Oferte Emag

A greenhouse in space

Copyright ESA

t’s small, but it’s a greenhouse for space voyagers – and for you. Paolo Nespoli will take a special greenhouse with him to the International Space Station and he’s inviting young science enthusiasts to conduct an experiment with him.

Growing plants in space will be crucial for the astronauts of the future. When flying to Mars or even further, it will be necessary to produce fresh food onboard and become partially self-sufficient. Setting up greenhouses on the Moon, Mars or other planetary bodies will also be an important part of future exploration missions. Greenhouses also provide oxygen and bring some life to the bleakness of space. Caring for plants is a good way to maintain memories of Earth and an enjoyable way to pass time during the long and possibly boring interplanetary cruise.

There is no danger of boredom during Paolo’s MagISStra mission, as it will be packed with activity and science. The ‘Greenhouse in space’ project, proposed and conceived by ESA’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight, is not only a scientific experiment but also an educational opportunity for schoolchildren aged between 12 and 14.

Paolo will use a specially-developed greenhouse in space to grow plants and make [...]

Star Wars Meets UPS as Robonaut Packed for Space

Copyright NASA

Getting into space isn’t necessarily easy for astronauts, and it’s not much easier for a robotic astronaut, either.

Cocooned inside an aluminum frame and foam blocks cut out to its shape, Robonaut 2, or R2, is heading to the International Space Station inside the Permanent Multipurpose Module in space shuttle Discovery’s payload bay as part of the STS-133 mission.

Once in place inside the station, R2, with its humanlike hands and arms and stereo vision, is expected to perform some of the repetitive or more mundane functions inside the orbiting laboratory to free astronauts for more complicated tasks and experiments. It could one day also go along on spacewalks.

Making sure the first humanoid robot to head into space still works when it gets there has been the focus of workers at NASA’s Kennedy and Johnson space centers. Engineers and technicians with decades of experience among them packing for space have spent the last few months devising a plan to secure the 330-pound machine against the fierce vibrations and intense gravity forces during launch.

“I think back in May we realized we had a huge challenge on our hands,” said Michael Haddock, a mechanical engineer designing the [...]

A Perfect STORRM

Copyright NASA

It was a perfect STORRM. On Tuesday, July 20, NASA and its industry partners Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., successfully demonstrated a new sensor technology that will make it easier and safer for spacecraft to rendezvous and dock to the International Space Station.

This new docking navigation system prototype consists of an eye-safe lidar Vision Navigation Sensor, or VNS, a high-definition docking camera, as well as the avionics and flight software. Both sensors will provide real-time three-dimensional images to the crew with a resolution 16 times higher than the current space shuttle sensors. This next generation system also provides data from as far away as three miles – three times the range of the current shuttle navigation sensor.

“You are looking at the future of rendezvous and docking right here,” said David L. Taylor, president and CEO of Ball Aerospace, as he welcomed dozens of NASA and industry engineers to the demonstration.

The hardware will be tested by astronauts aboard STS-134, the last planned shuttle mission, currently scheduled for February 2011, as part of the Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation (STORRM) Development Test Objective (DTO). On Flight Day 11 [...]

ESA giving a spare arm to Space Station

Copyright ESA

Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off on Friday evening with an important hardware delivery from Europe to the International Space Station: spare portions of the European Robotic Arm and the first Russian payloads to use the arm.

The European Robotic Arm (ERA) is the second ‘intelligent’ robot arm for the International Space Station (ISS). The first, used extensively for ISS assembly for almost 10 years, is Canadarm-2 – an iconic part of the ISS photos. The second arm, for launch in 2012, will be based on Russia’s Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), from where it can ‘walk’ to other locations. “Already now more than a third of the pressurised Station elements are built and designed in Europe and European knowhow is keeping Station in operation,” says Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight.

“Launching the ERA spare arm is an important step in keeping the ability for demanding robotic operations in case of technical failures – these may happen during the prolonged life of the ISS.”

ERA will be used to service the Russian segment of the ISS and to transfer small payloads directly to space via MLM’s special airlock, liberating astronauts from time-consuming, fatiguing and potentially [...]

NASA to Launch Human-Like Robot to Join Space Station Crew

Copyright NASA

NASA will launch the first human-like robot to space later this year to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station. Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they are astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.

The 300-pound R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands. R2 will launch on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness.

R2 will be confined to operations in the station’s Destiny laboratory. However, future enhancements and modifications may allow it to move more freely around the station’s interior or outside the complex.

“This project exemplifies the promise that a future generation of robots can have both in space and on Earth, not as replacements for humans but as companions that can carry out key supporting roles,” said John Olson, director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Integration Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The combined potential of humans and robots is a perfect [...]

TerraSAR-X image of the month: The International Space Station

TerraSAR-X image of the month: The International Space Station

On 13 March 2008, the International Space Station (ISS) passed across the field-of-view of Germany’s remote sensing satellite, TerraSAR-X, at a distance of 195 kilometres (122 miles) and at a relative speed of 34,540 kilometres per hour (over 22,000 mph). The encounter lasted for about three seconds, but this brief moment was long enough for the synthetic aperture radar on TerraSAR-X to acquire an image of the ISS, a structure measuring about 110 metres by 100 metres by 30 metres.

Just a few hours before this image was taken, Space Shuttle Endeavour was docked with the ISS as part of the 1J/A mission; its payload was the Japanese Logistics Module. At the time this picture was taken, the ISS was already truly international: the Russian and American modules as well as the European ‘Columbus’ laboratory were all installed. The impressive solar power plant on the Space Station was almost ready for operation, with six of its eight panels already in position. The orbital configuration that provides the opportunity for a picture like this occurs between 10 and 11 times each month, but there is absolutely no risk of a collision because TerraSAR-X and the ISS are on very different [...]

The Cupola opens its seven eyelids

The Cupola opens its seven eyelids

Copyright ESA

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have opened the shutters on the seven Cupola windows this morning, providing them with the first view of Earth from their new observation deck.

The Cupola is an observation and control tower with six side windows and a top window, which are all equipped with shutters to protect them from passing space debris and micrometeoroids, and will be closed when not in use.

During their third and final spacewalk of the STS-130 mission, astronauts Bob Behnken and Nicholas Patrick worked outside the International Space Station (ISS) to remove the insulating blankets covering the Cupola. They also released the bolts that held each window’s shutter in place during the launch of Endeavour.

Once the blankets and bolts were removed, the astronauts inside the Cupola tested the shutters by opening them one by one. The first to be opened was the big Earth-facing circular window; its shutter swung open at 06:25 CET (05:25 UT). After seeing Earth through the largest window in space for a couple of minutes, the shutter was closed and each of the other shutters was opened for a short period to test they were working. Later all of the windows [...]

Node-3 and Cupola: European technology to complete the ISS

Copyright ESA

Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched at 10:14:08 CET today and is heading for the International Space Station carrying two sophisticated European modules: Node-3 (Tranquility) and Cupola. Their installation will mark the completion of the non-Russian part of the ISS, with more than a third of the pressurised Station elements designed and built in Europe.

Node-3 is part of the Columbus laboratory launch barter agreement with NASA, whereby ESA supplies two of the connecting nodes (Nodes-2 and-3) for the ISS plus additional advanced-technology laboratory equipment and services in return for NASA launching Europe’s Columbus lab to the ISS in February 2008.

Thales Alenia Space Italy developed Node-3 based on the experience acquired by it and the Italian Space Agency ASI in designing and building Node-2 and the Multipurpose Logistics Modules (MPLM), which are used to transport cargo to the ISS. Nodes-2 and -3 were built by European industry led by prime contractor Thales Alenia Space Italy.

Cupola is covered by a separate launch barter agreement in exchange for the launch and return of five ESA payloads by NASA and was also built by European industry, with Thales Alenia Space Italy as prime contractor.

Node-3 will provide more space for [...]

Live long and prosper, Xanthoria elegans

Copyright ESA

Space is a hostile environment for living things, but small organisms on the Expose-E experiment unit outside Europe’s Columbus ISS laboratory module have resisted the solar UV radiation, cosmic rays, vacuum and varying temperatures for 18 months. A certain lichen seems to be particularly happy in open space!

Here on Earth, living organisms can be found almost everywhere, from the abysses of the oceans to the highest mountain peaks. Even extremely dry deserts and cold glaciers support some kind of life.

Recent findings from martian meteorite samples provide stronger evidence that life might have existed within our neighbouring planet too, so perhaps there is also some kind of life on the red surface of Mars.

To find out how our terrestrial organisms survive in space conditions, ESA has backed astrobiological research for more than 20 years. “The purpose is to increase our knowledge on the origin, evolution and adaptations of life and also provide an experimental basis for recommendations for planetary protection,” says René Demets, a biologist working in ESA.

The most recent experiment carrier was Expose-E, launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in February 2008 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis and carried back to Earth by Space [...]

First European commander of the International Space Station

First European commander of the International Space Station

Copyritght ESA

ESA astronaut Frank De Winne became the first European commander of the International Space Station this morning with the departure of Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka who had filled this role since April. De Winne is the first non-American and non-Russian to take on this role.

Nearly nine years after the first Expedition crew took up residence on the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2000; De Winne today became commander of the ISS Expedition 21 crew.

A ceremonial change-of-command ceremony took place on the Station last Friday. However, the role of ISS Commander only formally passed to De Winne this morning when Padalka undocked from the ISS on board his Soyuz TMA-14 spacecraft.

Padalka landed in Kazakhstan early this morning together with NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and Canadian spaceflight participant Guy Laliberté. During his commandership, Padalka oversaw the increase of the Station’s crew-size from three to six for the first time.

As well as De Winne’s day-to-day responsibilities as commander, such as conducting operations on the ISS, directing the activities of the ISS crewmembers as a single, integrated team, ensuring the safety of the crew and the protection of the ISS elements, equipment, and payloads, he will also [...]