Water is the medium of life and ESA's cosmic water diviner continues to detect it in a wide variety of sources, most recently in the cosmos where it was previously unknown. Astronomers using ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, have found water vapour in dark clouds lying towards the centre of the Milky Way. They calculate that water is abundant in our Galaxy.
Equally striking is ISO's discovery of water vapour in the outer planets, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. As those chilly planets cannot release water from within, they probably have a supply of water coming from elsewhere in the Solar System.
Since ISO went into orbit at the end of 1995, it has used its unique power of analysing infrared rays coming from the Universe to identify water vapour and water ice near newborn and dying stars. It has also measured the water vapour steaming from Comet Hale-Bopp.
'Before ISO no instrument was capable of detecting water in so many places' comments ESA's Director of Science, Roger Bonnet. 'To start revealing the cosmic history of the Earth's water is a big success for ESA and for the astronomers who use our unique infrared observatory. And ISO's discovery that water is commonplace in the Galaxy will encourage renewed speculation about life that may exist in the vicinity of other stars.'
Water amid the stars
Primeval hydrogen atoms make water by joining with oxygen atoms that are manufactured within stars, in nuclear reactions occurring towards the end of a star's life. Oxygen from defunct stars enriches the Galaxy, and abundant hydrogen is available to react with it. Although the existence of water in interstellar space is not surprising, the Earth's moist atmosphere makes life difficult for any astronomer who wishes to spot water vapour in the Universe with ground-based instruments.
Observations from aircraft and balloons gave early hints of cosmic water, but thorough investigations had to wait for ISO's unhampered view from space. Three of the satellite's instruments, the Short Wavelength Spectrometer (SWS), the Long Wavelength Spectrometer (LWS) and the photometer ISOPHOT, operating in spectroscopic mode, take part in the hunt for water.
Last year, for example, users of both SWS and LWS reported water vapour in the vicinity of the aged star W Hydrae, from which oxygen-rich winds blow into space. The bright infrared source GL 2591, surrounding a newly formed massive star, revealed to SWS hot and abundant water vapour. Jets of gas from very young stars can create luminous shock waves at great distances and LWS made the first detection of water vapour in such an object, HH-54.
Among the objects subsequently examined by LWS, IRAS 16293-2422 is a cosmic egg in the process of creating a star of about the same size as the Sun. Characteristic emissions from water vapour at 108, 113, 174 and 179 microns show up clearly. The water plays a practical part in starmaking. It helps to radiate away excess heat which could otherwise prevent the parent gas from condensing under gravity to make the star.
When ISO looks towards the centre of the Galaxy, which lies about 28 000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius, it sees, not emissions of the characteristic wavelengths of water, but absorptions. These appear as dips in the infrared spectrum and tell of the presence of dark, cool clouds, called molecular clouds, which are the primary source of new stars. Very close to the true Galactic Centre is the bright infrared source Sagittarius B2 and it too shows the presence of water vapour.
In a programme of observations which began in the autumn of 1996 and is still continuing, ISO's Long Wavelength Spectrometer has made observations of such high precision that it distinguishes different molecular clouds on the way towards the Galactic Centre. The clouds are moving at different speeds relative to the Earth. They alter each water wavelength by the Doppler effect to produce a broad absorption line representing water vapour in the various clouds intervening between the Earth and the bright source Sagittarius B2. The detection by LWS of water molecules containing the rare, heavy form of oxygen, oxygen-18, helps astronomers to estimate the abundance of water.
Other watery clouds show up when ISO is pointed towards other dense regions of the Galaxy somewhat away from the Galactic Centre. There really is, in the words of an English poet, 'Water, water everywhere'.
A Spanish astronomer, José Cernicharo of the Instituto de Estructura de la Materia in Madrid, has played a prominent part in this work. He is delighted by the results. 'For the first time, we have a clear impression of the abundance of water in the Galaxy,' Cernicharo says. 'In relatively dense clouds, as many as ten percent of all oxygen atoms are incorporated into molecules of water vapour. Even more may be in the form of water ice. Water vapour is, after molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide, one of the most important molecules in space. It plays an important role in the dynamic evolution of the gas inside the molecular clouds of our Galaxy, and hence in the formation of new stars.'
The water supply of the outer planets
The water vapour in Saturn, Uranus and Neptune showed up in analyses of very accurate observations made with ISO's Short Wavelength Spectrometer during October and November 1996. A report to the world's astronomical community tells of a particularly clear water signature from Uranus, in distinctive infrared emissions at eight wavelengths between 28.43 and 44.19 microns. A preliminary analysis indicated that the water vapour exists in the giant planet's outer atmosphere, at a temperature around 0 deg C. ISO detected six of the same water 'lines' in the infrared spectrum of distant Neptune, and three in Saturn, which is closer than Uranus. The puzzle for planetary astronomers now is to figure out where the water comes from. These giant planets are a long way from the Sun. Uranus, for example, is twenty times farther out than the Earth and sunlight is feebler by a factor of 400. The planets have their own internal sources of heat and they are thought to contain plenty of water incorporated when the planets formed, but it would be difficult for water vapour to escape into the outer atmosphere. On the other hand, water in the form of ice is a major constituent of comets, which sometimes collide with the planets, as seen in the spectacular impacts of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter in 1994.
The leader of the ISO team that found the water vapour in the outer planets is Helmut Feuchtgruber of the Max-Planck Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik at Garching, Germany. He works at ESA's ISO operations centre at Villafranca, Spain. He sees the theoretical puzzle of the water vapour as being of great significance for planetary science.
'The upper atmosphere of the Earth is very dry because water vapour rising from the oceans or the land freezes into clouds,' Feuchtgruber comments. 'We would expect the same kind of lid to seal in the water vapour of the outer planets. What we see in Saturn, Uranus and Neptune probably comes from an outside source. This has important implications for our theories of the origin and evolution of all planetary atmospheres, including the Earth's.' Feuchtgruber and his colleagues are preparing a theoretical analysis of the likely origin of the water vapour in the outer planets, which they hope to publish soon.
European success story
Rated by a panel of American astronomers as 'the major infrared mission of the decade', ISO is a special achievement for ESA - and for Europe's astronomers and engineers. Advanced technology created ISO's extremely cold telescope capable of observing cool regions of the Universe. Multinational teams, with leaders in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, developed the special scientific instruments. An Ariane 44P launcher put ISO into orbit on 17 November 1995.
ISO's supply of superfluid helium, which keeps the telescope and instruments cold, is expected to run out around the end of 1997, giving it a life several months longer than required in the original specification. Requests from the world's astronomers for observations with ISO have always far exceeded the available operating time even though the spacecraft's controllers at the Villafranca site supervise an average of 45 astronomical observations every day.
This composite picture shows fingerprints of water vapour (labelled H20) in widely differing infrared wavebands, as registered by two instruments of ESA's space telescope ISO when it was trained on the elderly star W Hydrae. In a high-resolution spectrum from the Short Wavelength Spectrometer (SWS) the main water feature is the strong emission at wavelengths around 38 microns. The Long Wavelength Spectrometer (LWS) picked up a large number of strong water-vapour emissions at wavelengths from 122 to 183 microns.
The two spectra are overlaid on an image taken with the ISOCAM at wavelengths of 7 and 15 microns. It shows the dark star-forming cloud called Rho Ophiuchi, partially opened to view by the penetrating power of ISO's infrared 'eyes'. (Courtesy ESA/ISO and the ISOCAM, LWS and SWS Consortia)
A huge cloud of hydrogen surrounded Comet Hale-Bopp when it neared the Sun in the spring of 1997. Ultraviolet light, charted by the SWAN instrument on ESA's SOHO spacecraft, revealed a cloud 100 million kilometres wide and diminishing in intensity outwards (contour lines, Fig. 1). It far exceeded the great comet's visible tail (inset photograph).
Figure 1. SOHO/SWAN Lyman-alpha scan, 1 April 1997.
Main image: SOHO (ESA & NASA) and SWAN Consortium
Inset photo of comet: Dennis di Cicco and Sky & Telescope
Although generated by a comet nucleus perhaps 40 kilometres in diameter, the hydrogen cloud was 70 times wider than the Sun itself (yellow dot to scale) and ten times wider than the hydrogen cloud of Comet Hyakutake observed by SWAN on SOHO in 1996.
Solar rays broke up water vapour released from the comet by the warmth of the Sun. The resulting hydrogen atoms shone in ultraviolet light invisible from the Earth's surface (even a satellite's view of the Hale-Bopp cloud would be spoiled by hydrogen around the Earth). Stationed 1.5 million kilometres out in space, SOHO had a clear view.
SWAN is the brainchild of Jean-Loup Bertaux and colleagues at the Service d'Aéronomie du CNRS (F) and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Tuned to see hydrogen, SWAN scans the sky and studies the solar wind's effect on hydrogen atoms coming from interstellar space.
Michael Combi of the University of Michigan studies gas outflow from comets - local sources of hydrogen - using SWAN's maps. The unique SWAN observations of Comet Hale-Bopp imply that the outflow of water vapour peaked at almost 50 million tonnes a day.
The last three Ariane launches successfully placed a total of five telecommunications satellites into geostationary tranfser orbit.
On Wednesday 16 April (23:08 GMT), Ariane V95 (type 44LP, equipped with two liquid and two solid propellant boosters) lifted off with Thaicom 3 (Thailand) and BSAT-1a (Japan).
On Tuesday 3 June (11:20 GMT), Ariane V97 (type 44L, equipped with four liquid propellant boosters) lifted off with INMARSAT 3F4 (International) and INSAT 2D (India).
On Wednesday 25 June (23:45 GMT), Ariane V96 (type 44P, equipped with four solid propellant boosters) was launched carrying INTELSAT 802 (International).
The next Ariane launch is scheduled for 7 August and will carry PanAmSat 6, an international telecommunications satellite, into orbit.
More than 200 experts from 18 countries took part in the 2nd European Conference on Space Debris organised by the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany, on 17-19 March 1997.
The papers presented at this conference have helped the space community to take stock of the current status of space debris. Guidelines and recommendations were discussed as to the measures required in order to minimise the problems caused by space debris, mainly associated with the risk of collisions with operational satellites and the potential danger for manned space flights.
Radar and optical telescopes regularly track over 10 000 'man-made' objects, 8500 of which are duly catalogued (spent satellites, upper launcher stages and fragments). Only a small portion (5%) of the trackable objects are operational spacecraft. In addition, there is a large amount of untrackable fragments (70 000-150 000) of only 1-10 cm in size which also pose a danger to operational spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and in the geostationary ring.
Experts speaking at the conference emphasised that unless action is taken, the amount of space debris will continue to increase. They indicated that prevention of further debris is the only way to achieve mitigation. Clean-up of existing space debris would be impractical and financially unfeasible.
ESA and other space agencies are already involved in solutions to space debris prevention. Current measures aim to avoid explosions in space by venting upper launcher stages and repositioning spent geostationary satellites to higher 'disposal' orbits (also known as graveyard orbits). However, in the long-term, even these measures may not be sufficient. In densely populated regions, selective removal of large objects may be necessary and their disposal achieved through controlled atmospheric re-entry leading to total disintegration and vaporisation from friction and heat.
Long-life and/or large spacecraft (manned or unmanned) will require shielding for protection against space debris. For example, ESA's Columbus Orbital Facility, the European laboratory module that will be permanently attached to the International Space Station, will be fitted with special meteorite/debris aluminium shielding. Smaller spacecraft with a relatively short operational life already have basic protection in their design that, in general, provides adequate resistance.
The conference participants also stressed that the problems related to space debris can only be solved through international cooperation. The Inter Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) will play a decisive role in defining cost-effective mitigation measures.
The results from this conference and the upcoming discussions within the IADC will provide a technical basis for deliberations on space debris to be held by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS).
The 42nd Paris Air Show successfully took place at Le Bourget airfield (15-22 June), attracting aerospace professionals and enthusiasts from all over the world.
Figure 1. The ESA Pavilion at the 42nd Paris Air Show, Le Bourget, 15-22 June
ESA featured a spectacular display inside a pavilion with a surface area of almost 1000 m2, alongside a full-scale mock-up of Ariane-5. The display included: a functioning replica of a mission control centre, with engineers and scientists simulating the control and operation of satellites in orbit; a 'virtual reality' theatre staging 3-D images of the International Space Station; and a 1:10 model of the International Space Station suspended from the ceiling.
Additionally, an evocative depiction of the landscape of Titan - the largest moon of Saturn - was the backdrop for a full-scale test model of ESA's Huygens space probe, scheduled for launch in October of this year on board the NASA Cassini orbiter. Another area of the pavilion highlighted technology transfer from space to the motor industry and health sector.
A number of ESA Directors visited many of the exhibitions and held briefings for the press. These commenced with a press breakfast held by Jean-Marie Luton, ESA Director General and Antonio Rodotà, ESA Director General designate, on Monday 16 June. Further briefings regarding current and future programmes were given by R-M. Bonnet, Director of Science; R. Collette, Director of Application Programmes; F. Engström, Director of Launchers; J. Feustel-Büechl, Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity.
Figure 2. The ESA exhibition included a full-scale test model of ESA's Huygens space probe with a backdrop of Titan, Saturn's largest moon (right), a 1:10 model of the International Space Station suspended from the ceiling (left), and a mission control centre (centre back)
Figure 3. The D/MSM press conference with (from left to right) Mr H. Oser, Head of ESA Astronauts Centre, Mr J. Feustel-Büechl, Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity, Mr F. Longhurst, Head of Manned Spaceflight Programme Department, Mr A. Thirkettle, Head of COF Projects Division, Mr P. Amadieu, Head of ATV/CTV Projects Division
ESA astronauts were also in attendance, captivating youngsters from ESA Member States during a specially held space class and lunch on Saturday 21 June. During the ESA astronauts' event on 18 June, Jean-François Clervoy made his first public appearance since returning to Earth following the STS-84 flight.
Figure 4. The ESA Astronauts event featured a press conference with ESA European Astronauts Centre representatives and ESA/NASA STS-84 mission astronauts: (from left to right) Mr C. Noriega, NASA, Mr J-F. Clervoy, ESA, Mr H. Oser, Head of ESA Astronauts Centre, Mr C. Precourt, NASA, Mr E. Lu, NASA
New Director General takes over at ESA
Mr A. Rodotà, new ESA Director General
Antonio Rodotà, of Italian nationality, has taken over as head of the European Space Agency as per 1 July. Appointed for a period of four years, he will see ESA into the 21st century, succeeding the French Director General, Jean-Marie Luton, who served as DG for nearly seven years.
At 61, Mr Rodotà has had many years experience in European industry. 'It is a real challenge but interest in the space sector is increasing all over the world and I see a rosy future for ESA. It must adapt to the rapid changes that are taking place and must also continue to play its part in supporting industry. This collective effort will guarantee that it has a bright future'.
Director of Launchers term extended
Mr F. Engström, Director of Launchers
At its last meeting held in Paris on 25 June, the ESA Council, on the recommendation of the Director General, extended the term of office of Mr Fredrik Engström, Director of Launchers, until the end of September 2000.
Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity accepts contract renewal
Mr J. Feustel-Büechl, Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity
Mr Jõrg Feustel-Büechl, Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity, has accepted ESA Council's 25 June offer of a further four-year mandate (to October 2002).
Mr Feustel-Büechl thus remains in charge of organising the European contribution to the International Space Station and the related ESA programmes, notably the Columbus Orbital Facility (COF), the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the European Robotic Arm (ERA), the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) and the Microgravity (life and materials science) Programme.
Mr K.-E. Reuter (left), ESA's Head of Cabinet, helps in the ceremonial decoration of Mr J-M. Luton by Professor J-L. Lions (right)
On the occasion of a dinner in Paris on 25 June, Mr Jacques-Louis Lions, Professor at the 'Collège de France' and President of the French Academy of Sciences, presented Mr Jean-Marie Luton with the insignia of the 'Commandeur dans l'Ordre National du Mérite' in the presence of ESA Council Delegates as well as Mr Antonio Rodotà, Mr Luton's successor as Director General and Professor Reimar Lüst, Director General of ESA from 1984-1990.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis mission STS-84, carrying ESA astronaut Jean-François Clervoy, was launched on 15 May from Pad 39a at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Clervoy, who has now completed two Space Shuttle missions, had a number of crucial tasks onboard, including monitoring systems performance at lift-off and during docking, activating Spacehab, coordinating the transfer of supplies to Mir and being prepared for any emergency work outside the complex. The other crew members were: Commander, Charles J. Precourt; Pilot, Eileen M. Collins; and Mission Specialists, Michael Foale, Carlos I. Noriega, Edward T. Lu, Elena Kondakova (Russian Cosmonaut).
ESA Astronaut Jean-François Clervoy (Mission Specialist 1 and Payload Commander on STS-84) working on one of the Biorack experiments in the Glovebox.
During the STS-84 mission, Atlantis' crew spent five days docked to the Russian space station Mir. The STS-84/Mir-23 team transferred 7000 pounds of experiments, hardware, food and clothing to and from the Station. NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger was brought home after four months aboard Mir. He has been replaced on Mir by Mike Foale, who is scheduled to stay on the station until September this year.
The STS-84 crew with the complete set of Biorack experiment hardware used for the flight. From right to left: Eileen M. Collins (Pilot), Carlos I. Noriega (Mission Specialist), Edward T. Lu (Mission Specialist), Elena Kondakova (Mission specialist, Russian Cosmonaut), Charles J. Precourt (Mission Commander), Jean-François Clervoy (Mission Specialist and Payload Commander, ESA Astronaut), Julia Bateman (Russian Interpreter). Not in the picture is C. Michael Foale who was carried up to Mir where he replaced Jerry M. Linenger who returned to Earth with the STS-84 crew
The mission carried ESA's Biorack - one of the most successful and versatile space experimentation facilities - as well as a solidification experiment called MOMO. The Biorack was the main science payload and housed a series of microgravity experiments from scientists in France, Germany and the United States. Those scientists will now begin to analyse the data collected during the mission.
During the Shuttle's approach and departure from Mir, new ESA-developed technology to be used in automated rendezvous and docking was successfully tested. Data from the experiment will help European engineers develop technology for ESA's unmanned Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) which will approach and depart the International Space Station on regular supply missions early in the next century. The technology will be tested again on the next Shuttle-to-Mir mission (STS-86) in September.
After nine days in Space, the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 09h28 local time on Saturday 24 May.
After Atlantis' touchdown, Mr Jörg Feustel-Büechl, ESA's Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity, hailed the mission as a great success for Europe. ' This has been an excellent flight in terms of the valuable manned and technological experience that we have gained in preparation for our role on the International Space Station' .
TeamSat was developed in ESTEC by young European engineers and students with the support of ESA staff. The team and staff are pictured here during a visit by ESA's DG. Standing behind the ground station equipment, from left to right are: Mr M. Bandecchi, TeamSat's project engineer and integration manager, Mr E. Slachmuylders, Mr D. Dale, Mr J-M. Luton, Mr W. Ockels, TeamSat's project manager. On one of the satellite panels (back left), all the names of the team members are engraved.
The Director General of ESA and the Chairman of CNES jointly gave the go-ahead for the Ariane 502 flight launch campaign to start on 16 June following the Flight Readiness Review (5-6 June).
Preparations are now under way at the Guiana Space Centre, Europe's spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana. Initial tasks include mechanical, fluid and electrical integration of the cryogenic main stage, the solid booster stage, the vehicle equipment bay and the upper stage of the launcher in the Launcher Integration Building. Preparatory work has also started in the Final Assembly Building on the upper composite - the Speltra, the fairing and the payload consisting of two technological instrument platforms, Maqsat H and B, and two satellites, Amsat P3D (an international amateur radio satellite) and TeamSat (ESA). The latter, built at ESTEC, consists of 5 European technology experiments. This ad hoc project was created in response to a flight opportunity with the second test flight of Ariane-5. The project team involves over 40 young European engineers and students, supervised and supported by ESA staff.
Various tests and, in particular, flight programme functional simulations are continuing, leading up to a target launch date as from the end of September this year.
On 10 June, Mr Antonio Rodotà visited ESTEC for the first time after being nominated ESA Director General designate. Organised by Mr N. de Boer, Head of D/TOS Staff Office, the half day's activities succeeded in giving Mr Rodotà a broad impression of ESTEC and its facilities.
As a start to the programme, Mr Rodotà was given a tour of the ESTEC test facilities by Mr C. Stavrinidis, Head of Mechanical Systems Department.
This was followed by a visit to the Space Science laboratories accompanied by Mr M. Huber, Head of Space Science Department. Mr Rodotà was shown the Super Conducting Tunnelling Junctions (STJ) laboratory by Mr A. Peacock and the Midas laboratory by Mr R. Schmidt.
Mr L. Adams, Head of Radiation Effects and Analysis Techniques Unit, then guided Mr Rodotà through the Components laboratories concluding the tour of the ESTEC facilities.
A meeting with the Chairman of the ESTEC Staff Association, Mr D. Campbell and SAC representatives preceded an address to all staff during which Mr Rodotà outlined his vision for ESA in the coming years to an attentive audience.
Mr Jean-Marie Luton, ESA's Director General (left) and Mr Yuri Koptev, RSA's Director General (right) finalise the signing of a Russian-West European aerospace 'Partnership Charter'
ESA and the Russian Space Agency (RSA) launched a 'Partnership Charter' - to expand the exchange of expertise between Russian and West European aerospace professionals - in the ESA Pavilion of the Paris Air Show on 16 June.
Mr Jean-Marie Luton, ESA's Director General, and Mr Yuri Koptev, RSA's Director General initialled the charter to which all organisations, institutes and industrial suppliers in the Russian and West European aerospace sectors are invited to subscribe. The partnership is also receiving active support from the European Commission, in the framework of its TACIS cooperation programmes with Russia.
The aim of the partnership is to strengthen the many links that have been developed in space cooperation over the past decade through the arrangement of exchanges of information on working methods and staff training.
The initial programme of activities, starting in the second half of this year, calls for seminars and presentations, specifically designed for high-level Russian personnel, on international law, industrial contracts and management of space projects. These will be held in Moscow and will be primarily run by the International Space University (ISU, Strasbourg, France) teaching staff, with expertise to be contributed by Western space industry professionals.
Seminars and round table discussions are also envisaged in fields in which Russia has outstanding first-hand experience (e.g. space transport, manned flight).
The overall cost of activities envisaged for 1997 amounts to some 200 000 ECU, to be shared by all the partners.
The workshop on 'Space Applications in the Euro Med Region' discussed and demonstrated potential space application projects for Mediterranean countries
Cooperation in space technologies between Europe and the Mediterranean countries made a significant step forward following a workshop on 'Space Applications in the Euro Med Region' held in Cairo, 26-27 May and promoted by ESA, the European Commission and the Arab Institute of Navigation. Some 250 officials and industrialists from the 12 Mediterranean countries* and the European Union (EU) attended.
* Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Malta, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine
The workshop highlighted space technology applications, emphasising their potential, costs and required skills by using real examples in the fields of telecommunications, remote-sensing and navigation. It is expected that a number of possible projects will stem from this workshop as Mediterranean partnerships or as potential candidates for cooperation with ESA and the EU, in the fields of risk management, Earth Observation networks and telecommunications.
Potential areas of interest for ESA were identified as a result of this workshop. An extension of the EGNOSS programme on global satellite navigation could be envisaged for the North African region and promoted together with activities in the fields of telecommunications such as tele-medicine. Cooperation on Earth Observation could be strengthened where ESA already has a widely recognised expertise such as coastal zone management, water resources management and monitoring of water pollution with the use of ESA's ERS satellite data.
In the foreground, ESA's Hipparcos satellite on display in Venice. Behind it is a model of an armillary sphere, used by Hipparchus (190-125 BC), the first modern astronomer, to determine the position of heavenly bodies, ' thus bequeathing the heavens as a legacy to all mankind'.
"The winning card for Europe - and for Venice' . That was how the Mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari, characterised research and development, in welcoming the world's astronomers to his city at the start of the Hipparcos Symposium (13-16 May). A major European contribution to advanced astronomy was celebrated in the 16th-Century monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, on an island facing the main waterfront of Venice.
This unique symposium was dedicated to the scientific results of the Hipparcos mission based on the analysis of data released to principal investigators during 1996 and early 1997. It also provided the opportunity to present the Hipparcos and Tycho Catalogues to the scientific community. The Proceedings of this Symposium have already been published.
In a special opening session, the history of the European Space Agency's Hipparcos mission was described by 14 of the scientists and engineers most closely responsible for it. They summarised their efforts of 17 years to conceive, build and fly the satellite, and translate its observations into catalogues of the stars. Built for ESA by Europe's aerospace industry, and sent into orbit by an Ariane-4 launcher, the Hipparcos satellite scanned the sky for nearly four years, between 1989 and 1993, measuring angles between stars. Protracted calculations by multinational teams then produced the Hipparcos Catalogue giving the positions and motions of 118 000 stars with 100 times the precision of previous surveys. The accompanying Tycho Catalogue contains a million stars charted with lesser but still unprecedented accuracy.
High drama punctuated the years of patient work when, after its launch, Hipparcos failed to reach its intended orbit. 'It was a real shock,' said Dietmar Heger of ESA's European Space Operations Centre (Darmstadt). The initial prediction was that Hipparcos would last for only 9 months and accomplish only 5-10 % of its science programme. Quick action by the multinational teams extended the satellite's life, and ground stations, hurriedly recruited from around the world, enabled Hipparcos to fulfil its task of pinpointing the stars.
Many of the 240 participants gave their early conclusions during the 4 day Symposium, and over 100 scientific posters revealed the impact that Hipparcos data are going to have on astronomy. The results will affect many branches of astronomy from asteroids to cosmology, but most notably the theories of stellar physics and evolution.
The future of space astrometry research was also considered during the Symposium. Experts discussed plans for a super-Hipparcos for the 21st Century. GAIA, Global Astrometric Interferometer for Astrophysics, is a leading concept under study by ESA. It would carry two or possibly three pairs of mirrors spaced a few metres apart and orientated to look in different directions in the sky. The intended accuracy of star-fixing, to within about a billionth of a degree, makes GAIA an unprecedented engineering challenge. Other missions mooted include a German proposal, DIVA, for a small-scale interferometer which could be a step along the road to GAIA's development. DIVA would be able to chart a million stars with an accuracy three times better than that of Hipparcos. Furthermore, the Japanese have proposed a concept called LIGHT and NASA one called SIM.
The enthusiasm of the Hipparcos astronomers for GAIA is, however, not dampened by uncertainties in ESA's Long-Term Science Programme. The prospects for GAIA have to be seen in the context of present efforts by ESA's planners to secure a steady sequence of cornerstone missions, for which it may be a candidate.
At the close of the Celebration Session the President of the International Astronomical Union, Lodewijk Woltjer of the Observatoire de Haute-Provence, France, hailed Hipparcos as 'a triple triumph' - for the scientific community, for European engineering, and for European cooperation. He reiterated the importance of continued scientific space missions for Europe.
The Hipparcos and Tycho Catalogues are available from ESA Publications Division in the form of a 16-volume hard-bound printed catalogue and a set of 6 CD-ROMs, as ESA Special Publication SP-1200.
The Proceedings of the Hipparcos Venice '97 Symposium are available from ESA Publications Division as ESA Special Publication SP-402.
For ordering information please contact:
ESA Publications Division
c/o ESTEC, PO Box 299
2200 AG Noordwijk
Tel: 31.71.565 3405
Fax: 31.71.565 5433
ESA has instituted a special award to honour those who are actively preparing the way, and creating the means for making the European contribution to the International Space Station (ISS) a reality. This award will be presented annually to a number of individuals selected in 'appreciation of their dedication and outstanding performance which has made a significant contribution to ESA's participation in the International Space Station'.
The first such award ceremony took place on a canal-boat cruise around Amsterdam on 15 July. In the presence of ESA's Director General, Antonio Rodotà, and representatives from other space agencies, embassies, and major industrial companies involved in the ISS Programme, ESA's Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity, Jörg Feustel-Büechl, presented the award to the first four winners: Mr P.-G. Winters, Mr J.-B. Mennicken, Mr J. Zimmerman and Mr V. Nikolaev.
Mr P.-G Winters
Mr J.-B. Mennicken
Mr J. Zimmerman
Mr V. Nikolaev
In his speech, Mr Feustel-Büechl thanked Mr Winters, who was Chairman of the ESA Council at the time of the Ministerial Council Meeting in Toulouse in October 1995, for the decisive role that he had played in achieving a positive decision on Europe's participation in the International Space Station Programme. Mr Feustel-Büechl also noted the fact that, as the Head of the Dutch Delegation to ESA, Mr Winters had been among the very first 'confessors' who had joined the Programme, since the Netherlands were one of the protagonists of the so-called 'Early Delivery Items' which paved the way for European participation in the early utilisation of the Station before the arrival of Europe's Columbus Laboratory.
In presenting the award to Mr Mennicken, Director General of the German Space Agency (DARA), Mr Feustel-Büechl thanked him for his active support of the International Space Station not only within the ESA decision-making bodies, but also vis-à-vis the decision-makers, the media and the public inside Germany, which is one of the major contributors to the ESA ISS Programme. He also underlined the fact that, in the light of all of the political priorities and financial constraints resulting from German reunification, Mr Mennicken could certainly not have had an easy task in this respect.
In giving the award to Mr Zimmerman, who had been NASA's European Representative for many years, Mr Feustel-Büechl explained that Mr Zimmerman had not only served as an ambassador for NASA in Europe, but he had also been a staunch advocate of Europe's views and position within NASA on numerous occasions. He therefore presented the award to Mr Zimmerman for his untiring support of NASA-ESA cooperation.
One of the essential ingredients of the International Space Station Programme is Russia's participation. Given that just a few years ago, the two space communities in the West and in the East were still largely separated from one another and the key players in the two communities had minimal contact, one can understand how important it was when the ISS partnership began for ESA to have 'pathfinders' who could guide it in establishing closer collaboration within the Russian space community. One of these guides has been Viktor Nikolaev, who was honoured for his active involvement in fostering cooperation between Russia and Europe.