ISS: Sample Imagery
The International Space Station (ISS) is a multinational satellite station, with contributions from agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from the United States, Roscosmos from Russia, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency , the European Space Agency (ESA) , and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) from Canada). The ISS has served as a collaborative environment for microgravity and space environment research since its launch in November 1998.
In addition to conducting these experiments, a vast assortment of images have been taken by astronauts from inside the space station or while working outside of it. This article provides a detailed account of status updates to the ISS mission, as well as a catalogue of these images since 1998.
This collection of images comprises Earth Observation (EO), station interior documentation and external photos of the space station. Astrophotography undertaken by astronauts predominantly uses a suite of handheld digital cameras, for example the Nikon D5, as provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility, Johnson Space Centre. Some mounted cameras are operated including the European Space Agency’s (ESA) High-Definition Earth Viewing camera (HDEV).
Astronauts document experiments being conducted on the ISS using digital cameras and also using multi-function devices equipped with a camera. Such devices can form part of the experiment itself, for example using an ophthalmic lens, attached to a tablet camera, to take images of their retina. Photos of the ISS can be taken either be from astronauts situated in another part of the station, or from vehicles detaching from the station, having delivered their payload.
The ISS orbits the Earth in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude ranging from 413 km to 422 km at the perigee and apogee, respectively. The ISS completes one full revolution in 92.9 minutes, traversing from west to east on an orbital inclination of 51.64°. Orbital decay is more considerable for the ISS relative to other satellites, decreasing the orbital height by 2 km per month. Boosters are mounted on the station to combat orbital decay.
The Nikon D5 digital camera’s multi-purpose usage requires focal lengths in the range of 50 mm to 1150 mm.
Space and Hardware Components
The ISS is divided into two module groups, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS). The latter housed the ESA’s High-Definition Earth Viewing camera suite, onboard the Columbus laboratory module, until the camera was decommissioned in August 2019. Both Close Circuit Television (CCTV) and External High Definition Camera Assemblies (EHDCs) are located at various locations on the outside of the ISS, particularly for the purpose of status monitoring and Extravehicular activity (EVA) assistance.
ISS Utilization: Sample imagery taken by astronauts on and from the ISS + Events
This file is a loose collection of some imagery samples taken by astronauts off and from the ISS (International Space Station). Astronauts who experience Earth from orbit often report feelings of awe and wonder, of being transformed by what they describe as the magic such a perspective brings. This phenomenon is called the ”overview effect.” The short descriptions in the following entries are presented in reverse order.
Note: As of April 7, 2022, the previously large ISS-Imagery2021 and ISS-Imagery files have been split into seven files, to make the file handling manageable for all parties concerned, in particular for the user community.
• This article covers the ISS-Imagery plus some status in the period 2022
• July 26, 2022: NASA officials said July 26 they have received no official notification from Roscosmos of plans to end cooperation on the International Space Station despite comments from that agency’s new leader. 1)
- Russian media reported that Yuri Borisov, who took over as director general of Roscosmos July 15, told Russian president Vladimir Putin that the agency had decided to end cooperation on the ISS after 2024.
- “We will definitely fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to withdraw from this station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov told Putin, according to a TASS report. Roscosmos will instead focus on developing its own national space station called the Russian Orbital Service Station, or ROSS.
- NASA officials, speaking at the ISS Research and Development Conference here, said they have not been formally notified of any plans by Roscosmos to terminate its participation in the station. “We haven’t received any official word from the partner as to the news today,” said Robyn Gatens, ISS director at NASA Headquarters.
- She speculated that the comments referenced Russia’s long-term plans for low Earth orbit operations after the ISS, much as NASA is working to stimulate development of commercial space stations to succeed the ISS. “I think the Russians, just like us, are thinking ahead to what’s next for them. As we’re planning for a transition after 2030 to commercially owned and operated space stations in low Earth orbit, they have similar plans.”
- Gatens spoke after a live video link with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins on the ISS. “We haven’t heard anything officially” about Russia’s plans, Lindgren said, adding that “everybody is working together” on the station now to carry out research and keep the station functioning.
- In a statement late July 26, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson also said the agency has not been notified by Roscosmos of any plans to end ISS cooperation. “NASA is committed to the safe operation of the International Space Station through 2030, and is coordinating with our partners. NASA has not been made aware of decisions from any of the partners, though we are continuing to build future capabilities to assure our major presence in low Earth orbit.”
- The White House announced at the end of last year its intent to formally extend ISS operations from 2024 to 2030, a move that ISS partners Canada, Europe and Japan, but not Russia, have endorsed. NASA authorization legislation being considered by Congress as part of a bill called the CHIPS Act would formally authorize that extension.
- “We’re going to go to 2030 full up,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS program manager, during comments at the conference. “Anybody who thinks that there is a different plan, you’re wrong. We’re going to 2030.”
- He acknowledged that the ISS partnership has “struggles” but that NASA was committed to work through them. He noted that he was in Moscow last week to meet with Russian officials just after finalizing a seat barter agreement that will allow Russian cosmonauts to fly on commercial crew vehicles and American astronauts to fly on Soyuz spacecraft.
- Montalbano declined to answer questions immediately after the conference panel. A NASA spokesperson did not respond to questions about Borisov’s comments.
- It’s unclear if Borisov’s comments reflect any change in Russia’s position. Roscosmos has previously discussed establishing a national space station and have been reluctant to commit to an ISS extension beyond 2024, but has also not taken any formal steps to end its participation in the ISS partnership.
- Industry sources noted the “after 2024” language is vague and does not mean that Roscosmos will exit the station in 2024. It’s unlikely, they note, that ROSS will be ready to support crews before the end of the decade because Roscosmos has just started the effort and also has limited resources available for it. Others, though, cautioned that NASA should not ignore those comments and be prepared for a Russian departure from the station before 2030.
- Any Russian departure from the ISS could also be an opportunity. “We need to grow beyond the Cold War paradigm,” Mike Gold, executive vice president for civil space and external affairs at Redwire Space and a former NASA official, said on a policy panel at the conference. “We should view this as an opportunity to broaden the ISS partnership and look at more innovative ways to integrate commercial partners onto the ISS.”
• July 24, 2022: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of a mountain range within the Altai Mountains of central Asia. Most daytime, nadir-looking (straight down) views of Earth from the ISS appear two-dimensional. Therefore, astronauts often take photographs when there are low Sun angles as a way of revealing the three dimensions of the landscape. 2)
- In this photo, the late afternoon sunlight casts long shadows onto surrounding snow-covered plains in Mongolia. The shadows project the general shapes of the mountains, their heights relative to each other, and some details of the ridge crests. Several peaks in this range rise to elevations greater than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level; they stand approximately 1,700 meters (5,600 feet) above the plains.
- The flat plains were formed by sediment that was carried down by the rivers flowing out of the mountains; these are known as alluvial fans. Water from these rivers ultimately flows into Lake Uvs (just outside the right margin of the image), a saline, endorheic lake in this semi-arid region.
- As is common in the world’s dry places, water from mountain rivers mostly flows underground through the alluvial fans (except after heavier rains, when water flows over fan surfaces). Where the water again reaches the surface, it forms a line of springs that is visible from space. This water gives rise to darker patches of vegetation and melted snow.
- This spring water also supplies local populations. One of the darker patches along the spring line is the town of Ulaangom (population 31,000), the capital of the Uvs province of Mongolia. The village of Turgan also appears as a small gray patch next to a river.
- Other faint features on the plains show the work of humans. A road and Ulaangom’s new airport appear as straight lines. For a sense of scale, the distance between the center of Ulaangom and the airport is 12.5 kilometers (8 miles).
• July 17, 2022: An astronaut took this photograph while the International Space Station (ISS) was cruising over the Arabian Peninsula and through the terminator, or day-night boundary. The oblique photo captures some cumulus clouds with their tops flattened into an “anvil” formation due to atmospheric conditions at the tropopause. The anvil clouds cast elongated shadows due to the angle of the setting Sun. 3)
- Two atmospheric optical phenomena are visible in the photo: crepuscular rays and Rayleigh scattering. Both effects are produced by the low angle of the Sun and the atmospheric scattering of sunlight. Non-selective scattering is also at work in the water droplets of the clouds, making them appear bright white.
- Extending behind the clouds, the bright streaks of crepuscular rays occur when incoming light is partially obstructed by a cloud or tall feature on the horizon. Small gaps in the clouds allow sunbeams to pass through, causing rays of light to appear in bright columns oriented away from the Sun. Dust particles suspended in the atmosphere at the time of the photo helped make the sunbeams more clearly visible.
- As light passes through the atmosphere, it collides with particles and gases causing changes in its direction, a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering. This effect is especially noticeable during low Sun angle conditions at sunrise or sunset because the incoming light must pass through much more of the atmosphere than at high noon. As a result of this longer path, the atmosphere scatters more of the shorter blue wavelengths of sunlight compared to longer orange and red wavelengths. In the scene above, the golden hue of the clouds matches the color of the sunset.
• July 10, 2022: Taken by an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS), this photograph places the Richat Structure — a geologic feature in Mauritania is characterized by its concentric rings—in context with the extensive dune fields that surround it. Dubbed “the Eye of Sahara,” the structure has a diameter of about 40 km (25 miles). This astronaut photo from 2011 provides a more detailed view of it. 4)
- The origin of the Richat Structure was initially thought to be the result of an impact event because large meteors typically produce circular features on Earth’s surface. But geologic studies of the Eye of Sahara reveal it is actually an uplifted geologic dome, also known as a domed anticline. Over time, differing erosion rates between various rock types in the exposed upper dome led to the formation of circular ridges known as cuestas. Varying color tones in the image reveal different sedimentary and igneous rocks exposed in the structure and landscape.
- Expansive dune fields sandwich the dome and exposed rock rings. Longitudinal (linear) dunes sprawl across the lower half and top right of the photo. The center-left includes transverse dunes, which develop perpendicular to the wind direction.
- Further Reading: NASA Earth Observatory (2020, August) Shifting Shapes of Sandy Scapes.
• July 4, 2022: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of the Tunupa Volcano, which is situated on a peninsula between two of Bolivia’s largest salt flats, Salar de Uyuni and Salar de Coipasa. These salt flats have variable sediment cover and microbial populations, leading to darker and lighter surface hues across their areas. 6)
- Tunupa Volcano is located at the center of the Southern Altiplano, or the Andean Plateau, and rises as high as 5.3 kilometers (3.3 miles) in elevation. The volcano is a composite cone — a large, complex volcano that is often covered by lava flows, pyroclastic and mudflow deposits, and domes. Last active about 1.4 million years ago, Tunupa is now considered dormant.
- The flanks of the volcano’s cone are incised by valleys that were eroded by ancient glaciers and stream flows. Domes and lava flows appear on the eastern side of Tunupa, and the volcano is adjacent to other eroded volcanic fields and craters, including Jayu Khota and Titivilla.
- The salars are typically a bright white color when viewed from orbit. But during Bolivia’s rainy season, rivers can carry sediment rich in microbes and dark-colored volcanic minerals onto the flats. (Such an event was underway at the time of this photo.) Both Uyuni and Coipasa are remnants of saline paleolakes that dried up thousands of years ago. Today they appear as dry lake floors encrusted with salt.
• June 25, 2022: When the International Space Station (ISS) is near the southernmost extent of its prograde 51.6 degree orbit and weather conditions are right, astronauts can get a clear view of the North Island of New Zealand. Looking towards the northwest, the astronaut photographer captured the mottled-green island that separates the Tasman Sea from the South Pacific Ocean. On the other side of Cook Strait, South Island peeks out from beneath the cloud cover. 7)
- Seven bays surround the North Island and define its distinctive shape. The inland landscape includes grasslands (lighter green areas), forests (darker green areas), volcanic plateaus, and mountain ranges formed from sedimentary rocks.
- In the center of the island, Lake Taupō — a crater lake inside a caldera formed by a supervolcanic eruption—borders the country’s highest peak—the active volcano Mount Ruapehu. The volcanic nature of the island arises from its location on the tectonic plate boundary between the Indo-Australian and Pacific Plates. This plate boundary is part of the vast Pacific Ring of Fire, and leads to significant geothermal activity and earthquakes in the region. Additional volcanoes, including Egmont Volcano (Mount Taranaki), also dot the North Island landscape.
- Two main population centers—the capital city of Wellington and the country’s largest city, Auckland—lie on opposite ends of the island. These and other urban areas occupy about 1 percent of New Zealand’s land area but hold about 87 percent of the country’s population.
• June 24, 2022: NASA science research on the International Space Station reached an extraordinary milestone June 14. 8)
- The vital, versatile EXPRESS Racks – properly known as “EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to the Space Station” multipurpose payload shelving units – logged 1 million hours of combined powered duty on station. That’s the equivalent of nearly 115 years’ worth of scientific research completed in just two decades.
- “For more than 60 years, science has spurred NASA’s technological innovation in space, firing our curiosity and furthering our reach into the cosmos,” said Jody Singer, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the racks were developed, built, and tested. “The EXPRESS Racks play a key role in making our astronauts safer and more comfortable while they live and work in orbit and continue to help us unlock practical benefits to science, medicine, and countless other aspects of everyday life on Earth."
- The 12 permanent racks, the last of which was delivered in 2020, collectively support as many as 100 experiments at a time, enabling a wide variety of scientific research with practical benefits on Earth and for the Artemis-Generation explorers NASA soon will send back to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
- “We rely on the expertise and talent at Marshall to optimize use of the space station, and the EXPRESS Racks are a major part of that work,” said Joel Montalbano, International Space Station program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “Achieving this milestone is an incredible testament to what we can do together to benefit the space program, the future, and the people of Earth.”
- Joel Hardy, EXPRESS Racks project manager at Marshall, said his team is gratified to deliver such critical hardware – and to keep it operational, monitoring and upgrading component technology and software to yield science data for more than two decades.
- “It’s a proud day for everyone at Marshall who had a hand in getting us to this milestone,” Hardy said. “It really speaks to the quality and reliability of Marshall’s design and manufacturing, and the sustained workmanship of the entire NASA team.”
- Each refrigerator-sized EXPRESS Rack houses up to eight configurable lockers and two payload drawers – all with direct access to power, cooling and heating – and command and data communications. Experiments of any duration can be conducted, removed independently in their protective storage drawers, and returned to Earth when complete.
- Experiments in the racks are controlled by station crew or remotely by a cadre of two dozen specialized NASA team members in Marshall’s Payload Operations Integration Center. They monitor all aspects of science payloads on station around the clock, every day of the year, communicating in real time with the crew and researchers on the ground to ensure data is processing properly.
- Rack space remains in high demand among global research partners, especially with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program picking up speed.
- “It’s an exciting challenge, with more experiments going up and coming back as launch vehicle traffic to and from the station increases,” Hardy said.
- Marshall rack engineers are also looking beyond the space station – which is scheduled to continue operations through at least 2030 – to NASA’s plans for the Moon and Mars.
- It’s familiar ground for Lynn Farris, Marshall payload facility and research integration manager. She was on the team in 1997 during testing of the first EXPRESS Racks on the space shuttle. Astronauts relied on the shuttle’s own highly versatile “mid-deck lockers” to conduct numerous science experiments during more than 130 flights from 1981-2011 – and that hardware directly informed development of the EXPRESS Racks.
- Now, EXPRESS Rack engineers and managers routinely join planning meetings for NASA’s Gateway Program, Human Landing System Program and other lunar development efforts, determining how best to integrate advanced science rack technologies with the long-term needs of future Moon missions.
- “We’re taking everything we’ve learned on the racks during their first million hours of powered service on station – adapting and improving on that success for a new generation of explorers and a robust commercial space economy,” Farris said. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m having the time of my life.”
- The EXPRESS Racks are funded by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, which leads crew and station operations for the agency. The Boeing Company of Huntsville, working with Marshall engineers, built and tested the EXPRESS Racks at Marshall during development and early construction of the space station in the 1990s.
- The space station has been home to more than 242 residents from 19 countries, working with more than 4,000 scientists in 108 countries to conduct some 3,000 total research investigations. For more information on station science, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/iss-science
• June 18, 2021: An astronaut onboard the ISS took this photograph of Talampaya National Park in the La Rioja Province of Argentina. The high deserts of western Argentina lie in the rain shadow of the Andes mountains, which causes rain and snow to fall on the west side of the range and leads to a dry climate on the east side. Shadows cast to the east of the mountain peaks indicate that this photo was taken during the local late afternoon. 9)
- The photo is centered on the red sandstone cliffs of Talampaya National Park, which stand out from the generally muted colors of the landscape. Geologically, the region is mainly comprised of folded sedimentary rock layers that contain an abundance of fossils dating back to the Triassic Period (approximately 250 to 200 million years ago). The bounty of plant, mammal, and dinosaur fossils led to designation of Talampaya as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
• June 12, 2022: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) photographed a small semicircular mountain in the Dasht-e Kavir Desert, about 130 km (80 miles) southeast of the capital city of Tehran. The width of this image, taken with a 1150-mm, represents a distance of 17 km (10 miles). 10)
- Geologists have mapped this mountain as a suite of volcanic rocks, and from the colors of the rock layers they can interpret the presence of different minerals and stages of volcanic activity. The intricate pattern of valleys also tell a story of the erosion of the rocky mountain.
- In contrast, the lower half of the image shows smooth, flat surfaces known as alluvial fans. An almost straight line break is visible in the image between the hills and the fans—geologists have mapped it as a fault line. The fault cuts across the brittle rocks of the hills, leading to its name: Half Mountain.
- The fan surfaces stand nearly 900 meters (2,900 feet) lower than the summit of the hills. Most of the streams flow from the hills toward the fans, where they deposit sediment eroded from the hills. The color of alluvial fan sediments often reflects the color of the parent rocks upstream. For instance, sediment eroded from the darker rocks of the mountain (center left) gives the accompanying fans a darker color. Similarly, light-toned sediment from rocks in the middle of the mountain gives some fans a lighter tone. In this desert region, the streams end in the (typically dry) Lake Namak, just outside the lower margin of the photo.
• June 10, 2022: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti captured this image of Earth from the Cupola of the International Space Station to celebrate World Oceans Day. 11)
• June 5, 2022: While in orbit above southern Canada, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this nighttime photograph of Winnipeg, in the Province of Manitoba. The artificial lights stand out around the meandering Red, Assiniboine, and Seine Rivers that split the city. The densely populated downtown is brightly illuminated near the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Farther south along the Red River, the University of Manitoba campus is marked by distinctively colored lights. 12)
- Winnipeg is situated in south-central Canada within the fertile agricultural region of the Red River Valley. Agriculture is one of the largest economic activities in Manitoba. The industry is supported by nutrient-rich soils that were once occupied by extensive tallgrass prairies. In contrast to the bright urban lights, these fields are unlit and are only discernable as the dark areas of the photo.
- Symington Train Yard, one of the largest hubs for freight in Canada, is highlighted by its repeating rows of train tracks on the eastern portion of the city. These trains transport agricultural goods and other freight throughout the region.
- Occasionally the city and surrounding areas experience significant flooding due to its downstream location in the Red River Basin. Flooding occurs most often in spring months when the north-flowing river thaws in the south and slows down behind remaining ice pack in the valley and in Lake Winnipeg. Severe flooding occurred in early 2022 and could be observed from satellite imagery.
• May 29, 2022: While orbiting over the southwestern Pacific Ocean, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) photographed this fringing coral reef on the south coast of New Caledonia. The reef separates the light blue shallows of the lagoon from the darker, deeper Pacific Ocean. Tan hues tinge the lagoon where sediment flows in from uplands to the north-northeast. 13)
- Situated about 1,300 km (800 miles) east of Australia, New Caledonia is a French overseas territory comprised of Grande Terre and other smaller islands. The archipelago spans a land area of about 19,000 km2 (7,300 square miles) and is home to almost 300,000 people.
- The reefs surrounding Grande Terre and the islands of New Caledonia stretch a combined length of 1,600 km (1,000 miles). Known for its varying underwater structures, the system includes coral islands, double reef barriers, and offshore reefs.
- New Caledonia’s reefs are home to an estimated 9,300 marine species and almost 500 species of coral. The lagoons promote biodiversity by supporting large predators (including sharks), nesting seabirds, mangroves, and seagrasses. In 2008, the reefs and lagoons were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List because of their ecological value and geographic uniqueness.
• May 25, 2022: ESA astronaut and Expedition 67 Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti monitors a pair of Astrobee robotic free-flyers performing autonomous maneuvers inside the International Space Station. 14)
• May 23, 2022: Astronauts live and work in orbit along with teeming populations of microorganisms, which could present a serious threat to health – and even the structural integrity of spacecraft. To help combat such invisible stowaways, an ESA-led project is developing microbe-killing coatings suitable for use within spacecraft cabins. 15)
- Crewmen on the International Space Station are not alone. A microbial survey of surfaces within the orbital outpost found dozens of different bacteria and fungi species, including harmful pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus – known to cause skin and respiratory infections as well as food poisoning.
- These microbial populations could even make spacecraft sick, not just astronauts. Bacteria and fungi produce ‘biofilms’ – akin to the plaque on your teeth – that can in turn tarnish and eat away at metal and glass as well as plastic and rubber.
- This problem proved acute in the latter days of the ISS’s predecessor, the Mir space station, where microbial colonies were observed growing on parts of spacesuits, cable insulation and even the seals of windows.
- “With astronauts’ immune systems suppressed by microgravity, the microbial populations of future long-duration space missions will need to be controlled rigorously,” explains ESA material engineer Malgorzata Holynska. “So ESA’s Materials' Physics and Chemistry Section is collaborating with Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, IIT, to study antimicrobial materials that could be added to internal cabin surfaces.”
- The IIT team has begun work on titanium oxide, also known as ‘titania’, used for example in self-cleaning glass down here on Earth, as well as in hygienic surfaces. When titanium oxide is exposed to ultraviolet light, it breaks down water vapour in the air into ‘free oxygen radicals’, which eat away whatever is on the surface, including bacterial membranes.
- “Bacteria gets inactivated by the oxidative stress generated by these radicals,” says Mirko Prato of IIT. “This is an advantage because all the microorganisms are affected without exception, so there is no chance that we increase bacterial resistance in the same way as some antibacterial materials.”
- The choice of titanium oxide was guided by previous research into antimicrobial coatings for hospitals. The team are probing method to ‘dope’ the compound; tweaking its recipe to increase its sensitivity to the visible portion of the light spectrum.
• May 23, 2022: While in orbit over the Texas Panhandle, an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) photographed Palo Duro and Caprock Canyons, areas that provide insight into Texas geologic and human history. 16)
- Dark, intricate canyon edges branch out into the High Plains, where agricultural fields and ranches tile the landscape. A fork of the Red River, named the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River, runs through the canyons. (Note that the photo has been oriented with north toward the bottom in order to prevent relief inversion by the shadows.)
- Almost one million years ago, the headwaters of the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River began carving their way through the Palo Duro area. The canyon is now about 800 feet (240 m) deep and about 20 miles (30 km) across, making it the second largest canyon in the United States behind Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Comprised of sedimentary rock layers, the oldest exposed rocks in Palo Duro were deposited more than 250 million years ago, during the Permian Period.
- The first known humans in the area are thought to have hunted bison and mammoths here, with fossils of extinct animals embedded in the sedimentary rocks. Human artifacts, such as stone tools and rock art, have been found throughout the canyons and date back thousands of years. Today agriculture and ranching spread across the surrounding landscape, though the Palo Duro and Caprock Canyon systems are both reserved as Texas state parks.
• May 15, 2022: San Pedró, Belize, forms the center of this photograph taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station (ISS). Ambergris Cay, along with the reef system that surrounds it, separates the deep, darker blue of the Caribbean Sea from the shallower, multicolored waters of Chetumal Bay. The variation of water coloration is due to changes in water depth and the mixture of sand and coral that make up the reef system. 17)
- Ambergris Cay is Belize’s largest island, and it is encircled by the protected areas of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. The cay and reserve are home to many mangrove species, among other abundant tropical flora and fauna.
- The city of San Pedró often finds itself in the path of hurricanes and other extreme tropical weather systems, but the mangrove forests provide a strong natural defense against the winds and waves. Land development on the cay has increased over the past decade to serve visitors to Belize’s Secret Beach.
- Belize’s barrier reef system is the second longest in the world and longest in the Northern Hemisphere. It forms a narrow demarcation between the cay and the deeper sea, and natural breaks—called quebradas (Spanish for “broken” or “ravine”)—provide mixing interfaces between shallow and deep water ecosystems. The reef system, including the nearby Great Blue Hole, has made the area popular with divers and camera-wielding astronauts.
• May 8, 2022: From an astronaut’s perspective, the wetlands along the northwest coast of the Yucatán Peninsula are arrayed in distinct colors. This photograph, taken from the International Space Station (ISS), captures the diversity of the estuarian landscape near Celestún, a fishing village in Yucatán, Mexico. 18)
- Dark green mangrove forests surround Ria Celestún and are interwoven between smaller estuaries reaching toward the Gulf of Mexico. The ebb and flow of ocean currents suspends and resuspends sediments here, giving the shallow, brackish estuaries hues of orange and reddish-brown.
- Inland, the dissolution and collapse of limestone bedrock help form sinkholes called cenotes. These geologic features are a type of karst topography that forms when carbonic acid in groundwater dissolves calcium carbonate in the rocks. These porous limestone sinkholes filter salt out of seawater, creating reservoirs that have been used as freshwater resources since the Mayan Civilization.
- The cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula form along the buried rim of Chixculub Crater, outlining the deep scar left behind from an ancient asteroid or comet impact. In 2021, NASA’s Terra satellite captured a wider view of the ring of cenotes.
• April 24, 2022: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of the Pontal do Paranapanema region of south-central Brazil. 19)
- Created in 1986, the Morro do Diabo State Park of São Paulo preserves about 34,000 hectares (84,000 acres) of a native, semi-deciduous forest ecosystem. South of the park, the Paranapanema River forms the border between São Paulo and Paraná states. (Note that north is to the lower left in this ISS view.)
- In addition to serving as a physical border, the Paranapanema is a tributary to the Paraná River, merging just outside the bottom right of the photo. Over the past three decades, since the completion of the Motta Dam, the Paraná has progressively widened. Construction of the dam resulted in many geomorphological and ecological changes to the river. 20)
- Much of Brazil, including this part of the São Paulo state, has undergone extensive clearing of native vegetation to create space for agriculture. This shift toward agriculture began nearly a century ago and led to the lighter hued, geometrically shaped pastures and farms visible throughout this area.
- One consequence of this deforestation has been a rapid decline in habitat for native animal and plant species. Recent conservation efforts—including the creation of the Morro do Diabo State Park—have attempted to limit further forest fragmentation and preserve remaining native habitats for bird and mammal species such as the endangered black lion tamarin.
• April 18, 2022: Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev of Roscosmos concluded their spacewalk at 5:37 p.m. EDT today after 6 hours and 37 minutes. 21)
- Artemyev and Matveev completed their major objectives for today in which they installed and connected a control panel for the European Robotic Arm (ERA), a 37-foot-long (11 m) manipulator system mounted to the recently arrived Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. They also removed protective covers from the arm and installed handrails on Nauka. The arm will be used to move spacewalkers and payloads around the Russian segment of the station.
- This was the fourth spacewalk in Artemyev’s career, and the first for Matveev. It will be the fourth spacewalk at the station in 2022 and the 249th spacewalk for space station assembly, maintenance, and upgrades.
- During the next Russian spacewalk scheduled for Thursday, April 28, the duo will jettison thermal blankets used to protect the arm during its July 2021 launch with Nauka. They will also flex the arm’s joints, release launch restraints, and monitor the arm’s ability to use two grapple fixtures.
- Additional spacewalks are planned to continue outfitting the European robotic arm and to activate Nauka’s airlock for future spacewalks.
• April 17, 2022: An astronaut took this near-nadir photograph of one of Asia’s largest rivers, the Brahmaputra. The mighty river appears as two major channels; several small islands sit within them and a large island separates them. Together they form a Brahmaputra floodplain that measures fully 10 km (6 miles) in width. The channels appear brighter than those of the other rivers in this photo because they are near the Sun’s glint point. 22)
- Two big tributaries, the Dibang and Lohit Rivers, flow nearby and join the Brahmaputra just outside the photo to the left. (The flow of the rivers in this scene is broadly west.) The Brahmaputra eventually joins the Ganges River in Bangladesh about 850 km (525 miles) to the southwest, and both empty into the Bay of Bengal. The Brahmaputra is Asia’s second largest river by discharge, after the Changjiang River in China. As measured at its confluence with the Ganges, the Brahmaputra River discharges 612 billion m3/year, or 135 trillion gallons.
- South Asia’s monsoon rainfall regime brings heavy rain to this part of India from March through June, feeding the river and floodplain. Tropical forest is the natural vegetation of this landscape.
- Human-built features seem minuscule here compared to the river channels. Most of the area includes land under cultivation, which appears as numerous small and irregular plots. Farms along the riverbanks are especially prone to damage and destruction by floods and by the persistent erosion of the banks. Linear features include roads and a 4 km (2.4 mile) long bridge crossing the Lohit River.
- Note, however, that the sector of the Brahmaputra floodplain (top left) displays no agricultural plots. It is a protected natural area within the Daying Ering (also known as D’Ering) Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary.
• April 14, 2022: On 23 March 2022, ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer successfully performed his first extravehicular activity (EVA) alongside fellow NASA astronaut Raja Chari. The spacewalk, dubbed "US EVA 80", was carried out in support of assembly, refurbishment and maintenance work on the International Space Station. 23)
- During his Cosmic Kiss mission, Matthias Maurer will live and work aboard the International Space Station for approximately six months, conducting and supporting more than 35 European and numerous other international experiments in orbit.
• April 10, 2022: The waters around the port town of Torrevieja, Spain, appear like wells in a watercolor palette—the distinct colors resulting from varying aquatic environments. In this photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS), the blues of the Mediterranean Sea contrast with the pink and green hues of La Mata and Torrevieja salt lagoons. Sunglint further alters the appearance of all three water bodies, painting portions white with reflections of the Sun. 24)
- The larger Torrevieja Lagoon is hypersaline and gets its pink hue from salt-loving algae such as Dunaliella salina, a microorganism found in saltwater basins worldwide. The smaller neighboring lagoon, La Mata, has less salt due to freshwater runoff from nearby mountains. A salt factory is located on the southeastern margin of the Torrevieja Lagoon. These lagoons produce hundreds of tons of salt every year and have fueled much of the local economy for centuries.
- Along the southern borders of the lagoons, nature preserves provide refuge to migratory and native birds, including the Greater Flamingo, Northern Gannet, and Spanish Sparrow. Brine shrimp live in the lagoons and are a food source for the birds. These preserves are Ramsar sites, which are internationally recognized conservation wetland areas.
• April 7, 2022: Celebrated each year on 7 April, 'World Health Day' shines a light on a health topic of concern. This year all eyes, including ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer’s, are on the health of our planet Earth. 25)
- From on board the International Space Station 400 km above Earth, Matthias has a unique overview of our planet. Beautiful yet fragile, resilient yet under threat, our third rock from the Sun nevertheless needs looking after.
- Matthias Maurer's work in space during Cosmic Kiss reinforces this. Besides taking numerous photos of Earth from space that compliment data taken by Earth observation satellites, he is also running many experiments exploring human health in space that benefits those on Earth.
- One such experiment is the joint ESA and German Aerospace Center’s Retinal Diagnostics project that monitors astronaut eyes while in space.
- Developed by young researchers from ESA’s Spaceship EAC (European Astronaut Centre) initiative, the project uses images of astronauts’ optical discs in space to train an artificially intelligent (AI) model. This model will be used to automatically detect changes in the optic nerve of astronauts, known as Space-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS).
• April 3, 2022: Orange-hued dunes mantle dark sandstone on the northern edge of Algeria’s Tassili n’Ajjer National Park in this photo from an Earth-facing external camera mounted on the International Space Station. The park’s name translates to “plateau of chasms,” and these signature ravines wind through the rock in the right of the image. On the left, wisps of cloud overlie a dune field that has swept over the low-lying regions north of the Fadnoun Plateau. 26)
- Rising to elevations of over 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) on average, the current plateau has been shaped by thousands of years of water and wind erosion. Though the area is now hyper-arid, ancient rivers once cut narrow canyons almost 240 meters (800 feet) deep into the sandstone as they flowed north toward lakes that filled what are now large dune fields called ergs (“sand seas”). Issaouane Erg, shown above, contains some of the tallest star dunes on Earth. Another erosional feature is the “forest of rock,” large pillars of resistant sandstone that have remained as strong winds eroded the softer surrounding rock.
- The town of Illizi, home to more than 17,000 people, stands at the northern edge of the plateau and continues a chain of human habitation in the region that dates back to 10,000 BCE. Rock engravings mark this long history and have made the plateau a rich area of study for archeologists and anthropologists.
• March 30, 2022: After extending the record for the longest single spaceflight in history by an American to 355 days, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth on Wednesday, March 30, along with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov. 27)
- The trio departed the International Space Station at 3:21 a.m. EDT and made a safe, parachute-assisted landing at 7:28 a.m. (5:28 p.m. Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.
- "Mark's mission is not only record-breaking, but also paving the way for future human explorers on the Moon, Mars, and beyond," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "Our astronauts make incredible sacrifices in the name of science, exploration, and cutting-edge technology development, not least among them time away from loved ones. NASA and the nation are proud to welcome Mark home and grateful for his incredible contributions throughout his year-long stay on the International Space Station."
- Vande Hei’s extended mission will provide researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans as the agency plans to return to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for exploration of Mars.
- Vande Hei launched April 9, 2021, alongside Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. His second journey into space of 355 days is the longest single spaceflight by a U.S. astronaut, previously held at 340 days, and gives him a lifetime total of 523 days in space. Dubrov also remained onboard for 355 days on his first spaceflight.
- Supporting NASA’s goals for future human landings on the Moon, Vande Hei completed approximately 5,680 orbits of the Earth and a journey of more than 150 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 312 trips to the Moon and back. He witnessed the arrival of 15 visiting spacecraft and new modules, and the departure of 14 visiting spacecraft.
- Following post-landing medical checks, the crew will return to the recovery staging city in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, aboard Russian helicopters. Vande Hei will board a NASA plane bound for Cologne, Germany, for refueling prior to his return home. Shkaplerov and Dubrov will board a Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft to return to their home in Star City, Russia.
- During his record mission, Vande Hei spent many hours on scientific activities aboard the space station, conducting everything from plant research to physical sciences studies.
- With the undocking of the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft with Vande Hei, Shkaplerov, and Dubrov aboard, Expedition 67 officially began aboard the station. NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn recently took over as station commander, and is joined by NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Kayla Barron, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov.
- Marshburn, Chari, Barron and Maurer will remain onboard until late April, when NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, as well as ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti launch to the station as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission.
• March 26, 2022: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this near-nadir (almost straight down) photograph of Mount Everest. Such imagery provides a unique perspective on Earth’s tallest mountain (on dry land), which towers approximately 8848 meters (29,029 feet) above sea level. 28)
- This world-renowned summit sits on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau—a region sometimes called the “Roof of the World.” Everest continues to rise skyward by approximately 1 centimeter per year due to the progressive uplift of the crust caused by the convergence of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates.
- Many glaciers flow down from the high snow-covered peaks on the plateau. As glaciers descend to lower and warmer elevations, much of the moving ice mass becomes obscured by rock debris (known as moraines) that accumulates on the top, sides, and terminus of the ice. As the glaciers melt, debris entrained in the ice can be deposited as sediments that geologists call glacial till.
• March 20, 2022: While passing over the Rocky Mountains, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this oblique photograph of the San Luis Valley along the border of Colorado and New Mexico. The light-colored dunes of Great Sand Dunes National Park stand at the base of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. 29)
- Located on the east side of the San Juan Mountains (north is to the left in the photo), the San Luis Valley started forming millions of years ago. Extended cycles of erosion and volcanic extrusion resulted in the formation of the basin.
- Extinct volcanoes speckle the southern margin of the valley—an area known as the Taos Plateau Volcanic Field. Free-standing mountains in the volcanic field, such as San Antonio and Ute, are lava domes that were formed during eruptions almost 3 million years ago.
- Originating in the San Juan Mountains, the Rio Grande flows through the center of the valley and continues south toward the Gulf of Mexico. The river has provided water and irrigation to people in the American Southwest for thousands of years, including the community of Native Americans that live in Taos. Agriculture in the area is dominated by potatoes, lettuce, spinach, and quinoa.
- Since the 1960s, NASA has brought astronauts to the Taos Plateau for training in rock sampling and field geology and for practicing lunar-like surface operations. First visited during the Apollo era, the area is still a primary field training area for astronaut candidates. The San Luis Valley served as a planetary analog for the Apollo 15 lunar landing site at Hadley Rille. The southern area of the valley contains igneous rock structures similar to those on the lunar surface. Such field training prepares current and future astronauts for exploration of the Moon and Mars.
• March 15, 2022: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei arrived at the International Space Station on April 9, 2021, and is expected to return home March 30, 2022, after spending 355 days in low-Earth orbit. This duration breaks the previous record, held by retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, by 15 days. 30)
- Vande Hei will return in a Soyuz spacecraft as scheduled alongside cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov.
- While clocking the single longest spaceflight by a NASA astronaut, Vande Hei contributed to dozens of studies from the hundreds executed during his mission, including six science investigations supported by NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP).
- "Our astronauts are incredible explorers helping expand our knowledge of how humans can live and work in space for longer periods of time,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Mark’s record-setting mission and his contributions to science are paving the way for more people to travel to space on longer duration missions as the agency pushes the boundaries of exploration to the Moon and Mars. Thank you for your service, Mark, and congratulations!"
- For one investigation, Vande Hei helped grow and evaluate vegetables harvested with the space station’s Vegetable Production System, or Veggie. The investigation seeks to develop a food production system that can help astronauts meet their dietary needs with fresh vegetables cultivated in space.
- Vande Hei also provided biological samples for an investigation that collects a core set of measurements, called Spaceflight Standard Measures. The investigation seeks to characterize “normal” changes in the human body during spaceflight. For instance, wrist-worn sensors that measure activity levels and light exposure can help researchers better understand the sleep-wake cycle of astronauts. Blood and saliva samples collected by crew members throughout their mission can also help scientists assess changes in various hormones, proteins, and cells that reveal how the immune system changes in space.
- In addition, he contributed to a separate investigation collecting biological samples from the crew aboard the space station and placing them in a storage bank. Researchers can draw upon the samples to study spaceflight-induced changes in human physiology.
- Vande Hei also participated in the first formal investigation into how eating repetitive meals in spaceflight changes the appeal of certain foods over time. In space, menu fatigue can have serious consequences, including lost appetites, nutritional deficiencies, and loss of body mass. Results will help researchers improve the design of current and future space food systems.
- He is also the first astronaut on an extended mission to help researchers investigate whether an enhanced spaceflight diet can allow humans to better adapt to space. Scientists seek answers to questions such as: Could a diet packed with foods rich in nutrients such as flavonoids, lycopene, and omega-3 fatty acids boost immunity and gut microbe function on long journeys into space?
- After he lands, Vande Hei will provide additional feedback to researchers investigating potential injuries such as bruises incurred by astronauts from the force of landing. This feedback will help scientists better understand whether long-term human spaceflight makes crew members more susceptible to such injuries. Results will also help NASA design protective measures in future spacecraft.
- Vande Hei’s contributions will expand NASA’s knowledge about how the human body adapts to long-term spaceflight as the agency plans for future missions to the Moon and Mars. Until then, taking time to relax and read will help him balance out the rigors of space travel.
• March 1, 2022: Segments of the International Space Station. 32)
• February 28, 2022: Europe’s Columbus laboratory is a hive of activity in this 360° timelapse as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer works on an experiment called Fluidics and his NASA colleague Raja Chari carries out activity in the Veggie plant habitat. 33)
- Developed by French space agency CNES and co-funded by Airbus, the Fluidics experiment investigates how liquids behave in space. It was first run by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet in 2017 during his Proxima mission.
- Made up of six small, transparent spheres housed in the black centrifuge seen here, the experiment studies two phenomena. The first is ‘sloshing’ or how liquids move in enclosed spaces. The second is wave turbulence.
- Understanding the underlying physics of how liquids move in space will help improve the fuel economy of spacecraft and our knowledge of Earth’s oceans. By observing how surface forces behave in reduced gravity and singling out interactions, scientists aim to improve climate models for forecasting sea states and better understand wave formation on Earth.
• February 26, 2022: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of South Island, New Zealand—also designated by the Māori name ‘Te Waipounamu’ by the New Zealand Geographic Board. The island’s snowcapped Southern Alps poked through wispy winter clouds that also hovered over the sea surface. 34)
- Stretching hundreds of kilometers across South Island, the Southern Alps form a spine of white that contrasts with the surrounding green and brown landscape. The highest peak in the mountain range, known as Aoraki Mount Cook, rises approximately 3,750 meters (12,300 feet) above sea level. The elevation of the range creates a rain-shadow effect east of the mountain range (left in this south-facing view). The mountains and their foothills on the west side experience frequent rain and snowfall year-round, while the downwind (east side) of these peaks have a more arid climate and many cloud-free days.
- South Island is also marked by the Alpine Fault, the major surface expression of the boundary between the Indo-Australian and the Pacific tectonic plates. The central section of the fault runs the length of South Island. As the plates progressively converge, the Southern Alps should continue to rise skyward over time.
• February 21, 2022: This oblique image looking eastward toward the sunlight of dawn was taken by an External High-Definition Camera (EHDC) on the International Space Station. The station was orbiting over the northwest Atlantic Ocean, about 500 km (300 miles) off the coast off Nova Scotia. Numerous small clouds cover the foreground of the image. Each cloud represents in visible form (due to water droplets) a rising column of air. These are known as towering cumulus clouds. 35)
- Some very large thunderstorms appear toward the background of the photo, and several have extensive “table-top” features known as anvil clouds. These flat cloud surfaces develop when rising air reaches a level in the atmosphere where it is prevented from rising further (known as an inversion layer). At this level the cloud is forced to expand sideways, thus developing an anvil shape that can spread horizontally for tens of kilometers. Two of the towering cumulus near the center of the photo have just reached this altitude and have begun to spread out horizontally.
- The image captures fine details of the cloud structures because the camera was looking partly towards the light source. This photographic technique reveals the cloud shadows, and this contrasts strongly with the brighter cloud tops. The shadows also contrast with the light of dawn reflected off the sea surface.
• February 14, 2022: While in orbit over Egypt, an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) captured a photograph of this heart-shaped basin bordering the Nile River and the Western Desert. The depression, known as the Faiyum Oasis, spreads across more than 1,200 km2 (450 square miles) and was formed from the ancient lakebed of Lake Moeris. 36)
- Partial damming of Lake Moeris during the reign of Ptolemy II allowed large areas of fertile alluvial soil to be reclaimed for agriculture. Today saltwater Lake Qarun (Birket Qarun), located on the northern margin of the depression, is the remnant of Moeris. The salinity of Lake Qarun is caused by high evaporation rates in the arid climate.
- Farms and orchards fill the depression and line the western banks of the Nile. The numerous small gray patches are villages and towns in the intensively cultivated agricultural areas. The area has supported human life for more than 8,000 years and provides resources to many bird and fish species, as well as the endangered slender horned gazelle.
- Bahr Yussef, which connects the Nile to the Faiyum Oasis, originally formed as a natural offshoot of the river. In 2300 BC, it was widened and deepened into a canal to help regulate flow to the oasis. The canal transports freshwater and sediment to the area before emptying into Lake Qarun.
• February 11, 2022: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet shows how space technologies and research onboard the International Space Station are used for the benefit of people on Earth. Thomas explains how space research is relevant to three of the United Nation’s goals: Health (SDG3), Zero hunger and food security (SDG2), and Climate action (SDG13). The Sustainable Development Goals are the world's to-do list for people and the planet by 2030. 37)
• February 6, 2022: The small islands of the central Pacific Ocean often attract the attention of International Space Station (ISS) astronauts as they fly over the largest expanse of water on Earth. This photograph shows the small atoll of Maiao (also spelled Mai’ao), which lies 4,000 km (2,500 miles) due south of Hawai’i in the Society Islands. The better-known islands in this south-central Pacific chain include Tahiti, 100 km (60 miles) to the east, and Bora Bora, 160 km (100 miles) to the northwest. Measureing less than 6 km (3.6 miles) from north to south, Maiao has a land area of 8.8 km2 (3.4 square miles) and a population of about 350 people. 38)
- Maiao is entirely surrounded by a coral reef, which encloses a bright blue tidal lagoon along the southern shoreline. The two greener interior lakes, Roto Iti and Roto Rahi, are almost entirely cut off from the sea. They have become hypersaline—saltier than seawater—as a result of evaporation. Salt-loving organisms thrive in such lakes and contain pigments that change the color of the water.
- Much of the atoll is cultivated for coconut oil. Unlike many islands in Polynesia, the people of Maiao decided not to embrace tourism as a major component of their economy. There is no landing strip, and the island can only be reached by a long ferry ride from Tahiti. The landing wharf appears near the northern tip of the atoll, while a road circles most of the island.
• February 5, 2022: Scientist, engineer, test subject and tradesperson – astronauts in orbit wear many different hats. In this 360° timelapse, ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer works to repair a faulty valve behind EXPRESS-Rack 3. 39)
- Water On-Off Valve 8 (WOOV-8), along with WOOV-6 and WOOV-7, determines whether the cooling water of Europe’s Columbus module flows through, or bypasses, the heat exchange system that transfers waste heat to downstream cooling circuits outside the International Space Station. The valve has been a problem child for ground teams and astronauts for the past few years and was first replaced during a complicated operation in 2013.
- It was last replaced by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet in October 2021, but continued issues led Matthias to try out a reserve valve to see if an unplanned conversion was possible. The operation was successfully completed on the real WOOV-8 in December 2021, and all involved breathed a sigh of relief.
- Matthias was launched to the International Space Station for his Cosmic Kiss mission on 11 November 2021. He will spend approximately six months living and working in orbit, supporting over 35 European and many more international experiments on board.
• January 30, 2022: A medley of lights greeted astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) as they looked toward eastern Asia and the Korean Peninsula in October 2021. Lightning flashed among the clouds in the distance, and the glow of human activity emanated from the land and sea surfaces. Heavily populated urban centers were particularly radiant, with Seoul, Vladivostok, and Tokyo each measuring a factor of 27 or more above natural sky brightness. (Note that their brightness in this photo is affected by cloud cover and by relative distance from the ISS.) 40)
- This photograph also contains another source of human-created light: fishing boats trawling the shallow waters of the Yellow Sea. Several marine species are attracted to light, so nighttime fishing is often aided by the use of high-powered floodlights to improve the catch. The floodlights also make the boats visible from space. While some individual fishing boats can be identified in the photo, others are grouped so densely that they can almost appear as bright as urban centers on land.
- The region is divided into separate Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), which are claimed extensions of a country’s borders into the ocean. According to one study, China may draw as much as 20 percent of its fish production from the Yellow Sea.
• January 29, 2022: Spaceflight participants Yusaku Maezawa and Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin were welcomed to the International Space Station on 8 December 2021 for a 12 day stay in space. Experience their arrival and farewell in 360° as captured by ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer from within the Russian segment. 41)
- Matthias was launched to the International Space Station for his six-month ESA mission known as Cosmic Kiss on 11 November 2021. During his time on board, he will support around 35 European and many more international experiments in orbit.
• January 24, 2022: You’ve heard of spacewalking astronauts but how do astronauts run? Join ESA’s Matthias Maurer for a workout on the International Space Station’s T2 treadmill and explore Node 3 in 360°. 42)
- The T2 treadmill is attached to the wall in Node 3 and astronauts secure themselves using a harness and bungies. This creates a feeling like running on a treadmill on Earth. This clip is just a snapshot of the exercise Matthias performs in space. A typical T2 session is around 30-40 minutes in length.
- Matthias was launched to the International Space Station for his current Cosmic Kiss mission on 11 November 2021. In his approximately six months on board, he will support over 35 European experiments and many more international experiments in orbit.
• January 23, 2022: While passing over the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in January 2020, an astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) looked southwest and shot a photograph of glacial lakes near the Himalayan mountain range. Sitting just northeast of Mount Everest, Lake Puma Yumco and Yamdrok Lake were frozen at the time. 43)
- Glacial runoff fills these lakes, which are vital for life in the small villages along their shores. For people in one such village, Tuiwa, the winter ice cover on Puma Yumco creates a walkable surface for herding sheep across to areas where more forage is available.
- Puma Yumco and Yamdrok are just two of the many glacial lakes across the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which spans 2.5 million km2 (approximately 965,000 square miles). With an average elevation of 4500 meters (14,800 feet) above sea level, the plateau is one of Earth’s highest geographic features and often called the “roof of the world.”
• January 18, 2021: These photographs record almost two decades of growth and decline at the Toshka Lakes, a chain of lakes in southern Egypt’s New Valley. All three images were taken by astronauts from orbit on the International Space Station, but each was taken with a different camera and slightly different focal length. 44)
- The lakes are natural depressions in the Sahara Desert that are filled by overflow from Lake Nasser, the enormous 550 kilometer-long (340-mile) reservoir built on the Nile River. A small arm of Lake Nasser appears in the 2021 image (far right of Figure 49).
- Starting in 2019, summer rainfall in Sudan and South Sudan was abundant enough to raise the water level in Lake Nasser, which allowed the eastern Toshka basin to start filling. In 2020 record-breaking floods occurred in Sudan, resulting in the highest water level ever recorded in Lake Nasser. Again in 2021, Sudanese floods approached record levels. The result was rapid filling of the Toshka Lakes.
- The November 2021 photo (Figure 49) shows the lakes with more water than ever before. It also indicates that new lakes have formed in depressions to north and south of the eastern basin. The area of the original lakes even expanded slightly above levels seen in 2001. Areas under cultivation also have expanded greatly in the 19 years since the first photo.
- The ambitious Toshka Lakes project was designed to provide irrigation for new agricultural developments, and to attract people to the region and away from the dense populations of the Nile Valley itself. The project was also intended to protect the Aswan High Dam, the wall that impounds a vast volume of water. Damage or collapse of the dam by overfilling of Lake Nasser would be catastrophic for Egypt’s populations downstream. Overfilling can result from sustained high rainfall in the upstream countries, or from water releases from dams in Sudan and Ethiopia during flood events.
• January 16, 2022: Timelapse video made during ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s second mission to the International Space Station, “Alpha” around 4 November 2021. The camera was setup to take pictures at intervals of two a second, and the pictures are then edited into this video that plays at 25 pictures a second. The video is around 12 times faster than real speed. 45)
- Over 200 experiments were conducted during Thomas’ time in space, with 40 European ones and 12 new experiments led by the French space agency CNES.
• January 9, 2022: Join ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer inside Kibo, the Japanese laboratory module of the International Space Station in 360°, setting up Astrobee robotic free-flyers for the ReSWARM (RElative Satellite sWArming and Robotic Maneuvering) experiment. The robotics demonstration tests autonomous microgravity motion planning and control for on-orbit assembly and coordinated motion. 46)
• January 9, 2022: While the people of the Pacific Northwest were waking up to freshly fallen snow, an astronaut photographed this sunrise view of the state of Washington (United States) and the province of British Columbia (Canada). Cities, towns, and islands around the Salish Sea were blanketed in snow. Clouds and mountain peaks were illuminated by the rising Sun’s warm hues. 47)
- Winter had officially arrived that week in the Pacific Northwest, with temperatures in some areas dipping to 17° Fahrenheit (-8.3° Celsius) and setting new record lows. The blast of cold and snow followed several rainy fall months.
- In the photo, various hues of grey and white provide an outline for the rivers, city grid structures, and coastlines. The Olympic and Coast Mountains bracket the urbanized area, with darker mountain valleys standing out against the snow.
- Haro Strait acts as a boundary between Washington’s San Juan Islands and the mostly cloud-covered Vancouver Island of Canada. This major shipping channel connects the Strait of Georgia and Strait of Juan de Fuca, both of which are part of the Salish Sea. Puget Sound leads south to the Seattle area (just out of the frame). These water bodies help support local and international economies by providing trading access for various goods and tourist attractions such as whale watching.
• January 1, 2022: Experience an orbital badminton match on the International Space Station ISS in 360° as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer challenges his crewmates and Japanese spaceflight participants Yusaku Maezawa and Yozo Hirano. 48)
- Matthias was launched to the International Space Station on Crew Dragon Endurance as part of Crew-3 at 02:03 GMT/03:03 CET Thursday 11 November 2021. His ESA mission on board is known as Cosmic Kiss and will see him live and work for approximately six months in orbit.
• December 19, 2021: An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) snapped this photograph of a portion of the Paraná River, the second longest river in South America. It flows mostly northeast to southwest for approximately 4,880 km (3,030 miles), passing through Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina and making part of the Argentina–Paraguay border. 49)
- This image captures some of the interlocking, braided patterns that are common along the Paraná River system. Sediment that eroded upstream from riverbanks in Brazil was carried downriver and deposited and piled up into islands—such as Isla Apipé (Argentina). The sediments also make braid bars, which are smaller, rhomboid-shaped landforms created by the interweaving of water and land as the river level rises and falls over time.
- This labyrinth of braided channels also provides routes for small boats and ships, allowing for the transport of goods to inland South America—at least as far upstream as the Yacyretá Dam. Built to generate hydroelectric power, the dam now separates the upper Paraná River from the braid bars.
- Farmers cultivate crops such as coffee, corn, and cotton in fields adjacent to the Paraná River floodplain. These crops, among others, have been affected by ongoing drought conditions that began in the region in 2020 and have slowed the transport of goods decrease in water levels.
1) Jeff Foust, ”NASA: no notification by Russia to end ISS participation,” SpaceNews, 26 July 2022, URL: https://spacenews.com/nasa-no-notification-by-russia-to-end-iss-participation/
2) ”Mountain Shadows, Western Mongolia,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 24 July 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/150120/mountain-shadows-western-mongolia
3) ”Crepuscular Rays and Light Scattering,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 17 July 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/150090/crepuscular-rays-and-light-scattering
4) ”The Eye of Sahara,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 10 July 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/150060/the-eye-of-sahara
6) ”Tunupa Volcano, Bolivia,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 4 July 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/150047/tunupa-volcano-bolivia
7) ”North Island, New Zealand,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 25 June 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/150018/north-island-new-zealand
8) Rick Smith, ”NASA EXPRESS Racks Achieve 1 Million Hours of Service on Space Station,” NASA news release, 24 June 2022, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/releases/2022/nasa-express-racks-achieve-1-million-hours-of-service-on-space-station.html
9) ”Triassic Talampaya,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 18 June 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149990/triassic-talampaya
10) ”Half Mountain,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 12 June 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149958/half-mountain
11) ”Earth's oceans,” ESA Science & Applications, 10 June 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/About_Us/Week_in_images/Week_in_images_06-10_June_2022
12) ”Winnipeg at Night,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 5 June 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149909/winnipeg-at-night
13) ”Reefs of New Caledonia,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 29 May 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149880/reefs-of-new-caledonia
14) ”Samantha monitors Astrobee robotic free-flyers,” ESA Science & Exploration, 25 May 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/var/esa/storage/images/esa_multimedia/images/2022/05/samantha_monitors_astrobee_robotic_free-flyers/24088633-1-eng-GB/Samantha_monitors_Astrobee_robotic_free-flyers_pillars.jpg
15) ”Self-cleaning spacecraft surfaces to combat microbes,” ESA Enabling & Support, 23 May 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/Enabling_Support/Space_Engineering_Technology/Self-cleaning_spacecraft_surfaces_to_combat_microbes
16) ”Grand Canyon of Texas,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 23 May 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149854/grand-canyon-of-texas
17) ”San Pedro and Ambergris Cay,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 15 May 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149827/san-pedro-and-ambergris-cay
18) ”Karst and Colors on the Yucatán Peninsula,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 8 May 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149809/karst-and-colors-on-the-yucatan-peninsula
19) ”Change and Preservation Around Paranapanema,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 24 April 24 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149745/change-and-preservation-around-paranapanema
20) José C. Stevaux, Débora P. Martins, M. Meurer, ”Changes in a large regulated tropical river: The Paraná River downstream from the Porto Primavera Dam, Brazil,” ScienceDirect, Volume 113, Issues 3–4, 15 December 2009, Pages 230-238, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2009.03.015
21) Marc Garcia, ”Cosmonauts Complete Spacewalk to Set Up Robotic Arm,” NASA Space Station, 18 April 2022, URL: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/2022/04/18/cosmonauts-complete-spacewalk-to-set-up-robotic-arm/
22) ”Brahmaputra River, Northeast India,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 17 April 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149729/brahmaputra-river-northeast-india
23) ”Matthias's first spacewalk | Cosmic Kiss,” ESA Science & Exploration, 14 April 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2022/04/Matthias_s_first_spacewalk_Cosmic_Kiss
24) ”Watercolors of Torrevieja,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 10 April 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149682/watercolors-of-torrevieja
25) ”Eye on world health,” ESA Science & Exploration, 07 April 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2022/04/Eye_on_world_health
26) ”Algeria’s Tassili n’Ajjer National Park,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 3 April 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149657/algerias-tassili-najjer-national-park
27) Joshua Finch, Gina Anderson, Dan Huot, ”Record-Setting NASA Astronaut, Crewmates Return from Space Station,” NASA Press Release 22-031, 30 March 2022, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/record-setting-nasa-astronaut-crewmates-return-from-space-station-0
28) ”Close-Up of Mount Everest,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 26 March 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149632/close-up-of-mount-everest
29) ”San Luis Valley,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 20 March 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149599/san-luis-valley
30) Nathan Cranford, Jennifer L. Turner, ”Record-Breaking NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei's Contributions to Human Research Studies,” NASA Feature, 15 March 2022, URL: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/record-breaking-nasa-astronaut-mark-vande-heis-contributions-to-human-research-studies
32) ”Segments of the International Space Station,” ESA Science & Exploration, 01 March 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Revised_flight_plan_brings_change_for_Samantha
33) ”Keeping it fluid(ics) | Cosmic Kiss 360º,” ESA Science & Exploration, 28 February 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2022/02/Keeping_it_fluid_ics_Cosmic_Kiss_360
34) ”The Spine of South Island,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 26 February 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149512/the-spine-of-south-island
35) ”Cloudscape at Dawn, Northwest Atlantic,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 21 February 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149490/cloudscape-at-dawn-northwest-atlantic
36) ”Heart-shaped Oasis,”NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 14 February 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149451/heart-shaped-oasis
37) ”We explore - you benefit: Health, food, and climate,” ESA Science & Exploration, 11 February, 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2022/02/We_explore_-_you_benefit_Health_food_and_climate
38) ”Maiao Atoll, Polynesia,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 6 February 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149424/maiao-atoll-polynesia
39) ”Space repairs in 360º | Cosmic Kiss,” ESA Science & Exploration, 5 February 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2022/02/Space_repairs_in_360_Cosmic_Kiss
40) ”Yellow Sea Night Lights,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 30 January 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149388/yellow-sea-night-lights
41) ”Hello and goodbye in 360º | Cosmic Kiss,” ESA Science & Exploration, 29 January 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2022/01/Hello_and_goodbye_in_360_Cosmic_Kiss
42) ”Fitness in 360º | Cosmic Kiss,” ESA Science & Exploration, 24 January 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2022/01/Fitness_in_360_Cosmic_Kiss
43) ”Winter on the Roof of the World,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 23 January 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149356/winter-on-the-roof-of-the-world
44) ”Two Decades of Change at Toshka Lakes,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 18 January 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149334/two-decades-of-change-at-toshka-lakes
45) ”Crown aurora borealis,” ESA Science & Exploration, 16 January 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2022/01/Crown_aurora_borealis
46) ”Astrobee robots in 360º | Cosmic Kiss,” ESA Science & Exploration, 9 January 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2021/12/Astrobee_robots_in_360_Cosmic_Kiss
47) ”Snowy Scene Surrounding the Salish Sea,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 9 January 2022, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149305/snowy-scene-surrounding-the-salish-sea
48) ”Orbital Badminton in 360º | Cosmic Kiss,” ESA Science & Exploration, 01 January 2022, URL: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Videos/2021/12/Orbital_Badminton_in_360_Cosmic_Kiss
49) ”The Braided Paraná,” NASA Earth Observatory, Image of the Day for 19 December 2021, URL: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/149225/the-braided-parana
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).