ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano working inside the Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG) on the International Space Station. Luca tweeted this image with the text: Working inside LSG for the Micro15 experiment, I prepare some samples of cells to be incubated in microgravity: an experiment that’s only possible on board the ISS.
An unprecedented wildfire has ripped through the island of Gran Canaria, one of Spain’s Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa. The wildfire, which started on Saturday 17 August, has now started to subside after engulfing around 10 000 hectares of land, leading to the evacuation of over 9000 people.
This false colour image, captured on 19 August, was created using the shortwave infrared bands from the Copernicus Sentinel-2’s instrument, and allows us to clearly see the fires on the ground in bright orange. Burn scars are visible in dark brown. These bands also allow us to see through smoke – but not clouds.
The Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service was activated to help respond to the fire. The service uses satellite observations to help civil protection authorities and, in cases of disaster, the international humanitarian community, respond to emergencies.
The fire started near the town of Tejeda and spread to Tamadaba Natural Park, driven by a combination of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity. According to authorities, over 700 firefighters on the ground and 16 aircraft helped tackle the blaze, with some flames reaching over 50 metres in height.
The Navigation Camera (NavCam) of the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) has been given its first glimpse of the mission’s destination while still on Earth.
The camera was mounted to an equatorial mount and pointed towards different targets, including bright stars, Jupiter and its moons in order to exercise its ‘Imaging Mode’ and ‘Stars Centroiding Mode’. The integration time was optimized for capturing the stars and moons acquisition, so Jupiter appears saturated. See also the annotated image.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it is off to work the microbes go.
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano slides the smallest miners in the universe into the Kubik experiment container on the International Space Station.
For the next three weeks, three different species of bacteria will unleash themselves on basalt slides in the Kubik centrifuge that simulates Earth and martian gravity as well as in microgravity.
Run by a research team from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, the BioRock experiment is testing how altered states of gravity affect biofilm formation – or the growth of microbes on rocks.
Microbes are able to weather down a rock from which they can extract ions. This natural process enables biomining, where useful metals are extracted from rock ores.
Already a common practice on Earth, biomining will eventually take place on the Moon, Mars and asteroids as we expand our understanding and exploration of the Solar System.
The bacteria arrived at the Space Station on the latest Dragon resupply mission in a dehydrated, dormant state.
The organisms are given ‘food’ to restore cell growth and left to grow on basalt at 20°C.
After three weeks, the samples will be preserved and stored at 4°C while they await their return to Earth.
Researchers will map out how altered states of gravity affect the rock and microbes as a whole, as well as which microbe is the best candidate for mining in space. It is hoped these results will shine light on extraterrestial biomining technologies and life-support systems involving microbes for longer duration spaceflight.
Biomining in space can also increase the efficiency of the process on Earth and could even reduce our reliance on precious Earth resources.
In addition to installing the little creatures, Luca is busy with a host of other experiments during his six-month mission, called Beyond.
Listen to the latest episode of the ESA Explores podcast for more science on the Space Station.
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano captured this image of the Bahamas from the International Space Station and shared it on his social media channels saying: "Bahamas: the colours of a Corto Maltese adventure, the blue of a Hugo Pratt watercolour.
NEEMO underwater suit used for the NEEMO NXT campaign.
Testing new technology, tools, techniques and training programmes for space exploration starts on Earth and space agencies head to extreme environments to put their ideas into practice, simulating aspects of space.
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronaut Drew Feustel and Japan space agency (JAXA) astronaut Norishige Kanai will take part in a new NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) mission off the coast of California, USA, to assess concepts for undersea training that will aid our next steps on the Moon.
This expedition is investigating a new concept for NEEMO with greater focus on exploration and a return to the Moon in 2024. Unlike previous NEEMO missions, the astronauts, also known as aquanauts, will not live underwater but resurface each day to stay on the island of Santa Catalina.
Thomas and Drew will test submersibles and underwater suits to judge whether the new location is suitable as a stand-in for the environment astronauts will encounter on the Moon. Thomas is assigned as submersible pilot for the mission.
The underwater world offers similar geological features to the Moon and putting ideas to the test under high workload, real-world stress, and the unexpected problems that come with field work is one of the only ways to iron out any kinks in new exploration approaches and techniques.
PanCam test image.
PanCam is the Panoramic Camera onboard the ExoMars rover, Rosalind Franklin.
The image was taken as part of test activities at Airbus Defence and Space, Stevenage, UK following the recent integration of the camera system.
UCL-MSSL is the PanCam PI institute. The full PanCam team is UCL-MSSL/DLR/OHB/TAS-CH/AU/JR and the PanCam science team.
The secondary mirror – visible in the top right corner of the image – is among the most important pieces of equipment on the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and is essential to the success of the mission.
Folded together with the other observatory components during launch, the secondary mirror will be deployed as part of an intricate choreography that will bring the observatory to life once in space. When deployed, like in this view, it faces Webb’s iconic honeycomb-like pattern of 18 hexagonal, gold-coated primary mirror segments. This primary mirror structure is seen in the lower left of the image in its folded configuration, showing only 12 segments.
Once the observatory is in space, light from distant stars and galaxies will first reach its primary mirror, which reflect it into a focused beam towards the secondary mirror. From there, the beam is then sent through the ‘hole’ in the primary mirror structure into the tertiary and fine steering mirrors, and eventually to the four scientific instruments, which sit behind the primary mirror in this view.
Technicians and engineers recently tested a key part of the telescope unfolding choreography by successfully commanding Webb to deploy the support structure that holds its secondary mirror in place. This is a critical milestone in preparing the observatory for its journey to orbit, as the proper deployment and positioning of the telescope’s secondary mirror is critical to perform the mission’s revolutionary science.
This successful test also provided another demonstration that the electronic connection between the spacecraft and the telescope is working properly, and is capable of delivering commands throughout the observatory as designed.
Next on the list of key mission milestones is the integration of the James Webb Space Telescope’s two halves – the telescope element, which comprises the mirrors and science instruments, and the spacecraft and sunshield element – into its final form as a complete observatory.
Currently at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, Webb is scheduled for launch on a European Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in March 2021.
The James Webb Space Telescope is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. As part of its contribution to the project, ESA provides the NIRSpec instrument, the Optical Bench Assembly of the MIRI instrument, the Ariane 5 launcher, and staff to support mission operations at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, USA.
First sunlight in Antartctic research station Concordia after four months of darkness.
ESA research medical doctor Nadja Albertsen writes in her blog: "Sun or not, it's quite magical.
When there are no clouds, the landscape around Concordia seems almost endless. When it is cloudy, the world seems to close in around us, in more acute isolation.
I take off my goggles for several minutes. For the first time in months, it is warm enough, and though the lenses are clear, it is still amazing to view the landscape without them. With over three months left in Antarctica, I am sucking it all up, like a giant bacon smoothie.
Light of heart and a little cold in the eyes, I go back to the base. It is lunch time and I am on table and dishwashing duty.
I am (almost) sure that tomorrow the layer of cloud will disperse, and the Sun will shine and the cold will bite again. First sunrise or not – we will eventually get so much Sun, we will tire of it. By the end of October it is all we will see."
First image of the complete Orion spacecraft that will fly around the Moon on the Artemis-1 mission.
At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, the full spacecraft with the European Service Module, Crew Module Adapater and Crew Module were unveiled on the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.
The first Orion spacecraft was unveiled in its entirety on 18 July at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. After assembling the European Service Module in Bremen, Germany, and the Crew Module Adapter and Crew Module in USA, the three elements of the spacecraft are now integrated into the full Orion that stands almost as high as a two-storey house.
Power and fluid lines were connected to complete the integration and the electrical systems were started up, with the Initial Power On taking place on 2 August. Engineers will now install a heatshield panel on the spacecraft and prepare it for a September ferry flight to NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio.
Testing will continue in Plum Brook to ensure the completed spacecraft can withstand the harsh environment of deep space.
This atmospheric Picture of the Week, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a dark, gloomy scene in the constellation of Gemini (The Twins). The subject of this image confused astronomers when it was first studied — rather than being classified as a single object, it was instead recorded as two objects, owing to its symmetrical lobed structure (known as NGC 2371 and NGC 2372, though sometimes referred to together as NGC 2371/2).
These two lobes are visible to the upper left and lower right of the frame, and together form something known as a planetary nebula. Despite the name, such nebulae have nothing to do with planets; NGC 2371/2 formed when a Sun-like star reached the end of its life and blasted off its outer layers, shedding the constituent material and pushing it out into space to leave just a superheated stellar remnant behind. This remnant is visible as the orange-tinted star at the centre of the frame, sitting neatly between the two lobes.
The structure of this region is complex. It is filled with dense knots of gas, fast-moving jets that appear to be changing direction over time, and expanding clouds of material streaming outwards on diametrically opposite sides of the remnant star. Patches of this scene glow brightly as the remnant star emits energetic radiation that excites the gas within these regions, causing it to light up. This scene will continue to change over the next few thousand years; eventually the knotty lobes will dissipate completely, and the remnant star will cool and dim to form a white dwarf.
Week in images
19 - 23 August 2019