Patterns in Crew-Initiated Photography of Earth From ISS — Is Earth Observation a Salutogenic Experience?
Robinson JA, et al. (2006). "Patterns in Crew-Initiated Photography of Earth From ISS -- Is Earth Observation a Salutogenic Experience?." 57th International Astronautical Congress
Background: To provide for the well-being of crewmembers on future exploration missions, understanding how space station crewmembers handle the inherently stressful isolation and confinement during long-duration missions is important. A recent retrospective survey of previously flown astronauts found that the most commonly reported psychologically enriching aspects of spaceflight had to do with their “Perceptions of Earth.” Crewmembers onboard the International Space Station (ISS) photograph Earth through the station windows. Some of these photographs are in response to requests from scientists on the ground through the Crew Earth Observations (CEO) payload. Other photographs taken by crewmembers have not been in response to these formal requests. The automatically recorded data from the camera provides a dataset that can be used to test hypotheses about factors correlated with self-initiated crewmember photography. The present study used objective in-flight data to corroborate the previous questionnaire finding and to further investigate the nature of voluntary Earth-Observation activity. Methods: We examined the distribution of photographs with respect to time, crew, and subject matter. We also determined whether the frequency fluctuated in conjunction with major mission events such as vehicle dockings, and extra-vehicular activities (EVAs, or spacewalks), relative to the norm for the relevant crew. We also examined the influence of geographic and temporal patterns on frequency of Earth photography activities. We tested the hypotheses that there would be peak photography intensity over locations of personal interest, and on weekends. Results: From December 2001 through October 2005 (Expeditions 4-11) crewmembers took 144,180 photographs of Earth with time and date automatically recorded by the camera. Of the time-stamped photographs, 84.5% were crew-initiated, and not in response to CEO requests. Preliminary analysis indicated some phasing in patterns of photography during the course of a mission (significant quadratic and trimodal models). There was also a small but significant increase in photo activity on the weekends. In contrast, fewer photos were taken during major station events and for a period of time immediately preceding those events. Discussion: Data on photography patterns presented here represent a relatively objective group-level measure of Earth observing activities on ISS. Crew Earth Observations offers a self-initiated positive activity that may be important in salutogenesis (maintenance of well-being) of astronauts on long-duration missions. Consideration should be given to developing substitute activities for crewmembers in future exploration missions where there will not be the opportunity to look at Earth, such as on long-duration transits to Mars.