• December 27, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of a 30-kilometer (20-mile) long lagoon on the eastern shore of Tunisia. A narrow sand bar separates it from the Mediterranean Sea. The small town of Al Marsá appears as a slightly darker zone at the head of the lagoon. 1)
- The lagoon is ecologically important. Fish grow to maturity in this protected nursery and then swim out to sea via narrow openings near the middle of the sand bar, making Bibane one of the best known fishing grounds in Tunisia. It is also an important breeding site for migratory shore birds and has been consequently declared a RAMSAR site, a designation for protected wetlands of international ecological significance.
- Bathymetric maps show that the long line of lighter-toned shallow water offshore is a drowned shoreline. A small island, barely above sea level, marks the end of this shoreline. This shore was exposed to active wave action when sea level was lower on several occasions in the past million years.
- This area has featured in studies of microtopography on Mars. Although not visible from the space station, thin layers of algae form on the salt flats surrounding these coastal lagoons. Known as algal mats, these features have been suggested as possible analogs for small features observed on Mars by the Curiosity rover.
- Numerous eruptions over the past 400,000 years have produced a large range of ash and rock deposits, pyroclastic flows, lava flows, and small vents within and surrounding Newberry’s large caldera. (The approximate extent, as determined from geologic evidence, is indicated by the dashed line.) The caldera is topped by twin crater lakes: Paulina and East Lake. Though it initially developed as one large lake, subsequent volcanism formed a ridge that separated it into two.
- During Newberry’s most recent activity, the Big Obsidian Flow was born. This large, light-toned mass of obsidian gets its coloring from a mix of black obsidian and grey pumice.
- The Newberry volcanic area was one of numerous locations used in the 1960s for geology field training for Apollo astronauts. This hands-on training prepared the astronauts to identify igneous rocks types and to collect samples from the lunar surface.
• December 13, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of Noumea, the capital city of New Caledonia. The island in the South Pacific region known as Melanesia is part of Overseas France, which includes French-administered territories outside of Europe. New Caledonia is the only French territory with the governing status of a special collectivity. 3)
- Most of the population is concentrated in and around Noumea, a city situated on a peninsula on the southern side of the island. Developed areas hug the irregular coastline that protrudes into the South Pacific. Compared to this photo taken from the ISS in 2003, there has been an increase in development northward into the mountainous mainland. (North is to the upper right.)
- Noumea is the focal point for most of New Caledonia’s economic resources. The major driver of industry is mining, and the territory is one of the leading producers of nickel in the world. As with many islands throughout the South Pacific, tourism is another major economic activity. Noumea is a major hub for cruise ships and international flights. Tourists are drawn to the region’s impressive biodiversity, including 146 types of coral reefs stretching across 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles). Many of the reefs, mangroves, and extensive tropical lagoons are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
• December 6, 2020: A sharp contrast in nighttime light density distinguishes the sparsely populated Tibetan Plateau—the “Roof of the World”—from the fertile and densely inhabited Indo-Gangetic plain of Northern India and Pakistan. These regions are not only visually distinct from an astronaut’s view; they are physically separated by the Himalayan mountain range. The geography and population dynamics in this region are one legacy of the ongoing orogeny, or collision, of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. 4)
- South of the Himalayas, the cities of New Delhi, India, and Lahore, Pakistan, stand out among the network of cities on the plain. This region—enriched with alluvial deposits that are delivered by the Indus and the Ganges rivers—is agriculturally fertile and has long been home to highly-concentrated human settlements. Today, it is home to more than 400 million people and one of the most densely populated regions on Earth. For astronauts, this is also one of the few areas where geopolitical boundaries come to life at night, as orange security lights make clear the international border between India and Pakistan.
- On the other side of the Himalayas, tectonic forces have worked for about 50 million years to elevate the Tibetan plateau to an average of 4500 meters (14,764 feet) above sea level. The plateau is home to numerous glaciers that collectively add up to the third largest ice mass on Earth (after the polar ice sheets). Unlike the plain to the south of the Himalayas, the high-altitude conditions and harsh climate on the plateau are not conducive to extensive agriculture or human settlements. The people who do inhabit the plateau primarily practice pastoral nomadism or grow cold-adaptive crops like barley.
• December 1, 2020: From their perch on the International Space Station, astronauts have spent twenty years sharing a story about Earth as they can see it from above. Like the directors of any film, those astronaut storytellers have a crew working behind the scenes to help them tell that story. Meet the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit (ESRS), the researchers who guide astronauts as they observe and document changes on Earth and then make those photographs accessible to scientists and the public. 5)
Figure 5: Picturing Earth: Behind the Scenes [images: Astronaut photographs are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. Action video from ISS provided by NASA Johnson Space Center. Writers and producers: Kathryn Hansen and Michael Carlowicz, Footage contributed by Pola Lem]
• December 1, 2020: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins poses next to a thriving radish crop growing inside the Advanced Plant Habitat in the International Space Station.6)
- Located in Europe’s Columbus module, the NASA experiment is the latest in the study of plants growing in microgravity.
- With plans to visit the Moon and Mars, future astronauts will need a regular, fresh source of food as they take on these missions farther away from home. In addition to providing much-needed vitamins and minerals, growing plants in space contributes to sustainability and adds homey touch to exploration.
- Because plants no longer have gravity to root them to soil, the seeds are grown in ‘pillows’ that help evenly distribute fertilizer and water to the roots.
- Radishes were chosen because it is a model plant; they have a short cultivation period and are genetically similar to the plant most frequently studied in space, Arabidopsis. Radishes are also edible and nutritious, with this batch ready for harvest any day now. Samples will be sent back to Earth for study.
- The Advanced Plant Habitat is a self-contained growth chamber requiring very little intervention from astronauts. It is equipped with LED lights, porous clay, over 180 sensors and cameras regulated by researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. From there, plant growth is monitored and conditions adjusted as necessary to better distribute water and fertilizer and control moisture and temperature levels.
- The next ESA astronaut to launch to the Station is Thomas Pesquet for mission Alpha. Slated to arrive in Spring 2021, perhaps Thomas will get to try another batch of space-grown greens.
• November 24, 2020: Researchers are preparing for a new round of International Space Station experiments in a facility designed to demystify the role of surface tension and instabilities (Marangoni effects) on heat transfer to, and within an evaporating or condensing fluid. The tools: lasers, purple light and an out-of-focus camera to get the sharpest result. 7)
- The EDR-2 (European Drawer Rack-2) has been flown to the station in the summer of 2020 and has been installed in the Columbus module in June 2020 by NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. EDR-2, built by TAS of Italy, is an upgrade of Columbus to offer flexible access to researchers.
- The future waist-high facility Heat Transfer Host-2 fits within the EDR-2 and is one of many upgrades planned for the International Space Station’s European Columbus laboratory in the coming years. The design allows experiment inserts to be slotted in and run autonomously, making use of the weightlessness in Earth orbit.
- The ‘Marangoni in Films’ and ‘Condensation on Fins’ experiments are part of a larger campaign to assess how heat is transferred through gases and liquids during phase change. Investigating the process in space allows researchers to look at the underlying mechanics of strong, large-scale movements, without gravity getting in the way. A better understanding should improve future satellite cooling systems as well as confirm or fine-tune computer models that can be applied on Earth – improving cooling for electronics such as smartphones and computers, leading to optimized industrial processes, such as coatings and deposits.
- Before any experiment can take place, the scientific tools need to be perfected. For these experiments, the first inserts are set to launch in 2023. The researchers are looking to observe changes on the micron level – smaller than bacteria and viruses.
- In December last year, researchers tested a system in Nivelles, Belgium, shining a laser on a metal fin and using a high-precision interferometer to record changes. During the experiment, the fin is cooled and subsequently covered with a condensing liquid film. The interferometer records the temperature changes and vapor concentration variations around the fin, while the interferometer’s optical mode tracks the liquid film’s thickness with high precision.
- “Interestingly we need the optical camera to be slightly out of focus to get the best result,” says ESA Payload System Engineer Ana Frutos Pastor, “by focussing just behind the fins, we can distinguish the contours with microscopic accuracy.”
Marangoni in space
- The Marangoni effect describes how particles can be moved along liquids as they interact with changing temperatures. To better understand and control the instability, a second set of experiments will focus on small 20 mm square plaques with minute peaks and valleys, just a few hundred microns high. Flooded with liquid and heated, a technique based on blue and red light that shows as purple will be used to measure down to the micron how the temperature differences at the liquid’s surface lead to the formation of peaks and valleys.
- The Marangoni effect describes how particles can be moved along liquids as they interact with changing temperatures. To better understand and control the instability, a second set of experiments will focus on small 20 mm2 plaques with minute peaks and valleys, just a few hundred microns high. Flooded with liquid and heated, a technique based on blue and red light that shows as purple will be used to measure down to the micron how the temperature differences at the liquid’s surface lead to the formation of peaks and valleys.
- “These experiments mainly serve to confirm or refine mathematical models, this is fundamental physics,” explains Balazs Toth of ESA’s Fluid Science Payloads Team, “but the effects they are studying play on many things around us, from how a coffee stain evaporates to how computers are cooled as you read this sentence, and how life support systems of spacecraft could be improved.”
• November 24, 2020: As a month of celebrating 20 years of continuous human habitation of the International Space Station draws to a close, we look back on the first mission of the next ESA astronaut to travel to the Space Station, Thomas Pesquet. 8)
- The Columbus laboratory is Europe’s largest single contribution to the International Space Station. Permanently attached to the Harmony module, this pressurized laboratory allows researchers on the ground, aided by the Station’s crew, to conduct a wide variety of research in a weightless environment.
- Experiments in space science, Earth observation and technology can also be conducted outside the module, thanks to four exterior mounting platforms that are exposed to the vacuum of space. Room outside Columbus for commercial experiments is also on its way, with the Bartolomeo-services due to begin operations soon.
- During his upcoming Alpha mission, Thomas will continue this research and experimentation on the International Space Station supported by his crewmates and ground teams from ESA, the US space agency NASA, Russian space agency Roscosmos, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japanese space agency JAXA.
- This enduring international partnership is a key feature of the Space Station as nations work across cultures and borders, performing science, research and engineering that has led to breakthroughs in disease research, materials science, Earth observation, our understanding of Earth’s origins and more.
- This work helps humankind explore even farther while enhancing life here on Earth – setting Europe in good stead for its journey forward, beyond low Earth orbit to the Moon.
• November 22, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of storm clouds rising over Andros Island, one of the Bahama Islands. Even though the spacecraft was passing over southern Indiana (nearly 1800 kilometers/1100 miles north of Andros Island) at the time of the photo, the crew managed to shoot what seems like a close-up view by using a long lens (400 mm). They caught thunderstorms developing over the island, as well as features of the shallow sea floor known as the Great Bahama Bank. 9)
- Beyond the towering storms, the dull gray-brown pall of a dust plume is draped across the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The haze is so dense that it completely obscures the island of Cuba from the astronaut’s view. Two days after this photo was taken, people on the ground in Cuba saw the Sun significantly dimmed by the dusty haze.
- This huge dust mass had been lofted ten days earlier from the vast sandy surfaces of the western Sahara Desert. The dust plume stretched across the Atlantic Ocean from northwestern Africa, a distance of more than 7000 km (4,200 miles). Two days before this shot, an astronaut took an image of the same dust mass over the open ocean; the sea surface was completely obscured from view for hundreds of miles.
- Scientists are keenly interested in Saharan dust plumes because they are known to depress hurricane development. The strong upper-level winds that can carry dust across great distances can also effectively shear off the tops of budding storms before they develop into hurricanes. The dry desert air also reduces the moisture content of the air it encounters over the open ocean. This reduces the airborne moisture that forms clouds and energizes hurricanes. This photo hints at this difference between these air masses: In contrast to the thunderstorms over tropical Andros Island, there is only a small cumulus cloud within the dust mass.
• November 19, 2020: Three Expedition 64 crewmates slept in today following Wednesday’s (Nov. 18) spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station for a new Russian module. Meanwhile, the station’s four newest crew members are adjusting to life in space, working science and unloading cargo from the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle. 10)
- NASA astronaut Kate Rubins had a long day Wednesday as she assisted cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov during their six-hour and 48-minute spacewalk. The trio had an extended sleep shift Thursday having also adjusted their schedules at the beginning of the week to welcome the four astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon.
- The extended crew woke up at 7 a.m. EST and jumped right into a busy workday getting familiarized with station systems and working space research. At the end of the day, the quartet also briefed mission controllers and discussed their experience riding in the Crew Dragon vehicle.
- Flight Engineers Victor Glover and Soichi Noguchi partnered up Wednesday morning and transferred cargo from Crew Dragon into the station. The duo then split up as Glover participated in the Vection study to understand how astronauts visually perceive and adapt to the space environment. Noguchi spent a good portion of his day inside the Japanese Kibo lab module servicing the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, an incubator that can generate artificial gravity.
• November 19, 2020: The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) has installed a patch on a crack in the Russian module Zvezda, which will stop the air leak, a Roscosmos spokesperson told Sputnik. 11)
- Earlier, cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov was sealing the crack with a patch made of rubber and aluminum foil.
- "Members of the Russian ISS crew have installed a new patch on the alleged place of the atmospheric leak in the Zvezda module," the spokesperson said.
- The cause of the leak is planned to be eliminated as a result of control measurements of the atmosphere level and on the basis of data transmitted by the crew to ground-based services, he added.
- A small air leak on the ISS was recorded in September 2019. In August-September 2020, after the leak's speed increased fivefold, the crew twice closed the hatches in the ISS modules in order to check their tightness and was isolated for several days in the Russian segment of the station.
• November 14, 2020: Maui, the second largest island within the Hawaiian Island/Emperor Seamount Chain, hosts one of the largest wind farms in the state. All 34 operational wind turbines of the Kaheawa Wind Power I and II facilities are visible in this photograph taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS). The wind farm lies to the south of a golf course, agricultural fields, and the small town of Waikapu. All stand at the foot of Pu’u Kukui, a large mountain peak in the Mauna Kahalawai (West Maui Mountains) that is dense with vegetation. 12)
- Descending a little over half a mile (1 kilometer) down the southeast side of Pu’u Kukui, the turbine field powers 10 to 15 percent of Maui’s yearly electric power usage. After solar power, wind energy is Hawaii’s second-most used renewable energy resource. Aiming to provide renewable energy while protecting local bird and bat species, Kaheawa was the first wind farm in the United States to implement a habitat conservation plan.
• November 12, 2020: We are making good progress towards going to the Moon and Mars. We are building new spacecraft, bringing astronauts to the International Space Station for extended stays and sending robots to Mars. To build a sustainable presence on these planetary bodies however, we also need local resources. Resources that may or may not be readily available on the Moon and Mars. 13)
- An important example of such resources are metals also referred to as rare Earth elements. These are often used in the production of electronics such as computer screens, metal alloys and magnet production – vital materials for building a lunar or Martian base.
- Taking these building blocks with us on a spacecraft is not an option. It would be too heavy, and too expensive to take these rare elements with us from the already much-depleted Earth.
- As it turns out, precious metals are present on the Moon and Mars, but they are embedded within the rock and soil, making it difficult to use them. Bringing mining equipment would, again, be too heavy and expensive to bring from Earth, and the machinery would have to be completely redesigned for use in such an inhospitable environment.
- ESA’s BioRock project has been working on a solution: biomining in space. Bringing the world’s tiniest miners to do the extraction for us.
- Biomining uses microbes to leach off the rocks and “eat” the rare Earth elements. The metals can then be extracted from the microbes, and used for further processing. This method has been used successfully on Earth for years. But could this work in space?
Promising research results
- The BioRock experiment set out to find some answers. In an experiment performed on the International Space Station by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, three strains of biomining bacteria were flown to space to test how they would perform in different gravitational conditions.
- The bacterial strains were left to grow inside Europe’s weightless laboratory Columbus on one of their favorite surfaces, basalt rock. This is a type of rock found on the Moon and on Mars, known to contain rare Earth elements. The samples were left to grow in three levels of gravity: microgravity, Moon gravity (0.38 g) and simulated Earth gravity in the Kubik centrifuge facility.
- After 21 days, the cell populations were sent back to Earth for analysis. The BioRock team discovered that none of the three populations suffered any significant negative effects in any of the gravitational conditions. This showed they had grown just as well in simulated Earth gravity, Moon gravity and microgravity. The researchers then analyzed if the amount of elements mined by the bacteria was influenced by the different gravity conditions. Two strains of bacteria ate as much as they would have on Earth yielding roughly the same amount of rare elements.
- The fact that these three bacteria could survive, and even thrive, in gravity conditions such as in lower Earth orbit or on the Moon is “a really exciting result” according to Nicol Caplin, Exobiology Research Fellow at ESA and BioRock project coordinator. It shows that we don’t need to mitigate different gravity variations when using these biomining bacteria off the Earth and biomining could in fact prove to be a great way to extract rare Earth elements on the Moon and Mars.
- These positive results have now been published in Frontiers in Microbiology and in Nature. 14) The BioRock team is not resting on their laurels, however. They are already working on the next research proposals. Bringing us closer to building a Moon and Mars habitat – one microbe at a time.
• November 11, 2020: Science regularly requires maintenance, and the European Physiology Module (EPM) on board the International Space Station needed the latest fix. 15)
- Located in the European Columbus laboratory, the refrigerator-sized EPM supports research into the effects of short- and long-duration spaceflight on the human body.
- The EPM is a multi-user facility that includes equipment for neuroscientific, cardiovascular, and physiological studies and software that transmits the data to Earth for further analysis.
- Despite the EPM failure, a work around has been found to enable Grip and Grasp science operations to continue on schedule. This is all thanks to a major effort by both the EPM payload developers and the Cadmos operation center located in Toulouse, France. They are under huge pressure to perform tests, ship hardware, and write procedure under the difficulties of lockdown, notably limited site access.
- Other experiments, such as Plasma Kristall 4, are delayed until the support computer is replaced.
- With its multi-electrode module for neurologic brain scans, sample collection kit for biologic probes and cardiovascular lab to study the heart, EPM is vital to studies probing both space-based and terrestrial problems for the human body, such osteoporosis, aging, muscle degradation and balance disorders.
- Regular maintenance of equipment on board ensures the Space Station can continue to be the place for science in low Earth orbit beyond its incredible 20 years of operation so far.
• November 7, 2020: This photograph, taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station, provides a glimpse of the settlements along the shores of the coral reef-ringed island of Tahiti. Pictured here is the Isthmus of Taravao, a narrow strip of land that connects the two ancient volcanoes—Tahiti-Nui and Tahiti-Iti—and the villages that line the coast. 16)
- Tahiti is part of an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean called the Society Islands, one of five archipelagos that make up French Polynesia. Of the 118 islands and atolls, Tahiti is the largest, with approximately 70 percent of the nation’s population. This island’s rugged topography and dense rainforest has led most of its inhabitants to live along the coastline.
- As with many islands in the South Pacific, the economy is driven in large part by tourism, so resorts and hotels have been built up along the coast. A constant environmental issue that Tahitians face is the rise of sea level and other climate-driven effects on coastal systems. The loss of shoreline from coastal flooding and erosion is a significant threat to low-lying communities and islands, and they could eventually have serious implications for Tahiti.
• November 2, 2020: NASA is marking 20 years of continuous crew operations in Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station, comprised of a 360-foot integrated “backbone” truss structure, four sets of 112-foot-long solar arrays, and 16 pressurized modules containing crew living quarters and state-of-the-art laboratories. Designed, built and tested by NASA and its 15 partner nations, its elements launched to orbit one by one over a 13-year period, the station is one of a kind. It weighs more than 925,000 pounds . It has roughly the interior volume of a six-bedroom house. It’s often the third-brightest object in the night sky. 17)
- Mass: 925,335 pounds (419,725 kg, or 419.7 tons)
- Habitable Volume: 13,696 cubic feet (388 m3) not including visiting vehicles
- Pressurized Volume: 32,333 cubic feet (916 m3)
- With BEAM expanded: 32,898 cubic feet (932 m3)
- Power Generation: 8 solar arrays provide 75 to 90 kW of power
- Lines of Computer Code: approximately 1.5 million
Table 1: International Space Station Size & Mass 18)
Figure 16: An annotated animation detailing the assembly of the International Space Station, from the launch of the first segment in 1998 to today and beyond (video credit: NASA)
- The International Space Station, one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted, is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that provides humanity a one-of-a-kind proving ground for Artemis as we go forward to the Moon and on to Mars. It is a demonstration platform for new technologies and research laboratory for breakthroughs not possible on Earth, representing the most complex space exploration program ever undertaken. 19)
- In the two decades that humans have inhabited the space station, we’ve used the unique orbiting laboratory to build our understanding of how humans can safely live in microgravity, make groundbreaking advancements in medicine, test technologies that will help us travel farther into space, gain new insights into our home planet and stimulate an emerging low-Earth orbit economy.
- Benefits to humanity: Station activities and research have led to new products to purify air and water in our homes, use of cold plasmas in wound treatment, tracking technology for laser-eye surgery, non-invasive temperature monitoring of babies in hospitals, and advancements in telemedicine.
- Living and working in space: Station activities and research have led to new products to purify air and water in our homes, use of cold plasmas in wound treatment, tracking technology for laser-eye surgery, non-invasive temperature monitoring of babies in hospitals, and advancements in telemedicine.
• Monday 2 November, 2020 marks 20 years since the first crew took up residence on the International Space Station. Since then, 240 people including 18 ESA astronauts have lived and worked on the orbital outpost, carrying out essential research to benefit life on Earth. 20)
Figure 18: In this clip, ESA astronauts Luca Parmitano, Alexander Gerst, Thomas Pesquet, Tim Peake, Andreas Mogensen, André Kuipers, Christer Fuglesang, Frank De Winne and Reinhold Ewald pay tribute to the Station. ESA Director General Jan Wörner and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine also speak about the Station’s significance for space exploration and international collaboration (video credit: ESA)
• November 2, 2020: The now football field-sized feat of engineering started off with just three modules: the Russian Zarya cargo and Zvezda service modules and the US Unity module. It took 42 assembly flights for all the large modules and other pieces of the Station to be delivered – 37 were delivered on NASA space shuttles and five on Russian Proton/Soyuz rockets. 21)
- The European laboratory, Columbus, was launched to the Station in 2008 and the European-built Cupola window providing the 360-degree views of Earth that we know and love today was added in 2010.
• November 2, 2020: ISS 20 years: Riccardo Guasco works on a portrait of the Space Station for ESA. 22)
Figure 20: To celebrate 20 years of human habitation of the Space Station, ESA asked two well-known graphic artists to illustrate different aspects of the spacecraft. This video shows behind-the-scenes with Riccardo Guasco, an Italian illustrator, who drew the spacecraft from an external perspective (video credit: ESA)
• November 1, 2020: The Expedition 1 mission crew arrived at the initial ISS (International Space Station) on 2 November 2000. The following Table represents a recount on this event. 23)
Bill Shepherd, a former Navy SEAL-turned astronaut who arrived at the International Space Station 20 years ago on Monday to begin the continuous occupancy of the orbiting research outpost, says the experience gained by NASA and its global partners over the last two decades provides a blueprint for missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond.
Shepherd and his two Russian crewmates — Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev — docked with the space station Nov. 2, 2000, aboard their Soyuz TM-31 spaceship, two days after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Their first task? Get the hatch open and turn on the lights.
“When we just got there, we were not able to open the hatch right away,” Gidzenko recalled in a virtual panel discussion broadcast on NASA TV on Oct. 29. “We had to struggle ... with our legs, with our arms for maybe five minutes. And we were thinking how come? We just arrived at the station but we were not able to get in.”
After some extra effort, the trio opened the hatches and floated into the space station’s darkened Zvezda service module.
“We finally opened the hatch and we got in, and we turned on the lights,” Gidzenko said. “We got some hot water. We activated the toilet, and I remember Shep (Shepherd) said, ‘Now we can live. We have light, we have hot water, and we have a toilet.'”
“It was very memorable switching on lights for the first time,” recalled Krikalev, a veteran cosmonaut who flew on Russia’s Mir space station, NASA’s space shuttles, and the International Space Station.
Shepherd, Gidzenko, and Krikalev arrived at the station nearly two years after the first elements of the research lab launched. The U.S.-owned, Russian-built Zarya control module launched Nov. 20, 1998, and NASA’s Unity connecting node joined Zarya the next month after riding into orbit on the shuttle Endeavour.
After lengthy delays, the station’s Zvezda service module launched July 12, 2000, atop a Russian Proton rocket. Two weeks later, it automatically docked with the Zarya module, completing the core of the International Space Station.
Two more space shuttle visits in September and October 2000 delivered supplies, communications equipment, control moment gyroscopes, and other gear necessary for the space station to support a three-person crew.
Krikalev said the Expedition 1 mission set the stage for 20 years of successful operations on the space station, which is now occupied by the Expedition 64 crew.
“The goal of our mission was to make the station alive because when we came, a lot of the systems were shut down, some of them were not even installed, and some of them installation and activation of the systems were life critical,” Krikalev said. “If we weren’t able to do this on time, we would have had to stop the mission early and return back home.”
Krikalev, now director of piloted missions at the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said that while the International Space Station is a laboratory designed to accommodate scientific investigations, the program itself is one big experiment.
“What we did on Expedition 1 was a big technical experiment,” he said. “Some of the hardware never met each other on the ground, and we had to install it in space for the first time, and not every time was smooth. I think it was a very interesting technical and organizational experiment, and the result of this experiment we’re using up to now.”
In many ways, Shepherd and his crewmates set the tone for the way ground teams oversee astronauts’ schedules and priorities on the space station. Early on, he complained of a grueling work schedule and different tasks assigned by mission control teams in Houston and Moscow, sometimes at odds with one another.
“Occasionally, we would get conflicting marching orders,” Shepherd said. “I got really frustrated one day, and I got on the radio, and both control centers can hear you ... And (I) said, ‘Look, we’re the International Space Station. You guys have to coordinate one plan and give it to us, and that’s the plan we’ll do. We’re not doing one plan for Moscow and one plan for Houston.’
“They just needed that one little reminder, and I was happy to give it to them, and that was my happiest day in space,” Shepherd said.
In their first couple of weeks after their Nov. 2 docking, ground teams tasked the three-man crew with assembling and activating the space station’s Elektron oxygen generator, Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system, and the air conditioner to get temperature and humidity under control. The crew also repaired broken batteries, installed a laptop computer network, and set up equipment for the TORU manual docking system, which is used as a backup for dockings of Russian Progress supply ships if their automated system fails.
It turned out the Expedition 1 crew needed the TORU system sooner than they thought. The radar-guided Kurs docking system failed on the first Progress cargo freighter launched after the crew arrived at the station, and Gidzenko had to take remote control from a position inside the Zvezda module.
A video display from a television camera on the Progress supply ship was supposed to give Gidzenko visual cues as he used hand controllers to steer the spacecraft to docking.
But it wasn’t that simple.
“The next issue was the lens on the camera that was used for aligning the vehicle was fogged,” Krikalev recalled.
Krikalev floated to a window and passed along his view of the approaching spacecraft to Gidzenko. Finally, once the space station flew into sunlight, the fog on the Progress ship’s camera dissipated enough to allow Gidzenko to guide it to a safe docking.
During the Expedition 1 crew’s mission, two more space shuttle flights delivered the first set of huge power-generating solar panels and the Destiny research lab module to the International Space Station.
A third shuttle visit with Discovery carried the next three-person crew — Expedition 2 — to the space station. Shepherd, Gidzenko, and Krikalev flew back to Earth on Discovery and landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 21, 2001, closing out more than 140 days in orbit.
“I think space station, in particular Expedition 1, set the tone for how crews need to operate in space,” Shepherd said. “We can fly really big complex vehicles. With lots of international partners, and with the right ground support and training, we can figure out how to make it all work.
“I think it’s the blueprint for larger expeditions and going certainly to the moon, and probably beyond that to Mars and elsewhere,” Shepherd said.
In total, 240 individuals from 19 countries have visited the International Space Station since construction began in 1998. The 450-ton research complex flies more than 250 miles above Earth, racing around the planet every 90 minutes or so.
Twenty years after Expedition 1, the Expedition 64 crew is now living and working aboard the space station.
Kate Rubins, a flight engineer on the Expedition 64 crew, called the space station a “world class laboratory” in a news conference Friday.
“And it’s an absolutely packed one,” she continued. “We have over 200 experiments per expedition. It’s like taking an entire university campus, a world class university, and shrinking it down to the size of the space station.
“The space station, in even this kind of small space, has all of this biology equipment, but then it’s also a materials science laboratory. It’s a physics laboratory,” Rubins said.
Space station crews have performed numerous experiments researching new pharmaceutical remedies for neurological, cardiovascular, and muscular diseases, studying how microgravity affects liquids and flame, and investigating how months of living in orbit changes their bodies.
Table 2: A recount of the Expedition 1 mission
Figure 21: In recognition of the 20th anniversary of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station, listen as Space Foundation board member Jeanne Meserve sits down with the Expedition 1 crew, William Shepherd (NASA astronaut and Commander of Expedition 1), Sergei Krikalev (Russian cosmonaut and Flight Engineer of Expedition 1), and Yuri Gidzenko (Russian cosmonaut and Soyuz Commander of Expedition 1), as they discuss what it was like to be the first ever crewed expedition to the International Space Station. Also joining the conversation are George Abbey, who was director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center at the time, and Ginger Kerrick, the Russian Training Integration Instructor for Expedition 1 (video credit: NASA)
• October 29, 2020: On December 3 and 4, 2000, the crew of STS-97 unfurled the first permanent solar arrays on the International Space Station. The football field-sized collection of 32,800 reflective solar cells instantly made it one of the brightest objects in the night sky and the largest EPS (Electrical Power System) ever in space. 24)
- NASA’s Lewis Research Center (now Glenn) has played a significant role in the space station from inception until today, most notably in the development of the EPS.
- The EPS is essential for maintaining the station position, operating electronics, and conducting experiments. Our engineers devised a startup system for the station, developed the permanent solar array or a solar mirror EPS and integrated it into various space station designs. For the next few years, they developed a system to meet the station’s ever-changing power requirements and configurations. This included design, construction, and testing of the power generation, storage, and distribution systems.
- NASA Lewis also developed cathodes for the plasma contactor that prevented electrical charge buildups and nickel-hydrogen batteries that stored electrical energy for use during the eclipse period of orbit. The operation and deployment of station’s radiator panels were verified at Plum Brook’s Space Power Facility, and its electronics were tested at the Power Systems Facility.
- Lewis led the agency’s cooperative efforts with the Russians for several years. Our launch vehicle experts helped evaluate the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as a rescue vehicle. However, their analysis determined station’s orbital inclination would have to be altered to accommodate Russian launch vehicles.
- President Bill Clinton ordered an overhaul of the station design in early 1993 and our experts served on the team that reconfigured the design. They also determined that the space station’s orbital inclination had to be altered to accommodate Russian launch vehicles.
- Construction of station began in 1999, and on November 2, 2000 NASA’s William Shepherd and cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko initiated a 20-year period of uninterrupted human presence on the orbiting laboratory.
- Our contributions to the space station have been many. The Fluids and Combustion Facility, consisting of two modular, reconfigurable racks has furthered research on physical and biological experiments. The Combustion Integration Rack continues to be critical in fire safety research. The Fluids Integration Rack enables investigators to integrate or configure components of their experiments similar to those in ground laboratories.
- NASA Glenn also introduced a new treadmill harness design for crewmembers for comfort and loading during treadmill exercise in space.
- In 2010, the SCaN (Space Communications and Navigation) testbed was launched and installed aboard station to serve as a software-defined radio communication system able to work around unexpected hardware or system failures. The technology has evolved into a successful commercial product line for global aircraft tracking on the Iridium satellite network.
- Glenn remains active in station operations by continually monitoring the power system and maintaining the overall health of the astronauts. And we are developing electric propulsion technologies –solar and nuclear–to help government and commercial customers extend the space station’s life and enhance opportunities for exploration in low-earth orbit and beyond.
• November 1, 2020: This photograph, taken from the International Space Station by an astronaut, illustrates the influence of human exploration both on and below the land surface near the La Sal Mountains in eastern Utah. 25)
- Since the 1950s, the Lisbon Valley has been a haven for natural resource extraction and ephemeral towns. Several settlements were built and inhabited while mining operations were ongoing, and then swiftly depopulated when the mines shut down. Many of these abandoned settlements, commonly called ghost towns, are associated with mines in and around Utah.
- The town of La Sal is often mislabeled as a ghost town due to its association with Old La Sal, a town just out of frame to the northeast. When the residents of Old La Sal moved westward, they took their town name with them and established the settlement in the photo, leaving a ghost town behind. Local historians are careful to note that it was the downfall of the cattle economy, not mining, that caused the abandonment of Old La Sal.
- Today, the La Sal mine is a source of uranium and vanadium. The site is similar in geologic character to deposits in the Uravan Mineral Belt of southwestern Colorado. Mining operations at the La Sal complex include both above-ground and below-ground components.
- Uranium and vanadium are not the only natural resources extracted from the Lisbon Valley. The Lisbon Anticline is an arched geologic structure that yields oil and gas. On the northeast flank of the anticline, the network of light tan roads and rectangles are likely oil pump pads. Tailing ponds from a nearby open-pit copper mine are also visible in the scene.
• October 27, 2020: A human endothelial cell that was flown to the International Space Station and returned to Earth for analysis is helping researchers keep astronauts healthy in space. 26)
- Endothelial cells line our blood vessels and help contract and expand the vessels as needed and so are instrumental in maintaining pressure and a healthy body.
- The Endothelial Cells experiment flew to the International Space Station in 2015 to understand how the cells react to weightlessness.
- Blood flow changes in space because gravity no longer pulls blood towards astronauts’ feet. By understanding the underlying adaptive mechanisms of how our bodies respond to weightlessness, the experiment aims to develop methods to help astronauts in space while showing possibilities for people on Earth – our endothelial cells become less effective with age – to live longer and healthier lives.
- Cultured human endothelial cells were grown in space in ESA’s Kubik incubator for one week and then ‘frozen’ chemically for analysis back on Earth.
- As expected, the cells started to express genes differently to cells that stayed on Earth, attaching and moving differently while in space. After careful comparison in the lab, researchers have published a paper with first results confirming that the cells suffer stress from spaceflight.
- Importantly, the research is showing how the cells adapt to the stress and provides clues as to how we could help endothelial cells to stay healthy in space and in patients on Earth.
• October 26, 2020: The Expedition 64 trio is nearing its second full week aboard the International Space Station and is beginning the work week with a host of biomedical studies today. The three station crew members will also bring in the 20th year of continuous human habitation of the orbital lab on Nov. 2. 27)
- Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov with Commander Sergey Ryzhikov started Monday collecting mass measurements before splitting up for the rest of the day. After waking up, they attached themselves to a device that applies a known force to a crew member and uses the resulting acceleration to calculate an astronaut’s mass in microgravity.
- Ryzhikov then joined Kud-Sverchkov for a variety of studies exploring how their bodies are adapting to microgravity. The Russian duo logged their meals and drinks throughout the day for an investigation that seeks to understand bone loss in space. The pair also worked on an experiment to improve exercise techniques to sustain long-term space exploration missions. Kud-Sverchkov later collected and stowed his saliva samples for a study looking at how the human immune system adapts to microgravity.
- On Nov. 2, Rubins with fellow crewmates Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will be part of 20 years of humans continuously orbiting Earth aboard the station. They are the 64th long-term crew to live and work on the orbiting lab. The first crew to board the station was Expedition 1 on Nov. 2, 2000, with Commander William Shepherd of NASA with Roscosmos Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko.
- The city of Ottawa is located at the confluence of three important waterways: the Ottawa River, the Gatineau River, and Rideau Canal. The Ottawa River provides fresh drinking water to the region and joins the Saint-Lawrence River further east at Montreal. The Rideau Canal connects the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) to the south.
- In the early 1800s, the logging industry became prevalent in the Ottawa Valley due to a high demand for timber from the British Empire and, later, from the United States. Trees were cut in winter, as it was easier to transport logs to the river via sleds on frozen roads. In the spring, the timber rafts were floated down the Ottawa River. Logging was mainly concentrated along the river, where the topography was easier to navigate than the Gatineau Hills. Today, paper products produced from the Ottawa River Valley are an important export for Canada’s economy.
- Tucked within Ottawa’s suburbs is the Central Experimental Farm, which was established in 1886. This research station was created to answer farm production questions related to all aspects of Canada’s agriculture, including plant breeding, animal products, weather, and soils.
• October 22, 2020: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed on Earth at 10:54 p.m. EDT (on 21 October 2020) in Kazakhstan (corresponding to 3:54 GMT on 22 October 2020). The trio departed the International Space Station in their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft at 7:32 p.m. EDT (23:32 GMT on 21 October 2020). 29)
- Cassidy now has spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth highest among U.S. astronauts.
- After post-landing medical checks, the crew will split up to return home; Cassidy will board a NASA plane back to Houston, and Vagner and Ivanishin will fly home to Star City, Russia.
- Remaining aboard the station is the three-person crew of Expedition 64 with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, and station commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos. Upon the arrival of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission targeted to launch in November, the station’s long-duration crew will expand to seven people for the first time with the addition of NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
• October 20, 2020: Picturing Earth: Astronaut Photography In Focus. 30)
Figure 29: For 20 years, astronauts have been shooting photos of Earth from the space station. Like everything the astronauts do, they are trained for this job. And like everything they do, there is purpose and intention behind it (video credit: NASA Earth Observatory, Producers: Kathryn Hansen and Michael Carlowicz, Images: Astronaut photographs are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. Action video from ISS provided by NASA Johnson Space Center. Visit the EO astronaut photography collection. Music: “Science Technology Background” by SFRecordsMusic)
• October 20, 2020: The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft arrived to the International Space Station just three hours after launch on 14 October, with Roscosmos astronauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins on board. 31)
- Aside from the human cargo, the Soyuz had space for some science, including one of ESA’s longest-running experiments, Dosis-3D radiation monitor.
- Dotted around the ISS, these orange pouches collect information on radiation levels using a device called a dosimeter. The experiment, in different forms, has been monitoring radiation levels since 2009 and the current pouches are changed after each six-month crew rotation. This pouch has been placed on the left side on the Utility Interface Panel next to the Vacuum Connector on ESA’s Human Research Facility in ESA’s science laboratory Columbus.
- Radiation levels in space can be 15 times higher than on Earth. As soon as humans leave the protective shield that is Earth’s atmosphere, space radiation becomes a serious concern. As we explore farther and head towards the Moon and even Mars on longer flights, defending ourselves against radiation becomes ever more important.
- Dosis-3D helps researchers understand space radiation and how it penetrates the Space Station walls. Active and passive radiation detectors are used to map radiation in all modules of the ISS, and will help designers and engineers make future spacecraft more resistant to radiation, such as the modules for the lunar Gateway.
- Experiments like Dosis-3D often go overlooked as they sit passively in the corner, but as we approach the anniversary of 20 years of continuous habitation of the International Space Station, they are great examples of the kind of science that occurs on humankind’s outpost in space, and helps prepare for the future of human exploration.
- In addition to the passive detectors shown, Dosis-3D uses active dosimeters that measure fluctuations in radiation levels over time. Data from all Station partners is shared to create as complete a picture of space radiation as possible.
• October 20, 2020: The fissure in the Russian sector of the ISS (International Space Station) is between 2 and 4 cm, and was temporarily patched up with Kapton tape, a source from the space industry said. 32)
- "The analysis of the photos suggests that the tear in the Zvezda Service Module is between two and four centimeters long. Cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov taped it with Kapton [a special tape]," the source said.
- Earlier in the day, one of the crew members, cosmonaut Ivan Vagner reported to the ground force that the crew had found a makeshift solution for the leak which would be to tape it with Kapton, an adhesive film developed by DuPont in the late Sixties which can exist between -269º and 400º C.
- In September 2019, an air leak was detected on the ISS. In August 2020, the speed of the station's air leak increased. Eventually, the air leak was traced to the Zvezda module of Roscosmos, but the precise location of the leak, which is very minor, was not found at the time.
- Russia's Roscosmos space agency has repeatedly said that the safety of the ISS crew has never been put at risk by the air leak. Executive director for the agency's manned space program, Sergey Krikalev, added, however, that additional air could be delivered to the ISS if the crew failed to patch up the leak.
• October 18, 2020: An astronaut onboard the ISS (International Space Station) took this nighttime photograph of the city of Turin in northwestern Italy, home to many Italian car companies and automotive manufacturing plants. Through Italy’s 2018 Smart Road Decree, Turin was chosen as a test site for autonomous driving vehicles. The smart road circuit map for self-driving cars has been traced onto the photo below (resolution approximately 15 meters per pixel) using image editing software and GIS (Geographic Information System) techniques. 33)
- Astronaut photographs of cities at night can be clear enough to discern specific features like roads and buildings, as well as dark spaces such as farmland, bodies of water, and mountains. Strings of lights trace the roads that connect Turin’s city center to the mountain valleys of the Italian Alps. Small pockets of light indicate the presence of towns. An outline of the Po River follows the eastern border of Turin as it begins its route from the Alps toward Italy’s agricultural heartland.
• October 14, 2020: The Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft launched from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 05:45 GMT (Wednesday), carrying NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov docked to the International Space Station at 08:48 GMT (4:48 a.m. EDT) while both spacecraft were flying about 420 km (261 miles) above the Mediterranean Sea. The flight to the ISS took 3 hours and 3 minutes from the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. 34)35)
- Nearly nine minutes after a successful launch at 1:45 a.m. EDT of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos safely reached orbit. They have begun a two-orbit, three-hour flight to reach the International Space Station and join the Expedition 63 crew.
- Journeys to the ISS usually take around six hours — a time that was a vast improvement on the two-day flights that prevailed prior to 2013. Wednesday was the first time a manned journey was completed in such a short time, even beating the fastest time of missions carrying supplies to the station.
- This is the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov and the first for Kud-Sverchkov.
- Aboard the space station, Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will welcome the new crew members when the hatches between the two spacecraft are opened following standard pressurization and leak checks.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos joined Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 7:07 a.m. EDT. 36)
- The arrival temporarily restores the station’s crew complement to six for the remainder of Expedition 63.
- Expedition 64 begins Wednesday, Oct. 21, with the departure of Cassidy, Vagner, and Ivanishin in the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft that brought them to the station on April 9. Cassidy will hand command of the station to Ryzhikov during a ceremony with all crew members that is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20 and will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
- The Expedition 64 crew will conduct research in technology development, Earth science, biology, human research and more. During Rubins’ first spaceflight in 2016, she became the first person to sequence DNA in space. Research conducted in microgravity helps NASA prepare for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars, and contributes to improvements for life on Earth.
- This is the second spaceflight for Rubins and Ryzhikov. Kud-Sverchkov becomes the 241st person to visit the unique microgravity laboratory, and the trio will be aboard to celebrate the 20th anniversary of uninterrupted human presence since the Expedition 1 crew arrived Nov. 2, 2000. Humanity’s home in space has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from people in 108 countries and areas.
- During Expedition 64, the arrival of Crew-1 aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon on the first operational commercial mission to the space station will bring four more crew members, expanding a long-duration Expedition crew to seven people for the first time. Crew-1 is currently targeted for launch in November.
• October 11, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took these photographs of southern Iraq and Saudi Arabia during the summer dust-storm season in the Persian Gulf. 37)
- The dust plume is also an excellent example of the interconnected nature of Earth’s systems. Extensive irrigation in southern Iraq has progressively reduced the areas exposed directly to wind erosion. Thus the amount of dust being transported to Saudi Arabia has decreased over time—probably since irrigated agriculture began here several thousand years ago.
- The ability to change quickly from a regional, oblique view (often including the horizon or Earth limb) to a detailed view (looking more vertically) is one of the strengths of astronaut handheld photography that sets it apart from most automated satellite imaging systems.
• October 8, 2020: As any scientist will confirm, a huge part of doing science is being attentive. Making sure experiments run smoothly. Observing outcomes. Fine-tuning settings to the tiniest degree. With many different experiments running simultaneously on the Space Station, 400 km above the Earth, at a speed of roughly 28,000 km/h, attention to detail becomes an invaluable virtue. 38)
- And every now and then, something totally unexpected happens that keeps our astronauts on their toes ....
Steady science experiments
- With only three instead of the usual six astronauts up in the International Space Station, science experiments slowed down a bit in September. But Science is still happening on board.
- The ASIM experiment for example, is still running smoothly, continuously tracking thunderstorms from above.
- ESA’s Biolab rack is not active at the moment, but it does need the occasional maintenance. Station Commander and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy performed the rack’s annual cleaning and completed some minor fixes.
- After a year in space, the MATISS-2.5 experiment ended and the sample holders were removed. The experiment is designed to test the antibacterial properties of hydrophobic surfaces and will now be stowed until its return to Earth for further analysis.
- Both the CANES and the DOSIS-3D experiments continue to run, gathering data by being exposed to microgravity and space radiation for long periods of time.
Fast-paced safety measures
- For all the business-as-usual-ness of the science experiments, things have not been quite as smooth-orbiting for the International Space Station itself.
- On 22 September, the International Space Station performed a maneuver to steer clear of a piece of space debris of unknown origin. Orbiting debris is continuously monitored, and once or twice a year an object is discovered that’s deemed too close for comfort. The Station then performs a reboost to raise its orbit out of the projected path of the debris. The maneuver worked, keeping the crew safe at all times.
- On an equally eventful note, a tiny air leak in the Space Station called for extra vigilance on 28 September. The leak had been tracked by control centers in Moscow and Houston for several months, but the exact location wasn’t clear, and readings showed that it appeared to have grown in size. The crew was called to help find the source and the leak location was isolated to the main work area of the Zvezda. Further investigations using an ultrasonic leak detector to find the source of the leak continue, but currently there are no safety concerns for the astronauts and the International Space Station.
- All in all, this was a period full of steadily running experiments, combined with some fast-paced troubleshooting. Science continues, the crew keeps working hard, and unexpected challenges are met with coolheaded problem-solving skills. Another typical month on the International Space Station.
• September 27, 2020: An astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of coastal western Africa where the Gambia, Casamance, and Saloum Rivers flow into the Atlantic Ocean through The Gambia and Senegal. The Republic of The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa, extending about 320 kilometers (200 miles) inland from the Atlantic and hugging its namesake river. It is bordered by Senegal on all sides, except the coast. (Note: the white border is approximate.) 39)
- The Gambia River flows approximately 1,100 km (700 miles) from the Republic of Guinea through The Gambia. The dark green areas along the banks of the rivers and in the estuaries are mostly mangroves. These coastal forests thrive in brackish waters; they provide storm and erosion protection for coastal communities, as well as timber resources. This particular ecoregion of mangroves stretches across much of the West African coast from Senegal to Sierra Leone.
- Southern Senegal and The Gambia are part of the Sudanian climate zone, which is known for dense woodlands, savannas, and wetlands. These ecosystems are visible to the south of the Gambia River (image left). The region north of the river (right) appears much brighter due to the exposure of bare soil and the dearth of visible vegetation.
- This coastal region is densely populated. The capital and port city of Banjul sits on an island where the Gambia River reaches the Atlantic. With an increasing population, the demand for timber for construction has put stress on the mangrove forests.
• September 22, 2020: Using the ISS Progress 75 thrusters and with NASA and Russian flight controllers working in tandem, the International Space Station conducted a 150-second reboost Tuesday (22 Sept.) afternoon at 5:19 p.m. EDT to avoid a possible conjunction with an unknown piece of space debris. Because of the late notification of the possible conjunction, the three Expedition 63 crew members were directed to move to the Russian segment of the station to be closer to their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft as part of the safe haven procedure out of an abundance of caution. At no time was the crew in any danger. 40)
- The maneuver raised the station’s orbit out of the predicted path of the debris, which was estimated to come within 1.39 kilometers of the station with a time of closest approach of 6:21 p.m. EDT.
- Once the avoidance maneuver was completed, the crew reopened hatches between the U.S. and Russian segments and resumed their regular activities.
- NASA did not identify the debris in statements about the close approach. Later, space analyst Jonathan McDowell said it was debris from an upper stage of a Japanese H-2A rocket that launched the Ibuki-2, or GOSAT-2, Earth science satellite in October 2018. That upper stage, left in an orbit more than 100 km above the ISS, broke up in February 2019. More than 70 objects from that stage are currently being tracked. 41)
- Many in the space safety community have warned that upper stages can be a leading contributor to the growth of space debris, given their sizes and because many are deposited in similar orbits, increasing the risk of collisions with one another. Upper stages can break apart on their own because of residual propellant that bursts tanks or batteries that explode.
- NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, in a tweet after the debris avoidance maneuver, expressed some frustration. “The @Space_Station has maneuvered 3 times in 2020 to avoid debris. In the last 2 weeks, there have been 3 high concern potential conjunctions. Debris is getting worse!” he wrote.
- According to an August newsletter by NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, the ISS previously maneuvered to avoid debris on April 19 and July 3. The first maneuver was to avoid debris from Fengyun-1C, a Chinese weather satellite destroyed in a 2007 anti-satellite weapons test. The second maneuver was caused by debris from a Soviet-era upper stage motor, launched in 1987 and which broke apart in 2003. The report noted that the motor suffered a design flaw that has resulted in more than 50 such breakups to date.
• September 20, 2020: Clouds trace out the islands of the Caribbean Sea in this photo taken by an astronaut from inside the Cupola on the International Space Station. Beyond the solar arrays and the docked Progress resupply vehicle, the multi-toned waters of the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean frame the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and southern Florida. 42)
- The bright turquoise water around the Bahamas contrasts sharply with the darker blues of the open ocean. From above, the contrast allows us to see the Tongue of the Ocean, a submarine canyon descending nearly 4300 meters (14,000 feet) below the surrounding shallow bank. The variable water colors can be explained by the underwater topography and water depth (bathymetry) and how it leads to varying light absorption and reflection. In the clear and shallow waters of the Caribbean, more sunlight reflects off the sand and reef surfaces, causing the water to appear lighter in color. The shallow water that surrounds the Bahamas and outlines the Tongue of the Ocean comprise the Great and Little Bahama Banks.
- This photo was captured on a peaceful, if somewhat cloudy, spring day. But in the summertime, this region is known colloquially as “hurricane alley.” Tropical cyclones that form off the coast of Africa and mature in warm Atlantic waters frequently first encounter land at these islands. Unfortunately for residents, the number of named storms in the Atlantic has been increasing in recent years.
• September 13, 2020: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station took this photograph of a portion of the northern Patagonian Andes in Chile. This nearly cloud-free view is rich with glacial fjords, complex shorelines, and active volcanoes. Melimoyu is the large, ice-capped stratovolcano northeast of the Moraleda Channel. Low-level clouds are concentrated in the Puyuhuapi Channel between the tall peaks. 43)
- During the last glacial maximum, roughly 25,000 years ago, the land and water in this photo were entirely covered by ice. As they retreated, the massive glaciers carved up the land and created interconnected fjords and channels. Today, small ice caps still sit atop active volcanoes such as Melimoyu and Mentolat, both of which are a part of Chile’s national park system.
- The Moraleda Channel is a gateway between many smaller fjords and the open ocean. Rivers carry an influx of freshwater and sediment, which can promote phytoplankton growth, especially during spring and autumn. The streaks visible within the Moraleda Channel are likely a blend of sediment and plankton, based on the high concentration of chlorophyll detected that day by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometers (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, as well as previous carbon cycle studies. The waters here support an abundant diversity of marine, estuary, and freshwater species, including blue whales.
• September 9, 2020: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano provides words of wisdom to young people on how investing their time wisely today can help build a better tomorrow. 44)
Figure 44: In this video, Luca recalls his own childhood and says, the most valuable resource we have as young people is time. He encourages the next generation to continue having fun, but to do so while investing in their own education as they plant the seed for a successful future (video credit: ESA)
- Success, Luca says, is not measured by being an astronaut or by being rich, but by committing to projects that give you satisfaction and contribute to a better world. If you choose something you love, and you love what you do, you will never work one day in your life.
- As an ESA astronaut of Italian nationality, Luca has served two six-month space missions on the International Space Station. During his last mission, known as Beyond, in 2019/2020 he became the third European and first ever Italian in command of the Space Station.
- Luca continues to work as an astronaut in Europe, inspiring the next generation of explorers, and supporting European efforts to enhance life on Earth and the future of space travel through human and robotic exploration.
• September 6, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph highlighting the water surface in the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea. The tight angle of the coastline, close to the point where Iran and Turkmenistan meet, is a readily recognizable landmark for ISS crews. The region has a generally arid climate, but thick forests blanket the rain-catching slopes of the Elbrus Mountains that fringe the sea. 45)
- The image shows patterns of swirls on the sea surface as revealed by reflected sunlight, or sunglint. This circulation has been studied through both remote sensing and in situ techniques—in this case floating drifters that take direct measurements in the water column as their movements are tracked by GPS.
- Thanks to such data, scientists now know that the water in this corner of the Caspian Sea circulates slowly in a counterclockwise direction, making a broad current pattern termed a gyre. This flow appears to astronauts as a complicated pattern of smaller eddies or swirls; they are larger where the water is deeper (top center) and much smaller near the shoreline, where the water is shallower.
• August 30, 2020: Charleston, the capital city of West Virginia, is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, one of the smaller ranges running through the Appalachians. The brown-hued, textured areas—not yet painted green by springtime—highlight the ruggedness of the surrounding terrain and allow local cities, roads, and mines to stand out in this photograph taken by an astronaut from the ISS (International Space Station). 46)
- Established in the 1700s, Charleston sits in a river valley at the confluence of the Kanawha and Elk rivers. The Kanawha River, named after the Kanawha Native American tribe, is a tributary of the Ohio River and is only about 160 kilometers (100 miles) long. Due to the region’s undulating topography, much of the Allegheny Mountain Range was historically difficult to travel across as early European settlers headed west. Throughout Charleston’s development and expansion, its riverside location made it a welcome resting spot for settlers along their route west, and many chose to stay in the region permanently.
- Salt works, logging, and mining would become the city’s leading economic industries. Brine has been pumped from wells in this area for its salt content for hundreds of years. Logging became prevalent due to the abundance and variety of trees in the mountains.
- Underground coal mines, which date back to the early 1800s, are scattered throughout West Virginia. In the 1970s, coal operations started using a process known as mountaintop mining: the removal of rock and soil from mountaintops to reach coal seams. Since the process starts with the complete deforestation of an area, such surface mines can bring large-scale changes to the landscape and environment.
• August 23, 2020: This photograph, taken by an International Space Station astronaut while in orbit over the Caribbean Sea, captures one of Earth’s most alluring ocean locations. The Great Blue Hole lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef atoll, about 80 km (50 miles) from the coast of mainland Belize. The exceptional clarity of the water, characteristic of atolls in the Caribbean, allows the deeper (darker) hole to stand out against the shallower (lighter) waters of the reef. 47)
- The mysterious Great Blue Hole most likely formed during the last Ice Age, when global sea level was much lower. This marine sinkhole contains many geologic features, including limestone stalactites and stalagmites. It stretches 300 meters (about 1,000 feet) across and reaches depths of more than 120 meters (400 feet). The depths and compelling rock formations within the Great Blue Hole are intriguing to seasoned divers. While the reefs around it are teeming with life, the poor circulation of oxygen and lack of light at the bottom of the hole creates an inhospitable environment for most life forms.
- The Belize Barrier Reef is an integral part of the greater Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second longest in the world. Stretching along 1000 kilometers (600 miles) of the coastlines of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, the reef system is a major hub for marine species and one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.
• August 21, 2020: Flying 400 km above our heads, the International Space Station (ISS) is the world's laboratory in space. But what kind of research is done there and how does it affect our lives on Earth? 48)
Figure 48: ESA expert Dr. Jason Hatton discusses notable research from the ISS and how the unique location of this facility allows us to explore never-before-seen phenomena in this episode of Meet the Experts (video credit: ESA)
• August 19, 2020: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during his 2018 stay on the International Space Station, with two floating SPHERES robots, tethered to a container of liquid, serving to simulate the experience of pulling a derelict satellite out of orbit. 49)
- The sloshing of liquid inside a partially filled fuel tank can alter its trajectory – like throwing a half-filled bottle of water through the air. The Station’s freeflying Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) were used to test out how sloshing might affect the towing of a partially fuelled satellite out of orbit, as a means of tackling space debris.
- The liquid-filled container was tethered between two gas-propelled SPHERES to be pulled in a pre-programmed trajectory. The results have been studied by ArianeGroup in Germany in a recently concluded project, supported through ESA’s General Support Technology Program, contributing to detailed software modelling of the container’s sloshing motion.
- ESA, in partnership with the Netherlands, has previously flown an entire satellite to investigate sloshing behavior, which is also important for the flight of launchers and spacecraft: FLEVO-Sloshsat, in 2005.
• August 16, 2020: Two of Earth’s most colorful upper atmospheric phenomena, aurora and airglow, met just before dawn in this photo shot by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS). Wavy green, red-topped wisps of aurora borealis appear to intersect the muted red-yellow band of airglow as the ISS passed just south of the Alaskan Peninsula. The rising Sun, behind Earth’s limb at the time of this photo, adds a deep blue to the horizon. Light from cities in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, joins starlight to dot the early morning skyscape. 50)
- Though they appear at similar altitudes, aurora and airglow are produced by different physical processes. Nighttime airglow (or nightglow) is a type of chemiluminescence—the emission of light from chemical interactions between oxygen, nitrogen, and other molecules in the upper atmosphere. Airglow occurs all around the Earth, all the time. However, “nightglow” is much easier to spot over a dark Earth than “dayglow,” as airglow is just one billionth as bright as the Sun.
- Auroras, on the other hand, stem from interactions between solar energy and Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic field funnels the energy into the upper atmosphere, where it interacts with the same atoms as airglow (mainly oxygen and nitrogen). This is why both phenomena can produce similar colors. The dynamic nature of Earth’s magnetic field moves the solar energy in irregular ways, causing each aurora event to be visually unique.
• August 9, 2020: This photograph, taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS), captures the bright urban lights of two Chinese port cities. Xiamen and Quanzhou stand out amidst a complex network of roads and railways and the night-darkened waters of the South China Sea. 51)
- Inland areas are mountainous here, with less urban development to illuminate the landscape. Smaller towns and roads zig-zag through the valleys. Closer to the coast, several islands and small harbors make up one of China’s most highly trafficked port regions. Offshore, two bright clusters of pixels are likely ships traveling to or from one of the harbors.
- The ancient city of Quanzhou was once one of the most important ports along the Maritime Silk Road. Beyond its role as a major center of commerce and trade, Quanzhou remains a major manufacturing center in China.
• August 2, 2020: Red-tinted sands and dark green braided streams provide a colorful contrast within Australia’s Channel Country. As the International Space Station (ISS) was passing over southwest Queensland, an astronaut took this photo of the Cooper Creek floodplain. 52)
- The Barcoo and Thomson rivers flow southwest and converge north of the town of Windorah to form Cooper Creek, a major river system that flows toward Lake Yamma Yamma and Lake Eyre (both outside this frame). The broad, gently sloping floodplain—more than 50 kilometers (30 miles) wide in some areas—allows for the development of a complex network of shallow channels carved by seasonal floods. The region provides significant habitat for water birds and has been classified by the Australian government as an Important Bird Area.
- Ancient linear dunes, trending in an east-west direction, rise above the floodplain. Their Mars-like red color comes from traces of iron that coat larger quartz grains. Lnown as paleodunes, these features point to a drier past climate during their formation and migration. As the climate in this region has become slightly wetter (but still arid), vegetation density has increased, reducing the impact of wind and water on the dunes and halting most of their migration. There is some reshaping of sediment at the top of the dunes due to winds.
- The combination of stable, ancient dunes and water channels displaying both braided and cross-connecting patterns make this region a planetary analogue for Mars. Studying the physical features of an arid land, whether from orbit or ground level, can prepare humans for exploration of worlds beyond our own.
• July 26, 2020: Even without knowing the location of the scene below, the lack of vegetation and standing water reveal this to be an arid place. Death Valley is known for its extreme dryness and dangerous heat records. However, traces on the land indicate that water sometimes flows here. 53)
- An astronaut onboard the International Space Station captured this view of the southern end of Death Valley National Park. High-resolution photography of bare landscapes can expose complex geology. Shadows accentuate the sharp angles and slot canyons of the Owlshead Mountains.
- Surrounding those rocky textured outcrops, alluvial fans and dry lake beds appear as smoother landscapes. When rare rains do fall, sediment is carried from the mountains and deposited as alluvial fans in the valleys. Dry lakes—such as Lost and Owl—can appear at the junctions of multiple alluvial fans, where water accumulates and then quickly evaporates away.
- Variations in rock colors and mountain shapes provide clues of previous seismic and volcanic activity here. The Owlshead Mountains are made of light-colored, older plutonic rocks and darker, younger volcanic rocks. The Amargosa River follows along a large fault zone leading to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America (north of this photo).
- Badwater Road appears in faint traces cutting across the fan. Between the road and the Owlshead Mountains, smaller strike-slip faults create slot canyons where people can hike through the remote area.
• July 21, 2020: Expedition 63 Commander Christopher Cassidy and Joint Operations Commander Robert Behnken, both NASA astronauts, completed the three and a half year process of upgrading the International Space Station’s power systems during a spacewalk on 21 July.54)
- In the three and a half years since, NASA and International astronauts have carried out nine more EVAs as part of the replacement efforts, fully replacing the older batteries on the S4, P4 and P6 truss segments and leaving just the S6 Truss remaining.
- The first of those two spacewalks for the 1B power channel occurred on 26 June, with the second following on 1 July.
- Each truss segment contains two power channels, each with its own solar arrays and set of batteries. Cassidy and Behnken’s first two EVAs successfully completed replacement of all six batteries of the 1B power channel on the S6 Truss.
- Behnken and Cassidy began work on the 3B power channel on the S6 truss last week with the goal of removing five of six 3B channel Ni-H2 batteries followed by installation of the first three lithium-ion batteries.
- Cassidy and Behnken worked so far ahead of the planned timeline on that spacewalk that they were actually able to remove all six Ni-H2 batteries instead of just the five per the original plan — which officially completed removal of all Ni-H2 batteries from the Station’s power systems.
- Cassidy and Behnken also performed a host of other tasks on this EVAs, including — among other things — routing and connecting ethernet cables for external experiment data transmission to scientists.
• July 19, 2020: The winding Mississippi River historically has been used to define many state lines in the United States. This photo, taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS), has been annotated to show the current state boundary (yellow line) between Arkansas and Mississippi. 55)
- As the Mississippi River meanders over time, the channels migrate across the floodplain. Due to these changes in the position of the channel, some farms, towns, and rural lands occasionally switch to the opposite banks of the river. For instance, Archer and Bell islands are still official parts of Arkansas, but they are now located east of the Mississippi River.
- Sunglint reflects off of the water surfaces, outlining the banks of the river and likely differentiating turbulent surface flow from slower moving water. Over thousands of years, the turbulent meandering of the river has transformed the floodplain, creating oxbow lakes and cutting new channels into the surrounding landscape. Lake Chicot is considered the largest oxbow lake in the United States, spanning 5,300 acres (2,145 hectares). In the photo, sunglint on the lake has a glossier appearance than the river, potentially due to less disturbance of the water surface.
- The Mississippi River Basin is home to many small towns and cities and a variety of agricultural activity. Nutrient-rich soil from sediment deposits throughout the floodplain supports productive cropland close to the river and its tributaries. In this photo taken during planting season, the farms are mostly distinguished by tan-brown rectangular fields, which will turn green as summer crops grow. Farming of cotton, corn, soybeans, and sweet potatoes makes up a significant portion of this area’s economic production.
• July 14, 2020: Skygazers across the Northern Hemisphere are being treated to stunning views of comet NEOWISE as it streaks past Earth. Amateur astrophotographer Javier Manteca got a bonus: the International Space Station and the comet are both seen transiting Madrid in this photo captured 11 July. 56)
- Comets are the icy remnants from the formation of the planets 4.6 billion years ago, prompting scientists to think of them as cosmic time capsules. Comets have distinctive tails caused by dust grains being swept away from the comet’s nucleus.
- The comet's flyby of Earth is a rare opportunity to observe and collect data on these cosmic time capsules. Many spacecraft have observed the comet, including the ESA/NASA SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) as well as astronauts on board the International Space Station.
- ESA’s comet chaser Rosetta trailed comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko for two years before landing the Philae probe on its surface. The mission amassed a wealth of data that will be studied for years to come.
• July 12, 2020: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of Lake Rukwa, one of the smaller lakes of the East African Rift. The image captures the southernmost 100 km (60 miles) of the lake, one of several that occupy the deep, down-faulted depressions in Earth’s crust that characterize the region. 57)
- The straight margins of Lake Rukwa were formed by faults of the rift. Several deltas have formed along the lake margins, with the Songwe and Momba rivers building the largest.
- At the time of this photo in March 2020, the distributaries of the Momba and Songwe deltas were pulsing with muddy water. All of the rivers leading to these deltas appear to have brought down mud loosened by rains in the days before the photo was taken, giving Lake Rukwa a red-brown color. The thin darker, green streaks in the middle of the lake may be remnants of clear water from before the influx of mud, or they may be algae blooms. White patches on and near the Songwe River delta are small salt ponds and the open-cast pit of the New Luika gold mine.
- Lake Rukwa supports Tanzania’s third largest fishery. The long deep lakes of the Rift region—called the “great lakes of central Africa”—are major tourist attractions. The area to the west of Lake Rukwa (lower left) is part of the Uwanda Rukwa Game Reserve. Previous astronauts also have had their eyes drawn to Lake Bangweulu in neighboring Zambia.
• July 4, 2020: This photograph, taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS), illustrates several environmental wonders and highlights of the Pacific Northwest of the United States. 58)
- The Cascade Mountains, running north-south along the right side of the image, extend from southern British Columbia in Canada through Washington, Oregon, and Northern California in the U.S. The rugged terrain is largely masked by snow in this photograph from mid-April 2020. Several of the peaks are active volcanoes in the Cascade arc. Rising to an elevation of 10,525 feet (3,207 meters), Glacier Peak is one of the youngest and most active volcanoes in the range.
- Olympic National Park occupies the center of the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington. Naturalist John Muir, known as “the Father of the National Parks,” explored and documented this wilderness in the late 1800s, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the area as a national park in 1938. The park features a spectrum of ecosystems, from rugged coastline to temperate rainforests to the glaciated peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range.
- The Salish Sea encompasses several waterways, including the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound. Situated within these waterways is an archipelago called the San Juan Islands, which were formed from strong bedrock that resisted the glacial scouring of the surrounding straits. The islands were proclaimed a national monument by President Barack Obama in 2013 due to their ecological significance as a home to diverse species and several ecosystems ranging from sandy beaches to Douglas fir forests.
• June 23, 2020: This panorama of the International Space Station is a wider view of what ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano was capturing on camera during the first of a series of historic spacewalks that took place in November 2019. 59)
- "For every spacewalk there are thousands of images taken. Sometimes a few images jump out at me,” he explains. “One day I realized I could stitch these images together to expand the scene and show what the astronaut sees in a broader sense.”
- To create this view, Lee first went looking for images with common points. This proved tricky: of the 1000 or so images he scanned, he found three that could be worked into two expanded photos of the Space Station.
- He then joined and lightly edited the images to create a smooth photograph, a technique referred to as “stitching”.
- In the final image you can see the white panel radiators that keep the Space Station cool. The spacecraft on the left is a Soyuz. On the right is the Kibo module, with Japanese flag visible. The Space Station is flying to the right in this picture.
- Nowadays we are spoiled for space imagery. From satellites circling the Earth and spacecraft taking selfies to astronaut snaps from the International Space Station, there is no shortage of photographs at which to marvel – and they are easy to access.
- Aside from the critical role these images play in aiding scientific studies of Earth, the Solar System and outer space, they are important tools for science communication and public engagement.
- One advantage of space imagery made public is how it engages citizen scientists and students all over the world. Take two projects as examples:
- Cities at Night asks residents to identify major cities at night as seen by astronauts from the Space Station to help map out and combat light pollution. The Climate Detectives school project tasks students with investigating a local climate problem and proposing a solution by studying Earth observation satellite imagery.
- For others like Lee, the images are a source of inspiration and creativity.
- “It’s truly thrilling for me to recreate these broader views and it makes me wonder how many more unique views like this one captured by Luca are hiding in space agency archives,” Lee adds.
• June 21, 2020: A day after the summer solstice, a new Moon passed in front of the Sun to create an annular eclipse across large swaths of Asia and Africa. An astronaut aboard the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Moon’s shadow passing over China during the eclipse on June 21, 2020. 60)
- An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes in front of the Sun but is too far away from Earth to completely obscure the solar disk. From the ground, viewers can see a thin ring of sunlight around the Moon’s edge—hence why the event is affectionately called a “ring of fire” eclipse.
• June 21, 2020: As the International Space Station (ISS) was passing over the Horn of Africa, an astronaut shot this photograph of Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu. This historic port on the coast of the Indian Ocean is home to more than 2 million people. 61)
- Just inland from the coast, sand dunes flank the urban area. Prevailing winds from the east-northeast shape the dunes into ridges perpendicular to the wind direction. Geologists call these “transverse dunes.” The red and orange colors in the dune fields are due to natural chemical and weathering processes that left behind traces of iron in the sandy minerals. These dunes stand in contrast to the lightly-colored, calcium carbonate-rich sands near the shore.
- Further inland, rectangular agricultural fields are visible near the town of Afgoye. A small segment of the vital Shebelle River is visible running through the farmland and town. The Shebelle starts in Ethiopia’s highlands and trends south towards the Jubba River (far outside this photo to the right).
• June 14, 2020: Sunglint reflects off the Mediterranean Sea, highlighting the islands of Corsica and Sardinia in this photo taken as an astronaut was looking south from the International Space Station (ISS). The islands have rugged, mountainous terrain with small lakes that also reflect sunlight. 62)
- Clouds are scattered throughout the photo, with some of those over the water aligning with changes in sunglint patterns. That is, the wind is likely blowing in the same direction at the sea surface and where the clouds are. The intensity of sunglint depends on the Sun’s angle with respect to the ISS orbit path and the astronaut’s point of view. But it also depends upon the smoothness or roughness of the water surface.
- This photo shows the brightest sunglint along the eastern coasts of the islands (left sides in this view), where the sea is relatively calm. The high contrast between sunglinted water and land gives clarity to the jagged coastlines of Corsica and Sardinia. Sailors familiar with this area carefully navigate the rocky capes when seeking safe harbors.
- Westerly winds funneling between the islands at the Strait of Bonifacio disturb the sea surface and subdue some of the reflective glint off the water. The rough water surface scatters sunlight in many directions, resulting in less light reflected back towards the astronaut’s handheld camera.
- South of Sardinia, the coasts of Tunisia and Algeria also have the dark, vegetated hue indicative of the Mediterranean climate. Looking farther toward the horizon, the Sahara Desert stretches as far as the eye can see.
• June 10, 2020: Two inland deltas spring from the landscape near the confluence of the Blue and White Niles. An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this oblique photograph showing a swath of southeastern Sudan near Ethiopia. The White Nile River snakes diagonally across the frame, splitting the tan and brown tones of the arid Sahara Desert from the wetter, greener Sahel. 63)
- The White Nile carries sediment from its source region in central Africa. The sediment can make the water appear light-toned in comparison to the clearer water of the Blue Nile, which carries less sediment. The two rivers join to form the River Nile at a confluence near the city of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.
- High annual rainfall associated with the Ethiopian Plateau and its foothills (top right) supplies the Blue Nile with large quantities of water; in the rainy season it amounts to nearly 70 percent of the water in the River Nile north of the confluence. The Blue Nile makes irrigation possible on 400,000 hectares (one million acres) of land, partly for the cultivation of cotton.
- The irrigated zone south of Khartoum (north is to the left) is the inland delta of the Blue Nile, a wide area of soft river sediment laid down by the river. The photo also includes the inland delta generated by a tributary of the White Nile.
- Inland deltas are roughly triangular, delta-shaped plains of sediment deposited over thousands of years, but without the influence of a body of water like “true” deltas. Inland deltas are often termed megafans to show this difference. The inland deltas along the Nile have been ideal locations for cultivation not only because of the water supply, but also because they are topographically flat and therefore easily plowed and irrigated.
• June 9, 2020: Did you know that in microgravity you can better study the boiling process? — Boiling is a very common process in our everyday life. For instance, we usually boil water to cook or to clean. The boiling process is common in many engineering fields such as environmental applications and industrial chemical processes. 64)
- Understanding the dynamics of boiling is essential to improve energy production and conversion in power plants, and to design future space applications like cryogenic fuel storage and propulsion.
- On Earth the process happens too fast to be accurately observed and measured. But experiments conducted in low gravity environments, like on the International Space Station, allow us to observe phenomena like phase transition and the onset of bubbles much more clearly.
- Such studies may lead to increase the energy efficiency of several application also here on Earth, from Power plants to thermal management systems used in electric vehicles, laptops, and smartphones just to cite a few examples.
Figure 64: This video interviews Peter Stephan of the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany talking about the Reference mUltiscale Boiling Investigation experiment, known affectionately as Rubi. Paolo Di Marco of the University of Pisa in Italy talks about pulsating heat pipe experiments and Catherine Colin from the Institut de Mécanique des Fluides de Toulouse in France talks about heat transfer flow boiling and how to keep electronics cool. Lastly Giuseppe Zummo, of Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, ENEA, explains how parabolic flights are used to test new two-phase flow heat transfer in weightlessness (video credit: ESA - European Space Agency)
- Do take advantage of the opportunities and capabilities that are available for your research and development to further grow and extend your achievements. Take the next step ... the step to Space. We did it already.
• June 2, 2020: ESA Education, in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, are excited to announce that 6350 teams of students and young people, from all 25 eligible countries, successfully entered Mission Zero, and had their programs run on the Astro Pi computers on board the International Space Station for 30 seconds each! 65)
- The teams measured the temperature inside the ISS Columbus module, and used the Astro Pi LED matrix to display the measurement together with a greeting to the astronauts, including Chris Cassidy, who oversaw this year’s experiments.
- In addition, 208 teams of students and young people are currently participating in Phase 4 of Mission Space Lab. Over the last few weeks, each of these teams has had their scientific experiments run on either Astro Pi Ed or Astro Pi Izzy or 3 hours each.
- Astro Pi Ed was helping the participants investigate life in space, using sensors to measure the conditions on the ISS and even mapping the magnetic field of Earth. Teams used Astro Pi Izzy’sr near-infrared camera to investigate life on Earth, such as vegetation health and the impact of human life on our planet.
- All Mission Space Lab teams have now received their data back from the ISS to analyze and summarize in their final scientific reports. Teams are receiving special guidance and advice on how best to collaborate remotely to write these reports during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been given an extended submission deadline of 3 July 2020.
Program deployment, but not as we know it
- This year, we encountered a problem during the deployment of some Life on Earth experiments. When we downloaded the first batch of data from the ISS, we realized that Astro Pi Izzy had an incorrect setting, which resulted in some pictures turning pink! Furthermore, the CANADARM was the middle of the window view.
- Needless to say, this would have had a negative impact on many experiments, so we put in a special request to NASA to remove the CANADARM arm and we reset Izzy. This meant that the process took longer than normal, but we managed to re-run all experiments and capture some fantastic images!
Celebrating your achievements
- Every team that participated in Mission Zero or Mission Space Lab this year will receive a special certificate as in recognition of each teams' achievements during the challenge. The Mission Zero certificates will feature the coordinates of the ISS when your programs were run! We’d love to see pictures of these hanging in your homes, schools or clubs! The programs received this year were outstanding in quality, creativity, and technical skill.
Who will win Mission Space Lab 2019/2020?
- A jury of experts appointed by ESA and the Raspberry Pi Foundation will judge all of the reports, then select the 10 best reports; these teams will become the winners of the European Astro Pi Challenge 2019/20. Each of the 10 winning teams will receive a special prize.
- Finally, congratulations to all the teams that have taken part in Astro Pi Mission Space Lab this year. We hope that you found it as interesting and as fun as we did, we can’t wait to read your reports!
• June 2, 2020: For the first time in nine years, NASA astronauts were launched from American soil on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). For the first time in history, those astronauts flew on a commercially built and operated spacecraft. 66)
- The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley lifted off at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30, 2020, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft was launched atop a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The black and white infrared image above highlights the combustion powering the rocket as it soared above the Florida coast.
- Behnken and Hurley named their spacecraft Endeavour as a tribute to the first space shuttle that both astronauts had flown aboard. Endeavour also flew the penultimate mission of the Space Shuttle Program, launching in May 2011 from the same pad.
- Dragon Endeavour docked successfully with the ISS about nineteen hours after reaching orbit. It arrived at the station’s Harmony port while both were about 262 miles (422 kilometers) above the northern border of China and Mongolia. The photograph of Figure 68 shows the spacecraft approaching the space station with part of southwestern Turkey—including the coastal city of Demre—in the background.
- Known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, the mission is a test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking, and landing operations. It was SpaceX’s second spaceflight test of its Crew Dragon, and its first test with astronauts aboard. The mission will pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
- “It’s difficult to put into words how proud I am of the people who got us here today,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “When I think about all of the challenges overcome—from design and testing, to paper reviews, to working from home during a pandemic and balancing family demands with this critical mission —I am simply amazed at what the NASA and SpaceX teams have accomplished together.