This photograph from the International Space Station shows 18 kilometers (11.2 mile) of the Intracoastal Waterway, the 4,800 kilometer-long (3,000 mile) barge channel that lies on the protected inshore of coastal islands of the southern and eastern United States, including coastal Texas. The small city of Port Aransas lies on a barrier island fully 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) seaward of the mainland and its sister city, Aransas Pass (lower left). This photo shows parts of the waterway that are artificial, such as the straight sector leading into Corpus Christi Bay (lies outside the lower margin of the image.) Other sectors of the waterway are natural bays such as Aransas Bay.
Jetties protect the inlet into the Gulf of Mexico (image top right). Inlets at many points along the Intracoastal Waterway cut through barrier islands to give ships access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Several large rivers allow access from the waterway to distant inland ports, as in the cases of the Mississippi and Hudson Rivers. A recent study concluded that shipments by barge in the Gulf Coast sector of the waterway remain the lowest-cost alternative for many commodities, with petroleum and petroleum products amounting to 30 percent of the total tonnage.
Astronaut photograph ISS038-E-57806 was acquired on February 21, 2014, with a Nikon D3X digital camera using a 1000 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 38 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Jacobs at NASA-JSC.