Students use International Space Station to view Earth
Posted: March 15, 2002

A student experiment -- that allows middle school students to use a camera aboard the International Space Station to take pictures of cities, mountains, rivers and other features on Earth and bring those pictures into their classrooms via the Internet -- has completed Expedition Four operations.

The Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students (EarthKAM) photography experiment was completed for Expedition Four and deactivated last Saturday.

Using the tools of modern technology - including the Internet and a digital camera mounted to the Space Station's laboratory window - EarthKAM students are able to take stunning, high-quality photographs, such as this image of the Mississippi River. Photo: NASA
During Expedition Four, a total of 1,269 pictures of various geographic sites were taken by a camera located both in the Russian Service Module window and the U.S. Destiny lab window as part of this science education program, managed by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Eighteen schools participated during Expedition Four by selecting photography sites and sending their requests to the Space Station. Including pictures from previous Expeditions, the EarthKAM program has downlinkd 2,271 pictures from the Station. The EarthKAM pictures are available at:

A note from the science team transmitted to the crew last week said in part, "Our participating students and teachers are excited with the results so far and continue to enjoy the images that are still coming down. Our undergraduate staff at UCSD is thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the experience of real-time science that is taking place on the International Space Station. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making our last mission of this academic year a resounding success."

Recovery of the Active Rack Isolation System (ARIS) and an associated checkout experiment is proceeding according to plan. A 16-hour ground commanded test was conducted Friday (March 8). Additional testing was conducted Tuesday (March 12) following fine-tuning by the science team on the ground. The experimental device, designed to isolate delicate microgravity experiments from vibrations, experienced a failure in January. The crew recently replaced one of eight pushrods used to "float" the rack inside its station in the Destiny lab module.

The crew downlinked pictures Friday (March 6) of the Advanced Astroculture (ADVASC) plant growth chamber. The crew was scheduled to collect plant tissue samples this week for later analysis.

"Initial analysis based on photos indicates that a total of 14 plants are alive and an additional 16 plants germinated but didn't survive, which might be caused by the algae combined with the quality of the seeds," said Dr. Weijia Zhou, principal investigator for the experiment and director of the Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "At the present time, we are not able to determine the percentage of seeds, which did not germinate and the percentage of seeds which may still germinate during the rest of the mission."

On Saturday (March 9), the crew photographed a Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS) sensor head requested by the science team to confirm proper location within the Station.

The Experiment on Physics of Colloids in Space (EXPPCS) science team continues to analyze a computer boot up problem experienced Feb. 24. Procedures are being finalized for a troubleshooting effort involving the crew that is expected to take about 90 minutes. The science team hopes with the crew's help to repair the experiment on-orbit.

The final Hoffman Reflex for this expedition was scheduled for Wednesday (March 13). This experiment measures spinal cord excitability with the goal of learning whether exercise on long space missions could be made more efficient. The crew does the experiment by applying a small electrical shock to the back of the leg.

"The H-Reflex experiment has now been carried out on a total of 8 subjects on Expeditions Two, Three and Four," said Dr. Douglas Watt, principal investigator for the experiment, with McGill University in Montreal, Canada. "This is the final in-flight session for the experiment, with only post-flight testing of the present crew remaining. Once data collection has been completed, analysis will proceed quickly and final results should be available by mid-summer. We hope to submit a paper based on the experiment by year's end."

The crew was scheduled to conduct pre-spacewalk radiation readings on the EVA Radiation Monitoring (EVARM) experiment on Thursday (March 14).

On the crew's schedule for Friday (March 15) is ADVASC plant sampling and activation of the ninth growth chamber in the Protein Crystal Growth Single Thermal Enclosure System. The first six growth chambers were activated soon after the experiment arrived on the Space Station. The seventh chamber was activated February 8, and the eighth chamber was activated February 28. One chamber will not be activated. The fundamental goal for growing biological crystals is to determine their structure and the biological processes in which they are involved. Understanding these structures may impact the studies of medicine, agriculture, the environment and other biosciences.

Locations scheduled to be photographed this week for the Crew Earth Observations research program were: European air pollution, Western Mediterranean dust and smog, Tropical Cyclone Harry near Madagascar, dry season burning in Congo Zimbabwe, ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, lakes of the Eastern Sierra Watershed.

Other experiments onboard the Station continue to function normally, while the crew continues routine status checks and maintenance on the lab and its experiments. On March 19, the Payload Operations Center at the Marshall Center will mark its one-year anniversary of round-the-clock operations in support of science aboard the world's only orbiting research station.

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.