Since November 2000, six men and women have been living and working aboard the International Space Station ISS. The 12-hour days of the astronauts spend them doing scientific research and exploring.
On a recent trip, the Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli has created personal time to take 150 photos of the space station. Nespoli made detailed instructions to him from the Earth, dean of the College of Lake County, Roland Miller, and noticed the space program photographer.
Miller had his photos of abandoned space programs and the Space Shuttle program at art museums and space research centers across the country. He said the documentation of the space station, or ISS, was the logical next step.
"The ISS is one of the most advanced structures humans have ever built, but it will not last forever," Miller said. "We have to take a picture of what the ISS looked like and that affects both the inside and the outside."
The resulting photos are a mixture of visual art and documentation.
The Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli hovered in weightlessness last year when he took pictures aboard the International Space Station.
– Paolo Nespoli Image courtesy of NASA and the Italian Space Agency
A photograph shows the entrance to the Cupola module, part of the ISS, whose large windows face the Earth and are similar to the Millennium Falcon's cockpit from "Star Wars". Outside the windows, a strange cloud pattern meanders across the earth.
Another photograph shows the detail of an astronaut workstation, complete with a bag filled with a selection of tools known as the Land of Fallible Toys.
The project is one of the few that has accomplished such an artistic achievement in space.
Among those who appreciate Miller's work is former astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman, who said his work is celebrated by many in the space program.
"I really want to thank Roland for bringing the space station home for more than just people," Coleman said of Miller's ISS project.
Coleman spent six months on the ISS, starting in December 2010. While there she played a flute duet with Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull in the first collaboration in the field of space arts.
Miller said his music project was a great model he could incorporate into visual art. Miller photographed spacecraft and structures on Earth for a long time. His 2016 book, "Abandoned on the Ground: Preserving America's Space History," collected 113 images of facilities across the country that had once played a crucial role in space racing.
"There is something very compelling about his photographs that captures the mind of these places," said Coleman.
Miller was lucky that Nespoli, who had learned photography in the Italian army, was to return to space. Coleman worked with Nespoli on the ISS, and when Miller told her about his project idea, she knew that Nespoli would be the perfect collaborator and that he would turn to him in the name of Miller.
"There will not always be someone else's eyes and ears for another photographer," said Coleman. "Paolo has the eyes, the ears and the soul to do that for someone else."
The view of clouds on the Earth from the best viewpoint of the International Space Station, the Cupola module, in 2017. The image was taken during his 2017 flight by Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli.
– Paolo Nespoli and Roland Miller Courtesy of NASA and the Italian Space Agency
During their first phone call, Nespoli Miller said how important it was for him to connect the humanities with the sciences and preserve the ISS. Miller said he knew he had found the right person for the project.
Miller spent hundreds of hours taking photos on Earth to send to the space station for Nespoli to replicate in zero gravity. First Miller photographed the complete ISS model at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Later, he used Google's 360-degree view of the space station and sent screenshots.
Even with Miller's reference photos, it was not so easy to take a look at the actual space station as to show and shoot.
The room The station moves through space at around 17,500 mph and vibrates slightly, so stabilizing the camera was a problem. Thanks to microgravity, traditional photography tripods have been rendered useless.
So Nespoli improvised two support arms that prevented small objects from floating around the station to achieve the necessary stability.
Miller said During the six months that Nespoli was aboard the ISS, the astronaut probably spent four to six hours on the project, which Miller greatly appreciates.
"It was a tremendous amount of time," Miller said. "It could be his last trip to space and he spent part of it on this project."
Upon his return to Earth, Nespoli Miller met in Washington, D.C., to shoot a series of videos about the project. Their conversation touched the future of art in space.
"I think while I'm up there, my pictures were good, but what would happen if there were a photographer like me you would focus on for six months," Nespoli told Miller. I can only imagine what might come out of that. "
Coleman shared Nespoli's desire to open space to artists.
" Things like music and art and poetry doing there puts humanity into space, "Coleman said. "Not just doing work, but being human up there."
The two men are working on putting their photos in a book and exhibiting their work in the US and Italy, but Miller said there is no schedule for each Project.