The Sentinel-1A radar satellite has arrived at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to be prepared over the coming weeks for launch on 3 April
On 25 February 2007 at 02:15 GMT, Rosetta passed just 250 km from the surface of Mars. Rosetta’s Philae lander took this image 4 minutes before closest approach, at a distance of 1000 km. It captures one of Rosetta’s 14 m-long solar wings, set against the northern hemisphere of Mars, where details in the Mawrth Vallis region can be seen.
Mawrth Vallis is of particular interest to scientists because it contains minerals formed in the presence of water – a discovery made by ESA’s Mars Express.
This image was originally published in 2007 and was taken in black-and-white. Representative colour was added to the surface of Mars and, in this version, these colours have been slightly enhanced, along with some brightening of details in the solar wing.
On Sunday 2 March, Rosetta celebrates ten years since launch. The flyby at Mars was one of four planetary gravity assists (the other three were at Earth) needed to boost the spacecraft onto the correct trajectory to meet up with its target, comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, in August 2014.
Rosetta will become the first space mission to rendezvous with a comet, the first to attempt a landing, and the first to follow a comet as it swings around the Sun.
Human spaceflight and operations image of the week: 24-hour Antarctic panorama at Concordia
Concordia research station in the heart of Antarctica is a place of extremes. During the summer months the Sun never sets below the horizon whereas during the winter the Sun is not seen for four months. One thing is for sure though: the temperature never rises above 0°C, with temperatures of –60°C quite common during the darker months.
Eoin Macdonald-Nethercott spent a large part of 2010 and 2011 running ESA experiments in Concordia. In his free time he took enough pictures to stitch together this panorama charting the summer Sun over 24 hours taken over multiple days.
ESA sponsors a medical doctor to spend a year on the base conducting research into isolation and stress in multicultural crews – living on Concordia is so remote it is like living on another planet in many respects. No supplies can be flown in and for months each year the crew can rely on no outside help.
For more pictures and background information read Eoin’s blog entry on the Chronicles of Concordia.
All of our most skilled space capabilities depend ultimately on an object such as this.
Carefully wrapped in protective anti-static and anti-shock foam packaging, this silicon wafer etched with integrated circuits for space missions was manufactured in an identical batch of 25, worth well over €2 million.
This 20 cm-diameter wafer contains 35 replicas of five different space chips, each one incorporating up to about 10 million transistors or basic circuit switches.
Laid down within a microchip, these designs endow a space mission with intelligence, and the ability to perform various specialised tasks such as data handling, communications processing or attitude control.
To save money on the high cost of fabrication, various chips designed by different companies and destined for multiple ESA projects are crammed onto the same silicon wafers, etched into place at specialised semiconductor manufacturing plants or ‘fabs’, in this case LFoundry (formerly Atmel) in France.
Once tested for functionality, the chips on the wafer are chopped up and packaged for use, then mounted on printed circuit boards for connection with other microelectronic components aboard a satellite.
Since 2002, ESA’s Microelectronics section has maintained a catalogue of ‘building blocks’ for chip designs, known as Intellectual Property cores, available to European industry through ESA licence. For more information, check here.
Ecuador’s northern highlands are pictured in this image from Envisat.
Near the top left of the image, the southern outskirts of Ecuador’s capital, Quito, appear as white dots. Quito is one of the highest capital cities in the world, at an elevation of 2850 m above sea level.
This area is part of the northern zone of the Andean Volcanic Belt. The belt was formed as a result of the Nazca and Antarctic tectonic plates moving under the South American plate – a geological process called ‘subduction’.
Near the bottom-left corner is the Cotopaxi stratovolcano. It is the second highest summit in the country at about 5900 m and one of Ecuador’s most active volcanoes, erupting more than 50 times since the early 1700s.
On the centre-right side of the image is the Antisana volcano.
What look like white glaciers at the peaks of these mountains are actually artefacts of the radar echo – the surfaces of the summits are more or less directly facing the satellite, so the radar signal reflects straight back to the antenna.
This image was created by combining three Envisat radar passes from 4 June 2006, 20 January 2008 and 24 January 2010 over the same area.
Colours represent changes in the land’s surface between the three radar scans that make up this composite image. Some of the changes are distinct, such as the patchwork showing changes in agricultural plots near the top left. From Antisana to the west, the area is generally colourful, indicating ground movement.
East of Antisana, however, the area is less colourful, and therefore more stable.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
This stunning new Hubble image shows a small part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of the closest galaxies to our own. This collection of small baby stars, most weighing less than the Sun, form a young stellar cluster known as LH63. This cluster is still half-embedded in the cloud from which it was born, in a bright star-forming region known as the emission nebula LHA 120-N 51, or N51. This is just one of the hundreds of star-forming regions filled with young stars spread throughout the Large Magellanic Cloud.
The burning red intensity of the nebulae at the bottom of the picture illuminates wisps of gas and dark dust, each spanning many light-years. Moving up and across, bright stars become visible as sparse specks of light, giving the impression of pin-pricks in a cosmic cloak.
This patch of sky was the subject of observation by Hubble's WFPC2 camera. Looking for and at low-mass stars can help us to understand how stars behave when they are in the early stages of formation, and can give us an idea of how the Sun might have looked billions of years ago.
A version of this image was submitted to the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Luca Limatola.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst during training at Star City, Russia, on 13 February 2014. The exercice provides training for operations that Alexander would have to perform to attach himself safely in case he had to be airlifted by rescue helicopters.
Survival training is an important part of all Soyuz mission training. When a Soyuz spacecraft returns to Earth there is always the possibility that it could land in water.
Alexander Gerst is flight engineer for Expedition 40/41, which will be launched to the International Space Station in May 2014 on a long-duration mission to run science experiments and maintain humankind’s space base.
In the centre of Poland lies its third-largest city: Łódź. Seen from the International Space Station at night the city’s lights contrast with the blackness of the surrounding countryside.
Unlike many pictures of night-time Earth, the local airport is not the most striking visual marker. The Łódź Władysław Reymont Airport seems to be obscured by clouds causing the slight blurring seen to the bottom left of Łódź.
In this picture land-transport is responsible for the distinctive ‘X’ at the top right: a motorway junction near the town of Stryków. The lights to the left of the junction correspond to a transport hub for trucks.
Satellite towns of Pabianice (bottom-left) and Zgierz (top) also show up clearly in this picture.
This image was taken by an astronaut from 400 km above Earth in April 2012.
Unloading Sentinel-1 from the Antonov aircraft, which arrived in French Guiana on 24 February 2014. Sentinel-1 will spend the next weeks being thoroughly tested at Europe’s spaceport and prepared for launch on 3 April.
Saturn's D ring is easy to overlook since it's trapped between the brighter C ring and the planet itself. But this dusty ring has plenty to teach us. In this view, all that can be seen of the D ring is the faint and narrow arc as it stretches from top right of the image.
If all goes as planned, Cassini will pass between the D ring and Saturn in its final orbits in 2017. Scientists expect to gather unprecedented data from these orbits.
Twelve stars are also visible in this image.
This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 41 degrees below the ringplane. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on 21 October 2013.
The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 2.4 million kilometers from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 140 degrees. Image scale is 14 kilometers per pixel.
The Cassini–Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and Italy’s ASI space agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, DC.
Portrait of ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti wearing NASA's Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit. Samantha is currently training for a six-month mission to the International Space Station with Expedition 42/43 set for launch in November 2014. Her mission is called Futura.
Week in Images
24-28 February 2014