Minimize ISS: Sample Imagery

ISS Utilization: Some samples of imagery taken by astronauts from the ISS


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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.



• April 10, 2017: An ISS astronaut took this photograph of the south end of Lake Neusiedl (Figure 1), which spans the border between Austria and Hungary (it is known as Lake Ferto in Hungary - literally meaning a swamp). The pattern of open-water cracks amidst the ice hint at the beginning of a spring warm-up in the middle of this 30 km long lake. 1)

- In summer, the lake is a popular vacation locale, situated about 45 km southeast of Vienna, Austria. Lake Neusiedl is also known as the "Sea of the Viennese." Extensive boating facilities line the shore, based primarily near the villages of Rust and Moerbisch. - At just 2 meters maximum depth, the lake is one of the shallowest in Central Europe. One well-known event for vacationers is the "annual freestyle mass crossing" of the lake from the village of Moerbisch to the village of Illmitz.

- The wide, reed-covered wetland that fringes the lake is crossed by drainage canals and agricultural fields. Historical records indicate that these reed beds have been entirely under water at times because the lake size varies greatly with weather conditions. For example, the lake expanded to double its present size in 1768. More dramatically, the lake has dried up completely on several occasions: 1740–1742, 1811–1813, and 1866–1871. At very low stages, the lake has been described as a swamp because the reeds dominated the middle of the lake. Small depressions like Lake Zicklacke (upper center) dry up and fill on shorter time spans.


Figure 1: Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-51946 of the southern portion of Lake Neusiedl on the Austrian/Hungarian border, acquired on February 19, 2017. The Digital Camera image, taken by a member of the ISS Expedition 50 crew, is provided by the Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption M. Justin Wilkinson)


• On March 30, 2017, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson ventured outside the International Space Station on a seven-hour spacewalk. The duo's work included installing four thermal shields on the US Tranquility module, protecting a docking port. Unfortunately, one shield (blanket) was lost during the spacewalk and floated away. It posed no immediate danger to the astronauts and they went on to install the remaining shields on the port. The lost shield is in orbit some distance in front of the Station and is visible from Earth through a pair of good binoculars. 2) 3)

- During the evening of 3 April, Marco Langbroek, from Leiden, the Netherlands, photographed the shield passing over in the night sky, using a Canon EOS 60D DSLR camera and a Samyang 1.4/85 mm lens.

- "The item poses very little risk to navigation, and an accidental release like this is not unexpected given the complexity and challenges of working outside during a spacewalk," says Holger Krag, Head of ESA's Space Debris Office. He says the incident does, however, put a spotlight on the current space debris situation. "There are some 750,000 debris objects 1–10 cm in orbit, and any one of these could damage or destroy a functioning satellite."


Figure 2: In a pair of excellent images created from a series of photos, the shield is seen as the very faint, thin streak (in the image at left), followed a minute later by the Station itself, seen as the thick streak (in the image at right). The shield is about 1.5 x 0.6 m, and is expected to drop from orbit and burn up in the atmosphere within a few months (image credit: Marco Langbroek, 2017)


• March 28, 2017: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet completed his second spacewalk on Friday, 24 March 2017 along with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson remained inside to help the duo suit up, exit and reenter the Station. 4) 5)

- Spacewalks often include routine maintenance of the International Space Station. The to-do list this time included disconnecting cables and electrical connections on the PMA-3 (Pressurized Mating Adapter-3) to prepare for its robotic move on March 26. The astronauts also , lubricated the latching end effector on the Dextre robotic hand, inspected a radiator valve, and replaced cameras on the Japanese segment of the outpost. In this photo (Figure 3), Thomas is working on the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Standing on a foot restraint, he is using a lubrication tool (it resembles a selfie stick) to oil Dextre. The spacewalk lasted 6 h 34 min.

- The PMA-3 provides the pressurized interface between the station modules and the IDA (International Docking Adapter), which will accommodate commercial crew vehicle dockings.

- Thomas is scheduled to complete one of the two remaining spacewalks for Expedition 50. He will next venture out with Peggy, bringing his spacewalk total up to three on his first mission.


Figure 3: Photo of Thomas Pesquet on his second EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) along with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough (image credit: ESA/NASA)

• Between EVA-40 and EVA-41, robotic operations conducted the relocation of the PMA-3 (Pressurized Mating Adapter-3). In its old location on Node 3 Port, PMA-3 was unusable as a docking port due to clearance issues with the station structure. The last time that PMA-3 was actually used for a docking was during the STS-98 shuttle mission in February 2001, and since that time it has been shuffled around different ports on the ISS and used for storage. 6)

- However, with commercial crew vehicles soon coming online, which will use the "direct handover" model for crew transfers, PMA-3 has now found a use once again as a second docking port for commercial crew vehicles.

- At one time a plan was under consideration to return PMA-3 to Earth on the final Space Shuttle flight, STS-135, in July 2011, as it was not envisaged at that time that PMA-3 would ever be used again, since the plan then was to build two Common Docking Adapters (CDAs), which were flat devices to convert ISS Common Berthing Mechanism (CBM) ports to commercial crew docking ports.

- However, it was subsequently decided to retain the PMAs as docking ports for commercial crew vehicles, rather than build a brand-new docking adapter, as the PMA's tunnel-like design provides a good amount of spacing between visiting vehicles and the ISS, thus avoiding any clearance issues between vehicles and the station structure.

- With PMA-3 relocated to Node 2 Zenith by robotic means, it will need to have an International Docking Adapter (IDA) installed onto its end, in order to convert its Androgynous Peripheral Attachment System (APAS) compatible docking port to a Soft Impact Mating Attenuation Concept (SIMAC) compatible port for future crew vehicles.


Figure 4: The PMA-3 is in the grip of the Canadarm2 robotic arm during its relocation and attachment to the Harmony module on March 26,2017 (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 4: Ground-based robotics teams remotely commanded the International Space Station's robotic Canadarm2 to move the Space Shuttle-era PMA-3 to the forward end of the outpost. The March 26, 2017, relocation was part of a multi-year effort to prepare the ISS for future commercial crew spacecraft.


Figure 5: A graphic of the relocation of PMA-3 from the port side of Node 3 (Tranquility) to the space-facing side of Node 2 (Harmony), image credit: NASA 7)


• March 20, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Grand Turk Island, situated on the southern end of the Bahamas archipelago in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Grand Turk Island is just 10 km long, and much of the island is occupied by Cockburn Town (population about 5,000), the capital of Turks and Caicos (Figure 6). 8)

- Much of the land surface is covered by reddish-brown salt evaporation ponds and a saline lake known as Town Pond, around which Cockburn Town developed. The town was established in 1766 to support the growing salt industry. McCartney Airport, on the southern end of the island, is the largest airport.

- Grand Turk sits on a large carbonate bank, which is almost double the size of the island. Waves breaking against the carbonate platform appear as a white line along the left margin of the image. The complex patterns on the east coast of Grand Turk (top of the image) are a fraction of a vast reef ecosystem that stretches discontinuously for nearly 1000 kilometers, as far as the northern Bahamas.

- The color of the water in this photo tells us something about the depth: clear, shallow water is electric blue where the light-toned sands almost meet the surface; deeper blues indicate deeper water. The darkest blues indicate the deep ocean (lower left) and the Columbus Passage. Dipping at least 2150 m in depth, the passage is known to divers for majestic underwater caverns, coral gardens, and black-coral formations. Tourists visit the passage every January through March to watch thousands of Atlantic humpback whales migrate to their mating grounds.

- Grand Turk Island has an important historical connection to NASA and the United States. The first crewed orbital mission of the United States was launched with John Glenn piloting the Friendship 7 spacecraft in 1962. He successfully orbited the Earth three times and, after various complications, splashed down in the vicinity of Grand Turk Island. Glenn was taken to Cockburn Town for several days for medical checkups and debriefing.


Figure 6: Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-41317 was acquired on February 12, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)


• March 13, 2017: The dark, angular lines crossing this snowy landscape attracted the attention of an astronaut looking down from the International Space Station. The photograph of Figure 7 shows the parallel lines of a major shelterbelt—also known as a windbreak—crossing the steppes of southern Russia near the Volga River (Volgograd Oblast). The image shows a 14-kilometer section of an extensive system of shelterbelts planted to protect crops and reduce the erosion of steppe soils by wind. The shelterbelt is broken where it meets a local stream. 9)

- Each of the north-south trending lines is a dense mass of trees about 60 meters wide. The trees throw shadows to the east in this late afternoon view (north is to the right). Together the three lines span about 800 meters, and there is enough space between the rows of trees for narrow fields to be tilled.

- Shelterbelt construction began when open steppe landscapes were first settled by Russian famers in the early 1700s. At present, more than 2 million hectares (200 km2) of the steppes have been planted. The soils within the main shelterbelts in this region have been shown to be significantly improved, becoming richer in organic carbon than virgin soils that have never been plowed.

- The photograph also shows narrower lines of trees along farm boundaries; these protect individual fields from winds and associated gully erosion. The trees also protect water bodies from evaporation by the steady winds, and they prevent ponds and streams from filling with blown sand and silt. Lines of trees at the crest of the creek bank protect the creek valley (top right).


Figure 7: Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-52312 of the snow-covered landscape was acquired on February 16, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)


• March 6, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the city lights of Naples and the Campania region of southern Italy. A regional view of Italy from 2014 shows the Naples region to be one of the brightest in the country. Roughly three million people live in and around this metropolitan area (Figure 8). 10)

- The different colors of lights in the scene reflect some of the history of development in the area. The green lights are mercury vapor bulbs, an older variety that has been replaced in newer developments by orange sodium bulbs (yellow-orange). To the northeast, the lightless gaps between the homes and businesses are agricultural fields. The bright yellow-orange complex amidst the fields is the CIS emporium, the largest commercial retail facility in Europe.

- The large black circular area in the photo is Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano on Europe's mainland. Vesuvius is a stratovolcano, made up of different materials—pyroclastic flows, lava flows, and debris from lahars—that accumulated to form the volcanic cone. Although any volcanic materials can endanger surrounding communities, pyroclastic flows of superheated ash and gas are among the most dangerous, moving at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per hour. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed in 79 AD by pyroclastic flows, which trapped more than 16,000 people.

- Such historic catastrophes—and the fact that 600,000 people live in the immediate vicinity—are the reason the volcano is one of the most heavily monitored in the world, with several dozen sensors located at many points on and around the cone. By dating lavas, scientists know that Mount Vesuvius has had eight major eruptions in the past 17,000 years.

- Vesuvius is part of the Campanian Volcanic Arc which includes the Campi Flegrei caldera/geothermal field to the west of Naples near Agnano and Mount Etna in Sicily.


Figure 8: This astronaut photograph ISS050-E-37024 was acquired on January 30, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 400 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier)


• February 8, 2017: For years, their existence has been debated: elusive electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere that sport names such as red sprites, blue jets, pixies and elves. Reported by pilots, they are difficult to study as they occur above thunderstorms. — ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen during his mission on the International Space Station in 2015 was asked to take pictures over thunderstorms with the most sensitive camera on the orbiting outpost to look for these brief features. 11)

- Andreas aimed for cloud turrets – cloud pillars extending into the upper atmosphere – and shot a 160 second video showing 245 blue flashes from the top of a turret that drifted from the Bay of Bengal's thunderstorm. The blue discharges and jets are examples of a little-understood part of our atmosphere. Electrical storms reach into the stratosphere and have implications for how our atmosphere protects us from radiation.


Figure 9: Blue jets studied from the Space Station (image credit: ESA, NASA)

- Satellites had probed these events but their viewing angle is not ideal for gathering data on the scale of the blue jets and smaller blue discharges. In contrast, the Station's lower orbit is ideally placed to capture the sprites and jets.

- ESA astronaut Tim Peake took the image of Figure 10 circling Earth 400 km up in the International Space Station. He commented: "Sometimes looking down on Earth at night can be kinda spooky." - Although this picture was taken in Tim's free time, the Station is used for research into elusive phenomena in the upper atmosphere during thunderstorms – red sprites, blue jets and elves. Some of the most violent electric discharges are very difficult to capture from the ground because of the atmosphere's blocking effect. From space, astronauts can judge for themselves where to aim the camera, where to zoom in and follow interesting regions for researchers.


Figure 10: The image shows lightning strikes illuminating clouds over Western Australia during a thunderstorm. The Space Station travels at 28,800 km/h so it takes only 90 minutes to complete an orbit of Earth. Astronauts often spot thunderstorms and are impressed by how much lightning they observe (image credit: ESA, NASA)


Figure 11: A cumulonimbus cloud over Africa photographed by an astronaut on the International Space Station. Deemed by many meteorologists as one of the most impressive of cloud formations, cumulonimbus (from the Latin for ‘puffy' and ‘dark') clouds form owing to vigorous convection of warm and moist unstable air. Air warmed by the ground rises, with water droplets condensing as the rising air encounters cooler air at higher altitudes. The air mass itself also expands and cools as it rises owing to decreasing atmospheric pressure. This type of convection is common in tropical latitudes (image credit: NASA)

- Denmark's National Space Institute has now published the results, confirming many km-wide blue flashes around 18 km altitude, including a pulsating blue jet reaching 40 km. A video recorded by Andreas as he flew over the Bay of Bengal at 28 800 km/hr on the Station shows the electrical phenomena clearly – a first of its kind. 12)

- Thunderstorm clouds may reach the lower stratosphere, affecting the exchange of greenhouse gases between the troposphere and stratosphere. This region of the atmosphere is difficult to access experimentally, and our knowledge of the processes taking place here is incomplete. We recently recorded color video footage of thunderstorms over the Bay of Bengal from the International Space Station. The observations show a multitude of blue, kilometer-scale, discharges at the cloud top layer at ~18 km altitude and a pulsating blue discharge propagating into the stratosphere reaching ~40 km altitude. The emissions are related to the so-called blue jets, blue starters, and possibly pixies. The observations are the first of their kind and give a new perspective on the electrical activity at the top of tropical thunderstorms; further, they underscore that thunderstorm discharges directly perturb the chemistry of the stratosphere with possible implications for the Earth's radiation balance.

- The Thor Experiment: Named after the Nordic mythological god of thunder and lightning, the Thor experiment is designed to study processes at the top of thunderstorms and the atmosphere just above. The science objectives of the experiment are the formation of cloud turrets, the generation of high-altitude electrical processes, and generation of internal gravity waves from thunderstorm convection. In the experiment astronauts on the ISS image thunderstorms under conditions defined by the science team and the observations from the ISS are correlated data from other sources such as meteorological satellites and radars and ground-based lightning detection systems.

- Thor was carried out for the first time from 2 to 11 September 2015, during the Iriss mission of Denmark's first astronaut, Andreas Mogensen. A science team on the ground forecasted thunderstorm activity up to 3 days in advance, predicting storm locations, observation time windows for ISS overflights, and camera pointing angles, and the information was uploaded to the ISS every 24 hr. The forecasting procedure allowed mission schedulers to plan for several observation periods in the busy timeline of the astronaut. The measurements presented here were taken from the Cupola, a module underneath the ISS with a full view of the Earth.

- The camera was a Nikon D4 set at 6400 ISO and recording 24 frames per second at 1920 x 1080 pixels, down-scaled from 4928 x 2768 pixels of the sensor. It was mounted with a 58 mm/f1.2 lens, giving a 34.4° x 19.75° field of view corresponding to 1.07 arcsec/pixel. With these settings, the camera resolution was 130 m at nadir, 728 m at the limb, and 203 m for the discharge events pictured in Figures 12 and 13. Based on the ISO setting (giving the light level for minimum darkening) and assuming a linear response, we estimate the camera response to be 10 nW/bit. The data were recorded on a memory card and downloaded within a few hours to the supporting science team.


Figure 12: The pulsating blue jet from the top of the Northern cloud. Frame 1 is the first of the time sequence. It serves as a reference frame to illustrate the structure of the cloud. Frames 2–8 show the pulsating blue jet (Thor experiment science team)


Figure 13: Blue surface discharges on the cloud top. (left column) The observed discharges; (right column) the discharges superimposed on an image of the cloud (Thor experiment science team)

The images of Figures 12 and 13 are from a video of a thunderstorm over the eastern coast of India and the Bay of Bengal. It is 160 s in duration and is taken on the night of 8 September 2015, around 22:20 UTC (03:50 LT).


• February 6, 2017: Flying over southeastern Australia, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the center of Melbourne (Figure 14). With a population of about 4.5 million people (as of 2015), greater Melbourne is the second-most populous city in Australia after Sydney. 13)

- The city straddles the Yarra River, which runs through the view as a darker line. Like most high-rise city centers, the center of Melbourne appears darker due to the long shadows cast by closely-spaced, tall buildings. The riverside sector is the tourist and conventioneer magnet; the Convention Center is one of the largest buildings in the neighborhood.

- Angular patterns along the river (the Docklands) and the protected shoreline of Port Phillip Bay are transhipment facilities—interchanges between road, rail, and sea transportation. Melbourne is Australia's busiest container port, with a well-developed railroad and freeway network to distribute goods, as shown by the tracks and highways immediately north of the Docklands.

- Green patches in the image are parks, the largest being immediately east of the city center. The Sports and Entertainment Precinct occupies one of these open spaces. It is home to the largest (circular) stadium in the southern hemisphere, the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (founded in 1853). On the opposite bank of the Yarra River lies the state governor's mansion known as the Government House. A smaller park hosts the Royal Exhibition Building, the venue of the first Parliament of Australia. With a design based partly on Florence Cathedral, the building was the first non-Aboriginal cultural site in Australia to win UNESCO's World Heritage listing.

- Various place names reflect the time when Melbourne was founded. At its founding in 1835, the city was named in honor of the British Prime Minister (William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne). In 1851, it became the capital of the newly founded colony of Victoria, named for the British Queen. Roads and parks are also named after Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert.


Figure 14: Astronaut photograph ISS049-E-10665 was acquired on September 23, 2016, with a Nikon D4 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 49 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andi Hollier M. Justin Wilkinson)


On January 24, 2017, teachers from Romania, Ireland, and Portugal, had the opportunity to talk with ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who is currently living and working on the ISS (International Space Station). Hundreds of primary and secondary school teachers and students, as well as space scientists and engineers, gathered at national events in Timisoara, Limerick, and Lisbon to participate in the call with Thomas – the opportunity of a lifetime. Several teachers had the opportunity to ask questions surrounding the theme: space in our daily lives. 14)

- "Today was fantastic. I'm really looking forward to taking this back to the classroom and to talk to the students so that they can share this with their friends and family. I'm sure they will have many more questions tomorrow," said Mary Gorky, a teacher from Ireland.

- ''It's not every day that we, especially high school students, get to learn things about space in this unusual and fun way. I personally think that the information we learned today covers a little part of the theoretical background regarding the space outside our own planet that each one of us should have. The conversation we had with Thomas, but also with the people who talked to us in the local presentations before the call, as well as the questions that were asked, are the sort of things that spark one's interest," said Roxana Drăghia, an 11th grade Romanian student.

- "The students were very interested in the possibility of working in space technology in the future, and the event gave me material that can be developed further in the classroom," said César Marques, one of the many Portuguese teachers attending the event in Lisbon.


Figure 15: In flight call with Thomas Pesquet, ESERO Portugal (image credit: ESERO Portugal)

In particular, Thomas answered the following questions:

1) When we think of space, most people think of exploration. What are some other activities related to space that society may not be aware of?

2) What kind of research are you conducting during your Proxima mission that could contribute to new technologies to be used in our daily lives?

3) How long does it take for the research, experiments, and new findings done on the ISS to be used in technologies and medicine here on Earth?

4) How does your time in space help us to improve methods of caring for sick people here on the ground?

5) How do you test for water and bacterial contamination on the ISS? Are these testing methods also used on Earth for other purposes?

6) When a natural disaster happens on Earth, can you see it from space? Is there a way that you or ESA can send a warning back to Earth?

7) What new technologies related to navigation are being used on the ISS and in space, which can benefit us here on Earth?

8) Do you think it is possible to live in a completely self-sustainable environment in space? Are there any technologies from Earth that are helping this become a reality?

9) What do you think is one of the most significant discoveries or inventions for society created from research carried out in space, and in particular, on the ISS?

10) I have heard that astronauts' eyesight can change in space. Will the research done related to this have other applications, such as helping prevent people on Earth from losing their sight?

About the local events:

- The events in each country were coordinated by three of the European Space Education Resource Offices (ESERO): ESERO Romania, ESERO Ireland, and ESERO Portugal.

- Romania: the event took place in Universitatea de Vest, Timisoara; Ireland: the event took place in Limerick Institute of Technology, Limerick; and Portugal: the event took place in Pavilhão do Conhecimento Science Centre, Lisbon.

- In addition to the inflight call, the local events featured a range of activities, including talks from national space experts about the many benefits of space technologies, exploration, and research, encouraging teachers and students to explore how space contributes to the advancement of society through spinoffs and innovation, promoting international cooperation, and providing inspiration.


Figure 16: Portuguese students learning about Thomas's ISS experiments (image credit: ESERO Portugal)


Figure 17: Romanian teachers and students saluting Thomas Pesquet in his native French (image credit: ESERO Romania)


Figure 18: Irish students ready to greet Thomas Pesquet (image credit: Brian Gavin)

- The inflight call with Thomas Pesquet is part of a vast range of educational activities organized by ESA's Education Office and jointly delivered by its ESERO project. There are currently 10 operational ESERO Offices across Europe, covering 13 ESA Member States. ESA's ESERO project is a collaboration between ESA, national space agencies, and science education partners.

- ESEROs design, develop, and disseminate classroom resources – all tailored to the national school curricula and language - which make use of space as a rich and inspirational context for teaching STEM subjects. In addition, they offer teacher training workshops and conferences for both primary and secondary school teachers, and support educational hands-on projects in their country. Through their activities, ESEROs also raise awareness about STEM-related career prospects, particularly in the space sector, and promote the importance of space in our daily lives (Ref. 14).


• January 23, 2017: The panorama of Figure 19, photographed by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, shows nearly the full length of Lake Powell, the reservoir on the Colorado River in southern Utah and northern Arizona. Note that the ISS was north of the lake at the time, so in this view south is at the top left of the image. 15)

- At full capacity, the reservoir impounds 24,322,000 acre-feet of water (30 km3), a vast amount that is used to generate and supply water to several western United States, while also aiding in flood control for the region. It is the second largest reservoir by maximum water capacity in the United States (behind Lake Mead).

- Landscape elevation changes are hard to see from space, but astronauts learn to interpret high and low places by their color. Green forests indicate two high places in the image that are cooler and receive more rain than the dry, low country surrounding the lake. The isolated Navajo Mountain is a sacred mountain of the Native American Navajo tribe and rises to 3,154 meters. The long, narrow Kaiparowits Plateau rises nearly 1200 m from Lake Powell to an elevation of more than 2300 m. More than 80 km long, the plateau gives a sense of horizontal scale.

- The region draws nearly 2 million people every year, even though it is remote and has few roads. Most of the area in view is protected as part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument—the largest amount of protected land in a U.S. national monument.


Figure 19: This Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-73279 was acquired on September 6, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 800 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)


• January 9, 2017: An astronaut aboard the ISS used a long lens to capture the fleeting features of the Sun's reflection point around islands in Lake Titicaca (Figure 20). Located on the high plateau of the Andes Mountains, between Peru and Bolivia, Titicaca is the largest lake in South America with a surface area of 8,372 km2. At 3812 m above sea level, it is also one of the highest commercially navigable lakes in the world. 16)

- Astronauts see numerous complex "sunglint" patterns like these as they look down on Earth. In this photo, reflection-point patterns are strongly affected by the wind because wind-ruffled water and smooth water reflect sunlight differently. Strong westerly winds blow across Titicaca in most months of the year, disturbing the water surface and enhancing bright reflections. Wind is also channeled between steep-sided islands, making for strong reflections on both sides of Isla Suriqui. But in wind-protected zones — such as the area downwind (northeast) of Suriqui — there is no brilliant reflection to blot out the color of the lake water.

- The sunglint patterns tell other stories, too. The curved line near the top left seems to show a pulse of water entering the lake through a narrow strait. The parallel lines at image top center may represent a packet of earlier water pulses. At the lower right, straight lines of boat wakes cut across curved wind-streak lines.


Figure 20: Astronaut photograph ISS049-E-1028 was acquired on September 10, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 800 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 49 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)


Figure 21: The close-up image, acquired on Sept. 10, 2016, shows a cluster of V-shaped wakes of boat traffic going to and from a small port on the island (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)


• January 2, 2017: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station used an 1150 mm lens to capture this photograph of a variety of agricultural patterns near an oasis in eastern Libya (Figure 22). This area is one of the most remote places in Africa, more than 900 km from the nearest major city. The cluster of buildings, roads, and small farming operations near the top of the photo is the town of Al Jawf. 17)

- Each farming pattern in the image is related to different irrigation methods. The honeycombs in the center are what remains of the first planned farming method in the Libyan Desert, implemented around 1970. The large circles (about 1 kilometer wide) of center-pivot irrigation systems (lower left) replaced the honeycombs in order to conserve water. The grid system (upper left) is perhaps one of the oldest known to planned agriculture, but it is still used alongside the more modern patterns.

- Near Al Jawf, the oasis is covered in lush green gardens and palm trees that survive due to pumping from the largest known fossil water aquifer in the world: the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer. More than 20,000 years ago, the Saharan landscape was wet, and heavy rainfall continuously refilled the aquifer. Today the region receives less than 0.25 cm of rain a year, making this aquifer a non-renewable resource. An agreement was recently hashed out between Libya and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to improve food security in the region by developing the country's agriculture industry. This means the use of fossil water (ground water) will continue, and the agricultural patterns we see today are likely to survive for years to come.

Minimize ISS: Sample imagery (continued)


Figure 22: The astronaut photograph ISS049-E-43349 of the Al Jawf Oasis, was acquired on October 22, 2016 with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image by M. Justin Wilkinson, caption by Andi Hollier)


• December 11, 2016: This bright blue lake, with its tight swirl of a light-toned sediment, caught the eye of an astronaut on the International Space Station. Situated on the Idaho-Utah border, Bear Lake is one of the bigger lakes in the Rocky Mountains (Figure 23). 18)

- The two swirls near the center of the 30 km long lake are rotating in the deepest water—perhaps from outflow from Swan Creek or Fish Haven Creek. North Eden Creek has laid down a little delta at its mouth. Two center-pivot irrigation fields sit on the delta, one of the few flat places in this mountainous landscape.

- The more diffuse swirls at the north end of the lake (lower right) likely formed from sediment entering from North Eden Creek. This sediment is carried north along the shoreline by lake currents, joining with sediment eroded from the white beaches.

- When the north-end beach formed, it cut off of Bear Lake from the Mud Lake lagoon. Muddy sediments subsequently collected to form a dark-toned, vegetated wetland now protected as the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge. A much larger protected area is the Cache National Forest, visible across the entire top part of the image. Dramatic canyons like Fish Haven Canyon cut deeply into the Wasatch Mountains.


Figure 23: Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-73257 was acquired on September 6, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 600 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 M. Justin Wilkinson)


• November 29, 2016: MARES (Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System) is a three-in-one muscle-measurement machine on the International Space Station to monitor astronauts' muscles as they work out. 19)

- Muscle strength drops during spaceflight and researchers need to know why this happens in order to prepare for long missions and safe space tourism. MARES is an exercise bench that offers detailed information about how muscles behave in space. Looking at muscle contraction at a single moment gives little information but MARES provides a full overview of muscle speed and force as an elbow or knee joint bends.

- Our bodies are amazing machines that perform wonderful feats daily without us even noticing. Hold a glass in your hand and fill it with water and your arm muscles will automatically hold the glass steady and stable despite the changing weight as it fills.

- MARES can chart this fine motor control as well as give a precise overview of muscle torque and speed. Astronauts move their joints to follow a graph or dot on a screen as a motor generates counterforce.

- This week, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is installing the machine in Europe's Columbus space laboratory and he will be the first test subject for researchers on Earth. Thomas' fellow ESA astronauts Andreas Mogensen, Samantha Cristoforetti and Tim Peake, tested the machine to make sure it works correctly ready for use.

- Thomas is one week into his six-month Proxima mission on the International Space Station.


Figure 24: Photo of Thomas Pesquet in ESA's Columbus module testing the MARES machine (image credit: ESA/NASA)


• November 21, 2016: An astronaut aboard the ISS used a long lens to document what crews have termed one of the most spectacular features of the planet: the dunes of the Namib Sand Sea. Looking inland (from an ISS position over the South Atlantic) near sunset, the highest linear dunes show smaller linear dunes riding along their crests (Figure 25). Linear dunes are generally aligned parallel to the formative wind—in this case, strong winds from the south. Southerly winds explain the parallel north-aligned linear dunes on the left side of the image. 20)

- But this simple pattern is disrupted near the Tsondab valley. The valley acts as a funnel for winds from the east. These less frequent but strong winter winds are channeled down the valley and usually carry large amounts of sand, similar to the Santa Ana winds in California. These strong easterly winds significantly deflect all the linear dunes near the valley so that they point downwind (image center).

- Further inland (right), the north-pointing and west-pointing patterns appear superimposed, making a rectangular pattern. Because the Namib Desert is very old—dating from the time when the cold, desert-forming Benguela ocean current started to flow about 37 million years ago—wind patterns and dune patterns have shifted over time. North-oriented dunes have shifted north and east with drier climates and stronger winds, overriding but not removing earlier dune chains and making the rectangular dune network we see today.

- The Tsondab River is a well-known Namib Desert river because it is blocked by linear dunes (just outside the left margin of the image) 100 km from the Atlantic Ocean. Research has shown that during wetter times, it did reach the ocean. The name Tsondab means "that which is running is suddenly stopped" in the local Khoisan language.

- Along the edge of the dune-free Tsondab River valley, we can see star dunes, which are smaller and display multiple arms (top left).


Figure 25: Astronaut photograph ISS047-E-23405 was acquired on March 27, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 500 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 47 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)


• Nov. 7, 2016: The Bahama Islands are one of the most recognizable places on Earth for astronauts and one of their favorite areas to photograph. The eyes are naturally drawn to the large areas of shallow seas, known as banks, that appear in light blue. The edge of the Little Bahama Bank in the northern Bahamas is marked by the straight line of a coral reef (Figure 26). White breaking waves appear on the seaward edge of the reef, and the sea floor rapidly deepens north of this line (darker blue on the lower right). 21)

- This long-lens view shows all kinds of detail in the shallow water. The brightest swirls are shelly sands molded into sweeping shapes; they give a strong sense of the flow of water moved repeatedly onto and off the bank. The largest sand feature (a U-shape at image center) lies opposite the widest break in the coral reef—where the tidal flow is strongest. A gap in the line of breakers shows the opening.

- The small island known as Strangers Cay is 3.6 km long, giving some perspective on the large stretches of seafloor affected by the tides on this shallow bank. Other black shapes are the shadows of clouds.

- Regular patterns of swells appear in the deeper water (lower right). The quieter, shallow water in the center of the image—protected from the open sea by the reef—was streaked by a brisk northeast wind on the day this photo was taken.


Figure 26: Astronaut photograph ISS049-E-41356 was acquired on October 20, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 49 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)


• October 24, 2016: Looking south to the horizon, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of most of the Caspian Sea and neighboring countries in inner Asia. Shorelines of water bodies are key features for astronauts trying to orient themselves over Earth (Figure 27). 22)

- The south shore of the sea appears as a nearly straight line against the dark ranges of the Elburz Mountains of northern Iran. At a right-angled corner—a telltale feature of the Caspian Sea for astronauts looking down at Earth—the coastline veers due north, where it meets the 160 km-wide bay in Turkmenistan known as Kara-Bogaz Gol Basin (Zaliv Kara-Bogaz Gol). The narrow spit that divides this gulf from the Caspian Sea is another well-known feature. The saltwater Sarygamysh Lake lies on the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border, and the narrow Sor Kayduk channel in Kazakhstan shows its characteristic pink tone.

- The west side (right in this south-facing image) of the Caspian Sea lies under a thin smog layer, which partly obscures the finger of the Absheron Peninsula, the center of Azerbaijan's oil producing region.


Figure 27: This astronaut photograph ISS048-E-70125 was acquired on August 28, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 36 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 M. Justin Wilkinson)


• October 17, 2016: The photograph of Figure 28,taken from the ISS, depicts the Greek Santorini islands in the Aegean Sea, arranged in an oval shape. They are all that remains of what was once a large, circular volcano. 23)

- The largest island in the ring is the tourist mecca of Santorini (also known as Thira), while the other islands are Thirasia and Aspronisi. The three pieces are what remains after an enormous eruption destroyed most of a volcanic island. Water from the Aegean Sea rushed in to fill the void, forming the central, 12 km long lagoon. The lagoon is surrounded by high, steep cliffs on three sides. Several towns occupy the top of these impressive, near-vertical cliffs (roughly 300 m, appearing as white stipple patterns from the traditional whitewash paint that is almost exclusively used on these islands.

- Santorini is one of the most famous tourist islands on Earth. Ships arrive at the bottom of the cliffs near the town of Fira. Tourists then climb a switchback road up the cliffs to the town—a classic Greek village on a cliff face looking out into the great lagoon. West of Fira, the water has a darker, ruffled texture from wind streaking across the lagoon on the downwind side of the islands. The wake of a boat also appears between Thirasia and Aspronisi.

- The caldera explosion that made this lagoon is one of the largest known to geologists. An estimated 100 km3 of material blew out of the volcano, four times as much as the well-recorded eruption by Krakatoa in 1883. Santorini has been designated a "Decade Volcano" because it poses more than one volcanic hazard to people living near it.

- The date of the Santorini explosion has been carefully researched and is now known to have taken place between 1600 and 1627 BCE (Before Common Era). Archaeological excavations at the town of Akrotiri are revealing exciting remains of a Minoan-age town with streets, three-story houses, and frescoes well preserved under ash layers, much like those preserved at Pompeii.

- Since the volcano is still active, the central peak has grown and then erupted repeatedly. Nea Kameni is the most recent peak of the underwater volcano to appear above water (popping up in 1707). There have been three eruptions in the twentieth century alone. Recent lava flows appear as dark-toned areas, compared with the lighter-toned surfaces of the older outer islands.


Figure 28: This astronaut photo ISS048-E-72284 was acquired on September 3, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 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 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)


• Sept. 26, 2016: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station looked west from more than 700 km away and focused an 800 mm lens on the shorelines of Utah Lake and other water bodies in Utah (Figure 29). Shorelines are easy to see from space and often indicate interesting centers of human activity. 24)

- Utah Lake is so shallow that surface waves stir up light-toned muds from the bottom, giving the lake a light green-blue hue. Across the middle of the image, gray tones show the Provo-Orem metropolitan area that fringes the length of the lake, which is 33 km long. The lake's only outlet is the Jordan River (right), which leads water to the Great Salt Lake (at times when Utah Lake stands high).

- The Veterans Memorial Highway is a straight white line running through the metropolitan area from Provo to Lehi. Most of the green tones fringing the cities are farms that stretch right down to the water's edge. The lower part of the image shows the thickly wooded Wasatch Range, which rises so high above the city that it captures rain. Provo Peak and Mount Timpanogos are two well-known local peaks.

- Finding water for a population of 527,000 people and for local farming has always been problematic in Utah. Luckily snow and rainfall on the Wasatch Range nearby provide enough water—when there is careful conservation and reuse of water. The main water supply points are Utah Lake and rivers like the Provo, which cuts through the main Wasatch Range in a dramatic canyon. The Provo River connects to Deer Creek Reservoir on the east side of the mountains.


Figure 29: Astronaut photograph ISS048-E-73267 was acquired on Sept. 5, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 800 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 48 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)


• August 29, 2016: While orbiting over the South China Sea, an astronaut aboard the ISS (International Space Station) took this oblique photograph of the blocky red and gray urban pattern of Manila and surrounding cities. Manila is sandwiched between the salt water of Manila Bay—with its scatter of anchored ships—and Laguna de Bay. The great docks at the port can be seen jutting into Manila Bay (image center left), while the heart of the city lies immediately inland of the port. A forested nature reserve with a lake is located within one of the mountainous areas surrounding the metro zone (top left). 25)


Figure 30: Astronaut photograph ISS047-E-99713 was acquired on May 6, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 400 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 47 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory , caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)

- The combined population of Manila and neighboring Quezon City is 4.7 million people. Manila itself has one of the highest population densities in the world, with 42,857 people per square kilometer. The metropolitan area is the political and economic hub of the Philippines, and its international trade connections are so widespread the Globalization and World Cities Research Network classed Manila as a global city. Manila's history has always been connected to trade. Arriving from Mexico, the conquistadors founded Manila in 1571, and soon the city became the Far East anchor of the Acapulco-Manila Galleon trade route connecting Spanish America with Asia. This represents one of the earliest examples of globalization.

- The dark lines of several waterways are prominent amidst the gray cityscape. The Pasig River winds through the middle of the city. The straight line of the Manggahan Floodway is a flood-control channel engineered to divert water from the Marikina River away from the city center and into Laguna de Bay. Engineering works along the floodway also control tidal saltwater flow into Laguna de Bay.


• July 25, 2016: An astronaut aboard the ISS (International Space Station) used the highest power lens available to document the complex patterns around Cape Coral, a master-planned city born in 1957. The development is a hub of the Fort Myers metropolitan area—one of the youngest cities in the United States and home to 680,000 people (Figure 31). 26)

- Cape Coral is also known to some as the "Waterfront Wonderland." Many of the dark lines through this development on the Gulf of Mexico are not streets but a vast network of constructed canals totaling more than 640 km — perhaps the longest canal shoreline in the world. The canal system is so extensive that local ecology and tides have been affected.

- Boat wakes (image center) appear as thin white lines on the wide Caloosahatchee River, which separates Cape Coral from Iona. The Caloosahatchee has been extensively engineered to assist river traffic. One such channel is the straight line (top left) cutting through the small islands, or keys. The 1,000 m long Cape Coral Bridge (lower right) was opened in early 1964, just a few years after the founding of the city. The bridge significantly reduces travel times to the cities of Iona and Fort Myers on the opposite side of the river. Another bridge (on the left) leads to Sanibel Island, a popular tourist destination.

- Many of the shorelines are extensively covered by mangrove wetlands. Several areas in the region are protected, partly because mangroves protect coastlines against erosion. Manatees abound in the waters of Florida, and a wildlife refuge for manatees has been established on San Carlos Bay.


Figure 31: Astronaut photograph ISS047-E-84351 was acquired on April 27, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a, 1150 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 47 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, M. Justin Wilkinson)


• June 27, 2016: From a distance of 700 km over the Pacific Ocean, an astronaut aboard the ISS captured this oblique image of a part of the Andes Mountains (Figure 32) . The mountain range crosses the entire image and forms the border between Chile and Argentina's wine country . 27)

- This view is notable because it reveals the canyons and valleys followed by the Pan-American Highway. The spacecraft and Sun were in just the right positions for the Sun's reflection to illuminate the thin rivers that run through the same deep valley that contains the highway. This pass through the Andes is the main route between Chile's capital, Santiago, whose outskirts appear in the lower right of the image, and Mendoza, the heart of Argentina's wine making industry.

- The highway route over the Andes starts just north of Chile's capital city Santiago at the small town of Los Andes and snakes its way up the forested Juncal River valley, where it passes close to Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere (6959 m). Near Aconcagua, the highway crosses the international boundary into the Mendoza River valley and passes through a high, treeless desert valley. Then the highway bends southeast and descends to the Mendoza basin, marked here by a blanket of haze. Haze, a variable mix of smoke, dust, and fog, is a typical winter phenomenon on windless days, as seen also in the basins in Chile where Santiago and Los Andes are located.

- The Pan-American Highway is an almost continuous road, 30,000 km long, that joins seventeen countries in the Americas, from southernmost South America up through North America to the Arctic Ocean.


Figure 32: Astronaut photograph ISS043-E-83229 was acquired on April 2, 2015 with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 290 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 43 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, M. Justin Wilkinson)


• June 20, 2016: Scanning the monotonous, tan-colored surface of the Sahara Desert, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station saw small, dark patches next to a long, ragged cliff in Egypt's Western Desert. The dark patches are date and olive groves in the Bahariya Oasis (population 27,000), one of several small places in Egypt's deserts where people can live. The town of Bawiti, where most people live, is harder to detect (Figure 33). 28)

- The steep cliffs surround a depression in the desert surface, at the bottom of which lies a small lake. The depression is punctuated by a flat-topped hill (mesa) surrounded by lower cliffs. Bahariya is one of several large depressions west of the Nile that are deep enough to reach underground water.

- The oasis has a rich history, going back at least to Egypt's Middle Kingdom (2000-1800 BCE), when agricultural products from the oasis were exported to the Nile Valley. Alexander the Great may have passed through this oasis, even though it is so remote (380 km southwest of Cairo). The Valley of the Golden Mummies in Bahariya purportedly holds as many as 10,000 undisturbed mummies of Roman and Greek aristocrats, dating from 332 B.C.E. to 395 A.D. Aqueducts built by the Roman Empire are still used today to carry water to groves and farms.

- In recent years, a new road between Bahariya and Cairo has brought significant traffic in tourists coming to see the remnants of ancient life. A nearby iron mine also supports many people from Bahariya.


Figure 33: Astronaut photograph ISS045-E-55907 was acquired on October 10, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)


• June 13, 2016: In orbit above the semi-desert grasslands in Kazakhstan, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station spotted one of the few features that stand out. Lake Tengiz is the only large lake (1590 km2) in northern Kazakhstan. Through white wisps of cloud, the crew member photographed the 50 km long eastern shore of the lake, with its thin, winding islands and white beaches (Figure 34). 29)

- The islands and intervening waterways make a rich habitat for birds in this part of Asia. At least 318 species of birds have been identified at the lake; 22 of them are endangered. It is the northernmost habitat of the pink flamingo. The lake system is Kazakhstan's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it has been declared a RAMSAR wetland site of international importance.

- Part of the richness of area is its complex hydrology. Fresh water enters the system via the Kulanutpes River, so there are small lakes (lower right) full of fresh water. But in this closed basin, the water in the main lake (top) slowly evaporates, becoming salty. Winds stir up bigger waves on the main lake, dispersing sediment and salt and making the water a cloudier and lighter blue-green.

- The strange shape of the islands is not easy to interpret. They may be drowned remnants of delta distributaries of the Kulanutpes River. Westerly winds probably have had a smoothing effect on the shorelines, especially in a shallow lake like Tengiz, which is only about 6 m deep.

- The lake has an exciting history for people who follow space exploration. In 1976, a Soyuz spacecraft landed in the lake near the north shore (top right). The capsule crashed through the ice and sank during an October snowstorm when temperatures were -22°C. Because of low power, the capsule was unheated and the crew was feared lost. It was many hours before the airtight capsule was located and divers could attach flotation tanks to get the capsule to the surface. It was then dragged ashore across the ice by helicopter. The rescue effort took nine hours before the crew was able to safely exit the capsule.


Figure 34: Astronaut photograph ISS047-E-83092 was acquired on April 26, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 400 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)


• May 31,2016: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station used a powerful lens to photograph these three reefs in Australia's Great Barrier Reef (Figure 35). The photo area spans about 15 km of the 2300 km reef system. Reefs are easy to spot from space because the iridescent blues of shallow lagoons contrast sharply with the dark blues of deep water. 30)

- The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef system on Earth, with more than 3,000 separate reefs and coral cays. It is also one of the most complex natural ecosystems, with 600 types of corals and thousands of animal species from tiny planktons to whales. Corals look like plants, but are in fact colonies of very small animals known as coral polyps—closely related to jellyfish. The color differences in the photo relate to different habitats for coral growth; that is, the habitats strongly relate to two sources of energy and nutrients.

- Agitated water—as in the surface zone, where waves break against the reef—provides more plankton nutrients than still water, especially for reefs like these that lie far from land sources of nutrients (75 km from the Queensland coastline). The best-developed reef crests face the open ocean (image right) for this reason. The dark, narrow channels between the lagoons also allow deeper, nutrient-rich water to reach the reef-crest corals. But waves are also destructive, so only robust types of coral live within the breaker zone.

- The other source of energy is the Sun, which is needed by symbiotic, single-cell organisms that provide most of the nutrients for coral growth. The dark blues in the image are zones where too little light penetrates the water. Tropical corals disappear where the light fades away: about 60 m below the sea surface. By contrast, the shallow water within the lagoons has the strongest light supply and displays numerous patches of coral. Although lagoons are protected from the full force of waves, they lack the plankton supply from constant wave agitation. This limits the amount of living coral within the lagoon, as seen in the empty zones. But the lagoons have so many microhabitats that they boast the greatest number of species in the reef ecosystem—with mollusks, worms, and crustaceans often dominating the visible fauna.

- The Great Barrier Reef is now protected in a marine park. The three reefs captured here — part of the planning area for the Whitsunday group of islands, which are 900 km north of Brisbane in Queensland — have different types of protected status. The reef at top left is a habitat protection zone, controlling potentially damaging activities such as trawling. The reef on the lower left is a conservation park, which has limited fishing. The reef at the center of the image is a marine national park, with no fishing or collecting.


Figure 35: Astronaut photo (Expedition 45 crew) of the Great Barrier Reef near Whitsunday Islands, acquired on October 12, 2015 with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center)


• May 16, 2016: Astronauts aboard the ISS (International Space Station) see the world at night on every orbit —that's 16 times each crew day. An astronaut took this broad, short-lens photograph of Earth's night lights (Figure ) while looking out over the remote reaches of the central equatorial Pacific Ocean. ISS was passing over the island nation of Kiribati at the time, about 2600 km south of Hawaii. 31)

- Knowing the exact time and the location of the ISS, scientists were able to match the star field in the photo to charts describing which stars should have been visible at that moment. They identified the pattern of stars in the photo as our Milky Way galaxy (looking toward its center). The dark patches are dense dust clouds in an inner spiral arm of our galaxy; such clouds can block our view of stars toward the center.

- The curvature of the Earth crosses the center of the image and is illuminated by a variety of airglow layers in orange, green, and red. Setting stars are visible even through the dense orange-green airglow.

- The brightest light in the image is a lightning flash that illuminated a large mass of clouds. The flash reflected off the shiny solar arrays of the ISS and back to the camera. The dim equatorial cloud sheet is so extensive that it covers most of the sea surface in this view.


Figure 36: This astronaut photo ISS044-E-45215 was acquired on August 9, 2015, with a Nikon D4 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, NASA/JSC. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 44 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)


• On May 17, 2016, ESA astronaut Tim Peake took this picture (Figure 37) from the International Space Station and commented: "Today the International Space Station completed its 100 000th orbit of our beautiful planet Earth! An amazing feat of science, engineering and international cooperation – congratulations Space Station." 32)

- The odometer was set when the first module, Zarya, was launched on 20 November 1998. Each orbit takes around 90 minutes to complete, but relative to Earth, the Station moves to the west by around 2200 km each time.

- Europe's Columbus module was added to the complex in 2008 and passed its own milestone last month: 26 April 2016 marked its 3000th day of operation in space. The Solar facility on Columbus has been observing the Sun for most of these 3000 days, tracking our star's output to help understand its influence on our climate.


Figure 37: On May 17, 2016, the ISS completed its 100,000th orbit of our beautiful planet Earth — this distance travelled is more 4.1 billion km, equivalent to 136 trips to the Sun and back to Earth. In the 6762 days it has been flying it has coped with the temperature swings of over 10 000 sunrises and sunsets (image credit: ESA, NASA)


• May 9, 2016: An astronaut aboard the ISS (International Space Station), a member of the Expedition 46 crew, shot the image of Figure 38, in recognizing an unusual river that vanishes in a sand field well before it reaches the sea. The Hamra River (As Saquia al Hamra in Arabic) ends about 15 km from the Atlantic Ocean in a dark blue lake. The river has cut into the landscape, making low cliffs on both sides. The river has its source in the mountains 300 km inland, and it provides a persistent water supply for El Aaiún, the biggest city in Western Sahara. The country 'Western Sahara' is a disputed territory ( 266,000 km2) in the Maghreb region of North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. One of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, Western Sahara has a population of nearly half a million people; nearly 40% of them live in El Aaiún. 33)


Figure 38: This astronaut photograph of the Western Sahara city of El Aaiún was acquired on February 21, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens. Small horn-shaped dunes are visible at the top left of the top image. The horns of these crescent dunes point south in the direction of dune movement. Sand from the dunes falls down the cliffs, making a spiky shoreline at the west end of the lake, and the dune field effectively prevents the river from reaching the sea. The dunes also restrict the westward expansion of the town. But scattered developments occupy an ancient delta of the river (top right) on more stable ground, where darker patches still indicate prior courses of the river.


Figure 39: This figure is a detail map of El Aaiún, the city blocks are easily detected in the gray cityscape. Even the white landing-marker lines on the airfield runways are visible, showing that the astronaut perfectly synchronized the camera's view-finder with the moving target. This allowed for one the best ground resolutions that can be achieved from the ISS: close to 3 meters per pixel (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, image provided by the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center)


• April 4, 2016: Looking almost straight down onto the Sahara Desert, a crew member aboard the International Space Station took this late afternoon photograph of the Grand Erg Oriental. Astronauts have a unique vantage point from which to view the large areas of Algeria and Libya covered by seas of sand. 34)

- Winds have organized vast quantities of sand into straight lines in what geologists call "compound linear chains." The chains are about 1.5 km wide in this view and rise 150 m above the smooth, intervening flats. The compound chains are made up of numerous smaller linear dunes with sharply defined crests (also known as seif dunes, after the Arabic word for sword). Linear dunes sometimes converge to a point with long tentacle-like arms called star dunes. An astronaut snapped a photo of individual, well-developed star dunes just 20 seconds after this photo was taken (Figure 41).

- Geologists now know that different wind patterns are responsible for different dune shapes. Winds that blow from one direction build linear dunes and, ultimately, chains like those in this image. The slight variation in wind direction pushes sand from one side of the dune and then from the other, making the sharp crests of the small linear dunes. These winds also stretch out the dune in the average direction of the winds (southward in this part of Algeria).

- By contrast, winds that blow with roughly equal strength from several directions make the star dunes. This suggests that the wind regime changed with time, first building the chains over a long period of time, and then becoming more multidirectional, so that the star dunes formed on top of the chains.

- Transverse dunes form at right angles to the wind direction. Relatively small transverse dunes can be seen at many points in this image. They were made by north winds channeled by the chains, especially along the outer flanks and in hollows within the chains.


Figure 40: This astronaut photo of Erg Oriental Dunes, Algeria was acquired on February 26, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 46 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)


Figure 41: Astronaut photo of individual, well-developed star dunes taken just 20 seconds after the image of Figure 40 on Feb. 26, 2016 in the Sahara Desert of Algeria (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory) 35)


• March 30, 2016: ESA astronaut Tim Peake photographed the iceberg in the Antarctic Sea (Figure 42) from the ISS and downlinked the image to ESA. In response, the ESA team tracked down the iceberg with the help of Leif Toudal from the Danish Meteorological Institute, ably assisted by Europe's Sentinel-1A radar satellite and NASA's Aqua satellite, both flying well above the Space Station at roughly 700 km. 36)

- Thanks to Leif and his spaceborne assistants, we now know that the iceberg in Tim's picture is "A56" and is around 26 km by 13 km, meaning it would fit inside London's Circular Road along its length with room to spare over its width. It has been estimated to be 30 m high, which means it could extend 270 m below the sea, considering most icebergs conceal 90% of their volume underwater.

- A56 originates from the Bellinghausen Sea and has been drifting around the area for at least nine months, slowly heading northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, floating more than 1500 km since July 2015. It is now off the coast of the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

- The International Space Station's orbit of 56.2 º inclination offers no clear view of Antarctica and a picture of an iceberg taken by an astronaut in space is a rare occurrence. Sentinel-1, however, is designed for continuous monitoring of sea ice and icebergs in the polar regions. Its advanced radar provides images regardless of weather or darkness, making it an invaluable tool for monitoring our environment and supporting ship navigation through these treacherous waters. View the very same A56 iceberg as seen by Sentinel-1A's radar on 23 July 2015 in the image of Figure 43.


Figure 42: Iceberg seen from the ISS. ESA astronaut Tim Peake saw this iceberg from the ISS 400 km above Earth on 27 March 2016 during his six-month Principia mission. Tim commented: "Granted – not the most exciting pic ever but this iceberg drifting off Antarctica is about the size of London," (image credit: ESA/NASA)


Figure 43: Iceberg A56 as observed by the C-SAR (C-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument of Sentinel-1A on July 23, 2015 (image credit: Copernicus Sentinel data (2015)/ESA)


• March 28, 2016: Astronauts need oblique views and low sun angles to get a strong sense three dimensions when they take photographs from the International Space Station. This photo of Figure 44 was taken with the most powerful lens presently on board. The low afternoon sun emphasizes the conical shape of Japan's most famous volcano, Mount Fuji. Other details enhance the sense of topography in the image, including numerous gullies in the flanks, as well as shadows cast in the summit- and side crater (Hoeia). 37)

- From orbit, even the highest mountains can look flat if the astronaut looks straight down and if the sun is high—a strange sensation for humans who know mountains from a ground-level standpoint. Figure 45 shows a slightly less detailed image of Mount Fuji, taken with an 800 mm lens when the sun was at a higher angle.

- Mount Fuji is one of Japan's most striking symbols, and tourism in the area is highly developed. The switchbacks of a climbing toll road can be seen clearly on the upper center margin of the image (Figure 44). As a satisfyingly symmetrical peak, Fuji is extensively photographed. As the highest peak in Japan (3776 meters or 12,389 feet), it is visible from great distances with a brilliant snow cap for many months of the year. Mount Fuji has great cultural importance in Japan as a hallowed mountain in the Shinto religion. Pilgrims have climbed the mountain as a devotional practice for centuries, and many shrines dot the landscape around the volcano, and are even located within the summit crater. For this reason, Mount Fuji is now a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site.


Figure 44: This astronaut photograph ISS046-E-35820 of Mount Fuji, Japan, was acquired on February 8, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 46 crew. (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)


Figure 45: Mount Fuji image acquired on April 8, 2009 by the SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission), taken by the Expedition 19 astronaut crew . This oblique (viewed at an angle, rather than straight down) astronaut photograph illustrates the snow-covered southeastern flank of the volcano. The northeastern flank is visible in this image (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)


• March 9, 2016: ESA astronaut Tim Peake took this image (Figure 46) circling Earth 400 km up in the International Space Station. He commented: "Sometimes looking down on Earth at night can be kinda spooky." Astronauts often spot thunderstorms and are impressed by how much lightning they observe. 38)

- Although this picture was taken in Tim's free time, the Station is used for research into elusive phenomena in the upper atmosphere during thunderstorms – red sprites, blue jets and elves. Some of the most violent electric discharges are very difficult to capture from the ground because of the atmosphere's blocking effect. From space, astronauts can judge for themselves where to aim the camera, where to zoom in and follow interesting regions for researchers.


Figure 46: The image shows lightning strikes illuminating clouds over Western Australia during a thunderstorm (image credit: ESA, NASA)


• March 2, 2016: NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth Tuesday after a historic 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station. They landed in Kazakhstan at 4:26 UTC on March 2. — Joining their return trip aboard a Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft was Sergey Volkov, also of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, who arrived on the station Sept. 4, 2015. The crew touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan. 39)


Figure 47: NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko enjoy the cold fresh air back on Earth after their historic 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station (image credit: NASA)

- "Scott Kelly's one-year mission aboard the International Space Station has helped to advance deep space exploration and America's Journey to Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Scott has become the first American astronaut to spend a year in space, and in so doing, helped us take one giant leap toward putting boots on Mars."

- During the record-setting One-Year mission, the station crew conducted almost 400 investigations to advance NASA's mission and benefit all of humanity. Kelly and Kornienko specifically participated in a number of studies to inform NASA's Journey to Mars, including research into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight. Kelly's identical twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, participated in parallel twin studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects of space on the body and mind down to the cellular level.

- One particular research project examined fluid shifts that occur when bodily fluids move into the upper body during weightlessness. These shifts may be associated with visual changes and a possible increase in intracranial pressure, which are significant challenges that must be understood before humans expand exploration beyond Earth's orbit. The study uses the Russian Chibis device to draw fluids back into the legs while the subject's eyes are measured to track any changes. NASA and Roscosmos already are looking at continuing the Fluid Shifts investigation with future space station crews.

- Including crew mate Gennady Padalka, with whom Kelly and Kornienko launched on March 27, 2015, 10 astronauts and cosmonauts representing six different nations (the United States, Russia, Japan, Denmark, Kazakhstan and England) lived aboard the space station during the yearlong mission.

- With the end of this mission, Kelly now has spent 520 days in space, the most among U.S. astronauts. Kornienko has accumulated 516 days across two flights, and Volkov has 548 days on three flights.

- Expedition 47 continues operating the station, with NASA astronaut Tim Kopra in command. Kopra, Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members in about two weeks. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka are scheduled to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on March 18, 2016.


• Feb. 29, 2016: Figure 48 is an astronaut photo of the Crimean Peninsula that juts into the Black Sea. A mild climate has made Crimea a popular destination for Ukrainians and Russians from colder climes to the north. 40)

- A series of shallow lagoons and wetlands known as the Sivash separates the peninsula from the mainland. At no more than 3 meters deep, these lagoons warm up in the summer and become quite salty due to evaporation. The waters farthest inland from the Sea of Azov tend to develop different colors as a result of the salt-tolerant algae that live in them. These western Sivash lagoons make a unique landscape that immediately indicates to astronauts that they are above Crimea.

- Crimea is a small part of the world (325 km in the east-west direction) but one that has acquired fame over the centuries. Sevastopol saw heavy fighting between the Russians and Germans in World War II, and Yalta is the city where Allied leaders met for their famous conference to discuss post-war arrangements. Balaklava, near Sevastopol, became famous during the Crimean War of the 1850's for the Charge of the Light Brigade—and for the head and neck garment first worn there by soldiers. Sevastopol is also the home port of Russia's Black Sea Fleet.


Figure 48: An astronaut aboard the ISS used a short lens to acquire this wide view of the diamond-shaped Crimean Peninsula that juts into the Black Sea. The image was acquired by a member of the Expedition 39 crew on May 7, 2014 with a Nikon D3S digital camera (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)


• Feb. 18, 2016: Nearing the final days of his history making one-year-long sojourn in orbit, space farming NASA astronaut Scott Kelly harvested the first ever crop of ‘Space Zinnias' grown aboard the ISS on a most appropriate day – Valentine's Day, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. 41)


Figure 49: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly harvested his space grown Zinnia's on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 2016 aboard the International Space Station (image credit: NASA, Scott Kelly/@StationCDRKelly)

- After enduring an unexpected series of trial and tribulations – including a fearsome attack of ‘space mold' – Kelly summoned his inner ‘Mark Watney' and brought the Zinnia's to life, blossoming in full color and drenched in natural sunlight (Figure 49). He spent weeks lovingly nursing the near dead plants back to health and proudly displayed the fruits of his blooming labor through the windows of the domed Cupola, jutting out from the orbiting outpost and dramatically back dropped by the blue waters of Earth and the blackness of space.

- "Nursed the #SpaceFlowers all the way to today and now all that remains are memories," tweeted NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly on Feb 14, 2016. — "Happy #Valentines Day!"

- The zinnias are thus contributing invaluable experience to scientists and astronauts learning how to grow plants and food in microgravity during future deep space human expeditions planned for NASA's "Journey to Mars" initiative. The experimental Space Zinnias are truly an important part of NASA's ongoing crop research activities and are being grown in the stations Veggie plant growth facility.

- But it wasn't always looking so rosy for the zinnias. Just before Christmas, Kelly found that these same Zinnias were suffering from a serious case of space blight when he discovered traces of mold on the flowers growing inside Veggie (see Figure 54).

- Kelly asked to be given decision making power and was assigned as an "autonomous gardener," Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy payload scientist for Veggie, explained to Universe Today during a visit to the Veggie ground control experiment facility at NASA/KSC (Kennedy Space Center) in Florida (Figure 50).

- Ever since then, the space stations zinnias have been on the rebound. "I think we've learned a lot about doing this kind of experiment. We're being farmers in space," Kelly explained before the harvest. "I was extra motivated to bring the plants back to life. I'm going to harvest them on Valentine's Day."


Figure 50: Ground truth Zinnia plants growing inside an experimental tray of six Veggie pillow sets in a controlled environment chamber in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida (image credit: Ken Kremer)

- Meanwhile back on Earth, scientists harvested the counterpart ‘ground truth' Zinnia's being grown at Veggie ground control in the Space Station Processing Facility at KSC on Feb. 11, the same way they are being grown and harvested on the ISS.

- The team will compare and contrast the results of the ground and space grown zinnias in designing future space farming experiments.


Figure 51: Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy payload scientist for Veggie, works with ground control Zinnia plants growing in a tray of Veggie pillow sets inside a controlled environment growth chamber in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida (image credit: Ken Kremer)

- Kelly's space farming success comes just in the nick of time, as he is now less than two weeks away from the culmination of his ‘1 Year in Space' mission aboard the ISS. Kelly is the first American to spend a year in space. And he comprises one half of the first ever ‘1 Year ISS crew' – along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko.

- Kelly and Kornienko serve as human guinea pigs for studying the effects of long term spaceflight in zero gravity on the human body that will aid planning for sending people on years long expeditions to Mars. The dynamic duo and their four co-orbiting international crewmates are conducting hundreds of experiments aimed at paving the path for the eventual multi-year expeditions to the Red Planet (Ref 41).


• February 2, 2016: ESA astronaut Tim Peake took this image of London, UK, from the International Space Station 400 km above Earth. At the time it was midnight in the capital city and, because the Space Station runs on Greenwich Mean Time, it was also the same time for Tim Peake. 42)

- The lights in the image are mainly street lighting, illuminating the streets of London. Lights appearing blue are LED-lit areas. Black areas in the picture correspond to unlit areas such as parks and rivers – the distinctive wind of the River Thames shows in black. Hyde Park, Regent's Park and Battersea Park are recognizable in the center, the reservoirs at Walthamstow are upper center, and Richmond Park is at lower left.


Figure 52: The city of London on a clear night, photographed from the ISS on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 (image credit: ESA, NASA)


• ESA astronaut Tim Peake of the UK, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and Russian cosmonaut commander Yuri Malenchenko arrived at the International Space Station on Dec. 15, 2015, six hours after their launch in the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This marks the start of Tim's six-month Principia mission. 43)

- After a few busy weeks, Tim posted a series of aurora photos onto his flickr website ( . The image of Figure 53, labeled "magical aurora", is one of Tim's photo series. 44)


Figure 53: ESA astronaut Tim Peake posted a series of photos of aurora as seen from on board the International Space Station, commenting: "Getting a photo masterclass from Scott Kelly – magical aurora." This photo of an aurora was acquired on Jan. 20, 2016 (image credit: ESA, NASA)


• January 20, 2016: The first Zinnia flower to bloom in space is dramatically catching the sun's rays like we have never seen before – through the windows of the Cupola on the ISS while simultaneously providing a splash of soothing color, nature and reminders of home to the multinational crew living and working on the orbital science laboratory. 45)

- Furthermore its contributing invaluable experience to scientists and astronauts on learning how to grow plants and food in microgravity during future deep space human expeditions planned for NASA's "Journey to Mars" initiative.


Figure 54: Photo of first ever blooming space Zinnia flower grown onboard the International Space Station's Veggie facility moved to catch the sun's rays through the windows of the Cupola backdropped by Earth (image credit: NASA, Scott Kelly)

- NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly is proudly sharing stunning new photos showing off his space grown Zinnias – which bloomed for the first time on Jan. 16, all thanks to his experienced green thumb.

- Whereas the Zinnia plants are normally bathed with red, green and blue LED lighting in the chamber, Kelly decided to further nurture the plants with some all natural sunlight from our life giving sun. The Veggie experiment is comprised of "pillows" holding the Zinnia flower seedlings that provide nutrients to the plants root system inside the experimental and low-cost illuminated growth chamber.

- The Veggie plant growth facility was installed on the orbiting laboratory in early May of 2014, and the first crop – ‘Outredgrous' red romaine lettuce – was activated for growth. The first growth cycle faced some issues. "We lost two plants due to drought stress in the first grow out and thus were very vigilant with respect to the second crop," said Trent Smith, Veggie project manager. 46)

- The second crop of the same lettuce was activated in early July 2015 by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, and thanks to lessons learned from the first run, adjustments to watering and collecting imagery of the plants were made. The leafy greens grew according to schedule, with only one plant pillow not producing. This time the crew was able to eat the lettuce when it was ready to be harvested a month later.

- Veggie will remain on the station permanently and could become a research platform for other top-growing plant experiments. ORBITEC developed Veggie through a Small Business Innovative Research Program. NASA and ORBITEC engineers and collaborators at Kennedy worked to get the unit's hardware flight-certified for use on the space station.

- The next crop on the docket was a batch of zinnia flowers, but they weren't selected for their beauty. They were chosen because they can help scientists understand how plants flower and grow in microgravity. "The zinnia plant is very different from lettuce, said Trent Smith, Veggie project manager. "It is more sensitive to environmental parameters and light characteristics. It has a longer growth duration between 60 and 80 days. Thus, it is a more difficult plant to grow, and allowing it to flower, along with the longer growth duration, makes it a good precursor to a tomato plant.

- When Scott Kelly tweeted a picture of moldy leaves on the current crop of zinnia flowers aboard the ISS, it could have looked like the science was doomed. In fact, science was blooming stronger than ever. What may seem like a failure in systems is actually an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity, and for astronauts to practice doing what they'll be tasked with on a deep space mission: autonomous gardening.


Figure 55: Mold growth initially grew on the plant in pillow E in the bottom left corner of the plant mat (image credit: NASA)

- The survival of the Zinnias is a direct result of Kelly requesting permission to take personal change of caring for the plants without having to constantly ask Mission Control for pages and pages of detailed instructions and direction. Thus after Christmas he was liberated to act on his own discretion and christened as "an autonomous gardener." The Zinnias have been on the rebound ever since and the proof is in the blooming.


Figure 56: The Zinnia flower blooms in space for the first time in the Veggie growth facility aboard the International Space Station on Jan. 16, 2016 (image credit: NASA, Scott Kelly, Ref. 45)


• December, 2015: Expedition 46 Flight Engineer Tim Kopra on a Dec. 21, 2015 spacewalk, in which Kopra and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly successfully moved the International Space Station's mobile transporter rail car ahead of the Dec. 23 docking of a Russian cargo supply spacecraft. After quickly completing their primary objective for the spacewalk, Kelly and Kopra tackled several additional "get-ahead" tasks. Kelly routed a second pair of cables in preparation for International Docking Adapter installment work to support U.S. commercial crew vehicles. Kopra routed an Ethernet cable that ultimately will connect to a Russian laboratory module. They also retrieved tools that had been in a toolbox on the outside of the station, so they can be used for future work. -The three-hour and 16-minute spacewalk was the second for Kopra, who arrived to the station on Dec. 15, and the third for Kelly, who is nine months into a yearlong mission. 47)


Figure 57: NASA astronaut Tim Kopra is seen floating during a spacewalk on Dec. 21, 2015, during which he and fellow NASA astronaut Scott Kelly successfully moved the International Space Station's mobile transporter rail car in preparation for the docking of a cargo supply spacecraft (image credit: NASA)


• On Dec. 11. 2015, Expedition 45 crew members Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos and Kimiya Yui of JAXA safely concluded their nearly 5 month mission aboard the massive orbiting lab complex with a soft landing on the frozen steppes of Kazakhstan. The trio, led by Soyuz commander Kononenko, leave behind three more comrades from Russia and America who remain aboard the ISS until early March, including the first ever one year mission crew comprising Station Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos. 48)

- The station crew will soon be supplemented by the remaining half of Expedition 46, comprising the three new crew members of NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency). They are slated to blastoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on Dec. 15, 2015.


Figure 58: Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA captured this image, from aboard the ISS, of the Dec. 11, 2015 undocking and departure of the Soyuz TMA-17M carrying home Expedition 45 crew members Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Kimiya Yui of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) after their 141-day mission on the orbital laboratory. The Orbital ATK Cygnus CRS-4 cargo ship (arrival on Dec. 9) and its solar panels are seen at upper right (image credit: NASA, Scott Kelly )


Figure 59: Photo of the Orbital ATK CRS-4 cargo freighter arriving in the vicinity of the station on Dec. 9, 2015. After moving close in to the station, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren deftly grappled the Cygnus vehicle with Canadarm2 while operating the robotic arm from a robotics work station inside the seven windowed domed cupola. (image credit: NASA, Scott Kelly) 49)


• November 16, 2015: Using a powerful lens, an astronaut aboard the ISS photographed the north end of the Suez Canal, along with the city centers and port facilities of Port Said and Port Fuad. Local ship traffic takes on and discharges cargo at the angular shaped docks. A long breakwater protects ships in canal from the prevailing westerly winds and waves that blow across the canal entrance. Muddy, light-brown water from the Nile delta banks up against the west side of the breakwater. 50)

- Both ports lie on the west fork of the canal. The east fork was specifically built to allow ships on long hauls—typically between Europe and Asia, via the Mediterranean Sea—to avoid congestion at the west-fork ports. In 2014, Egypt announced plans to ease congestion by digging another canal parallel to the present one; canal tolls provide much needed foreign exchange for Egypt. Current plans only include a parallel canal along half pf the 160 km length.


Figure 60: This astronaut photo of Port Said and Port Fuad, taken by a member of the Expedition 43 crew, was acquired on June 10, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 1150 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)


As of November 2, 2015, the ISS achieved 15 years of a continuous human presence in orbit — aboard the football field sized research laboratory ever since the first Russian/American crew of three cosmonauts and astronauts comprising Expedition 1 arrived in a Soyuz capsule at the then much tinier infant orbiting complex on Nov. 2, 2000. 51)


Figure 61: The ISS has grown tremendously in size and complexity and evolved significantly over 15 years of continuous human occupation from Nov. 2, 2000 to Nov. 2, 2015 (image credit: NASA)


Figure 62: The 6 person ISS Expedition 45 Crew celebrates 15 Years of operation with humans on 2 Nov 2015. The complete Expedition 45 crew members include Station Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko, Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Volkov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (image credit:: NASA)

- The space station is the largest engineering and construction project in space combining the funding, hardware, knowhow, talents and crews from 5 space agencies and 15 countries – NASA (USA), Roscomos (Russia), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

- The collaborative work in space has transcended our differences here on Earth and points the way forward to an optimistic future that benefits all humanity.

- The station orbits at an altitude of about 400 km above Earth. It measures 109 m end-to-end and has an internal pressurized volume of 915 m3, equivalent to that of a Boeing 747.

- Over the past 15 years, after more than 115 construction and logistic flights, the station has grown by leaps and bounds from its small initial configuration of only three pressurized modules from Russia and America into a sprawling 450,000 kg orbiting outpost sporting a habitable volume the size of a six bedroom house, with additional new modules and hardware from Europe, Japan and Canada. — The ISS has been visited by over 220 people from 17 countries.

- The longevity of the ISS was recently extended from 2020 to 2024 after approval from President Barack Obama. Most of the partners nations have also agreed to the extension. Many in the space community believe the station hardware is quite resilient and hope for further extensions to 2028 and beyond (Ref. 51)


• October 28, 2015: Having reached the halfway mark of his latest one-year mission and overall logging a record-breaking time in space approaching 400 days, U.S. astronaut and commander of the current Expedition 45 crew Scott Kelly has been dazzling audiences with beautiful pictures taken from beyond Earth's atmosphere. He recently photographed the Nile River during a nighttime flyover on Sept. 22, 2015 (Figure 63). 52)

- The The Nile is the longest river in the world at 6,650 km. Although typically associated with Egypt, the river also flows through Burundi, Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda, providing water to more than 300 million people.


Figure 63: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly captured this nighttime image on Sept. 22, 2015 of the Persian Gulf and Nile River, which empties into the Mediterranean amid the bright lights of Cairo the Nile Delta and many cities and urban areas (population centers) in the Near East (image credit: NASA/JSC)


• Sept. 7, 2015: Figure 64 is an astronaut photo from the ISS of Chilubi Island in Zambia. The light-toned sand island stands out from the dark waters of Lake Bangweulu. In the two photos, we see a few patches of open water between the fingers of the island. The waters are crowded by areas of aquatic vegetation and wetland (reeds, papyrus, and floating grass) in green. Lake Bangweulu, which is only 4 m deep on average, is rich enough to supply fish for the copper-mining towns to the west. 53)

- Chilubi Island has 100 km of coastline, providing prime access to the richest fishing waters in northern Zambia. Those coastlines are smoothed by easterly winds that erode ancient sand dunes. The narrow strips of lighter toned land along the shorelines are areas that have been mostly denuded of vegetation by residents of the densely populated fishing villages. - The UK explorer and missionary David Livingstone (1813-1873) was the first European to visit the lake in 1868.


Figure 64: This astronaut photo by a member of the Expedition 44 crew was acquired on June 14, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 1150 mm lens (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, M. Justin Wilkinson)


Figure 65: This is an image of the OLI camera on Landsat-8, acquired on August 22, 2015, providing a perspective view of Chilubi Island and Lake Bangweulu (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, M. Justin Wilkinson)


• August 24, 2015: The astronaut photos of Figures 66 and 67 were acquired on August 10, 2015 by a member of the Expedition 44 crew, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 28 mm lens, and are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. 54)

- These photos show the sprite's tendrils reaching as much as 100 km above Earth's surface. Sprites are major electrical discharges, but they are not lightning in the usual sense. Instead, they are a cold plasma phenomenon without the extremely hot temperatures of lightning that we see underneath thunderstorms. Red sprites are more like the discharge of a fluorescent tube. Bursts of sprite energy are thought to occur during most large thunderstorm events. They were first photographed in 1989.


Figure 66: Viewing from a point over northwest Mexico, astronauts aboard the ISS looked northeast and shot this unusual photograph of a red sprite above the white light of an active thunderstorm. In this figure, acquired on August 10, 2015, the sprite was 2,200 km away, high over Missouri or Illinois; the lights of Dallas, Texas appear in the foreground. The sprite shoots up to the greenish airglow layer, near a rising moon (image credit: NASA/JSC)


Figure 67: Two minutes and 58 seconds later, as the ISS was over the coastal Mexican resort of Acapulco, the crew documented another red sprite over a brilliant white thundercloud and lightning discharge near the coast of El Salvador. The shorter distance to the storm—about 1,150 km—makes it somewhat easier to see details of the sprite. City lights are a diffuse yellow because they are shining through clouds (image credit: NASA/JSC)


• August 10, 2015: Astronauts on the International Space Station recognize the smooth, broad bend that separates mountains and plains as the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. This sudden break between plains and mountains makes Denver one of the most spectacular cities in the United States. Canyons cut through the snow-covered mountains. Boulder Canyon provides water to the city of Boulder, while tourists exploring the Rocky Mountains pass through Idaho Springs in the Clear Creek valley. 55)

- The plains fronting the mountains are now heavily populated. The cities and urban counties centered on Denver have an estimated population of 2.7 million people. The rectangular plot of highways and main roads gives the cityscape a blocky appearance—a pattern that has spread southward more than 40 km to the wooded hills south of the town of Parker.

- Rich farmland competes with urban land uses areas in the fertile Platte River valley (bottom right of the image) and surrounding plains north of Denver. This intensively farmed area appears from space as a pattern of numerous smaller plots. Less intensive land-use areas (such as spring and winter wheat) are marked by much larger plots of land, as seen around Denver's international airport.


Figure 68: This astronaut photo of the Expedition 44 crew, ISS043-E-156572 of the Denver region, was acquired on April 29, 2015 with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 140 mm lens (image credit: NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth)


• June 29, 2015: The astronaut photo (Figure 69) from the ISS, provided by the Expedition 43 crew, depicts the brightly colored Laguna Colorada in the Bolivian Andes Mountains. The lack of atmospheric haze at high altitude — the lake sits 4,300 m above sea level — helps make images of the region especially clear. The strong red-brown color of this shallow, 10 km long lake is derived from algae that thrive in its salty water. 56)

- Occasionally the lake has green phases as well because different algae display different colors. The type of algae at any given time is determined by the changing salinity and temperature of the water. As lake water evaporates in the desert climate, it becomes saline. Ancient shorelines show that the lake has been larger in the past.

- Laguna Colorada is the center of a wildlife reserve, and it was listed in 1990 as a "Ramsar Wetland of International Importance." The lake is home to vast numbers of flamingos.

- Snow-capped volcanoes appear at the top center and lower left. Access roads on three sides of the lake are used by tourists to visit these other-worldly landscapes.


Figure 69: Laguna Colorada in the Bolivian Andes Mountains, acquired on April 16, 2015 with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 400 mm lens (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, M. Justin Wilkinson)


• June 13, 2015: On his last full day in space aboard the ISS, NASA astronaut Terry Virts captured a truly iconic shot of one of the "Seven Wonders of the World" – the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. The three pyramids of Giza dominate the fantastically beautiful photo. They are located about 9 km from the town of Giza on the Nile, and some 25 km southwest of the Egyptian capital city of Cairo. 57)


Figure 70: Snapshot of the Great Egyptian Pyramids of Giza from the Cupola of the ISS, captured by Terry Virts on June 10, 2015 (image credit: NASA, Terry Virts)


• June 11, 2015: Three crew members of the ISS (International Space Station) returned to Earth on the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft after a 199-day mission that included several spacewalks, technology demonstrations, and hundreds of scientific experiments spanning multiple disciplines, including human and plant biology. 58)

- During their time aboard the orbiting laboratory, the crew members participated in a variety of research activities focusing on the effects of microgravity on cells, Earth observation, physical science, and biological and molecular science. Their research included the start of a one-year study into human health management over long-duration space travel with the March arrival of NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko — the One-Year Crew.

- In preparation for the arrival of U.S. commercial crew vehicles, Virts ventured outside the station for three planned spacewalks to make adjustments for new International Docking Adapters (IDA) that can accommodate the spacecraft. The first IDA is scheduled to arrive on SpaceX's seventh commercial resupply flight later this month.

- The returning crew members will celebrate individual milestones in their space exploration careers. With the completion of his second mission, Virts now has spent 212 days in space. Shkaplerov, having completed his second long-duration mission on the station, has spent 364 days in space. Cristoforetti set a new record for single mission duration by a female astronaut with 199 days in space on her first flight, surpassing NASA astronaut Suni Williams' previous record of 195 days as a flight engineer on Expeditions 14 and 15 from December 2006 to June 2007.


Figure 71: Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA touched down on June 11, 2015, southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan (image credit: NASA TV)


• Since docking with the International Space Station on 24 November 2014, the Soyuz TMA-15M has been waiting for its return flight to Earth. On June 11, 2015, ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, NASA astronaut Terry Virts and cosmonaut commander Anton Shkaplerov will enter the spacecraft and close the hatch after 200 days in space. 59)

- Not much will remain of the craft once it lands on the Kazakh steppe some three hours after leaving the Space Station. The vessel will separate into three modules, with only the middle one designed to survive the extreme heat and forces of reentry. The sections sporting the solar wings, symbols and antenna will burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

- When the trio slowly back away from the Station at around 10:20 GMT they will be travelling at 28 800 km/h relative to the ground. The Soyuz thrusters, parachutes and even springs will bring them to a halt with a thump at the end of their mission.

- It is a bumpy ride, but a safe one. Each Soyuz comes with a ‘space warranty' of 210 days, leaving TMA-15M with a comfortable margin as it comes home.


Figure 72: Snapshot, taken by Samantha of the Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft, docked at the ISS (image credit: ESA, NASA)


• June 5, 2015: After more than six months of performing scientific research and technology demonstrations in space, three International Space Station crew members are scheduled to depart the orbiting laboratory Thursday, June 11. 60)


Figure 73: NASA astronaut Terry Virts (left) Commander of Expedition 43 on the ISS along with crewmates Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov (center) and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti on May 6, 2015 perform a checkout of their Russian Soyuz spacesuits in preparation for the journey back to Earth (image credit: NASA)


• June 8, 2015: Astronauts aboard the ISS used a high magnification lens to capture the details of the Aswan High Dam on the River Nile in southern Egypt. This vast engineering project was started in 1960 and completed in 1970, and it is one of the largest earthen embankment dams in the world at 3,830 m long and nearly 1,000 m wide. 61)

- The Aswan High Dam holds back 132 km3 of water in Lake Nasser. Hydropower generated at the dam wall provides 2.1 GW— which was fully half of Egypt's needs in 1970 — giving numerous villages access to electricity for the first time. The dam virtually eliminated the danger of floods downstream in the Nile Valley, which has had both positive and negative effects downstream.

- The highly indented shoreline of 550 km long Lake Nasser is a familiar sight to astronauts. Building the new reservoir necessitated the relocation not only of nearly 100,000 residents, but also of four famous archaeological sites that were later reconstructed in sites above the lake level. The tourist road that passes near the airstrip (Figure 74) leads to the massive rock temple of Abu Simbel (outside the image), built by Pharaoh Ramses II in the 13th century BCE. The temple was reassembled above the shoreline of Lake Nasser.


Figure 74: The astronaut photo of the Aswan High Dam was acquired on April 12, 2015, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 800 mm lens, taken by a member of the Expedition 43 crew (image credit: NASA/JSC)


• June 1, 2015: The photo of Figure 75 was taken as astronauts on the International Space Station flew over the delta and green swamps of the Paraná River on the Atlantic coast of Argentina. The Paraná, South America's second largest river after the Amazon, pours muddy water into a wide estuary known as the Plata River. 62)

- The gray mass of Argentina's capital city, Buenos Aires (metro population of 12.7 million in 2010), is less prominent when viewed from space, although astronauts quickly attune their eyes to the subtle signature of cityscapes. Numerous small farm plots on red soils surround the delta and city. — The muddy, brown Paraná originates in the Andes Mountains. The river mirrors the Amazon, which is also turbid and arises in the Andes. In this image, tidal backwash transports muddy water a short distance upstream into the smaller Uruguay River.


Figure 75: Photo of the Plata River (south coast: Argentina; north cost: Uruguay), acquired on April 6, 2015 with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 50 mm lens. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Expedition 43 crew)


• Figure 76 is an image of the External Instrument Sites on the ISS to provide the reader community with an overview of the Station Facilities. 63) 64) 65)


Figure 76: Overview of External Payload Attachment Sites of the ISS (image credit: National Research Council)

Legend to Figure 76: ELC = ExPRESS Logistics Carrier sites of NASA; AMS = Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer; Columbus EPF =External Payload Facility, the Columbus Module is a contribution of ESA to the ISS Program; JEM-EF = Japanese Experiment Module - External Facility, the JEM/Kibo is a contribution of JAXA to the ISS Program.


• May 11, 2005: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is sharing her world in space with video tours of her experiments, the space toilet and bathroom as well as giving lessons about gravity. Samantha's mission is named ‘Futura' to highlight the science and technology research she runs in weightlessness to help shape our future. She is flying as an ESA astronaut for Italy's space agency ASI under a special agreement between ASI and NASA. Samantha, Terry Virts and Anton Shkaplerov arrived at the Space Station when their Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft docked with the space laboratory on 24 November 2014. Since then they have seen five supply spacecraft arrive and leave, and worked on countless experiments. As much time as possible is spent on science during their 40-hour working week. Samantha runs experiments from ASI and ESA, but takes part in even more from scientists all over the world. Many are continuations from previous expeditions – the longevity of the International Space Station is part of what makes it so special for scientists. 66)


Figure 77: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is sharing her world in space with video tours of her experiments, the space toilet and bathroom as well as giving lessons about gravity (image credit: ESA)

The interested reader may click on the four videos provided (Ref. 66) to follow Samantha through the ISS.


• April 27, 2015: The photographs of Figure 78 and Figure 79 were acquired on April 10, 2015 as astronauts aboard the ISS flew over the headlands of the southern Brazilian port city of Florianópolis. The east side (top right) and west side (lower left) of the city are joined by bridges spanning the 400 m wide narrows. The International Airport of Florianópolis appears on the lower right in both images. The city has one of the highest-quality-of-life indices in Brazil. 67)

- Astronauts gain a sense for the sunglint point moving across Earth's surface as the ISS is orbiting the planet. These images are an example of the training, crews receive in the special effects inherent in near-glint-point images of water bodies. The astronaut photographs ISS043-E-101431 and ISS043-E-101445 were acquired with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 800 mm lens, and are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The images were taken by a member of the Expedition 43 crew. The images have been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed.


Figure 78: This image is illuminated by the partial reflection of the Sun. This sunglint reveals many details in the water surface, especially wind streaks and boat wakes. The water south of the city is far brighter than to the north, probably because the hills of the city protect water surfaces from the wind on the leeward side, leading to calmer water and a brighter reflection. On the day of the photograph (April 10, 2015), the winds were blowing from the north (upper left), meaning waters were calmer south of the city.


Figure 79: This photo was taken just 31 seconds after the glint point had moved off the view, and it shows quite different features in the water—especially the brown, muddy outflow of a small stream that enters the bay near the airport. Most coastlines show faint brown tinges in the water; these arise from wave action stirring up shoreline muds, as well as from city pollution.


• April 1, 2015: NASA astronaut Terry Virts shared his views of Super Typhoon Maysak, including this terrifying view looking straight down into the huge eye of the storm (Figure 80). The Pacific Ocean typhoon has slammed several Micronesian islands, killing 5 people so far, and is now on its way westwards to the Philippines. As of early on April 1, Maysak had sustained winds of 240 km/h, equivalent of a category 4 hurricane. Gusts as high as 390 km/h are possible with this storm. 68)


Figure 80: The eye of Maysak, a category 4 Super Typhoon, as photographed by astronaut Terry Virts on board the ISS (image credit: NASA, Terry Virts)


• March 30, 2015: The east-looking astronaut photo of Figure 81 from the ISS shows the arid landscapes of the Sahara and the darker vegetation of the wetter, semi-arid woodland known as the Sahel. 69)

The dark green marshes of Lake Chad stand out in the foreground. Even though it is more than 200 km long, modern Lake Chad is just a small remnant of a vast lake that has repeatedly occupied the most of this landscape in the recent geological past. This lake basin stretches almost 1000 km from the foreground of the image to the foot of the Tibesti Mountains. The lowest slopes of the Tibesti show the remnants of great deltas.

The image also captures an active dust plume, though it is partly obscured by the "Canadarm" of the Space Station. The dust rises from the white mud flats of the ancient lake bed, likely from the Bodele Depression. Lofted into the atmosphere by northeasterly winds, dust from this basin often reaches the Atlantic Ocean, which is thousands of kilometers to the west. Occasionally this dust is even carried by weather systems as far as the Americas.


Figure 81: The Sahara desert, photographed by astronauts from the ISS on Feb. 12, 2015 (image credit: NASA, Earth Observatory)

Legend to Figure 81: This photograph was acquired with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 32 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 42 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed.


• March 23, 2015: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took these two images (Figure 82) from the International Space Station during her six-month mission. The Progress cargo ship and Soyuz crew spacecraft reflect sunlight as our star sets behind Earth. Samantha commented on the pictures: "Before the orbital night embraces our outpost in space this cold metallic light shines on the Space Station." 70)

- The colors appear as sunlight slices through the atmosphere. Light with shorter wavelengths is scattered by oxygen in the air first and appears blue. If sunlight hits the atmosphere at a low angle, it travels further through the air and more blue light is filtered out, creating the redder hue.


Figure 82: A sunset happens quickly in orbit – these two images (left and right) were taken on March 3, 2015 just two minutes apart before the Sun disappeared, returning just 45 minutes later (image credit, ESA, NASA)

Legend to Figure 82: Traveling at 28 800 km/h, astronauts can enjoy a sunset and sunrise 16 times a day as they circle our planet in the Space Station.


• March 16, 2015: Astronauts of the Expedition 42 crew, flying on the International Space Station, took this photograph of California's southernmost coastal city. The mouth of San Diego Bay, between North Island and the Point Loma peninsula, is just over a kilometer wide. The rocky coast near Point Loma appears jagged compared to the smooth curve of the sandy beach on North Island. - Despite some thin clouds, the image shows port facilities and the San Diego International Airport. Near the mouth of the bay, numerous civilian boats occupy the marinas at Shelter Island and Harbor Island (south and southwest of the airport). 71)


Figure 83: Astronaut photo of San Diego, CA, acquired on January 10, 2015 with a Nikon D4 digital camera using an 800 mm lens (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Legend to Figure 83: The curved Coronado peninsula (also termed North Island) is a well-known landmark for astronauts and home to Naval Air Station North Island, the largest aerospace employer in region. The San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge links the peninsula to the mainland. The U.S. West Coast fleet is based across the bay at Naval Base San Diego, with thirteen long piers for warships.


• ISS EVA (Extravehicular Activity): NASA astronauts Berry Wilmore and Terry Virts of the Expedition 42 crew performed three spacewalks in the last week of February 2015 to reconfigure the ISS in preparation for the docking of future commercial space flights.

Crew / EVA


Start (UTC)

End (UTC)


Expedition 42, EVA 1

Barry E. Wilmore
Terry W. Virts

21 February 2015

21 February 2015

6 hours, 41 minutes

Rigged and routed power and data cables at the forward end of the Harmony module as part of preparations for the installation of the International Docking Adapter at PMA-2 (Pressurized Mating Adapter-2).

Expedition 42, EVA 2

Barry E. Wilmore
Terry W. Virts

25 February 2015

25 February 2015

6 hours, 43 minutes

Completed power and data cable routing at the forward end of the Harmony module. Removed launch locks from forward and aft berthing ports of Tranquility to prepare for relocation of the Permanent Multipurpose Module and the installation of the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. Lubricated end effector of Canadarm2.

Expedition 42, EVA 3

Barry E. Wilmore
Terry W. Virts

01 March 2015

1 March 2015

5 hours, 38 minutes

Finished cable routing, antenna and retro-reflector installation on both sides of the ISS truss and on other modules in preparation for the installation of the IDA (International Docking Adapter) at PMA-2 and -3.

Table 1: Overview of EVA activities 72)


Figure 84: NASA astronaut Terry Virts pictured on 21 Feb. 2015, during the first of three ISS spacewalks being conducted by the Expedition 42 crew; Virts is seen working to complete a cable routing task while near the forward facing port of the Harmony module on the ISS (image credit: NASA ,ISS042E283139)

• NASA astronauts Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore ended their spacewalk at 17:30 UTC on March 1, 2015 with the repressurization of the Quest airlock. Wilmore and Virts accomplished all planned objectives and one get-ahead task within a Phased Elapsed Time (PET) of 5 hours 38 minutes. Cristoforetti and Shkaplerov assisted during suit donning and doffing activities. The Joint Airlock egress took place at 6:52 UTC and post EVA hatch closure at 12:27 UTC. Objectives accomplished during today's EVA are as follows: 73)

- P3 C2V2 Boom, Antenna, and Retro-Reflector Install

- Lab MMOD Shield Removal, C2V2 Cable Route and Connect to Lab

- Deploy and Connect P3 C2V2 Cable C and D

- Deploy and Connect S3 C2V2 Cable A and B

- Get-ahead task: GTEC Bag Retrieval

- Today's Planned Activities

- All activities are completed unless otherwise noted.

Background: The ISS program managers and engineers are working on long-term plans to support future crew and cargo vehicles, including the installation of a new docking system onto the station for use by future commercial crew vehicles, along with the relocation of some Station modules, in order to free up ports for use by future crew and cargo spacecraft. - In preparation for the arrival of new commercial crew vehicles to the ISS in late 2017 – which will use a brand new docking system – the existing docking ports on the ISS need to be converted to the new standard, before any commercial crew vehicles can dock to the outpost. 74)

Currently, the station has one usable port for docking – Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 (PMA-2) located on the Forward end of the Node 2 module. Another PMA (PMA-3) is also on the ISS, however in its current location (the Port side of Node 3) it is inaccessible for docking.

Both PMA-2 and PMA-3 feature a Russian-designed APAS (Androgynous Peripheral Attachment System) docking interface as was used by the now retired Space Shuttle fleet.

However, the new fleet of commercial crew vehicles currently planned to begin arriving at the ISS in 2017 will use a new docking interface, known as the NDS (NASA Docking System).

In October 2010, the ISS international partners met to agree on a new IDSS (International Docking System Standard), which rather than being a specific docking system, was simply a standard to which any country or company could design their own docking system to. Hence, NASA's implementation of the IDSS became known as the NASA Docking System (NDS).

The current (2015) plan of NASA is to fly two IDAs (International Docking Adapters) to the ISS, which will attach to the two PMAs in order to convert their APAS interfaces into SIMAC (Soft Impact Mating Attenuation Concept) interfaces, which in turn will be used by all future commercial crew vehicles.

- SpaceX CRS-7 is a cargo resupply mission to the ISS planned for launch in June 2015. The IDA-1 is scheduled to be delivered to the International Space Station on CRS-7. This adapter will be attached to one of the existing PMAs (Pressurized Mating Adapters) ,specifically, PMA-2 or PMA-3, and convert the existing APAS-95 docking interface to the new NASA Docking System (NDS). The new adapter is intended to facilitate future docking of new US human-transport spacecraft. Previous US cargo missions since the retirement of the Space Shuttle have been berthed, rather than docked, while docking is considered the safer and preferred method for spacecraft carrying humans.

NASA is introducing IDSS (International Docking System Standard) to promote interoperability. The goal is to enable exploration collaboration between partners using different spacecraft. Two IDAs were developed for implementation on the International Space Station. 75)

Boeing is the primary contractor for the IDAs (International Docking Adapters) and the adapters were assembled at their Houston Product Support Center.


ISS (International Space Station) Mission Control Centers:

1) MMC-H (Mission Control Center-Houston) of NASA/JSC (Johnson Space Center) is responsible for overall mission control of the ISS . MCC-H has overall authority and responsibility for the safety of the ISS and crew, planning and plan execution, systems operations, and anomaly troubleshooting. The MCC-H FD (Flight Director) leads the real-time execution and will receive status information from the various control centers on significant Station operations activities which are being conducted. The MCC-H FD approves all MCC-H commands to the Station, and the initiation of any potentially hazardous operation.

2) POIC (Payload Operations and Integration Center) of NASA/MSFC (Marshall Space Flight Center), Huntsville, AL. POIC is the headquarters for International Space Station science operations. This Control Center links Earth-bound researchers and developers from around the world with their experiments and astronauts aboard the ISS. The role of POIC has become ever more important since space station assembly was completed in the fall of 2011. Since 2001, the center has worked with thousands of scientific investigators from around the world to perform scientific research in a variety of disciplines from astrophysics to human research to technology demonstrations to help future space explorers.

3) TsUP (Mission Control Center Moscow for International Space Station), Korolov City, Moscow Region. TsUP is the primary Russian facility for the control of human space flight; it is responsible for the launch, rendezvous, docking, assembly and control of the Russian elements. In coordination with NASA, it directs ISS component launch activities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. RSC Energia (S. P. Korolov Rocket and Space Corporation Energia) integrates spacecraft hardware and manages the ISS Program implementation for the Russian segment. Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, oversees all Russian human space flight activities.

4) ESA (European Space Agency) has two ground control centers for control to operate the European contributions to the International Space Station. These are the Col-CC (Columbus Control Center) at DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany and the ATC-CC (Automated Transfer Vehicle Control Center), at CNES in Toulouse, France. Col-CC controls and operates the Columbus laboratory and coordinates European experiments while ATV-CC controls and operates the European ATV spacecraft.

5) SSIPC (Space Station Integration & Promotion Center) of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) at the TKSC (Tsukuba Space Center), Ibaraki prefecture, Japan. The SSIPC is responsible for the Japanese elements of the ISS involving in particular the operation of JEM/Kibo and of the HTVs (H-II Transfer Vehicles) of JAXA as well as the coordination with MCC-H.


Figure 85: The ISS Control Centers (image credit: ESA)


• The following Figures 86 and 85 are taken from an ESA paper, presented at the UNOOSA in Vienna, Austria in Feb. 2015. 76)

1) A Soyuz vehicle flew the first crew to the ISS in Nov. 2000 (launch on Oct. 31. 2000). Since that time, at least one Soyuz has always been at the Station, generally to serve as a lifeboat should the crew have to return to Earth unexpectedly.

- Up to three crew members can launch and return to Earth from the Station aboard a Soyuz TMA spacecraft.

- A new Soyuz capsule is normally delivered to the station by a Soyuz taxi crew every six months - the taxi crew then returns to Earth in the older Soyuz capsule.

- A Soyuz spacecraft generally takes two days after launch to reach the space station. The rendezvous and docking are both automated. The Russian Mission Control Center monitors the close approach maneuvers to the ISS.

- A modernized Soyuz TMA-M of Roscosmos is used since 2010. The TMA-01-M (launched on Oct. 7, 2010) was the 107th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft, and the first flight of the modernized TMA-M series to the ISS.


Figure 86: ISS crew vehicle: Soyuz-TMA-M (image credit: ESA, Roscosmos)


• Figure 87 is an overview of the various ExPA (External Payload Attach) sites on the ISS in the timeframe fall 2014. 77)


Figure 87: ISS ExPA (External Payload Attach) sites (image credit: NASA, CBPSS)

Legend of some terms in Figure 87: JPM (JEM Pressurized Module); JLP (JEM Logistics Pressurized Module); ELC ( (External Logistics Carrier); AMS (Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer); PMA-2 (Pressurized Mating Adapter); ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) of ESA; FGB (Functional Cargo Block), also known as the Zarya Module of Roscosmos; MRM-2 (Mini Research Module) of Roscosmos; from S0 (Starboard zero), the truss segments are P1, P3, P4, P5 and P6 and S1, S3, S4, S5 and S6; Z1 truss (the first truss segment to be added to the Station).


Figure 88: Photo of the JEM (Japanese Experiment Module)/Kibo on the ISS (image credit: NASA, CBPSS, Ref. 77)


• Feb. 3, 2015: There's an oft-used idiom that you can't see political borders from space, but we've known for a while it's no longer true. Between higher resolution cameras and the increase in human activity, there have been several examples of borders visible from space (Figure 89). 78)


Figure 89: This image, taken by astronauts on the ISS on Nov. 7, 2014, shows patterns of fortification along the Iraq-Iran border (image credit: NASA/Expedition 41)

Legend to Figure 89: Astronauts aboard the ISS took this photograph in November of 2014 of a 20 km stretch of the Iraq-Iran border, near the coast of the Persian Gulf. Clearly visible is the border between the two countries, along with signs of fortification: circular gun emplacements, systems of large curved earthworks and straight connecting roads that run parallel to the border.

NASA said the ISS team that analyzes astronaut photos first thought the circular features to be oil-pad installations . But they said the "strategic location of these formations along the international boundary made it easier to see these as patterns of military fortifications. This region of oil refining and exporting was the center of numerous military actions during the war in the 1980s, especially during the defense of the southern city of Basra."


• February 13, 2015: Figure 90 is a photo in ESA's series 'Our week through the lens' showing Samantha Cristoforetti who is part of the Expedition 42 crew. 79)


Figure 90: Photo of ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in the Cupola of the ISS taking snapshots of breathtaking Earth (image credit: ESA, NASA)


• Figure 91, released on January 27, 2015, lightning illuminates the area it strikes on Earth but the flash can be seen from space, too. This image was taken from 400 km above Earth in 2012 by an astronaut on the ISS travelling at 28,800 km/h. At these distances a camera flash is pointless to take night-time images of Earth, but our planet moves by so quickly images can end up being blurred. 80)

- ESA's Nightpod camera aid compensates for the motion of the Station, allowing for crystal-clear night images such as these. The target stays firmly centered in the frame, so the final image is in focus. Astronauts can set up the device to take ultra-sharp images automatically using off-the-shelf cameras. — Nightpod is an intelligent tripod head that is used to accurately track a SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera, potentially with a large SLR, to track objects. Extremely sturdy and user friendly, it can be used to take long exposure photographs or eliminate motion blur under demanding conditions. It can be used for accurate tracking of moving objects or track stationary objects from a moving platform, such as boats, airplanes and cars.


Figure 91: Lightning as photographed from the ISS (image credit: ESA, NASA)


• January 14, 2015: A false alarm of the thread of a possible ammonia leak forced the crew into a middle of the night evacuation from the US side of the International Space Station, and a hatch closure. Nearly 12 hours later, top level managers from the partner space agencies gave the all clear and allowed the astronauts and cosmonauts to reopen access to the American portion of the orbiting outpost. The six person crew was allowed to open the sealed hatch to the U.S. segment later in the day after it was determined that the ammonia leak was quite fortunately a false alarm. No ammonia leak was actually detected. But the crew and mission control had to shut down some non essential station systems on the US segment in the interim. All the Expedition 42 crew members were safe and in good health and never in danger, reported NASA. 81)

- The alarm is part of the environmental systems software on the station designed to monitor the cabin's atmosphere. At the same time, the station's protection software shut down one of two redundant cooling loops (Thermal Control System Loop B). Ammonia is a toxic substance used as a coolant in the stations complex cooling system that is an essential requirement to continued operation of the station. - Meanwhile, flight controllers are continuing to analyze data in an effort to determine what triggered the alarm that set today's actions in motion.

- The evacuation came just two days after a commercial SpaceX Dragon cargo freighter, CRS-5 (Commercial Resupply Service-5), successfully rendezvoused and berthed at the station on Jan. 12., 2015. The crew had just opened the hatch to Dragon and begun unloading the goodies stored aboard.

- According to a NASA report, the flight controllers in Mission Control at NASA/JSC (Johnson Space Center) in Houston saw an increase in pressure in the station's water loop for thermal control system B then later saw a cabin pressure increase that could be indicative of an ammonia leak in the worst case scenario. Acting conservatively to protect for the worst case scenario, the crew was directed to isolate themselves in the Russian segment while the teams are evaluating the situation. Non-essential equipment in the U.S. segment of the station was also powered down per the procedures. 82)


Figure 92: This image shows the US side of the ISS that was evacuated on Jan. 14, 2015, by the crew due to possible ammonia leak. The SpaceX CRS-5 Dragon is attached to the Harmony module (image credit: NASA TV)


• Jan. 13, 2015: Resembling an action-hero power source, Figure 93 is actually a Russian experiment that was run on the International Space Station. 83)


Figure 93: Human spaceflight and operations image of the week: chemistry creating hollow structures in space (image credit: NASA, Roscosmos)

Legend to Figure 93: Polymers are repeated molecules that form many materials we use every day, such as rubber and nylon. Rubber is a natural polymer but polymers can also be created synthetically using chemical reactions to string together monomers into new structures. In the weightlessness of space, these reactions can be tailored to create polymer walls that form shells. The experiment demonstrates this method of creating polymers in space as well as improving computer models and offering a striking illustration of physics and chemistry in action for educational purposes.

The experiment is being run in a contained glovebox and features two hardening processes to ‘set' the end structures.


• Figure 94 is an ISS astronout photo showing the city of Vancouver and its greater sourroundings in British Columbia, Canada. The Fraser River winds for almost 1,400 km, making it the longest river in this Canadian province. Snowmelt feeds the river, which flows alongside the Rocky Mountains to a relatively flat plateau. The Fraser continues down through the Coast Mountains and the Fraser Canyon until reaching a 130 km wide floodplain that empties into the Strait of Georgia. 84)

Along its journey, the river picks up and carries a huge load of silt—about 20 million tons each year. Most of it flows into the Strait of Georgia, while about 3.5 million tons is left behind and deposited in the lower river valley. The silt gives the river a milky color; this effect is most pronounced at the river's mouth, where the freshwater plume is visible even from space.

Those silty sediments do not travel alone. They carry nutrients that support phytoplankton growth into the strait and the ocean (blooms of phytoplankton can also impart a blue, green, or milky color to the water). These blooms become the center of a food web for grazers like the sockeye salmon that hatch in the Fraser. Those nutrients are recycled back to the Fraser when the salmon return four years later to spawn.


Figure 94: Plume from the Frasier River, Vancouver, Canada; the photo was acquired from the ISS on Sept. 6, 2014 and released on Jan. 7, 2015 (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Legend to Figure 94: The astronaut photo of the Expedition 40 crew was acquired on September 6, 2014, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 86 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center.


• January 3, 2015: It's sunrise from space – one of 16 that occur daily as the massive lab complex orbits the Earth about every 90 minutes while traveling swiftly at about 28,100 km/h from an altitude of about 400 km (Figure 95). The Canadian-built robotic arm, Canadarm 2, used among other things to catch visiting spacecraft (Dragon, Cygnus, HTV), subtends in the middle of the picture through which the rising sun is seen. 85)

- Barry Wilmore is the commander of the ISS Expedition 42 crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts hailing from three nations; America, Russia and Italy. He is accompanied by astronauts Terry Virts from NASA and Samantha Cristoforetti from ESA (European Space Agency), as well as by cosmonauts Aleksandr Samokutyayev, Yelena Serova, and Anton Shkaplerov from Russia.

- All told the crew of four men and two women see 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day. During the daylight periods, temperatures reach 200 ºC on the outside of the ISS, while temperatures plunge drastically during the orbital night periods to -200 ºC.


Figure 95: Commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore on the ISS shared this beautiful image of sunrise earlier today, Jan. 3, 2015 (image credit: NASA/Butch Wilmore)


• Dec. 9, 2014: Figure 96 is an image of ESA's ATV-5 (Automated Transfer Vehicle-5), named Georges Lemaître, as seen from the International Space Station as it approaches for docking in August 2014. 86)

- ATV Georges Lemaître demonstrated a set of European sensors that offers future improvements on the autonomous rendezvous and docking that these ferries have completed five times since 2008. ESA's goal is to perform an automated rendezvous further from home – perhaps near Mars or with an ‘uncooperative' target such as an inert object.

- Seeing through the eclipse: During Georges Lemaître's rendezvous using its proven system, the LIRIS (Laser Infrared Imaging Sensors) experiment was turned on some two and a half hours and 3500 m from the Space Station. All of the sensors worked as expected and a large amount of data was recorded and stored on hard disks in ATV's cargo hold. The disks were retrieved by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst on August 29, 2014 and returned to Earth in Soyuz TMA-12M in September. The information is now being compared against the results from ATV's normal navigation sensors.

- With ATV-5 pointing directly at the Station, the LIRIS infrared cameras tracked the weightless research center perfectly despite several 30-minute periods in darkness when the Sun was eclipsed by Earth and traditional cameras would have gone blind.

- The image (Figure 97) was taken 70 m from the Station – the first showing the complex in this configuration. Ahead of an ATV docking, the Station turns its solar wings to avoid GPS navigation signals bouncing off the structure and confusing the incoming craft.

- LIRIS is a test of European sensors technology in space to improve the autonomous rendezvous and docking that ATVs have performed five times since 2008. ESA's goal is to be able to perform an automated rendezvous far from home, perhaps in Mars orbit or with an uncooperative target such as an inert object.

- Four days before docking, ATV flew 7 km below the Station to check the long-range capability of the infrared cameras. A first look at the readings confirms LIRIS' ability to track targets from a distance.


Figure 96: ESA's ATV-5 vehicle is photography from the ISS as it approaches for docking in August 2014 (image credit: ESA, NASA, Roscosmos–O. Artemyev)

Legend to Figure 96: To the right of the ESA logo, three cameras around the front cone form part of the LIRIS (Laser Infrared Imaging Sensors) assembly experiment that demonstrated new rendezvous and docking technology. The lidar optical head and its box of electronics sit just above the ESA logo and form the second element of the tracking system.


Figure 97: This image was taken by LIRIS mounted on ATV Georges Lemaître as it approached the Station for docking (70 m away) on 12 August 2014 (image credit: Airbus DS Sodern) 87)

LIRIS includes a lidar – like a radar but using light – that pulses laser beams over a mirror to collect 3D data at high resolution. The lidar also registers the amount of reflected light, which can provide clues on the type of material it is scanning. The advantage of the LIRIS approach is that it scans objects and gathers information about them without a dedicated communications link or hardware installed on the targets.


Figure 98: LIRIS lidar image of the Space Station (image credit: Jena-Optronik)

Legend to Figure 98: The image on the left shows how far each element of the Space Station is from ATV-5 with arbitrarily chosen colors corresponding to their distance from LIRIS. The Russian service module, to which Georges Lemaître docked, shows up in green at a distance of 30 m, while the Soyuz was 15 m away and shows in yellow (top). The main truss of the Station is represented in purple at 40 m. - The image on the right was created from the same data but shows how much light was reflected at each point. The Station's retroreflector used for ATV's normal laser docking sensors shows up brightly, just as the designers intended. 88)


• December 2014: ISS maneuvers throughout its initial orbital life of 15 years. — November 2013 marked 15 years of the Functional Cargo Block (FGB) Zarya launch into orbit. It was the first element of the ISS (International Space Station). In this period, the ISS has evolved into the largest man-made space structure created in the history of space. If we compare all the vehicles in LEO, the ISS beats the record in the number of the performed maneuvers that differ in purpose, size, propulsion system, etc. Systematization of the ISS maneuvers is supplemented with statistical data of various parameters. The evolution of maneuvering strategies during the different ISS life cycles, starting from FGB insertion into orbit up to the present, is provided. 89)

At the present time, the ISS with a total mass of about 410 tons is the largest object in space. One of the most important outcomes of the ISS Program is the establishment of reliable international cooperation that implements the orbiting complex utilization.


Figure 99: Altitude profile of the ISS and the index of solar activity: F10.7 (image credit: Rocket Space Corporation Energia, Russia)

Operation of such complex object requires maintaining the orbit according with a preselected altitude profile. The orbit of the ISS is continuously being reduced from aerodynamic drag; the rate of altitude loss depends on the current orbital altitude as well as on the intensity of solar radiation, which has an 11-year cycle and determined by index of solar activity , referred to as F10.7 and corresponds to the density flux of solar radio emission at a wavelength of 10.7 cm. Without timely maneuvering, any space object in LEO will suffer a quick reentry into Earth's atmosphere. Hence, frequent reboosts are needed to maintain the selected altitude. The planning of these reboosts must take into consideration many aspects regarding the current operational (zero-g) environment required for experimentation, as well as the ballistic conditions for a rendezvous of visiting vehicles and the landing of human spacecraft in a given area of the Earth. In particular, more frequent debris avoidance maneuvers are needed for the safety of the crew and of the station.

Analyzing the altitude profile, together with the index of solar activity, F10.7, the first 15 years of the ISS can be divided into 5 periods of operational activity (Figure 99):

2) Initial phase from delivering the FGB Zarya into orbit until the launch of the Service Module (SM) Zvezda (1998-2000). In this phase, the ISS was in automatic unmanned mode, except for the short missions. A total of 22 reboosts were were carried out using propulsion of the FGB and the Shuttle. An altitude range of 350-370 km was maintained.

3) The first stage of the ISS build-up up to the STS Columbia (2000-2003) accident. By the end of 2002, more than 13 Shuttle flights were conducted with large-size payloads. The ISS was in an altitude range of 380-390 km and the solar flux index F10.7 value was high. The altitude profile was maintained by the Shuttle and by Progress vehicles.

4) This was followed by a 2 1/2 year period, in which all Shuttle flights were suspended due to the Columbia accident on Feb. 1, 2003. It reduced the intense build-up phase of the station. During this phase, ISS operation were only maintained by the Russian MS Soyuz-TMA and CS Progress-M.

5) The resumption of Shuttle flights occurred July 26, 2005 with STS-114. The Shuttle flights continued until 2011; the return flight of STS-135 ended the era of Shuttle flights on July 21, 2011 after which the US segment of the ISS reached its desired configuration. During this period, the ISS orbit was lowered to 340-350 km. In the last Shuttle flight to the ISS, the STS-135 docked at an altitude of ~380 km.

6) In the current phase (2011-2014) the ISS is serviced mostly by Russian space vehicles (Soyuz and Progress). Russian CS (Cargo Ships) Progress-M, European ATV, Japanese HTV and two private CS Dragon (SpaceX) and Cygnus (OSC).

The entire ISS complex can be maneuvered, or re-oriented, by firing Russian rocket thrusters or by changing the speed of NASA's gyroscopes inside the Z1 truss atop the Unity module. Rocket thrusters are typically used for major maneuvers while the gyros are primarily used for more minor attitude changes. 90)


• Nov. 17, 2014: The Florida peninsula at night is highly recognizable in this photo of Figure 100, taken by the ISS Expedition 41 crew. The illuminated areas give a strong sense of the size of cities. The brightest continuous patch of lights is the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area, the largest urban area in the southeastern U.S. and home to 5.6 million people. The next largest area is the Tampa Bay region (2.8 million people) on the Gulf Coast of the peninsula. Orlando, located in the middle, has a somewhat smaller footprint (2.3 million). A nearly straight line of cities runs nearly 560 km along the Atlantic coast from Jacksonville, Florida, to Wilmington, North Carolina. 91)

South of Orlando, the center and southern portions of the peninsula are as dark as the Atlantic Ocean, vividly illustrating the almost population-free Everglades wetland. The lights of Cocoa Beach trace the curved lines of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, an area well known to astronauts. Dim lights of the Florida Keys extend the arc of the Atlantic coast to the corner of the image. The small cluster of lights far offshore is Freeport on Grand Bahama Island (image right). The faint blue areas throughout the image are clouds lit by moonlight.


Figure 100: Astronauts aboard the ISS took this photograph of Florida on October 13, 2014 (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Legend to Figure 100: The astronaut photo ISS041-E-74232 was acquired with a Nikon D3S 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.


• November 4, 2014: Figure 101 is a self-portrait photograph (selfie) of the Expedition 41 crew in the ISS, taken with a hand-held camera by Alexander Gerst. 92)


Figure 101: Expedition 41 crew portrait on the International Space Station (image credit: ESA, NASA)

Legend to Figure 101: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Roscosmos cosmonauts Elena Serova, Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev, and NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Barry Wilmore. The rear astronauts are dressed in the Sokol suits they will wear in their Soyuz spacecraft that will take them back to Earth on 9 November. Alexander, Max and Reid were making sure their suits still fit and have no leaks after having been stored on arrival at the Station almost six months ago.

Yelena, Alexander Samokutyaev and Barry will continue working in the weightless research center, but they will not feel lonely for long. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, NASA astronaut Terry Virts and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov will join their colleagues on 24 November, 2014.


• ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst shared the photos of Figures 102 and 103 on social media with the comment: "Safe to say, this was the most amazing thing I have done in my life. The pump module I carry here has a mass of nearly 400 kg. I could move it with my little finger." 93)

Alexander spent six hours and 13 minutes outside the International Space Station with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman on October 7, 2014. This was the first spacewalk for both astronauts but they performed well in the weightlessness of orbit. The pair worked together to move a 385 kg pump from the Station's truss to a permanent stowage location near the US Destiny module.

While moving, Alexander held on to the pump unit with flexed arms to absorb any shocks. After working with Reid to attach the pump, Alexander took the arm for a last ride to park it and prepare it for its next use, berthing visiting spacecraft. Here, Alexander had his hands free and time to take a few photographs, such as this one. Alexander's feet are strapped to the arm and tethers secure him to the arm. To the right is the commercial Dragon supply vessel.

Alexander then helped Reid upgrade the power relay on a trolley before they returned to the airlock at 18:34 GMT.


Figure 102: Alexander Gerst strapped himself to the Station's robotic arm and held on to the unit while NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore operated the 16 m long Canadarm2 from inside the orbital outpost (image credit: Alexander Gerst, ESA, NASA)



Figure 103: Photo of a spacewalker at work on the International Space Station on Oct. 7, 2014. "I don't have words to describe what we did today, but this photo gives a pretty good impression!" wrote European Space Agency astronaut (and spacewalk participant), Alexander Gerst, Universe Today 94)

Legend to Figures 102 and 103: The two spacewalkers worked outside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station for 6 hours and 13 minutes. Flight Engineer Barry Wilmore NASA operated the Canadian robotic arm (Canadarm2), maneuvered Gerst during the course of the spacewalk and served as the spacewalk coordinator. 95)

The first task for Wiseman and Gerst was relocating a failed cooling pump to ESP-2 (External Stowage Platform-2) just outside the Quest airlock. It was temporarily stowed on the station's truss by Expedition 38 spacewalkers Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio on Dec. 21, 2013, after they replaced the failed pump with a spare.

When they completed the pump module stowage work, the duo stowed adjustable grapple bars on ESP-2. Wiseman cleaned up the work area around the pump module. Gerst went on to replace a light on an ETVCG (External Television Camera Group) outside of Destiny.

The next task was the installation of a MTRA (Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly) on to the S0 truss right above the Destiny laboratory. The MTRA adds the capability to provide "keep-alive" power to the Mobile Servicing System when the Mobile Transporter is moving between worksites.

The Mobile Transporter can move supplies, gear and the Canadarm2 on rails along the Integrated Truss Structure, the station's backbone. The Mobile Servicing System, which includes the transporter and Canadarm2, plays a key role in station maintenance tasks.


• Sept. 23, 2014: After the launch of the SpaceX-CRS-4 (Commercial Resupply Services-4) Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral on Sept. 21 (05:52:03 UTC) and a two day chase through space, the Dragon cargo capsule arrived at the ISS, following a carefully choreographed series of thruster firings that brought the vessel to within a capture distance of some 10 m. For the rendezvous, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman had set up a temporary robotics workstation in the Station's Cupola observatory module to monitor the approaching commercial spacecraft until it stopped 10 m from the Station. Working two joysticks, Alexander moved Canadarm2 to hold Dragon-4 as the Station soared some 415 km above the Pacific Ocean. From there, the spacecraft was berthed to the Space Station's Harmony module. 96) 97) 98)

On Sept. 24, the hatch will be opened to unload the ~2270 kg of supplies and payloads. Dragon will stay for four weeks before it returns to Earth with experiments and samples.


Figure 104: Alexander Gerst (left) and Reid Wiseman watch the approach of the SpaceX Dragon from the Cupola (image credit: NASA TV)


Figure 105: Photo of the approaching Dragon-4 capsule at the ISS; astronauts Alexander and Reid are using the Station's 17 m-long Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture and berth the fourth Dragon supply vessel (image credit: NASA TV)


Figure 106: Current ISS configuration (NASA graphic) on Sept. 23, 2014 following berthing of SpaceX Dragon CRS-4 (image credit: NASA TV)


• Figure 107 is an image of the Meteor Crater in Arizona, located about 29 km west of Winslow and about 60 km east of Flagstaff, as photographed from the International Space Station. Also known as the Barringer Meteorite Crater, the 1186 m diameter crater is approximately 180 m deep and is surrounded by a rim of smashed and jumbled boulders, some as big as houses. The structure visible on the north side of the Crater is the Visitor's Center. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, a member of the ISS Expedition 40 crew, shared this image on Twitter. 99)


Figure 107: The Meteor Crater in Arizona as seen from the ISS in August 2014; the image is featured in the ESA 'Week in Images' series (image credit: ESA, NASA)


• The fifth and last Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) of ESA docked with the International Space Station on 12 August 2014. Figure 108 shows astronaut Alexander Gerst entering the ATV-5 for the first time on orbit after hatch opening (lots of science experiments, food and clothes are packed here). Alexander was wearing a facemask to protect against inhaling any fine particles of dust or debris that might have shaken lose at launch. One of first things the crew did is install fans and air cleaners to run for several hours inside ATV. 100)


Figure 108: Astronaut Alexander Gerst inside the ATV-5 (Georges Lemaître) after hatch opening on August 14, 2014 (image credit: ESA/NASA)

Legend to Figure 108: The ESA space freighter ATV-5 (Automated Transfer Vehicle-5), named Georges Lemaître, was launched on July 29, 2014 (23:47 GMT) onboard an Ariane 5 ES launcher from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, delivering 6.6 tons of supplies, including 2680 kg of dry cargo and 3922 kg of water, propellants and gases to the International Space Station. ATV-5 was the heaviest spacecraft ever launched by Ariane 5 with a launch mass of 20,275 kg.

During its trip to the ISS, ATV-5 flew about 6 km below the space station on Aug. 8, to test sensors for potential use on future European spacecraft before beginning the final phase of its rendezvous with the orbital laboratory.

The fifth ATV, and final space freighter in the series, is designated Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) after the Belgian physicist (Catholic priest and astronomer) and father of the Big Bang theory (published in 1927). The ATV-5 is expected to remain docked until late January 2015. During its stay at the station, the ATV-5 will serve as an exercise facility for the astronauts in addition to performing maneuvers that maintain this manned facility's nominal orbit and testing new rendezvous sensors in space.

- LIRIS (Laser InfraRed Imaging Sensors). LIRIS is a first step towards an uncooperative rendezvous in space. 101)

- An ESA-led team designed and developed the BUC (Break-Up Camera) for the ATV-5 mission as well as the Reentry SatCom capsule to work like an aircraft-style 'black box' to store images, then transmit them to Earth after the vessel's break-up via an Iridium satellite link. ESA's BUC camera will join Japan's i-Ball optical camera and NASA's Reentry Break-up Recorder, to give as full a picture as possible of the conditions inside the vehicle as it breaks up. The BUC infrared camera, bolted to an ATV rack, will burn up with the rest of the spacecraft, but imagery of the final 20 seconds will be passed to the Reentry SatCom, a spherical capsule protected by a ceramic heat shield. 102)

The Reentry SatCom has an antenna, so that once the ATV breaks up, it begins transmitting the data to any Iridium communication satellites in line of sight. The break-up will occur at an altitude of about 80–70 km on reentry, leaving the Reentry SatCom falling at 6–7 km/s. The fall will generate a high-temperature plasma around it, but signals from its omnidirectional antenna should be able to make it through any gap in the plasma to the rear. Additionally, it is expected that signalling will continue after the atmospheric drag has decelerated the SatCom to levels where a plasma is no longer formed – somewhere below 40 km – at a point where Iridium satellites should become visible to it regardless.


• The astronaut photograph ISS040-E-74022 (Figure 109) was acquired on July 22, 2014, and released on August 18, 2014. It shows the location and size of cities at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea. The largest, brightest cluster is the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, a port set against the blackness of the Mediterranean Sea. Jerusalem, Israel's capital city, and Amman, Jordan's capital, are the next largest (with Amman's lights having a whiter tone), followed by Beersheba. 103)

- Bright but narrow lines that snake between the cities are highways. The mostly dark areas with small towns are agricultural and pastoral areas of Israel, Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jordan. A wide, almost black zone between Jerusalem and Amman trends north-south across the right half of the image; it is the long valley that includes the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.


Figure 109: Eastern Mediterranean coastline at night, released in NASA's Earth Observatory program on August 18, 2014. The image was taken by the Expedition 40 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)


• The images of Figures 110 and 111 were acquired by Alexander Gerst from the ISS. 104)


Figure 110: A snapshot of Earth's beautiful Southern Lights taken from the ISS on 5 July 2014 (image credit: ESA, Alexander Gerst)


Figure 111: Harsh land. Windswept valleys in northern Africa acquired on July 6, 2014 (image credit: ESA, Alexander Gerst)


• The image of Figure 112 of the National Stadium of Brazilia, one of the host cities of the Soccer World Cup 2014, was acquired by the Expedition 40 crew from the ISS with a Nikon D3S digital camera using an 800 mm lens. 105)


Figure 112: Astronaut image of Brazilia with Brazil's national football stadium, the Estado Nacíonal, acquired on May 28, 2014 (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

Legend to Figure 112: Brasília is widely known for its modern building designs and city layout. Astronauts have the best view of the city's well-known "swept wing" city layout, which takes the form of a flying bird that is expressed in the curves of the boulevards (image left). The stadium occupies the city center, between the wings.


• The image of Figure 113 is featured in ESA's 'Our week through the lens' service of June 2-6, 2014. 106)


Figure 113: A view of Banks Peninsula in New Zealand photographed from the International Space Station by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst (image credit: ESA, NASA)

Legend to Figure 113: Banks Peninsula is a peninsula of volcanic origin on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It has an area of approximately 1,150 km2 and encompasses two large harbours and many smaller bays and coves. The South Island's largest city, Christchurch, is located immediately north of the peninsula. - The crew of Captain James Cook became the first Europeans to sight the peninsula on February 17, 1770, during Cook's first circumnavigation of New Zealand.


• On May 29, 2014, the expedition 40/41 crew (NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev) arrived at the ISS in their Soyuz spacecraft. They complement the three crewmembers on board since April and will stay in their new home in space for almost six months. Immediately after arrival, they held a short conference with family and friends on Earth who they had left behind only six hours earlier. Alexander and Reid were taken on tours of the Station – the size of a large six-bedroom house – and shown how the systems work by Station commander Steve Swanson. General maintenance and emergency procedures were run through for the new arrivals. 107)


Figure 114: Expedition 40/41 crew pose for a selfie in Europe's Cupola observatory in the ISS. From front to back: NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst (image credit: NASA, ESA) 108)


• On May 28, 2014, the crew of Expedition 40/41 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, their Soyuz TMA-13M arriving at the International Space Station about eight and a half hours later. And it didn't take much time for the newly-arrived NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman to start taking photos from his new vantage point in orbit. 109)


Figure 115: A "beautiful pass over the Falkland Islands" (aka Islas Malvinas), acquired on May 30, 2014 with docked Soyuz TMA-13M in the foreground (image credit: NASA)


• March 2014: An astronaut on the International Space Station took this night photograph (Figure 116) of two of Belgium's major metropolitan areas. Antwerp is a major European port located on the Scheldt River, which appears as a black line angling through the lights. The city has access to the Atlantic Ocean, and its extensive dock facilities are even more brightly lit than the city center. 110)

Brussels is the capital and largest city in Belgium, and also the de facto headquarters of the European Union. Brilliant points of light are the city center and the Brussels National Airport. Developed roadways appear as straighter, brighter lines radiating from the two cities.

The photos of Figures 116 and 117 were taken with a Nikon D3S digital camera, and are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center.


Figure 116: An astronaut on the ISS took this night photograph of two of Belgium's major metropolitan areas, Brussels and Antwerp on March 5, 2014 (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)


Figure 117: This astronaut photo, also acquired on March 5, 2014, captured a wider contextual view of Belgium, the Netherlands, and northwest Germany as the ISS crossed into Europe from the Atlantic Ocean (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)


• April 14, 2014: The Grand Canyon in northern Arizona is a favorite for astronauts shooting photos from the International Space Station, as well as one of the best-known tourist attractions in the world. The steep walls of the Colorado River canyon and its many side canyons make an intricate landscape that contrasts with the dark green, forested plateau to the north and south. 111)


Figure 118: This astronaut photograph of the Grand Canyon from the ISS was acquired on March 25, 2014, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 180 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 118: The Grand Canyon has become a geologic icon—a place where you can almost sense the invisible tectonic forces within the Earth. The North and South Rims are part of the Kaibab Plateau, a gentle tectonic swell in the landscape. The uplift of the plateau had two pronounced effects on the landscape that show up in this image. First, in drier parts of the world, forests usually indicate higher places; higher altitudes are cooler and wetter, conditions that allow trees to grow. The other geologic lesson on view is the canyon itself. Geologists now know that a river can cut a canyon only if the Earth surface rises vertically. If such uplift is not rapid, a river can maintain its course by eroding huge quantities of rock and forming a canyon.


• April 2014: It used to be that building and launching a working satellite was an enormously expensive and complex undertaking, feasible only for governmental and military agencies. But the CubeSat revolution of the past decade has placed satellite technology within reach of private companies, universities and even unaffiliated individuals. That revolution has been boosted by the existence of the International Space Station, which provides an additional launching platform enabled through regular commercial cargo flights. 112)

At present, two CubeSat deployers operate aboard the station: the Japanese Experiment Module J-SSOD (JEM - Small Satellite Orbital Deployer) and the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer. The upcoming launch of the SpaceX-4 commercial resupply mission, currently scheduled for September 2014, will enhance the space station's satellite deployment capabilities with the delivery of Cyclops, also known as SSIKLOPS (Space Station Integrated Kinetic Launcher for Orbital Payload Systems) . This tool will provide still another means to release other small satellites, namely microsatellites of all shpes, from the orbiting outpost.


Figure 119: A set of CubeSats is photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member after deployment by the NanoRacks Launcher attached to the end of the Japanese robotic arm (image credit: NASA)


• March 31, 2014: The Kavir desert (Dasht-e Kavir – literally ‘desert of salt-marsh') in Iran, was photographed by astronauts from the ISS in February 2014. Figure 120 displays a striking pattern of parallel lines and sweeping curves. The lack of soil and vegetation in the Kavir desert allows the geological structure of the rocks to appear quite clearly. The patterns result from the gentle folding of numerous, thin layers of rock. Later erosion by wind and water cut a flat surface across the dark- and light-colored folds, not only exposing hundreds of layers but also showing the shapes of the folds. The pattern has been likened to the layers of a sliced onion. 113)


Figure 120: The Kavir desert in Iran, as seen from the International Space Station on Feb. 14, 2014 (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 120: The image, taken by the Expedition 38 crew, was acquired with a Nikon D3 digital camera using a 200 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA/JSC (Johnson Space Center).

The dark water of a lake (image center) fills a depression in a more easily eroded, S-shaped layer of rock. The irregular, light-toned patch just left of the lake is a sand sheet thin enough to allow the underlying rock layers to be detected. A small river snakes across the bottom of the image. In this desert landscape, there are no fields or roads to give a sense of scale. In fact, the width of the image is about 105 km.


• On March 25, 2014, the onboard ISS crew (Expedition 39) spotted the launch of the Expedition 40 crew at 21:17 UTC as their Soyuz TMA-12M vehicle took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. 114)


Figure 121: The launch of Expedition 39/40's Steve Swanson, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev in Kazakhstan as seen from space (Rick Mastracchio, NASA)


• On March 17, 2014, NASA released an astronaut snapshot of Bowknot Bend of the Green River canyon in eastern Utah (Figure 122). The loop carries river rafters 14.5 km before bringing them back to nearly the same point they started from—though on the other side of a low, narrow saddle (image center). 115)


Figure 122: An astronaut image acquired on January 22, 2014 showing Bowknot Bend of the Green River in Utah. The photo was taken by the Expedition 38 crew using a Nikon D3X digital camera using a 1000 mm lens (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 122: In this snapshot from the ISS, the Green River appears dark because it lies in deep shadow, 300 m below the surrounding landscape. The yellow-tinged cliffs that face the rising sun give a sense of the steep canyon walls. The straight white line across the scene is the contrail from a jet liner that passed over Bowknot Bend. Note that north is to the bottom of the image.

The reason for the tight bends in the Green River is the same as it is for the Mississippi: river courses often wind over time when they flow across a bed of relatively soft sediment in a floodplain. Geologists assume that the Green River, before its present canyon phase, once snaked across a wide valley on a bed of its own sediment and made a series of striking meander bends. Vertical uplift of the entire landscape—by deep-seated tectonic forces related to the growth of the Rocky Mountains—caused the Green River to erode downwards into the hard rocks under the valley. In the process, the present vertical-sided canyon was formed, preserving the tight loops reminiscent of an earlier time.

Bowknot was named by geologist John Wesley Powell in 1869 during one of his famous explorations of the rivers in the American West. The Green River flows south (toward the top of this image) and joins the Colorado River downstream. The combined flow of these rivers was responsible for cutting the Grand Canyon, some 325 km away from Bowknot.


• On March 11, 2014, ESA released a snapshot (Figure 123) taken from the Cupola of the ISS of ESA's EAC (European Astronaut Center), collocated at the DLR German Aerospace Center site at Cologne-Bonn. 116)


Figure 123: An astronaut image acquired on March 4, 2014 showing the Rhine river winding towards Cologne on the left and ESA's EAC located at DLR's site below the Cologne-Bonn Airport (image credit: NASA)


• The image of Figure 124, Iberian Peninsula, is from the "week in images" March 3-7, 2014. The lights from human settlements reveal where the major towns and activity are. The large mass of light in the middle is Madrid, Spain's capital city. The Iberian coastline is heavily populated with Valencia and Barcelona along the Mediterranean Sea prominent at the bottom right of this photo. Portugal to the west shows similar lighting with the coast from Lisboa to Porto a haze of light. 117)


Figure 124: This image from the International Space Station shows the Iberian Peninsula including Spain and Portugal at night (image credit: ESA, NASA)

Legend to Figure 124: The astronaut-image taken from 400 km above Earth shows how close the Iberian Peninsula is to Morocco. A thin line of blackness – the Strait of Gibraltar – separates the two. Another thin line stands out in this picture – Earth's atmosphere, the green shroud that surrounds and protects our world and the people and animals that live on it. The image was taken using ESA's NightPod camera mount.


• Feb. 24, 2014: Flying over East Asia, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) took this night image of the Korean Peninsula. Unlike daylight images, city lights at night illustrate dramatically the relative economic importance of cities, as gaged by relative size. In this north-looking view, it is immediately obvious that greater Seoul is a major city and that the port of Gunsan is minor by comparison. There are 25.6 million people in the Seoul metropolitan area—more than half of South Korea's citizens—while Gunsan's population is 280,000. 118)


Figure 125: The Koreas at Night photographed from the ISS on Jan. 30, 2014 (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, the image was released on Feb. 24, 2014)

Legend to Figure 125: North Korea is almost completely dark compared to neighboring South Korea and China. The darkened land appears as if it were a patch of water joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan. Its capital city, Pyongyang, appears like a small island, despite a population of 3.26 million (as of 2008). The light emission from Pyongyang is equivalent to the smaller towns in South Korea.

Coastlines are often very apparent in night imagery, as shown by South Korea's eastern shoreline. But the coast of North Korea is difficult to detect. These differences are illustrated in per capita power consumption in the two countries, with South Korea at 10,162 kW hours and North Korea at 739 kW hours.

The Astronaut photograph ISS038-E-38300 was acquired on January 30, 2014, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 24 mm lens (the camera is mounted on ESA's NightPod), and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. 119)


• February 2014: Three months after bearing the Olympic torch outside their orbiting home, the astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) got to look down on that flame from above. On the evening of February 10, 2014, an Expedition 38 crew member on the ISS captured this digital photograph of Sochi, Russia, along the coast of the Black Sea (Figure 126). 120)


Figure 126: Sochi at night as photographed from the ISS (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, the image was released on Feb. 17, 2014)

Legend to Figure 126: Astronaut photograph ISS038-E-42992 was acquired on February 10, 2014, with a Nikon digital camera using a 600 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 38 crew.

In the image, the Olympic flame now burns in the circular Medals Plaza, ringed in gold and bright white lighting in the center of the Olympic Park. The oval-shaped Fisht Olympic Stadium is lit in blue and stands near the shore to the south (south is to the right in the image). The Adler Arena Skating Center and the Iceberg Skating Palace both appear as black rectangles north and east of the Medals Plaza, and the Bolshoy Ice Dome has a pink tint and stands to the west.

Sochi is a city of nearly 340,000 people in Krasnodar Krai, Russia, near the border between Georgia and Russia. Warmed by the Black Sea and straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, the resort city has a subtropical climate that draws many tourists. It is one of the warmer locations ever chosen for the Winter Games. However, snow coats the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains just 40 km inland.


• The Cygnus CRS-1 (Cargo Resupply Mission-1), or Cygnus CRS Orb-1, also known as Orbital Sciences CRS Flight 1, is the second flight of the Orbital Sciences' unmanned resupply spacecraft Cygnus, its second flight to the ISS (International Space Station) and the third launch of the company's Antares launch vehicle. The flight is the first of 8 under the CRS (Commercial Resupply Services) contract to NASA and is also referred to as COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services).

The Cygnus Orb-1 mission was launched on January 9, 2014 on an Antares-120 Vehicle of OSC from MARS (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport), Wallops Island, VA.

The cargo craft was loaded with 1261 kg supplies for the station, including vital science experiments to expand the research capability of the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory, crew provisions, spare parts and experiment hardware. - Also aboard the flight are 23 student experiments that will involve more than 10,000 students on the ground. These experiments will involve life sciences topics ranging from amoeba reproduction to calcium in the bones to salamanders.

The secondary payloads (34 CubeSats, commercial payloads of Orbital Sciences) on the Cygnus CRS-1 mission were:

- ArduSat-2, a 2U CubeSat (2 kg), a crowd-funded project of NanoSatisfi LLC.

- LituanicaSAT-1, a CubeSat of KTU (Kaunas University of Technology), Kaunas, Lithuania.

- LitSat-1, a 1U CubeSat of LSF (Lithuanian Space Federation).

- SkyCube, a 1U CubeSat, a crowd-funded project of Southern Stars Group LLC, San Francisco, CA, USA.

- UAPSat-1, a 1U CubeSat of UAP (Universidad Alas Peruanas), built by INRAS-PUCP (Institute for Radio Astronomy of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú), Lima, Peru.

- Flock-1 fleet of 28 satellites (all 3U CubeSats) of Planet Lays Inc. of San Francisco, CA. Flock 1 is designed to deliver frequent, low-cost and high-resolution imagery of the planet that could help monitor deforestation, track natural disasters and benefit humanity in a number of other ways. All Flock-1 nanosatellites provide imagery with a resolution of 3-5 m.

All CubeSats will be using the NanoRacks deployer system on the ISS. They are deployed using the J-SSOD ( JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer).

The Cygnus CRS Orb-1 spacecraft arrived at the ISS on Jan. 12, 2014 when astronauts captured the Cygnus supply craft using a robotic arm. The arrival capped the first successful contracted cargo delivery by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, VA, for NASA. 121)

Cygnus will remain attached to Harmony until a planned unberthing in February sends the spacecraft toward a destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere.


Figure 127: ISS Astronauts grapple Orbital Sciences Cygnus spacecraft with the robotic arm and guide it to docking port on Jan. 12, 2014 (image credit: NASA TV)


• The Salt Lake City metropolitan area (Figure 128) is located along the western front of the Wasatch Range in northern Utah. The city is known as "the crossroads of the West," as the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known informally as the Mormon Church), and as the state capital of Utah. Salt Lake City was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young, together with other followers of the Mormon faith. The city and surrounding urban areas is home to more than 2 million people, approximately 80 percent of the population of the state. 122)

Viewed at night from the vantage point of the International Space Station, the regular north-south and east-west layout of street grids typical of western U.S. cities is clearly visible. Both the color of the city lights and their density provide clues to the character of the urban fabric. Yellow-gold lights generally indicate major roadways, such as Interstate Highway 15, which passes through the center of the metropolitan area. Bright white clusters are associated with city centers, and commercial and industrial areas. Residential and suburban areas are recognizable as diffuse and relatively dim lighting.


Figure 128: Astronaut photo of Salt Lake City, acquired on Dec. 12, 2013, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using an effective 600 millimeter lens (image credit: NASA/JSC)


• Valencia, Spain (Figure 129) as seen by an astronaut from the ISS on October 6, 2013, and released on December 18, 2013. This incredibly sharp image shows the grid-like streets of Valencia surrounding the older, less-structured, center. The ‘claw' extending to the top is the port of Valencia that serves as a breakwater as well as a platform to offload ships. 123)

Lights of a ship that is either leaving or arriving at the port can be seen. The blackness to the top left of this image is the Mediterranean Sea where no streetlights exist. Other areas of blackness are parks and countryside, places where humans have not settled and installed artificial lights. The bright blue lights to the bottom of the image are from Valencia's airport and industrial sites.


Figure 129: Human spaceflight and operations image of the week: the port of Valencia, Spain, seen from the ISS at night (image credit: ESA, NASA)


• The Long Island Sound (USA) is well outlined by city and roadway lights in this nighttime photograph taken from the International Space Station. The manmade traceries of light are accompanied by a natural phenomenon: Fog is visible stretching along several river valleys. - Long Island Sound is an estuary along the upper East Coast of the United States. The area is bound by Long Island (New York state) to the south, the coastline of Connecticut to the north and the southeasternmost coastline of New York to the west. 124)


Figure 130: Fog appearing light blue-gray (image upper left) is illuminated from above by moonlight and from below by cities and towns close to river channels in this Sept. 20, 2013, astronaut photo of the Long Island Sound region (image credit: NASA)


• The photograph of Figure 131 was taken from onboard the International Space Station showing a nighttime Paris and London. The image was provided by ESA on October 18, 2013. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano posted this image on his Twitter account.


Figure 131: London and Paris brighten up a European night (image credit: ESA)


• Sept. 05, 2013 (UTC): One of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the International Space Station took this picture (Figure 132) of the Japanese HTV-4 (H-II Transfer Vehicle-4) unmanned cargo spacecraft, backdropped against a land mass on Earth, following its unberthing but just prior to its release from the orbital outpost's Canadarm2. HTV-4, after backing away from the flying complex, headed for re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, burning upon re-entry. HTV-4 was launched by Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Aug. 4, 2013 in order to bring up supplies for the astronauts and cosmonauts onboard the station. 125)


Figure 132: Canadarm2 prepares to release HTV-4 (image credit: NASA/JSC)

On Sept. 5, 2013, the HTV-4/Kounotori-4 left the ISS and reentered the atmosphere on Sept. 7 at an altitude of 120 km - completing its cargo resupply mission (destructive reentry into the Pacific Ocean). 126)


• The photograph of Figure 133 from the International Space Station highlights a late-summer "whiting event" visible across much of Lake Ontario (one of North America's Great Lakes). Such events commonly occur in late summer and are caused by changes in water temperature, which allows fine particles of calcium carbonate to form in the water column. Increased photosynthesis by phytoplankton and other microscopic marine life can also reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the water column, changing the acidity and allowing calcium carbonate to form. These particles of calcium carbonate cause the characteristic lightening ("whiting") of the water color observed. 127)


Figure 133: Whiting event on Lake Ontario in August 2013 (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 133: Astronaut photograph ISS036-E-35635 was acquired on August 24, 2013, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 50 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center.


• July 2013: Early morning lightning storms, inland of LA and San Diego, as seen from the ISS. 128)


Figure 134: Astronaut image of thunderstorms over southern California acquired on July 21, 2013 (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 134: Astronaut Karen Nyberg shot this image, showing the view from the International Space Station on July 21, 2013 with thunderstorms brewing over Los Angeles and San Diego, California. City lights are peering through the clouds, while lightning brightens the dark storm clouds. A solar array from a Russian spacecraft, docked to the ISS, appears at the bottom of the image.


• ATV-4 / Albert Einstein, Europe's supply and support ferry, docked with the International Space Station on 15 June 2013, some ten days after its launch from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. 129)


Figure 135: ATV-4 docking with the ISS (image credit: ESA, NASA)

Legend to Figure 135: In this image ATV's solar wings along with the vertical antenna on top – the ‘proximity boom' can be seen. The antenna is used to communicate with the Station. ATV-4/Albert Einstein delivered 7 tons of supplies, propellants and experiments to the complex.


• June 2013: From the vantage point of the International Space Station, astronauts frequently observe atmospheric and surface phenomena in ways that are impossible to view from the ground. Two such phenomena—gravity waves and sunglint—are illustrated in this photograph (Figure 136) of northeastern Lake Superior. 130)


Figure 136: Gravity Waves and Sunglint Accent Lake Superior; the image was acquired on June 24, 2013 with a Nikon D3S digital camera (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 136: At the top of the image, the Canadian Shield of southern Ontario is covered by an extensive forest canopy typical of early summer. Offshore and to the west and southwest of Pukaskwa National Park, several distinct sets of parallel cloud bands are visible. Gravity waves are produced when moisture-laden air encounters imbalances in air density, such as might be expected when cool air flows over warmer air. This can cause the flowing air to oscillate up and down as it moves, causing clouds to condense as the air rises and cools and to evaporate away as the air sinks and warms. This produces parallel bands of clouds oriented perpendicular to the wind direction. The orientation of the cloud bands in this image, parallel to the coastlines, suggests that air flowing off of the land surfaces to the north is interacting with moist, stable air over the lake surface, creating gravity waves.

The second phenomenon—sunglint—affects the water surface around and to the northeast of Isle Royale. Sunglint is caused by light reflection off a water surface; some of the reflected light travels directly back towards the observer, resulting in a bright mirror-like appearance over large expanses of water. Water currents and changes in surface tension—typically caused by presence of oils or surfactants—alter the reflective properties of the water and can be highlighted by sunglint. For example, surface water currents are visible to the east of Isle Royale that are oriented similarly to the gravity waves, suggesting that they too are the product of winds moving off of the land surface.


• Astronauts aboard the ISS photographed these striking views of Pavlof Volcano in Alaska on May 18, 2013 (Figure 131). The oblique perspective from the ISS reveals the three dimensional structure of the ash plume, which is often obscured by the top-down view of most remote sensing satellites. 131)

Located in the Aleutian Arc about 1000 km southwest of Anchorage, Pavlof began erupting on May 13, 2013. The volcano jetted lava into the air and spewed an ash cloud 6,000 m high. When the photograph (ISS036-E-2105) was taken, the space station was about 770 km south-southeast of the volcano (49.1° North latitude, 157.4° West longitude). The volcanic plume extended southeastward over the North Pacific Ocean.


Figure 137: The Pavlof volcano observed by the ISS on May 18, 2013 with a Nikon D3S digital camera (image credit: NASA)



Figure 138: The Moon over Earth photographed by the Expedition crew aboard the ISS on June 19, 2013 (image credit: NASA/MSFC) 132)

Legend to Figure 138: This image shows the limb of Earth near the bottom transitioning into the orange-colored troposphere, the lowest and most dense portion of the Earth's atmosphere. The troposphere ends abruptly at the tropopause, which appears in the image as the sharp boundary between the orange- and blue- colored atmosphere. The silvery-blue noctilucent clouds extend far above the Earth's troposphere.


• January 1, 2013: A Sleeping Giant (Figure 139), the Beauty and Threat of Vesuvius. A nearly vertical look onto Italy's Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that blew its top in 79 AD in the most famous volcanic eruption in recorded history. About 16,000 people lost their lives that day due to pyroclastic flow—searing hot ash blasting outward from the stratovolcano's maw. 133)

The volcano has erupted many times since then, including in the 20th century. Mount Vesuvius is still active. By taking another look at Figure 139 and the volcano's surrounding settlements, and the city of Naples just a few km away — it is mind blowing! More than half a million people live in the volcano's red zone—where destruction from a big eruption would be swift and brutal.


Figure 139: Photo of Mount Vesuvius acquired by astronaut Chris Hadfield from the cupola of the ISS on January 1, 2013 (image credit: NASA/JSC)


• Figure 140 was taken by an astronaut on the ISS with the ESA developed Nightpod in 2012 [built by Cosine Research BV (The Netherlands) as prime contractor and Astro-und Feinwerktechnik GmbH (Berlin-Adlershof, Germany)]. The Nightpod camera-stand tracks the movement of Earth passing under the Station at 28,800 km/h, keeping any target fixed in the middle of the viewfinder. Standard cameras fixed to Nightpod can use longer exposure times so that astronauts can take sharper pictures of cities at night. The Nightpod is described in a separate file on the eoPortal under ISS: Nightpod. 134)


Figure 140: Nightpod image of the Rhine region showing the cites of Bonn and Cologne, located on the right of this nighttime photo (image credit: ESA, NASA)

• On July 8, 2011, STS-135 ISS ULF7 flight of Atlantis was launched, representing the final Shuttle mission. The primary objective is to deliver cargo and supplies to the ISS; among them the Raffaello MPLM (Multi-Purpose Logistics Module). STS-135 is a late—and final—addition to the shuttle manifest. It is carrying out a key mission to help support the continued operations of the ISS and testing technology that can support satellite servicing. 135)


Figure 141: Space shuttle Atlantis is photographed from the International Space Station as it flies over the Bahamas prior to docking with the station. The Raffaello MPLM can be seen inside the shuttle's cargo bay (image credit: NASA)


• May 2011: This image of the International Space Station and the docked space shuttle Endeavour, flying at an altitude of approximately 350 km, was taken by Expedition 27 crew member Paolo Nespoli from the Soyuz TMA-20 ,following its undocking on May 23, 2011. 136)


Figure 142: Spectacular image of the ISS with the Space Shuttle STS-134 Endeavour and the ESA ATV-2 (Automated Transfer Vehicle-2) Johannes Kepler docked (image credit: NASA)

Legend to Figure 142: This picture and others taken by Paolo Nespoli with the Nikon D3X camera, were the first taken of a shuttle docked to the International Space Station from the perspective of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Onboard the Soyuz were Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 27 commander Dmitry Kondratyev; Nespoli, a European Space Agency astronaut; and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman. Coleman and Nespoli were both flight engineers. The three landed in Kazakhstan later that day, completing 159 days in space.

• The arrival of the WORF (Window Observational Research Facility) has allowed astronauts to permanently remove a protective, non-optical "scratch pane" on the window, which had often blurred images. The WORF also provides a highly stable mounting platform to hold cameras and sensors steady, while offering power, command, data, and cooling connections. With the WORF, the high-quality optics of the nadir viewing window—looking "straight down" towards the Earth—are now fully utilized for the first time since Destiny was launched in 2001. 137)

The WORF was delivered to the ISS in April 2010 on the STS-131 mission of Space Shuttle Discovery. It was installed and prepped on the Destiny Laboratory during 2010, and includes the highest quality optics ever flown on a human-occupied spacecraft.


Figure 143: Photo of the ISS Destiny Laboratory taken on Feb. 20, 2010 showing the location of the WORF window (image credit: NASA)


• On February 7, 2008, the Space Shuttle flight STS-122 was launched to deliver ESA's Columbus Laboratory to the ISS, Three EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activities) were needed to install the Columbus Laboratory at the US Node 2 of ISS, called Harmony. The 7 m long laboratory consists of a pressurized cylindrical hull 4.5 m in diameter,closed with welded end cones, providing a volume of 75 m3. 138) 139)


Figure 144: A close-up view of the Columbus Module as photographed by the crew of STS-122 shortly after the undocking of the two spacecraft (image credit: NASA)


• May 31, 2006: Located just north of the equator (3.85° North, 154.9° East), this classically shaped atoll is part of the Caroline Islands, which stretch northeast of Papua New Guinea in the western Pacific (the islands are roughly north of Guadalcanal, and southeast of the Guam and Truk Islands). Nukuoro Atoll is one of 607 islands that make up the Federated States of Micronesia, a United Nations Trust Territory under U.S. administration. 140)

- An atoll is a type of low, coral island found in tropical oceans and consisting of a coral-algal reef surrounding a central depression. The depression may be part of the emergent island, but more typically is a part of the sea (that is, a lagoon).

- About 900 people live on Nukuoro, whose lagoon is 6 km in diameter. Fishing, animal husbandry and agriculture (taro and copra) are the main occupations. Nukuoro is remote and has no airstrip; a passenger boat calls irregularly only once a month. The tiny population speaks its own unique language.


Figure 145: This image was taken by the Expedition 13 crew aboard the International Space Station on May 31, 2006 (image credit: NASA)


• On Nov. 2, 2000, the Expedition 1 crew — Commander William M. (Bill) Shepherd of NASA and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev and Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko of Roscosmos — arrived at the International Space Station, marking the start of an uninterrupted human presence on the orbiting laboratory. Their Soyuz capsule made contact with the aft docking port of the station's Zvezda Service Module at 3:21 A.M. CST (Central Standard Time) while the two spacecraft were flying over the central portion of Kazakhstan. A little over one hour later at 4:23 A.M., the hatch leading into the Zvezda's living quarters was opened, signifying the start of human occupancy of the international complex. Gidzenko and Krikalev floated into Zvezda first, at the request of the commander. Once inside the station, the crew members continued the work begun by space shuttle crews and ground controllers to bring the station to life. 141)


Figure 146: This Dec. 2, 2000, photograph shows the configuration of the space station at the start of Expedition 1 including the Zarya Control Module, Unity Node, Zvezda Service Module and Z1-Truss. It was taken by STS-97 crewmembers aboard shuttle Endeavour during approach to dock with the station on a mission to deliver and connect the first set of U.S.-provided solar arrays, prepare a docking port for arrival of the U.S. Laboratory Destiny and perform additional station assembly tasks. The Expedition 1 crew spent four months living and working on the station and returned to Earth aboard shuttle Discovery on March 21, 2001 (image credit: NASA)


• On Dec. 4, 1998, NASA's space shuttle Endeavour launched Unity, the first U.S. module of the complex, during the STS-88 mission. The seven-day mission was highlighted by the mating of the U.S.-built Unity node to the Functional Cargo Block (Zarya module) already in orbit, and three spacewalks to connect power and data transmission cables between the Node and the FGB. Other payloads on the STS-88 mission included the ICBC (IMAX Cargo Bay Camera), the Argentine Scientific Applications Satellite-S (SAC-A), the MightySat 1 Hitchhiker payload, the Space Experiment Module (SEM-07) and Getaway Special G-093 sponsored by the University of Michigan. 142) 143)

- The STS-88 launch begins the largest cooperative space construction project in history. Endeavour is scheduled to rendezvous with the U.S.-funded and Russian-built Zarya control module on Dec. 6. Zarya, which in Russian means sunrise, lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on Nov. 20.

- After reaching orbit, Commander Bob Cabana, Pilot Rick Sturckow and Mission Specialists Nancy Currie, Jerry Ross, Jim Newman and Sergei Krikalev began preparing for the first of several engine firings that will bring Endeavour within Canadarm's reach of Zarya. Along the way, the crew will use the same 15 m long Canadarm Dec. 5 to remove the Unity module from the payload bay and connect it to the shuttle's docking hatch. Crew members will use the robot arm to grapple Zarya on Dec. 6 and dock it to one of Unity's two Pressurized Mating Adapters.

- Newman and Ross are scheduled to conduct the first of the mission's three space walks Dec. 7. The space walks will connect electrical and communications lines between Unity and Zarya, and prepare Unity's systems for activation.

- After Endeavour undocks from the International Space Station on Dec. 13, the crew will deploy two small technology demonstration satellites called MightySat and the Argentine SAC-A (Satelite de Aplicaciones/Scientifico-A).


Figure 147: On December 7, 1998, the crew of Space Shuttle Mission STS-88 continued construction of the International Space Station in Endeavour's payload bay. Astronaut James Newman is seen here making final connections of the U.S.-built Unity node (bottom) to the Russian-built Zarya module (top). The crew carried a large-format IMAX camera from which this picture was taken (image credit: NASA)



Figure 148: Endeavour, docked to Unity, moves the Zarya spacecraft into position for mating using the Canadarm (image credit: NASA)


Figure 149: On Dec. 6, 1998, the crew of space shuttle mission STS-88 began construction of the International Space Station in Endeavour's payload bay, attaching the U.S.-built Unity node and the Russian-built Zarya module together in orbit. The crew carried a large-format IMAX® camera, used to take this image of Unity lifted out of Endeavour's payload bay to position it upright for connection to Zarya. The image shows the Unity module lifted up from the space shuttle by Canadarm to be joined to the Zarya module (image credit: NASA)


• November 20, 1998: The Zarya Module, also known by the Russian acronym FGB (Functional Cargo Block), was the first component launched for the International Space Station. This module was designed to provide the station's initial propulsion and power. The 19,323 kg pressurized module was launched on a Russian Proton rocket in November 1998. 144) 145)

- The U.S.-funded and Russian-built Zarya, which means "Sunrise" when translated into English, is a U.S. component of the station, although it was built and launched by Russia. The module was built by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, which is also known as KhSC, in Moscow under a subcontract to The Boeing Company for NASA. Only weeks after Zarya reached orbit, the Space Shuttle Endeavour made a rendezvous and attached a U.S.-built connecting module called Node 1, or Unity. The Zarya Module provided orientation control, communications and electrical power attached to the passive Unity while the station awaited launch of the third component, a Russian-provided crew living quarters and early station core known as the Zvezda Service Module. The Service Module enhanced or replaced many functions of Zarya. The Zarya module is now used primarily for its storage capacity and external fuel tanks.

- The Zarya Module is 12.33 m long and 4.12 m wide at its widest point. Its solar arrays and six nickel-cadmium batteries can provide an average of 3 kW of electrical power. Its side docking ports accommodate Russian Soyuz spacecraft and unpiloted Progress resupply spacecraft. Each of the two solar arrays is 10.67 m long and 3.35 m wide. The module's 16 fuel tanks combined can hold more than six tons of propellant. The attitude control system for the module includes 24 large steering jets and 12 small steering jets. Two large engines were available for reboosting the spacecraft and making major orbital changes before Zvezda arrived.

- Construction of the Zarya Module began at KhSC in December 1994. It was shipped to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, launch site to begin launch preparations in January 1998. The three-stage Proton rocket launched the module into a 220.4 x 339.6 km. During launch, the module's systems were in an idle mode to conserve battery power. After reaching the initial elliptical orbit and separating from the Proton's third stage, a set of preprogrammed commands automatically activated the module's systems and deployed the solar arrays and communications antennas. Using the Russian Kurs system, the Zarya performed an automated and remotely piloted rendezvous and docking with the Service Module in orbit. After several days of operational tests, the module was commanded to fire its engines and circularize its orbit at an altitude of about 386 km, the orbit at which Endeavour made rendezvous and captured the spacecraft to attach it to the U.S.-built Unity Node.


Figure 150: Zarya module as seen from the STS-88 (Endeavour) in December 1998 (image credit: NASA)

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78) Nancy Atkinson, “This is What War (and Borders) Look Like From Space,” Universe Today, Feb. 3, 2015, URL:

79) “Samantha in the Cupola,” ESA, February 9-13, 2015, URL:

80) “Striking lightning from space,” ESA, image of the week, Jan. 27, 2015, URL:

81) Ken Kremer, “Astronauts Safely Back inside US Space Station Segment after False Ammonia Leak Alarm,” Universe Today, January 14, 2015, URL:

82) D. Huot, “Space Station Update,” NASA blog, Jan. 14, 2015, URL:

83) “Chemistry experiment on Station,” ESA, Jan. 13, 2015, URL:

84) “Plume from the Fraser River,” NASA Earth Observatory, Jan. 7, 2015, URL:

85) Ken Kremer “Good Morning, Space Station … A Dragon Soars Soon!,” Universe Today, Jan. 3, 2015, URL:

86) “ATV views Space Station as never before,” ESA, Dec. 9, 2014, URL:

87) “LIRIS infrared,” ESA, Dec. 9, 2014, URL:

88) “LIRIS lidar,” ESA, Dec. 9, 2014, URL:

89) Rafail Murtazin, Evgenia Zaborskaya, “ISS maneuvering: 15 years of experience,” Proceedings of the 65th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2014), Toronto, Canada, Sept. 29-Oct. 3, 2014, paper: IAC-14.B3.4-B6.5.1

90) “NASA looks to post-2020 International Space Station operations,” William Harwood, Sept. 19, 2013, URL:

91) “Florida at Night,” NASA, Nov. 17, 2014, URL:

92) “Space Station selfie,” ESA, Nov. 4, 2014, URL:

93) “The most amazing thing,” ESA, Our week in Images, Oct. 6-10, 2014, URL:

94) Elizabeth Howell, “Magical Images From Two Prolific Astronaut Tweeters Doing Their First Spacewalk,” Universe Today, October 8, 2014, URL:

95) “Wiseman and Gerst Complete First Spacewalk of Expedition 41,” NASA, Oct. 7, 2014, URL:

96) “Fourth Dragon for Commercial Resupply Services Arrives at Station,” NASA News, Sept. 23, 2014, URL:

97) “How to catch a Dragon,” ESA, Sept. 23, 2014, URL:

98) Ken Kremer, “Commercial SpaceX Dragon Cargo Capsule Arrives at Space Station,” Universe Today, Sept. 23, 2014, URL:

99) “Meteor Crater, Arizona,” ESA Week in Images, August 18-22, 2014, URL:

100) “Alexander Gerst inside ATV-5 after hatch opening,” ESA Week in Images , August 15, 2014, URL:

101) “ATV-5 set to test new rendezvous sensors,” ESA, March 18, 2014, URL:

102) “ATV's fiery break-up to be seen from inside,” ESA, July 17, 2014, URL:

103) “Eastern Mediterranean Coastline at Night,” NASA Earth Observatory, August 18, 2014, URL:

104) Ken Kremer, “Spectacular Southern Lights, Shooting Stars, Sahara Snapshots and more from ESA’s Alexander Gerst aboard ISS,” Universe Today, July 6, 2014, URL:

105) “National Stadium of Brasília,” NASA Earth Observatory series image, released on June 16, 2014, URL:

106) URL:

107) Alexander's first week in space,” ESA, June 5, 2014, URL:

108) “Expedition 40/41 portrait,” NASA, ESA, June 5, 2014, URL:

109) Jason Major, “Stunning Snapshots from Space Courtesy of Reid Wiseman,” Universe Today, Jine 2, 2014, URL:

110) “Brussels and Antwerp at Night,” NASA Earth Observatory, May 5, 2014, URL:

111) “Grand Canyon Geology Lessons on View,” NASA Earth Observatory, April 14, 2014, URL:

112) “Meet space station’s small satellite launcher suite,” Science Daily, April 3, 2014, URL:

113) “Kavir Desert, Iran,” NASA Earth Observatory, released on March 31,2014, URL:

114) Elizabeth Howell, “Seen From Space! Crew’s Rocket Launch Spotted By NASA Astronaut In Orbit,” Universe Today, March 25, 2014, URL:

115) “Bowknot Bend,” NASA Earth Observatory, March 17, 2014, URL:

116) “EAC from Space Station,” ESA “image of the week” , March 11, 2014, URL:

117) “Week in Images,” ESA, March 7, 2014, URL:

118) “The Koreas at Night,” NASA Earth Observatory, Feb. 24, 2014, URL:

119) Melissa Gaskill, “Space Station Sharper Images of Earth at Night Crowdsourced For Science,” NASA, Aug. 14, 2014, URL:

120) “Sochi at Night,” NASA Earth Observatory, Feb. 17, 2014, URL:

121) Trent J. Perrotto, Josh Byerly, “New NASA Science Arrives at Space Station Aboard Orbital Sciences Cygnus Spacecraft,” NASA Release, 14-013, Jan. 12, 2013, URL:

122) “Salt Lake City at Night,” NASA Earth Observatory, Jan. 06, 2014, URL:

123) “Valencia's claws,” ESA, Jan. 07, 2014, URL: http://percentage's/Images/2013/12/Valencia

124) “Glowing Fog Accompanies Bright City Lights,” Earth Imaging Journal, Oct. 23, 2013, URL:

125) “Canadarm2 Prepares to Release HTV-4,” NASA/JSC, URL:

126) “Successful re-entry of H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI4” (HTV4),” JAXA Press release, Sept. 7, 2013, URL:

127) “Whiting Event, Lake Ontario,” NASA Earth Observatory, Sept. 3, 2013, URL:

128) Nancy Atkinson, “Pretty Picture from Space: Thunderstorms Over Southern California,” Universe Today, July 25, 2013, URL:

129) “ATV-4 Docking,” ESA, June 18, 2013, URL:

130) “Gravity Waves and Sunglint, Lake Superior,” NASA, July 22, 2013, URL:

131) “Pavlof Volcano, Alaska Peninsula,” NASA Earth Observatory, May 23, 2013, URL:

132) “The Moon Over Earth (NASA, International Space Station),” NASA, URL:

133) “Gallery: Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s Top 15 Pictures (and One Video) From Space,” URL:

134) “Aachen, Cologne and Bonn, Germany,” ESA, 2012, URL:

135) “STS-135: The Final Voyage,” NASA, July 27, 2011, URL:

136) “STS-134 Flight Day 8 Gallery,” NASA, URL:

137) Mario Runco, Susan Runco, William L. Stefanov, and Brion Au, Robert Simon, “We Can See Clearly Now: ISS Window Observational Research Facility,” NASA Earth Observatory, URL:



140) ”Nukuoro Atoll,” NASA, March 23, 2008, URL:

141) ”Looking Back: International Space Station at the Start of Expedition 1,” NASA, Nov. 2, 2015, URL:

142) ”International Space Station Assembly Begins,” NASA, Dec. 6, 2013, URL:

143) ”Status Report: STS-88-02,” NASA, Dec. 4, 1998, URL:

144) ”Zarya - International Space Station,” NASA, URL:

145) ”Zarya,” Wikipedia, URL:

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 (

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