NASA to get space station view of Earth-bound asteroids, meteors

NASA’s Meteor investigation camera is programmed to record known major meteor showers

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Astronaut Ron Garan, Expedition 28 flight engineer, tweeted this image from the International Space Station in August, 2011 with the following caption: “What a `Shooting Star’ looks like from space, taken yesterday during Perseid Meteor Shower.”

Credit: NASA

NASA will by the end of July get a birds-eye view of meteors and asteroids from a special camera mounted on the inside of the International Space Station.

The Meteor investigation camera is programmed to record known major meteor showers during its two-year orbit and could also spot unpredicted showers. The Meteor study will help scientists better understand the asteroids and comets crossing Earth’s orbit and could help protect spacecraft and Earth from potential collisions with this celestial debris., NASA said.

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The Meteor investigation camera.

“Space-based viewing of meteor showers offers many advantages over traditional observation by ground- or aircraft-based instruments. Viewing from the station is not affected by weather or interference from Earth’s atmosphere. Instruments on Earth are also limited to short periods of observation time and viewing field, but the camera aboard the station will record for roughly 560 minutes every day. That is the amount of time the station is in darkness as it orbits Earth 16 times a day,” NASA stated.

The Meteor investigation camera will be installed in the ISS’ Window Observational Research Facility or WORF. WORF offers a stable platform for hand-held photography and is the highest optical-quality window ever installed on a human space vehicle, NASA said. The Window permits the use of high-resolution cameras from inside the station rather than outside, where instruments are subject to the vacuum and extreme temperatures of space.

From NASA: “WORF includes a means of preventing the formation of condensation on the interior surface of the window and a retractable bump shield to protect the interior window surface from impacts of loose tools and hardware being used in the WORF payload volume during the set-up and change out of sensor packages by the crew. The interior of the WORF provides a non-reflective, light-tight environment to minimize stray reflections and glare off the window allowing the use of equipment that is  sensitive to extremely low energy phenomena such as auroras. An opaque fabric shroud can be attached to the front of the rack to allow crewmembers to work in the WORF without the problem of glare from the U.S. Laboratory interior lights.”

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The Meteor package is slated to fly on the SpaceX-7/Dragon resupply mission scheduled for June 28. This is the second attempt to fly the Meteor project to the ISS. The first was destroyed onboard the Orbital Science Cygnus mission which exploded moments after launch on Oct. 28, 2014.

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