ESA astronaut Tim Peake took this image from the International Space Station on his six-month Principia mission.
On the left is the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft that bought Tim Peake, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra and commander Yuri Malenchenko to the Space Station on 15 December 2015. It docked to the Russian Rassvet module after Yuri manually approached and made contact with the International Space Station.
Next to the Soyuz is the Cygnus supply spacecraft that arrived at the Space Station six days before the Tims and Yuri on 9 December. Cygnus is uncrewed and flies to the Space Station in an automated mode. The spacecraft is then grappled by the 16-m Canadarm and moved to berth with a docking port, here on the US Unity module.
The picture shows how close the spacecraft are to each other – when they arrive and leave they fly at speeds of 28 800 km/h, just like the International Space Station. Cygnus is scheduled to leave the Station 19 February, the Canadarm has already been moved into position ready for its release and deployment. The Cygnus will burn up harmlessly on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere with waste materials from the Space Station. The astronauts have been busy preparing for its departure loading it with waste.
The difference in the spacecraft’s solar arrays are obvious. The Soyuz solar array unfolds in a traditional accordion style, whereas the Cygnus uses a newer fan-like technique resulting in the circular ‘umbrella’ formation.
In the background Earth can be seen with the new day beginning to the left of the image. For the people living in the darker regions it was night at the time Tim took this picture.
Capital of the Charente-Maritime department in western France, La Rochelle and surroundings are featured in this Sentinel-2A image, captured on 26 December 2015.
Home to some 80 000 people, La Rochelle is a city and a seaport on the Bay of Biscay, a part of the Atlantic Ocean, connected to the Île de Ré by a 2.9 km-long bridge, clearly visible in the centre of the image.
La Rochelle and surrounding areas sit on layers of limestone dating back some 160 million years, when a large part of France was under water. These various layers containing many small marine fossils are traditionally used as the main construction material throughout the region.
The coastal area is dominated by sandy beaches, which are visible as white lines somewhat inland. Between the beach and the water-line, darker sand and silt layers are visible, which are exposed in this image taken during low tide.
The 4–5 m tidal range creates a heaven for wild mussels and oysters, making it one of the major places for shell farming in Europe.
Also visible just north of the city is the La Rochelle-Ile de Ré airport.
Thanks to the high-resolution multispectral instrument on Sentinel-2A, we can clearly make out the various agricultural fields around the city and surrounding towns, as well as on the Île de Ré Island.
Part of the Natural Reserve of the Bay of Aiguillon is visible at top right. It is one of the most important reserves in France, hosting hundreds of thousands of migratory water birds every year.
It is a place of synergy between land and sea, between saltwater and freshwater, and between nature and humankind.
Sentinel-2A has been in orbit since 23 June 2015 as a polar-orbiting, high-resolution satellite for land monitoring, providing imagery of vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas.
This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Sentinel-3A, the third ESA-developed Copernicus satellite carrying four Earth-observing instruments, was launched on 16 February 2016, and will provide a ‘bigger picture’ for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme.
The 1150 kg satellite was carried into orbit on a Rockot launcher from Plesetsk, Russia, at 17:57 GMT (18:57 CET; 20:57 local time). The first signals were received from space after 92 min via ESA’s Kiruna ground station in Sweden. Telemetry links and attitude control were immediately established by teams at ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, allowing them to monitor the health of the satellite and take over control of the mission.
This ‘team of teams’ involves some 50 engineers and scientists at ESOC, including spacecraft engineers, specialists working on tracking stations and the sophisticated ‘ground segment’ – the hardware and software used to control the satellite and distribute its data – and experts working in flight dynamics, software and networks, as well as simulation and training teams.
Representatives from ESA’s Sentinel project team, as well as several operations engineers integrated within the Flight Control Team and shared with Eumetsat, the European organisation for the exploitation of meteorological satellites, are also working to ensure the success of this crucial mission.
This image shows a crater-filled region in the northeastern part of the Moon. Several features are visible here, including, to the left of the frame, the small Keldysh crater peeking into view. Below and to the right of Keldysh is the small depression of Hercules F, which sits to the left of the faint and eroded rim of Atlas E. The largest and most prominent feature, visible towards the top right of the frame, is Atlas crater.
Atlas is a couple of kilometres deep and nearly 90 km in diameter, with an outline that is slightly more polygonal than circular. The crater floor is peppered with hills, rifts and fractures that surround a clearly visible central mountain (seen casting a shadow). Some of the crater’s features are thought to have been influenced or shaped by volcanism – most prominently, the branching web of deep fissures and cracks stretching throughout the crater, known as Rimae Atlas.
Just below Atlas, out of frame, lies the Hercules crater, the ‘parent’ of Hercules F. Hercules F is known as a satellite crater. Most lunar craters are satellites; one major feature is originally named, and any surrounding satellites take on the same moniker followed by a capital letter: Atlas, Atlas A, and so on. Keldysh, the leftmost crater in this frame, was originally called Hercules A before it was renamed by the International Astronomical Union in the early 1980s.
This practice, of studying, mapping and naming the features on the lunar surface is known as selenography. The Moon’s features are usually named after either mythological figures, as demonstrated by Atlas and Hercules, or in recognition of deceased scientists or explorers, as is the case with Keldysh, which is named for Soviet mathematician Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh (1911–78). Keldysh was a key figure in the Soviet space programme.
This view of the Moon was captured by SMART-1’s camera on 3 February 2006, when the craft was 2474 km above the surface. ESA’s SMART-1, short for Small Missions for Advanced Research and Technology-1, was launched on 27 September 2003. For 14 months it followed a long, spiralling trajectory around Earth towards the Moon as it tested new technologies, including solar electric propulsion. It orbited the Moon from 15 November 2004 until 3 September 2006, when it was intentionally sent crashing onto the lunar surface to end its mission.
OSIRIS narrow-angle camera image taken on 13 February 2016, when Rosetta was 45.8 km from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The scale is 0.82 m/pixel.
More details via the OSIRIS Image of the Day website.
The Arda Valles region of Mars, comprising the network of drainage valleys seen in the left-hand portion of the image. The region lies on the western rim of an ancient large impact basin, which can be seen in the right-hand portion of the image.
The region has been heavily influenced by the action of water. In addition to the drainage valleys, the crater to the right of centre was once filled by muddy sediments that later collapsed into the chaotic terrain seen in the crater floor. Zooming in to the left of this crater, just above the bottom central crater, reveals light-toned deposits that have been identified as clays, formed in the presence of water.
The fractured terrain to the right of the scene is also linked to the loss of underground ice and evaporating water. The fractures are also likely linked to stresses in the surface materials due to the compaction of sediments deposited by water.
The region was imaged by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express on 20 July 2015 during orbit 14649. The image is centred on 19°S / 327°E; the ground resolution is about 14 m per pixel.
Schiaparelli, the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module of the ExoMars 2016 mission, being mated with the Trace Gas Orbiter on 12 February in the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.
The spacecraft are now in their launch configuration and will remain united until 16 October, when Schiaparelli will separate from the orbiter to descend to the surface of Mars on 19 October. Launch is planned for the 14-25 March launch window.
At the core of LISA Pathfinder are the two test masses: a pair of identical 46 mm gold–platinum cubes, floating freely, several millimetres from the walls of their housings. The cubes are separated by 38 cm and linked only by laser beams to measure their position continuously.
During the science operations phase, microthrusters will make minuscule shifts in order to keep the spacecraft centred on one of the masses. This will isolate the two cubes from all external and internal forces except gravity, placing them in the most precise freefall ever obtained.
Airbus Defence and Space engineers deliver the European Service Module Propulsion Qualification Module to Sweden. The tanks and equipment will propel NASA's Orion spacecraft on it first exploration mission but this model will be used to certify the design and for testing.
The model will be finished in Stockholm and sent to NASA in the summer of 2016 where further tests will be conducted in September 2016, including firing the engines.
It might look like fun at first glance but it is not – bedrest participants spend months in bed as doctors take regular blood samples and continuous tests to chart how their body reacts to a sudden sedentary lifestyle.
This is not an exercise in laziness, however. Lying in beds tilted at 6° below the horizon, blood descends to the head and muscles and bones waste away from lack of use – researchers learn more about how astronauts’ bodies cope with living in space by monitoring these healthy volunteers during their horizontal ordeal.
This image was taken during the second campaign of a 60-day bedrest study being held at the German Aerospace Centre DLR's :envihab facility in Cologne, Germany. On behalf of ESA, DLR recruited 12 people who will take part in about 90 experiments to examine, among other things, insulin resistance, the cardiovascular system, how the brain copes with the head-down rest, and how effective simulated gravity affects specific organs.
The goal is to find ways to counteract symptoms of spaceflight, such as bone loss and changes in blood flow. This study will use a newly developed exercise device that allows subjects to ‘jump’ in a horizontal position using low-pressure cylinders to recreate gravity. The experiment targets bones, muscles and coordination.
The first campaign started in August 2015 with 12 volunteers and lasted until December. The second campaign began in January and will last until April, with a total of 24 test subjects.
ESA has a long history of bedrest studies with both men and women conducted in cooperation with DLR or the French centre at MEDES in Toulouse. Together with NASA, ESA is already preparing for its next study in 2017, also at :envihab, that will test a human centrifuge.
A close-up glimpse at part of a microchip designed to provide high-frequency radar for future space missions, or else boost the speed of satellite communications.
This integrated circuit – produced for ESA by Ireland’s Arralis company – is the centrepiece of a powerful 94 GHz radar system, offering nearly 10 times sharper resolution than the landing radar used by the Apollo missions to the Moon.
“It might make planetary landings much safer in future,” explains Barry Lunn, CEO of Arralis. “This mm-wave radar could identify small but hazardous rocks across a candidate landing zone, or else be used by a spacecraft in flight to identify and avoid adjacent debris.”
The Limerick-based company already markets high-frequency chips, modules and antennas to terrestrial markets, for uses including helicopter landing radar.
The high-frequency chip developed through the project – supported through ESA’s long-running General Support Technology Programme, looking to prepare promising products for the market – also has the potential to turbocharge terrestrial wifi speeds, along with space communications.
“The project team exhibited a very rapid learning curve, helping to bring these integrated circuits to a point where they could be taken up by future space missions,” adds Petri Piironen, managing the project for ESA.
“We have already begun a follow-project with Arralis, looking at the next level of product development: integrating these chips into radar modules.”
Cooperation between ESA and Arralis was coordinated through the Enterprise Ireland development agency.
Week In Images
15-19 February 2016