For release: 06-27-02 (for week ending 06-27-02)
Science Ops status report #: 02-160
Space Station crew photographs wildfires in western U.S.
From the International Space Station, the crew of Expedition Five has had an ideal vantage point for photographing wildfires in the southwestern United States, including fires in Arizona and Colorado. Space Station science experiments and payload operations are managed by the Payload Operations Center at Marshall Center.
Photo: Colorado wildfire seen from Space Station (NASA/JSC)
From the International Space Station, the crew of Expedition Five has had an ideal vantage point for photographing wildfires in the southwestern United States during the past week.
Crew Earth Observations (CEO) photography subjects this week included continued efforts to take pictures of two large fires burning in Arizona and a fire in Colorado that threatened Denver suburbs. Imagery from a good photo pass on Tuesday is expected to be downlinked later this week. Other subjects during the week included land use and water levels in the Tigris-Euphrates region of Turkey, Eastern Mediterranean air quality, Lake Nasser and the Toshka Lakes of Egypt.
The oblique views of the fires have an almost three-dimensional quality that have made them some of the most revealing yet captured by crews aboard the orbiting research outpost. Images taken June 18 show the Hayman fire burning in the foothills southwest of Denver. Astronauts use a variety of lenses and look angles as their orbits pass over wildfires to document the long-distance movements of smoke from the fires as well as details of the burning areas. Details of the image reveal multiple smoke source points as the fire moves across the rough terrain.
“The Station’s unique altitude allows us to see a broader area than is possible with high flying aircraft and a lot more detail than satellites that operate thousands of miles higher,” said Dr. Justin Wilkinson, a scientist with the Earth Science and Image Analysis Laboratory at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We can see the relation of cumulus rain clouds close to the smoke plume – the cloud is generated by heat from the fire beneath. We can detect the sources of the fires within tens of meters. We see the edges of the smoke as a reflector of sunlight. We can see the barriers to burning, such as canals, power line clearings, cliffs, etc. Being able to visualize the smoke is important to scientists in synthesizing many different kinds of data.”
Last Friday, the crew completed a week of liver cell growth research using the StelSys experiment. Cell samples cultured during the week are now stowed in the ARCTIC 1 freezer for return to Earth on the upcoming STS-112 mission. The Biotechnology Specimen Temperature Controller used to incubate the samples was deactivated.
On Monday, the Payload Operations Center reactivated EXPRESS Rack 2 and the Zeolite Crystal Growth (ZCG) experiment inside. Having installed new computer hard drives in the ZCG experiment last week, the crew on Monday configured the experiment’s furnace in preparation for the first sample runs of the Expedition, which began today.
On Tuesday, all three crew members completed their Crew Interactions surveys on the Human Research Facility laptop computer.
On Wednesday, Commander Valery Korzun and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson conducted their first tests with the Pulmonary Function in Flight experiment and repaired a broken drawer on the Microgravity Science Glovebox.
Today, the crew performed several maintenance tasks with the Advanced Astroculture experiment, including collection of nutrient and gas samples. On Friday they will conduct a nutrient fluid exchange to support the continued growth of the experiment’s soybean plants. On Friday, they will collect regular monthly background radiation readings on EVA Radiation Monitoring badges, and on Saturday their science activities include reviewing Glovebox procedures prior to activation of the new facility in July.
Other science payloads aboard the Destiny lab module continue to operate normally the Space Acceleration Measurement System, Microgravity Acceleration Measurement System, Protein Crystal Growth Single Thermal Enclosure System, and the Materials International Space Station Experiment.
Editor’s Note: The Payload Operations Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages all science research experiment operations aboard the International Space Station. The center is also home for coordination of the mission-planning work of a variety of international sources, all science payload deliveries and retrieval, and payload training and payload safety programs for the Station crew and all ground personnel.