The spectacular Grand Canyon reigns below wispy clouds in a new jaw-dropping view from the International Space Station (ISS).
This image was captured by the student-controlled Sally Ride EarthKAM camera on the ISS. The camera is named after the late NASA astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, who initiated the development of a predecessor program, called KidSat. (Ride died in 2012 of pancreatic cancer.) [Amazing Photos of U.S. National Parks from Space]
"The Sally Ride Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (Sally Ride EarthKAM) program provides a unique educational opportunity for thousands of students multiple times a year," NASA officials wrote in an image description. "EarthKAM is an international award-winning education program, allowing students to photograph and analyze our planet from the perspective of the International Space Station."
To operate EarthKAM, students use a web-based interface to remotely control a digital camera on the space station. That allows them to photograph the coastlines, mountain ranges and other interesting geographical features of Earth, NASA officials said.
EarthKAM has been in operation since the first mission to the space station, Expedition 1, in 2000. It is used for about four missions per year. The next program, Mission 58, begins this fall. Middle school teachers and students who are interested in participating in the program can apply via the EarthKAM website.
The Grand Canyon awes tourists with its immense size. It is about 277 miles (446 kilometers) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and 1 mile (1.6 km) deep, according to the U.S. National Park Service.