Endeavour’s STS-59 crew took this look, on April 18, 1994, at the north and south Forks of the Shenandoah River. North is to the top. Seen in sunglint, the South Fork (right) and the North Fork (left) of the Shenandoah meet at upper right; Front Royal, Virginia is just east of the combined rivers at the junction. Massanutten Mountain, covered by reddish-brown fallen leaves of the George Washington National Forest, separates the river forks in this springtime view. Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail run along the Blue Ridge from lower right to mid-scene right, SW to NE. Passage Creek flows toward upper right in the interior valley, Fort Valley, of Massanutten, finally reaching the Shenandoah’s northenters this view from the top right, from Washington.
At top center are the scars of two limestone quarries, which have now grown larger and threaten the Cedar Creek Civil War battlefield just north of the junction between I-66 and I-81. The Alleghenies form the mountain barrier to the west (left). Signal Knob is the promontory at the top (north) end of Massanutten; it was a critical Confederate observation point prior to the Cedar Creek battle in October 1864. Across this scene, Stonewall Jackson played out his masterful Valley Campaign in spring 1862. Employing audacity and rapid, unpredictable movements on interior lines, Jackson’s 17,000 men marched 646 miles (1,040 km) in 48 days and won several minor battles as they successfully engaged three Union armies (52,000 men), preventing them from reinforcing the Union offensive against Richmond.
Whenever one looks out the cabin window, the sweep of history and Earth’s natural beauty can nearly overwhelm an astronaut. But our work on Space Radar Lab 1 pulled us reluctantly away. Hope this view will inspire you to make time for a hike on the AT or up Massanutten. (NASA STS59-225-072).
Our view of New Zealand’s South Island on April 16, 1994 from shuttle Endeavour. North is at upper left. The Southern Alps are the snow-capped range at left, with Mt. Cook (at 12,218′) the prominent peak at middle left. The three north-south lakes on the south side of Mt. Cook are (from top) Lake Takapo, Lake Pukaki, and Lake Ohau. Lake Benmore is at center bottom. The milky blue lakes, fed by glacial meltwater, are even more striking when seen while standing on their shores. This is one place I’ve actually seen both from space and on the ground. From coast to coast, the South Island and New Zealand are well worth the trip.
Twenty-five years ago, Endeavour with its crew of six and Space Radar Lab payload soared 120 miles over the Eighty-Mile Beach on the northwest coast of Australia. The beach is some 220 kilometres (140 mi) in length, forming the coastline where the Great Sandy Desert approaches the Indian Ocean.
I found it easy to imagine that our view resembled that from a spaceship around Mars. During our 11-day radar survey of the home planet, we were treated to stunning views of Earth’s varied and beautiful landscapes. I’m still hoping to visit this corner of the world someday.
(posted April 10, 2019)
The highest peak outside of Asia, Aconcagua is in the lower left of this image from our STS-59 mission aboard Endeavour. This tortured region of the Andes caught our eye as we crossed South America’s western margin during our Space Radar Lab 1 mission. We were 116 nautical miles high when our crew took this Hasselblad 70mm film image, using a 250mm telephoto lens. North is to the upper left in this image, and the lighting shows that the Andes Mountains were drenched in late afternoon sunlight. Roads crossing this region of Argentina (Aconcagua is just east of the border with Chile) follow the deeply incised valleys in this image. The triple valley junction at lower right shelters the town of Puntada Vacas along Highway 7. Uspallata is at upper right, in the desert valley below the foothills. Aconcagua is not a volcano, but is lifted by the subduction of the Nazca plate beneath the South American plate just off the shore of Chile.
Wikipedia says about Aconcagua:
Aconcagua (Spanish pronunciation: [akoŋˈkaɣwa]) is the highest mountain outside Asia, at 6,961 meters (22,838 ft), and by extension the highest point in both the Western Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. It is located in the Andes mountain range, in the Mendoza Province, Argentina, and lies 112 kilometers (70 mi) northwest of its capital, the city of Mendoza. The summit is also located about 5 kilometers from San Juan Province and 15 kilometers from the international border with Chile. The mountain itself lies entirely within Argentina and immediately east of Argentina’s border with Chile. Aconcagua is one of the Seven Summits.
On most of my passes across the Pacific on STS-59, I used that 30 minutes to take a break from the camera work and headed down to the middeck to grab a snack. But when I could see our ground track would take us over historic, even hallowed, terrain, I’d make sure to try and grab a picture. That was the case on April 12, 1994, when I shot the volcanic island of Iwo Jima with a 250mm lens mounted on a 70mm Hasselblad film camera. So many American and Japanese died in the ferocious fighting of February and March 1945: 26,000 Americans were casualties, including 6800 killed in action. Japanese losses totaled 22,000–the entire garrison. Only 216 surrendered.
The savage fighting, however, secured Iwo Jima as an airfield for fighter escorts and an emergency landing base for Japan-bound B-29 Superfortresses. The lives of thousands of U.S. airmen were saved by the Marines’ sacrifice in capturing Iwo Jima. As General James L. Jones, 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps, said, “The valor and sacrifice of the Marines and Sailors who fought on Iwo Jima is, today and forever, the standard by which we judge what we are and what we might become.”
Just looking at the island from space drew me in to a story familiar from my reading of history; it is impossible to forget the dedication of soldiers on both sides, now allies in space as well as on Earth.
NASA Image Caption: Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands April 1994
The largest of three Volcano Islands, Iwo Jima can be seen in this view from the south. Iwo Jima is nearly 5 miles (9km) long, and 2 miles (4 km) wide and covers an area of 8 sq. miles (21 sq. km). Mount Suribachi, 546 feet (167 meters) high, on the south side of the island (lower left), is an extinct volcano. The main industries are sulfur mining and sugar refining. Iwo Jima was the scene for one of the severest battle campaigns in United States history during World War II. The battle began on February 19, 1945 against a Japanese force of over 22000 troops, who were well fortified in the numerous caves that make up the island topography. Casualties were high on both sides. The island was completely taken by United States forces on March 15, 1945. The photograph acquired of the United States flag being raised by U.S. Marines on the top of Mount Suribachi is one of the most famous photographs ever taken and inspired a memorial being built near Washington, D.C. honoring the United Stated Marine Corps. (NASA STS059-210-033)
San Francisco Bay, taken by the crew of orbiter Endeavour on Space Radar Lab 1. The crew took this image from about 120 nautical miles up, on April 14, 1994. North is to the left. At top, the delta of the combined Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers spreads into San Francisco Bay. Variations in water color caused both by sediment load and by wind streaking strike the eye. Man-made features dominate this scene. The Berkeley/Oakland complex rims the shoreline of the main bay to the right (south), and San Francisco fills the peninsula in the foreground. Salt-evaporation ponds contain differently-colored algae depending on salinity. The low altitude (less than 120 nautical miles) and unusually-clear air combine to provide unusually-strong green colors in this spring scene. Hasselblad 70mm film camera with 100mm lens.
It’s easy to see the San Andreas fault stretching from upper left to lower right across the mouth of the Bay, the Golden Gate. Its famous bridge is visible crossing from San Francisco at right to Marin County at left. The Oakland Bay Bridge crosses over Treasure Island as it connects San Francisco and the Oakland area on the eastern Bay shore. Golden Gate Park is the rectangular, green swath just sought of the bridge. I was in San Francisco last January and enjoyed some delicious Chinese food in Chinatown. No good Chinese food in space! (STS059-213-009; 9-20 April 1994)
Endeavour’s crew took this Hasselblad 70mm film view, using a 40mm lens, of the island of Madagascar’s west coast, with the Betsiboka River flowing northwest into the Mozambique Channel off East Africa. We were 114 nautical miles up on April 18, 1884 when we snapped this shot. We are looking southwest in this view. The Betsiboka, says Wikipedia, is:
…a 525-kilometre (326 mi) long river in central-north Madagascar. It flows northwestward and empties to Bombetoka Bay, forming a large delta. It originates to the east of Antananarivo. The river is surrounded in mangroves. The river is distinct for its red-coloured water, which is caused by river sediments. The river carries an enormous amount of reddish-orange silt to the sea. Much of this silt is deposited at the mouth of the river or in the bay.
The heavy sediment load is dramatic evidence of the catastrophic erosion of northwestern Madagascar. Removal of the native forest for cultivation and pastureland during the past 50 years has led to massive annual soil losses approaching 250 metric tonnes per hectare (112 tons per acre) in some regions of the island, the largest amount recorded anywhere in the world.
Earth-orbiting astronauts always mark the Betsiboka with a photo, updating the destructive process of erosion and sediment runoff on Madagascar, where scarcely 20% of the original rain forest remains. I hope the island nation’s citizens begin the slow, but steady process of reforesting their home, so its environment can regain its health and support a wiser, and more prosperous, human population. However, poverty and an ineffective government continue to put pressure on the remaining forest. [May 1, 2017]
Here’s the view across Scandinavia from my first shuttle mission, STS-59. North is at upper right. We’re looking west past Denmark at lower left, Sweden at center and right, and the snow-capped mountains of Norway at top center. At lower left, Copenhagen, Denmark, lies across the strait from Malmo, Sweden (just north of that little T-shaped peninsula off Sweden’s southern tip). That’s Oland island at right off Sweden’s eastern coast. At center left is the Kattegat, the enclosed sea between Denmark’s Jutland peninsula and Sweden. The Skagerrak is the strait, top left, winding between Jutland and Norway, and feeding into the Kattegat. At top, we can clearly see the snow line as spring advances southward. This is about as far north as our orbit (57-degree inclination to the equator) would carry us. This view brings a geography textbook–or Google Maps–to life!
NASA Image Caption:
Southern Sweden, with its plethora of lakes, is visible in this west-looking, high-oblique photograph. The lakes were created when the continental glaciers scoured this area and then receded, allowing the countless depressions to fill with water. In addition to numerous smaller lakes that are generally aligned in a north-south orientation, two large lakes—larger Lake Vänern and Lake Vättern—can be seen toward the northern edge of the photograph. The dark green area inland from the coast is forested lands. A small part of the Baltic Sea is pictured off the southeast coast of Sweden, and the Skagerrak and Kattegat, the waterway entrance into the Baltic Sea, are shown off the southwest coast of Sweden. Although no specific details can be ascertained at this scale, the four main landforms of Denmark (viewing west to east)—a peninsula (Jylland) and three islands (Fyn, Sjelland, and Lolland)—can be seen along the southern edge of the photograph. (STS059-223-065)