November 2000A mass of storm clouds was observed and recorded from the International Space Station (ISS) by the Expedition 1 crew members. The picture, made with an Electrical Still Camera (ESC), was the first Earth observation still image downlinked by the three-man crew. Crew members are cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, flight engineer; astronaut William Shepherd, mission commander; and cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko, Soyuz commander.
Because the ISS communication system is still under construction, image files must be compressed at high levels for downlink, resulting in the loss of information. Once communications become fully operational, we anticipate routine exchange of information and Earth imagery from the ISS crew members.
With much of their time committed to construction of the International Space Station, astronauts and cosmonauts are also beginning their first scientific studies. The Destiny Laboratory just joined to the International Space Station includes the best optical quality window ever flown on a human-occupied spacecraft. The window will eventually host a number of remote sensing experiments that will use a special rack system, the Window Observational Research Facility or WORF, for mechanical and electrical support (Eppler et al. 1996). Until the WORF is complete in June 2002, astronauts are photographing the Earth’s surface as part of an early project, Crew Earth Observations.