ISS: Sample Imagery Part 2
ISS Utilization: Sample imagery taken by astronauts on and from the ISS (Part 2)
This file is a loose collection of some imagery samples taken by astronauts off and from the ISS (International Space Station). Astronauts who experience Earth from orbit often report feelings of awe and wonder, of being transformed by what they describe as the magic such a perspective brings. This phenomenon is called the "overview effect." The short descriptions in the following entries are presented in reverse order .
• May 16, 2019: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. The Republic of the Philippines is comprised of thousands of islands. Most of the country's population (about 100 million people) live on just eleven of those islands, with more than half living on Luzon. 1)
- Mountain ranges and valleys trend north-south across the island. (Note that north is to the lower left in this photo.) The Cordillera Central is Luzon's tallest and longest range, with broad river valleys on either side.
- Mount Pinatubo is one of many volcanoes making up the Zambales Volcanic Range in western Luzon. Lahars from Pinatubo's famous 1991 eruption extend down in a pinwheel-like pattern from the volcano's peak. Subduction zones located on either side of the Philippine island chain put large populations of people at risk from earthquakes and volcanic hazards. The islands are also battered by typhoons nearly every year.
- In the photo of Figure 1, smoke is blowing west (to the right in this view) off the Cordillera Central. Thermal anomalies detected by the Suomi NPP satellite indicate the presence of fires nearby. According to government sources, most of the fires in the Cordillera can be attributed to slash-and-burn farming, as well as other human causes.
Figure 1: The astronaut photograph ISS058-E-13490 was acquired on February 14, 2019, 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 58 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• April 23, 2019: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this oblique photograph that shows most of the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, along with neighboring Guinea (lower right), The Gambia and Senegal (top left), and the southern part of Mauritania. 2)
- From ISS altitude, astronauts can see different climate zones in a single view. This scene stretches from the green forest vegetation and wet climates of the Atlantic coast to the almost vegetation-less landscapes of the Sahara Desert. Guinea-Bissau has approximately 60 percent forest cover, in contrast to Mauritania, which has less than 1 percent forest cover.
- The image (Figure 2) shows several physiographic details of Guinea-Bissau. The islands of the Bijagos Archipelago and estuaries of the coastline stand out. The Bijago Islands provide refuge for sea turtles and certain migratory bird species. The Rio Corubal enters the sea and deposits a muddy load of sediment in the waters near the capital city of Bissau. Haze across the center of the image is smoke from agricultural burning or wildfires.
- Languages make a complex mosaic in the region. Colonial-era languages are important, with Portuguese in Guinea-Bissau, French in Guinea and Senegal, and English in The Gambia. According to the Addis Herald, several native African languages are spoken in Guinea-Bissau, with Bijagó restricted to the Bijagos Islands. By contrast, the Fulani language and its relatives are spoken from Guinea-Bissau to villages as far east as the Sudan.
Figure 2: The astronaut photograph ISS058-E-10724 was acquired on February 6, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 50 millimeter lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 58 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• April 14, 2019: While orbiting over South America, an astronaut on the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Atacama Desert and the numerous salt flats in the Andes Mountains along the border of Chile and Bolivia. The centerpiece is the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat on Earth. It regularly captures the attention of astronauts due to its high contrast against the brown landscape. 3)
- Salar de Uyuni and its smaller neighbor, Salar de Coipasa, have darker tones along their edges in this image. These dried lake beds are typically bright white in color, but rainfall can bring an influx of dark volcanic sediments. The region experienced rainfall in early February 2019, which caused temporary discoloration of the salars. By the time this image was taken in March 2019, the flats had started to shift back to their lighter colors.
- Nearby, the much smaller Laguna Colorada displays bright hues thanks to algae that thrive in the salty water. To the west and northwest of the lake, some of the white dots are snow-capped volcanoes and mountains.
- The salars receive less than 200 mm of rainfall per year. In contrast, the cloud-covered parts of Bolivia (north of the salars) see more than 1,750 mm of rain annually. The Andes Mountains create a rain shadow effect along the coast of northern Chile and western Bolivia, as air masses carrying moisture from the east drop most of their water before cooling and moving up over the mountains.
- Along the coast, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth, sometimes going years without rainfall. NASA uses the Atacama Desert to test rovers and other instruments because the area is a good analogue for future astrobiological exploration of Mars.
Figure 3: The astronaut photograph ISS059-E-517 was acquired on 17 March 2019, 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 59 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• April 8, 2019: Expedition 59 Flight Engineers Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency concluded their spacewalk at 2 p.m. EDT. During the six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully established a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2, and installed cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability. The duo also relocated an adapter plate from the first spacewalk in preparation for future battery upgrade operations. 4)
Figure 4: Astronauts Anne McClain (left) and David Saint-Jacques work outside the International Space Station during their spacewalk on April 8, 2019 (image credit: NASA)
- This was the third spacewalk in just under a month on the space station. The first two spacewalks installed powerful lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station's solar arrays. On March 22, the first spacewalk was completed by McClain and fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague. On March 28, the second spacewalk was completed by Hague and NASA astronaut Christina Koch.
- David Saint-Jacques became the first Canadian Expedition astronaut to walk in space and the fourth Canadian astronaut to spacewalk overall.
• April 2, 2019: In December 2018, an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) took this highly oblique photograph of snow on the eastern Tien Shan and Taklimakan Desert in Central Asia. The Tien Shan (or Tian Shan) is one of the longest continuous mountain ranges in the world, stretching across 1,500 miles (2,500 km) in northwest China, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. 5)
- The Tien Shan Mountains, sometimes called Central Asia's Water Tower, provide essential fresh water to the area. Since the Taklimakan Desert is a low-lying basin enclosed by mountain ranges on three sides, a rain shadow keeps the region extremely dry for most of the year.
- The Tien Shan hold many of Asia's major glaciers. In the spring and summer, the melting of ice and snow replenishes local rivers and transports eroded sediment to valleys. Alluvial fans deposit sediment perpendicular to the surrounding mountain ranges that get reworked, eroded, and transported farther by wind.
- The Taklimakan is dominated by sand dunes with easily mobilized sediments. Winds in this region are capable of producing large dust storms. In this image, snow extends from peaks and valleys of the Tien Shan to the lower desert floor of the Taklimakan Desert. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites also offer a more quantitative view of snow cover in the region on the same day. Blankets of snow are visible on the desert through dusty haze, which obscures Bosten Lake.
Figure 5: This astronaut photograph ISS057-E-111453 was acquired on December 5, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 65 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 57 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• April 2, 2019: Parkinson's disease affects more than 5 million people on Earth. Research on the International Space Station could provide insight into this chronic neurodegenerative disease and help scientists find ways to treat and prevent it. 6)
Figure 6: In this video, NASA astronaut Serena Auñon-Chancellor narrates as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Alexander Gerst uses a microscope to examine and photograph the LRRK2 crystals (video credit: NASA/JSC, Published on 2 April 2019)
- The investigation, Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions-2 (CASIS PCG 16), grows protein crystals of Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) on the space station. A kinase is an enzyme that adds phosphate groups to other molecules as part of the body's metabolic processes. People with Parkinson's disease experience increased function of LLRK2, and genetic studies link mutations in the LRRK2 gene to an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Medications that inhibit LRRK2 are in development, but without knowing the precise structure of this enzyme, such work is like making a key without knowing the shape of the keyhole it must fit.
- Growing LRRK2 crystals on Earth is difficult and does not produce samples with high enough quality for researchers to determine the protein's shape and structure –the keyhole. Protein crystals grow larger and more uniformly in space, though. Scientists can analyze the larger space-grown crystals to get a better idea of how the disease works and develop drugs – or keys – that target the condition more effectively and with fewer side effects.
- This investigation builds on a previous experiment, CASIS PCG 7. For CASIS PCG 16, the crew used larger sample wells, filled the wells during flight, and monitored the LRRK2 crystals as they grew. In this video, NASA astronaut Serena Auñon-Chancellor narrates as European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst uses a microscope to examine and photograph the LRRK2 crystals. Gerst interacted in real time with investigators on the ground, including scientists at the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany, and University of California San Diego in La Jolla, California.
- This space station research may bring those working to treat and prevent Parkinson's disease one step closer to finding the right key.
• April 1, 2019: Look again at that Space Station. That's there. That's home for a crew of six astronauts. That's us too. On it every human being lives out their lives, performs science and maintains the spacecraft with the support of a whole team on Earth. 7)
Figure 7: This image of the ISS was taken on 4 October 2018 by Expedition 55 crew as the Soyuz spacecraft started the journey back to Earth. In order to get the best view, the Soyuz diverted its initial descent parameters (image credit: Roscosmos/NASA)
- This week ESA is highlighting the role of the European teams that make a space mission possible - from preparations to launch, from continuous research to testing new equipment.
- Two EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activity) took place just one week apart, on 22 and 29 March, shortly after the arrival of three new astronauts to arrive at the Space Station. The full crew of six worked together to upgrade the International Space Station's power storage capacity.
- ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet was the European link to the first spacewalk to replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries.
- On Station, Thomas says preparation begins around two weeks ahead, with a set of procedures called the "Road to EVA".
- "Preparing for a spacewalk will take up two to three hours of your schedule every day. Many people have been involved in the preparation, and the risks are so much higher when you are outside the Space Station," he explains.
Figure 8: NASA astronaut Christina Koch, in the center of the image, assists fellow astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain in their spacesuits shortly before they begin the first spacewalk of their careers. Hague and McClain worked outside, in the vacuum of space, for six hours and 39 minutes on March 22, 2019, to upgrade the International Space Station's power storage capacity (image credit: NASA) 8)
• March 29, 2019: Expedition 59 Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 2:27 p.m. EDT. During the six hour and 45-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully connected three newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries to replace the previous six nickel-hydrogen batteries that provide power for one channel on one pair of the station's solar arrays. The new batteries provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for operations. 9)
Figure 9: Spacewalker Nick Hague works to upgrade the International Space Station‘s power storage capacity during today's six hour and 45-minute spacewalk (image credit: NASA TV)
- The astronauts also did work to enable robotic specialists to remove one of the three new lithium ion batteries connected during last Friday's spacewalk that is not charging properly and replace it with the two older nickel hydrogen batteries. The swap will restore a full power supply to that solar array power channel.
- In addition, the astronauts completed several tasks to prepare the worksite for future spacewalkers who will complete similar operations to upgrade the batteries for the set of solar arrays at the end of the port side of the station's backbone structure known as the truss. Hague inspected the worksite interfaces for a portable foot restraint a spacewalker uses to anchor themselves during the battery upgrade work while Koch installed fabric handrails to help future spacewalkers move across the worksite.
- This was the second spacewalk for Hague, who now has spent a total of 13 hours and 24 minutes spacewalking. It was the first spacewalk for Koch, who became the 14th female spacewalker.
- Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency are scheduled to conduct another spacewalk April 8 to establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2, and install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.
• March 25, 2019: An astronaut aboard the ISS focused a long lens on what may be a unique pattern on Earth for its size and repetitiveness. This series of adjacent agricultural fields is divided into square plots 4.4 kilometers wide, and each square has a "pinwheel" of triangular fields that radiate from a center point. 10)
- The square plots are part of a major resettlement project in Bolivia. The project was intended to help people from the Andes Mountains make a living through agriculture in the forested lowlands—the Tierras Bajas east of the Andes and northeast of the capital city, Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
- Four such square plots occupy the middle of the image within the surrounding older patchwork pattern of linear fields. Small settlements occupy the center of each square. One of Bolivia's main highways angles across a square through this settlement. The straight highway contrasts with the highly sinuous course of an ancient river nearby. Other ancient channels appear along the right side of the image.
- Geologists now know that all of these channels are remnants of the Rio Grande, a large river that drains out of the Andes. Over thousands of years this river has deposited the sediment that makes the very large flat plain ideal for agriculture. The river also provides access to near-surface water and allows easy transport in all directions.
Figure 10: This astronaut photograph ISS056-E-94529 was acquired on July 10, 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 Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• 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. 11)
- 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.
Figure 11: 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)
Figure 12: 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. 12)
- 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. 13)
- The photograph (Figure 13) 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.
Figure 13: 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. 14)
- 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).
Figure 14: 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. 15)
- "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.
Figure 15: 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. 16)
- 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.
Figure 16: 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. 17)
- 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.
Figure 17: 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 18). 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. 18)
- 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.
Figure 18: 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. 19)
Figure 19: 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. 20)
- 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.
Figure 20: 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. 22)
- 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.
Figure 21: 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 22) 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. 23)
- 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.
Figure 22: 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. 24)
- 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.
Figure 23: 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)
Figure 24: 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.
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.
Figure 25: 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.
Figure 26: 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. 25)
- 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. 26)
- ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is hard at work preparing for his Beyond mission. In the image of Figure 27, 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.
Figure 27: 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)
- 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.
Figure 28: 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.
Figure 29: 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. 28)
Figure 30: 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)
Figure 31: 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)
Figure 32: 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. 29)
Figure 33: 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. 30) 31)
Figure 34: 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)
Figure 35: 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). 32)
- 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.
Figure 36: 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 36: 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 37: 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 (video 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 38). 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. 33)
- 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.
Figure 38: 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. 34)
Figure 39: 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 40). 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. 35)
- 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.
Figure 40: 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. 36)
Figure 41: 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 41 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. 37)
- 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 42).
- 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.
Figure 42: 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. 38) 39)
- 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 43: From 400 km above planet Earth, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst has a message for COP24 as well as for all of us (video 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. 40)
- 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.
Figure 44: 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. 41)
- 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.
Figure 45: 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. 42)
- 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.
Figure 46: 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.
Table 2: CIMON partners - The idea of CIMON
Figure 47: 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. 43)
- 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.
Figure 48: 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. 44)
- 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.
Figure 49: 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. 45)
Figure 50: 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. 46)
- 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 51: 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. 47)
- 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.
Figure 52: 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. 48)
Figure 53: 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. 49)
- 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 58). 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. 50)
- Installing the life support rack in NASA's Destiny laboratory is no easy task as the facility is larger than a human being and weighs over 650 kg on Earth. In addition many cables and pipes need to be connected to the Station's infrastructure – including a pipe that vents waste methane from the recycling process directly into space.
Figure 54: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is installing ESA's next-generation life-support system on the ISS. The new facility recycles carbon dioxide in the air into water that can then be converted into oxygen reducing supplies sent from Earth by half (image credit: NASA/ESA)
- ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst set up the air and water drawer of the facility, including part of the Sabatier reactor on 10 September but was given an extra helping hand from ground control with an operational aid called the ‘mobile procedure viewer' or mobiPV.
- Usually an astronaut would have a computer nearby with step-by-step instructions to follow, but anybody who has tried repairing their car or even assembling furniture will agree this way of working has room for improvement – laying down tools to consult instructions is time-consuming and interrupts the work flow.
- ESA's solution to this problem sees astronauts wearing a smartphone on their wrist that connects to the Space Station's procedure library and shows the instructions on-screen. Alexander could concentrate on the work at hand, without going back and forth to the computer.
Figure 55: 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. 51)
- Cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin of Roscosmos, and NASA astronaut Nick Hague, reminded the world of this fact last week when they set off for the International Space Station.
- Their Soyuz rocket took off at 10:40 CEST 11 October for a four-orbit, six-hour journey to the International Space Station. The launcher's four boosters take only two minutes to burn their fuel in the so-called first stage – by this time Alexei and Nick were travelling at around 6500 km/h. However, two minutes 45 seconds after liftoff, a malfunction of the second stage ignition was reported causing the launch to be aborted. The crew returned to Earth in a ‘ballistic descent mode'.
- In a ballistic reentry the Soyuz capsule spins around its trajectory axis to increase stability and behaves like a spherical object.
- The crew were able to make radio contact with mission control and were quickly recovered from their landing site and returned to the Baikonur, where they were greeted by relieved family members.
- Launch failures are a rarity in human spaceflight. This is only the third time in the history of the Soyuz launcher that an emergency rescue system had to be activated with a crew aboard. The last time this reliable rocket failed was 35 years ago with the Soyuz T-10A. The launch escape system of the Soyuz spacecraft fired two seconds before the launch vehicle exploded, saving the crew.
- All astronauts are trained countless times to deal with emergency situations. Simulators help them practice flight maneuvers and learn the best response to all situations, from a communications glitch to a full-blown emergency like this one.
- There is always the possibility of an emergency landing in a far-away place. Astronauts go through survival courses in extreme environments, preparing themselves to face all kinds of situations in isolation and under psychological stress. Crews have to learn to survive in harsh climates while waiting for rescue, only relying on very basic items and the emergency pack in their Soyuz capsule.
Figure 56: 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. 52)
Figure 57: 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. 53)
- The ACLS facility, a technology demonstrator, is the size of an International Standard Payload Rack – about 2 m high, 1 m wide, and 85.9 cm deep – with a mass of over 670 kg on Earth, but Alexander could move it easily the few meters from the Japanese HTV-7 cargo spacecraft to its installation site in the US Destiny space laboratory due to the wonders of weightlessness.
- Astronauts will connect the facility's cables, pipes and filters this week, with checkout operations foreseen for 6 November. The system collects carbon dioxide in the air and processes it to create methane and water. Electrolysis then splits the water back into oxygen while the methane is vented into space.
- Once up and running the facility should generate about 50% of the water needed for oxygen production on the Space Station.
- The system is a huge step for human spaceflight as space agencies prepare for exploring further from Earth. Sustainable life-support systems are needed for longer missions such as to the lunar Gateway that is the next structure to be built by the partners of the International Space Station. Foreseen as a staging post for missions to the Moon and even Mars the Gateway will be further away from Earth, making it harder and more expensive to ferry supplies.
Figure 58: 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 59). Morning sunglint silhouettes Lake Superior's shoreline and highlights smaller lakes and mine tailings ponds on the land. 54)
- The subdued, orange sunglint and hazy atmosphere may be due to wildfires that occurred in August 2017 throughout the northwestern United States and parts of Canada. Smoke particles in the atmosphere can cause the scattering of light waves and create pale orange-red hues at dusk or dawn, when Sun elevation is low relative to the local horizon.
- The Upper Peninsula has long been known for its copper and iron resources, with native peoples mining Keweenaw copper as far back as 7,000 years ago. Modern iron mining began in the Upper Peninsula in 1845, with the Tilden Mine still in production today.
Figure 59: 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. 55)
- Alexander will take over as commander of the International Space Station for the second half of his Horizons mission when Drew returns to Earth, 03 October 2018.
Figure 60: 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. 56)
- Savai'i, the westernmost Samoan Island, is 80 kilometers (50 miles) long; Upolu is nearly as long (74 kilometers/46 miles). The dark green centers of the islands reflect the denser tropical forests and higher elevations in comparison to the lower, light-green coastal regions around the edges.
- The top of Mount Silisili, an active volcano, forms the center of Savai'i and is the highest point at 1,858 meters. Savai'i's elevation likely contributes to a wind shadow on the west side of the island; this shows up as a region with no sunglint, indicating a smooth water surface. Upolu's highest point, Mount Fito, reaches 1,100 meters.
- The narrow stretch of water separating the islands is known as Apolima Strait. Coral reef ecosystems surround the islands and appear as light-blue regions due to shallow water depths. (These are reminiscent of the waters surrounding the Bahamas.) While ferries and ships use the Apolima Strait for tourism and commerce, swimmers also sometimes race across the strait, which is about 22 kilometers wide.
- Both islands are volcanic in origin, with nutrient-rich basaltic soils that are good for farming. According to the 2015 Report by the Samoa Agriculture Survey, 97 percent of Samoan households grow crops; of these, 60 to 70 percent grow taro root or coconuts. Located on the north side of Upolu, Apia is the capital of Samoa and the center for export and commerce of these crops.
Figure 61: 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 62). 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. 57)
- Bowknot Bend was named by John Wesley Powell in 1869 during his first expedition through the region because of the way the river loops back on itself. Located in Labyrinth Canyon about 25 miles west of Moab, Utah, this river bend runs 7.5 miles (12 km) in a circular loop and ends up 1,200 feet (360 m) from where it first started, on the opposite side of a narrow saddle. When the two sides of the river cut through the saddle and merge someday, Bowknot Bend will break off from the main channel and form an oxbow lake.
- High contrast from the dark shadows along the river give some three-dimensional perspective to the 1,000 foot (300 m) canyons that have deepened over geologic time from erosion. Similar to the formation of the Grand Canyon, Labyrinth Canyon started to form when regional uplift of the Colorado Plateau caused the Green River to cut down through the rocks to its current depth. Some inactive uranium mines, such as the Aileen Mine, are located along the canyon walls. Uranium ore deposits are concentrated in much older fluvial sandstones.
- Bowknot Bend is a popular destination for hiking, canyoneering, and river rafting. Visitors can explore the multitude of caves and alcoves located within Labyrinth Canyon. They also hike to various lookouts, particularly the saddle of Bowknot Bend. Several sections of the Green River can be rafted, kayaked, or canoed until it meets with the Colorado River (south of this image).
Figure 62: 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. 58)
- He commented: "Watch out, America! Hurricane Florence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide angle lens from the International Space Station, 400 km directly above the eye. Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you."
Figure 63: 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. 59)
- Built on a plateau at approximately 400 meters above sea level, the track is extremely flat and sits within a warm, temperate climate. The conditions are ideal for vehicle testing by racing teams throughout the year, though the track's watering system also can simulate rainy driving conditions, if desired. The unique blue and red appearance of the track is due to vehicle run-off areas: the "red zone" is a deeper runoff with a more abrasive surface to maximize braking effectiveness compared to the "blue zone."
- The 5.84 kilometers (3.63 miles) of track allows for 167 possible configurations. Circuit Paul Ricard has been the course for the famous Formula One French Grand Prix at least 15 times. However, 2018 marked the return of the French Grand Prix after a decade away.
- The namesake of the track, Paul Ricard, was a French industrialist who gained his fortune by marketing an anise-based liquor, pastis, in the 1930s. As a forward thinker in advertising, he paved the way for commercial sponsorship for the Tour de France. The Circuit Paul Ricard was another sport sponsorship to support his pastis brand, only this time he wanted to own the venue.
- Le Castellet International Airport runs parallel to the race track. North (left in this photo) of Circuit Paul Ricard are several solar power plants that reflect a recent shift to renewable energy in France. This region has the highest degree of insolation in the country, making it an ideal location for solar power generation.
Figure 64: 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. 60)
- Much like on Earth emergency drills are practiced to make sure that when a real emergency occurs the astronauts are ready to react. In this picture ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is wearing a mask during an emergency drill held on 28 August 2018. He was a volunteer firefighter in his school years.
- Fire or toxic leaks are a large concern for space stations even more so than on Earth because the astronauts live in a closed system, there is no way to open a window to allow come fresh air in or an external evacuation meeting point. Instead astronauts convene at a safe place on the Space Station where they have access to their Soyuz spacecraft that act as lifeboats and could bring them home if the worst happens. Once together the crew will work with mission control to identify the cause of any emergency and agree on the actions to be taken.
- Last week mission control noticed a small loss of pressure in the International Space Station but it was so small no emergency was declared. Nevertheless the astronauts convened and searched for the leak using an "ultrasound sniffer" that detects the sound of air moving. The leak was found in the Soyuz orbital module, a section of the spacecraft that doesn't return to Earth but burns up harmlessly on re-entry. Thanks in part to the frequent training and diligence of the astronauts the leak was quickly found and patched.
- Alexander commented on Twitter about the incident that it "showed again how valuable our emergency training is. We could locate and stop a small leak in our Soyuz, thanks to great cooperation between the crew and control centers on several continents."
- Pay attention at during all safety briefings, practice makes perfect and repetition makes sure you can rely on knowledge in an emergency situation.
Figure 65: Human and robotic spaceflight image of the week: Alexander Gerst during safety drill on the International Space Station (image credit: NASA/ESA)