Digital multispectral imagery collected by using two systems of similar spectral and angular resolution were compared to assess the potential of the International Space Station as an Earth-observing platform. Folds and faults associated with the Neoproterozoic Mai Kenetal synform in northern Ethiopia were imaged with the Modular Optoelectronic Multispectral Stereo Scanner (MOMS-2P) on the Russian space station Mir and the free-flying Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) system. The most important difference between MOMS-2P and Landsat TM is the much lower altitude of the former (380 km versus 705 km), so that MOMS-2P has a significantly smaller ground-resolution cell, which reveals details not apparent from TM imagery over the same area. Corresponding improvements in spatial resolution can be expected if any of the free-flying imaging systems (ASTER, SPOT, Hyperion), which fly at altitudes of 700 to 820 km, were mounted on the ISS, which orbits at 380 km. The ultralow orbit of the ISS presents an outstanding, but currently underutilized, opportunity for observing Earth.

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