ISS Utilization: Sample imagery
ISS Utilization: Sample imagery taken by astronauts on and from the ISS + Events
This file is a loose collection of some imagery samples taken by astronauts off and from the ISS (International Space Station). Astronauts who experience Earth from orbit often report feelings of awe and wonder, of being transformed by what they describe as the magic such a perspective brings. This phenomenon is called the ”overview effect.” The short descriptions in the following entries are presented in reverse order .
Note: As of February 29, 2020, the previously large ISS-Imagery2 and ISS-Imagery files have been split into five files, to make the file handling manageable for all parties concerned, in particular for the user community.
• This article covers the ISS-Imagery plus some status in the period 2020
Mission status and sample imagery of 2020
• March 24, 2020: An astronaut's tips for living in space or anywhere. — One thing astronauts have to be good at: living in confined spaces for long periods of time. Here are some tips for all who find yourself in a similar scenario. 1)
- Nearly 20 years successfully living on the International Space Station and more than 50 flying in space did not happen by accident. NASA astronauts and psychologists have examined what human behaviors create a healthy culture for living and working remotely in small groups. They narrowed it to five general skills and defined the associated behaviors for each skill. NASA astronauts call it "Expeditionary Behavior," and they are part of everything we do. When it goes well, it's called "good EB."
Figure 1: Anne McClain on board the International Space Station (image credit: NASA)
- Here are the five good expeditionary behavior skills.
Skill 1: Communication
- Definition: Communication means to talk so you are clearly understood. To listen, and question to understand. Actively listen, pick up on non-verbal cues. Identify, discuss, then work to resolve conflict.
- To practice good Communication EB, share information and feelings freely. Talk about your intentions before taking action. Use proper terminology. Discuss when your or others' actions were not as expected. Take time to debrief after success or conflict. Listen, then restate messages to ensure they are understood. Admit when you are wrong.
Skill 2: Leadership/Followership
- Definition: How well a team adapts to changed situations. A leader enhances the group's ability to execute its purpose through positive influence. A follower (aka a subordinate leader) actively contributes to the leader's direction. Establish an environment of trust.
- To practice good Leadership/Followership EB, accept responsibility. Adjust your style to your environment. Assign tasks and set goals. Lead by example. Give direction, information, feedback, coaching and encouragement. Ensure your teammates have resources. Talk when something isn't right. Ask questions. Offer solutions, not just problems.
Skill 3: Self-Care
- Definition: Self-Care means keeping track of how healthy you are on psychological and physical levels. It includes hygiene, managing your time and your stuff, getting sleep, and maintaining your mood. Through self-care, you demonstrate your ability to be proactive to stay healthy.
- To practice good Self-Care EB, realistically assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and their influence on the group. Learn from mistakes. Identify personal tendencies and their influence on your success or failure. Be open about your weaknesses and feelings. Take action to mitigate your own stress or negativity (don't pass it on to the group). Be social. Seek feedback. Balance work, rest, and personal time. Be organized.
Skill 4: Team Care
- Definition: Team Care is how healthy the group is on psychological, physical and logistical levels. Recognize that this can be influenced by stress, fatigue, sickness, supplies, resources, workload, etc. Nurture optimal team performance despite challenges.
- To practice good Team Care EB, demonstrate patience and respect. Encourage others. Monitor your team for signs of stress or fatigue. Encourage participation in team activities. Develop positive relationships. Volunteer for the unpleasant tasks. Offer and accept help. Share credit; take the blame.
Skill 5: Group Living
- Definition: Group Living skills are how people cooperate and become a team to achieve a goal. Identify and manage different opinions, cultures, perceptions, skills and personalities. Demonstrate resilience in the face of difficulty.
- To practice good Group Living EB, cooperate rather than compete. Actively cultivate group culture (use each individual's culture to build the whole). Respect roles, responsibilities and workload. Take accountability; give praise freely. Then work to ensure a positive team attitude. Keep calm in conflict.
- You can be successful in confinement if you are intentional about your actions and deliberate about caring for your team. When we work together, we will continue to be #EarthStrong.
• March 8, 2020: Celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. — As of March 2020, 65 women have flown in space. Of these, 38 have visited the International Space Station (ISS) as long-duration expedition crewmembers, as visitors on Space Shuttle assembly flights or as Space Flight Participants on short-duration Soyuz missions. It is fitting to recognize the significant accomplishments of these women as well as the pioneering women who preceded them into space. This article cannot recognize all the great contributions by women to make ISS the unique laboratory in space and only strives to capture significant firsts. Many other women contributed to the assembly of the station and the research being conducted aboard on a daily basis. These include not only the astronauts who flew the daring missions but also the many women on the ground who as center directors, managers, flight directors and in many other roles continue the exploration of space, as NASA endeavors to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon and possibly send the first crews to Mars in the coming decades. 2)
- Soviet cosmonaut Valentina V. Tereshkova made history on June 16, 1963, when she launched aboard Vostok 6 as the first woman in space. Soviet plans to launch other female cosmonauts in the 1960s never materialized and nearly 20 years passed before another woman flew in space. In January 1978, NASA announced the selection of 35 new astronauts including six women for the Space Shuttle program. In response, the Soviet Union secretly selected a group of nine women cosmonauts in 1980. On Aug. 19, 1982, one of those, Svetlana Y. Savitskaya, launched with her two crewmates aboard Soyuz T-7 to spend a week aboard the Salyut-7 space station. The next day they joined the two long-duration resident crewmembers aboard, marking the first time a space station hosted a mixed-gender crew. Ten months later, astronaut Sally K. Ride made history on June 18, 1983, becoming the first American woman in space, spending seven days aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-7 mission.
Figure 2: Left: Tereshkova just before boarding her Vostok 6 capsule. Right: Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-7 mission (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Savitskaya made history again on July 25, 1984, as the first woman to participate in a spacewalk or Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) during her second flight to Salyut 7. Less than three months later, on Oct. 11, Kathryn D. Sullivan completed the first EVA by an American woman from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-41G mission. With Ride as one of Sullivan’s crewmates, the flight marked the first time that two women flew on the same mission.
Figure 3: Left: Savitskaya during her EVA outside Salyut-7. Right: Sullivan (at left) and Ride aboard Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-41G mission (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- The honor of the first woman to complete a long-duration mission in space belongs to Russian cosmonaut Elena V. Kondakova. She launched aboard the Soyuz TM20 spacecraft on Oct. 3, 1994, and spent 169 days aboard the Mir space station as part of Expedition 17, returning to Earth on March 22, 1995. The first American woman to complete a long-duration mission, Shannon W. Lucid launched on March 22, 1996, aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis. The second astronaut to fly as part of the Shuttle-Mir Program she spent 188 days aboard Mir as part of Expeditions 21 and 22, returning to Earth with STS-79 on September 26.
Figure 4: Left: Kondakova (second from right) aboard Mir during the handover between Expedition 16 and 17. Right: Lucid (at left) with her Mir Expedition 21 crewmates (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- As on-orbit assembly of ISS commenced in 1998, women were literally on board from the very beginning. As the first woman to reach ISS, Nancy J. Currie participated in the first assembly mission, STS-88 in December 1998, using the Shuttle’s robotic arm to precisely join the American Unity Node 1 module to the Russian-built Zarya module, launched three weeks earlier.
Figure 5: Left: Currie (in front at right), the first woman to reach ISS with her STS-88 crewmates. Right: Currie at work in the Zarya module (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- The second Space Shuttle assembly mission, STS-96 in May 1999, included three women on the crew – Tamara E. “Tammy” Jernigan, Ellen L. Ochoa and Julie Payette. Jernigan became the first woman to participate in an EVA at ISS to install crane equipment for future assembly tasks, with Ochoa as the robotic arm operator. Payette became the first Canadian of any gender to visit ISS, and became the first Canadian to make a second visit to ISS during STS-127 in 2009.
Figure 6: Left: STS-96 crew in the Unity Node 1 module, with Jernigan and Payette in the top row and Ochoa at bottom right. Middle: Jernigan during the STS-96 EVA. Right: Payette in the Unity Node 1 module (image credit: JASA/JSC)
- Astronaut Pamela A. Melroy was the first woman to serve as Pilot on a Shuttle flight to ISS, STS-92 in October 2000, the mission that added the Z1 truss, control moment gyros and a Pressurized Mating Adaptor to the developing station. She returned to ISS as Pilot of STS-112 in October 2002 and as Commander of STS-120 in October 2007. Astronaut Susan J. Helms holds several distinctions for women. As a member of Expedition 2, she became the first woman to complete a long-duration mission on ISS, a 167-day flight between March and August of 2001. She had previously flown to ISS during STS-101, making her the first woman to visit the station twice. Helms was the first woman with a military background to visit ISS, having graduated in the U.S. Air Force Academy’s first woman-inclusive class of 1980. She co-holds the record for the longest EVA to date, 8 hours and 56 minutes, completed with her Expedition 2 crewmate James S. Voss.
Figure 7: Left: STS-92 Pilot Melroy shortly after reaching orbit. Right: Expedition 2 Commander Yuri V. Usachev (at left) coaxing a reluctant Flight Engineer Helms to leave ISS at the end of their mission (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Eileen M. Collins had already made history twice before, first in 1995 as the first female Pilot of a Space Shuttle mission and again in 1999 as the first woman Shuttle Commander. In 2005, Collins became the first woman to command a Shuttle mission to the ISS, the Return to Flight STS-114 mission, the first after the Columbia accident two years previously. Heidemarie M. “Heidi” Stefanyshyn-Piper was the first woman to conduct an EVA from the station’s Quest Joint Airlock Module on September 12, 2006, during the STS-115 mission that installed the P3/P4 truss segment on ISS.
Figure 8: Left: STS-114 Commander Collins (at left) with Pilot James M. “Vegas” Kelly on the flight deck of Discovery. Right: Piper working on the P3/P4 truss segment during an EVA on STS-115 (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Peggy A. Whitson became the first woman Commander of ISS during Expedition 16 in 2007, her second long-duration mission to the station. Expedition 16 was notable for the addition to ISS of the Harmony Node 2 module, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Columbus research module, the first of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) elements and the arrival of the first of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo resupply vehicles named Jules Verne. As noted above, Melroy commanded STS-120, the October 2007 mission that brought Columbus to ISS, marking the first and only time that Commanders of both ISS and the visiting Space Shuttle were women. In 2017, during Expedition 51 Whitson became the first woman to command ISS for a second time. As of March 2020, Whitson holds the record for most cumulative spaceflight time for a woman as well as for any American astronaut. Over the course of three long-duration missions aboard ISS, she spent a total of 639 days or about 1.75 years in space. She also holds the record for the most EVA time for a woman – over her three missions, she spent 60 hours and 21 minutes outside the station in the course of 10 EVAs.
Figure 9: Left: During the change of command ceremony, Expedition 16 Commander Whitson (top right) hangs the crew’s patch in the Destiny module. Right: STS-120 Commander Melroy (at left) and ISS Expedition 16 Commander Whitson meet at the hatch between the two vehicles (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Between May 16 and 23, 2010, for the first time four women were aboard ISS at one time. Expedition 23 Flight Engineer Tracy E. Caldwell Dyson had been living and working since April when STS-131 arrived, with Dorothy M. “Dottie” Metcalf-Lindenburger, Stephanie D. Wilson and Naoko Yamazaki as part of the Shuttle crew. The mission brought four new research facilities to the station. Three weeks after the Shuttle’s departure, Caldwell Dyson and her crewmates welcomed a new trio of long-duration crewmembers including Shannon Walker, making Expedition 24 the first to include two women. The next two-woman expedition took place between November 2014 and March 2015 – Expedition 42 included Elena O. Serova, the first Russian woman to make a long-duration flight aboard ISS, and Samantha Cristoforetti from Italy, the first female ESA astronaut on a long-duration mission.
Figure 10: Left: Four women aboard ISS (clockwise from top left) Metcalf-Lindenburger, Yamazaki, Wilson and Caldwell Dyson. Middle: Caldwell Dyson (middle) and Walker (right) with their Expedition 24 crewmate Douglas H. “Wheels” Wheelock. Right: Serova (at left) and Cristoforetti in the ATV-5 cargo vehicle Georges Lemaître during Expedition 42 (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- Expeditions including two women have recently become more common. During Expedition 57, Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor and Anne C. McClain overlapped by about three weeks in December 2018, between March and June 2019 McClain and Christina Hammock Koch were aboard as part of Expedition 59, and Jessica U. Meir joined Koch in September of that year during Expedition 61. Koch returned to Earth in February 2020, completing a flight of 329 days, the longest to date by a woman.
Figure 11: Left: Auñón-Chancellor (at left) and McClain working together in the Kibo module during Expedition 57. Right: McClain (at left) and Koch demonstrating weightlessness during Expedition 59 (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- The Expedition 61 crew conducted a record nine EVAs between October 2019 and January 2020. Koch and Meir made history on Oct. 18 when they floated outside ISS to carry out the first all-woman EVA, one of several spacewalks to replace the station’s batteries. The capsule communicator (Capcom), the astronaut in Mission Control who communicates with the astronauts in space, for this historic EVA was three-time Space Shuttle veteran Stephanie Wilson (who as noted above took part in the first four-woman gathering on ISS), assisted by space station veteran Mark T. Vande Hei. "As much as it's worth celebrating the first spacewalk with an all-female team, I think many of us are looking forward to it just being normal," astronaut Caldwell Dyson said during live coverage of the spacewalk. As if to prove her point, Koch and Meir conducted two more all-woman EVAs in January 2020.
Figure 12: Left: Space suited astronauts Meir (at left) and Koch, assisted by their Expedition 61 crewmates, prepare for the first all-woman EVA. Right: CAPCOMs Wilson (at left) and Vande Hei assist Meir and Koch during the first all-woman EVA (image credit: NASA/JSC)
- The story of women in space would not be complete without mention of the two women from the People’s Republic of China who have flown in space. China’s first female astronaut, Yiu Yang, launched on June 16, 2012, aboard the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft with her two crewmates, docking with the Tiangong-1 space station two days later. The trio returned to Earth after a 13-day mission. One year later, on June 11, 2013, Wang Yaping and her two crewmates launched aboard Shenzhou 10 for a 14-day visit to Tiangong-1. Wang conducted science experiments and taught a live physics lessons to school children from aboard the station.
Figure 13: Left: Liu, China’s first woman in space, aboard the Tiangong-1 space station. Middle: Wang teaching a physics lesson live from Tiangong-1. Right: The Tiangong-1 space station as seen during the approach by the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft (image credit: NASA/JSC)
• February 29, 2020: This photograph, taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS), shows the only atoll in the South Atlantic Ocean. Rocas Atoll is part of the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, located approximately 260 kilometers (160 miles) off the northeastern coast of Brazil. This image clearly captures the defining boundary between the outer algal ridge, the open ocean, and the sandy bottom closer to the atoll’s center. 3)
- An atoll is usually a circular or oval-shaped reef structure with a lagoon in the center. These structures typically form around a volcanic island that has subsided while the coral continues to grow upward. These reef structures are self-contained environments that create ideal conditions for a diverse habitat. Coral reefs are considered among the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
- In 1978, Rocas Atoll was named a national biological reserve due to the large populations of migratory and resident seabirds. As the first marine reserve to be established in Brazil, it is the strictest type of protected area, specifically focused on the conservation of biodiversity such that no recreational activity or resource exploitation is permitted.
Figure 14: The astronaut photograph ISS061-E-52673 was acquired on November 21, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 500 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 61 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)
• February 26, 2020: The three-member Expedition 62 crew split its time today between biomedical studies and space physics. The microgravity research aboard the International Space Station helps scientists, doctors and engineers provide unique solutions that could improve life for humans on Earth and in space. 4)
- Astronauts living in space experience a condition that mimics osteoporosis on Earth. The lack of gravity quickly weakens a crewmember’s bones unless they counteract it with daily exercise and proper nutrition. This is one of many challenges NASA faces as it plans to send humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
- NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan this week are helping doctors to compare bone cells in space with samples on Earth that are levitated magnetically. The observations from the OsteoOmics-02 study could provide deeper insights into bone ailments on Earth, including osteoporosis.
- Meir also serviced a 3D bioprinter today replacing components inside the device that manufactures complex organ structures aboard the orbiting lab. She later joined Morgan for more eye checks this week using optical coherence tomography in the station’s Harmony module.
- On the Russian side of the orbiting complex, station Commander Oleg Skripochka continued exploring plasma physics. The veteran cosmonaut set up a device that traps clouds of particles creating plasma crystals and observes their dynamics. At the end of the day, he swapped out a lens on an Earth observation camera controlled by students on Earth.
Figure 15: From top to bottom, NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and Roscosmos Commander Oleg Skripochka pose for a playful portrait (image credit: NASA)
• February 25, 2020: When it comes to grasping an object, our eyes, ears and hands are intimately connected. Our brain draws information from different senses, such as sight, sound and touch, to coordinate hand movements. 5)
- Researchers think that, on Earth, gravity is also part of the equation – it provides a set of anchoring cues for the central nervous system. Human evolution has balanced its way across millennia with visual references, self-orientation and the help of the vestibular system.
- ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano got a handle on how microgravity affects our ability to grab and manipulate objects in space with the Gravitational References for Sensimotor Performance (Grasp) experiment.
- To get an idea of the differences in how our brains work both with and without gravity’s pull, the Grasp experiment is also conducted back on Earth. Following his 201-day mission in space, Luca is continuing to work with researchers to collect scientific data while he undertakes a comprehensive rehabilitation program.
- During Grasp, Luca’s eyes, ears and hands are suited up with a set of sensors – including a virtual reality headset – that gather information about his actions as he carries out a range of tasks. Rotating his hand to align with a visual object is the main activity, couched in a sort of video-game target practice.
- Armed with an enhanced understanding of the physiology behind eye-hand coordination, researchers hope to better understand and treat disorders relating to vertigo and dizziness, balance, spatial orientation and other aspects of the vestibular system. It will also be helpful in guiding astronauts during spacewalks and in developing the most effective ways of controlling robots remotely.
- During his second mission, known as ‘Beyond’, Luca supported more than 50 European and over 200 international experiments and gained the European record for longest cumulative spacewalking time.
Figure 16: By analyzing patterns in the way Luca aligns his hands to the target, researchers seek to better understand how the central nervous system integrates the role of gravity in the neural processes underlying eye-hand coordination (image credit: ESA, Franceso Algeri)
• February 16, 2020: Shot by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS), this photograph highlights several snow- and ice-capped volcanoes as they cast early morning shadows over a mountainous region of Bolivia and Chile. Such long shadows often accentuate the three-dimensional sense of the landscape. 6)
- Nevado Sajama is an inactive stratovolcano that rises more than 6.5 km (21,000 feet) above sea level, making it the highest mountain in Bolivia. It also stands 2.4 km (7,800 feet) above the surrounding landscape. The low Sun angle in the morning casts a shadow about 20 km long, nearly eight times the mountain’s topographic relief.
- Nevado Sajama is the centerpiece of Sajama National Park, Bolivia’s oldest conservation land. The volcano and others in the area are part of the Andean Volcanic Arc, where volcanic activity is generated by the subduction of the Nazca Plate below the South American Plate.
- The volcanoes west of Nevado Sajama (north is upper left in the image) delineate the border between Bolivia and Chile. Parinacota volcano is believed to still be active, though it has not erupted in recent recorded history. The lack of erosional features on its slopes—such as alcoves and steep valleys—implies that it is a geologically young surface.
Figure 17: Astronaut photograph ISS059-E-67743 was acquired on May 19, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 170 millimeter lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 59 crew. (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrew Britton)
• February 9, 2020: An astronaut on the International Space Station took this oblique photograph of the Maiella Massif, which stands amidst Italy’s Central Apennine Mountains. Located just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Adriatic Sea coastline, the Maiella Massif abruptly rises more 2700 meters (9000 feet) above sea level. Shadows and the oblique viewing angle give a strong three-dimensional sense to the steep, blocky cliffs and the dendritic drainage channels leading to the coast. 7)
- Complicated tectonics elevated the Maiella Massif from rock layers that were originally deposited at the bottom of the sea between 23 and 100 million years ago. The highest peak of the massif, Monte Amaro, is made of a light-colored limestone. Below the noticeably bare high plains, the tree line cuts across steep slopes. Since the photo was shot during local autumn, the tree line has a dark, reddish hue of fall color.
- The massif is a geologic formation called an anticline, an arch-like structure of folded rock layers that can trap petroleum. Maiella was important to Italy’s oil industry in the 19th and 20th centuries, though far fewer exploration wells have been drilled there in recent years.
- In 1991, Maiella National Park was created to preserve the area’s unique biodiversity and archaeological significance in the Apennines.
Figure 18: The astronaut photograph ISS061-E-6413 was acquired on October 15, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 500 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• February 6, 2020: Setting a record for the longest single spaceflight in history by a woman, NASA astronaut Christina Koch, Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) landed on Earth at 4:12 a.m. EST in Kazakhstan, southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan. The trio departed the International Space Station in their Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft at 12:50 a.m. 8)
- For Luca Parmitano and Alexander Skvortsov, this landing completed a 201-day stay in space, 3,216 orbits of Earth and a journey of 85.2 million miles.
- Koch’s first journey into space became a 328-day mission in which she orbited Earth 5,248 times, a journey of 139 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 291 trips to the Moon and back. She conducted and supported more than 210 investigations during Expeditions 59, 60, and 61, including as a research subject volunteer to provide scientists the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman as the agency plans to return to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for human exploration of Mars.
- One particular research project in which Koch participated is the Vertebral Strength investigation, which better defines the extent of spaceflight-induced bone and muscle degradation of the spine, and the associated risk for broken vertebrae. This timely endeavor is expected to provide insight into the development of future countermeasures, such as preventative medicine or exercise. These results also could provide recommendations for limiting the amount of force astronauts are subjected to during launch.
- Koch lived in space with four fellow NASA astronauts and classmates: Anne McClain, Nick Hague, Andrew Morgan, and Jessica Meir as well as four Russian cosmonauts, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, and visiting astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Figure 19: Astronaut Christina Koch smiles as she gives a “thumbs up” sign shortly after being extracted from the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship that brought her home after 328 days in space (image credit: NASA TV)
• February 6, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano returned to Earth today alongside NASA astronaut Christina Koch and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, marking the end of his second six-month International Space Station mission known as ‘Beyond’. 9)
- Returning in the same Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft that flew Luca, Alexander and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan to the Space Station on 20 July 2019, the trio touched down in about 30 cm of snow in the Kazakh Steppe on 6 February at 09:12 GMT (10:12 CET), as scheduled. The Soyuz landed upright and all three crew members emerged from the module smiling and looking well.
- Luca will now fly directly to Cologne, Germany, where he will continue to be monitored by ESA’s space medicine team as he readapts to Earth’s gravity at ESA’s European Astronaut Center (EAC) and DLR’s ‘:envihab’ facility.
- Luca’s return to Earth marks the successful conclusion of his Beyond mission. During this mission Luca became the third European and first Italian in command of the ISS, performed four complex spacewalks to maintain the cosmic-ray-detecting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer AMS-02, gained the European record for most cumulative hours spent spacewalking at 33 hours and 9 minutes, remotely operated a rover in the Netherlands as part of the Analog-1 experiment, delivered an important climate change message to leaders at the UN climate change conference in Madrid, and supported over 50 European experiments as well as 200 international experiments in space.
Figure 20: The 3500 m2 :envihab building in Cologne is near ESA’s EAC (European Astronaut Center) on the research campus of DLR German Aerospace Center in Cologne, Germany. It houses specialized laboratories for studying the effects of extreme environmental conditions on humans. Eight modules, built as a 'house-within-a-house', include a short-arm centrifuge that can be used for cardiovascular, bone and muscle research. There are also laboratories for studying the effects of reduced oxygen and pressure on humans, MRI facilities, rooms for psychological stress simulation and rehabilitation, and microbiological and molecular biological research tools, as well as places to house and monitor test subjects. (image credit: ESA, Andreas Schütz)
- Thursday 6 February marked day 201 of his Beyond mission and Luca has now spent 367 noncumulative days in space across two missions – this is the longest of any ESA astronaut.
- Back on Earth, Luca will continue working with European researchers on experiments including Acoustic Diagnostics that looks into the impact of the Space Station environment on astronaut hearing, the TIME experiment that looks at whether astronauts judge time differently in space, and two experiments known as Grip and GRASP that look into the physiology behind eye-hand coordination and the role of gravity in regulating grip force, among others.
Figure 21: Early image of ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano back on Earth at the Soyuz MS-13 landing site, following his six-month Beyond mission on the International Space Station (photo credit: ESA)
- The findings of research conducted as part of Luca’s Beyond mission will help shape the future of human and robotic exploration while enhancing technological developments on Earth.
• February 4, 2020: The crew aboard the ISS (International Space Station) is preparing to split up while also getting ready for a U.S. space delivery. 10)
- NASA astronaut Christina Koch is packing up and cleaning her crew quarters today ahead of her return to Earth early Thursday. She will board the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship on Wednesday about 9:30 p.m. EST with crewmates Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency).
- The trio will undock Thursday at 12:50 a.m. then parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan at 4:12 a.m. (3:12 p.m. Kazakh time). NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 9 p.m. when the departing crew says farewell to their station counterparts and closes the Soyuz hatch.
- This will cap a 328-day-long mission for Koch that began on March 14. She is now in second place for the single longest spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut surpassed only by former astronaut Scott Kelly with 340 days during his final station mission.
- Expedition 62 will officially begin when Koch and her Expedition 61 crewmates undock from the Poisk module. Continuing their stay in space will be Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan. They will end their stay aboard the orbiting lab and return to Earth in April.
- Meir and Morgan are getting ready for another mission that begins Sunday when Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft lifts off at 5:39 p.m. It will rendezvous with the station Tuesday where the duo will be in the cupola to capture Cygnus at 3:30 a.m. with the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Figure 22: Clockwise from left are, NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano is the Expedition 61 Commander leading Flight Engineers Koch, Morgan and Meir aboard the International Space Station (image credit: NASA)
• February 4, 2020: After six months on the International Space Station and just over four as commander, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will return to Earth together with US astronaut Christina Koch and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov in the Soyuz-MS13 spacecraft. 11)
- The trio will land in the steppes of Kazakhstan on Thursday 6 February.
- Return to Earth: The ride home for Luca, Christina and Alexander is shorter than the ride up: after six months in space, and a whole year for Christina, it is less than four hours from undocking to landing in the steppe of Kazakhstan.
- Shortly after undocking, the Soyuz spacecraft separates into three parts. The orbital and service modules burn up on reentry in the denser layers of Earth’s atmosphere. The descent module turns to position its heatshield towards the direction of reentry, so that it can handle the 1600°C created by the friction with our atmosphere.
- Reentry starts at an altitude of about 120 km, when their cruising speed of 28,800 km/h is reduced dramatically and the crew are pushed back into their seats with a force of 4–5 g. This is equivalent to four to five times their own body weight.
- Parachutes deploy to reduce speed even more and the astronauts sit in custom-fitted seats that absorb the shock of impact. At the last moment, retrorockets fire before touchdown to limit the impact to around 5 km/h.
- After landing, the crew deploy a communication antenna, so that the rescue teams can pinpoint them, but usually search and rescue teams are already on site to retrieve the space voyagers.
- The spacecraft is cramped and astronauts return to Earth in a weakened state, so pulling the crew out of their capsule one by one can take some time.
Figure 23: Soyuz MS spacecraft infographic - Modules and Specs (image credit: ESA)
Figure 24: International Space Station with Soyuz. This image taken by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano from outside the International Space Station on the second spacewalk to service the cosmic ray detecting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) on 22 November 2019. The Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft that bought Luca, NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and Roscosmos commander Alexander Skvortsov to space is visible docked to the Zvezda service module of the International Space Station. Due to the AMS worksite being difficult to reach on top of the Station’s S3 Truss structure between a pair of solar arrays and radiators, Luca travelled to and from the site on the end of the robotic arm operated by NASA astronaut Jessica Meir from inside the Station (image credit: ESA–Luca Parmitano, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)
• February 2, 2020: Using a short lens, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured this expansive view of 800 kilometers (500 miles) of Peru’s coastline. The wide viewing angle gives the impression of a near-vertical view in the foreground and a distinctly oblique view at the top. 12)
- The steep-sided, 2800-meter (9,200-foot) deep Cotahuasi Canyon and the white icecap of Nevado Coropuna volcano (6425 meters or 21,079 feet) stand in the foreground. The lighter-toned Atacama Desert hugs the coast, bordered inland by the darker-toned rocks of the high Andes Mountains.
- The Andean plateau, mainly under cloud on this day, rises 4000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level, with volcanic peaks (such as Corapuna) rising much higher. Numerous steep-sided canyons descend from the plateau to the coast. The rivers that cut these canyons provide water for irrigating agricultural fields in the desert. (The farmlands appear as darker patches amid the tan of the desert.)
- The Sun’s reflection off of the Pacific Ocean reveals wind streaks produced by the strong southerly winds. Inland, Laguna Parinacochas is distinctly visible because it also reflects the Sun.
- In the distance, almost invisible under a layer of smog, lies the capital city of Lima.
Figure 25: The astronaut photograph ISS059-E-39541 was acquired on May 1, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 50 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 59 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• January 27, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (middle) and NASA astronaut Drew Morgan (left) work on get-ahead tasks during the fourth spacewalk to service the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). 13)
- Saturday’s spacewalk, which lasted five hours and 55 minutes, was the last in a four-part series to extend the life of the particle physics detector that was not designed to be maintained in space.
- Installed on the outside of the International Space Station in 2011, the instrument out-lived its three-year mission time to provide researchers with invaluable data on cosmic rays that bombard our planet. When the cooling pumps for AMS-02 began to fail, plans were made to service the instrument in space and give it a new lease on life and science.
- During the first three spacewalks Luca and Drew replaced the old cooling system with a new one using a tube-tying technique known as swagging that was quite the feat to perform in space gloves.
- On this final spacewalk, where Drew held the lead role of EV1, the pair set out to check the tubes that connect the cooling system to the larger instrument for any leaks.
- When a leak was found in tube number five, Luca tightened this connection and waited around an hour before checking the tube again. Upon this second check, a leak was still present, but thankfully after re tightening once more and waiting again the leak was overcome and the system was declared leak-free.
- In between these leak checks, the duo worked on get-ahead tasks, activities that often set the stage for future spacewalks, should the astronauts have extra time on their hands.
- Once all leaks were addressed, Luca and Drew wrapped things up by installing a mud flap between the new pump and vertical support beam before removing a cover known as a shower cap to expose the new radiator system.
- Five hours and two minutes into Saturday’s spacewalk, Luca broke the European record for the most time spent spacewalking. He has now clocked in 33 hours and nine minutes, beating previous record holder Swedish ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang’s 31 hours and 54 minutes.
Figure 26: NASA astronaut Drew Morgan (left) and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (middle) are seen in this photo on their last AMS-2 EVA (image credit: NASA, ESA)
• January 26, 2020: Two of the largest freshwater lakes in Turkey are featured in this photograph, taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS). Lake Beysehir and Lake Egirdir are situated in the Turkish Lakes Region, a highly active tectonic area on the Anatolia Plateau.
- There are several shallow lakes in the region that are replenished through precipitation, limestone springs and streams, and runoff from the Sultan Mountains. The water levels of these lakes change seasonally, mainly due to their usage as a drinking water source and as irrigation for local agriculture. As water levels drop, the light-colored limestone sediments on the lake beds become more apparent, giving the water a lighter color (as with Lake Beysehir, Figure 27).
- Lake Beysehir and Lake Egirdir have been designated by global conservation organizations as important bird and plant habitats. At least 181 bird species use the shorelines and small islands within the lakes as nesting and breeding grounds.
Figure 27: This astronaut photograph ISS061-E-14342 was acquired on October 26, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 95 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sara Schmidt)
• January 25, 2020: Expedition 61 crew members Andrew Morgan of NASA and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) concluded their spacewalk at 1:20 p.m. EST. During the 6 hour, 16 minute spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully completed leak checks for the cooling system on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and opened a valve to being pressurizing the system. Preliminary testing shows AMS-02 is responding as expected. 14)
Figure 28: A helmet camera attached to the spacesuit of astronaut Andrew Morgan pictures astronaut Luca Parmitano during the final spacewalk to repair a cosmic ray detector AMS-02 (image credit: NASA)
- Ground teams will work over the next several days to fill the new AMS thermal control system with carbon dioxide, allow the system to stabilize, and power on the pumps to verify and optimize their performance. The tracker, one of several detectors on AMS-02, should be collecting science data again before the end of next week. The upgraded cooling system is expected to support AMS-02 through the lifetime of the space station.
- The astronauts also completed an additional task to remove degraded lens filters on two high-definition video cameras.
- This was the fourth spacewalk by Morgan and Parmitano to repair the spectrometer and the 227th in support of station assembly, maintenance and upgrades. For Morgan, it was the seventh spacewalk of his career, for a total of 45 hours and 48 minutes, and the sixth for Parmitano, with a total of 33 hours and 9 minutes, who will return to Earth Feb. 6 in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to complete a six-and-a-half month mission on the outpost. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 59 days 12 hours and 26 minutes working outside the station. This was also the ninth spacewalk for the Expedition 61 crew, more than in any other increment in the history of the station.
• On January 22, 2020, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of resuspended ash near Taal Volcano island. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, strong low-level winds lifted ash lying on the volcano, and sent it streaming southwest toward the town of Dacanlao. Following an eruption in early January 2020, Taal remains on a Level 4 alert, with a hazardous eruption still possible. 15)
Figure 29: Low-level winds lifted ash lying on and around the volcano after its recent eruption. The astronaut photograph ISS061-E-138244 was acquired on January 22, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 210 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Text by Kasha Patel)
• January 22, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is returning to Earth after six months on the International Space Station. He will land with Alexander Skvortsov and Christina Koch in Kazakhstan on 6 February 2020 after 201 days in space. Luca will fly directly to ESA’s European Astronaut Center (EAC) in Cologne for an expected arrival around 21:00 GMT (22:00 CET). 16)
- Luca was launched into space on 20 July 2019 in a Soyuz spacecraft with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. His seven-month mission saw him take command of the International Space Station and conduct complex spacewalks to repair the cosmic-particle-hunting Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer instrument, AMS-02.
- Luca supported more than 50 European experiments and 200 international experiments in space. Other highlights were Luca making the first ‘live DJ session’ in Earth orbit, addressing world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 25 and talking to Nobel Laureates about exoplanets and the chemistry of batteries.
• January 22, 2020: Sometimes doing science is as simple as wiping up. NASA astronaut Jack Fisher is seen here using a wet wipe on the surfaces of the European Cupola module of the International Space Station. 17)
- Doubling as both Station maintenance and science experiment, Jack collected microbes living on the surfaces of his orbital home for ESA’s Extremophiles experiment. Headed by Dr. Christine-Moissl Eichinger from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, the experiment studies how microbes settle into the harsh environment of space.
- Cosmic radiation exposes not only humans but also bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms to cellular stress. A typical stay in microgravity for an astronaut weakens the immune system and causes more health issues, prompting researchers to ask whether the same was happening to microbiomes, or the organisms found in a particular environment, and whether they resist treatment, becoming ‘super bugs.’
- Because the Space Station is a closed environment, microbes can only arrive with new crew and cargo. The Station has accumulated a core group of 55 microbes over 20 years of continuous human inhabitants.
- Researchers tested these against microbes found in a similar environment on Earth: spacecraft cleanrooms. They found that space-based microbes did not have a higher resistance and were not more stressed than Earth-based ones.
- In short, microbes are no more extremophilic – able to survive in uninhabitable environments – in the weightless and radiative environment of space. The results were recently published in a paper in Nature Communications. 18)
- Interestingly, researchers found that space-based microbiomes can react negatively to metal surfaces, especially when those surfaces are wet. As they struggle to adapt to their environment, they attack the metal surfaces they find themselves on by corroding them or creating biofilm.
- Researchers and crew are monitoring the situation by keeping metal surfaces dry and easily accessible for regular cleaning and sampling.
- After all, there is no getting rid of microbes or any need to. They are a fact of human life.
Figure 30: Microbial wipe down (image credit: ESA/NASA)
• January 20, 2020: At 1:33 p.m. EST, Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch of NASA concluded their third spacewalk together. During the six hour and 58-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully completed the battery upgrade for one channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. 19)
- Today’s work included removing the last two nickel-hydrogen batteries from this area of the station’s backbone near the port solar array and moving them to an external platform. The batteries will be stored there until they can be disposed of in the next Japanese HTV cargo spacecraft after it delivers tons of supplies to the space station later this year. Meir and Koch also installed the sixth and final new lithium-ion battery, and ground controllers verified the new batteries powered up successfully to provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for station operations.
- The spacewalkers concluded their work by paying tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Meir said he was a personal hero and looking down on planet Earth reminded her of his words: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” Koch noted how much is owed to those who worked for civil rights and inclusion and “paved the way for not only us, but so many who have a dream.”
- This was the second spacewalk outside the station in 2020. Space station crew members have now conducted 226 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have spent a total of 59 days, 6 hours, and 10 minutes working outside the station. It is the third time all spacewalkers have been women and the 45th spacewalk to include women.
- NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and space station Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will conduct the next spacewalk Saturday, Jan. 25, to finish installing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer’s (AMS) new cooling apparatus and lines and verify they are ready for use. Morgan and Parmitano began that work during three spacewalks in November and December 2019.
- Today’s spacewalk was the third for Meir, who now has spent a total of 21 hours and 44 minutes spacewalking, and the sixth for Koch for a total of 42 hours and 15 minutes. Koch is third place behind Peggy Whitson and Suni Williams for cumulative time by a female spacewalker and 21st on the all-time spacewalk list for aggregate time.
- Koch arrived to the orbiting laboratory in March 2019 and is nearing the end of an extended duration mission. She holds the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman and will return to Earth on Feb. 6. Her extended mission provides researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman to prepare for human missions to the Moon and Mars. Meir arrived in Sept. 2019 and is due to return in April.
Figure 31: NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock to complete a spacewalk after swapping batteries on the International Space Station that store and distribute solar power collected for the solar arrays (image credit: NASA)
• January 20, 2020: Every January, bits of asteroid 2003 EH1 cross paths with Earth’s orbit to create a beautiful annual meteor shower: the Quadrantids. As the fragments collide with our atmosphere, they disintegrate and create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky. On January 4, 2020, astronauts saw the spectacle from above. 20)
- The composite image of Figure 32 was taken by astronaut Christina Koch as the International Space Station (ISS) passed over Edmonton, Canada, around 4:30 a.m. local time (11:30 UTC). She also captured an aurora over the region around the same time. The image of Figure 33 shows the position of the aurora in relation to the ISS orbit. The image was created using data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) “day-night band” from the Suomi NPP satellite and Black Marble data.
- “Meteors fly by the ISS all the time, but the astronauts don’t see them. The meteor is just a little piece of rock, but it is so dark and moves so fast that you don’t see it whiz by,” said Bill Cooke, lead at the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office. “Astronauts see the meteors when they look down and see them burning up near Earth’s atmosphere, appearing as streaks of light.”
Figure 32: The astronaut photograph composite including ISS061-E-119857 was acquired on January 4, 2020, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 28 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image of the Quadrantids was taken by Christina Koch, a member of the Expedition 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image by Joshua Stevens, Story by Kasha Patel)
- Quadrantids are generally faint but periodically have bright fireball meteors—large explosions of light and color. Fireballs last longer than the average meteor streak because they are born from larger pieces of material. The bright meteors in Koch’s picture are fireballs. Even from space though, astronauts may struggle to see the flashes due to bright city lights below or from the moonlight, said Cooke.
- The Quadrantids differ from most meteor showers. While the majority of meteor showers originate from comets, the Quadrantids appear to come from an asteroid. As asteroid 2003 H1 travels around the Sun, it sheds dust. This dust gradually spreads into a debris trail, which Earth passes through in early January every year. Discovered in 2003, asteroid 2003 EH1 is small and measures only about two miles (three kilometers) in diameter. However, some scientists think it might be related to a dead comet called C/1490 Y1 or fall under a new type of object called a “rock comet.”
- At its peak, the Quadrantids register around 80 meteors per hour observed in an area. Peak activity only lasts for a few hours (as opposed to days as with other meteor showers) because of the thinner stream of particles. Earth also crosses through the stream at a perpendicular angle. The meteors are best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Astronaut Chris Hatfield once wrote that seeing a meteor from space was a “reminder of living in a shooting gallery.” However, the chances of the ISS getting hit by a small meteor are low. Cooke says the ISS is armored against meteors and the odds of a meteor penetrating the station is very small. The greatest risk occurs when an astronaut is outside of the space station performing a spacewalk and could potentially come into contact with a small meteor. Cooke’s office generates meteor forecasts to help assess the safety for astronauts venturing outside the station.
• January 19, 2020: The divide between lush forest and desert is striking in this photograph taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Meandering rivers and farmland comprise most of the lower right half of the photo, while the upper left shows part of the Atacama Desert just beyond the Andes Mountains. 21)
Figure 34: Astronaut photograph ISS061-E-40134 was acquired on November 13, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 65 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 61 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Laura Phoebus)
- The Bermejo River originates in the Andes Mountains in Bolivia and flows into the Paraguay-Paraña Rivers. The Bermejo is notably lighter in color than other stream courses because of the abundance of sediment it carries. The river channel also moves regularly due to the combined processes of erosion and deposition along its banks, as evidenced by the meandering pattern.
- The Andes are one of the most biodiverse regions of the world. The small portion of the mountain range shown in this photo (from southwest Bolivia and northwest Argentina), provides a great example of the contrast between the high mountain desert and temperate Yungas and Chaco forests.
• January 14, 2020: The first of three spacewalks planned for January begins Wednesday to continue upgrading International Space Station power systems and a cosmic ray detector. While the spacewalkers ready their suits and tools, the rest of the Expedition 61 crew is on science and maintenance duty today. 22)
- NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir is partnering for a second time with fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch for a pair of spacewalks set for January 15 and 20. The duo is finalizing preparations for the two six-and-a-half hour spacewalks to replace batteries that store and distribute solar power. They will set their U.S. spacesuits to internal power at 6:50 a.m. and translate out to the Port-6 truss structure. Once there they swap out old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries. NASA TV begins its live coverage Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. EST.
- A third spacewalk is planned for Jan. 25 with NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency). They will finish the thermal repair work on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer they began last year.
- Meanwhile, Morgan and Parmitano were on science duty today. The astronauts took turns safely burning fabric and acrylic samples to help scientists understand how flames spread in space. Results may inform the design of fire safety products and procedures on Earth and in space. The two crewmates also drew their blood samples, spinning them in a centrifuge for later analysis.
- Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov spent the day servicing Russian life support equipment. On the science schedule, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka continued setting up and testing hardware that will observe the Earth’s mesosphere at different wavelengths.
Figure 35: NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are pictured preparing to begin the historic first-ever all-female spacewalk on Oct. 18, 2019 (image credit: NASA)
• January 14, 2020: Another pair of eyes provides a sobering perspective on the fires ravaging Australia. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano took images such as this one on 12 January from his vantage point of the International Space Station. 23)
- From satellite imagery tracing smoke and pollution, to images from the ground depicting apocalyptic red skies, there is no denying the fires’ devastating effect.
- Starting in New South Wales and extending into Victoria, the ferocious bushfires have been raging since September and are fuelled by record-breaking temperatures. In the midst of a climate crisis, 2019 was the hottest year on record in Australia and with drought and wind, the fires have raged beyond seasonal expectations.
- Winds have blown smoke over New Zealand and crossed the South Pacific Ocean, even reaching Chile and Argentina.
- A staggering 10 million hectares of land have been burned, at least 24 people have been killed and it has been reported that almost half a billion animals have perished.
- Damage to wildlife notwithstanding, the fires have had a serious effect on air quality. Earth observation satellites like Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor has traced increased concentrations of carbon monoxide in the past months along Australia’s southeast coast.
Figure 36: This image was taken as the Station flew above Fraser Range, in Western Australia, near the Dundas Nature Reserve. Luca posted images of the fire to social media and said: “Talking to my crew mates, we realized that none of us had ever seen fires at such terrifying scale”(image credit: ESA)
- Astronaut photographs of Earth from space complement satellite imagery, allowing experts and the general public more insight on global events.
- Like Luca, the world continues to monitor the fires. If there is a silver lining around the smoke, it is the increased awareness of and calls for urgent action on climate change that is continuing to sweep the globe.
• January 5, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of stark desert contrasts in northwestern Chad. The geologically young, dark lava flows of the Toussidé volcano stand out from the older, lighter rocks of the Tibesti Mountains and the sands of the central Sahara Desert. 24)
- A large portion of the Tibesti Mountains is volcanic in origin. Successive effusive eruptions have formed extensive plateaus that cover older sedimentary rocks. Looking north of Toussidé (left in this image of Figure 37), erosion has helped carve the expansive network of canyons. Eolian activity has also played a role: that is, winds have brought lightly colored sands from the north into low-lying areas between the mountainous ridges.
- The contrast of color created by flows from Toussidé and other volcanoes in northern Africa has captured astronauts’ attention for decades. The terrain of the Tibesti mountains is difficult to access, but remote sensing provides a useful means to perform geologic investigations here.
Figure 37: Geologically young, dark lava flows stand out from older, lighter rocks and the sands of the central Sahara. The astronaut photograph ISS060-E-77289 was acquired on September 23, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 95 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 60 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrew Britton)
• January 3, 2020: ISS astronaut successfully treated for blood clot on-orbit. Serena Auñón-Chancellor, M.D., M.P.H., Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at LSU (Louisiana State University) Health New Orleans School of Medicine’s branch campus in Baton Rouge, is the lead author of a paper describing a previously unrecognized risk of spaceflight discovered during a study of astronauts involved in long-duration missions. The paper details a case of stagnant blood flow resulting in a clot in the internal jugular vein of an astronaut stationed on the International Space Station. The paper is published in the January 2, 2020 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, available here. 25)
- “These new findings demonstrate that the human body still surprises us in space,” notes Dr. Auñón-Chancellor, who also remains a member of NASA’s Astronaut Corps and is board certified in both internal and aerospace medicine. “We still haven’t learned everything about Aerospace Medicine or Space Physiology.”
- Eleven astronauts were involved in the vascular study, which sought to help close gaps in knowledge about circulatory physiology that will not only benefit patients on Earth, but could be critical for the health of astronauts during future space exploration missions to the moon and Mars. The study measured the structure and function of the internal jugular vein in long-duration spaceflight where astronauts are exposed to sustained headward blood and tissue fluid shifts.
- Ultrasound examinations of the astronauts’ internal jugular veins were performed at scheduled times in different positions during the mission. Results of the ultrasound performed about two months into the mission revealed a suspected obstructive left internal jugular venous thrombosis (blood clot) in one astronaut. The astronaut, guided in real time and interpreted by two independent radiologists on earth, performed a follow-up ultrasound, which confirmed the suspicion.
- Since NASA had not encountered this condition in space before, multiple specialty discussions weighed the unknown risks of the clot traveling and blocking a vessel against anticoagulation therapy in microgravity. The space station pharmacy had 20 vials containing 300 mg of injectable enoxaparin (a heparin-like blood thinner), but no anticoagulation-reversal drug. The injections posed their own challenges – syringes are a limited commodity, and drawing liquids from vials is a significant challenge because of surface-tension effects.
- The astronaut began treatment with the enoxaparin, initially at a higher dose that was reduced after 33 days to make it last until an oral anticoagulant (apixaban) could arrive via a supply spacecraft. Anticoagulation-reversing agents were also sent.
- Although the size of the clot progressively shrank and blood flow through the affected internal jugular segment could be induced at day 47, spontaneous blood flow was still absent after 90 days of anticoagulation treatment. The astronaut took apixaban until four days before the return to Earth.
- On landing, an ultrasound showed the remaining clot flattened to the vessel walls with no need for further anticoagulation. It was present for 24 hours after landing and gone 10 days later. Six months after returning to Earth, the astronaut remained asymptomatic.
- The astronaut had no personal or family history of blood clots and had not experienced headaches or the florid complexion common in weightless conditions. The changes in blood organization and flow, along with the prothrombotic risk uncovered in the study show the need for further research.
- Concludes Auñón-Chancellor, “The biggest question that remains is how would we deal with this on an exploration class mission to Mars? How would we prepare ourselves medically? More research must be performed to further elucidate clot formation in this environment and possible countermeasures.”
- Internal jugular venous thrombosis has most often been associated with cancer, a central venous catheter, or ovarian hyperstimulation. Recently, it has been found in a growing number of IV drug abusers who inject drugs directly into the internal jugular vein. The condition can have potentially life-threatening complications, including systemic sepsis and pulmonary embolism.
- Other members of the research team included James M. Pattarini, M.D., M.P.H., National Aeronautics and Space Administration Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX; Stephan Moll, M.D., University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC; and Ashot Sargsyan, M.D., KBR, Houston, TX.
- The study was funded by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) under the Human Research Program (grant NNJ11ZSA002NA).
• January 2, 2020: Blood clot expert Stephan Moll, MD, professor of medicine in the UNC (University of North Carolina) School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, consulted NASA on how to treat a U.S. astronaut’s deep vein thrombosis during a mission on the International Space Station. Moll co-wrote a case study on the successful treatment that has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 26)
- “My first reaction when NASA reached out to me was to ask if I could visit the International Space Station (ISS) to examine the patient myself,” said Stephan Moll, MD, UNC School of Medicine blood clot expert and long-time NASA enthusiast. “NASA told me they couldn’t get me up to space quickly enough, so I proceeded with the evaluation and treatment process from here in Chapel Hill.”
- Moll was the only non-NASA physician NASA consulted when it was discovered that an astronaut aboard the ISS had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – or blood clot – in the jugular vein of their neck. The astronaut’s identity is being kept anonymous for privacy reasons, so identifying information such as when this event happened is being omitted from the case study. We do know that the astronaut was two months into a six-month mission on the ISS when the DVT was discovered.
- This was the first time a blood clot had been found in an astronaut in space, so there was no established method of treatment for DVT in zero gravity. Moll, a member of the UNC Blood Research Center, was called upon for his vast knowledge and treatment experience of DVT on Earth.
- “Normally the protocol for treating a patient with DVT would be to start them on blood thinners for at least three months to prevent the clot from getting bigger and to lessen the harm it could cause if it moved to a different part of the body such as the lungs,” Moll said. “There is some risk when taking blood thinners that if an injury occurs, it could cause internal bleeding that is difficult to stop. In either case, emergency medical attention could be needed. Knowing there are no emergency rooms in space, we had to weigh our options very carefully.”
- Moll and a team of NASA doctors decided blood thinners would be the best course of treatment for the astronaut. They were limited in their pharmaceutical options, however. The ISS keeps only a small supply of various medicines on board, and there was a limited amount of the blood thinner Enoxaparin (Lovenox®) available. Moll advised NASA on what dosage of Enoxaparin would effectively treat the DVT while also lasting long enough, until NASA could get a new shipment of drugs – which Moll helped select – to the ISS.
Figure 38: You could call it the ultimate telemedicine. A UNC expert enlisted by NASA to help treat an astronaut during a mission on the ISS. Hear about the experience from Dr. Stephan Moll in his own words (video credit: UNC Health Care)
- The course of treatment with Enoxaparin – a drug delivered by an injection into the skin – lasted for around 40 days. On day 43 of the astronaut’s treatment, a supply of Apixaban (Eliquis®) – a pill taken orally– was delivered to the ISS by a supply spacecraft.
- Throughout the treatment process, which lasted more than 90 days, the astronaut performed ultrasounds on their own neck with guidance from a radiology team on Earth in order to monitor the blood clot. Moll was also able to speak to the astronaut during this period through email and phone calls.
- “When the astronaut called my home phone, my wife answered and then passed the phone to me with the comment, ‘Stephan, a phone call for you from space.’ That was pretty amazing,” said Moll. “It was incredible to get a call from an astronaut in space. They just wanted to talk to me as if they were one of my other patients. And amazingly the call connection was better than when I call my family in Germany, even though the ISS zips around Earth at 17,000 miles per hour.”
- Four days before the astronaut’s journey home to Earth, they stopped taking Apixaban. Moll and his NASA counterparts made that decision because of how physically demanding and potentially dangerous the re-entry process can be for astronauts, and they did not want an injury to be exacerbated by the use of blood thinners. The astronaut landed safely on Earth and the blood clot required no more treatment.
- This astronaut’s blood clot was asymptomatic – they didn’t have any symptoms that would have otherwise made them aware of the clot. The DVT was discovered when the astronaut was taking ultrasounds of their neck for a research study on how body fluid is redistributed in zero gravity. If it wasn’t for the study, there’s no telling what the outcome could have been. That’s why Moll continues to work with NASA and says there’s a need for more research of how blood and blood clots behave in space.
- “Is this something that is more common in space?” posed Moll. “How do you minimize risk for DVT? Should there be more medications for it kept on the ISS? All of these questions need answering, especially with the plan that astronauts will embark on longer missions to the moon and Mars.”
Figure 39: Dr. Stephan Moll at NASA (image credit: NASA, UNC)
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5) ”Suited up for gravity,” ESA Science & Exploration, 25 February 2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2020/02/Suited_up_for_gravity
6) ”Nevado Sajama and Parinacota,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 16 February 2020, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146301/nevado-sajama-and-parinacota
7) ”Maiella Massif, Italy,” NASA Earth Observatory, 9 February 2020, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146271/maiella-massif-italy
9) ”Record-breaking spacewalker returns from orbit,” ESA Science & Exploration, 6 February 2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration
10) ”Station Crew Splits Up Thursday before Next Cargo Mission,” NASA Space Station, 4 February 2020, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2020/02/04
”Watch live – Luca returns to Earth,” ESA / Science
& Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Beyond, 4 February,
2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration
12) ”Coast of Peru,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 2 February 2020, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146241/coast-of-peru
13) ”Cosmic records,” ESA Science % Exploration, 27 January 2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2020/01/Cosmic_records
14) Mark Garcia, ”Astronauts Wrap Up Spacewalk Repair Job on Cosmic Ray Detector,” NASA, 25 January 2020, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2020/01/25
15) ”Windblown Ash from Taal Volcano,” NASA Earth Observatory, 22 January 2020, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146186/windblown-ash-from-taal-volcano
”Nº 28–2020: Call for media: ESA astronaut Luca
Parmitano returns from commanding the Space Station,” ESA, 22
January 2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/Newsroom/Press_Releases
17) ”Microbial wipe down,” ESA Science & Exploration, 22 January 2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2020/01/Microbial_wipe_down
Maximilian Mora, Lisa Wink, Ines Kögler, Alexander Mahnert, Petra
Rettberg, Petra Schwendner,René Demets, Charles Cockell, Tatiana
Alekhova, Andreas Klingl, Robert Krause, Anna Zolotariof,Alina
Alexandrova& Christine Moissl-Eichinger, ”Space Station
conditions are selective but do not alter microbial characteristics
relevant to human health,” Nature communications, Vol. 10,
Article No : 3990, https://doi.org
Mark Garcia, ”Meir, Koch Complete Battery Swaps to Upgrade
Station Power Systems,” NASA Space Station, 20 January 2020, URL:
20) ”Watching Meteors from Space,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 20 January 2020, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146171/watching-meteors-from-space
21) ”Bermejo River,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 19 January 2020, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146168/bermejo-river
23) ”Up in smoke,” ESA Science & Exploration, 14 January 2020, URL: http://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2020/01/Up_in_smoke
24) ”Desert Contrasts in Chad,” NASA Earth Observatory, 5 January 2020, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146105/desert-contrasts-in-chad
”1st Reported Occurrence & Treatment of Spaceflight Medical
Risk 200+ Miles Above Earth,” LSU Press Release, 3 January 2020,
”The Ultimate Telemedicine: UNC Expert Helps Treat
Astronaut’s Blood Clot During NASA Mission,” Related press
release from UNC School of Medicine, 2 January 2020, URL: http://news.unchealthcare.org/news/2020/january
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (email@example.com).