More than mere beauty
view of Earth from space is more than spectacular. It is valuable to
science and the world’s economy. The human eye discerns subtle changes
on the Earth’s surface. It notes patterns that would go undetected by
robotic cameras, and it follows changes in both natural climate and
human land use over the continuum of time.
Shuttle-Mir, the Mir crews photographed the Earth as it changed below
them. Winter to summer. Storm to calm. At different times and in different
places, the land was dusty … smoggy … erupting … on fire. Lakes dried
up. Plankton bloomed. The crews took some 22,000 photographs, using
35mm and 70mm cameras, to capture both natural phenomena and changes
caused by people.
scientists trained the crews before their missions, teaching them what
to watch for and giving them lists of photo targets. The Mir-21 crew
of Shannon Lucid, Yury Usachev, and Yuri Onufriyenko captured seasonal
changes in the Northern Hemisphere, and they filmed wildfires in Mongolia
and the Kalahari Desert.
Mir-22 crew of John Blaha, Valeri Korzun, and Alexander Kaleri documented
flooding of the lower Nile, a drought in southern Africa, and the spring
thaw in the southern Andes. Both of these crews helped record baseline
conditions before the famed 1997 El Niño climate event.Mir-23’s
Jerry Linenger, Vasily Tsibliev, and Aleksandr Lazutkin witnessed the
retreat of winter ice from North America, and Linenger photographed
large dust storms over the Tibetan Plateau.
recovering from the June 1997 Progress collision, the Mir-24 crew of
Mike Foale, Anatoly Solovyev, and Pavel Vinogradov was able to follow
the El Niño event, and to provide new images of aerosol concentrations
off southern Africa. Foale also took the first videos from space of
glowing—or noctilucent—high-altitude clouds.
David Wolf joined the Mir-24 crew, he continued tracking El Niño.
Other images from Wolf’s Mir increment included remarkable photographs
of the lush Somali coast after record rains and severe smog conditions
Andy Thomas, Talgat Musabayev, and Nikolai Budarin completed the El
Niño study, and documented the massive wildfires in Mexico and
Central America. Australian-born Thomas also did an extensive photo
survey of his native land.