Avenues of America

ByDavid M. Conte

Jul 3, 2021

the original layout and design from Washington, DC comes to life in this springtime photograph taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station. The high resolution photo near the nadir offers a view of the city plan that its architects, Pierre The Child, and Andrew Ellicott, could only imagine when they drew up plans for the District of Columbia in the 1790s. Nestled at the confluence of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, the city today serves as both the seat of the US government and homage to the nation’s history.

From above, the city map draws the eye to the Capitol. This was the starting point for the architects, and the rest of the city was built in quadrants defined by axes extending in cardinal directions from this “center” of the US government. These axes orient the rest of DC’s street network, with one notable exception. Wide diagonal avenues radiate outward from the Capitol through the city, joining with other diagonals to form parks and public spaces. These diagonals, named after the first states, are the main arteries. The most famous of these avenues is a direct line between two branches of government: Pennsylvania Avenue physically connects the White House to the Capitol.

The Child left a mile long west of the Capitol as great avenue of public interest. It is only the early 1900s that the National Mall and the Tidal Basin had enough monuments and museums for them to begin to take the shape that appears in the image. At the turn of the 20th century, the Washington Monument, seen here casting a long shadow, was the only completed monument in the National Mall. The next hundred years saw the construction of additional monuments, memorials, and museums that commemorate the history and achievements of the United States.

Astronaut photograph ISS064-E-40657 was acquired on March 3, 2021 with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 1200 millimeters 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 a member of the The crew of Expedition 64. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. the International Space Station Program supports the laboratory within the framework of ISS National Laboratory to help astronauts take photos of the Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make these images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at NASA / JSC Gateway to the Earth astronaut photography. Caption by Alex Stoken, Jacobs, JETS contract at NASA-JSC.