Like most people, the astronauts have certain work tasks they find more enjoyable than others. Looking out the window and taking photos and videos of the wonderful views of Earth is one of their favorite activities, while living aboard the International Space Station.
For Crew Earth Observations, or CEO, the station crew photograph natural and human-made events on Earth. The photographs and videos taken record the Earth's surface changes over time -- capturing unique phenomena from the orbiting lab. The changes involve pollution, sea levels, urban sprawl and population growth, climate and temperature, along with storms, floods, fires, volcanic eruptions and other dynamic events. These images provide researchers on Earth with data important to understanding the planet from a different perspective. This experience also helps astronauts prepare for surveying other planets within our solar system.
In an interview, Melissa Dawson, an Earth scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said, "We’ve been doing this for over 10 years, so we take the pictures over time and we can [determine] … changes over the past 5 or 10 years."
During the interview, Dawson described the work and how the results of their investigations are used. She talked about time-lapse videos, noting a few recent videos that show what Earth looks like from space, as the station orbits at 17,500 mph--with views traveling up the east coast of North America, from Mexico to New Brunswick, and of the Central Great Plains. She also shared the process used for taking pictures and creating the time-lapse videos. "Each of these videos requires about an average of 500 pictures." said Dawson.