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Farewell ceremony in Turin – European-built Node 3 starts its journey to the ISS

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Copyright ESA

The European-built Node 3 module for the International Space Station will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, on 17 May. Media representatives are invited to attend a ceremony on 16 May at Thales Alenia Space, Turin, Italy, to mark the departure of Node 3.

The Node 3 connecting module, built by prime contractor Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, is the last element of a barter agreement by which ESA supplied NASA with International Space Station (ISS) hardware, including the Cupola and two Node modules (Node 2 and 3). In return, NASA ferried the European Columbus laboratory to the ISS in February 2008.

Following the tradition to name the ISS modules, NASA has chosen to name Node 3 ‘Tranquility’ after the Sea of Tranquility, the lunar landing site of Apollo 11 in 1969, highlighting the link between the ISS, exploration and the Moon.

Once in space, Node 3 connects to the port side of the Unity Node and provides room for eight refrigerator-sized racks, two of the locations being used for the avionics racks controlling Node 3. It will house many of the Station’s Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS), including an air revitalisation system, [...]

Q&A with ESA astronaut Frank De Winne on YouTube

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Copyright ESA

There’s no shower on the ISS. Do you know how astronauts manage to keep themselves clean? There’s no up or down in space. How do astronauts adapt to this environment?

Instead of searching the Internet – why not directly ask those who know best? ESA astronaut Frank De Winne is keen to personally answer your questions via ESA’s YouTube channel.

All you have to do is record your question using a webcam, video camera or mobile phone, and post it on ESA’s YouTube channel. Each week, De Winne will post his responses to selected questions on the site from either his training post in Moscow or directly from space.

De Winne is currently in training ahead of his six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS). He will travel to the ISS together with Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk. Their Russian Soyuz spacecraft is set to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 27 May.

During his stay on the Station, De Winne’s activities will focus on scientific research, technology and education. He will also become the first European commander of the ISS, where his responsibilities will include conducting operations, directing [...]

Columbus, one year on orbit

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Copyright ESA

Exactly one year ago today, the European Columbus laboratory arrived at its berth on the International Space Station, signalling the start of a new era for Europe in human spaceflight.

At 22:44 CET (21:44 UT) on 11 February 2008, NASA astronaut and ISS Commander Peggy Whitson initiated final capture of the newly delivered module. From that moment on, firmly attached to the right side of the Node 2 module, the European Columbus laboratory officially became a part of the International Space Station (ISS). Europe now had its first permanent human outpost in orbit.

Columbus closes in on Harmony

Columbus is manoeuvred towards its final location on the right side of Node 2 Orbital infrastructure

“Columbus provides ESA with its very own piece of orbital infrastructure. This allows us to perform our own ISS utilisation programme; it also gives Europe’s Astronaut Corps flight opportunities and it provides us with invaluable experience in the operation of a human spaceflight infrastructure,” explains Bernardo Patti, ESA ISS Programme Manager.

One day later, on 12 February 2008, the hatches between Columbus and the Space Station were opened and the crew entered the module for the first time in orbit. ESA astronauts Léopold Eyharts [...]

ESA next long-term ISS mission has a name – OasISS

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Copyright ESA

In May 2009, Frank De Winne, of Belgian nationality and a member of the European Astronaut Corps, will fly to the International Space Station at the start of his six-month mission. This mission sees him become the first European commander of the Station by October 2009. ESA has now given his mission the name OasISS.

During his stay on the International Space Station (ISS), De Winne will conduct scientific experiments developed by scientists from different European countries and others worldwide. In addition he will perform technology demonstrations and an education programme. De Winne will also be instrumental in operating the Station’s robotic arm and that of the Kibo module, to help install the external payloads for the Japanese laboratory.

De Winne is set to take over as ISS Commander in October 2009 OasISS, the second European long-term mission to the ISS, will enlarge the crew of the ISS to six astronauts for the first time and thereby increase the time available for scientific experiments. It is a visible sign of the important role Europe plays through ESA in human spaceflight and in human exploration.

The name was chosen by ESA from 520 suggestions received in response to a [...]

ISS crew inspired by vision and dreams of Jules Verne

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Copyright ESA

The Expedition 17 crew have recently been treated to some new reading material on board the International Space Station. Amongst the cargo to arrive at the Station with Jules Verne ATV last April was an original 19th century luxury edition of Jules Verne’s book ‘De la Terre à la Lune’ and two of his handwritten manuscripts.

The crew recently retrieved the book and manuscripts from the Automated Transfer Vehicle’s cargo hold. Expedition 17 Commander Sergei Volkov recorded a video message to mark the occasion which was played following yesterday’s ISS Heads of Agencies meeting in Paris, France.

ISS Expedition crewmembers display the Jules Verne book and manuscripts delivered to the ISS The manuscripts, which are on loan from the Amiens Metropole Library, are part of a collection devoted to French author and science fiction pioneer Jules Verne, for which Europe’s first Automated Transfer Vehicle is named.

In one of the handwritten documents dating from between 1890 and 1899, Jules Verne explores several distances in astronomy, indicating how long it would take to cover each distance by foot, by train and at the speed of light. The second manuscript, thought to date from 1876, is a celestial chart, showing [...]

Take your classroom into space

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Copyright ESA

The winners of the ‘Take your classroom into space’ Call for Education Ideas have been selected. The two best experiment ideas will be performed in space by ESA astronaut Frank De Winne during his spaceflight in 2009. Pupils throughout Europe will be able to compare results obtained in their classroom to those obtained in space.

With Europe’s Columbus laboratory recently attached to the International Space Station (ISS), ESA invited European educators to propose new ideas for experiments that can be carried out onboard the Station to demonstrate the effects of weightlessness to young students.

The International Space Station, the largest international space project of all time Unique environment

The International Space Station, the largest international space project of all time, orbits the Earth at an altitude of 400 km, providing a unique location in which to carry out experiments in a weightless environment.

Primary and secondary school teachers and other educators, such as those involved in science education at a museum, or an educational organisation, were challenged to come up with original ideas that use this unique aspect of the ISS to illustrate to students the effects of gravity and weightlessness.

ESA received many interesting proposals from throughout [...]

Columbus installed in new home on ISS

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Copyright ESA

The European Columbus laboratory has completed its voyage to the International Space Station. Columbus was officially attached to the right side of the Harmony module at 22:44 CET this evening.

ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who was at the controls of the Station’s robotic arm for the final capture and initial berthing of Columbus, reported to Mission Control, “The European Columbus module is now part of the ISS.”

Columbus was installed during the first spacewalk of the STS-122 mission. From outside the ISS, astronauts Rex Walheim and Stanley Love prepared the module for installation before the Station’s robotic arm was used to lift Columbus into position.

“Another great day for the European Space Agency. A great day for our European industry and a great day for Europe in general.” said Alan Thirkettle, ESA’s ISS Programme Manager.

“Now we have four of the international partners with their elements on the Station. It is really becoming the international Space Station. We are very much looking forward to having the fifth partner join us next month.” he added.

The hatch between the ISS and the Columbus laboratory will be opened for the first time tomorrow, Tuesday 12 February. Partial ingress will occur [...]

The continuation of the Matroshka experiment

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Copyright ESA

A phantom, which was outside the International Space Station (ISS) for a year and a half, is now inside with the ISS crew. However this is no ghost story but a serious set of scientific experiments to monitor radiation levels inside and outside the ISS.

This Phantom is part of the ESA Matroshka experiment facility that was installed on the outside of the ISS on 27 February 2004 to measure radiation doses that astronauts experience during EVA activities.

Knowing the radiation doses suffered by sensitive body organs is crucial for assessing the hazards from cosmic radiation. These are still not well known. The results obtained from this experiment could help in the development of countermeasures to the effect of cosmic radiation experienced by astronauts.

The facility was developed for ESA by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with Dr. Günther Reitz of DLR acting as the DLR Project Manager and at the same time heading the science team for Matroshka. The Phantom has a human shape consisting of a head and torso, which simulates the human body with relation to size, shape, position and mass. This was mounted inside an outer container of carbon fibre and reinforced plastic to [...]

Europe and Russia: a 15-year partnership in human spaceflight

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Copyright ESA

ESA PR 16-2004. Fifteen years of fruitful cooperation in human spaceflight activities between Russia and the European Space Agency have set the stage for even closer cooperation.

“Growing together” is the theme of a symposium to be held in Moscow on Friday 2 April, an occasion for ESA and the Russian Federal Space Agency, FKA (formerly Rosaviakosmos), to reflect on their shared achievements in human spaceflight over the past 15 years and their intentions for even closer cooperation in the short to long term.

The cooperation started with initial exchanges of information, small study contracts and some ESA experiments on Russian missions. It covered potential cooperation in the then planned Mir-2 programme, and grew into substantial training of ESA astronauts and flights to the Mir station in 1994 and 1995, which also saw the first extravehicular activity by an ESA astronaut, Thomas Reiter from Germany, during the six-month Euromir 1995 mission. It continued with the training of ESA astronauts as flight engineers for the Soyuz capsule and a number of short-duration flights to the International Space Station (ISS).

With Russia joining the ISS programme, cooperation was refocused, with the main emphasis on the Russian segment of the ISS. [...]

Gardens in space

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A model of a system for growing plants to plan biological experiments in space has just left the company of Rovsing, in Ballerup near Copenhagen, on its way to ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands.

The full name of this experiment reference model is European Modular Cultivation System Experiment Reference Model (EMCS ERM). This will be used at ESTEC to plan and carry out experiments for growing plants in space. Then in 2003 the EMCS Flight Model will be flown to the International Space Station (ISS) where the experiments will be repeated in space.

A biological laboratory, Biolab SRM (Science Reference Module), is also being developed at Rovsing and after testing at ESTEC the Biolab Flight Model will be sent to the ISS.

The core of both models is a climate chamber where the humidity and composition of the air, temperature, light, water supply and a number of other parameters will be closely surveyed and regulated. In addition, the Biolab SRM will have a robotic system to allow samples to be taken automatically.

For the Danish company the main challenge in both projects has been developing the electronics and software needed to regulate [...]