It was Texas hot when this view of the capital city of Austin was taken in late July by astronaut Ed Lu. Adding to the rising temperatures were heated debates in the Texas Capitol Building, where a special session had convened. Eleven democratic senators thwarted a redistricting vote by disappearing from the state. Were Lu, and his Expedition 7 partner Yuri Malenchenko looking for the missing democratic senators? We'll never know, but they expanded their Austin search a week later with a wider view of Austin, taken with a 400 mm lens on August 6.
Austin is an expanding city in the Texas hill country. A few decades ago Austin was known as a place where University of Texas students and state politicians co-existed along the banks of the Colorado River (seen snaking along the lower left of the image). Today, the exploding population (44% growth between 1990 and 2000) and increasing development stresses local resources like water, green space, and transportation networks, prompting city planners to think through scenarios for future development.
Documenting city environments and city footprints over time is one of the science objectives of the Crew Earth Observations payload on the International Space Station. Astronauts have always enjoyed observing cities around the world. These images of Austin provide a 2003 baseline for monitoring its regional development and growth.