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NASA is asking for your help.
No, you do not get to go to space.
You do, however, get to view hundreds of thousands of images taken from space. Via The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, NASA is making available images ranging from the Mercury missions of the 1960s to photos recently snapped from the International Space Station.
The hope, NASA says, is that the images “could help save energy, contribute to better human health and safety and improve our understanding of atmospheric chemistry. But scientists need your help to make that happen.”
The catalog contains more than 1.8 million photos, about 1.3 million of them from the space station and roughly 30% of them taken at night.
Before 2003, night images from the space station could be blurry, even with high-speed film and manual tracking, because the station moves at about 17,500 mph. In 2003, enterprising astronaut Don Pettit used a drill and assorted parts he found on the station to cobble together a “barn-door tracker,” a lower-tech predecessor to the European Space Agency’s NightPod, which was installed at the space station nine years later.
NightPod’s motorized tripod compensates for the space station’s speed, providing what NASA scientist William Stefanov says are the highest-resolution night images from orbit. Satellites collect data more regularly, but the photos tend to be lower resolution.
“Now the pictures are clear, but their location may not be, which limits their usefulness. That’s where citizen science comes in,” the NASA news release says.