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Week in images: 03-07 August 2020
Discover our week through the lens
This weekend sees the 45th anniversary of the launch of Cos-B, the first satellite to be launched under the banner of the newly created European Space Agency, on 9 August 1975.
Despite a nominal lifetime of two years, ESA’s Cluster is now entering its third decade in space. This unique four-spacecraft mission has been revealing the secrets of Earth’s magnetic environment since 2000 and, with 20 years of observations under its belt, is still enabling new discoveries as it explores our planet’s relationship with the Sun.
Join ESA astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Matthias Maurer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, USA. In part four of this video series, the astronauts discuss taking photos on the International Space Station.
Though mission details and dates are yet to be confirmed, Thomas and Matthias are the next two European astronauts in line for flights. Thomas has flown to the International Space Station before, while Matthias will fly for the first time.
Prior to a mission, astronauts train extensively to ensure they are familiar with the vast array of systems and operations on board. In this video, the pair reflect on the images Thomas took during his first mission and how he plans to approach space photography the second time around.
This video was filmed in June 2020. At that time, the platform Thomas and Matthias were standing on – in front of a full-scale mock-up of the International Space Station – was the only place at NASA’s JSC that they could interact without face masks. Despite this, the pair were required to maintain social distance at all times as a precaution.
Millions of people around the world face hunger every day, and unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to make the issue of food security even worse. Satellites are helping to alleviate the situation by providing crucial information to monitor crop growth and harvesting from space.
European science progressed at a slower pace on the International Space Station in the past month. As a series of spacewalks to power up the space habitat came to an end and two of its passengers left for home Earth, intriguing bubbles puzzled researchers and left them wanting to know more.
Satellite images have revealed that there are nearly 20% more emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica than previously thought. Scientists, at the British Antarctic Survey, have used satellite data from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission to track penguin guano, or penguin poo, to monitor the presence of thousands of penguins.
Ice plays a critical role in keeping Earth’s climate cool, but our rapidly warming world is taking its toll and ice is in general decline. For more than 10 years, ESA’s CryoSat has been returning critical information on how the height of our fragile ice fields is changing. Nevertheless, to gain even better insight, ESA has spent the last two weeks nudging CryoSat into a higher orbit to synchronise it with NASA’s ICESat-2 so that scientists can benefit from simultaneous measurements from different space sensors.
Satellite navigation is a big part of our daily lives. How do our phones and cars know where to go? Nicola de Quattro, head of engineering and innovation at Vitrociset Belgium, explains how sat nav works along with its present and future applications in this episode of Meet The Experts. Find more episodes in the series here.
Week in images: 27-31 July 2020
Discover our week through the lens
This edition of the Earth from Space programme features a false-colour image captured by Copernicus Sentinel-2 over the many colourful curves and folds of the Flinders Ranges – the largest mountain range in South Australia.
See also Flinders Ranges, South Australia to download the image.
European scientists will help select rocks and soil from Mars in the search for life on our planetary neighbour.
Latvia signed an Association Agreement with ESA on 30 June 2020.
This Association Agreement between ESA and the Government of the Republic of Latvia, builds on the successful results achieved under the previous frameworks of cooperation and enters into force for a duration of seven years. Comprising 18 Articles and two Annexes, it orchestrates the strengthening of Latvia’s relations with ESA.
This video shows Jezero crater, the landing site of the NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on the Red Planet, based on images from ESA’s Mars Express mission. The planned landing area is marked with an orange ellipse.
Scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on 30 July 2020 on board an Atlas V rocket, the Perseverance rover will land on 18 February 2021 in Jezero crater.
An impact crater with a diameter of about 45 km, Jezero is located at the rim of the giant Isidis impact basin. Morphological evidence suggests that the crater once hosted a lake, some 3.5 billion years ago.
Jezero possesses an inlet- and an outlet channel. The inlet channel discharges into a fan-delta deposit, containing water-rich minerals such as smectite clays. Scientists believe that the lake was relatively long lived because the delta may have required 1 to 10 million years to reach its thickness and size. Other studies conclude that the lake did not experience periods of important water-level fluctuations and that it was formed by a continuous surface runoff. This makes Jezero crater to a prime target for the search for potential signs of microbial life, because organic molecules are very well preserved in river deltas and lake sediments.
A recent study of the ancient lakeshores, diverse minerals and violent volcanism of Jezero crater based on data from ESA’s Mars Express mission is available here: Mars Express helps uncover the secrets of Perseverance landing site
The animation was created using an image mosaic made from four single orbit observations obtained by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express between 2004 and 2008. The mosaic combines data from the HRSC nadir and colour channels; the nadir channel is aligned perpendicular to the surface of Mars, as if looking straight down at the surface. The mosaic image was then combined with topography information from the stereo channels of HRSC to generate a three-dimensional landscape, which was then recorded from different perspectives, as with a movie camera, to render the flight shown in the video.
Methane may not be as abundant in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but with a global warming potential many times greater than carbon dioxide, monitoring and controlling industrial emissions of this potent gas is imperative to helping combat climate change. GHGSat is a New Space initiative that draws on Copernicus Sentinel-5P data for mapping methane hotspots – and its Claire satellite has now collected more than 60 000 methane measurements of industrial facilities around the world.
ESA astronauts Matthias Maurer and Thomas Pesquet train for their upcoming missions to the International Space Station at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA.
A refresher for Thomas and a first for Matthias, the pair are pictured here during emergency vehicle familiarisation training in the International Space Station mockup.
Due to the current situation with COVID-19, all personnel are required to adhere to special safety precautions while training. These include wearing a mask – as seen in the image.
Thomas has been assigned to the second operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, launching in spring 2021 from Cape Canaveral, USA, to the International Space Station. He will be the first European to fly on a Crew Dragon alongside NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.
Thomas’ second mission will be called Alpha. This is after Alpha Centauri, the closest stellar system to Earth, following the French tradition to name space missions after stars or constellations. Watch Thomas’ explanation of the name here.
Meanwhile, Matthias is training for his first Space Station mission. Details of that mission are yet to be established, but for now Matthias is training as the backup for Thomas. As the next two ESA astronauts in line for flights, the pair are working to ensure they fully trained and ready.
Matthias will continue his training in Houston over the next weeks and months and is sharing his experience with everyone. Watch Matthias during spacewalk training here (also available in German and Spanish).
Wondering how training differs after a trip to space? The guys discuss in the first of a series of Astro Chats.
Did you know that ESA works with businesses, non-profit organisations and policy-makers to improve life on Earth? We have launched a new interactive tool that you can use to explore many of the projects ESA is involved in to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations for a better and more sustainable future for all.