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STS045-151-145
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Spacecraft nadir point: 47.0° N, 60.7° E

Photo center point: 45.0° N, 59.0° E

Nadir to Photo Center: Southwest

Spacecraft Altitude: 165 nautical miles (306km)
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Image Caption:
STS045-151-145 and 21/STS51F-36-059: Aral Sea, Russia This pho-
tograph shows the vast but rather shallow Aral Sea, once the
fourth largest lake in the world, now approximately 435 km (270
miles) long and 290Jkm (180 miles) wide. More than a third of its
area is less than 10 meters (33 feet) deep, with just one small
area reaching its maximum depth of 69Jmeters (225 feet). The
large white patches seen in this photo indicate that portions of
the lake and its shorelines are probably frozen.

Situated in the middle of an immense desert, much like the Great
Salt Lake of Utah, the Aral Sea is landlocked at the center of a
broad basin. Rivers flow in but not out; water escapes only by
evaporation. Although the water level has risen and fallen sub-
stantially in the past, yearly inflow during the last decade has
been declining, because water has been diverted to numerous irri-
gation projects. Recent estimates are that since 1960 the lakeUs
water level has dropped 46 feet and its surface has shrunk by al-
most 40%. The salinity of the lake has nearly tripled. Salt
sheets as much as 100Jkilometers long rim the shore in some
places. Winds dump some 47 million tons of dried salt onto sur-
rounding agricultural areas each year. In its dwindled state,
the Aral Sea no longer exerts a moderating influence on air tem-
perature, and the growing season has been shortened. Twenty
species of fish in the Aral Sea have become extinct, spelling the
end of a fishing industry that at one time employed 60,000 peo-
ple. Shuttle photographs have allowed scientists to map ancient
shorelines and monitor the fluctuation of the water level.

Analysis done by the scientists in the JSC Flight Science Branch
(Lulla and Helfert) show that small Aral Sea has declined almost
38% and the large Aral Sea has declined 20% since 1977. The pho-
tograph from your mission provides a dramatic evidence that the
large island Vozrozhdeniye has grown area at least 375% since
1977. This dramatic photograph is a valuable addition to the da-
tabase on this region.



Situated in the middle of an immense desert, much like the Great Salt Lake of Utah, the Aral Sea (45.0N, 59.0E) is landlocked in the center of a broad basin. Rivers flow in but not out; water escapes only by evaporation. In recent years, river water has been diverted for agricultural irrigation and the lake level has fallen 40 to 50 ft., its surface has shrunk by almost 40 % and the salinity has almost tripled. Twenty species of fish are now extinct.