Astronauts on the ISS also monitor the planet’s health. Floating 400 kilometres above the surface in low Earth orbit gives a unique perspective on the planet’s evolution – one that goes beyond NASA’s satellite capabilities.
The space station gathers images and data to monitor the evolution of land masses, water, air, vegetation and other resources. Monitoring water and energy cycles, ecosystem changes, population migration patterns and other developments helps inform environmental research and climate science.
It’s a vantage point that can also assist with natural disasters, with orbital images and data helping to track major storms, fires and other extreme weather events by documenting cloud cover, flooding and changes to the land. Night images can also check whether power has been restored after a disaster strikes.
Space science can even help mitigate some of the impacts of climate change and save lives. New water purification systems designed for life on the ISS are helping people in some areas gain access to clean water.
Space research helps innovation
Astronauts also conduct research in space to better understand how fluids behave. Studying fluid dynamics in a gravity-free environment can help with the development of everything from medical devices to heat transfer systems.
On a molecular level, microgravity has helped improve our understanding of colloids – mixtures of tiny particles suspended in liquid. While you may not have heard of them, colloid research helps companies design better everyday products you have heard of, such as toothpaste and pharmaceuticals.
These are just a few of the many ways space research has improved life for humans, but there are many more. And there are also many challenges that lie ahead.
The last word on the subject should go to Matthias Maurer. Looking down on our planet, he reflects on the advances made by humans and notes that “Earth is one big spaceship”.
And the crew of planet Earth – all 7.9 billion of us – need to work together to meet today’s challenges.
This article was originally published in the World Economic Forum.
Source: The Print