ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst as the hatch opens separating the Soyuz spacecraft and the International Space Station, his new home for six months.
The launch of Expedition 40/41 with Alexander Gerst, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan took place six hours earlier.
Their spacecraft, Soyuz TMA-13M was propelled to the International Space Station at 21:57 CEST. Alexander has 100 experiments planned for his Blue Dot mission.
From left: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Roscosmos commander Maxim Suarev, NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Terry Virts, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
The three Expedition 40/41 astronauts (left) with their backup crew after the last press conference before their launch on 28 May.
Alexander, Maxim and Reid will be launched to the International Space Station at 19:56 GMT (21:56 CEST), arriving planned a mere five hours later: 02:14 GMT (04:14 CEST).
The backup crew will watch their colleagues ascend from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. From then on Terry, Anton and Samantha will focus on their own Expedition 42/43.
Watch the launch live from 19:00 GMT (21:00 CEST) as 274 tonnes of rocket propellants are consumed to accelerate the three astronauts to 28 800 km/h.
Expedition 40/41 flight engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, Soyuz commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency and flight engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA, greeting audience at the launch pad, just before entering elevator transporting the crew up to the top of the Soyuz rocket, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on 28 May 2014.
Gerst, Suraev and Wiseman will live and work in space for the next six months.
On Wednesday 28 May 2014, Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft lifted off from the Russian Baikonour cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
After their launch, on board this Soyuz, Expedition 40/41 flight engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, Soyuz commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency and flight engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA, are making their way to the International Space Station.
The dark and shadowed regions of the Moon fascinate astronomers and Pink Floyd fans alike. Our Moon’s rotation axis has a tilt of 1.5º, meaning that some parts of its polar regions never see sunlight – the bottoms of certain craters, for example, are always in shadow.
Imaged during summertime in the Moon’s southern hemisphere by the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment on ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, this mosaic shows a crater-riddled region spanning the lunar south pole. It is made up of around 40 individual images taken between December 2005 and March 2006, and covers an area of about 500 x 150 km.
The craters visible here include (from right to left, starting with the largest round shape visible in the frame) the Amundsen, Faustini, Shoemaker, Shackleton and de Gerlache craters. Click here for an annotated map.
Amundsen is the largest of the bunch at 105 km across, followed by Shoemaker (50 km), Faustini (39 km), de Gerlache (32 km) and Shackleton (19 km). This group of craters all look different, see varying levels of sunlight and display a range of interesting properties.
Shackleton crater, the small circle visible to the left of centre, contains the south pole within its rim. By using SMART-1 images to explore the number of small impact craters scattered on the smooth, dark surface surrounding Shackleton, scientists have found this crater to be older than the Apollo 15 landing site (3.3 billion years), but younger than the Apollo 14 site (3.85 billion years).
Shoemaker crater, visible to the upper left of centre, is notable because of the 1999 Lunar Prospector mission, which deliberately crashed into the crater in an attempt to create a detectable plume of water vapour by heating any water ice that may have been present. No vapour was spotted. However, all is not lost; some permanently shadowed regions have been in the dark for millions of years, and it is still possible that they may contain water ice deposited by comets and water-rich asteroids.
Studying the dark depths of these craters could tell us not just about the history of the Moon, but also about Earth, helping us to understand better how, and how much, water and organic material may have been transferred from the Moon to Earth over its history.
This new Hubble image shows IRAS 14568-6304, a young star that is cloaked in a haze of golden gas and dust. It appears to be embedded within an intriguing swoosh of dark sky, which curves through the image and obscures the sky behind.
This dark region is known as the Circinus molecular cloud. This cloud has a mass around 250 000 times that of the Sun, and it is filled with gas, dust and young stars. Within this cloud lie two prominent and enormous regions known colloquially to astronomers as Circinus-West and Circinus-East. Each of these clumps has a mass of around 5000 times that of the Sun, making them the most prominent star-forming sites in the Circinus cloud. The clumps are associated with a number of young stellar objects, and IRAS 14568-6304, featured here under a blurry fog of gas within Circinus-West, is one of them.
IRAS 14568-6304 is special because it is driving a protostellar jet, which appears here as the "tail" below the star. This jet is the leftover gas and dust that the star took from its parent cloud in order to form. While most of this material forms the star and its accretion disc — the disc of material surrounding the star, which may one day form planets — at some point in the formation process the star began to eject some of the material at supersonic speeds through space. This phenomenon is not only beautiful, but can also provide us with valuable clues about the process of star formation.
IRAS 14568-6304 is one of several outflow sources in the Circinus-West clump. Together, these sources make up one of the brightest, most massive, and most energetic outflows ever reported. Scientists have even suggested calling Circinus-West the "nest of molecular outflows" in tribute to this activity.
A version of this image was entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Serge Meunier.
Image of China’s Poyang lake from the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) on the Sentinel-1A satellite, acquired on 12 May 2014 in dual polarisation. The radar gathers information in either horizontal or vertical polarisations, shown here as a composite (HH in red, HV in green and HH-HV in blue).
Poyang is just one of the many project areas of the collaborative Chinese-European Dragon Programme, which marked its ten-year anniversary this week. Read more.
The freshwater Lake Constance in Central Europe is pictured in this image from the Sentinel-1A satellite.
Formed by the Rhine Glacier during the last Ice Age, it covers an area of about 540 sq km and is an important source of drinking water for southwestern Germany.
The lake has shorelines in three countries: Germany to the north, Switzerland to the south and Austria at its eastern end. Over the water body, however, there are no borders because there is no legally binding agreement on where they lie.
In the lower-right, we can see where the Rhine river flows into the lake from the south, which then flows out of the lake to the west (left). This and other rivers carry sediments from the Alps, extending the coastline and decreasing the lake’s water depth.
The runways of Germany’s Friedrichshafen Airport are visible in the right section of the image. The Aviation & Aerospace Museum is nearby.
This image was acquired on 10 May in ‘interferometric wide swath mode’ and in dual polarisation.
The radar instrument gathers information in either horizontal or vertical radar pulses, and colours were assigned to the different types. In this image, buildings generally appear pink, while vegetation is green. Areas with lowest reflectivity in all polarisations appear very dark, like the water.
Sentinel-1A’s radar is still being calibrated following its 3 April 2014 launch, but early images like this give us a glimpse of the kind of operational imagery that this mission will provide for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme.
This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Central Asia’s receding Aral Sea, viewed by ESA’s Proba-V minisatellite, which is about to take up the continuing operational task of tracking global vegetation.
For the last 16 years the Vegetation cameras on France’s full-sized Spot-4 and Spot-5 satellites have been tracking vegetation change on a global basis.
But on 1 June the torch will be passed to Proba-V, ensuring that the Vegetation dataset will remain available to environmental scientists across the world.
The Aral Sea is a striking example of the kind of changes the satellite series has been tracking. Once the world’s fourth-largest inland water body, it has lost around 90% of its water volume since 1960 because of Soviet-era irrigation schemes.
The lake is located on the borders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The World Bank and Kazakhstan worked together to build the Kok-Aral dike to stabilise the northern section of the Aral Sea.
The Aral Sea’s southern section was beyond saving, however, and is projected to dry out completely by the end of this decade.
Acquired on 13 May 2014, the 300 m-resolution Proba-V image depicts the white salt terrain left behind by the southern Aral Sea receding, now called the Aral Karakum Desert. The greenery to the south is cultivated land irrigated by the Amu Darya river.
The Sentinel-2 satellite at Airbus Defence and Space in Germany. This second satellite for Europe’s Copernicus programme, which carries a high-resolution multispectral optical imager to monitor land cover and vegetation, is scheduled to be launched at the end of April 2015. The instrument is currently being integrated with the satellite platform. Following functional testing, the satellite will be shipped to IAGB in Germany for a further round of environmental qualification tests.
Week In Images
26-30 May 2014