Category Archives: ESA

DSA-1 in 3D


Grab those 3D glasses and have a look at this picture from ESA of the Deep Space Network Antenna (DSA 1) with credit to  D. O’Donnell/ESA – CC BY-SA 3.0.

ESA has a large version of this image, see it here.

A visit to DSN Now is a good way to find out which spacecraft are communicating.

From ESA

This 3D anaglyph image, taken on 3 August 2015, shows ESA’s 35 m-diameter deep-space tracking dish at New Norcia, Western Australia, at night. It can be viewed using stereoscopic glasses with red–blue filters.

This Deep Space Antenna, DSA-1, regularly communicates with distant spacecraft such as Mars Express, Rosetta and Gaia. In the near future, it will also work with BepiColombo at Mercury, LISA Pathfinder and ExoMars.

In 2014, it beamed commands and received data from Rosetta, voyaging 800 million km away. On 12 November 2014, it received data relayed by Rosetta as DLR’s Philae craft landed on its target comet.

Despite the moveable structure weighing 580 tonnes, engineers can point it accurately at 1 degree per second in the horizontal and vertical axes.

On 3 August, the dish was illuminated for that evening’s photography – it usually operates in the dark to reduce power usage and avoid light pollution.

In 2015, ESA’s Estrack ground station network celebrates 40 years of European tracking


Mogensen is Home


ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen in a recovery helicopter shortly after landing, here with ESA Flight Surgeon Ulrich Straube.

Andreas Mogensen, Soyuz spacecraft commander Gennady Padalka and Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov landed 12 September 2015 at 00:51 GMT (02:51 CEST) in the steppe of Kazakhstan, marking the end of their missions to the International Space Station.

Andreas became Denmark’s first astronaut when he left our planet on 2 September on his 10-day iriss mission. The trio undocked from the orbiting complex on 11 September at 21:29 GMT (23:29 CEST) in an older Soyuz spacecraft, leaving the new vessel they arrived in for the Station crew.

ESA used the mission to test new technologies and conduct a series of scientific experiments.

Image and caption ESA

Three Eclipses in One Day

ESA’s Proba-2 used the SWAP imager to record three partial solar eclipses and one “almost” eclipse where the moon passed close to the edge of the sun (39 secs in on the lower left).

The SWAP images “sees” in the extreme ultraviolet wavelengths which is nice for capturing the turbulent surface of the Sun and its swirling corona.



Gotta love those CubeSats!

Danish ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen introduces the AAUSAT5 CubeSat, explaining who constructed it and what its mission objectives are. AAUSAT5, a CubeSat entirely built by a university team with ESA’s support.


Remote Rover Control

I recently posted a video about the Interact rover, more specifically the ESA Interact Centaur rover and how it was going to be controlled by ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen. The Interact Centaur is designed to be able to have tactile ability, touch and heft.

Could the rover be controlled from an orbiting spacecraft with a delicate enough touch to put say a metal peg 4 cm into a hole with only one sixth of millimeter clearance to make an electrical connection?

Here’s the answer:

Interact Centaur


This is big! On 07 September ESA astronaut Andreas Mogenson will control the ESA Interact Centaur rover.

Mogenson was one of the three launched into space on the Soyuz yesterday.

The Interact rover is back here on Earth and you might wonder why a rover here on Earth is being controlled by an ISS crew member. This is no ordinary rover, it has haptic feedback, meaning that operators will gain the sense of feel and even the heft of an object.

Imagine what this could mean!

The idea is for astronauts aboard a spacecraft orbiting Mars to have that kind of control over a rover on the surface.

I bet the technology will be used before a manned Mars mission, this has the potential to be a game changer in robotic exploration.

Image: ESA

Let’s Fly Over Atlantis Chaos

Thanks to the ESA Mars Express we can do that!

ESA’s description:
The video showcases a myriad of features that reflect a rich geological history. The tour takes in rugged cliffs and impact craters, alongside parts of ancient shallow, eroded basins. See smooth plains scarred with wrinkled ridges, scarps and fracture lines that point to influence from tectonic activity. Marvel at ‘chaotic’ terrain – hundreds of small peaks and flat-topped hills that are thought to result from the slow erosion of a once-continuous solid plateau. This entire region may once have played host to vast volumes of water – look out for the evidence in the form of channels carved into steep-sided walls.

Copyright ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGA)

Cosmic Cloud Mon R2


A beautiful image from ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory.

See a larger version here at ESA.

Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/HOBYS Key Programme consortium

From ESA:

Fierce flashes of light ripple through delicate tendrils of gas in this new image, from ESA’s Herschel space observatory, which shows the dramatic heart of a large and dense cosmic cloud known as Mon R2. This cloud lies some 2700 light-years away and is studded with hot, newly-formed stars.

Packed into the bright centre of this region are several hot ‘bubbles’ of ionised hydrogen, associated with newborn stars situated nearby. Here, gas heated to a temperature of 10 000 °C quickly expands outwards, inflating and enlarging over time. Herschel has explored the bubbles in Mon R2, finding them to have grown over the course of 100 000 to 350 000 years.

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Rosetta’s Moment in the Sun

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and its human-made-moon called Rosetta has now passed its closest distance to the Sun in this orbit (perihelion) and is now spending several weeks at peak activity. The activity means the flight operations team must be prepared to react to fast jets of dust and gas erupting from the comet or stray boulders ejected from its surface.

Video from ESA

The Surface of a Comet

The Philae lander shows us what the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko looks like in this very nice image.  I don’t know what I expected to see, but this is surprisingly familiar. I wonder what the surface make up is.



From ESA:
This image was taken by Philae’s ROsetta Lander Imaging System, ROLIS 9 m above the Agilkia landing site on the small lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The image was acquired at 15:33:58 GMT on 12 November 2014. The image measures 9.7 m across and the image scale is 0.95 cm/pixel. Part of Philae’s landing gear can be seen in the top corners.

This detailed image reveals the granular texture of the comet’s surface down to the cm scale, with fragments of material of diverse shapes and random orientations seen in clusters or alone. The regolith in this region is thought to extend to a depth of 2 m in places, but seems to be free from very fine-grained dust deposits at the resolution of the images.