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Week in images: 18-22 May 2020
Discover our week through the lens
Cold, dark, remote, Antarctica is as close to space as you can get on Earth. Humans conduct research in Antarctic bases on a wide range of topics, from climate studies and astronomy to glaciology and human physiology and psychology. Dr. Stijn Thoolen, the ESA-sponsored research doctor based at the French/Italian Concordia research station in Antarctica, discusses life in isolation in what is often referred to as White Mars.
Find more Meet the Experts episodes on Expedition: Home website
Estimating the amount of seasonal snow is important for understanding the water cycle and Earth’s climate system, but establishing a clear and coherent picture of change has proven difficult. New research from ESA’s Climate Change Initiative has helped to produce the first reliable estimate of snow mass change and has helped to identify different continental trends.
Replay of a live streamed conversation with European experts on how space can help healthcare that took place on ESA Web TV on 20 May 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic has challenged the world’s health systems. However space-enabled telemedicine is enabling medics to care for some patients remotely. These include people receiving critical care during a medical emergency as well as routine appointments for conditions such as pregnancy.
* Vanessa Candeais, former Head of Global Health and Healthcare Industries, and Member of Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
* Elisabeth Healey, former ESA Medical Doctor at the Concordia research base in Antarctica
* Walter Ricciardi, Professor of Hygiene and Public Health Medicine at the Università Cattolica di Roma, Italy
* Fabien Schneider, Senior Programme Manager for Telemedicine, Learning and Knowledge Production at Médecins Sans Frontières
* Jan Wörner, ESA Director General
Moderated by Donatella Ponziani, Downstream Gateway Officer at ESA.
In an area stretching from Africa to South America, Earth’s magnetic field is gradually weakening. This strange behaviour has geophysicists puzzled and is causing technical disturbances in satellites orbiting Earth. Scientists are using data from ESA’s Swarm constellation to improve our understanding of this area known as the ‘South Atlantic Anomaly.’
A tiny sail made of the thinnest material known – one carbon-atom-thick graphene – has passed initial tests designed to show that it could be a viable material to make solar sails for spacecraft.
With the Covid-19 pandemic halting our daily lives and forcing many countries and region into lockdown, the economic effects have been devastating. Closed borders have caused traffic jams and disrupted supply chains. In Europe, for example, the agriculture industry has suffered. Normally the industry relies on migrant labour to harvest crops, but as the lockdown continues, crops remain unpicked – putting farmers and the food supply under pressure. How can the food supply chain more sustainable?
This video includes an interview with Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes.
The 16th crew at Concordia research Station in Antarctica to spend a full winter at the facility, wave goodbye to the Sun as it descends below the horizon, not to return for four months.
Sunday 3 May marked the start of the crew’s winter-over period. The 12-member group will spend the next few months in total darkness. This is in addition to their nine-month isolation in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.
Concordia research station is one of three stations operating year round for science in the middle of the Antarctic ice sheet. Located at Dome C on the Antarctic peninsula, the station sits 3200 m above sea level.
If the altitude does not steal your breath, the cold certainly will: temperatures can drop to –80°C in the winter, with a yearly average temperature of –50°C.
Isolation in a cold, dark environment on Earth makes an ideal stand-in for space to better prepare us for exploration of our Solar System. Researchers come to Concordia to study not only astronomy, meteorology and glaciology but also human physiology and psychology.
Researchers are interested in how this extreme environment can be a risk to the human body and mind. Data from these studies is preparing humans for life in outer space beyond low Earth orbit.
ESA-sponsored medical doctor Stijn Thoolen coordinates this year’s biomedical research experiments at Concordia to assess the prolonged effects of isolation on the human body and mind.
He collects blood, stool and urine samples to track changes in blood volume, immune system and gut bacteria and how they impact our health. Stijn also facilitates stress and coordination tests and follows social dynamics to understand the roles stress plays in making or breaking a group in isolation.
The coming months will prove the most challenging for the group but potentially also the most rewarding.
Follow the adventures at Concordia on the blog.
Kerbal Space Program enthusiasts will receive a free update to their space simulator to build an Ariane 5 rocket and tackle real ESA missions in ‘Shared Horizons’ from 1 July.
The prolonged period of dry weather in the Czech Republic has resulted in what experts are calling the ‘worst drought in 500 years.’ Scientists are using ESA satellite data to monitor the drought that’s gripped the country.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives across the globe, Earth-observing satellites take the pulse of our planet from space. While the global lockdown has had a massive impact on daily life and the economy, there have been environmental benefits that are visible from space. How can we preserve these positives when returning to ‘business as usual’?
This video includes an interview in English with Josef Aschbacher, Director of Earth Observation Programmes.
Week in images: 11-15 May 2020
Discover our week through the lens
The second ExoMars mission, scheduled for launch to the Red Planet in 2022, is taking advantage of the extra time to upgrade some of the rover’s instruments and get ready for the next parachute high-altitude drop tests.
For some years now, scientists have been puzzling over why the north magnetic pole has been making a dash towards Siberia. Thanks, in part, to ESA’s Swarm satellite mission, scientists are now more confident in the theory that tussling magnetic blobs deep below Earth’s surface are at the root of this phenomenon.
Nature is a powerful sculptor – as shown in this image from ESA’s Mars Express, which portrays a heavily scarred, fractured martian landscape. This terrain was formed by intense and prolonged forces that acted upon Mars’ surface for hundreds of millions of years.