This past Sunday, a group of amateur astronomers in San Antonio, Texas successfully “flashed” the International Space Station with a blue laser and spotlight as it whizzed by overhead. While this might sound like an easy thing to do, it’s much more complicated than you think. Astronaut Don Pettit shot the photo of the experiment seen above, and writes,
This took a number of engineering calculations. Projected beam diameters (assuming the propagation of a Gaussian wave for the laser) and intensity at the target had to be calculated. Tracking space station’s path as it streaked across the sky was another challenge. I used email to communicate with Robert Reeves, one of the association’s members. Considering that it takes a day, maybe more, for a simple exchange of messages (on space station we receive email drops two to three times a day), the whole event took weeks to plan.
The International Space Station maintains an orbital altitude of between 205 and 255 miles, so the fact that Pettit was able to see the flash of light from that distance is quite impressive.
NASA created this beautiful time-lapse video with photos taken from Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station. It’s a neat look at the size of the Earth, and includes a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis from space!
Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli recently captured some amazing one-of-a-kind photographs of the Space Shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station from about 600 feet away using a Nikon D3x and 24-120mm lens. What’s interesting is the standard practice for returning to Earth: while the memory cards are brought down safely with the astronauts in a descent module, the camera gear is left in the orbital module, which falls into Earth’s atmosphere and burns up!
That’s standard practice for Soyuz re-entries: The astronauts take only what they need and shed the excess baggage to cut down on weight … even if that excess baggage retails for about $8,000, as was the case for the Nikon. [#]
Most of you probably know the astronauts on the ISS use a lot of Nikon gear for their photography. The video above shows American astronaut Jeff Williams use one of the cameras onboard as an accelerometer during a reboost, through which the ISS maintains its orbit. It’s pretty neat seeing the camera floating around.
For the past two weeks, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi has been beaming down photographs of Earth from the International Space Station using his TwitPic account. The photographs, taken with a Nikon D2Xs, show various cities and landmarks around the world as the ISS flies roughly 200 miles overhead at an average of 17,227 mph.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Fransisco, CA. Beautiful shadow :-)
Flew over Port_Au_Prince of Haiti this afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers to Haiti people, from ISS.
Mount Fuji, Japan. 3,776m. The highest mountain in Japan.
Moscow, Russia. Star City is far back on the right upper corner. #spacetweet
KSC, Florida. Space Shuttle Endeavour STS-130 is ready to launch on Sunday!!!
For more of this amazing photography, check out his Twitter or Twitpic page.