Nebraska: Through the Eyes of Astronauts

Bradley Rundquist

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Nebraska is located in the western part of the north-central region of the United States. The 37th state in the Union, Nebraska extends about 420 miles from east to west and 210 miles from north to south. The capital is Lincoln. The Nebraska climate is dry continental, exhibiting great extremes between summer and winter temperatures. The French and Spanish explored Nebraska during the 16th and 18th centuries. During the great westward expansion Nebraska grew from a wilderness to a state with more than 1 million inhabitants in less than two generations. Nebraska occupies an area of 77,355 square miles and has a population of 1,578,385 (1990). Presented here are selected Space Shuttle photographs of Nebraska, taken with hand-held cameras by the astronauts.

Space Shuttle Photographs Captions
1. STS028-093-096 A portion of the film carried aboard the Space Shuttle each mission is sensitive to color infrared (CIR) light. Healthy vegetation strongly reflects near-infrared light, and, therefore, registers a strong response on CIR film. Here, healthy vegetation in the Scottsbluff area is depicted in red. Images such as this are useful for mapping agricultural land cover and, when compared to similar images from other times, land-cover change. (Aug. 10, 1989)
2. STS059-219-022 A band of snow blankets the area west of Holdrege (the town is visible at highway intersections) and south of the Platte River in south central Nebraska. This detailed, near-vertical photo reveals patterns of agricultural land cover, transportation, and drainage. Numerous round-shaped fields, irrigated with center-pivots, dot the landscape. (April 13, 1994)
3. STS059-090-065 The ability of astronauts to image the Earth at any oblique angle, thus capturing regional views, makes Space Shuttle photography unique in space-based sensoring. Centered on the Sand Hills, this photo depicts all of western and southwestern Nebraska, as well as parts of South Dakota and Colorado. Visible at upper left is the Earth's curvature, or limb, and our planet's thin, blue atmosphere. The round, dark land mass nearby is the Black Hills of South Dakota. Several water bodies along the Platte Valley are apparent, including Lake McConaughy and Sutherland Reservoir near center. East of North Platte, which can be seen near the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers, are two bands of snow, one north and one south of the Platte River Valley. (April 15, 1994)