A Salute To All The Coasties Out There

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Cross posted with fragileoasis.org

We had just passed over Kamchatka, Russia, where I took a picture of about 20 of the many dozens of the volcanoes there.  The sun angle was low making the volcanoes practically jump out at me.  
Along the coast in the foreground you can see wisps of what looks like milk in the water.  Those are ice flows that are starting to coalesce into massive sheets.  
Volcanoes of Kamchatka 
We then headed out over the Aleutians, and as I floated in the cupola juggling three cameras I saw long streamlines of clouds flowing south across Bristol Bay.  The clouds then ran into the Alaska Peninsula and there the streamlines met their match.  
Downwind of Shishaldin and Pavlof volcanoes, the streamlines became swirls that extended for a thousand miles or more into the north Pacific.  
Von Karman Vortex Streets
Those two trails of swirls are Von Karman vortex streets, named after the aerodynamicist who explained the phenomenon.  In a nut shell, when airflow of the correct speed passes over a round body (like a volcano, for instance), vortices will be shed alternately from one side and then the other.  It’s the same mechanism that can make power or phone lines “sing” in a gale.  If you know the diameter of the wire and the pitch of the tone (or in this case the size of the volcano and the spacing of the swirls) you can calculate the wind speed.  It’s classic aerodynamics, but on a thousands of miles scale. 
Putting the aerodynamics demonstration astern, Kodiak Island came into view and I couldn’t help but think of all those Coasties (members of the United States Coast Guard) down there on fisheries patrol or flying out the Aleutians on a SAR (search and rescue) case. 
Moonrise over the Yukon and Kodiak, Alaska 
Just as I was thinking about that, the moon started to rise over the Yukon with Kodiak in the foreground.  It was a magnificent sight.  To all the Coasties in Alaska, and across the US and the world, I salute you.  Our service is about saving property and lives on the seas. and you do it exquisitely well.

A Beacon For The Holidays

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cross post with fragileoasis.org

Welcoming our new crewmates, Oleg Kononenko, Andre Kuipers and Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station on Friday was wonderful, made all the more so as it came just before Christmas.  
Anton Shkaplerov, Anatoly Ivanishin and I have been operating the ISS ourselves for over a month and are happy to have reinforcements, but also very glad to be able to spend the holidays with three good friends.  
After they docked to ISS, we helped them settle in and then gave them a tour of the station.  It’s a magnificent, nearly million pound spaceship jointly built by 15 nations from across the globe.  In addition to being a one of a kind, world class research laboratory and humanity’s outpost in space, it’s a great testament to our ability as human beings to do extraordinarily difficult things when we work together.  
Although Oleg, Don and Andre are all veteran ISS flyers, they, like we, were surprised by the view of earth from the Cupola, a 360 degree window on the world located in the Node 3 or Tranquility module.  
To call that view breathtaking is no overstatement.  From there, we have a virtually uninterrupted view for thousands of miles in all directions.  We see auroras, volcanoes, coral atolls, and sweeping expanses of mountain ranges, desert and ocean.  With the exception of nighttime city lights, what we don’t see is much evidence of our planet’s seven billion inhabitants or of the struggles that many face to survive.  Tranquility’s window provides a view of earth as peaceful as it is beautiful. 
On the day last week that our crewmates left planet Earth bound for the ISS, we were treated to another incredible sight — just in time for the holidays.  Comet Lovejoy, which unexpectedly survived a close encounter with the sun’s atmosphere, painted glowing swath of light millions of miles long across dense star fields of the southern night sky.  During several of our daily 15 sunrises onboard ISS we’re able to see the comet in the predawn moments.  We are certainly very fortunate to have the opportunity to fly in space and to see such splendid sights.  We are also fortunate to represent space agencies and countries committed to mankind making a home in space and to applying what we learn here to make life better on earth. 
On behalf of the Expedition 30 crew, we wish everyone a happy, safe, and most of all peaceful holiday.

The Most Beautiful Holiday Card

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Cross post with fragileoasis.org

Our planet is so beautiful, peaceful and serene when you look at it from space – the most beautiful holiday card you could imagine.  On behalf of my crewmates Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin, we wish everyone on planet Earth, a happy, safe and most of all, peaceful holiday season.
Editor’s note: Would you like to send your good wishes to the crew? Next week, Dan, Anton and Anatoly will be joined by Don Pettit, André Kuipers and Oleg Kononenko, who launch to the Space Station December 21st. They would all love to hear from you in their home away from home – and it’s so easy to do!