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International Space Station Archaeological Project - Sampling Quadrangle Assemblages Research Experiment (SQuARE) images - Square 05, contexts 0-59

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posted on 2024-05-13, 17:56 authored by Justin St. P. WalshJustin St. P. Walsh, Alice GormanAlice Gorman

Between January and March 2022, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) performed the first archaeological work in space, the Sampling Quadrangle Assemblages Research Experiment (SQuARE). The experiment aimed to: (1) develop a new understanding of how humans adapt to life in an environmental context for which we are not evolutionarily adapted, using evidence from the observation of material culture; (2) locate disjunctions between planned and actual usage of facilities on a space station; (3) develop and test techniques that enable archaeological research at a distance; and (4) demonstrate the relevance of social science methods and perspectives for improving life in space.

The crew of the ISS marked out six sample locations (“squares”) around the ISS and documented them through daily photography over a 60-day period. Here we present the results from two of the six squares: an equipment maintenance area, and an area near exercise equipment and the latrine. Using the photographs and an innovative webtool, we identified 5,438 instances of items, labeling them by type and function. We then performed chronological analyses to determine how the documented areas were actually used. Our results show differences between intended and actual use, with storage the most common function of the maintenance area, and caring for and cleaning the body most common in the area designated for exercise and waste.

The images in this collection are the ones used to document Square 05, on the aft wall of the US Node 3 module. They were taken between January 21 and March 21, 2022.The filenames are in the following format: S3 (representing Square 03) - xx (representing the context number) - iss066exxxxxx (the original filename given by NASA), e.g., S03 - 02 - iss066e124435.jpg. They have been modified from the images originally received by the investigators in the following ways:

  • they have had their color and lens barrel distortion corrected;
  • they have been aligned as closely as possible with the horizontal and vertical axes of the surrounding architecture;
  • they have been cropped so that what is visible is only what is within the boundaries of the sample area of Square 03;
  • the metadata added by NASA indicating who took each photograph has been deleted to protect private information;

Other metadata, such as camera and lens type, exposure details, and the date and time of the making of the photograph are intact. In the images representing contexts 50 and 52 from both squares, however, the date and time metadata are incorrect, due to an error in the camera which reset to the earliest possible date in the camera's software (January 1, 2016 at 12:00 AM). Using visual cues in other images (visible clocks), we were able to approximate  within a few minutes the actual time in the data recorded in Rocket-Anno (available through our GitHub repository).


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