Audrey Schwartz November 19, 1993
RELEASE: 93-088STS-58 ASTRONAUTS DOCUMENT EARTH OBSERVATIONS
Low Earth orbit gives space shuttle astronauts a unique vantage point from which to observe and document in photographs a variety of meteorological, environmental, oceanographic and geological features for scientific researchers back home.
STS-58 has added to the vast collection of Earth observation photographs that have been taken throughout the space program. The record-setting two-week mission, which flew from Oct. 18 to Nov. 1, orbited at an altitude of 155 nautical miles and an inclination of 39 degrees, taking the astronauts over many terrestrial areas not normally visible on shuttle flights. The astronauts photographed most of the Mediterranean Sea, the Himalayas Mountain range, Japan, southeast Asia, southern Australia, all of Africa and the southern half of the United States, including Washington D.C. and parts of Colorado. Good weather conditions also allowed the crew to capture views at oblique angles of higher northern latitude areas in the United States such as Indiana, the Great Lakes, New England and the Yellowstone Plateau of northwestern Wyoming.
The photographic documentation of Earth observations is dependent on several factors including weather, lighting and crew activities. A change in launch time would affect lighting conditions at planned observation points while steering maneuvers may turn orbiter windows away from the Earth. Crew activities often are rescheduled during missions, precluding some planned observations. Clouds also can frequently interfere with planned photography.
Earth observation is a favorite activity for astronauts and while their mission was dedicated to life science research, the STS-58 crew took more than 4,300-more-
photographs, using nearly all 45 rolls of film reserved for Earth photography onboard Columbia. A large assortment of cameras, lenses and films were carried on the shuttle, and the astronauts participated in a series of Earth science training sessions prior to their flight.
Following the mission, people working on the Space Shuttle Earth Observations Project catalog each photograph for an electronic data base which is used by hundreds of researchers. SSEOP experts also describe and analyze many of these photographs for their scientific colleagues, students and the public.
Highlights of the Earth observations shown by the STS-58 crew at today's post-flight news conference include
South Coast and Cape Province, South Africa -- The astronauts captured a dramatic scene of the south coast of Africa, including the southernmost point on the continent, Cape Agulhas. In 1488, Bartholomew Diaz, the Portuguese explorer, landed at Mossel Bay, between Cape Agulhas and Port Elizabeth. This was the first time European voyagers are known to have rounded the Cape of Good Hope in their quest to reach India by sea. The entire fold mountain belt of southern Africa appears as green, forested, wavy structures stretching to the Cape of Good Hope then northward. One theory about the mountains' origin is that the Falkland Plateau, now an undersea extension of South America, was jostled up against Africa more than 150 million years ago, before the Atlantic Ocean existed and before Africa and South America drifted apart. This jostling caused the evolution of the fold mountain belt. NASA photograph S58-77-083.
Richat Structure, Mauritania, Africa -- The eye-catching bull's-eye shape of the Richat Structure as observed from the space shuttle adds interest to the barren Gres de Chinguetti Plateau in central Mauritania, northwest Africa. The Richat represents domally uplifted, layered or sedimentary rocks that have been eroded by water and wind into circular patterns. The origin of the structure is unknown. Scientists do not consider the Richat to be an impact structure because field work showed that the strata are undisturbed and flat-lying in the middle of the feature, and no shock-altered rock could be found. Also no evidence has been identified for a salt dome or shale diapir, nor does any geophysical evidence exist for an underlying dome of igneous or volcanic rock. Scientists believe that the uplift was caused by igneous rock having the same density as the sedimentary layers. NASA photograph S58-88-017.
Mount Everest -- The STS-58 crew snapped the best, most-nearly cloud-free shuttle view yet of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world at 29,028 feet. The-more-
Himalayan peak, on the border between Nepal and China, is almost exactly in the
center of the photograph. The challenging North Face is in shadow while valley glaciers radiate in all directions from the central massif. NASA photograph S58-101-014.
Tokyo-Yokohama, Japan -- The shuttle astronauts traveled directly over Tokyo,
the great megalopolis and capital city of Japan, and obtained a photograph of great detail. More than 80 vessels can be seen anchored in Tokyo Bay. The gardens of the Emperor's Palace are visible. The STS-58 crew also capture a simultaneous color infrared image showing even greater detail of the area (that photograph number is S58-110-065). NASA photograph S58-103-080.
Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee -- Earth orbit provided an excellent opportunity for a cloud-free, panoramic view above western Tennessee to the northern edge of Lake Michigan. The view extends from St. Louis, Mo., past Evansville, Ind., and Louisville, Ky, to Cincinnati, Ohio. A range of hills covered by trees in fall foliage extends from the Ohio River toward Lake Michigan, ending just southwest of Indianapolis. NASA photograph S58-102-018.
New York and New Jersey -- A clear October day offered the shuttle crew a colorful view of Long Island and the lower Hudson River at the peak of the fall foliage season. The maples and oaks of the Hudson Highlands are particularly striking and contrast with the many lakes and reservoirs north of the city. The New York metropolitan area, including Jersey City and Newark, is easily seen. Manhattan Island sits near the middle of the scene, but the Central Park foliage still appears fairly green. West Point can be seen on the western bend of the Hudson River. The Catskill Mountains also are visible. NASA photograph S58-81-038.
Chesapeake Bay -- Most of the large estuarine system of the Chesapeake Bay was photographed from the shuttle. The farmland and marshes of eastern Maryland and Virginia can be seen below a light layer of clouds. The largest tributary flowing into the Bay is the Potomac River, and Washington D.C. is visible where the river bends toward the northwest. The urban-suburban Washington corridor shows up as a gray tone that extends from the District of Columbia to Baltimore on the Patapsco River embayment. NASA photograph S58-81-049.
San Antonio, Texas -- A sharp cloud-free shuttle photograph of San Antonio illustrates the classic pattern of western cities in the United States. The well-marked central business district with streets running north-south and east-west is surrounded by blocks of suburban homes and small business. Transportation routes radiate to mid-to--more-
late 20th century ring corridors that separate urban regions from the surrounding agricultural countryside. San Antonio was founded around permanent springs that rise at the foot of the Balcones Escarpment, and limestone quarries are conspicuous along the edge of the escarpment. San Antonio International Airport also can be seen at the foot of the escarpment in the northern part of the city. NASA photograph S58-101-53-end-
NOTE TO EDITORS -- Color photographs of the STS-58 Earth observation highlights mentioned in this release are available to the news media from the Public Affairs Office at the Johnson Space Center. To order, contact the Still Photo Library at 713/483-4231 and request the appropriate NASA photograph number.
- end -