ISS: Sample Imagery
ISS Utilization: Sample imagery taken by astronauts on and from the ISS + Events
This file is a loose collection of some imagery samples taken by astronauts off and from the ISS (International Space Station). Astronauts who experience Earth from orbit often report feelings of awe and wonder, of being transformed by what they describe as the magic such a perspective brings. This phenomenon is called the ”overview effect.” The short descriptions in the following entries are presented in reverse order .
Note: As of June 2019, the previously large ISS-Imagery2 and ISS-Imagery files have been split into four files, to make the file handling manageable for all parties concerned, in particular for the user community.
• This article covers the ISS-Imagery plus some status in the period 2019
Mission status and imagery of 2019
• June 25, 2019: NASA astronaut Anne McClain and two of her Expedition 59 crewmates returned to Earth from the International Space Station Monday, landing safely in Kazakhstan at 10:47 p.m. EDT (8:47 a.m. Tuesday, June 25, local time) after months of science and four spacewalks aboard the microgravity laboratory. 1)
- McClain, Expedition 59/Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency launched Dec. 3, 2018. They arrived at the space station just six hours later to begin their 204-day mission, during which they orbited Earth 3,264 times traveling 86,430,555 miles.
- After post-landing medical checks, McClain and Saint-Jacques will return to Houston and Kononenko to Star City, Russia.
- The Expedition 59 crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science, including investigations into small devices that replicate the structure and function of human organs, editing DNA in space for the first time and recycling 3D-printed material.
- McClain, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and native of Spokane, Washington, conducted two spacewalks totaling 13 hours and 8 minutes on her mission into space.
- Saint-Jacques, also on his first space mission and only the sixth Canadian astronaut to perform a spacewalk, joined McClain on her second outing, which totaled 6 hours and 29 minutes. Kononenko, on his fourth mission, conducted two spacewalks totaling 13 hours and 46 minutes, bringing his career total to 32 hours and 13 minutes spread over five spacewalks.
- When their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft undocked at 7:25 p.m., Expedition 60 began aboard the station officially, with Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA as flight engineers, and Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos as the station’s commander.
- The next residents to arrive at the space station – Andrew Morgan of NASA, Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) and Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos – will launch aboard Soyuz MS-13 on July 20, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and join Expedition 60 after a six-hour flight.
Figure 1: NASA astronaut Anne McClain is assisted out of the Soyuz MS-11 that returned her and crewmates Oleg Kononenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency back to Earth on June 24, 2019, landing in a remote area near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, after 204 days aboard the International Space Station (image credit: NASA)
• June 18, 2019: Biomedicine and physics topped the research schedule aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 59 crew also checked out U.S. spacesuits while preparing a Russian crew ship for return to Earth next week. 2)
- NASA is preparing for human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. The astronauts aboard the orbiting lab are helping scientists keep crews healthy and engineers design safer, more advanced spacecraft.
- Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques started Tuesday morning collecting blood, urine and body swab samples for the Standard Measures study. They stowed the samples in a science freezer for later analysis to help doctors understand how humans respond to microgravity.
- The Genes In Space-6 (GIS-6) experiment had another run today inside Europe’s Columbus laboratory module. Christina Koch of NASA set up the Biomolecule Sequencer to sequence DNA samples during the morning. The DNA research seeks to understand how space radiation mutates DNA and assesses the molecular level repair process.
- She and Saint-Jacques also took turns resizing U.S. spacesuits and swapping out components. Mission managers are planning more spacewalks later this year for battery and science hardware maintenance.
- Flight Engineer Nick Hague spent most of Tuesday running the Capillary Structures study to observe how fluid and gas mixtures behave inside structures designed for microgravity. Today’s operations demonstrated fluid flows with potential applications for advanced life support systems in space.
- Commander Oleg Kononenko continues inventorying gear and trash for packing inside the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft. He will complete a 204-day mission with McClain and Saint-Jacques when they parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan on June 24 scheduled for 10:48 p.m. EDT (June 25 8:48 a.m. Kazakh time).
Figure 2: NASA astronaut Christina Koch works on the Capillary Structures experiment studying how to manage fluid and gas mixtures for more reliable life support systems in space (image credit: NASA)
• June 18, 2019: Using a short lens to give a wide view, an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) focused on at least a dozen thin lines stretching across the North Pacific Ocean near the Aleutian Islands. The thin lines were first interpreted to be contrails, but a former Naval oceanographer (now an ISS payload scientist) in the NASA’s Earth Science and Remote Sensing (ESRS) office recognized them as ship tracks. A solar panel of the ISS cuts into the top right of the photograph. 3)
- Ship tracks generally form under stable, fairly calm atmospheric conditions where there is a temperature inversion (warm air above the layer of cooler air). Particles emitted from the smoke stacks of ships are carried up into the atmosphere and act as cloud condensation nuclei in the low-level clouds. Water molecules cling to these particles and make smaller and denser cloud droplets within stable marine-layer air masses. The cloud lines trace out the curved trajectories of ships. This is a well-known phenomenon to scientists and weather forecasters who study the atmosphere and aerosols.
- Under light wind conditions, ship tracks can remain visible for many hours. The same cloud patterns and ship tracks were also visible that day in imagery from the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite.
Figure 3: This astronaut photograph ISS059-E-36734 was acquired on April 28, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 24 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 59 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• June 14, 2019: Everyone is used to living with smarter devices. But imagine living in a smart city where everything from public transport to city lamps are efficient and sustainable. This seemingly simple image of northern Italy from Earth orbit is one of the ways space is paving the way for cities to get smarter. 4)
- Doorbells, refrigerators and toothbrushes are everyday devices that are now controllable, customizable and designed to make your life run more efficiently by collecting and relaying data using telecommunications satellites. Other space technology is helping to collect valuable data that can result in larger scale changes for cities. Take one of humankind’s greatest achievement in space so far, the International Space Station.
- Astronauts routinely snap photos of Earth from the orbital outpost, and not just for the likes and retweets. Photographs like this one of northern Italy, taken by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano during his 2013 mission, provide vital data about city efficiency and sustainability.
- Researchers have devised a method to assess the environmental impact of artificial light on humans, animals, and the surrounding environment using one of the few sources of publicly-accessible night images of Earth in color: pictures taken by the astronauts from the International Space Station.
- City lights are disruptive not only for the lives of nocturnal animals, who suffer from disorientation and behavioral and physiological changes, but also for people. An excess of artificial light before bedtime reduces melatonin production, a hormone linked to sleep. This suppression can lead to negative effects on our health, including breast and prostate cancer. In addition, streetlights account for a large chunk of a country’s energy consumption. As the world grapples with climate change and cleaner sources of energy, how that energy is put to use is a bright topic.
- Cities at Night is an online platform that invites citizens to flip through the half a million photographs of Earth at night taken so far by astronauts from the Space Station to identify cities. The end result of Cities at Night will be map of Earth that is accessible to anyone. Researchers want to use the map to locate energy inefficiencies in urban cities to urge dimming of the lights. A case in point is the city of Milan. The city replaced their orange sodium lamps with white LEDs. Comparisons of Milan from night as seen from space before and after the change has shown that the white light is worse for the local environment.
- The data retrieved from these images is vital to drawing risk maps for artificial lighting that can help guide city officials in these types of decisions. And that’s just smart.
- More than half the world’s population live in cities. Space plays an important role in urban innovation, improving the quality of life of millions – and potentially billions – of people. This week, we take a look at what ESA is doing to benefit city dwellers. Join the conversation online by following the hashtag #SmartCities.
Figure 4: Northern Italy at night. The two big bright spots in the image are Turin at left and Milan at right (image credit: ESA, NASA)
• June 11, 2019: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured this downward-looking (nadir) photograph of the Amistad Reservoir, which is on the border of Mexico and Texas. The reservoir is located just west of the city of Del Rio. It was created in 1969 with the completion of the Amistad Dam, built at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Devils River in order to store water and prevent local flooding. 5)
Figure 5: The astronaut photograph ISS059-E-35758 was acquired on April 25, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 116 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 59 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick)
- The lake and river levels regularly fluctuate due to rainfall or drought. When water depth is at the conservation pool level, Amistad is the second largest lake in Texas. However, the last time the reservoir hit conservation pool level was in 2011. The area is currently abnormally dry (according to the U.S. Drought Monitor), and the reservoir level is 32 feet below the 2011 level (data as of June 4, 2019.)
- The U.S. portion of the reservoir and surrounding land is known as the Amistad National Recreation Area, and it is home to a unique combination of flora and fauna. There are three major plant communities in the area—Tamaulipan Shrubland, Chihuahuan Desert, and Edwards Plateau—as well as two major climate zones (temperate and tropical), making for significant biodiversity in the park. The area is also a waypoint for seasonal migrations of animals and insects, with the most significant being Monarch butterflies. Thousands of Monarchs pass through the area each October on their way to the mountains of central Mexico.
• June 11, 2019: In the age of social media, no new experience goes undocumented. On Earth, we fill our camera rolls with weekends away, social events and time spent with family and friends. But just imagine how many photos you might take if you lived and worked in space. 6)
- With its incredible outlook on Earth below, the Cupola is a favorite spot for astronauts onboard the International Space Station. And, with just two weeks before they return to Earth on 24 June, astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques and cosmonaut Oleg Kononeko will be taking every opportunity to capture that great view.
Figure 6: NASA astronaut Anne McClain in the Cupola module of the International Space Station takes a break while practising Canadarm2 robotics and Cygnus spacecraft capture techniques, 16 April 2019 (image credit: NASA)
- While the images are breathtaking, what you might not realize is their value in looking after the planet we call home. What is more, you can get involved right here on Earth through citizen mapping project Cities at Night. This European project aims to build the first-ever real color map of Earth at night by calling on everyday citizens to help classify, locate and georeference pictures taken by astronauts and more than 17,000 citizens have contributed to date.
- For now, it is time to shine a spotlight on the past two weeks in space.
Learning from lights
- City lights are not only disruptive for the lives of nocturnal animals, who suffer from disorientation and behavioral and physiological changes, but also for people. An excess of artificial light before bedtime reduces melatonin production, a hormone linked to sleep. This suppression can lead to negative effects on our health, including breast and prostate cancer. Streetlights also account for a large chunk of a country’s energy consumption.
Figure 7: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst took this photo from the International Space Station during his Horizons mission and commented: "We need this project for sustainable peace on our home continent and beyond. So we better not take it for granted." - Horizons lasted six months in space during which Alexander conducted over 60 European experiments, became the second ever European commander of the International Space Station, welcomed six resupply vehicles, installed the first commercial facility for research in the Columbus laboratory, delivered an important message on climate change for leaders at the COP24 climate change conference, captured real-time footage of a Soyuz launch abort and much, much more.- Horizons was Alexander’s second mission to the International Space Station – the first was Blue Dot in 2014 (image credit: ESA/NASA)
- Aside from a few composite images from ESA’s Rosetta satellite, photos of Earth at night taken by astronauts onboard the International Space Station are the only color images of their kind freely available for public use. NASA has a public database with over 1.3 million color photographs taken by astronauts since 2003 and researchers are now using these nocturnal images to assess the environmental impact of artificial light using a mathematical technique called synthetic photometry.
- Synthetic photometry enables researchers to identify light sources in night-time images captured by astronauts under different light conditions and camera settings. The results give precise information about how the color and brightness of street lamps can suppress melatonin production or obstruct the vision of the stars.
Eye in the sky
- Continuing the theme of Earth observation, ASIM (Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor) operations are also ongoing this month. You may recall commissioning activities for ASIM concluded 18 June 2018. That means the facility is now about to enter the second year of a two-year operational period.
- Located on external payload platform of Europe’s Columbus module, ASIM aids the study of severe thunderstorms and their role in Earth’s atmosphere and climate. The ASIM platform consists of two instruments: the Modular Multi-Spectral Imaging Array (MMIA) and the Modular X and Gamma Ray Sensor (MXGS). It measures the region of the atmosphere within and above severe thunderstorms including high-altitude electrical discharges in the stratosphere and mesosphere, intracloud lightning in the troposphere, gravity waves, and creation of high-altitude clouds. It is operated from the ground and is already producing exciting results.
Figure 8: 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 International Space Station 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. - 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 (image credit: ESA/NASA)
Figure 9: A short video timelapse of this sequence is provided showing the thunderstorm passing underneath the International Space Station (video credit: ESA/NASA)
Flood, fluids and antioxidants
- Summing up two weeks of science on the Space Station is a tricky task and it would be impossible to cover every activity every time. But there are at least three more European experiments that deserve a mention in this edition.
Figure 10: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet works on the Fluidics experiment inside the Space Station's European Columbus laboratory. - Posting on social media, Thomas wrote: "The spheres for the Fluidics experiment. One liquid is to help get every drop of fuel out of satellite fuel-tanks, the other liquid is to understand surface turbulence in liquids. By looking at surface turbulence without gravity interfering researchers can single out what influences behavior that forms ripples. This could help us better understand ocean currents and wave formation on Earth"(image credit: ESA/NASA)
- Early this month NASA astronaut Christina Koch performed multiple runs of French experiment Fluidics, designed to better understand how fluids behave in weightlessness. The objectives of these sessions were to power on and test the Fluidics system after an anomaly encountered during a previous session and to observe the behavior of fluids in two new tanks where different wave breaker systems were inserted.
- The algae selected for this experiment, chlorella vulgaris, is single-celled, spherical and can be cultivated in pumped loops to produce oxygen and edible biomass from carbon dioxide and water. It requires regular nutrients to support its growth, as well as exposure to light.
- Understanding the underlying physics of how liquids move in space will not only improve fuel economy for spacecraft, but also enhance our understanding of Earth’s ocean currents and our climate as a whole.
Figure 11: PhotoBioreactor on Space Station. If we are to travel farther for longer, it will also be important to generate our own sustainable supplies of food and oxygen in space. The German Aerospace Center DLR experiment PhotoBioreactor on the International Space Station includes algae to convert carbon dioxide to breathable oxygen and edible algae in space. - The algae selected for this experiment, chlorella vulgaris, is single-celled, spherical and can be cultivated in pumped loops to produce oxygen and edible biomass from carbon dioxide and water. It requires regular nutrients to support its growth, as well as exposure to light (image credit: NASA)
- Another recent highlight was the transfer of Nano Antioxidant containers to SpaceX’s Dragon CRS-17 spacecraft that returned to Earth on 3 June. Through this experiment, researchers are looking for novel ways to stimulate cells in the battle against muscle loss, heart failure, diabetes or Parkinson’s disease. Going down to the genetic level, scientists hope to find a tailored solution that will stop the detrimental effects of long stays in Earth orbit and in deep space. Read more about that here.
- As ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano continues his pre-mission training on Earth, Anne, David and Oleg are preparing to return. But whether astronauts are about to be launched or recently returned, science is high on the agenda. Find out more about baseline data collection on Alexander Gerst’s mission blog.
- This move comes as NASA focuses full speed ahead on its goal of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, where American companies also will play an essential role in establishing a sustainable presence.
- NASA officials, including the agency’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit, will discuss details of the five-part near-term plan in a news conference at 10 a.m. EDT today. The news conference will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Figure 12: During a June 7 news conference at Nasdaq in New York City, NASA announced that the International Space Station is now open for commercial business. A new policy provides the opportunity for up to two short-duration private astronaut missions to the space station beginning as early as 2020, if the market supports it. The policy also, for the first time, includes prices for use of U.S. government resources to pursue commercial and marketing activities aboard the station. The agency’s goal is to foster a robust ecosystem in low-Earth orbit through which it can purchase services as one of many customers. This will allow NASA to focus resources on its Artemis missions to land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 (video credit: NASA, Published on 7 June 2019)
- NASA will continue research and testing in low-Earth orbit to inform its lunar exploration plans, while also working with the private sector to test technologies, train astronauts and strengthen the burgeoning space economy. Providing expanded opportunities at the International Space Station to manufacture, market and promote commercial products and services will help catalyze and expand space exploration markets for many businesses.
- The agency’s ultimate goal in low-Earth orbit is to partner with industry to achieve a strong ecosystem in which NASA is one of many customers purchasing services and capabilities at lower cost.
- NASA’s plan addresses both the supply-side and demand-side for a new economy, enabling use of government resources for commercial activities, creating the opportunity for private astronaut missions to the space station, enabling commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit, identifying and pursuing activities that foster new and emerging markets, and quantifying NASA’s long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit.
Figure 13: The International Space Station photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking, Oct. 4, 2018 (image credit: NASA)
Commercial Activities Aboard the Space Station
- More than 50 companies already are conducting commercial research and development on the space station via the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, and their results are yielding great promise. In addition, NASA has worked with 11 different companies to install 14 commercial facilities on the station that support research and development projects for NASA and the ISS National Lab.
- This effort is intended to broaden the scope of commercial activity on the space station beyond the ISS National Lab mandate, which is limited to research and development. A new NASA directive will enable commercial manufacturing and production and allow both NASA and private astronauts to conduct new commercial activities aboard the orbiting laboratory. The directive also sets prices for industry use of U.S. government resources on the space station for commercial and marketing activities.
- Pricing released Friday (7 June) is specific to commercial and marketing activities enabled by the new directive, reflects a representative cost to NASA, and is designed to encourage the emergence of new markets. As NASA learns how these new markets respond, the agency will reassess the pricing and amount of available resources approximately every six months and make adjustments as necessary.
- To qualify, commercial and marketing activities must either:
a) require the unique microgravity environment to enable manufacturing, production or development of a commercial application;
b) have a connection to NASA’s mission; or
c) support the development of a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy.
- NASA’s directive enabling commercial and marketing activities aboard the space station addresses manufacturing, production, transportation, and marketing of commercial resources and goods, including products intended for commercial sale on Earth. NASA astronauts will be able to conduct coordinated, scheduled and reimbursable commercial and marketing activities consistent with government ethics requirements aboard the station.
- To ensure a competitive market, NASA initially is making available five percent of the agency’s annual allocation of crew resources and cargo capability, including 90 hours of crew time and 175 kg of cargo launch capability, but will limit the amount provided to any one company.
Private Astronaut Missions
- NASA also is enabling private astronaut missions of up to 30 days on the International Space Station to perform duties that fall into the approved commercial and marketing activities outlined in the directive released Friday, with the first mission as early as 2020. A new NASA Research Announcement focus area issued today outlines the path for those future private astronaut missions.
- If supported by the market, the agency can accommodate up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year to the International Space Station. These missions will be privately funded, dedicated commercial spaceflights. Private astronaut missions will use a U.S. spacecraft developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
- The commercial entity developing the mission will determine crew composition for each mission and ensure private astronauts meet NASA’s medical standards and the training and certification procedures for International Space Station crew members. Market studies identified private astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit as a key element to demonstrate demand and reduce risk for future commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit.
Commercial Destinations in Low-Earth Orbit
- In the long-term, NASA’s goal is to become one of many customers purchasing services from independent, commercial and free-flying habitable destinations in low-Earth orbit. A robust low-Earth orbit economy will need multiple commercial destinations, and NASA is partnering with industry to pursue dual paths to that objective that either go through the space station or directly to a free-flying destination.
- As a first step, NASA is making one space station port and utilities available for industry to attach a commercial module to support commercial activities, and today is releasing a synopsis as Appendix I in NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). NASA expects to release the solicitation June 14, with awards made by the end of the fiscal year. The forward port of the station’s Harmony module will be available to industry for a finite period of time.
- NASA will follow up with a synopsis for NextSTEP 2 Appendix K in July to partner with industry in the development of future free-flying commercial stations in low-Earth orbit.
Stimulate Sustainable Demand
- NASA continues to seek and pursue opportunities to stimulate sustainable commercial demand in low-Earth orbit and, to that end, has added two new focus areas to the NASA Research Announcement soliciting proposals for commercial concepts. these focus areas include in-space manufacturing, regenerative medicine, bioengineering, and other fields that may lead to a scalable, financially self-sustaining demand for low-Earth orbit capabilities.
- In addition, NASA is seeking targeted studies to better understand real and perceived barriers of potential new market entrants and to address broad ideas which could help stimulate demand. Successful proposals will define the path to broadly foster market growth, provide data-driven rationale to support the defined path, and lead to recommendations on which NASA, industry or other organizations could act. More details are available in the synopsis for NextSTEP 2 BAA Appendix J. NASA expects to release the solicitation for Appendix J on June 14 with awards made by the end of the fiscal year.
- NASA also is working to increase the research and development community’s understanding of the potential value of microgravity research and the path to conducting research in low-Earth orbit by coordinating across the microgravity community to lower barriers to entry and refinement of research via drop towers, parabolic, and suborbital flights.
Quantify NASA’s Long-term Demand
- NASA is providing a forecast of its minimum long-term, low-Earth orbit requirements, representing the type and amount of services that NASA intends to purchase when those services become commercially available. The goal is to reduce uncertainty for commercial destination providers about NASA as a customer, and to help them make decisions about which NASA requirements they are interested in fulfilling.
- NASA also is providing details and estimated quantities for NASA crew accommodation, human research, biological and physical science research, technology demonstrations, and hosted science instruments. In addition, NASA intends to continue purchasing services for a national laboratory capability in low-Earth orbit. For example, NASA’s strategy research in the areas of space biology, physical sciences, and fundamental physics is driven by recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Fundamental research and applied exploration research are not mutually exclusive, and advances in one area often enable advancements in the other. NASA’s Space Life and Physical Sciences Research Applications division has identified the highest research priorities for long-term use of low-Earth orbit: in life sciences, the priorities are studies of plants, model organisms, and of the microbiome of the built environment; and in physical sciences, the priorities are studies into combustion and phase change-associated energy transfer.
- To improve the agency’s five-part plan and its effectiveness, NASA is seeking feedback from industry and others through a request for information, with responses due by July 3.
- For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked aboard the International Space Station, conducting thousands of experiments in areas such as human research, biology, and physical science, as well as advanced technology development. Many of these experiments, conducted via the ISS National Lab, have been research and development with commercial objectives. New opportunities are needed to move beyond research and development, and the station will play an essential role in enabling those opportunities for new commercial markets needed to build a sustainable ecosystem in low-Earth orbit.
- Learn more about opportunities for commercial activities aboard the International Space Station: https://www.nasa.gov/leo-economy/low-earth-orbit-economy
• June 4, 2019: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) aimed a camera towards the Rocky Mountains to capture this image of Flathead Lake. The lake we see today on the western edge of Flathead National Forest is a remnant of Glacial Lake Missoula. 8)
- For hundreds to thousands of years, the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille tribes have hunted, foraged, and fished on land now included within the Flathead Indian Reservation. Today cherry orchards line Flathead Lake and they are irrigated by water from the basin. These orchards, along with others in surrounding cities, contribute to an annual sweet cherry production of 4 million pounds.
- Native and migratory birds like the bald eagle, the Canada goose, terns, and sandhill cranes use the islands, shorelines, and surrounding uplands of Flathead Lake as overwintering and breeding grounds. Wild Horse Island, the largest in the lake, was reportedly once used by the Kootenai tribe to hide horses in order to protect them from enemies.
Figure 14: Flathead is located within a depression known as the Rocky Mountain Trench, and it is one of the largest freshwater lakes west of the Mississippi River in the continental United States. The lighter-toned parts of the lake are due to the inflow of sediment from seasonal snow melt. The meandering Flathead River, which flows south into the lake, has created multiple sloughs (also known as oxbows) along its course (image credit: Astronaut photograph ISS059-E-36857 was acquired on April 29, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 240 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 59 crew)
• May 16, 2019: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. The Republic of the Philippines is comprised of thousands of islands. Most of the country’s population (about 100 million people) live on just eleven of those islands, with more than half living on Luzon. 9)
- Mountain ranges and valleys trend north-south across the island. (Note that north is to the lower left in this photo.) The Cordillera Central is Luzon’s tallest and longest range, with broad river valleys on either side.
- Mount Pinatubo is one of many volcanoes making up the Zambales Volcanic Range in western Luzon. Lahars from Pinatubo’s famous 1991 eruption extend down in a pinwheel-like pattern from the volcano’s peak. Subduction zones located on either side of the Philippine island chain put large populations of people at risk from earthquakes and volcanic hazards. The islands are also battered by typhoons nearly every year.
- In the photo of Figure 15, smoke is blowing west (to the right in this view) off the Cordillera Central. Thermal anomalies detected by the Suomi NPP satellite indicate the presence of fires nearby. According to government sources, most of the fires in the Cordillera can be attributed to slash-and-burn farming, as well as other human causes.
Figure 15: The astronaut photograph ISS058-E-13490 was acquired on February 14, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 24 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 58 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• April 23, 2019: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this oblique photograph that shows most of the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, along with neighboring Guinea (lower right), The Gambia and Senegal (top left), and the southern part of Mauritania. 10)
- From ISS altitude, astronauts can see different climate zones in a single view. This scene stretches from the green forest vegetation and wet climates of the Atlantic coast to the almost vegetation-less landscapes of the Sahara Desert. Guinea-Bissau has approximately 60 percent forest cover, in contrast to Mauritania, which has less than 1 percent forest cover.
- The image (Figure 16) shows several physiographic details of Guinea-Bissau. The islands of the Bijagos Archipelago and estuaries of the coastline stand out. The Bijago Islands provide refuge for sea turtles and certain migratory bird species. The Rio Corubal enters the sea and deposits a muddy load of sediment in the waters near the capital city of Bissau. Haze across the center of the image is smoke from agricultural burning or wildfires.
- Languages make a complex mosaic in the region. Colonial-era languages are important, with Portuguese in Guinea-Bissau, French in Guinea and Senegal, and English in The Gambia. According to the Addis Herald, several native African languages are spoken in Guinea-Bissau, with Bijagó restricted to the Bijagos Islands. By contrast, the Fulani language and its relatives are spoken from Guinea-Bissau to villages as far east as the Sudan.
Figure 16: The astronaut photograph ISS058-E-10724 was acquired on February 6, 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 50 millimeter lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 58 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• April 14, 2019: While orbiting over South America, an astronaut on the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Atacama Desert and the numerous salt flats in the Andes Mountains along the border of Chile and Bolivia. The centerpiece is the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat on Earth. It regularly captures the attention of astronauts due to its high contrast against the brown landscape. 11)
- Salar de Uyuni and its smaller neighbor, Salar de Coipasa, have darker tones along their edges in this image. These dried lake beds are typically bright white in color, but rainfall can bring an influx of dark volcanic sediments. The region experienced rainfall in early February 2019, which caused temporary discoloration of the salars. By the time this image was taken in March 2019, the flats had started to shift back to their lighter colors.
- Nearby, the much smaller Laguna Colorada displays bright hues thanks to algae that thrive in the salty water. To the west and northwest of the lake, some of the white dots are snow-capped volcanoes and mountains.
- The salars receive less than 200 mm of rainfall per year. In contrast, the cloud-covered parts of Bolivia (north of the salars) see more than 1,750 mm of rain annually. The Andes Mountains create a rain shadow effect along the coast of northern Chile and western Bolivia, as air masses carrying moisture from the east drop most of their water before cooling and moving up over the mountains.
- Along the coast, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth, sometimes going years without rainfall. NASA uses the Atacama Desert to test rovers and other instruments because the area is a good analogue for future astrobiological exploration of Mars.
Figure 17: The astronaut photograph ISS059-E-517 was acquired on 17 March 2019, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 24 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 59 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• April 8, 2019: Expedition 59 Flight Engineers Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency concluded their spacewalk at 2 p.m. EDT. During the six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk, the two astronauts successfully established a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2, and installed cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability. The duo also relocated an adapter plate from the first spacewalk in preparation for future battery upgrade operations. 12)
Figure 18: Astronauts Anne McClain (left) and David Saint-Jacques work outside the International Space Station during their spacewalk on April 8, 2019 (image credit: NASA)
- This was the third spacewalk in just under a month on the space station. The first two spacewalks installed powerful lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station’s solar arrays. On March 22, the first spacewalk was completed by McClain and fellow NASA astronaut Nick Hague. On March 28, the second spacewalk was completed by Hague and NASA astronaut Christina Koch.
- David Saint-Jacques became the first Canadian Expedition astronaut to walk in space and the fourth Canadian astronaut to spacewalk overall.
• April 2, 2019: In December 2018, an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) took this highly oblique photograph of snow on the eastern Tien Shan and Taklimakan Desert in Central Asia. The Tien Shan (or Tian Shan) is one of the longest continuous mountain ranges in the world, stretching across 1,500 miles (2,500 km) in northwest China, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. 13)
- The Tien Shan Mountains, sometimes called Central Asia’s Water Tower, provide essential fresh water to the area. Since the Taklimakan Desert is a low-lying basin enclosed by mountain ranges on three sides, a rain shadow keeps the region extremely dry for most of the year.
- The Tien Shan hold many of Asia’s major glaciers. In the spring and summer, the melting of ice and snow replenishes local rivers and transports eroded sediment to valleys. Alluvial fans deposit sediment perpendicular to the surrounding mountain ranges that get reworked, eroded, and transported farther by wind.
- The Taklimakan is dominated by sand dunes with easily mobilized sediments. Winds in this region are capable of producing large dust storms. In this image, snow extends from peaks and valleys of the Tien Shan to the lower desert floor of the Taklimakan Desert. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites also offer a more quantitative view of snow cover in the region on the same day. Blankets of snow are visible on the desert through dusty haze, which obscures Bosten Lake.
Figure 19: This astronaut photograph ISS057-E-111453 was acquired on December 5, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 65 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 57 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• April 2, 2019: Parkinson’s disease affects more than 5 million people on Earth. Research on the International Space Station could provide insight into this chronic neurodegenerative disease and help scientists find ways to treat and prevent it. 14)
Figure 20: In this video, NASA astronaut Serena Auñon-Chancellor narrates as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Alexander Gerst uses a microscope to examine and photograph the LRRK2 crystals (video credit: NASA/JSC, Published on 2 April 2019)
- The investigation, Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions-2 (CASIS PCG 16), grows protein crystals of Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) on the space station. A kinase is an enzyme that adds phosphate groups to other molecules as part of the body’s metabolic processes. People with Parkinson’s disease experience increased function of LLRK2, and genetic studies link mutations in the LRRK2 gene to an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Medications that inhibit LRRK2 are in development, but without knowing the precise structure of this enzyme, such work is like making a key without knowing the shape of the keyhole it must fit.
- Growing LRRK2 crystals on Earth is difficult and does not produce samples with high enough quality for researchers to determine the protein’s shape and structure –the keyhole. Protein crystals grow larger and more uniformly in space, though. Scientists can analyze the larger space-grown crystals to get a better idea of how the disease works and develop drugs – or keys – that target the condition more effectively and with fewer side effects.
- This investigation builds on a previous experiment, CASIS PCG 7. For CASIS PCG 16, the crew used larger sample wells, filled the wells during flight, and monitored the LRRK2 crystals as they grew. In this video, NASA astronaut Serena Auñon-Chancellor narrates as European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst uses a microscope to examine and photograph the LRRK2 crystals. Gerst interacted in real time with investigators on the ground, including scientists at the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany, and University of California San Diego in La Jolla, California.
- This space station research may bring those working to treat and prevent Parkinson’s disease one step closer to finding the right key.
• April 1, 2019: Look again at that Space Station. That’s there. That’s home for a crew of six astronauts. That’s us too. On it every human being lives out their lives, performs science and maintains the spacecraft with the support of a whole team on Earth. 15)
Figure 21: This image of the ISS was taken on 4 October 2018 by Expedition 55 crew as the Soyuz spacecraft started the journey back to Earth. In order to get the best view, the Soyuz diverted its initial descent parameters (image credit: Roscosmos/NASA)
- This week ESA is highlighting the role of the European teams that make a space mission possible - from preparations to launch, from continuous research to testing new equipment.
- Two EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activity) took place just one week apart, on 22 and 29 March, shortly after the arrival of three new astronauts to arrive at the Space Station. The full crew of six worked together to upgrade the International Space Station’s power storage capacity.
- ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet was the European link to the first spacewalk to replace old nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries.
- On Station, Thomas says preparation begins around two weeks ahead, with a set of procedures called the “Road to EVA”.
- “Preparing for a spacewalk will take up two to three hours of your schedule every day. Many people have been involved in the preparation, and the risks are so much higher when you are outside the Space Station,” he explains.
Figure 22: NASA astronaut Christina Koch, in the center of the image, assists fellow astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain in their spacesuits shortly before they begin the first spacewalk of their careers. Hague and McClain worked outside, in the vacuum of space, for six hours and 39 minutes on March 22, 2019, to upgrade the International Space Station's power storage capacity (image credit: NASA) 16)
• March 29, 2019: Expedition 59 Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 2:27 p.m. EDT. During the six hour and 45-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully connected three newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries to replace the previous six nickel-hydrogen batteries that provide power for one channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. The new batteries provide an improved and more efficient power capacity for operations. 17)
Figure 23: Spacewalker Nick Hague works to upgrade the International Space Station‘s power storage capacity during today’s six hour and 45-minute spacewalk (image credit: NASA TV)
- The astronauts also did work to enable robotic specialists to remove one of the three new lithium ion batteries connected during last Friday’s spacewalk that is not charging properly and replace it with the two older nickel hydrogen batteries. The swap will restore a full power supply to that solar array power channel.
- In addition, the astronauts completed several tasks to prepare the worksite for future spacewalkers who will complete similar operations to upgrade the batteries for the set of solar arrays at the end of the port side of the station’s backbone structure known as the truss. Hague inspected the worksite interfaces for a portable foot restraint a spacewalker uses to anchor themselves during the battery upgrade work while Koch installed fabric handrails to help future spacewalkers move across the worksite.
- This was the second spacewalk for Hague, who now has spent a total of 13 hours and 24 minutes spacewalking. It was the first spacewalk for Koch, who became the 14th female spacewalker.
- Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency are scheduled to conduct another spacewalk April 8 to establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2, and install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.
• March 25, 2019: An astronaut aboard the ISS focused a long lens on what may be a unique pattern on Earth for its size and repetitiveness. This series of adjacent agricultural fields is divided into square plots 4.4 kilometers wide, and each square has a “pinwheel” of triangular fields that radiate from a center point. 18)
- The square plots are part of a major resettlement project in Bolivia. The project was intended to help people from the Andes Mountains make a living through agriculture in the forested lowlands—the Tierras Bajas east of the Andes and northeast of the capital city, Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
- Four such square plots occupy the middle of the image within the surrounding older patchwork pattern of linear fields. Small settlements occupy the center of each square. One of Bolivia’s main highways angles across a square through this settlement. The straight highway contrasts with the highly sinuous course of an ancient river nearby. Other ancient channels appear along the right side of the image.
- Geologists now know that all of these channels are remnants of the Rio Grande, a large river that drains out of the Andes. Over thousands of years this river has deposited the sediment that makes the very large flat plain ideal for agriculture. The river also provides access to near-surface water and allows easy transport in all directions.
Figure 24: This astronaut photograph ISS056-E-94529 was acquired on July 10, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using an 800 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• March 15, 2019: Three crew members have arrived safely at the International Space Station, following a successful launch and docking of their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft Thursday, 14 March 2019. 19)
- The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos launched at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. Friday Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Hague, Koch and Ovchinin docked to the space station’s Rassvet module at 9:01 p.m. after a four-orbit, six-hour journey, and are scheduled to open the hatch and be welcomed aboard the orbiting laboratory at approximately 11:10 p.m. Their mission, Expedition 59, officially began at the time of docking.
Figure 25: This image compilation shows the Soyuz spacecraft carrying astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch of NASA and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos at a distance of 70, 15 and less than two meters from the International Space Station, where it docked at 9:01 p.m. EST on 14 March 2019 (image credit: NASA Television)
Figure 26: Expedition 59 crew members Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko, and David Saint-Jacques welcome their new crew members, Nick Hague, Christina Koch, and Alexey Ovchinin, who arrived to the International Space Station on 14 March 2019 (image credit: NASA TV)
- The trio’s arrival returns the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. McClain, Saint-Jacques and Kononenko are scheduled to remain aboard the station until June, while Hague, Koch and Ovchinin are set to return to Earth early this fall. 20)
- McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch also are all scheduled for the first spacewalks of their careers to continue upgrades to the orbital laboratory. McClain and Hague are scheduled to begin work to upgrade the power system March 22, and McClain and Koch will complete the upgrades to two station power channels during a March 29 spacewalk. This will be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers. Hague and Saint-Jacques will install hardware for a future science platform during an April 8 spacewalk.
- Three resupply spacecraft – a Russian Progress, Northrop Grumman Cygnus and SpaceX Dragon – are scheduled to arrive with additional supplies for the crew and various science investigations. The crew also is scheduled to be onboard during test flights of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will return human spaceflight launches for space station missions to U.S. soil.
- For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space, including the Moon and Mars. A global endeavor, 236 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 investigations from researchers in 106 countries. Investigations conducted on the International Space Station impact the daily lives of people on Earth and prepare the way for humans to venture farther into space.
• March 10, 2019: On a bright winter’s day, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) focused a camera on the Grand Canyon and surrounding snowy landscapes in northern Arizona, many of which are federally protected lands. The Grand Canyon was declared a national park 100 years ago on February 26, 1919. 21)
- The photograph (Figure 27) shows the ragged, steep-sided canyon walls and its numerous side canyons that contrast with the flat surrounding plains. From viewpoints on the South Rim, the thin line of the Colorado River lies more than 1525 meters (5,000 feet) below.
- The Grand Canyon is one of the best-known natural wonders on Earth, but astronauts see very different patterns compared with the iconic ground-based views. Astronauts quickly learn that different land surface colors frequently indicate high and low parts of the scenery below them. In this photo, bright snow indicates high, cold plateaus, such as those within several Native American Indian reservations and the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Snow that fell at warmer, lower elevations—inside the Grand Canyon or in the parts of the nearby desert—melted quickly or did not reach the ground.
- Dense greens are another feature that help astronauts understand the landscapes they see from space. In the desert southwest of North America, higher elevations get more rain and snow. Thus the high Kaibab Plateau is wet enough for forests to thrive, while the main colors of the low country are browns and tans of rocks and desert soils.
- Astronauts also get some sense of topography from shadows and sunlight. This image was taken from an orbital vantage point over Las Vegas, nearly 400 kilometers (240 miles) to the west. The view is oblique enough to give a slightly three-dimensional view, especially from shadows like those cast by the Grand Canyon cliffs and the narrow canyons around the Colorado River.
Figure 27: The astronaut photograph ISS058-E-1605 was acquired on December 29, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 116 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 58 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by M. Justin Wilkinson)
• March 3, 2019: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station captured this oblique photograph while looking southwest across the Congo River Basin. Located along the equator, the area is one of the cloudiest places on Earth. Low-altitude cumulus clouds, sometimes called popcorn clouds, trace the landscape over dense rainforests in this shot. 22)
- Note, however, that the skies above the Congo River and its many tributaries are noticeably free of clouds. The river can be up to 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide in many places—enough to deter cloud formation. Warm, humid air rises from the forest and cools as it rises, resulting in the development of clouds. But the river waters—and the air above them—are cooler, so there is less moisture rising into the air. Similar cloud patterns are common in the Amazon Rainforest.
- Toward the horizon, larger storm clouds are forming along the ITCZ (Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone). The ITCZ is a broad region of low atmospheric pressure that encircles the Earth near the equator. The ITCZ and its thunderstorms follow the seasonal position of the Sun, such that large storms appear south of the equator during Southern Hemisphere summer (when this image was taken).
Figure 28: The astronaut photograph ISS057-E-58903 was acquired on 5 November 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 116 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 57 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• February 27, 2019: Humankind's most distant outpost was recently captured crossing the face of our enormous and gleaming Sun. The fleeting transit of the International Space Station was over in the blink of an eye, but Ian Griffin, Director at the Otago Museum of New Zealand, made sure he was in the right place to capture it. 23)
- “A transit was predicted about 130 km from my home in Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island. So, I packed my telescope into my car and drove for approximately 2 hours”, explains Ian.
- “On Thursday 31 January, at 11:07 NZDT, the International Space Station crossed the Sun in less time than a human heart beats once, and I was there to witness it".
- The Space Station, slightly larger in size than a football field, orbits Earth every 92 minutes. It is one of the most remarkable endeavors our species has ever embarked upon, yet it pales in comparison to the size and power of our star. This remarkable spectacle serves as a much needed reminder that the people and technology we send into space can be affected by solar activity, and the changing environment.
- One of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, the Carrington event of 1859, was caused as a fast coronal mass ejection associated with an enormous solar flare struck Earth’s magnetosphere. The impact created auroras as far north as Queensland, Australia, and as far south as the Caribbean.
- Telegraph systems across Europe and North America failed, with reports of some operators receiving electric shocks and telegraph pylons sending out sparks.
- Today, a storm of this magnitude would create far greater disruption, as we become ever-more dependent on infrastructure in space and on Earth that is vulnerable to the outbursts of the Sun.
- As part of ESA’s Space Safety & Security activities, the Space Weather Office is working to minimize the potential damage and disruption these events can cause. The future Lagrange mission will keep a constant eye on the Sun, sending timely warnings via the Space Weather Service Network to operators and controllers of vital infrastructure, giving them time to take protective measures.
- This early warning system will also be of great importance to astronauts and future explorers to the Moon and Mars, who, vulnerable to the radiation emitted during these extreme events will need time to get to safety.
Figure 29: The International Space Station captured transiting the Sun – a remarkable reminder that our Sun's moodswings affect people and technology in space (image credit: Ian Griffin)
• February 26, 2019: Einstein predicted that time slows down the faster you travel and the time-dilation hypothesis has since been proven by flying atomic clocks on aircraft. 24)
- The three fastest human beings at the moment are NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques (pictured) and Roscosmos astronaut Oleg Kononenko who are orbiting Earth on the International Space Station at a speed of around 28,800 km/h.
- They are travelling so fast that they will return home to Earth after their six-month spaceflight 0.007 seconds younger than if they had stayed with their feet on the ground.
- But how do astronauts perceive time in space? Space Station crew report that time seems to speed up in microgravity so European researchers are trying to find out more by immersing astronauts in virtual reality and testing their reaction times.
- A virtual reality headset is used to block external visual cues that could influence the results. The experiment focuses on how astronauts estimate time duration as well as their reaction times. They are asked gauge how long a visual target appears on screen. Their reaction times to these prompts are recorded to process speed and attention.
- The astronauts run the experiment before flight, on the International Space Station and again when they land to compare results. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst was the first test subject to take part in this experiment in 2018. Anne and David did a session in February in ESA’s Columbus laboratory.
- Understanding how time is perceived in space is important as astronauts are often required to conduct precision work where timing is everything. This research in microgravity will help reveal clues as to what helps keep our brains ticking the seconds accurately.
Figure 30: Human and robotic exploration image of the week. An astronaut during a timing test in the ISS (image credit: NASA)
• February 24, 2019: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of historical lava flows near Puako and Waikoloa Villages on the island of Hawai’i. The villages (population 800 and 6,000, respectively) are underlain by lavas erupted from radial vents on the northwestern side of Mauna Loa volcano. 25)
- An eruption in 1859 produced an ‘a‘ā lava flow that destroyed a village south of Waikoloa and entered the ocean. The eruption lasted for about a year and also produced pāhoehoe flows that entered the ocean near Ohiki Bay and Pueo Bay.
Figure 31: This astronaut photograph ISS056-E-5107 was acquired on June 4, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 56 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick)
- The island of Hawai’i is divided into nine hazard risk zones, each based on the proximity to volcanic summits and rift zones, frequency and area of lava coverage, and topography. Zone 1 represents the greatest hazard risk, but Waikoloa and Puako stand in a relatively less hazardous zone 3 due to the greater distances from the summit and rift zones of Mauna Loa. Along with volcanic eruptions and lava flows, the region is also affected by earthquakes. The epicenter of the 6.7 magnitude Kiholo Bay earthquake in 2006 was located just 21 km offshore of Puako.
- The Waikoloa region is also known for its thriving aquaculture. Located near Waikoloa Beach are the Anchialine Ponds. Native to the state of Hawaii, these natural ponds form in inland lava depressions connect to the groundwater table near the shore. They contain brackish water but no visible connection to the ocean. These pools range from small lava cracks to large fishing ponds and are home to multiple species of rare invertebrates, many of which are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.
- Waikoloa Beach is also known for the Ala Mamalahoa (King’s) Trail, part of the 175-mile long Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail that runs along the coastline of Hawai’i. The Ala Mahamaloa predates western contact with the island (1778). It was rebuilt and paved with stone in 1840. One of the main attractions of this trail are the ancient petroglyphs, which show the closest thing to a written language that the ancient Hawaiians used.
• February 18, 2019: An astronaut shot this oblique photograph of the Missouri Plateau, where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains of central-northwest United States (Figure 32). Across the scene, six national forests and grasslands stand at higher elevations in Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Toward the horizon, the Missouri River is faintly visible snaking across North Dakota. 26)
- The Missouri Plateau is a gently sloping region that rises above the flatter plains. The lighter brown areas of land in the photo are deeply cut by braided rivers, and the land is often utilized for livestock pastures and farming.
- The western part of the plateau avoided glacial erosion during the most recent ice age. This prevented the Missouri Plateau from being flattened like the North Dakota plains beyond the Missouri River.
- The Black Hills of South Dakota stand out in stark contrast to the surrounding plains. Some of the rocks in those hills are 2.5 billion years old. A combination of Laramide tectonics (65 million years ago) and the erosion of younger sedimentary rock layers created and exposed the Black Hills.
Figure 32: This astronaut photograph ISS057-E-55414 was acquired on October 19, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 68 mm lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 57 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Andrea Meado)
• February 17, 2019: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Cologne, Germany. With more than one million people, it is the fourth most populous city in Germany. The city is the cultural, historic, and economic capital of the Rhineland, a vital inland port, and the busiest rail junction in Germany. 27)
Figure 33: Astronaut photograph ISS057-E-51223 was acquired on October 13, 2018, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a 1600 millimeter lens and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 57 crew (image credit: NASA Earth Observatory, caption by Sarah Deitrick)
- The Inner City of Cologne has a semicircular shape formed by a defensive wall that was built in medieval times to protect approximately 40,000 residents. This wall was demolished in the 1880s and replaced by a chain of semicircular roads called the Ringstrassen, which allowed development to spread beyond the confines of the old town. However, the Inner City is still the focal point for shopping, commerce, and historic buildings—including the Cologne Cathedral, the largest Gothic church in northern Europe and the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne.
- Due to the city’s location at the intersection of the Rhine River and one of the major trade routes between Eastern and Western Europe, Cologne became commercially important. Today it is a vital inland port and the busiest rail junction in Germany. The city is the cultural, historic, and economic capital of the Rhineland and is home to more than 30 museums and hundreds of galleries, ranging from contemporary graphics and sculpture to Roman archeological sites.
- As one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany during World War II, Cologne was almost destroyed. However, post-war efforts successfully rebuilt many historic buildings, which resulted in a distinct cityscape with a mixture of historic and 1950s modern-style buildings. The Cologne Cathedral was hit 14 times by aerial bombs during the war; despite being badly damaged, it remained standing in the flattened city. It was quickly rebuilt after the war and in 1996 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cathedral is now Germany’s most visited landmark, attracting 20,000 people per day.
• February 15, 2019: When astronauts take photographs of our planet while orbiting 400 km above our heads, they are doing much more than just taking pretty pictures. They are looking after the health of our planet and, ultimately, us too. 28)
- Techniques used by astrophotographers looking at the stars and space exploration come together to measure the environmental impact of artificial lights at night.
- The only night images of Earth in color that are freely available to the public are pictures taken by the astronauts from the International Space Station, and a few color composites made by ESA’s Rosetta satellite. NASA has a public database with over 1.3 million color photographs taken by astronauts since 2003.
Figure 34: A series of night-time photos were taken by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli (VITA mission) to create this time-lapse of Earth as seen from the International Space Station flying over Earth from Spain to Russia. Note: In the video, south is at the top of the image (video credit: ESA/NASA, released: 13 December 2017)
- Now researchers are looking at these nocturnal images in a different light. A team of scientists came up with a method to classify outdoor lighting using color diagrams and calibration techniques. The resulting spectral information, such as color temperature, is a useful tool to assess the environmental impact of artificial light. 30)
- We hope to take photography from the Space Station to a new level,” says Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel, a research fellow at the UK’s University of Exeter and lead investigator of the Cities at night project that raises awareness of light pollution.
- Human vision from space: City lights are disruptive not only for the lives of nocturnal animals, who suffer from disorientation and behavioral and physiological changes, but also for people. An excess of artificial light before bedtime reduces melatonin production, a hormone linked to sleep. This suppression can lead to negative effects on our health, including breast and prostate cancer.
- In addition, streetlights account for a large chunk of a country’s energy consumption.
- “This is not only about being able to see the stars,” says Alejandro. “All living creatures on our planet, including us humans, suffer from artificial nighttime lighting. And only the humans living off planet Earth can help us.”
- Scientists use synthetic photometry to analyze the images, a mathematical technique that can help identify light sources under different light conditions and camera settings. The results give precise information about how color and brightness of street lamps can suppress melatonin production or obstruct the vision of the stars.
- Citizen science: Milan is a perfect case study for this research. This Italian city replaced its orange sodium lamps with white LED lamps. The study proves that the whiter light sources are worse for the local environment.
- “We provide a basis for creating risk maps of artificial lightning. Governments could use this information to reduce light pollution,” says Alejandro.
Figure 35: Milan, before and after: The Italian city of Milan replaced its orange sodium lamps with white led lamps in 2015. These nighttime images from the International Space Station show the city before and after the conversion (image credit: ESA/NASA/A. Sánchez de Miguel et al. 2019)
• February 10, 2019: Taken through a window on the International Space Station with the EarthKAM camera, this photograph (Figure 36) shows the boundary between a light-toned dune field and dark hills in the very arid interior of Yemen. This remote region occupies the southern part of the vast Arabian desert, and lies inland from the southern end of the Red Sea (to the west). Only one settlement appears in this image—Deerat Al Hwelah—at the mouth of a valley. 31)
- The dark, convoluted landscapes are exposures of ancient Precambrian rocks (more than 540 million years old). Several rivers—almost always dry in the Arabian Desert—lead out of the hills via the light-toned valleys. On the few occasions when they flow, the rivers transport sediment (eroded from the hills) into the low dune country. Here, dominant winds from the northeast blow the sediments back toward the hills in the form of long, linear dunes. Southeasterly winds from the Gulf of Aden (out of the image, lower left) combine with the dominant winds to generate the broad curve of the dune alignments.
- The low country is light-toned because the hardest minerals carried from the hills are generally light-colored silicates (minerals rich in silicon). Darker-colored minerals found in the Precambrian rocks tend to weather and erode more easily to smaller particles, so they are more easily carried away by winds. However, some of the darker minerals appear to be accumulating along the crests of the dunes (image right).
- The river in the large valley at the bottom of the photo bifurcates into two channels. The larger course washes sediment slightly west, where winds blow some of it into dunes and ultimately back up the Deerat Valley.
Figure 36: This EarthKAM photograph 152231 was acquired on October 31, 2017, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 50 mm lens. The photo in this article has been enhanced to improve contrast. It is provided by the Sally Ride EarthKAM@Space Camp on the International Space Station. [image credit: The caption is provided by the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center. EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) is a NASA educational outreach program that enables students, teachers, and the public to learn about Earth from the unique perspective of space. During Sally Ride EarthKAM missions, middle school students around the world request images of specific locations on Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson]
• February 04, 2019: Though all ESA astronauts are back on Earth, European science on the International Space Station is ongoing. Explore a few experiments underway right now in celebration of science at ESA. 32)
- Every ESA astronaut who flies to the International Space Station begins their training at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. Here, they learn the intricacies of ESA’s space laboratory Columbus.
- Many European experiments that run on the International Space Station when ESA astronauts are not present – such as those in the commercial ICE Cubes facility – require minimal manual input. Others, like Time Perception in Microgravity continue with current International Space Station crew members.
- With the undocking of two visiting vehicles and packing the NG-10 Cygnus for departure, January was a busy month for the crew of Expedition 58 NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques and cosmonaut Oleg Kononeko. They also began upgrading an ESA facility that allows ground-based control of and telemetric data retrieval from miniaturized laboratories inside Columbus.
Figure 37: Expedition 58 crew members gather inside the Zvezda service module onboard the International Space Station for a crew portrait. From left are, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques (image credit: NASA)
Figure 38: Kubik on Space Station: A miniaturized laboratory inside the orbital laboratory that is ESA’s Columbus module, this 40 cm cube has been one of its quiet scientific triumphs. Kubik – from the Russian for cube – has been working aboard the International Space Station since before Columbus’ arrival in February 2008 (image credit: NASA)
- Because many biological systems are partially gravity-dependent, ‘removing’ the effects of gravity enables researchers to gain a broader understanding of how these systems work. Samples previously studied using Kubik facilities include: bacteria, fungi, white blood cells and stem cells from human bone marrow and umbilical cords, plant seedlings, and even swimming tadpoles. Upgrades will see this research continue into its second decade, offering even greater opportunities to examine life in space.
Table 1: Legend to 'Kubik on Space Station' — little labs of life science
- The crew also exchanged the sample chamber of European multi-user facility Electromagnetic Levitator (EML) to activate new material science experiments, and Anne donned the Circadian Rhythms hardware to begin a 36-hour recording session.
- Led by principal investigator Hanns-Christian Gunga of Charité University Clinic’s Center For Space Medicine (Berlin), Circadian Rhythms investigates the role of synchronized circadian rhythms, or the “biological clock”.
- Researchers hypothesize that a non-24-hour cycle of light and dark affects crew members’ natural rhythms. The investigation also addresses the effects of reduced physical activity, microgravity and an artificially controlled environment, as changes in body composition and body temperature can affect crew members’ circadian rhythms as well.
- Data is collected using a “double sensor” placed on an astronaut’s forehead and chest. This takes continuous core temperature measurements for extended periods before, during and after flight. These measurements are co-related with crew members’ pre and post-flight melatonin levels.
- Initial results show core body temperature does elevate gradually during long-duration spaceflight. It also rises faster and higher during physical exercise on the Station than it does on the ground. Understanding this and other effects of spaceflight on circadian rhythms will aid the design of future space missions and provide a unique comparison for sleep disorders, autonomic nervous system disorders, and shift work-related disorders on Earth.
Figure 39: NASA astronaut and Expedition 58 flight engineer Anne McClain pictured inside the vestibule between the Harmony module and the Destiny laboratory module. She is wearing a sensor on her forehead that is collecting data for the Circadian Rhythms experiment researching how an astronaut's “biological clock” changes during long-duration spaceflight (image credit: NASA)
- Looking ahead: While all this science is happening in space, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano continues to train on the ground for his upcoming Beyond mission.
- Luca recently participated in ground-based sessions for two European experiments that look at how humans judge force and manipulate objects in weightlessness, GRIP and GRASP, and learnt more about an experiment to validate the behavior of fluids under microgravity, known as Fluidics.
Figure 40: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano (right) training with NASA astronaut and fellow crew member Andrew Morgan for his upcoming mission to the International Space Station. Luca is scheduled to fly (image credit: ESA)
• January 28, 2019: Last week, Expedition 58 crew members continued conducting science aboard the International Space Station along with packing the NG-10 Cygnus resupply vehicle for its departure from the station. Upon undocking, Cygnus will boost to an altitude and inclination ideal for satellite deployment and release small satellites from the SlingShot small satellite deployment system. The cargo craft will then begin its descent toward Earth for a fiery but safe demise over the Pacific Ocean. 33)
- The unique SlingShot deployers can accommodates any CubeSat format (3U, 6U, 12U, 27U and greater, rail, tab) and can be customized to accommodate larger satellites with thicknesses less than 200 mm.
- Upon successful installation of the SlingShot system into Cygnus, the vehicle unberths and navigates to an altitude of 450 – 500 km to deploy the satellites. This altitude and the 51.6º inclination are ideal for many satellite customers due to the satellite orbit lifespan, launch reliability, and price.
- The SlingShot system can also host fix-mounted payloads using Cygnus as a massive satellite bus for power, attitude control and communication for missions exceeding six months.
• January 15, 2019: Today astronauts use computer simulations to help prepare for life on the International Space Station, practising spacewalks and operating equipment in microgravity – all while never leaving the ground. 34)
- ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is hard at work preparing for his Beyond mission. In the image of Figure 41, Luca is navigating through a computer-generated environment to learn the route he might take outside the Space Station on a spacewalk, helping him to take decisions and act more quickly during the actual spacewalk. The training facility is part of Virtual Reality Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA.
- Luca is also getting reacquainted – Luca flew to the Space Station in 2013 – with safety procedures, robotic operations and learning about the experiments he will conduct in the orbital outpost.
- He will be launched for his six-month stay aboard the International Space Station in July as part of Expedition 60/61, alongside NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.
- Luca will serve as Space Station commander during the second half of his mission. This will be the third time a European astronaut has held this leadership role, but the first time by an Italian astronaut.
- How does Luca plan to take on this exciting yet challenging responsibility? “I see myself as a facilitator. My goal will be to put everybody in the condition to perform to the best of their capability,” he says.
Figure 41: Usually associated with video games, virtual reality is an immersive technology that simulates physical presence and interaction. International cooperation in human spaceflight does not only take place on the Space Station but begins well before, during training. Astronauts prepare not only at NASA’s Johnson Space Center but also at Star City near Moscow, and of course at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany (image credit: NASA)
Joshua Finch, Gary Jordan, ”NASA Astronaut Anne McClain,
Crewmates Return from Space Station Mission,” NASA Release
19-048, 25 June 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release
Mark Garcia, ”Biomedicine and Physics Research During Crew
Departure Preps Today,” NASA Space Station, 18 June 2019, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2019/06/18
3) ”Ship Tracks, Aleutian Islands,” NASA Earth Observatory, 18 June 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145177
4) ”Northern Italy at night,” ESA, week of 10-14 June 2019, URL: http://www.esa.int/Highlights/Week_In_Images_10_14_June_2019
5) ”Amistad Reservoir,” NASA Earth Observatory, 11 June 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145148/amistad-reservoir?src=eoa-iotd
6) ”Science from the Space Station,” ESA, 11 June 2019, URL: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration
Stephanie Schierholz, Gary Jordan, ”NASA Opens International
Space Station to New Commercial Opportunities, Private
Astronauts,” NASA Release 19-044, 7 June 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov
8) ”Flathead Lake, Montana,” NASA Earth Observatory, 4 June 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145122/flathead-lake-montana?src=eoa-iotd
9) A Wide View of Luzon,” NASA Earth Observatory, 16 May 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145035/a-wide-view-of-luzon
10) ”Guinea-Bissau, the Sahel, and the Sahara Desert,” NASA Earth Observatory, 23 April 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144858
11) ”Salt Flats, Mountains, and Moisture,” NASA Earth Observatory, 14 April 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144826/salt-flats-mountains-and-moisture
12) Mark Garcia, ”U.S. and Canadian Astronauts Wrap Up Power Upgrades Spacewalk,” NASA, 8 April 2019, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2019/04/08
13) ”Snow and Sand in Central Asia,” NASA Earth Observatory, 2 April 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144757/snow-and-sand-in-central-asia?src=eoa-iotd
14) ”Designing a Key to Unlock Parkinson’s Disease,” NASA Space Station Research, 1 April 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/parkinsons-research
15) ”It takes a team,” ESA, 1 April 2019, URL: http://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/It_takes_a_team
16) ”NASA Updates Spacewalk Assignments, Announces Final Preview Briefing,” NASA Media Advisory M19-021, 25 March 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-updates-spacewalk-assignments-announces-final-preview-briefing
17) Mark Garcia, ”NASA Astronauts Complete 215th Spacewalk at Station,” NASA, 29 March 2019, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2019/03/29/nasa-astronauts-complete-215th-spacewalk-at-station/
18) ”Pinwheel Squares in Bolivia,” NASA Earth Observatory, 25 March 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144717/pinwheel-squares-in-bolivia
Kathryn Hambleton, Gary Jordan, ”NASA Astronauts Hague, Koch
Arrive Safely at Space Station,” NASA Press Release 19-018, 15
March 2019, URL:
20) ”Expedition 59 Welcomes Three New Crew Members,” NASA, 14 March 2019, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2019/03/14/expedition-59-welcomes-three-new-crew-members/
21) ”Grand Canyon Under Snow,” NASA, Earth Observatory, Image of the day for 10 March 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144648/grand-canyon-under-snow
22) ”Cloudy Congo River Basin,” NASA Earth Observatory, 3 March 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144608/cloudy-congo-river-basin
23) ”Crossing our Sun,” Operations image of the week, ESA, 27 February 2019, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2019/02/Crossing_our_Sun
24) ”Timing is everything,” ESA, 26 February 2019, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2019/02/Timing_is_everything
25) ”Waikoloa, Hawai’i,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the day for 24 February 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144583/waikoloa-hawaii
26) ”Missouri Plateau,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the day for 18 February 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144468/missouri-plateau
27) ”Cologne, Germany,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the day for 17 February 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144465/cologne-germany
28) ”Astronaut photography benefiting the planet,” ESA, human and robotic exploration, 15 February 2019, URL: https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration
29) ”VITA mission “Timelapse a Day” edition – From Spain to Russia,” URL:https://dlmultimedia.esa.int/download/public/videos/2017/12/028/1712_028_AR_EN.mp4
30) Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel, Christopher C. M. Kyba, Martin Aubé, Jaime Zamorano, Nicolas Cardiel, Carlos Tapia, Jon Bennie, Kevin J. Gaston, ”Color remote sensing of the impact of artificial light at night (I): The potential of the International Space Station and other DSLR-based platforms,” Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 224, April 2019, Pages 92-103, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2019.01.035, Available online 11 February 2019, URL: http://tinyurl.com/yxh4b6vs
31) ”Ancient Rocks, Modern Dunes,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the day for 10 February 2019, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/144537/ancient-rocks-modern-dunes
32) ”Spotlight on Space Station science,” ESA, 04 February 2019, URL: http://m.esa.int
33) ”Space Station Highlights: Week of January 21, 2019,” NASA, 28 January 2019, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/SSSH_21jan19
34) ”Spatial senses,” ESA, Week in images, 18 January 2019, URL: http://m.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2019/01/Spatial_senses
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (email@example.com).