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For those who live and work in a space station, seeing out of the ordinary things is not uncommon. Nevertheless, when something unexpected appears, alarming feelings creep up. Astronauts are trained for years to know how to act when something unpredictable happens. However, when the International Space Station's camera caught something strange in one of its pictures, the astronauts onboard got startled.
While it is not a secret that NASA is often launching spaceships and satellites into orbit, they also operate some lesser-known projects. For instance, there is a team of scientists that are studying the possibility of the end of the world. Yes, you read that right!
The person behind this project is Lindley Johnson, who is an Air Force veteran and joined NASA back in 2003. Even though it might seem scary that someone is working on projects related to doomsday, Johnson’s plan is to approach any opportunity with an analytical mindset in order to find possible solutions for an unknown future.
Lindley Johnson and his team are studying what would be the implications for life on Earth in the case of a potential asteroid hitting the planet. While it is possible that the massive spacial rock would land on the ocean, Lindley wants to ensure that every possibility is thought about and a solution is found.
As such, his team is focusing their investigation on the hypothesis of giant asteroids hitting Earth on a densely populated area, such as capitals or big cities. While there is no prediction if there will ever be an asteroid in the next thousand years, Lindley wants to do whatever he can to be prepared and to prepare the future generations.
The team is currently (and continually) running simulations of an asteroid hitting Earth in order to better understand what kind of damage it would cause, depending on where it would fall. While in some situations a collision with Earth is inevitable, there are also possibilities of the asteroid not even coming near the planet.
Lindley and his team have been working on these simulations for several years, and they received a budget increase from $5 million to $50 million in 2015. This allows the team to have access to more tools, more people, and eventually, for all of us to be better prepared for any possible situation.
The short answer is yes. Even though it isn’t publicized as to not cause panic, NASA has cataloged over two thousand asteroids in our solar system that would be able to destroy an entire continent if they were to fall on Earth. Nevertheless, there is no need to worry, as Lindley has a plan!
According to their studies, the most efficient way to save planet Earth, in this case, would be to redirect the asteroid via the usage of kinetic impactors. In a simple manner, automatically driven spaceships would crash into the asteroid at a high speed and deflect it away from Earth. But this is not their only option!
NASA has predicted a series of hypothetical solutions for different cases and different types of asteroids, and they keep doing other tasks in order to improve their predictions even further. One way of doing that is by installing more orbital telescopes that monitor any dangerous asteroids or meteorites in our solar system.
George Aldrich has always been a fan of the sky and everything beyond, he didn’t start his career in this field. In fact, he began working as a volunteer for the fire department of his residence town. Due to his recent studies within chemistry and mathematics, his superior approached him with a suggestion.
He was invited to join the department’s odor panel, which allowed him to train his sense of smell, and discover if there were any gas leaks in the vicinity before an explosion happen. While this was a very rewarding job, and he managed to help several people, he just knew that he was meant for bigger things.
In 1974, George decided that it was now or never, and applied for a position at NASA. While the exams are not easy and the selection process is one of the hardest in the world, George was successful and was invited to join them as a Chemical Specialist.
According to him, his responsibility was to put into practice what he had learned during his service as a firefighter. He would basically smell everything that went into the spacecraft for a long period of time in order to prevent bad odors from making it into space.
If you were to be for weeks on end in close quarters with recirculated air, you probably wouldn’t want bad smells stinking up the place, right? And that is exactly what George Aldrich and his team are trying to prevent. These scientists inspect the smell of each little piece of cargo before it gets onboard.
Having been working as a smell specialist for years, even before joining NASA, he has become one of the most trained official sniffers of the team, with his official number approaching one thousand. But, how do they know what can make it to the spacecraft and what doesn’t?
The team has to scrutinize every single object and ensure that they are rating it according to its smell on a scale of zero to four. If any object is rated above 2.5, the team suggests that it doesn’t leave the planet in order to not cause any disturbances in the air within the craft.
While it might seem like a strange job to have, this team has an important role in the safety of the astronauts, ensuring that there are no toxic materials being moved to space. Although there are several chemicals that make it to the spaceship, sometimes the most problematic objects are those you would least expect.
For instance, George has realized that a camera film is toxic and that Velcro’s smell is quite intense and could cause a lot of problems to those who have to live in the spacecraft. Sadly, not every smell can be left on Earth, as the body odor of the astronauts themselves can become quite pungent over time! But, what shocking image did they see from Space?
Back in 2019, the crew from the Space Station was surprised by a startling image that was captured on the camera. While they often see spectacular views of outer space, they were not prepared for what they would discover. For several moments, they tried to figure out what it really was, with no success.
The clouds were covering Earth, which didn’t allow them to have a clear picture of what really was being cast from the planet. Even though they tried their best, the visibility was terrible, which paired with the fact they were thousands of miles away from Earth, didn’t help them make out what it was that they were seeing.
Sadly, there was really nothing the crew could do in order to better see what was happening on Earth, except for waiting until the clouds dispersed. While this could be something quick, especially in the case of fast-moving winds, unfortunately, it didn’t happen during that day, and they had to wait until their orbit around the planet was over.
After the space station orbited the planet, the astronauts were able to see what was first captured in their lenses the previous day. They discovered that the unexpected mass they could see from space was actually a volcano erupting, which created a gigantic cloud of fire and gas.
Worried about the people who lived close to the volcano, they tried to find out where it was located. Luckily, it was the Raikoke volcano which is situated off the coast of Japan and is part of the well-known Ring of Fire. Something they did discover was that this was an incredible scene they were able to witness.
In fact, the volcano is located in an uninhabited area of the Kuril Islands in Japan, and it had only erupted twice before. The first event happened in 1778, and the second in 1924. How wonderful was it that the astronauts could see this rare occurrence from space?
Quickly after, the astronauts sent their pictures of the eruption back to the ground-station, which shared them with space fans across the world. While this was an unexpected event, it is not uncommon for the ISS crew to share images of space for some of NASA’s top-secret projects as we have shared above.
Luckily for us, there are teams of people working together to ensure that both the Earth and those in outer space are safe, and thus giving us a little more sense of safety in our daily lives. Which team do you think would be more interesting to work with? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to share this story with your friends!