Expedition 43 Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency (ESA) photographed the giant solar arrays on the International Space Station on Feb. 12, 2015.
The space station’s solar arrays contain a total of 262,400 solar cells and cover an area of about 27,000 square feet (2,500 square meters) — more than half the area of a football field. A solar array’s wingspan of 240 feet (73 meters) is longer than a Boeing 777’s wingspan, which is 212 feet (65 meters). Altogether, the four sets of arrays can generate 84 to 120 kilowatts of electricity — enough to provide power to more than 40 homes. The solar arrays produce more power than the station needs at one time for station systems and experiments. When the station is in sunlight, about 60 percent of the electricity that the solar arrays generate is used to charge the station’s batteries. At times, some or all of the solar arrays are in the shadow of Earth or the shadow of part of the station. This means that those arrays are not collecting sunlight. The batteries power the station when it is not in the sun.
Image Credit: ESA/NASA
Media photograph the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft as it launches to the International Space Station with Expedition 43 NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) onboard at 3:42 p.m. EDT Friday, March 27, 2015 (March 28 Kazakh time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. As the one-year crew, Kelly and Kornienko will return to Earth on Soyuz TMA-18M in March 2016.
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Expedition 43 Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti took a series of photographs of the March 20, 2015 solar eclipse from the International Space Station.Cristoforetti wrote, “Orbital sunrise and the #SolarEclipse… could it go any better?”
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, casting a shadow over Earth. The moon’s shadow masks the solar surface and blocks sunlight from reaching Earth directly – but the amount of sunlight blocked depends on location.
Image Credit: ESA/NASA
From the International Space Station, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) took this photograph of the island of Hawaii and posted it to social media on Feb. 28, 2015. Cristoforetti wrote, “And suddenly as we flew over the Pacific… the island of #Hawaii with its volcanoes! #HelloEarth”
Crewmembers on the space station photograph the Earth from their unique point of view located 200 miles above the surface as part of the Crew Earth Observations program. Photographs record how the planet is changing over time, from human-caused changes like urban growth and reservoir construction, to natural dynamic events such as hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions. Astronauts have used hand-held cameras to photograph the Earth for more than 40 years, beginning with the Mercury missions in the early 1960s. The ISS maintains an altitude between 220 – 286 miles (354 – 460 km) above the Earth, and an orbital inclination of 51.6˚, providing an excellent stage for observing most populated areas of the world.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Samantha Cristoforetti