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The St Helena report and the gap in media

Houston, we have a problem… St Helena’s tiny from space
Space station over the Earth

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Space station over the Earth
“Nope, can’t see the island… we’ll have to wait and follow the RMS St Helena”. International Space Station picture by NASA

It might not have been the best day for nude sunbathing. Beyond the stratosphere, the crew of the International Space Station were keeping watch on St Helena when they passed over the island on Wednesday, 18 July 2012.

Or trying to, anyway. The press release from NASA, the US space agency, doesn’t actually say whether the astronauts managed to pick out the island.

The crew travelled over Monaco, Mount Vesuvius in Italy, and the Seychelles – birthplace of Jonathan the tortoise.

The space station has an international crew.Picture: Nasa

Come mid-afternoon, they were under instruction to try to pick out the mountainous speck of St Helena.

The day’s report of activities on the space station notes that Charles Darwin had visited the island 176 years earlier. It says:

“St Helena Island, Atlantic Ocean (HMS BEAGLE SITE: Darwin and the Beagle arrived at St Helena Island on July 8, 1836 and remained for 5 days to explore its geology).

“Crew was to begin looking for this target a little early, if possible. Due to its remoteness and small size (47 square miles), there were no visual cues of the island during International Space Station approach.

“As the crew progressed on this mid-afternoon descending pass from the NW, they were to look towards nadir for this small island. There may have been a few clouds in the region, but they were to try for detailed shots).

St Helena Online has contacted NASA for an explanation of “look towards nadir” and to ask whether the astronauts did in fact spot the island. They may be a little too busy to respond…

  • Among the experimental equipment on board the space station is an aquarium. The expedition guide says: “Aquatic breeding over three generations, from fish parents to grandkids, previously impossible in space shuttle experiments, has become a reality. This allows, for example, viewing of the birth of space aquatic creatures that have never experienced the gravity force of Earth, and helps us understand how the space environment affects animals beyond generations in preparation for potential long-term space travel in future.”

Astronomer snaps night of a thousand stars (eventually)

International Space Station – 18 July 2012

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