Chapter 3: “I’ll Take World Geography for $2000, Alex…!”
Image to right: Sahara Desert dunes are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 15 crewmember on the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
Clayton Anderson's ISS In-Flight Journal
My mission elapsed time (MET) is now 31 days and climbing! Can you believe it? I have now been living "off the planet" for over one month! Well, to put that into perspective, my crewmates Fyodor Yurchikhin (Fee-yo-der Yur-cheek-in) and Oleg Kotov (Ah-leg Co-toff) will reach the "astronaut coveted" 100-day mark on Friday, July 13th…nothing unlucky about that! All of our bad luck happened when the STS-117 crew was here and our station computers were on the fritz!
Living on the International Space Station (ISS) gives me a perspective that I often imagined on the ground, but now I am blessed to have first hand knowledge of that perspective and to put it simply, it boggles my imagination! As many before me have often said, "…our world is a beautiful place; devoid of all boundaries." Indeed it is! I have seen the glory of God’s own hands from 220 nautical miles above the Earth. It is a place that is absolutely free of borders; a place where its beauty is for lack of a better word…overwhelming. I have been amazed at the differences you can see from orbit, simply by the change in the sun’s angle, the time of day or the direction from which I look.
Image to left: The Canadian Rockies are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 15 crewmember on the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
On board the ISS, we circle the globe once every ninety minutes. During our 24-hour days, we have the opportunity to witness 16 sunrises and sunsets. When the weather cooperates, I have revered the rugged snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the U. S. and Canada. I have admired the cool, green-fanned delta of the River Nile and the silent (for now!) and sleepy volcanoes of the Galapagos Islands. I have been in awe of the endlessly expanding tentacles of the vine-like Grand Canyon and the quiet, sweeping majesty of our moon, smoothly and quickly sinking below the multi-shaded blue atmosphere of our home, just waiting for its next appearance over our home…the planet Earth.
Our speed relative to the Earth is 17, 500 miles per hour. That’s about 5 miles every second! Imagine…we "fly" from the west coast of California to the North Atlantic of Cape Cod in less than 10 minutes! As space travelers, one of our jobs is to capture photos of places of interest around the globe. Scientists use those photos to analyze things like deforestation, global warming, coral reef degradation and increases in urbanization. We are given targets each day, which represent good orbital passes over an area we wish to learn more about. If our schedule allows, we all "fly" to the windows, grab our cameras and telephoto lenses and start "firing away!"
Image to right: Mount Rainier in Washington is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 15 crewmember on the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
One of my personal goals during my time onboard is to capture my home town of Ashland, Nebraska, in a digital photo. I figured it would be easy to spot, what with Lincoln and Omaha acting as "sentinels" on either side. Further, the well-defined Missouri and Platte Rivers would lead me right to it if only I would follow their meandering trajectories to their meeting point in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. Well I am here to tell you that it’s not as easy as it sounds…at least for me anyway! The speed of 5 miles a second can mean that if you need to change a camera battery or put in a new memory card; oops…better luck next time. Maybe on the next orbit! The time of year also adds nicely to the challenge. In the snow cover of winter (not yet experienced by me…but sometime in the fall perhaps!?), the cities, rivers and highways will stand out a bit more as they are cleared of the fallen snow and ice. That should also make places easier to spot and capture for all eternity!
Image to left: The Great Salt Lake in Utah is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 15 crewmember on the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA
Hey! I’m sorry, but I gotta fly…time to take some more pictures!