International Space Stations ISERVE Camera Sends Back First Photo

NASA has released the first photo of Earth sent down from the International Space Station’s (ISS) new ISERVE camera system.

The ISERVE Pathfinder system was installed in ISS in January, and snapped its first photo the day before Valentine’s Day.

The first shot shows the Rio San Pablo pouring into the Golfo de Montijo in Veraguas, Panama. It’s an area set aside for protection by the National Environmental Authority of Panama. Panama calls it a “wetland of International importance.”

ISERVE is positioned in the Earth-facing window of ISS’s Destiny module. Ultimately it is intended to help monitor natural disasters and environmental concerns

“We hope it will really make a difference in people’s lives,” said principal investigator Burgess Howell of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “For example, if an earthen dam gives way in Bhutan, we want to be able to show officials where the bridge is out or where a road is washed out or a power substation is inundated. This kind of information is critical to focus and speed rescue efforts.”

Depending on the space station’s orbit, photographic data can be provided to earth in as little as three hours, or as long as several days.

Scientist involved in the project can imagine all the ways ISERVE will be used, but they’re open to let it evolve. The first phase is to shoot a lot of photos of different locations to discover what the system’s strengths and weaknesses will be.

When not fulfilling its most dire responsibilities, it will send back a lot of pretty pictures. Its location in ISS gives ISERVE a view from which it can photograph 90% of Earth’s populated areas.

The camera system will be controlled from NASA Marchall in Huntsville, Alabama. When needed to provide photographic information during a natural disaster, the engineers will have the camera take high resolution photos at 3 to 7 frames a second providing up to 100 images per pass. Resolution is sharp enough that it can capture anything larger than a cow.

To see a high resolution copy of “First Light,” you can download it from NASA. The file is 8MB, JPEG, 3451×4525.