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This Author: European Space Agency

ESA Podcast by European Space Agency

ESA Podcast

by European Space Agency

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Twice a Month

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News and information from the European Space Agency including human space flight, space science, Earth observation, ground control and mission operations. Current deep-space missions include Mars Express, Venus Express and Rosetta, Europe's comet chaser. Produced by the European Space Agency communications team and the ESA Web portal staff.


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Herschel and Planck

Author: ESA
Thu, Dec 11, 2008


Herschel, the largest telescope ever launched, will study objects within and outside our Galaxy. It will be able to peer through clouds of gas and dust and observe stars as they form. Unlike Herschel, Planck will rotate continuously about its axis, scanning the whole sky to compile the most detailed and complete map ever of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB. This CMB radiation is the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang, which occurred about 14 thousand million years ago. Herschel and Planck will be launched together atop an Ariane 5 rocket in spring 2009.

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Food and satellites: Keeping an eye on food production

Author: ESA
Tue, Dec 02, 2008


Data on the climate and vegetation cover collected by ESA’s Earth observation satellites are proving to be an invaluable tool to fight food scarcity. With the aid of Earth observation data, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations state that, in Ethiopia there has been four successive years of increased cereal production. This shows that Earth observation data is leading to better understanding of the conditions that affect crops and grazing pastures, both fragile but vital components in African food production. At the FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy, satellite data are used to follow vegetation coverage and weather conditions virtually in real-time. That gives scientists a valuable forecasting tool and to some degree, an early-warning system. In addition, at ESA's Centre for Earth Observation just outside Rome, satellite data are being used to map vegetation coverage on an unprecedented scale. This map provides the FAO and the UN with a precise and up-to-date view of global vegetation coverage.

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Ministerial conference: Interview with ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain

Author: ESA
Fri, Nov 21, 2008


On 25 and 26 November in The Hague, Ministers in charge of space activities within the now 18 ESA Member States and Canada meet to define the role of space in delivering Europe's global objectives. In a dedicated interview, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain explains the situation in space today and tomorrow and what ESA proposes in front of the current context of economical crisis. Jean-Jacques Dordain defines the priorities for Europe in space, talks about new programmes and how ESA will evolve.

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ESA Science: past and future

Author: ESA
Fri, Nov 21, 2008


Since the very first satellites carrying scientific instruments were launched, our understanding of the cosmos has improved. The Sun is studied to the core and, beyond our star, the Universe is becoming less obscure. Knowledge of the Universe relates directly to humanity’s future. Over decades, ESA’s science programme has been conducted with long-term vision and, on many occasions, in international partnerships. The Cosmic Vision initiative is now paving the way for future missions that will launch starting in 2015. Understanding the nature of dark matter, bringing back samples of an asteroid, returning to the moons of Saturn or Jupiter, and establishing whether life existed on Mars, are difficult choices with budgets that are not indefinitely expandable. Priorities have to be set, responsibilities shared, and work must be done in international teams. In pursuing its Space Science effort, Europe is consolidating its technological know-how in many, often unrelated disciplines. The spirit of adventure and exploration also fires the imagination of youngsters, prompting their interest in science.

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ATV, the next step

Author: ESA
Thu, Nov 20, 2008


The successful docking of the European Columbus module and the launch of the Automated Transfer Vehicle have opened a new era for Europe’s presence in space with the aspiration to consolidate its independence. Now, ESA is working on a proposed programme to develop new versions of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The projects ESA is considering are essentially based on a re-use of the ATV's service module and the replacement of the integrated cargo carrier with a re-entry capsule. This would allow for atmospheric re-entry, bringing down to the Earth first some cargo and then in the future a complete crew. ESA and its industrial partners will have to develop new technologies to satisfy other crucial requirements, such as the ejection system to ensure the absolute safety of a space capsule’s crew in case of an anomaly on the launch pad or during its ascent phase.

ESApod video programme

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GMES – video news release

Author: ESA
Tue, Nov 18, 2008


Relying largely on satellite data, the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme will provide accurate and timely data to better manage the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security. ESA is responsible for the Space Component of GMES. It will provide continuous, accurate satellite data from Earth observation satellites, like Envisat and ERS. As part of the GMES programme, ESA is also developing, building and launching a new series of Earth monitoring satellites called Sentinels. The Sentinels are five families of satellites that will monitor the land, oceans, ice and atmosphere for markers of environmental change. Data from the Sentinel satellites as well as other ESA and non-ESA missions contributing to GMES will be combined with measurements taken on Earth. As changes in parameters such as air quality and ocean height are recorded over time, legislation can be put in place to tackle issues such as flooding, deforestation and drought.

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The European Data Relay Satellite System – EDRS

Author: ESA
Fri, Nov 07, 2008


The European Space Agency is developing a network of satellites – the European Data Relay Satellite System – that will use geostationary satellites to communicate with both ground stations and other satellites – whose lower orbits restrict the time that they can ‘see’ any one ground station. Allowing low-Earth orbit satellites to deliver data continuously, instead of storing it on board for transmission while overflying a ground station, will increase the timeliness with which we receive data improving global communications, navigation and Earth observation. By developing this satellite infrastructure, ESA will improve many key services, such as the monitoring of earthquakes, forest fires and floods, aircraft navigation and the observation of sea-ice zones. On-demand satellite data will be available at the right place and at the right time – improving and even saving lives.

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IXV: learning to come back from Space

Author: ESA
Wed, Nov 05, 2008


After being launched into space, the IXV - or Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle - will return to earth as if from a low-Earth orbit mission, testing brand-new European atmospheric re-entry technologies during its hypersonic and supersonic flight phases. For ESA, the mission is essential to further develop critical technologies for future robotic or manned spacecraft. In the name Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, the word intermediate means that the vehicle builds on earlier achievements and performs the step that forms the bridge to future developments. The two-hour IXV mission is scheduled for launch in 2012 on board Vega, Europe's new, small launcher.

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Frank De Winne prepares for new mission

Author: ESA
Wed, Oct 29, 2008


In May 2009, Belgian ESA astronaut Frank De Winne will fly together with Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS. His back-up for the trip will be Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers. De Winne’s role on board the ISS will be to carry out experiments for an extensive scientific European programme. He will also be operating the Station’s robotic arm and the Japanese robotic arm after the docking of HTV, the cargo module from Japan. In preparation for these activities De Winne has been going through an intensive and long period of training aimed at preparing him physically and practising the experiments he will have to carry out on board the ISS in microgravity.

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SHAR: the Indian launch base

Author: ESA
Tue, Oct 21, 2008


On the island of Sriharikota, 150 kilometres north of Chennai, India has based its launch centre SHAR, the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, named after the research scientist and former president of the ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organisation. At SHAR two launch pads have been built for the two rockets developed by India: the PSLV, a 4-stage launch vehicle using liquid and solid propulsion and able to launch one-tonne craft into geostationary transfer orbit and the GSLV, a 2-tonne capacity launcher for geostationary transfer orbit. PSLV has the performance level required to launch Chandrayaan-1 on its way to the moon. Sriharikota is like a real town. About 2000 employees are living on the island with their families.

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India – Europe cooperation

Author: ESA
Mon, Oct 20, 2008


The first venture between India and Europe took place in the 1980s. In 1981, Europe's Ariane 3 rocket launched into space India's first geostationary satellite Apple. The cooperation continues today with India's lunar mission Chandrayaan-1. India's INSAT satellites were also designed for weather forecasting and Earth observation. Thirteen of them lifted-off with Europe's Ariane launchers. Today India has developed its own launchers at its Sriharikota base in the Bay of Bengal and is about to enter a new stage with its first lunar mission Chandrayaan-1. The large antenna designed by the Indian Space Agency and specially installed outside Bangalore to monitor the Chandrayaan-1 mission forms part of India's deep space network and is a good illustration of India's desire to play a role in the conquest of space and to offer its services to other countries. India is also interested in other forms of cooperation that go beyond lunar discovery and astronomical missions.

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Video overview of the Chandrayaan-1 mission

Author: ESA
Wed, Oct 15, 2008


The Indian launch vehicle PSLV is now at its launch station at Shriharikota - nowadays Chennai - a small island 100 km from Madras in the Bay of Bengal. It is waiting for its passenger, the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1, currently under preparation in Bangalore. Chandrayaan means ‘journey to the moon’ in Hindi. India has already built and launched many satellites but this is the first time that it will venture beyond the orbit of Earth. Six out of the 11 research instruments on board Chandrayaan are the result of international cooperative efforts, three of them with the European Space Agency (ESA). For ESA, Chandrayaan also represents an opportunity to re-use improved versions of the instruments which studied the moon on its SMART-1 lunar mission, and also a chance to send in orbit new instruments which will be used in upcoming ESA missions, such as the BepiColombo mission to Mercury.

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GOCE launch campaign at Plesetsk

Author: ESA
Fri, Oct 10, 2008


Since July 2008 the GOCE Earth Explorer satellite has been at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. ESA’s Gravity field and steady state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) is a unique satellite that will map the Earth's gravity field for a better understanding of our planet. Although GOCE was due to lift-off in September 2008, launch has been postponed pending a technical issue on the Rockot launcher.

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ATV Jules Verne: Mission accomplished

Author: ESA
Mon, Sep 29, 2008


Two de-orbit manoeuvres will lower ESA's Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle. Break up of the satellite is expected at an altitude of 65 km. The crew on board the ISS will attempt to observe the re-entry of the satellite over the Pacific. Engineers are already working on the following two ATVs. The next one is scheduled for launch in 2010 and proposals to adapt the spaceship to other tasks are ongoing.

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Rosetta

Author: ESA
Thu, Sep 04, 2008


Steins is Rosetta's first nominal scientific target. Based upon ground-based observations, it has been classified as an 'E-type' asteroid, composed mainly of silicates and basalts, but its properties are not known in detail. For these reasons, it has been selected as one of the two asteroids that Rosetta will study, from among those that were within reach of the mission. The study of asteroids is extremely important as they represent a sample of Solar System material at different stages of evolution – key to understanding the origin of our own planet and of our planetary neighbourhood. The spacecraft will rendezvous with the asteroid in the course of its first incursion into the asteroid belt, while on its way to comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

ESApod audio programme

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Rosetta: rendezvous with an asteroid

Author: ESA
Thu, Sep 04, 2008


Asteroid Steins belongs to the rare, largely unknown intermediate E-class, very bright and probably with a much-weathered surface. Steins' orbit was only known from ground observations, so Rosetta is conducting Europe's first-ever optical tracking campaign, providing highly accurate position data to Flight Dynamics specialists who are planning a series of trajectory corrections for an accurate fly-by. For over a year, Rosetta scientists and leading asteroid experts have been planning this encounter, and all the probe's science instruments will be active at some point in the fly-by. Reception of the first images is expected at the European Space Operations Centre some two hours after the encounter on 5 September 2008.

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GOCE

Author: ESA
Mon, Sep 01, 2008


ESA's GOCE mission is dedicated to measuring the Earth's gravity field and modelling the geoid with unprecedented accuracy and spatial resolution. GOCE is the first in a series of research missions known as Earth Explorers. Driven by the needs of the scientific community, Earth Explorers will provide the data to help understand critical Earth system variables and put Europe in pole position on Earth observation in the coming years. GOCE is due for launch in September 2008 on a Russian Rockot vehicle – a converted SS-19 Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile – from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. All the data collected by GOCE will go towards creating a global gravity-field map with a level of accuracy never before available. ESA has developed an internet interface that will make these data easily and quickly available to scientists and researchers.

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Water

Author: ESA
Thu, Jul 17, 2008


The search for water in space has been quite successful; traces of ice have been found on Mars and water vapour has been found in several places in our galaxy. Water vapour was also recently detected on a planet outside our Solar System for the first time. It was an important discovery, although the planet is far too hot to be able to support life. Heavy water, which is also found on comets, poses the question of whether we can trace the origins of the water on earth through the heavy water found on objects like asteroids and comets. The Herschel space observatory, due for launch within a year’s time, will help explore the theory that water vapour plays an important role in regions of space where interstellar clouds of gas and dust are forming new stars.

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Hubble servicing mission and the next generation

Author: ESA
Fri, Jul 04, 2008


Hubble has been serviced and upgraded four times. The fifth and final tune-up is scheduled for October 2008. After this, it is expected to be in fit working order for another five years. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a project of partnership between ESA, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, is scheduled for launch in 2013. It is the largest and most complex space probe ever built. JWST will observe in infrared wavelengths, providing unprecedented results.

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New astronauts

Author: ESA
Fri, Jun 27, 2008


Thousands of people from the 17 countries that make up ESA responded to this dream of becoming an astronaut, but what are the qualities ESA is looking for?

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The Ulysses legacy

Author: ESA
Thu, Jun 12, 2008


For more than 17 years, the joint ESA/NASA mission Ulysses studied the heliosphere (the sphere of influence of the Sun) and our local interstellar neighbourhood, providing the first-ever map of the heliosphere in the four dimensions of space and time. Ulysses was designed to last for five years but it is still returning valuable data. The mission, which takes the spacecraft over the poles of the Sun, was extended four times, allowing Ulysses to pass over the Sun’s poles for a second and third time. But like all good things, the mission is coming to an end.

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Galileo, time and space

Author: ESA
Mon, Jun 09, 2008


The Galileo constellation will be the world's most reliable global navigation system. The technologies that have been developed to achieve such precision will also provide data for use in many other fields, such as oceanography and meteorology. The Galileo system will also open new horizons in fundamental sciences. The extremely small differences in timekeeping between the satellite clocks moving in orbit and their Earth-bound counterparts will lead scientists to a re-evaluation of the nature and influence of gravity in the Universe.

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ILA Space Pavilion: Space exploration in the future

Author: ESA
Fri, May 30, 2008


To land, first, on the Moon and, later, on Mars - in the 2030 timeframe - scientists need a mix of human and robotic missions to know in advance what challenges must be met - to know how humans can survive for years under microgravity, to scout landing zones and to develop precise navigation and artificial intelligence techniques.

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Earth Observation highlights at ILA Space Pavilion

Author: ESA
Thu, May 29, 2008


Earlier this week, ESA signed a contract at the Berlin Airshow's Space Pavilion to build the EarthCARE satellite - the Agency's 'Cloud, Aerosol and Radiation' mission. Due for launch in 2013, EarthCARE will gather data to give scientists a better understanding of the interactions between radiation and clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere. Earth Observation is a central pillar in Europe's space activities; EO generates direct benefits for citizens and governments and employs science for a better understanding of our planet.

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Traces of Martian life: the search continues

Author: ESA
Fri, May 23, 2008


Radar sounders aboard ESA's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance orbiters have already detected ice deposits deep underground. Now, after a ten-month journey, NASA's Phoenix lander will continue the search for water. Its objective is to land in a permafrost region near the north pole. Its suite of instruments will scan the atmosphere and a robotic arm will attempt to dig down to an ice-rich layer expected to lie at arm's reach below the surface. But water is not the sole element that could have harboured life on the Red Planet: methane could also establish a link between life on Earth and Mars. Scientists have already found traces of methane in the atmosphere of Mars and are currently trying to work out exactly where the gas is coming from. On Earth, it is well known that the source of methane is mostly life. So, whilst orbiting spacecraft like Mars Express continue to harvest global views, in-situ observations on the martian surface like those of NASA's Phoenix lander and ESA's ExoMars mobile laboratory, due to launch in 2011, remain necessary. The critical entry, descent and landing phase of the Phoenix probe will, at NASA's request, be provided with support from ESA.

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GOCE preparing for launch

Author: ESA
Wed, May 21, 2008


From an exceptionally low orbital altitude, GOCE (Gravity Field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer) will measure global variations in the Earth's gravity field with extreme detail and accuracy. This will result in a unique model of the geoid, which is the surface of equal gravitational potential defined by the gravity field – crucial for deriving accurate measurements of ocean circulation and sea-level change, both of which are affected by climate change. GOCE-derived data is also much needed to understand more about processes occurring inside the Earth and for use in practical applications such as surveying and levelling. GOCE is the first in the series of Earth Explorer missions being developed within ESA's Living Planet Programme. Earth Explorer missions form the science and research element of the Living Planet Programme and focus on the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and the Earth's interior, with the overall emphasis on learning more about the interactions between these components and the impact that human activity is having on natural Earth processes. The satellite is currently undergoing final preparations at ESA-ESTEC in the Netherlands prior to launch this summer from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

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Broadband internet via satellite aboard Thalys trains

Author: ESA
Tue, May 20, 2008


The principle is simple: a satellite-tracking antenna on the roof of the train ensures a permanent link with a telecommunications satellite. The link is then relayed inside the train through wireless access points installed in the ceilings of the carriages. A great technological achievement: a continuous, two-way link between a train travelling at 300 kilometres per hour and a satellite at an altitude of 36 000 kilometres. The technology demonstrator was developed with ESA support by the UK-based company 21Net, an operator specialised in providing Internet access via satellite. A consortium, lead by Nokia Siemens Networks and including 21Net, has now implemented a commercial version of the system on Thalys trains.

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Innovation from space exploration and technology transfer

Author: ESA
Wed, Apr 30, 2008


The advantage of using leading edge-technologies from space in other sectors, and vice versa, at the forum 'Innovation from space exploration and technology transfer' taking place 23 April 2008.

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Technology spin-offs from European space programmes

Author: ESA
Wed, Apr 30, 2008


Technology spin-offs from European space programmes presented at the SpaceTransfer08 event in the Innovations Market for Research and Development section at the Hanover trade fair 2008, taking place 21-25 April 2008.

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Galileo - the atomic clock

Author: ESA
Fri, Apr 25, 2008


The second Galileo satellite, GIOVE-B, is equipped with the most accurate clock ever to be flown in space. GIOVE B will be launched from Baikonur on 27 April.

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Galileo - the way forward

Author: ESA
Wed, Apr 23, 2008


The European Union and the European Space Agency are taking to implement Galileo and achieve the full deployment of the first civil satellite navigation system.

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GIOVE-B

Author: ESA
Wed, Apr 23, 2008


GIOVE-B will be a satellite very close to the satellites planned for the operational Galileo system to be deployed by 2013. In particular it will carry a high precision atomic clock which, once on orbit, will be the most accurate clock ever flying in space. With this launch the European Space Agency and the European Commission are consolidating the foundations of Galileo, the first global civil positioning system.

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ATV: Closing in on the target

Author: ESA
Tue, Apr 01, 2008


Jules Verne ATV's laser rendezvous sensor will emit a signal and receive a reflection back from the International Space Station. Engineers at the ATV Control Centre and the astronauts on board ISS will monitor the spacecraft as it approaches for docking, making sure it follows a predefined corridor and that the spacecraft is flying at the right angle. This complex system has back-up layers which will kick in if there are any problems. But should its two redundant chains break down, the ATV has a third, totally independent monitoring and safing unit which can be triggered to order the spacecraft to safely back-off from its target and return to its usual cruise mode.

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ATV orbital rehearsals for ISS docking

Author: ESA
Fri, Mar 28, 2008


On 14 March, ATV successfully demonstrated the crucial Collision Avoidance Manoeuvre, or CAM, in which an automated system successfully took over control of the vessel and moved to a safe location. Now, two more 'Demonstration Days' are scheduled prior to the actual docking. The first, 29 March, will demonstrate that the ATV can automatically calculate its position and manoeuvre with respect to the Station using relative GPS navigation; it will also perform an 'Escape' manoeuvre from the S2 position, some 3500 m behind the ISS. The data from this rehearsal will be analysed by ATV mission managers and NASA and Russian partners before proceeding to a second Demonstration Day, on 31 March. This second dry-run will test close proximity manoeuvring and control, including contingency manoeuvres for both the ATV control centre and the crew aboard the ISS. The ATV will approach first to within 20 metres of the station, retreat, then approach even nearer, to a point only 12 metres from the docking port on the ISS Russian Zvezda module, before again backing off to a safe 100-metre distance. Demo Day 2 will provide ultimate proof that Europe's resupply vessel is absolutely ready for final rendezvous and docking.

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Moons

Author: ESA
Tue, Mar 18, 2008


A number of missions have spent time exploring these unknown worlds in the solar system. In January 2005, the European lander, Huygens stunned the world as it landed on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, revealing unexpected data. Missions such as ESA's SMART-1, which compiled the first comprehensive inventory of key chemical elements in the lunar surface and tested new technology, have become increasingly important today. To follow-up on the technological breakthroughs of SMART-1, ESA will be participating in Chandrayaan-1, the Indian space agency's lunar mission, due for launch in 2008.

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Jules Verne ATV's space cargo

Author: ESA
Thu, Mar 06, 2008


Provided by Thales Alenia Space in Italy, Jules Verne ATV’s Integrated Cargo Carrier is about half the volume of ESA’s Columbus laboratory. Around 180 kg of European cargo was first packed in Italy before being transported to Kourou, in French Guiana. Before the cargo was loaded into the spacecraft, the entire pressurised section was disinfected as a sanitary precaution. Some 1200 kg of supplies, mainly from NASA, were stored on board, including 500 kg of food, and 80 kg of clothing and spare parts. Amongst the cargo are also gifts for the ISS crew, including a luxury 19th Century edition of Jules Verne's work 'From the Earth to the Moon', and the winning music playlist from ESA's ATV competition, selected to inspire them and brighten their day. The ATV's tanks were loaded with drinkable water, oxygen, nitrogen and fuel for the Space Station's propulsion system. After further sanitary inspections the hatch was closed, the ATV was purged and filled with pure synthesized air. Once docked with the International Space Station, astronauts will be able to access the cargo section without spacesuits, to unload supplies, to store others, to place waste material to be discarded and even use it as a rest quarters.

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ATV: A new generation space vehicle

Author: ESA
Tue, Mar 04, 2008


The 48 cubic meter pressurised cargo module gives the ATV a capacity three times greater than existing space freighters. Its racks can be packed with more than 1300 kg of food, clothes, and equipment. Reservoirs can carry several hundred litres of drinking water and gases. Other tanks are loaded with important quantities of propellants. Astronauts will unload the cargo at their leisure, and use it as a storage area. Unwanted items and refuse placed inside will burn up when the vessel re-enters the Earth's atmosphere at the end of its mission. Other ATVs will follow. The five scheduled between now and 2015, will be crucial elements of the ISS, particularly after the last Shuttle flight in 2010. And future versions of the spacecraft are already on the drawing boards. The ATV Programme represents an investment of some 1.3 billion Euros since 1995, to the benefit of European industry. Under the direction of ESA and prime contractor EADS Astrium, engineers throughout the continent have contributed to this new generation spacecraft. Major sub-contractors include Thales Alenia Space (Italy), Astrium (Germany and France), Oerlikon Space (Switzerland), Dutch Space (The Netherlands), with Russian partners providing the advanced docking mechanism.

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ATV: Rendezvous in space

Author: ESA
Fri, Feb 29, 2008


From 1998, the International Space Station has required regular visits - to date 58 dockings - of the Shuttles, Soyuz crew, and Progress supply ships. Unmanned - but man-rated – ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has the unique capability to perform automatic rendezvous in a fully autonomous manner. The rendezvous of ESA's Jules Verne ATV with the ISS uses GPS navigation, star tracker devices, two critical sensors, a telegoniometer and a videometer. After raising its orbit to some 400 kilometres, the ATV will come in sight of the ISS, and from about 30 kilometres distance behind, and 5 kilometres below, it will close in on its target. For any emergency occurring during spacecraft navigation, flight controllers can at anytime call on the ATV independent system and back away from the Space Station. Astronauts on the ISS can also reject the spacecraft in case of anomalies. Their task onboard is ensuring ATV either touches at the right place at the right speed, or doesn’t touch at all. With its unprecedented cargo and re-boost capabilities, ATV will service the Space Station for many years and could become a unique asset after the Shuttle retirement in 2010. Its advanced technologies will no doubt have other uses: for robots to recover old satellites and space debris, to return planetary samples back to Earth, for the remote construction of large space structures, and notably for interplanetary journeys.

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ATV Control Centre readies for Europe's first-ever automated docking

Author: ESA
Fri, Feb 22, 2008


Equipped with its own propulsion and navigation system, the unmanned ATV "space truck" - dubbed 'Jules Verne' - has a sophisticated automatic navigation system. Even though the ATV is an automatic space vehicle, ground control experts from ESA and CNES, the French space agency, will be heavily involved in operations. They are prepared for any contingency, determining the route the spacecraft must take to dock with the ISS and working closely with the other two ISS control centres involved in ATV operations: the Mission Control Centre - Moscow (MCC-M) and the MCC-H, in Houston. At each of these control centres, European, American and Russian engineers coordinate their actions and carry out final manoeuvres with extreme precision.

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SMOS: Helping Europe respond to climate change

Author: ESA
Fri, Feb 15, 2008


Three-quarters of the globe is covered in water and its influence is felt everywhere. It’s not only oceans, rivers and lakes that affect the climate but water in all its forms, such as soil moisture and its evaporation. SMOS, ESA’s water mission, will provide a uniform dataset for understanding better the water cycle, thus helping to forecast climate change and predict extreme weather conditions. Circulating at a low orbit of around 750 km above the Earth, SMOS will be the first satellite to provide us with a global picture of ocean salinity levels. Understanding the salinity and temperature of the seas will help to predict more easily the zones where hurricanes intensify as they pass over the ocean. Salinity in the oceans has a big impact on ocean circulation, which plays a key role in driving the global climate. The SMOS satellite will be launched into space in 2008 atop the Russian launcher ‘Rockot’.

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The Rosetta Odyssey

Author: ESA
Tue, Feb 05, 2008


Before each manoeuvre, the mission control team at ESA's Space Operations Centre simulates all aspects of the upcoming operation and practices identifying and solving problems that could arise. The multinational team must work as one to react immediately and effectively. Once at its target comet in 2014, Rosetta’s lander, Philae, will touch down and study the comet’s surface composition and drill into the icy nucleus to collect and analyse samples, including complex organic material that may have contributed to the formation of life on Earth.

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ESAC – Europe’s window to space

Author: ESA
Fri, Feb 01, 2008


The European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) receives data from deep-space ground stations worldwide. The huge volume of data that comes back to Earth from space has to be calibrated and translated into a format that can be exploited by scientists.

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Very Long Baseline Interferometry - the sharpest views of the invisible

Author: ESA
Fri, Jan 25, 2008


Radio telescopes must be very large in size to achieve the same resolution as optical telescopes. The only way to do this is by coupling two or more of them, the further apart the better, and to analyse their combined signals. An interferometer is a system which can avoid increased expenses due to the large size of the receiver. It consists of two or more elements of large antennae. By connecting them in a special fashion, it is possible to artificially create a larger telescope. The European hub for what is called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) is situated in Dwingeloo in the Netherlands, at the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe, JIVE.

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Boosting capability: Santa Maria station joins ESTRACK tracking station network

Author: ESA
Fri, Jan 18, 2008


The Santa Maria station (SMA) tracking footprint covers a large portion of the Atlantic ocean. The first launch to be tracked from Santa Maria will take place in early 2008, when Jules Verne, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to be sent to the International Space Station, lifts off from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on board an Ariane 5 launcher.

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ESA annual press briefing. Listen to the conference with ESA Director General

Author: ESA
Mon, Jan 14, 2008


The conference began at 08:30 with breakfast, followed at 09:00 by a press briefing to review the Agency’s activities in 2007 and look ahead to those of 2008, a year set to be full of events and marked by several major launches (ATV, Giove-B, GOCE, Herschel and Planck, SMOS, Vega), as well as a major programmatic milestone for ESA: the Council meeting at Ministerial level in late November.

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GIOVE: Solid foundation for Galileo

Author: ESA
Tue, Dec 18, 2007


Today, the specialists at the European Space Agency's Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands are able to confirm that the GIOVE-A mission is a success. This is an essential result for the next step in the programme: the launch of GIOVE-B, the second experimental satellite, scheduled for lift off by mid-2008. This satellite will broadcast the latest signals, which have been agreed with the United States, and two different types of onboard technologies that will provide the best timing synchronisation experienced so far. When complete, Galileo will be a constellation of 30 satellites supported by a network of ground stations, creating a global network. With this joint project, the European Commission and ESA plan a civil system providing guidance and assistance regardless of location. The fact that Galileo will be a civil system means it will guarantee continuity of access and signal quality - unlike the American GPS system, which is under military control. Nevertheless, Galileo and GPS will be compatible and interoperable - increasing the reliability of both systems.

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ISS update November 2007

Author: ESA
Tue, Dec 04, 2007


Harmony, also known as Node 2, was delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) by the STS-120 Shuttle mission last October. After STS-120 returned to Earth, the ISS Expedition 16 crew continued work to move Harmony to its final destination and get it ready to receive the next stage of the ISS: Europe's Columbus laboratory. Columbus has been installed in the cargo bay of Space Shuttle Atlantis, ready for launch at 22:31 CET (21:31 UT) on December 6th. Two European astronauts will deliver the European Columbus laboratory to the ISS on this historical space mission. During his 12 day mission to the ISS, ESA astronaut Hans Schlegel will undertake 2 spacewalks to install the laboratory. His colleague, Léopold Eyharts, will oversee the installation and the start-up of Columbus and its scientific facilities during a two month stay on board the Station. Once in place, the laboratory will begin to bear the fruits of Europe's investment in the International Space Station Programme.

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Health alert via satellite

Author: ESA
Fri, Nov 30, 2007


This project is co-funded by the European Space Agency as part of a programme dedicated to telemedicine. The aim is to test a satellite communication system, the only technology that would remain fully operational in the event of a natural disaster. The exercise demonstrates the efficiency of satellite telecommunications for intervention in the field while offering the possibility to inform the rest of the world about the evolution of the situation. This is a good example of what ESA wants to develop: a truly user-driven system enabling satellites to safely connect the health world.

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Venus Express Update

Author: ESA
Thu, Nov 29, 2007


Venus Express is the first mission dedicated to the study of the composition and dynamics of the planet’s atmosphere. The European orbiter has identified broad meteorological regimes, all influenced by the gigantic hurricane-like vortices at the poles. From these double-eyed vortices, swirling in the atmosphere, around the planet in just a couple of days, to smoother streams at mid-latitudes and wave-dominated phenomena at lower latitudes - these regimes are, surprisingly, clearly delineated. The spacecraft’s elongated orbit has allowed its instruments, notably the VMC camera and the VIRTIS imaging spectrometer, to obtain long-shot views of the planet’s weather patterns, mosaics showing different types of cloud formation and wind speeds, varying according to altitude and latitude. Venus Express has obtained much information on the composition and physical processes active in the atmosphere, and has been able to measure the loss of molecules, stripped away by the solar wind. Rates of oxygen depletion are still being calculated but some tentative conclusions are being advanced. Venus Express has also probably brought the final answer to the controversy about the presence of lightening. The venusian picture is still far from complete. The European mission which has now been prolonged to the end of 2008, is pursuing its harvest of data, allowing scientists to better understand the precise reasons why, compared to our planet, Venus has become so inhospitable.

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The Columbus Mission

Author: ESA
Tue, Nov 27, 2007


Columbus, with its planned operational lifetime of ten years, is Europe's first laboratory for long-term research in space conditions. Scientific experiments will be performed on board in the weightlessness of orbit. Once in orbit, Columbus will be taken out of the cargo bay by the Shuttle’s robotic arm. The European laboratory will then be moved to the Italian-built Node 2 connector, where it will be permanently fixed to the Station. Each rack inside Columbus is a laboratory in its own right. Experiments in life sciences, physiology and physics can all be carried out within the one structure. These facilities are pre-installed inside Columbus so experiments can start immediately after it arrives at the ISS. Experiments can also be mounted outside Columbus, to examine the effects of exposure to the space environment. Two such experiments will be launched along with the laboratory.

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Hans Schlegel prepares for Columbus Mission

Author: ESA
Fri, Nov 23, 2007


Schlegel has been preparing for his upcoming mission to deliver Columbus since starting his training as mission specialist with the NASA astronaut class of 1998 at the Johnson Space Center, Houston. All astronauts have to go through this extensive training to prepare for any given situation that might occur during a mission. Following his assignment to the STS-122 Shuttle mission that will deliver the European Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station, recent months have seen a period of even more intensive briefings and further training for Schlegel, for his colleague French ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts, and his STS-122 crewmates. Returning to space 14 years after his first visit, Schlegel is already wondering if his body will remember microgravity.

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ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts ready to make space history

Author: ESA
Tue, Nov 20, 2007


Imagine a multifunctional high-tech laboratory, suspended some 400 km above our heads, dedicated to the achievement of scientific, technological and educational benefits for the citizens of Europe. Well, this dream actually exists, and it's called Columbus. In December, the Space Shuttle will carry Columbus up to the International Space Station along with ESA astronauts Eyharts and Schlegel and five American astronauts. Leopold Eyharts's main role will be to attach the module to the Station before making all the physical connections. Eyharts will become the first European astronaut to test and operate in orbit the systems of the Columbus laboratory as well as the European science experiments carried onboard. During his two and a half month mission to the ISS, he will act as flight engineer and will also support robotics activities. Apart from testing Columbus, Eyharts will also see the arrival at the ISS of 'Jules Verne', ESA's first Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV. This European-built spacecraft will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket some weeks after Columbus to supply and reboost the International Space Station.

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ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli paves the way for Columbus

Author: ESA
Fri, Nov 16, 2007


On 23 October 2007, Italian ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli prepared for take-off on the outbound trip on Space Shuttle Discovery to the ISS. This mission, named Esperia, was exceptional because of the very special payload astronaut Nespoli was responsible for delivering: Node 2. The 'Harmony' Node 2 module is an indispensable building block in the continuing construction of the ISS. As Intra Vehicular astronaut, Paolo Nespoli also co-ordinated all planned spacewalks from inside the Shuttle. These are essential for the ongoing maintenance and assembly of the ISS. Paolo Nespoli and his crewmates unexpectedly had to fix the damaged solar array that is key to generating the necessary power for the Columbus laboratory. Crew members fashioned a tool from existing materials on board the ISS to be used in the repair of the fabric during a dedicated spacewalk on day 11 of the mission. With the delivery and attachment of Node 2 to the ISS it is now possible to send Europe's Columbus laboratory to the ISS on the STS 122 Shuttle flight on 6 December as planned.

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Earth swing-by: Rosetta operations update

Author: ESA
Mon, Nov 12, 2007


Rosetta, ESA's comet-chasing spacecraft, is due to swing-by Earth tomorrow, 13 November, making closest approach at 21:57 CET. The next three days promise to be intensely busy at ESOC, ESA's Space Operations Centre, in Darmstadt, Germany. On 12 November, ESApod spoke with Andrea Accomazzo, the Spacecraft Operations Manager, who provides an update on the team work going on at ESOC and the support being provided by ESA's New Norcia ESTRACK ground station and by NASA's deep-space network. At 19:00 CET (18:00 UTC) tonight, Rosetta will be 920 000 km from the Earth, approaching at 9.4 km/second relative to our planet.

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Rosetta's second Earth swing-by

Author: ESA
Fri, Nov 09, 2007


Rosetta swung by Earth in March 2005 and Mars in February 2007. As it approaches its home planet once again, the spacecraft will have travelled more than 3000 million kilometres since launch in 2004. At ESA's Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany, mission controllers have made the final adjustments to Rosetta's trajectory in preparation for the swing-by. The highest priority is being given to spacecraft operations, as the manoeuvre is critical for the success of the mission. However, and despite the unfavourable illumination conditions due to the positions of the Sun and the Earth, a few experiments both on the orbiter and the Philae Lander will be activated for calibration, scientific measurements and imaging. The observations are scheduled during and around the time of closest approach, from 7 Nov, 01:00 CET, to 20 Nov, 15:00 CET. Rosetta will first point to Earth to observe the atmosphere and the magnetosphere, and it will also look for shooting stars from space. It will image urban regions in Asia, Africa and Europe and then point to the Moon and obtain spectra of the illuminated Moon. Flying away after closest approach, Rosetta will image the Earth-Moon system from a distance.

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Columbus Control Centre - heart of European ISS operations

Author: ESA
Wed, Nov 07, 2007


ESA's Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, made its successful debut as an ISS control centre in 2006, scheduling and controlling the scientific experiments conducted by ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter during the hugely successful Astrolab mission. With delivery of Europe's space laboratory Columbus to the ISS set for December 2007, flight controllers at 'Col CC' will become responsible not only for scientific experiments but also for a complete laboratory of the International Space Station, with operations running 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. The Columbus Control Centre is operated on behalf of ESA by DLR, the German Aerospace Center, and the flight control team is composed of dedicated specialists from DLR, ESA and industry. The team is supervised by Columbus Mission Directors of the European Space Agency.

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European Columbus laboratory is ready to launch

Author: ESA
Wed, Oct 31, 2007


The next step is to transfer Columbus and the external payload carrier by canister to Space Shuttle Atlantis, where they will be mounted into the cargo bay in the second week of November. After a month the space laboratory will be launched into space. Once on board the Station, ESA astronaut Léopold Eyharts will support the activation and check out of Columbus and its experiment facilities. Although Columbus is smaller in length than the other modules of the ISS, it offers the same number of racks for research as the American and Japanese laboratories and all initial internal and external payloads are launched together with the module, thereby saving extra launches, time and expense.

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The Esperia Mission October 2007

Author: ESA
Thu, Oct 25, 2007


During a 10-day stay at the Space Station, Paolo Nespoli will coordinate three spacewalks from inside the ISS during which Harmony will be installed. He will also be carrying out experiments on behalf of ESA and of the Italian Space Agency (ASI). In return for Europe providing high-tech nodes for the Space Station, NASA will soon be carrying the European Columbus Laboratory into orbit. Columbus, ESA's most important contribution to the ISS so far, will be used for science experiments and to prepare for the exploration of the Moon and Mars.

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European Space Technology Transfer Conference 2007

Author: ESA
Mon, Oct 22, 2007


One hundred business professionals are gathering to learn how space technologies have provided innovative solutions in non-space applications and to discuss their further potential. The conference is being organised by ESA's Technology Transfer Programme, which promotes the use and transfer of space technology and materials to non-space sectors. The European Space Technology Conference 2007 is taking place as part of the Materialica Trade Fair, which focuses on new materials. The venue will enable industry from that field to take a closer look at the potential of space-developed technologies and materials. More than 40 successful case studies are being presented by 21 speakers illustrating the profitable solutions provided by space technology in multiple industrial sectors, including: automotive, medical, energy, textile, security and robotics.

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Science with Integral five years on

Author: ESA
Wed, Oct 17, 2007


Integral's gamma-ray mission was originally to last just two years. Given its achievements so far, it is not a surprise that the mission has been extended to 2010. Looking beyond our galaxy, science teams have located more than a hundred super-massive black holes, a million times the mass of the Sun, and which are now believed to be present in space on a much wider scale. Another recently identified source, a quasar, is the farthest object detected by Integral so far, a gamma-ray lighthouse shining from the very edge of the universe. In our galaxy, Integral has also detected, by chance, a rare kind of transient gamma-ray source and discovered a new class of celestial objects emitting X-rays, unidentified in previous observations, called 'superfast X-ray transients' which are probably widespread throughout the Galaxy. Also, in the galactic centre, Integral has made a key discovery that shows that a lot of particles of matter are getting annihilated by coming into contact with their antimatter counterparts.

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ISS update October 2007

Author: ESA
Fri, Oct 12, 2007


The first task of the next International Space Station (ISS) phase is to attach the Italian-built Node 2 connector, to which the European Columbus laboratory will be mated. This will be carried out by the STS-120 crew, including ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who will fly with Node 2 onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. The next Shuttle flight after that will carry the European Columbus laboratory, along with two more ESA astronauts; Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts. During a 12-day mission, Hans Schlegel will carry out two spacewalks to install the laboratory while his colleague, Leopold Eyharts, will oversee the installation and the start-up of Columbus and its scientific facilities during a three-month stay onboard the Station. Columbus scientific results will give the world a greater understanding of life on Earth and will also help in Europe's preparations for the exploration of Mars and the Moon. To contribute towards the operational costs of the ISS, ESA has also developed the Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV. The ATV is currently being prepared at the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It has been loaded with supplies for the ISS and, at the beginning of next year, it will be mounted on top of an Ariane 5 launcher for transportation into orbit.

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Preparing for Mars500 - a simulated mission to Mars

Author: ESA
Tue, Oct 02, 2007


The project, called Mars500, due to start in 2008 will recreate all the phases of a mission to Mars. Six volunteers will remain confined in six modules of a mock-up ground-based spaceship: living quarters with individual cabins, an exercise room and storage area for food and supplies, a bio-medical and laboratory area and one recreating the Martian surface. The simulation will also focus on psychological aspects of such a long-duration confinement. In some respects, the Mars500 concept has many of the ingredients of a reality TV show, with cameras filming the interaction between people in all kinds of situations. But the comparison stops there. This is a serious scientific experiment, and the only way to prepare a really long-duration mission. The European Space Agency, as a 'strategic partner', is involved at all levels of this international project. Since June this year it has started selecting 12 volunteers, two of them will be part of the six-strong crew. ESA is also choosing the experiments to be carried out during their 500-day confinement.

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Peru meteorite strike highlights need for expanded scientific knowledge

Author: ESA
Thu, Sep 20, 2007


A 15 September meteorite strike in Peru highlights the need to expand scientists' understanding of asteroids, meteoroids and other NEO, or Near-Earth Objects. Scientists still don't know the precise composition of asteroids, for example, making any attempt to deflect one aimed at the Earth highly problematic. ESA's Rosetta 'comet-chasing' mission, now en route to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, will be the first to undertake the long-term exploration of a comet from close quarters and includes the deployment of a landing probe. Don Quijote is a precursor mission, designed to assess and validate the technology that one day could be used to deflect an asteroid threatening the Earth.

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Esperia Mission - Paolo Nespoli: Getting ready for the ISS

Author: ESA
Fri, Sep 14, 2007


In only a few weeks time, Italian ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli will join six NASA astronauts on board Space Shuttle Discovery to fly to the International Space Station (ISS). Their task is a challenging one. The Esperia Mission is responsible for the safe delivery and attachment of the ESA financed Node 2 connecting module to the ISS, an essential step for the Station to be able to receive the European Columbus laboratory with the next Shuttle flight in December 2007. In his role as a Mission Specialist, Paolo Nespoli is going to coordinate three spacewalks and carry out a programme of scientific experiments created jointly by the European and the Italian space agencies on top of other communication and educational activities.

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ESA hosts international conference on tracking and commanding spacecraft

Author: ESA
Wed, Sep 12, 2007


Telemetry, tracking and command systems are complex networks of ground tracking stations supported by sophisticated signal processing that enable ground controllers to send up commands and receive large amounts of scientific data, often transmitted from millions of kilometres in deep space. These systems are crucial to space success and require unique, high-precision engineering, often adapted to the requirements of different missions. However all space agencies must rationalise costs and as result global cooperation in this highly technical field is growing deeper. ESApod reports from ESA's 4th International Workshop on Tracking, Telemetry and Command Systems for Space Applications.

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ESA at MAKS 2007

Author: ESA
Wed, Aug 22, 2007


ESA joins other major space and aviation players at the 8th International Aviation and Space Salon, MAKS 2007, at the Zhukovsky Air Base near Moscow this week, inaugurated by President Vladimir Putin.

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Celebrating completion of ESA's Earth Explorer, GOCE

Author: ESA
Mon, Jul 30, 2007


In the northern Italian town of Turin on the 19 July 2007, scientists and engineers from the European Space Agency held a press conference to celebrate the completion of the new Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE). After six years in development, the instrumentation carried on GOCE was on show in Italy at Thales Alenia Space, the company that has co-ordinated the project to date. GOCE is the first Core Earth Explorer mission to be developed as part of ESA's Living Planet Programme. Dedicated to measuring the Earth's gravity field with unprecedented accuracy, GOCE will significantly advance our knowledge of how the Earth works by providing insight into ocean circulation, sea-level change, climate change, volcanism and earthquakes. In the next months, GOCE will be put through a series of strenuous environmental tests at ESA-ESTEC in the Netherlands to ensure that it will withstand the rigors of launch and the hostile conditions of its exceptionally low orbit. After which, the satellite will be shipped to Russia for launch in the spring of 2008.

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ESA's lorry to the International Space Station - ATV

Author: ESA
Tue, Jul 17, 2007


ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) will launch on board an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's Spaceport, in Kourou, French Guiana. ATV will be used to restock the shelves in the International Space Station (ISS), at a frequency of one every 18 to 24 months. Weighing 20 tonnes and the size of a London double-decker bus, ATV is the largest spacecraft ever developed in Europe. Every ATV will deliver up to 6 tonnes of cargo to the ISS. Apart from food, water, air and clothes, the ATV also carries propellant for the ISS and equipment for scientific use. ATV will also be used to reboost the Station's orbit to overcome the effects of residual atmospheric drag. After six months, the spacecraft will be loaded with waste before it is undocked for a destructive re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, freeing up precious living and working space in the other quarters of the Station. The ATV will perform automated dockings controlled by GPS and laser beams - a new technology that ESA scientists and engineers have been rehearsing for months. The first ATV, named Jules Verne, has recently completed a successful test campaign at ESA's research and technology centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. On 13 July, Jules Verne starts a long journey to the launch site in Kourou.

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ESOC - Where Missions Come Alive

Author: ESA
Wed, Jul 11, 2007


Cool profile of the people and activities at ESOC, ESA's Space Operations Centre, in Darmstadt, Germany. ESOC operates 10 major missions comprising 13 spacecraft, with a dozen more in preparation. It also controls ESA's worldwide ESTRACK ground station network. Over 750 specialists from Europe and other countries focus on sophisticated technologies including spacecraft operations, ground station engineering, software development, navigation science and space debris monitoring.

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ESA, NASA, Russian astronauts: Where next in space?

Author: ESA
Fri, Jun 22, 2007


As part of the Astrolab Mission post-flight tour, ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter is joined by his ISS Expedition 13 and 14 colleagues, Pavel Vinogradov (Russia), Jeffrey Williams (NASA), Michael Lopez-Alegria (NASA) and Mikail Tyurin (Russia), for a lively discussion on the future direction of human exploration in our Solar System. The session took place 22 June 2007 at ESA's Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, and included Bob Chesson, ESA's manager for Human Spaceflight and Exploration Operations. As part of the Aurora exploration strategy, ESA is planning to create, and then implement, a European long-term plan for the robotic and human exploration of the solar system, with Mars, the Moon and the asteroids as the most likely targets. Planned missions include the ExoMars robotic rover and Mars Sample Return.

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Paris Air Show: Focus on ESA

Author: ESA
Wed, Jun 20, 2007


ESAPod reports from Le Bourget, near Paris, home of the biannual Paris International Air Show, now in its 47th edition. European space achievements are on display at the "Space Pavilion," which aims to promote space as an essential activity for European science, industry and competitiveness. ESA is highlighting projects and programmes related to human spaceflight, environmental and security monitoring, space science and launcher technology.

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Hubble's European success

Author: ESA
Wed, Jun 20, 2007


In May 2007, more than 17 years after the launch of Hubble, European Hubble scientists met in The Netherlands to discuss and share their achievements. This gathering took place just a few weeks before the signature of the official agreement between ESA and NASA on the James Webb Space Telescope, considered by many as the successor of Hubble. Today, we have the pleasure of talking to ESA's Dr Duccio Macchetto, Associate Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

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ESA ground operations: working smarter, better

Author: ESA
Thu, Jun 14, 2007


As spacecraft and space missions expand in number and sophistication, building and operating the complex ground infrastructure required to operate in space is also becoming more demanding. ESA is successfully rationalising ground systems and infrastructure - the people, computers, networks and software that operate missions in space - while still achieving essential mission requirements.

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Alien electricity in Titan's atmosphere

Author: ESA
Fri, Jun 01, 2007


Since Huygens' January 2005 descent to Titan's surface, scientists have gained a new understanding of the Saturn moon's complex, 1300-km-thick atmosphere. Some of the most intriguing data returned by the HASI, or Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument, point to the possible existence of an electrical resonance effect, called Schumann resonance, on Titan. If confirmed, this would be the first such electrical field resonance seen outside our own planet. The effect may help scientists confirm whether an ocean of liquid water mixed with ammonia lies beneath Titan's surface. This week, scientists will present their latest results at the 42nd Cassini-Huygens Project Science Group Meeting in Athens, Greece. ESAPod interview with Dr Fernando Simoes.

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Modelling Huygen's descent crucial for interpreting results

Author: ESA
Fri, Jun 01, 2007


On the afternoon of 14 January 2005, the European Space Agency probe Huygens made a stunning descent through Titan's 1300-km-thick atmosphere. Titan, a moon of Saturn, was then some 1.4 thousand million km from the Earth. Obviously no human viewed the descent first-hand, yet reconstructing and modelling the precise wind-blown trajectory that Huygens took to reach the surface is crucial to correlating and synthesizing all data transmitted from Huygens' six instrument packages. This week, scientists from the Descent Trajectory Working Group will present their latest results at the 42nd Cassini-Huygens Project Science Group Meeting in Athens, Greece. ESAPod interview with Dr Bobby Kazeminejad.

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Cassini-Huygens: New results from an enigmatic world

Author: ESA
Fri, Jun 01, 2007


On 14 January 2005, the European Space Agency probe Huygens made a spectacular touch-down on Saturn’s enigmatic moon titan, and an international team of scientists continues to analyse data radioed back during Huygens’s 2-1/-hour descent. This week, the 42nd Cassini-Huygens project science group meeting is being held in Athens, Greece. Scientists are expected to announce many new findings based on an in-depth analysis of Huygens data and on comparisons between Huygens data and results recently gathered by Cassini, which continues to explore the Saturn system and gather images of Titan. ESAPod speaks with Dr Jonathan Lunine, a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist at the University of Arizona, in Tucson, USA.

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Space safety is a global concern

Author: ESA
Tue, Apr 17, 2007


ESA's space safety interests are growing as the Agency's own near-Earth missions increase and as space tourism and commercial flights worldwide take off. At this year's IAASS conference, delegates will consider a White Book entitled: "An ICAO for Space?" proposing an international organisation for the coordination and regulation of civil space safety matters, on the model of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

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Satellites vital for environmental agreements

Author: ESA
Tue, Apr 24, 2007


On Tuesday, 24 April, a special session of the 2007 Envisat Symposium was dedicated to the use of EO satellites in support of international environmental conventions in close collaboration with UN agencies, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP).

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Flying safely with EGNOS over Europe

Author: ESA
Fri, Apr 20, 2007


The aircraft that is normally used for calibrating French airport equipment was specially equipped to conduct precision approaches guided by the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). The ATR42 plane of the Direction Générale de l'Aviation Civile (DGAC – French Civil Aviation Authority) performed a number of test approaches and landings at Limoges airport. One of the main advantages of EGNOS in this application is that it is available everywhere without the need for ground infrastructure and it provides vertical guidance for every runway. Furthermore, in the cockpit the data display is the same as for the conventional Instrument Landing System ( ILS), so there are no familiarisation problems for the pilots and no additional training costs. EGNOS, the first European satellite navigation service, launched by the European Space Agency, the European Commission and Eurocontrol, is currently in pre-operational service and will be certified for safety-of-life applications such as civil aviation in 2008.

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Munich roadmap for GMES services

Author: ESA
Mon, Apr 16, 2007


On April 17th, the European Union will host a high-level conference in Munich to define a roadmap for the future of GMES, Europe's global monitoring for environment and security initiative. The GMES programme is vital for Europe and is ensuring independent access to information relating to the environment, climate change and security. ESA's Volker Liebig says GMES activities are already yielding practical results and in the future even more benefits are expected for European citizens.

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STS-116 mission highlights

Author: ESA
Thu, Apr 05, 2007


This highlights video shows the STS-116 crew preparing for launch and successfully reaching the ISS two days later. Once on board the Station, ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang performed three spacewalks, also known as Extra Vehicular Activities or EVAs, and a number of experiments. During the mission Fuglesang also participated in an inflight call with Swedish Crown Princess Victoria and Swedish minister Maud Olofsson. Together with his ESA colleague Thomas Reiter, Fuglesang shared his experiences of living and working in space. He safely returned to Earth with the rest of the STS-116 crew at the end of the 13-day mission, landing at Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, on 22 December 2006.

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Climate and space weather

Author: ESA
Fri, Mar 30, 2007


Space weather is a chain of processes originating at the sun, propagated through interplanetary space, interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field and eventually generating a number of phenomena in the Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists in Copenhagen are exploring the link between Earth’s climate and space weather.The sun’s magnetic field shields us from most of the highly energetic particles coming from space but, depending on solar activity, some of these particles can break through this shield. The European Space Agency has two missions in orbit aimed at understanding the Sun-Earth interaction: the Cluster mission, consisting of four spacecraft measuring variations in the space environment around our planet in 3D, and the solar mission SOHO, monitoring the solar surface round the clock and detecting any changes, notably sun storms heading its way into space.

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Scientists focus on ice as part of International Polar Year

Author: ESA
Tue, Mar 27, 2007


Scientists from around the world are studying the polar regions to detect changes in ice cover and the potential effect this may have on our future. Over the next 18 months, polar latitudes are also at the top of scientists' agenda as the International Polar Year 2007-2008 unfolds, which began on 1 March 2007. The system of heat transportation is one of the main drivers of weather and climate and snow and ice play an important part in regulating this system in a number of ways. The thickness of sea ice plays a central role in polar climate as it moderates heat transport by insulating the ocean from the cold polar atmosphere. In addition, when ice forms or melts it changes the salinity and hence density of surface waters, which - along with temperature - has a significant effect on certain global ocean circulation patterns.

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Space Food

Author: ESA
Wed, Mar 07, 2007


Food in space has evolved since the early missions. Above all it must provide each astronaut with the necessary daily intake of calories, vitamins and minerals necessary to cope with the special conditions of space. There are also other considerations such as convenience in preparation, ease of storage and microbiological safety.As on Earth, a meal in space is also an opportunity for the crew to sit together and unwind after a hard day's work. The gourmet meals served to ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter and his fellow crew members are not part of the Station's everyday menu, but could be used to celebrate special occasions, such as a completed spacewalk, a birthday or the arrival of a new crew.

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Herschel – the largest space telescope

Author: ESA
Fri, Mar 02, 2007


With its 3.5-meter mirror and cryogenic science payload, ESA's Herschel Space Observatory will deliver unprecedented images and spectra of very cool, distant, and poorly known objects in the universe. As the first of a new generation of space telescopes, Herschel will study stars being born in our own Galaxy, the evolution of newborn galaxies billions of light-years away, and primitive objects dating from the formation of our own solar system. Herschel will also provide unprecedented sensitivity and resolution, thanks to the largest mirror ever used in space - almost twice as big as that of the Hubble Space Telescope - and three instruments with detectors kept at temperatures close to absolute zero. The Herschel telescope, named after the pioneering astronomers William and Caroline Herschel, will be launched in 2008 onboard a European Ariane 5 rocket. The mission builds upon the legacy of ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, launched in 1995, and of later infrared missions like the US Spitzer and Japanese Akari.

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Space Options for the 21st Century

Author: ESA
Mon, Mar 05, 2007


The conference explores some of the many important and critical issues affecting society today and in the future, including climate change, water management and natural disasters. It has brought together experts interested in this broad, complex and global topic. The emphasis is on how space systems, technologies and applications are helping to provide viable solutions to problems on Earth. The space industry can play a pivotal role with society, governments and policy makers in exchanging ideas and knowledge.Participants are also examining the role of innovation, creativity and spin-in technologies from space and how society can benefit from this.

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Rosetta successfully swings-by Mars

Author: ESA
Mon, Feb 26, 2007


Yesterday, engineers at ESA's Space Operations Centre confirmed that Rosetta had successfully swung by Mars in the second of four critical gravity assists in its ten-year voyage to comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Closest approach occurred at 3:15 AM CET at an altitude of 250 km; departure velocity was estimated to be 36 191 km/hour relative to the Sun. In addition to confirming extensive and careful operations preparations, the successful passage allowed scientists to switch on several of the spacecraft's instruments as well as the camera onboard the Philae lander to image Mars. Results will help calibrate instruments after comparison to parallel observations made by ESA's Mars Express.

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ESA's 'Cosmic Vision 2015-2025' sees Europe as space science leader

Author: ESA
Mon, Feb 26, 2007


Since 2004, ESA has gathered over 150 imaginative ideas for new investigations proposed by scientists worldwide. The team preparing the Cosmic Vision plan has identified areas where major progress can be expected in the next two decades. Now, says Prof David Southwood, the Agency's Director of Science, ESA is ready to ask the greater science community for specific mission proposals.

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Rosetta flyby

Author: ESA
Fri, Feb 23, 2007


On 25 February 2007, the Rosetta spacecraft will go round the far side of the Red Planet, swooping to within only a few hundred kilometres of its surface. This gravity assist manoeuvre will alter its course for the next leg of the ten-year odyssey towards final its destination: Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.Since the probe's launch in March 2004, several missions have shed new light on the nature and composition of comets. Analysis of comet particles has revealed chemical elements originating not just in the colder outer Solar System, but present once in the hotter regions during its creation. The samples were also rich in organic matter, unlike anything seen to date in extraterrestrial materials.The Mars swingby is a key moment in Rosetta's journey. Scientists will also calibrate Rosetta's instruments by comparing data gathered by other orbiting spacecraft. The flyby is also very interesting because it's a unique opportunity to do plasma science at Mars.Rosetta's OSIRIS camera will attempt to gather data to see whether Mars is a ringed planet.At ESA's Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, flight controllers have been fine-tuning this critical Mars swingby for several months. For a while, Rosetta will disappear behind the planet, passing in its shadow. Coming out of the eclipse, the probe's instruments will give a grandstand view of Phobos, one of the Martian moons. By then Rosetta will already be heading towards its third swingby, with Earth, scheduled for November 2007.

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Rosetta in critical Mars swing by

Author: ESA
Tue, Feb 20, 2007


On 25 February, Rosetta will swing by Mars in the second of four critical gravity assists in its ten-year voyage to comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The upcoming manoeuvre, with Rosetta skimming Mars at 250 kilometres, is a delicate operation and a key milestone, and mission controllers and flight dynamics specialists at ESA's Space Operations Centre are in intense preparations for the early-morning event. The spacecraft will also conduct observations of Mars, primarily to help calibrate the instruments but also to gather data, which will complement those gathered by ESA's Mars Express, in a 'mini' coordinated observation campaign.

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ESA DG meets the press

Author: ESA
Wed, Jan 17, 2007


On 17 January, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain met the press at ESA headquarters in Paris to take stock of the agency's activities in 2006 and announce the main highlights for 2007. Last year saw ESA involved in a wide range of missions and activities related to space exploration, Earth observation, the Galileo navigation system and climate change. 2007 - the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik - promises to be an exciting year. Scheduled flights include the automated ISS resupply craft, ATV-1, and the delivery of the Italian-built Node 2 and the Columbus lab to the ISS. The agency will be involved in many other activities, all of which aim to improve the lives of European citizens.

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European workshop on space exploration strategy

Author: ESA
Wed, Jan 10, 2007


In the historic city of Edinburgh, Scotland, ESA kicked off its series of stakeholder consultation workshops that will eventually inform the long-term European space exploration strategy. This is a key element in the preparation of the next ESA Council at Ministerial level and the space exploration activities that will be tabled for decision. This first workshop, hosted by the British National Space Centre (BNSC), saw the participation of over 170 people, from all over Europe, as well as US, Japan, Ukraine and Canada, in representation of the main stakeholder groups: the political, the scientific and the industrial sectors as well as the general public. The Edinburgh workshop comes at a timely moment, when the ambitions and plans of other space nations are becoming apparent and talks for an international framework for cooperation in space exploration is taking shape. The Scottish Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning and Members of the Scottish Parliament, Mr Allan Wilson, introduced a session on the first day of the workshop echoing the interest and the role that the United Kingdom is playing and is willing to play in the future, even considering human exploration activities. The workshop was the opportunity to discuss the latest status of space exploration plans, the ongoing studies and proposals at National level, especially Italy, UK and Germany and to listen to the views of participants with backgrounds as different as futurists, parliamentarians, industrialist, scientists, students, media and arts. They all contributed to the discussion from their own prospective, by addressing what could be the drivers to make space exploration a truly European societal project. Among the participants there were also the winners of the ESA contest to allow European citizens to be more closely associated to this consultation phase. The two days of intense discussion among the four stakeholder groups have been presented at the final plenary session and reiterated at a press conference today in London, England. This consultation exercise will go on throughout the current year and into the start of the next.

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Unfolding the Universe's Dark Matter

Author: ESA
Mon, Jan 08, 2007


Although the invisibility of dark matter makes it hard to detect, eluding scientists for decades, the team of astronomers led by Richard Massey of the California Institute of Technology has finally been able to achieve this, thanks to the of the Hubble COSMOS survey - the largest survey of the universe ever conducted by the Space Telescope.The map offers a first glimpse at the web-like large-scale distribution of dark matter in the Universe, like seeing a complex structure in daylight for the first time,for example a big city, with its suburbs and surrounding country roads. The map reveals a loose network of sponge-like structures of long filaments, intersecting in massive structures where clusters of galaxies are located.The COSMOS survey encompasses an area of the sky nine times that of the full Moon and was carried out by another international team of 70 astronomers led by Nick Scoville of Caltech.The map was created by using gravitational lensing techniques, which is the bending of star light caused by the presence of dark matter in the Universe, and analysing the distorted shapes of half a million distant galaxies. Such subtle distortions were then used to reconstruct the mass distribution along Hubble's line of sight.

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COROT: In search of rocky planets

Author: ESA
Wed, Dec 20, 2006


Since the 1995 discovery of the first extrasolar planet, more than two hundred have been identified using ground-based telescopes. COROT will be launched on 27 December 2006 by a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, and will be placed in a polar orbit around Earth at an altitude of some 850 km. Led by the French Space Agency CNES, the COROT mission has wide European scientific and technological participation including ESA, Austria, Belgium, Brazil and Germany.

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ESA joins the European Network of Living Labs

Author: ESA
Fri, Dec 15, 2006


Innovation is more and more the result of collaborative activities involving all of the participating actors in a co-creative process using emerging information, such as advanced communication techniques, the latest satellite Earth Observation data and other leading-edge technologies. Recognising this, the European Commission, under the Finnish Presidency, established in November 2006 the European Network of Living Labs to foster the creation of a European-wide platform that brings end-users, industry, small- and medium-sized enterprises and public and private institutions together to jointly develop, validate and demonstrate innovative capabilities. ESA-ESRIN has established the Frascati Living Lab dedicated to Space, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and environmental applications.

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COROT - a new boost for exoplanets and astroseismology

Author: ESA
Fri, Dec 15, 2006


Are we alone in the Universe? Are there other planets like our own orbiting distant stars? COROT, the upcoming exoplanet-hunting mission, promises to open our eyes on new, fascinating alien worlds.

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Celsius Mission event in Stockholm

Author: ESA
Fri, Dec 08, 2006


A report from Stockholm, Sweden, where ESA, the Swedish National Space Board and the City of Stockholm are sponsoring a unique "Space Base" to mark the mission of ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang - a native of Sweden - to the ISS.

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ASTRA 2006: ESA workshop on robotics and automation

Author: ESA
Mon, Dec 04, 2006


ESA's Aurora Programme for robotic and human exploration of the Solar System is expected to increase the need for space automation and robotics. The research and development needed to make these ambitions a reality is already underway. ESApod takes a look at the ongoing European activities which were highlighted during ASTRA 2006 - the 9th ESA Workshop on Advanced Space Technologies for Robotics and Automation - which took place at ESA's research and technology centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, between 28-30 November 2006.

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The Celsius Mission

Author: ESA
Wed, Nov 29, 2006


Swedish ESA astronaut Christer Fuglesang will fly to the ISS in December 2006 as part of the seven-strong STS-116 Space Shuttle crew.The rewiring process of the ISS will begin with NASA ground control switching off power to the Station. Along with NASA astronaut Robert Curbeam, Fuglesang will float outside the Station to connect the electrical systems to new solar panels attached in September. The Shuttle crew will be received by the three astronauts who are currently living on board the ISS. Among them is German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter. It will be the first time ever that two ESA astronauts are on board the Station at the same time. Reiter will travel back to Earth with the Shuttle crew at the end of the STS-116 mission. With this expanded electrical system the ISS will be ready to receive the European Columbus laboratory, due for launch in late 2007. By this stage new supplies should also be arriving in orbit thanks ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle.

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Vega

Author: ESA
Tue, Nov 28, 2006


In 2008, Vega will place into orbit its first small satellite missions. The new launch vehicle's reference capability is to carry a spacecraft weighing 1.5 tonnes into a polar orbit with an altitude of 700 kilometres, a relatively low orbit. The launcher is not able to inject large spacecraft into geostationary orbit but that is not its purpose - Ariane 5 fulfills that role. Vega is the only launcher of its class that can launch several satellites in a single mission. This new generation launcher has a very light structure, which allows a greater payload weight for any chosen orbit. Vega's maiden flight is set for 2007, launching from the repurposed ELA-1 launch pad at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The ELA-1 pad was first used by Ariane 1 over 30 years ago. The strategy behind this launcher is to offer to institutional and also commercial customers a range of possibilities that adapt performance and cost to market needs and competition.

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ISS update November 2006

Author: ESA
Fri, Nov 17, 2006


The ISS will grow considerably in the next few years with the addition of new solar panel generators and three research labs before being completed in 2010. During his six-month stay, German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, a member of the permanent ISS crew since July this year, is devoting 136 hours to research experiments. Another ESA astronaut, Christer Fuglesang, from Sweden, is training at NASA's Johnson Space Center, in Houston. Fuglesang will make his first mission to the Space Station in December after launch on board Space Shuttle mission STS-116. During the twelve-day mission, Fuglesang will contribute to Station assembly by taking part in two spacewalks. The Columbus laboratory is Europe's main contribution to the ISS. ESA German astronaut Hans Schlegel will be on the Space Shuttle mission that will attach Columbus to the ISS. But before the laboratory can be attached, in August 2007 another ESA astronaut, the Italian Paolo Nespoli, will deliver Node-2, an important building block for the further expansion of the Station. Another major European contribution to the ISS is the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), due for launch in December 2007. It will carry 8.5 tonnes of cargo to the ISS, including food, air and water for the crew.

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ATV docking trials

Author: ESA
Fri, Nov 10, 2006


The Automated Transfer Vehicle, 20 tonnes and the size of a London double-decker bus, is the largest spacecraft ever built in Europe. The unmanned vehicle will be used to ferry cargo to the International Space Station and to raise its orbit.The first flight model, 'Jules Vernes', due to be launched next year, is currently undergoing final integration and space environmental tests at ESA's test facilities at in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.Jules Vernes' crucial navigation systems are simultaneously being qualified at an exceptional test centre in France. The facility 100 km west of Paris, the only one of its kind in the world, belongs to the country's defence procurement agency, DGA. The ATV programme has been validating the rendezvous and docking technologies and software, crucial given the human safety requirements. Each test was conducted with rigorous safety measures. Each phase of the test was conducted with realistic conditions. The tests constituted a fully representative replication of the final approach, guiding the ATV to its docking port on the platform with a millimetric precision.Each approach was conducted in steps, in real-time, over several hours with the mobile platform advancing at an extremely slow pace. For the engineers and privileged visitors, these robotic tests had a magical, almost human aspect.

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Space Law

Author: ESA
Thu, Nov 09, 2006


Prof. Rene Oosterlinck, ESA Director of Directorate of External Relations explains how the issues of space law first arose during the Cold War, with the launch in 1957 of the Russian Sputnik, the world's first satellite, closely followed by the first American satellite. The race was on to be first on the Moon and no sovereignty rights existed in outer space. In 1967 the Outer Space Treaty, ratified by the UN, fundamentally recognised that space belonged to everyone and in 1969 the US took the lead in the space race with the success of the Apollo mission to the Moon. Since the end of the Cold War space exploration has totally changed and although the original treaty of 1967 has had four additional conventions, there are many areas where the current regulation is ambiguous, for example in the case of industrial exploitation of minerals from asteroids. Another area of law which is not covered by the existing treaties is that of intellectual property. This is particularly relevant for the International Space Station where developments in research are currently covered by the law of each participating country. European countries are the only ones covered by a common law on intellectual property in Space. Last but by no means least is the question of space debris. There are no existing laws that cover this type of pollution at the moment. In these and many other fields, the Outer Space Treaty no longer matches reality and the time is ripe for review.

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GOCE: getting the low down on gravity

Author: ESA
Wed, Nov 08, 2006


By measuring the Earth's gravity field and modelling the geoid, or hypothetical surface of the Earth, with extremely high accuracy and spatial resolution, GOCE will significantly advance our knowledge of how the Earth works in several domains – oceanography, geophysics and geodesy – as well as providing insight into the physics and dynamics of the Earth's interior, such as volcanism and earthquakes.

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The new Hubble servicing mission

Author: ESA
Tue, Oct 31, 2006


NASA has decided to launch a Space Shuttle mission in 2008 to repair and upgrade the NASA/ESA observatory. This servicing mission will ensure that Hubble can function for perhaps as many as another ten years and will increase its scientific capabilities in some key areas. Two new scientific instruments will be installed as part of the upgrade: the Cosmic Origin Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3. Both will improve Hubble's potential for discovery. Around the same time of this mission, ESA will launch Herschel, the Orbiting Telescope with the largest mirror ever deployed in space. Herschel will complement Hubble in the infrared part of the spectrum.

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Christer Fuglesang prepares for take-off

Author: ESA
Tue, Oct 24, 2006


In 1992 Christer Fuglesang was chosen as a crew member of the STS-116 Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station, which is now scheduled for launch in December 2006. Fuglesang started training at Star City cosmonaut training centre near Moscow, Russia, in 1993. It was here he first met fellow ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, whom he will bring back from the ISS in December. At Star City he learned how to operate the Soyuz spacecraft, but the toughest part of the training was to learn the Russian language.The STS-116 flight continues a series of complex missions to complete the ISS. Fuglesang's main task will be to take part in two spacewalks or extra-vehicular activities (EVAs). Together with fellow STS-116 crew member Robert Curbeam, Fuglesang will have the challenging task of adding a large truss section to the outside of the Station.

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MetOp-A launch

Author: ESA
Thu, Oct 19, 2006


With an array of sophisticated instrumentation, MetOp-A promises to provide data of unprecedented accuracy and resolution on a host of different variables such as temperature and humidity, ocean surface wind speed and direction and concentrations of ozone and other trace gases – thus marking a major advance in global weather forecasting and climate monitoring capabilities.

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Controlling Columbus

Author: ESA
Tue, Oct 17, 2006


Activity is increasing at the Columbus Control Centre, the ground control facility for Europe's Columbus laboratory. Following the launch of Columbus to the International Space Station in 2007, a team of some 80 scientists and engineers based at the control centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, will monitor on board systems and communicate with the ISS and ground control centres in the United States, Europe and Russia. The team is currently undergoing constant training and simulations to prepare them for the task.

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Water on Mars

Author: ESA
Mon, Oct 16, 2006


Since its arrival in December 2003 Europe's Mission to Mars has been studying the composition of the atmosphere, mapping the surface and diving into the subsurface of Earth's neighbour to find further evidence that water once flowed on the planet and could still be present. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) onboard Mars Express has delivered grandiose vistas of the Martian landscape. The camera has discovered accumulation of ice and snow and even a frozen sea. There are also indications of wet, warmer spaces beneath the surface of the red planet. These are places in which life might have possibly developed. In November 2005 the Mars Principal Investigators exalted with the discovery of subterranean water. Mars's Radar Altimeter revealed the presence of deposits of pure water hidden at a depth of several kilometres within a buried basin. The OMEGA Visible and Infrared Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer detected minerals on the surface of Mars that revealed the history of Martian water and demonstrated that water could have been stable on Mars's surface but not for very long. Mars Express's discoveries have led scientists to the conclusion that Mars was long ago covered by vast oceans, and that only sporadically water reappeared on the planet's surface later on.

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Astrolab mission control

Author: ESA
Tue, Oct 10, 2006


A report from the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, where a team of engineers and managers are providing support to the Astrolab Mission - Europe's first long-duration mission to the International Space Station (ISS). During his six-month stay on the ISS, ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter is carrying out an intensive scientific programme including experiments in human physiology, biology and physics. Reiter receives support for these activities from the Columbus Control Centre, from where a team - which includes ESA astronaut Reinhold Ewald - communicates with him daily.

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Understanding Titan's tholins

Author: ESA
Fri, Oct 06, 2006


Before the 2005 Huygens mission to Titan, ground-based observations, and the first Voyager fly-by, had revealed a nitrogen-and-methane-dominated atmosphere, suitable for the formation of carbon-rich compounds. Additional data from Huygens show that the solid particles in Titan's atmosphere are made of complex organic materials whose properties are very much like those of tholins created in laboratories. However, the amount of carbon measured in the moon's methane appears to indicate that the methane is probably not of biological origin. But that does not exclude the possibility of some kind of life. "We're but one step away from imagining that the environment there could have seen the apparition of life," says Dr François Raulin, Huygens interdisciplinary scientist at the University of Paris.

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ESA at the IAC in Valencia

Author: ESA
Thu, Oct 05, 2006


The International Astronautical Congress (IAC) is organised each year by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and its associates. IAC 2006 is being held in Valencia's City of Arts, attended by over 2500 delegates - including the heads of all the major space agencies, industry, academia the media and the space-interested public. For organisations like ESA this is an excellent opportunity to share the latest information on current and future space projects and programmes. The ESA exhibition "from Earth to Space and back" takes visitors on a journey of discovery, with highlights of the European space programme, and is open to both professionals and the general public. This year there is a special focus on students and young space professionals, with lectures and presentations, as well as the opportunity to meet with leading figures in the space world.

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ESA astronauts meet the press

Author: ESA
Fri, Sep 22, 2006


Today, German and international media met ESA astronauts at the European Astronaut Centre, in Cologne, Germany, to discover more on their intense preparations for upcoming missions and pose questions live to Thomas Reiter on board the ISS. With the ongoing completion of the ISS, and with ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter onboard for the Astrolab mission, additional European astronauts are actively preparing for upcoming flights. Reiter will be followed into space this year by Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang, who due to fly on a shuttle mission to help install the station's p5 truss section. In 2007, Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli will fly on a shuttle mission to install the European-built Node 2 module, while Germany's Hans Schlegel will go up to help install Europe's Columbus Laboratory in the fall.

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ISS crew answers questions from space

Author: ESA
Fri, Sep 15, 2006


In addition to those mentioned above, questions included, How high is the ISS? And one audience member was also curious as to what time it is on the ISS; since it orbits several times per day, the time 'zone' must always be changing? Listen to a lively and animated discussion with the ISS crew.

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Mapping epidemics with satellites

Author: ESA
Fri, Sep 08, 2006


Very serious human diseases, such as malaria and meningitis, are linked to environmental factors. With satellite remote sensing we can gather information on these factors and help researchers to better understand diseases. The European Space Agency's Epidemio project, launched in 2004, combines data from Earth Observation satellites, such as ESA's Envisat or the French Space Agency's Spot, with field work to combat the spread of epidemics. By establishing a relationship between environmental conditions and epidemics, it is possible for public health officials to better prepare for and even fight the spread of diseases.

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MARES - measuring muscle strength in space

Author: ESA
Wed, Sep 06, 2006


A look at MARES - the Muscle Atrophy Research and Exercise System - a pioneering new instrument for neuromuscular and exercise research on the International Space Station.

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Impact landing on the Moon

Author: ESA
Tue, Aug 29, 2006


SMART-1's instruments have been sending back brilliant new pictures of the Moon and have been looking for clues to how the Moon was formed - perhaps in a collision between the young Earth and another planet, billions of years ago. Telescopes on Earth hope to catch the final moments of the mission as SMART-1 impacts the Moon.At the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt the mission controllers use SMART-1's small controlling thrusters in a clever way to make sure it crashes where astronomers can see the impact.So even as it meets its doom, SMART-1 will put on a show for watchers on the Earth.

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SMART-1: end of mission review

Author: ESA
Fri, Aug 25, 2006


Launched in 2003, SMART-1 tested innovative technology on its way to the Moon, including the first use of a solar-electrical propulsion engine for interplanetary trips. Since it started orbiting the Moon in Spring 2005, SMART-1 started collecting a wealth of lunar images and data about the surface mineralogy - Europe's heritage for future lunar missions..

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ESA Summer School focuses on Global Change

Author: ESA
Fri, Aug 04, 2006


The world's leading scientists are sharing their expertise and experience with the next generation of scientists in order to teach them the practicalities of remote sensing, modelling and data assimilation techniques. A major focus is on detailing the current state of global change and its relationship to society.

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Farnborough International Airshow 2006

Author: ESA
Fri, Jul 21, 2006


The high profile event provided a forum for the leading VIPs and industry figureheads to meet, network and discuss the future of the International Space Industry.

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Mapping Venus' atmosphere in 3D

Author: ESA
Fri, Jul 14, 2006


Giuseppe Piccioni is co-Principal Investigator for the VIRTIS science team. The instrument's initial results are helping scientists create a detailed, 3-dimensional map of the Venusian atmosphere. Knowledge of atmospheric composition will help determine if volcanoes are active on the surface.

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Mysterious haze and heavy water on Venus

Author: ESA
Fri, Jul 14, 2006


French scientist Jean-Loup Bertaux oversees the Ultraviolet and Infrared Atmospheric Spectrometer on Venus Express. After the first month in nominal orbit, he's already found haze much higher in the thick Venusian atmosphere than expected, as well as fantastic evidence for heavy water, which could help determine how much water was on Venus at the start.

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MetOp: A new-generation meteorological satellite for Europe

Author: ESA
Wed, Jul 05, 2006


On 17 July 2006 the first of a new tribe of European weather satellites will be launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on a Soyuz launcher. MetOp is Europe's contribution to a collaborative project with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Through this venture, MetOp has been designed to work in conjunction with the NOAA satellite system whereby the MetOp and the US satellite occupy complementary obits. This global observing system is able to provide invaluable meteorological data to improve weather forecasting and in the longer- term monitor climate change.

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ATV passes acoustic test

Author: ESA
Mon, Jul 03, 2006


Acoustic testing of Jules Verne, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), has successfully been completed at ESA's test facilities in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. The ATV, an unmanned vehicle that will deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), will be put into orbit by the European Ariane-5 launcher. Acoustic testing is vital to ensure the ATV can withstand the vibrations caused by the extreme noise levels generated during launch.

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Thomas Reiter's thoughts on spaceflight

Author: ESA
Thu, Jun 29, 2006


ESA's Thomas Reiter is set to join the International Space Station for up to seven months. The 48-year-old German astronaut shares his thoughts on the view from space, living weightless, what astronauts do between missions and future human space travel.

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Astrolab Mission preview

Author: ESA
Wed, Jun 28, 2006


ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter will shortly being the first European long-term stay on the International Space Station. He will travel to the Station as part of a seven-strong Space Shuttle Discovery crew. The mission is scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral, in Florida, on 1 July. During his mission, known as Astrolab, Reiter will join the existing two-man Expedition 13 crew and stay on board the Station for up to six months. During his stay Reiter will conduct a series of scientific and technological experiments in human physiology, microbiology, plasma and radiation physics. The experience gained by Europe during this mission will pave the day for the arrival of the European Columbus module.

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Successful Firing of Vega Second-Stage Motor

Author: ESA
Wed, Jun 28, 2006


ESApod reports directly from the Italian test range in Sardinia, where the Zefiro 23 second-stage rocket motor for Vega, Europe's new launch vehicle for smaller payloads, was successfully tested.

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Venus vortex: initial images from capture orbit

Author: ESA
Tue, Jun 27, 2006


ESA Project Scientist Hakan Svedhem on the first-ever clear views of a mysterious vortex taken during Venus Express' initial capture orbit. The orbit was a not-to-be-repeated opportunity to image the hothouse planet in a wide field of view as Venus Express looped below the southern pole.

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Satellite navigation system guides visually-impaired pedestrians

Author: ESA
Mon, Jun 19, 2006


Seen from a distance, a blind man guided by his dog in the streets of Madrid seems quite sure of his way. In fact, he is not listening to music with his headphones but receiving directions to his destination: "Turn to the right, turn to the left, continue straight ahead!" Thanks to a mobile phone combined with a position receiver and a voice synthesizer he can walk confidently through the city while being guided by satellite. Developed by ESA, with the Spanish firm GMV Sistemas, this device offers greater autonomy to the visually impaired. The system is not intended to replace a white cane or a guide dog but to complement them with an 'audible map'. The user no longer needs to seek frequent guidance from other pedestrians; the guidance equipment follows his every move and advises him accordingly.

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Columbus delivered to KSC

Author: ESA
Mon, Jun 12, 2006


Bernardo Patti, ESA's project manager for the Columbus laboratory - one of Europe's main contributions to the International Space Station - talks about the module's transatlantic journey from Bremen, in Germany, to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, the United States.

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ISS update 2006

Author: ESA
Fri, Jun 2, 2006


For over five years, astronauts from around the world have been living and working together 400 kilometres above the Earth on board the biggest outpost ever built in space. The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the largest research projects ever and involves Europe, the United States, Russia, Japan and Canada. Over the next few years, ISS operations will combine further growth and exploitation. Europe's involvement means thousands of engineers and scientists participate in leading-edge technology, research & development.

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Craters revealed

Author: ESA
Wed, May 31, 2006


Geology, evolution and even the age of rocky planets and moons can be traced down by the study of impact craters - planetary scars left by the bombardment of asteroids and comets.

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ISD2006, Industry Space Days at ESTEC


Tue, May 30, 2006


This year's ISD2006 brings together more than 700 representatives from small and medium enterprises (SMEs), system integrators, institutions, product suppliers and service providers to allow them to identify tomorrow's industrial strategies and business opportunities within the sector. Focus is on SMEs in Europe and Canada, and improving their involvement in space activities and fostering cross-fertilisation within the space sector.

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An asteroid named ESA

Author: ESA
Fri, May 19, 2006


Since the beginning of this year, a new name appears in the list of known asteroids that inhabit our Solar System; the name is 'ESA', which stands for 'European Space Agency'.

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ESA showcased at ILA, Berlin

Author: ESA
Wed, May 17, 2006


ESA is participating at ILA together with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), BDLI and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in a special pavilion within the "International Space Village", entitled 'Space for Life, Europe in Space'.

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Something in the air?

Author: ESA
Thu, May 11, 2006


The atmosphere took centre stage at a five-day conference held by ESA in Frascati, Italy, with 250 scientists presenting and comparing results from ongoing atmospheric research from ESA's Envisat satellite.

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Via broadband from the Arctic

Author: ESA
Mon, May 08, 2006


Explorer Marc Cornelissen describes the challenges of an Arctic expedition from Greenland's ice cap. With him are six students from the Climate Change College helping with ESA's CryoSat-2 validation campaign.

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Thoughts on Venus


Thu, Apr 20, 2006


As Venus Express arrives at its namesake destination, long-time ESA astronaut Claude Nicollier discusses the enigmatic planet and muses on its beauty and fascinating planetary evolution.

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Venus Express powers into orbit


Tue, Apr 11, 2006


Confirmation that Venus Express had successfully entered orbit came from ESOC, ESA's Space Operations Centre, in Germany, today at 11:12 CEST. After a tense engine burn and blackout while the spacecraft swung behind Venus, mission controllers re-established the radio telemetry link with Venus Express marking successful arrival at the planet.

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Drama in mission control


Mon, Apr 10, 2006


ESAPod goes to the heart of Venus Express and meets with a veteran ESA operations engineer in the mission control centre. The large, well-equipped Main Control Room enables flight controllers to work as a focussed team during critical events and gives them the central facilities they need to communicate with support teams worldwide.

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Ears to the sky


Wed, Apr 05, 2006


Venus Express is being telecommanded via the 35-meter deep-space station in Cebreros, Spain, the newest station to join ESA's global ESTRACK network. Cebreros communicates at X-band Gigaherz radio frequencies, far higher than commercial FM radio frequencies and similar to the ultrahigh frequencies used by mobile phones.

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Pathways in space


Wed, Apr 05, 2006


Navigating Venus Express is a devilishly difficult problem as computations must take into account all sources of gravity working on the spacecraft. ESA scientists use good old-fashioned classical physics first clarified by Newton, Kepler and others some 400 years ago.

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Critical manoeuvres


Wed, Apr 05, 2006


"If something goes wrong, it could either fly by Venus or hit the planet." The Venus Express Project Manager, Don McCoy, recently spoke to ESAPod on the intense preparations for the critical April 11th orbit insertion. He says ESA mission control teams are well prepared for arrival.

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Wavelength windows


Wed, Apr 05, 2006


Gathering data from above Venus' thick atmosphere is very difficult. A remarkable series of spectral windows allow Venus Express instruments to 'see' through to the surface. The existence of these spectral windows was unknown until the early 1980s when they were discovered, as many key scientific phenomena are, by chance.

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Science from Above


Thu, Mar 30, 2006


In Part 5 of ESApod's special Venus Express series, we speak with Dr Gerhard Schwehm about the instruments onboard Venus Express and how scientific data can be gathered by planetary missions remotely from above.

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Volcanoes and lava flows


Tue, Apr 04, 2006


Earth's surface has been renewed over the eons by plate tectonics, volcanism and other processes. But Venus does not appear to have tectonic plate activity. What is certain is that the surface of Venus has been shaped by deformation of the crust and volcanic activity. Venus volcanism indicates that, at least in the past, the crust was laying on a liquid mantle, as on Earth. The key question is, are volcanoes still active on Venus today?

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Alien greenhouse


Thu, Mar 23, 2006


Venus suffers from a runaway Greenhouse Effect responsible for transforming Earth's near-twin into one of the Solar System's most hellish places. Venus Express aims to unlock the mysteries behind this atmospheric collapse and gather data that scientists will use to better understand the Earth and Mars -- and whether life could exist in other solar systems.

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Amateur eyes on a hot planet


Mon, Mar 20, 2006


In Part 2 of ESApod's special Venus Express series, we cover the Venus Amateur Observing Project, a unique proposal to engage amateur astronomers in observing Venus. The aim is to help scientists validate Venus Express data and gather scientifically useful images to complement the spacecraft's observations of the planet.

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The passion of Venus


Tue, Mar 14, 2006


Venus, the 'Morning Star', is our closest planetary neighbour. Similar to Earth in size and mass, scientists once thought it should be a lot like our planet. Instead, Venus is entirely different, hidden by dense clouds of noxious gases, with a crushing surface pressure and burning-hot temperatures. Why did a planet apparently so similar to Earth evolve in a way so radically different over the last four thousand million years? How has an alien Greenhouse Effect contributed to atmospheric collapse? And are volcanoes still active today on the grim surface? These are just some of the mysteries Venus Express will attempt to unlock.

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ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter mission to ISS


Fri, Mar 10, 2006


ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter is scheduled to lift-off onboard NASA's Space Shuttle in May to join ISS Expedition 13. At a press event today at the European Astronaut Centre, the German-born Reiter spoke to the media and highlighted the scientific experiments he will oversee as part of ESA's first long-duration mission on the ISS.

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Man-made star shines in the southern sky


Thu, Mar 02, 2006


ESO astronomers have been able to create an 'artificial star' 90 km high in the atmosphere, using a laser beam. This star can be put at any point in the sky, and it enables the adaptive optics of the VLT telescope to be used throughout the visible sky. Until now, adaptive optics required the light of a strong natural star as a reference; now, the artificial star will do this. The new technology enlarges the field of vision of the most powerful telescope on Earth.

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Integral views the Earth


Tue, Feb 14, 2006


Integral is ESA's 4-year-old orbiting astrophysics observatory, and is designed to look upwards into deep space to observe some of the universe's most violent sources, including exploding supernova stars and black holes. Recently, spacecraft controllers reoriented integral to look down in a unique Earth observation campaign designed in part to study what happens when the Earth's disk blocks the high-energy background radiation.

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Sciamachy observes air pollution


Fri, Feb 3, 2006


The Sciamachy instrument on ESA's Envisat satellite is a powerful monitor of global air pollution. This programme provides an overview of recent interesting observations. These include the rapid increase of pollution in China over the past ten years, notably of nitrogen dioxide in the Beijing area, and unexplained sources of the greenhouse gas methane in the Ganges valley in India. Also air pollution in industrialised regions of Europe is highlighted.

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Venus Express launch: ESOC mission control audio loop


Wed, Nov 9, 2005


At 04:33 CET this morning, Venus Express was launched on a Soyuz-Fregat launcher from Baikonur, Kazakhstan; mission control operated from ESOC, ESA's Space Operations Centre, in Darmstadt, Germany. Today's ESApod includes audio clips from the communications loop used by flight controllers and includes the Flight Operations Director's pre-launch GO-NOGO "Roll-Call" (held at 03:38 CET) as well as an interview with Ground Segment Manager Manfred Warhaut from the Main Control Room.

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ESA provides unique satellite delivery service


Tue, Dec 20, 2005


Europe's newest weather satellite, MSG-2, will be launched on 21 December 2005. ESOC, ESA's Space Operations Centre, will provide a custom satellite delivery service to EUMETSAT, handing over the spacecraft upon completion of the critical launch and early orbit phase. Interview with John Dodsworth and Nigel Head, Flight Operations Directors for the A and B mission control teams.

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Smallest planet outside Solar System discovered


Fri, Jan 27, 2006


The discovery of the first Earth-like planet outside our own Solar system was announced on 26 January 2005 by the scientific journal 'Nature'. This planet is not made of gas like all previously observed exoplanets but features a solid crust, like the Earth. It was detected using a promising new technique, with a telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) located in Chile. With the detection of more such planets, the search for extraterrestrial life will enter a new phase of exploration.

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Galileo - The clock is ticking


Fri, Jan 20, 2006


After the successful launch of GIOVE on 28 December 2005 and the acquisition of a navigation signal on 12 January 2006, Galileo, Europe's own GPS, is underway from the drawing board into space. This ESApod video features highlight images of the launch of GIOVE and an outline of Galileo, and why this will eventually be the best positioning system in the world.

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Huygens - One Year After


Fri, Jan 13, 2006


Cassini-Huygens has provided stunning otherworldly images of Saturn and its moons. Highlights so far include ESA's landing of Huygens on Titan and Cassini's continued observations of the Saturn system. Today's video programme reviews the latest science results including the unknown origin of Titan's large quantities of atmospheric methane. Includes interviews with Huygens scientists and spectacular 3D animations.

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  • Published: 2002
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