Daylight is not far away
Science & Exploration

First morning at Concordia

09/08/2013 5993 views 72 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Concordia

After three months of continuous night, morning will break on Saturday at the Concordia research station in Antarctica. 

The Sun last set there in May and since then, the crew have watched for the faintest glow on the horizon that hinted at the position of the Sun and that separates nighttime from day. This glow dwindled into complete darkness at deepest point of winter in mid-June, and it has been gradually reappearing, slowly but steadily building up to the first real sunrise.

According previous crews, the difference between the bright glow and direct sunlight is huge; for the current crew, Saturday’s daybreak will be the most magnificent sunrise ever, revealing once more the icy panorama around their station.

Extreme conditions

Concordia in the dark
Concordia in the dark

The darkness of winter in polar regions is well known by people living in the far north. But the isolation and solitude of winter on the research station – located on the most distant and climatically challenging continent – is extreme. Spending a year in Antarctica and experiencing the long, cold and dark winter is comparable to carrying out space missions in many ways, which is why ESA takes part in activities at the Concordia station.

For example, bright light lamps are needed to regulate the crew’s body clocks at the station, and some crew members resort to medication to adjust their body clocks after they fall into an effect called ‘free-run’, when the actual time and their body clocks differ too much, and their bodies fail to regulate sleep. In space, the problem is actually the reverse: the astronauts on the Space Station experience 16 sunrises and sunsets a day, which is also severely disturbing.

The crew dynamics in a confined space under constant pressure is also like being on the Space Station. And after months of isolation, the Antarctica ‘hivernauts’ and International Space Station astronauts face the same issues: they have all but forgotten what it is like to see other people around, to smell the fresh scents of nature and to be outside without special protective clothing.

Concordia’s research doctors are sponsored by ESA, and this year the Greek Evangelos Kaimakamis has this role. In addition, Frenchman Olivier Delanoe is working with the grey water recycling system of Concordia, which is based on ESA developments for life support in spacecraft.

Evangelos and Concordia’s Italian technician Antonio Litterio have been blogging during the winter, and you can read about their experiences on the ESA Concordia blog.

Towards nightless night

It's dark and cold outside!
It's dark and cold outside!

After the first morning, the days will grow longer and longer until by December, the Sun will stay above the horizon for 24 hours a day. Then the base will be busy with visiting researchers and preparations for the next long winter. By then, the temperature will have risen to comfortable –25°C – a warm summer’s day by Concordia’s standards.

For the crew who live through the winter at the base, the arrival of the Sun is an important milestone, but the following months will be hard. They will have lot to do, for example cleaning up their base and preparing the summer camp. Even though the first plane does not arrive until November, opening officially the summer season and linking them to the outside world again, now it will be like the last leg of an endurance race: the worst is over. 

Related Articles

Concordia crew
Science & Exploration

A call for the cold

05/11/2018 6663 views 58 likes
Open item
Planet Concordia
Science & Exploration

Run your experiments in extreme cold isolation – or in bed

01/12/2017 2252 views 22 likes
Open item
Concordia way
Science & Exploration

New crew and new research in Antarctica

10/10/2017 8273 views 102 likes
Open item
Concordia sunset
Science & Exploration

New arrivals at remotest base on Earth – will you be next?

24/11/2016 8260 views 100 likes
Open item
Reaching for the stars
Science & Exploration

Step to the Stars

11/07/2016 3414 views 28 likes
Open item
Step to the stars
Science & Exploration

Our future in space starts on Earth

07/06/2016 1913 views 24 likes
Open item
ESA and European Polar Board sign MoU
Enabling & Support

ESA DG signs MoU with European Polar Board

03/02/2016 3015 views 47 likes
Open item
Grey water recycling in Antarctica
Enabling & Support

ESA wastewater recovery picked as key climate technology

02/12/2015 3700 views 51 likes
Open item
Laser research in Antarctica
Science & Exploration

Are you a doctor with the right stuff?

02/12/2015 15290 views 49 likes
Open item
First plane
Science & Exploration

New arrivals in Antarctica

23/11/2015 6086 views 68 likes
Open item
Concordia
Science & Exploration

Test spacecraft piloting skills – in Antarctica

04/03/2015 15890 views 45 likes
Open item
Beth Healey
Science & Exploration

Scientific spring in isolated Antarctica

23/02/2015 10119 views 93 likes
Open item
Waving to the Sun
Science & Exploration

Concordia calling

16/04/2014 8140 views 46 likes
Open item
Concordia
Science & Exploration

The storm before the calm

05/02/2014 5705 views 96 likes
Open item
Last sunset
Science & Exploration

Changing of the guard at Concordia

27/11/2013 4593 views 53 likes
Open item
Concordia research station
Science & Exploration

Experiments wanted for the next-best-thing to human researc…

02/10/2013 4351 views 18 likes
Open item
Science & Exploration

Hazy shade of winter

22/08/2013 2178 views 19 likes
Open item
Daylight is not far away
Science & Exploration

First morning at Concordia

09/08/2013 5993 views 72 likes
Open item
Science & Exploration

A hard day’s night

07/05/2013 6793 views 51 likes
Open item
Concordia station shelters in Antarctica
Science & Exploration

Doctor needed for mission to white space

24/04/2013 7050 views 18 likes
Open item
Scan of the veins used to regulate fluid in the brain.
Science & Exploration

Measuring skull pressure without the headache

19/12/2012 6573 views 37 likes
Open item
Enabling & Support

Shadows on ice: Proba-1 images Concordia south polar base

12/12/2012 13823 views 34 likes
Open item
Concordia crew in the cold
Science & Exploration

Ready for winter

23/11/2012 2129 views 5 likes
Open item

Related Links

Related Links