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ESA Human and Robotic Exploration
  1. Water bed for dry immersion at Medes

    ESA is expanding its bedrest programme that allows researchers to study how human bodies react to living in space – without leaving their bed.

  2. Video: 00:01:11

    A timelapse video of the Orion spacecraft with European Service Module getting ready for thermal vacuum testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station. The first Orion will fly farther from Earth on the Artemis I mission than any human-rated vehicle has ever flown before – but first it will undergo testing to ensure the spacecraft withstands the extremes of spaceflight.

    Here at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, USA, Orion is being put into a thermal cage in preparation of getting its first feel of space in the world’s largest thermal vacuum chamber.

    Orion will be subjected to temperatures at Plum Brook ranging from –115°C to 75°C in vacuum for over two months non-stop – the same temperatures it will experience in direct sunlight or in the shadow of Earth or the Moon while flying in space.

    Orion is being placed in a cage, called the Thermal Enclosure Structure (TES), that will radiate infrared heat during the tests inside the vacuum chamber.

    The tests that will run for two months will show that the spacecraft works as planned and adheres to the strictest safety regulations for human spaceflight. The European Service Module has 33 thrusters, 11 km of electrical wiring, four propellant and two pressurisation tanks that all work together to supply propulsion and everything needed to keep astronauts alive far from Earth – there is no room for error.

    A timelapse video of the Orion spacecraft with European Service Module getting ready for thermal vacuum testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Station. The first Orion will fly farther from Earth on the Artemis I mission than any human-rated vehicle has ever flown before – but first it will undergo testing to ensure the spacecraft withstands the extremes of spaceflight.

    Here at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, USA, Orion is being put into a thermal cage in preparation of getting its first feel of space in the world’s largest thermal vacuum chamber.

    Orion will be subjected to temperatures at Plum Brook ranging from –115°C to 75°C in vacuum for over two months non-stop – the same temperatures it will experience in direct sunlight or in the shadow of Earth or the Moon while flying in space.

    Orion is being placed in a cage, called the Thermal Enclosure Structure (TES), that will radiate infrared heat during the tests inside the vacuum chamber.

    The tests that will run for two months will show that the spacecraft works as planned and adheres to the strictest safety regulations for human spaceflight. The European Service Module has 33 thrusters, 11 km of electrical wiring, four propellant and two pressurisation tanks that all work together to supply propulsion and everything needed to keep astronauts alive far from Earth – there is no room for error.

  3. Image:

    At this very moment, a spacecraft is headed toward the brightly burning Sun, photographed here on an Antarctic summer day by ESA sponsored medical doctor Stijn Thoolen at Concordia research station.

    Solar Orbiter is ESA’s latest mission to study the Sun up close. Launched in the early hours of 10 February from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the spacecraft is due to arrive at its fiery destination in approximately two years.

    Solar Orbiter will face the Sun from within the orbit of Mercury, approximately 42 million kilometres from the solar surface. This is an ideal distance: from here Solar Orbiter can take remote images and measurements that will provide the first views of the Sun’s uncharted polar regions.

    At the southern poles on Earth, in Antarctica, the Sun has an exceptional presence on people living at the remote Concordia research station. During the Antarctic summer, the sun shines 24 hours a day. It would be perfect for sunbathing, except for the fact that the average summer temperature is only –30°C.

    Consequently, in the winter the Sun does not appear above the horizon for over three months and the crew stationed in Concordia live with outside temperatures of –80°C in complete darkness. 

    In 2015 ESA-sponsored medical research doctor in Concordia Adrianos Golemis captured the Sun at 16:00 every Monday for a year and explains the technique in this blog entry.

    While Solar Orbiter is en route to observing the Sun up close, the crew in Concordia are preparing for life without and enjoying the last rays of sunlight while they can. This picture shows a halo that can occur when sunlight is refracted off ice crystals in the atmosphere.

    The mission will investigate how intense radiation and energetic particles being blasted out from the Sun and carried by the solar wind through the Solar System impact our home planet, to better understand and predict periods of stormy ‘space weather’.

    While this results in beautiful aurora seen in the Arctic and Antarctic circles, stormy space weather can be disastrous. Solar storms have the potential to knock out power grids, disrupt air traffic and telecommunications, and endanger space-walking astronauts, for example.

    A better understanding of how our parent star works is critical to our preparedness for these scenarios on Earth.

    Follow more news about life and science at Concordia research station, located at Dome C in the Antarctic Peninsula, on the Chronicles from Concordia blog.

  4. Just two days after landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan, watch live as ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano shares his spaceflight experiences with media in Europe.

  5. Columbus over Earth

    Astronauts aboard the International Space Station plan to install a high-speed radio link to enable almost real-time connections with Earth.

    The upgrade to the ESA Columbus laboratory will relay data from experiments on the Station back to Earth almost instantaneously.

    The fridge-sized device will fly to the Station aboard Northrop Grumman’s 13th Cygnus supply ship on 9 February.