Ships arriving and departing transport over 33 million tons of cargo and 9 million people annually. Individual and clustered lights seen around Java are ships and fishing boats. The fishing boats emit bright lights of different colors to attract fish, squid, and plankton.

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Figure 57: The astronaut photograph ISS056-E-6994 was acquired on June 9, 2018 with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 28 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Sarah Deitrick, Jacobs, and Andrea Meado, Jacobs)

• August 19, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a camera lens on the Sun’s reflection point, roughly 1700 km to the northeast of the spacecraft’s position over Massachusetts at the time this image was taken. This oblique photograph shows the horizon and coastline of the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, with Quebec further inland. 53)

- There was only a narrow window of opportunity for this sunglint photograph. The Sun’s reflection was moving across the narrows (separating the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador) and in a break between two cloud banks. Clouds are so common in this part of the world that images of the region are not often acquired from the ISS.

- From their altitude in the space station, the astronauts were seeing an early sunrise, which was timed at 4:41 a.m. at Goose Bay in Labrador on the day this photograph was taken. The Sun would only rise at 5:20 a.m. for people on the ground in Massachusetts directly below the spacecraft.

- Three airplane condensation trails appear in the left half of the image, and another is visible on the right margin. All of them are oriented along the shortest air route to Europe (over eastern Canada), which is one of the most densely travelled air routes between North America and Europe.

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Figure 58: This astronaut photograph ISS056-E-77502 was acquired on July 5, 2018, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 145 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)

• August 12, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this photograph of part of Lake Van in Turkey, the largest soda or alkaline lake on Earth. Generally, soda lakes are distinguished by high concentrations of carbonate species. Lake Van is an endorheic lake—it has no outlet, so its water disappears by evaporation—with a pH of 10 and high salinity levels. 54)

- Waters near the city of Erciş (population 90,000) are shallow, but other parts of the lake can be up to 450 meters (1,467 feet) deep. Lake Van water levels have changed by 100s of meters over the past 600,000 years due to climate change, volcanic eruptions, and tectonic activity.

- Turbidity plumes, which appear as swirls of light- and dark-toned water, are mostly comprised of calcium carbonate, detrital materials, and some organic matter. High particle fluxes occur in Lake Van during spring and fall, when phytoplankton and aquatic plants grow and produce a lot of organic carbon. The lake also hosts the largest known modern microbialite deposits.

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Figure 59: The astronaut photograph ISS049-E-3464 was acquired on September 12, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 290 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 49 crew (image credit: (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

• August 10, 2018: The crew members aboard the International Space Station spent this week conducting science, helping out with student robotic competitions, and preparing for next week’s Russian spacewalk when cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev will work outside the station’s Russian segment for about six hours of science and maintenance tasks. 55)

- SPHERES investigations soar through the station: Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), three free-flying, bowling-ball sized spherical satellites used inside the space station to test a set of well-defined instructions for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking maneuvers, are used for a variety of investigations aboard the orbiting lab.

- The SPHERES-Zero-Robotics investigation provides an opportunity for high school students to conduct research aboard the station. As part of a competition, students write algorithms for the satellites to accomplish tasks relevant to potential future missions. The most promising designs are selected to operate the SPHERES satellites aboard the station as a part of the competition.

Figure 60: Two of the free-flying spherical robots used by the SPHERES investigations. SPHERES-Zero-Robotics gives students the chance to develop software to guide robots through a virtual obstacle course aboard the space station. This week, the crew members conducted dry runs in preparation for the final competition, which occurred on 10 August (image credit: NASA)

- The SPHERES Tether Slosh investigation combines fluid dynamics equipment with robotic capabilities aboard the station. In space, the fuels used by spacecraft can slosh around in unpredictable ways making space maneuvers difficult. This investigation uses two SPHERES robots tethered to a fluid-filled container covered in sensors to test strategies for safely steering spacecraft such as dead satellites that might still have fuel in the tank.

- Crew members use sextant to identify stars for use in future navigation: A tool that has helped guide sailors across oceans for centuries is now being tested aboard the station as a potential emergency navigation tool for guiding future spacecraft across the cosmos. The Sextant Navigation investigation tests use of a hand-held sextant aboard the space station.

- Sextants have a small telescope-like optical sight to take precise angle measurements between pairs of stars from land or sea, enabling navigation without computer assistance. Sextants have been used by sailors for centuries, and NASA’s Gemini missions conducted the first sextant sightings from a spacecraft. Designers built a sextant into Apollo vehicles as a navigation backup in the event the crew lost communications from their spacecraft, and Jim Lovell demonstrated on Apollo 8 that sextant navigation could return a space vehicle home. Astronauts conducted additional sextant experiments on Skylab.

Figure 61: NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor conducting a star identification session as a part of the Sextant Navigation investigation (image credit: NASA)

- This week, the crew calibrated the sextant and performed the second star identification and sighting session of the investigation with ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. This session placed an emphasis on position stabilization and sighting.

- Investigation studies how Earth’s magnetic field interacts with electrical conductor; sample exchanges begin: ESA's MagVector investigation studies how Earth’s magnetic field interacts with an electrical conductor. Using extremely sensitive magnetic sensors placed around and above a conductor, researchers gain insight into ways that the magnetic field influences how conductors work. This research not only helps improve future experiments aboard the station and other electrical experiments, but it could offer insights into how magnetic fields influence electrical conductors in general, the backbone of our technology on Earth.

- Replacements completed in preparation for CLD Flames: The ACME (Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment) investigation is a set of five independent studies of gaseous flames to be conducted in the CIR (Combustion Integration Rack), one of which being Coflow Laminar Diffusion Flame (CLD Flame). ACME’s goals are to improve fuel efficiency and reduce pollutant production in practical combustion on Earth and to improve spacecraft fire prevention through innovative research focused on materials flammability.

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Figure 62: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst working within the CIR on the ACME CLD Flame investigation (image credit: NASA)

- Other work was done on these investigations: CEO, Story Time From Space, Food Acceptability, SPHERES, Fluid Shifts, ACME CLD-Flame, Angiex Cancer Therapy, Microbial Tracking-2, Barrios PCG, Chemical Gardens, MSG, SABL, Manufacturing Device, Cold Atom Lab, CASIS PCG-13, BEST, and BCAT-CS.

• August 5, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this photograph of the northernmost portion of Australia’s Northern Territory, including Melville, Bathurst, and several other Tiwi Islands. With an area of 5,786 km2 (2,234 square miles), Melville is the largest Australian island. 56)

- Northern Territory is an Australian federal division characterized by open, sparsely populated land that ranges from wetlands in the north to desert in the south. Rivers flow north from higher elevations to a relatively flat coast and carry reddish-tan sediment into the sea, coloring the waters. As in other Australian territories, most of the population resides along the coast. Darwin is the capital and largest city in the area, with an estimated population over 148,000 (as of 2017).

- Although the first settlers of this area were indigenous Australians, many of the place names come from explorers and the days of European settlement in the early 1800s. For example, Beagle Gulf is named after the HMS Beagle, the vessel that Charles Darwin famously sailed on. The Port of Darwin was named after the well-known evolutionary biologist even though he never visited the region.

- Travelling inland, a large portion of the territory is designated as national park or conservation land. Kakadu National Park is the largest national park in Australia. Djukbinj National Park, approximately 80 km east of Darwin, is mainly comprised of wetlands. Litchfield National Park attracts tourists with several waterfalls, the Blyth Homestead (a 1920s remnant of a typical pioneer home), and enormous termite mounds. The Cobourg Peninsula (top right) separates the Arafura Sea and Van Diemen Gulf and is designated as the Garig Gunak National Park.

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Figure 63: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-53588 was acquired on August 14, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 78 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier Thomas)

• August 3, 2018: California burning. Alexander Gerst said: ”These fires are frightening to watch, even from space. Here's a shout-out from space to all firefighters on this planet, my former colleagues. Stay safe my friends!” 57)

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Figure 64: This image of the California wildfires was captured from the ISS by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and shared on his social media channels on 3 August 2018 (image credit: NASA / ESA - A. Gerst)

• July 22, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of Mount St. Helens 37 years after the cataclysmic volcanic eruption (Figure 65). Fifty-seven people lost their lives and thousands of animals were killed by the violent eruption that lasted nine hours and dramatically changed the landscape. 58)

- On the morning of May 18, 1980, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake caused the north face (facing right in this image) of the stratovolcano to detach and slide away, creating the largest landslide ever recorded. The great movement of mass and weight by the landslide allowed for the partially molten, highly pressurized, gas-rich rock inside the volcano to erupt. A column of ash rose 80,000 feet (~24 km) from the summit into the atmosphere and deposited ash across 12 U.S. states. Nearly 150 square miles (388 km2) of forest were blown over from the turbulent wind generated by the pressurized gas explosion.

- A mixture of lava and rock fragments (pyroclastic deposits) spilled down the north face of the mountain toward Spirit Lake, resulting in the characteristic horseshoe-shaped crater. The heat released during the eruption caused the glaciers on the volcano to melt and mix with rocks and ash. These lahars, or volcanic mudslides, flowed as far as the Columbia River (approximately 80 km away).

- The volcano continued to erupt less violently until 1986, with volcanic activity transitioning to thick flows and lava dome growth. The volcano is still actively monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey for gas emissions and earthquakes.

- In the years after the initial eruption, the land around the volcano was passed from the Burlington Northern Railroad to the U.S. Forest Service. In 1982, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created, and the environment was left to respond naturally to the disaster. The area has gradually come back to life since the late 1980s. The minerals and nutrients deposited in Spirit Lake during the eruption are responsible for the vibrant and rapidly growing trout and aquatic vegetation populations. With the volcano currently in a relatively quiet state, it is now a popular tourist destination for climbers to make the journey to the crater rim.

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Figure 65: This astronaut photograph ISS052-E-8512 was acquired on June 25, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick)

• July 15, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph (Figure 66) of the West Region of Ireland, along the Atlantic Ocean. It can be rare to see any part of the British Isles without clouds from orbit. 59)

- At the center of the image lies Connemara National Park, one of six managed by Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service. Shadows on the western faces of the mountains indicate that the photo was taken before local noon. Twelve Bens, a famous mountain range in the Connemara region, is a dominant feature of the countryside, with peaks rising to 729 meters. Avid climbers attempt to hike all twelve of the peaks in one day.

- The park’s valleys were once used for agriculture, while the bogs were mined for peat fuel. Peat is decayed organic matter, rich in natural heaps of carbon that can be burned for energy. With increased heat and pressure, peat becomes low-grade coal known as lignite.

- The photo also shows several lakes, with Lough Corrib standing out as the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland. Lough Carra, Lough Mask, and Lough Corrib are limestone lakes connected not only by surface streams, but also by at least one underground waterway—a typical feature of limestone terrains. All three lakes drain to the Atlantic Ocean.

- Over the past 1.7 million years, the island of Ireland has experienced several intermittent ice ages, followed by warmer interglacial periods where ice sheets melted and scoured the landscape. The landforms left over from this ice movement include steep, eroded mountainsides, U-shaped valleys, and drumlins—whale-back shaped mounds of rock fragments formed under the ice sheets as they flowed slowly towards the coast.

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Figure 66: Sculpted by ice ages, the west coast of Ireland is rich in rugged natural beauty. This astronaut photograph ISS054-E-58026 was acquired on 26 February 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 290 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)

• July 11, 2018: As the International Space Station flew overhead, NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold captured this photograph of a changing landscape in the heart of Madagascar, observing drainage into the sea in the Betsiboka Estuary due to decimation of rainforests and coastal mangroves. 60)

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Figure 67: The heart of Madagascar drains into the sea due to decimation of rainforests & coastal mangroves (image credit: NASA, Ricky Arnold)

• July 10, 2018: This gadget (Figure 68) looks like a precursor to the devices medical officers use to scan patients in science fiction, and it is not far off. The MyotonPRO tests muscle tension and stiffness. 61)

- By default, our muscles are always slightly contracted. This is how we maintain posture and respond quickly to sudden movements. Our muscles reflexively tense to maintain balance and reduce damage when unexpectedly pulled or stretched. Muscle tension and stiffness are also good indicators of flexibility, strength, and general health.

- Of course, our muscles evolved to do this on Earth. In weightlessness, muscles lose functionality and mass. This phenomenon is well studied, and astronauts exercise for approximately two hours a day to prevent muscle wasting away.

- The Myotones experiment is focusing on resting muscle tone, about which researchers know much less. Sponsored by ESA, German Aerospace Center DLR and the UK Space Agency, the experiment is run by the Center of Space Medicine at the Charité University Medicine Berlin.

- During his mission, Alexander will take readings from different muscles using the device, which emits a painless pressure pulse and records how the tissue responds. This video of a Myotones session on the sole of Alexander’s foot shows its ease of use.

- As with most experiments on the Space Station, the data recorded in space will be compared to those taken before and after flight.

- The MyotonPRO device is also demonstrating this non-invasive technology that delivers data more quickly. While not quite the futuristic scanner we see in science fiction, this could still make for a more efficient diagnostic tool for terrestrial and extra-terrestrial medical professionals.

- In addition to keeping astronauts fit and healthy on longer missions, the results of Myotones will aid in diagnosing and rehabilitating people with muscle degeneration or injury such as the elderly, the bed-ridden, load-carrying workers, and athletes.

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Figure 68: The device is being used on the International Space Station by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. Part of the Myotones experiment, Alexander is using the smart-phone-sized device to investigate the human resting muscle tone system (image credit:ESA, DLR )

• July 6, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of Marseille, the second largest city in France. Known as Massalia in the days of the Roman Empire, the city sits along the Mediterranean coast. 62)

- From above, Marseille has a distinct red hue due to the clay terra cotta tiles covering the roofs of most buildings. Clay deposits are mined locally in Var, northeast of Marseille. Those signature roof tiles have influenced architectural styling in parts of Australia and New Zealand since the late 1800s.

- The international spread of French culture and products can be attributed to Marseille’s coastal location. The city has been a major trading port since 400 BC, and the current Port of Marseille-Fos serves as the second largest port on the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the city is known for international trade and commerce of hydrocarbon products, iron, steel, ships, construction materials, alcohol, and food.

- Adjacent to Marseille lies Calanques National Park, Europe’s first peri-urban national park—it is located at the transition between town and country. Founded in 2012, the park encompasses both land and water, while protecting the region’s natural landscapes, terrestrial and marine biodiversity, and cultural heritage.

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Figure 69: The astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51867 was acquired on February 19, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

• July 4, 2018: The analyzer measures the amount of nitric oxide in exhaled air. Too much nitric oxide suggests inflammation. Causes can be environmental, like dust or pollution, or clinical, such as asthma – at least on Earth, but what happens in space? 63)

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Figure 70: Developed by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the Airway Monitoring experiment measures astronauts’ breath to determine the health of their lungs. The potential findings will go towards developing better diagnostic tools for airway disease in patients on Earth (image credit: NASA/ESA)

- To find out, astronauts breathe into an analyzer at normal pressure and then in the reduced pressure of the Quest airlock, which simulates the pressure of future habitats on Mars and lunar colonies. The measurements are then compared to the same reduced and ambient pressure data taken before flight to understand the effects of weightlessness on airway health.

- This information is key to ensuring the health and safety of astronauts on long missions taking them further from Earth.

• June 29, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a camera on the brilliant reflection of sunlight —sunglint—on three sweeping meanders of the Amazon River (Figure 71). The numerous thinner lines show the many remnants of prior channels of this highly mobile river. The reflected sunlight even shows numerous ponds (top left) in this very rainy part of the world. These ponds are usually not visible due to the dense forest cover in central Amazonia. 64)

- The Amazon River is the largest by water volume and sediment discharge in the world. The scale of the meanders here are immense compared with other large rivers. The amplitude from the top of the meander to the lower curves of the neighboring meanders is 18 km. Average meander amplitudes on the Mississippi River near New Orleans measure 6 km.

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Figure 71: The astronaut photograph ISS052-E-39523 was acquired on August 9, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 500 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 52 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)

- And the meander amplitude is increasing along this stretch of the river. Images from the late 1960s show the meanders as less winding. Since then, the loops have expanded, eroding the outside edges. Measurements taken from a 1969 photo and from this one show erosion has pushed the outer banks out by more than 1.2 km, while depositing new sediment on the inside of the meander loops.

• June 19, 2018: A tool that has helped guide sailors across oceans for centuries is now being tested aboard the International Space Station as a potential emergency navigation tool for guiding future spacecraft across the cosmos. The Sextant Navigation investigation tests use of a hand-held sextant aboard the space station. 65)

- Sextants have a small telescope-like optical sight to take precise angle measurements between pairs of stars from land or sea, enabling navigation without computer assistance. Sextants have been used by sailors for centuries, and NASA's Gemini missions conducted the first sextant sightings from a spacecraft. Designers built a sextant into Apollo vehicles as a navigation backup in the event the crew lost communications from their spacecraft, and Jim Lovell demonstrated on Apollo 8 that sextant navigation could return a space vehicle home (Figure 73). Astronauts conducted additional sextant experiments on Skylab.

- “The basic concepts are very similar to how it would be used on Earth,” says principal investigator Greg Holt. “But particular challenges on a spacecraft are the logistics; you need to be able to take a stable sighting through a window. We’re asking the crew to evaluate some ideas we have on how to accomplish that and to give us feedback and perhaps new ideas for how to get a stable, clean sight. That’s something we just can’t test on the ground.”

- The investigation tests specific techniques, focusing on stability, for possibly using a sextant for emergency navigation on space vehicles such as Orion. With the right techniques, crews can use the tool to navigate their way home based on angles between the moon or planets and stars, even if communications and computers become compromised.

- “No need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to celestial navigation,” Holt says. “We want a robust, mechanical back-up with as few parts and as little need for power as possible to get you back home safely. Now that we plan to go farther into space than ever before, crews need the capability to navigate autonomously in the event of lost communication with the ground.”

- Early explorers put a lot of effort into refining sextants to be compact and relatively easy to use. The tool’s operational simplicity and spaceflight heritage make it a good candidate for further investigation as backup navigation.

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Figure 72: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst learns how to use a sextant. “I learned how to navigate after the stars using a sextant,” said Gerst. “It’s actually a test for a backup nav method for Orion & future deep space missions.” (image credit: NASA)

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Figure 73: Jim Lovell demonstrated on Apollo 8 that sextant navigation could return a space vehicle home (image credit: NASA)

• June 17, 2018: An astronaut aboard the ISS shot this photograph of the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel. 66)

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Figure 74: The astronaut photo ISS054-E-53958 was acquired on February 24, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 200 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)

- Over the years, adventurous swimmers have attempted to swim the 35 km from Dover, England, to the French coastline at Cap Gris-Nez. Swimmers commonly follow a curved path due to tidal currents, making the actual route longer than the projected straight-line distance between the coasts. This challenge can take swimmers 7 to 20 hours to complete one-way, and few have chosen to swim back.

- Dover is famous for its White Cliffs, a section of coastline with abrupt cliffs made of a stark white chalk. The same geologic formation is found across the channel at Cap Blanc-Nez, indicating that the land surface between the two coasts was once continuous. Erosion of this surface over hundreds of thousands of years, followed by rising sea levels in the past 10,000 years, created the English Channel.

- Beneath the Strait of Dover, the undersea Channel Tunnel allows trains and cars to quickly travel from southern England to northern France. This helps decrease maritime traffic, as more than 400 commercial vessels cross the Strait daily. Dozens of ships are visible in this photograph.

• June 19, 2018: Have you ever considered yourself capable of manipulating gravity? When you grip an object, you are doing just that. Gravity is constantly exerting its force on objects, most notably by keeping everything weighed down. But when you lift a cup to your mouth, you are playing against gravity. 67)

- Despite gravity being a force of nature, living with it does not come naturally to humans; we learn how to work with gravity in infancy when we pick up objects and learn to adjust our grip to its weight and gravitational force. - How our brains learn this process is at the core of the Grip experiment, being performed in this image by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst on the International Space Station on his current Horizons mission.

- In the weightless environment of the Station, astronauts are like infants learning to adjust to the world in which they find themselves.

- In microgravity, objects have no weight, which is an important indicator to our brain of how much grip force to apply to an object when moving it up or down. Furthermore, the inner ear no longer tells us which way is up. Naturally, our brains are a little thrown off and our coordination is disturbed. Researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience in Brussels are studying how long it takes our brains to adjust to this dynamic.

- How does the experiment work? Alexander performs a series of movements while gripping a purpose-built sensor that measures grip-forces, moisture and acceleration, and more to assess how the body adapts to situations in which there is no up or down.

- Alexander will carry out three sessions of the experiment during his mission. As with most experiments flown on the Space Station, the data will be compared to preflight and postflight sessions.

- The Grip experiment has flown on 20 parabolic flight campaigns. Results indicate that short-term exposure to microgravity induces subtle changes in how the forces used in gripping an object are coordinated. Our brains anticipate the effects of gravity even when it is not there. On the Space Station, researchers can now observe the long-term effects. The experiment was first commissioned by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet during his mission in 2016.

- These experiments are designed to help us better understand human physiology and disease diagnosis on Earth. They are also helpful to engineers designing prosthetic limbs on Earth and will be used to help design robot-human interfaces so astronauts can command robots on other planets, allowing us to further explore our Solar System.

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Figure 75: Photo of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst running the Grip experiment (image credit: ESA/NASA)

• June 10, 2018: The city of Charleston, South Carolina—which is surrounded by meandering rivers and a marshy landscape—caught the eye of an astronaut flying aboard the International Space Station. The region has been a focal point for American history and for shipping. 68)

- Charleston Harbor is part of the U.S. Intracoastal Waterway and will soon include one of the deepest channels on the East Coast. Federal funding was recently allocated to dredge the channels to 16 m to allow larger, heavier, previously restricted ships to pass through. Some of those ships will likely continue on up the Cooper and Ashley Rivers, dock along the coast, or make their way to the Port of Charleston.

- Much of the US East Coast is a topographically low and flat region known as the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and South Carolina is a prime example. The plain was formed by the deposition of sediments from the eroding Appalachian Mountains and the Piedmont Plateau to the west. Over a period of approximately 100 million years, rivers carried sediment to the coast and, through several changes in sea level and climate, formed landmasses that include numerous small islands, estuaries, and marshy lagoons.

- Charleston is full of early American history. The city was established in 1670 by English settlers as a colonial seaport. Following the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Charleston served as the capitol of South Carolina until 1786 (when the capitol moved to Columbia). Fort Sumter became a major focal point in 1861 when it was seized by Confederates in one of the first battles of the American Civil War. Today, Fort Sumter is visited by thousands of tourists a year.

- In 1901, the Charleston Naval Shipyard was authorized for U.S. Navy ship assembly and repair, with the first construction of vessels beginning in 1910. The naval base brought an influx of jobs and a major community identity to North Charleston. In 1996, the base closed for good, and parts of the base have since been converted to various government, private, and community uses.

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Figure 76: The astronaut photograph ISS053-E-20193 was acquired on September 13, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 800 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 53 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)

• June 8, 2018: Three new Expedition 56 crew members were welcomed aboard the International Space Station today. Hatches between the space station and Soyuz opened at 11:17 a.m. EDT, marking the arrival of Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos. 69)

- The Soyuz MS-09 carrying the trio launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:12 a.m. Wednesday, June 6. They joined Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos aboard the orbiting laboratory.

- The crew members are also being greeted by family and friends who watched the docking and hatch opening from the Russian Mission Control Center outside Moscow.

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Figure 77: The newly-expanded Expedition 56 crew gathers in the Zvezda service module for a crew greeting ceremony with family, friends and mission officials in Moscow. In the front row from left are new Flight Engineers Sergey Prokopyev, Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor. In the back row are Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev, Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold (image credit: NASA TV)

- The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft docked to the Rassvet module of the International Space Station at 9:01 a.m. EDT while both spacecraft were flying over eastern China. 70)

- Following their two-day trip, astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos docked to the space station. Their arrival restores the station’s crew complement to six as they wait to join Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold of NASA and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos aboard the orbiting laboratory.

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Figure 78: The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft is pictured moments after docking to the space station’s Rassvet module (image credit: NASA TV)

• June 6, 2018: In March 2000, the largest iceberg ever recorded broke away from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf. Now, after 18 years drifting with the currents and being battered by the wind and sea, a piece of this original berg could be nearing the end of its voyage. 71)

- When iceberg B-15 first broke away, it measured about 160 nautical miles long and 20 nautical miles wide. That equates to an area of 3,200 square nautical miles, or about the size of Connecticut. B-15 has since fractured into numerous smaller bergs, and most have melted away. Just four pieces remain that meet the minimum size requirement—at least 20 square nautical miles—to be tracked by the U.S. National Ice Center.

- When astronauts aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph on May 22, 2018, B-15Z measured 10 nautical miles long and 5 nautical miles wide (Figure 79). That’s still well within the trackable size. But the iceberg may not be tracked much longer if it splinters into smaller pieces. A large fracture is visible along the center of the berg, and smaller pieces are splintering off from the edges.

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Figure 79: This astronaut photograph ISS055-E-74583 was acquired on May 22, 2018, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 200 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 54 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Kathryn Hansen)

- Melting and breakup would not be surprising, given the berg’s long journey and northerly location. A previous image showed B-15Z farther south in October 2017, after it had ridden the coastal countercurrent about three-quarters of the way around Antarctica bringing it to the Southern Ocean off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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Figure 80: Currents prevented the iceberg from continuing through the Drake Passage; instead, B-15Z cruised north into the southern Atlantic Ocean. When the May 2018 photograph was acquired, the berg was about 150 nautical miles northwest of the South Georgia islands. Icebergs that make it this far have been known to rapidly melt and end their life cycles here (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, story by Kathryn Hansen)

• June 4, 2018: Taken through a window on the ISS (International Space Station) by the EarthKAM camera, this photograph shows the boundary between a major dune field and dark hills along the border between Algeria and Libya. These landscapes are among the driest parts of the Sahara Desert. For scale, the dune margin shown in this photo is slightly more than 100 km long (Figure 81). 72)

- Large dune fields are known to geologists as “ergs,” the Arabic term for these extensive regions of sand. This eastern erg (known as the Oriental) of Algeria includes hundreds of dune mounds. From more detailed images we know that these are “star dunes.” The erg itself occupies a vast area of approximately 600 km x 200 km.

- Many winding water courses are visible on the right half of the photo. These typically dry channels drain occasional rain water towards the edge of the vast erg. Sediment carried by such streams has accumulated over a few million years to make the dunes. The margin in the image marks the line between a zone dominated by wind as the main landforming agent and a zone dominated by water movement.

- The wind-sculpted hills—sometimes called grooved terrain—have a remarkably straight pattern because they were eroded by one-directional winds from the north. A dry desert lake appears as a white surface near straight roads that cross this desert. Another lake appears as a dark patch due to the vegetation that grows in its shallow water.

- A dense cluster of date-palms indicates the location of the Libyan town of Ghadames, population 10,000. The old part of the town is walled and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Figure 81: This EarthKAM photograph CCFID_152293_2017304121045 was acquired on October 31, 2017, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 50 mm lens. The photo in this article has been enhanced to improve contrast. It is provided by the Sally Ride EarthKAM@Space Camp on the ISS. The caption is provided by the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA/JSC. EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) is a NASA educational outreach program that enables students, teachers, and the public to learn about Earth from the unique perspective of space (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)

• May 27, 2018: About 200 km southwest of Berlin lies an area of Germany known as Neuseenland (“New Lakelands”). Located in the Leipzig district, this area is the site of a massive project to transform the landscape into a series of lakes and interconnected rivers. In this photograph taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, we see two manmade lakes surrounded by rapeseed, wheat, and potato fields (Figure 82). 73)

- The Zwenkauer See, first excavated in 1921, and the Cospudener See, dug in 1981, started as open-pit lignite mines. They yielded a combined total of 610 million tons of lignite, a type of brown coal used extensively by Germany. As a result of these mining operations, the nearby land was severely scarred: rivers were redirected, forests were cut down, and thousands of nearby residents were relocated.

- Activism by the citizens of Zwenkau and Markkleeberg in the early 1990s resulted in the permanent shutdown of the mines. Rehabilitation of the region began shortly thereafter. Both mines were slowly flooded over a period of eight years through a process of river channeling, and they have become two of the largest lakes in the area. The Harth Canal is now under construction today between the Zwenkauer and Cospudener Sees. It will enable boats to sail from Zwenkau Harbor to the city of Leipzig, about 12 km to the northeast.

- Thanks to the development of the lakes, surrounding towns such as Markkleeberg and Zwenkau are becoming more popular with tourists.

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Figure 82: This astronaut photograph ISS047-E-108766 was acquired on May 9, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 47 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Sarah Deitrick, Jacobs, and Justin Wilkinson)

• May 14, 2018: This oblique photograph (Figure 83), 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. 74)

- 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.

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Figure 83: 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). 75)

- The topography of the Scottish Highlands (Figure 84) 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.

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Figure 84: 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 85). 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. 76)

- 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.

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Figure 85: 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. 77)

- 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.

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Figure 86: 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. 78)

- 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.

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Figure 87: 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 88). This waterbody in the desert, surrounded by the Zagros Mountains, is impounded behind a dam wall just upstream of the town of Darodzan. 79)

- 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.

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Figure 88: 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 89). 80)

- 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.

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Figure 89: 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 90). 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. 81)

- 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.

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Figure 90: 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. 82)

- 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 91).

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Figure 91: 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. 83)

- 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.

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Figure 92: 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 93), 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. 84)

- 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.

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Figure 93: 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 94). 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. 85)

- 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.

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Figure 94: Photo of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst floating inside the Columbus Laboratory of the ISS (image credit: ESA/NASA)

• January 1, 2018: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph (Figure 95) 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. 86)

- 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.

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Figure 95: 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)