The Best ISS Video Ever? You Decide.


Is this the best video footage ever of photos taken from the International Space Station? ISS astronaut and Expedition 29 commander Mike Fossum seems to think so.

If anyone would know what a good ISS video is, he would! So watch, and decide for yourself.

Video uploaded by YouTube user bitmeizer. Made from sequences of still photographs taken by Expedition 29 crew members, the time-lapse videos have been digitally smoothed out and a soundtrack added, along with some transition effects.

Original video segments courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center. See more at the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

Mike Fossum Answers Your Questions

[/caption]We recently launched a new “Ask” feature here at Universe Today. Our inaugural launch featured Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator for the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

Following up on the success of our first “Ask” feature, we’ve followed up with a new installment featuring Expedition 29 commander Mike Fossum. We collected your questions and passed them along to Mike who graciously took the time to answer them.

Here are the questions picked by you, the readers, and Fossum’s responses. Special thanks to NASA and Mike Fossum for their participation.

1.) Living on the ISS is sometimes said to be a difficult experience – if you could make any one change to the ISS to make it more comfortable, what would it be?

Mike Fossum: “Get the transporter working – it would be great to be home for the weekend.” Fossum also added, “I loved living and working there (The ISS) and there’s very few things I’d change. I had a great window view and my own personal quarters. I guess if anything I missed being able to sit in a chair – that and being able to have a cup of coffee (instead of out of a bag) and read the newspaper in the morning.”

2.) As a trained astronaut, what are your thoughts on the feasibility of making space flight a routine for normal civilians ( besides tourists) especially with regard to interplanetary/beyond earth orbit flights?

Mike Fossum: “I think we’ll see low Earth-orbit very soon.” Fossum also mentioned, “I was born a few months after Sputnik’s launch, the changes in spaceflight over the past 54 years are staggering. The potential for changes over the next fifty years is unimaginable.” Fossum also had a parting thought on the rise of commercial space travel, “I have a nagging voice telling me to say “be careful”, we’ve learned hard and costly lessons”.

3.) While in the Earth’s shadow, could you see the stars, constellations and planets? If you could, did they look any better or brighter?

Mike Fossum: “Oh, Yes! The key is to be in a place where you can dark adapt – any sunlight overpowers night vision.” Fossum mentioned that during some “down” time on a spacewalk, he was able to turn off his helmet lights and immerse himself in the “3-d feeling” of being in the stars. Describing the quality of the views, Fossum stated, “The Milky Way was clear, and no twinkle in stars. The different colors of stars were more intense”.

4.) After a typical stay on the ISS, how long does it take an astronaut to recover from the effects of weightlessness?

Mike Fossum: “There’s a great deal of recovery in the first three weeks. Balance, running, walking, I’d say I’m at about 90%” Fossum mentioned one other side effect of his stay on the ISS – apparently he’s in better physical shape than before he left. Fossum speculated that the improvements in his physical shape were due to the rigorous exercise routines he performed during his stay on the ISS.

5.) What would you say is the strongest asset that each of the space fairing countries brings to the table when it comes to our forward progress into space as a species?

Mike Fossum: “The Russians have a different design process than we (The United States) do. They evolve, rather than start over.” Fossum added, “Looking at their station module design, they took stuff that worked from MIR and improved upon it, they analyzed and tested and broke stuff and added more steel. Americans analyze and analyze – it was a real shock to NASA on how Russia built things.” Fossum mentioned that in 2008, he helped install the JAXA Kibo module on the International Space Station and was impressed by the efficiency of JAXA engineers.

Regarding some of the other partner nations participating in the ISS, Fossum mentioned, “ESA has the best of German efficiency and Italian flexibility.” Fossum also discussed the Canadians niche in robotics, stating that they’ve been leaders who are proud of their work. Fossum cited the success of the remote manipulator arm on the space shuttles, as well as the “big arm” on the ISS and the DEXTRE manipulator.

Fossum shared a final thought regarding all the nations participating in the ISS, stating, “There’s a common passion for space among the big partners on the ISS.” Fossum also mentioned to “Look at history” regarding Russia, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S, emphasizing that nations who were at war with each other not that long ago are working together to achieve common goals in space.

This wraps up our latest “Ask” feature. Once again we’d like to thank Mike Fossum and NASA for taking the time to answer your questions.

Ron Garan’s Incredible ISS Timelapse: Coming Back Home

Time Lapse From Space – Literally. The Journey Home. from Fragile Oasis on Vimeo.

We’ve seen lots of timelapse videos lately from the International Space Station, as the astronauts have just recently started shooting long sequences of images enabling the creation of these stunning videos made from still photos. This video was put together by one of the photographers himself — Ron Garan — who returned home on September 16, 2011 after spending about six months in space. Today on his blog, Fragile Oasis, Garan explained how the genesis of time-lapse photography on the ISS came from a suggestion from Katrina Willoughby, a photography instructor for the astronauts.

“I hadn’t tried time-lapse yet because I overestimated how hard it would be to capture great images, and the time-lapse photography I had seen to date didn’t seem as impressive as the still imagery we had been taking with some of the new equipment onboard,” Garan said.

But he set up a Nikon D3S camera in the Cupola on the space station (see an awesome picture of him, below, working in the Cupola), took some practice shots, and worked on getting the right settings, then set up the camera to take about 500 pictures at 3-second intervals.

“When I saw the results, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep!” Garan said, adding that these videos really do give a great representation of what the view is like from space.


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Following Garan’s lead, the other astronauts have since joined in taking time-lapse imager, and astronaut Mike Fossum has “since elevated time-lapse photography from space to an art form,” Garan said.

You can see a collection of ISS time-lapse videos here, and read Garan’s post on Fragile Oasis for more information on the cameras, settings, etc for their time-lapse photography.

Also, check out the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth to see the latest images and videos from space.

Progress Vehicle, Shooting Star, Or…?

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International Space Station Commander Mike Fossum captured this amazing view of the Progress M-10M cargo ship burning up in Earth’s atmosphere after it undocked from the space station on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. Via Twitter, astronaut Chris Hadfield — who is scheduled to command the ISS next year — said he received an email from Fossum about the picture, reminding him of a previous description Hadfield had given of what exactly is inside these departing cargo ships. It’s a video we’ve shared before, but it’s worth watching again.

Of course, the big news here is that the Progress M-10M was able to undock because of the successful launch of the Progress 45 vehicle last Friday, setting the stage for allowing the Soyuz crew ships to start flying again, lessening the probability that the ISS will have to go unmanned. Stay tuned for updates on the launch of the station’s next three residents, which is scheduled for Nov. 13, 2011.

No Evacuation Plans for ISS Yet

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The International Space Station has had a continual human presence for nearly 11 years, and so the astronauts now aboard the ISS are holding out hope that they won’t have to break that streak and turn out the lights and close all the hatches when they leave. Ron Garan and Mike Fossum said in a news conference with reporters on Tuesday that they have not yet been training for the possibility that they will have to leave the ISS unmanned due to a problem with the Soyuz rocket, the only ride astronauts and cosmonauts currently have to space.

“It’s too early for us to get too worried about that, frankly,” said Fossum, “and we haven’t started to do anything specific up here,except for documenting things we do on video. Fossum added that teams in mission control in Houston and Moscow are figuring out the procedures of what needs to be done if a problem with the Soyuz rockets can’t be figured out by November. “It will take us a few weeks to finish that up, but we have another nine or so weeks here, my crew of three. So we’ve got plenty of time for those kinds of things.”

Fossum said the ground crews are in the preliminary stages of deciding everything, “from what ventilation we’re going to leave running, what lights we’re going to leave on, what condition each particular experiment will be on, every tank, every valve, every hatch.”

A Russian rocket carrying a Progress resupply ship failed just after the third stage ignition two weeks ago and crashed into Siberia. While the Progress cargo ships launch on a Soyuz-U rocket and the Soyuz crew capsules — the Soyuz TMA — launches on a Soyuz-FG, the third stages of the two rockets are virtually identical.

Russian engineers said last week a malfunction in the third stage engine’s gas generator occurred; now they need to find out why and launch a couple of unmanned rockets before putting humans on board.

Right now a crew of six is on the station, with three of them scheduled to depart late next week – a week later than originally planned — to keep the station fully staffed as long as possible. A new crew of three was supposed arrive later this month, but that flight is on hold at least until early November, depending on the outcome of the investigation by the Russian engineers.

Since the space shuttles are no longer flying, the Soyuz is the only ride in town. While SpaceX is scheduled to send an unmanned Dragon capsule in a test run for bringing cargo to the station, the station would have to be abandoned if the Soyuz rocket isn’t cleared by November.

“It’s a complicated thing, when a rocket shuts down. It is a big deal,” said Fossum. “We’re not part of that investigation but we know what is going on. It’s not a fundamental design flaw, as this rocket has had hundreds of successful fights. But they are looking for what has changed.”

So, ground teams are now looking ahead for all the possible “what ifs” that might occur and Fossum and Garan said the big problem would be a short time span to do a crew handover – training in the new crew – or if they have to leave the station unmanned. They’ve started videotaping procedures and intricacies they’ve discovered about the station, just in case they aren’t there when a new crew arrives.

But it’s been a source of pride that there have been crews up here for over 4,000 days straight. “I think it is important,” said Fossum, “the station requires some care and feeding, and it is important for us to be here if we possibly can. If we have to shut it down for awhile, we will do our best to leave it in the best possible condition for the next crew to open the doors and turn the lights and and get back to work.”

The astronauts said if they do have to leave the station unmanned for a short period, it shouldn’t be a problem, but if the short gap turns into months, “the probability starts to stack up against you and leads to possibility that you would have a problem that could be significant without anyone up here to take action,” said Fossum.

Meanwhile, science operations are going full speed ahead. “We’re breaking records every week with crew-based research, over and above the autonomous research,” Garan said. “It’s important to note, that in the event we have to leave, there will still be science operations on board.”