Although the pictures of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey on Earth leave little to the imagination, seeing it from space confirms the enormous power the hurricane had. Taken by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik from the International Space Station orbiting Earth at 400 km altitude, Randy commented, “The destructive power beneath the clouds of Hurricane Harvey ruins any thought of the beauty of the cloud formations from above”.
The hurricane hit mainland USA and caused flooding and damage affecting hundreds of thousands of people. The city of Houston was hit with much of its force including NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the main site for astronauts and the International Space Station. Mission control in Houston remained operational despite the centre being closed from August 28 until today – flight controllers slept on site in makeshift beds as entrance to the facility was difficult due to floods.
After record rainfall for five days, the storm passed, leaving many people without homes, water or electricity. ESA has many staff members working at Johnson Space Center including ESA astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andreas Mogensen. People in Houston are now working to rebuild damaged property.
Among the many consequences of the hurricane, was the delay of the departure of NASA’s G5 plane from Houston to collect NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer from their landing site after their mission on the International Space Station. An ESA plane was sent to retrieve the two astronauts in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, and brought them back to Cologne, home of ESA’s astronaut centre for a stopover before continuing to USA.
ESA’s Director General Jan Woerner said, “Spaceflight is a global endeavour and partnerships created by the International Space Station extend beyond space back to Earth. Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by Harvey, our American colleagues and their friends and families.”