It is April 12th 1961 and Yuri Gagarin is about to see what no other person has seen in the history of humanity – the Earth from space. In the next 108 minutes he’ll see more than most people do in a lifetime. What sights awaited the first cosmonaut silently gliding over the world below? What was it like to view the oceans and continents sailing by from such a height? In a unique collaboration with the European Space Agency, and the Expedition 26/27 crew of the International Space Station, we have created a new film of what Gagarin first witnessed fifty years ago.
A real time recreation of Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering first orbit, shot entirely in space from on board the International Space Station. The film combines this new footage with Gagarin’s original mission audio and a new musical score by composer Philip Sheppard. For more information visit http://www.firstorbit.org/
Check out First Orbit here
In May of 2010, Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton detected a vast reservoir of gas lying along a wall-shaped structure of galaxies about 400 million light years from Earth. In the image above the spiral and elliptical galaxies are shown in the Sculptor Wall along with the newly detected intergalactic gas, part of the so-called Warm Hot Intergalactic Medium (WHIM), shown in blue. This discovery is the strongest evidence yet that the “missing matter” in the nearby Universe is located in an enormous web of hot, diffuse gas.
The Sculptor Wall, a type of galaxy filament, the largest known structures in the universe, is a wall-shaped structure of galaxies about 400 million light years from Earth. The wall is faint beyond 500 million light years because the data is incomplete beyond that distance. The nearest part of the wall (the Phoenix supercluster) lies next to a large rectangular void, the Sculptor Void -one of the largest voids in the nearby universe.
Read more at the dailygalaxy.com
During the spacecraft’s approach, the Earth appeared as a crescent. This image of the Earth was taken around the same time by the OSIRIS camera on Rosetta. Credit: ESA 2009 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
On November 13, the European Space Agency’s comet orbiter spacecraft, Rosetta, swooped by Earth for its third and final gravity assist on the way to humankind’s first rendezvous to orbit and study a comet in more detail than has ever been attempted.
One of the instruments aboard Rosetta is the NASA-funded ultraviolet spectrometer, Alice, which is designed to probe the composition of the comet’s atmosphere and surface – the first ultraviolet spectrometer ever to study a comet up close. During Rosetta’s recent Earth flyby, researchers successfully tested Alice’s performance by viewing the Earth’s ultraviolet appearance.
“It’s been over five years since Rosetta was launched on its 10-year journey to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and Alice is working well,” says instrument Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute.
“As one can see from the spectra we obtained during this flyby of the Earth, the instrument is in focus and shows the main ultraviolet spectral emission of our home planet. These data give a nice indication of the scientifically rich value of ultraviolet spectroscopy for studying the atmospheres of objects in space, and we’re looking forward to reaching the comet and exploring its mysteries.”
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At the moment, no programme for its use nor any funding has been put in place to support the platform beyond 2015.
But the European Space Agency’s (Esa) Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, told the BBC the uncertainty was undermining best use of the ISS.
He said he was persuaded of its worth, and expressed the desire to keep flying the station until at least 2020.
Only by guaranteeing longevity would more scientists come forward to run experiments on the orbiting laboratory, he argued.
“I am convinced that stopping the station in 2015 would be a mistake because we cannot attract the best scientists if we are telling them today ‘you are welcome on the space station but you’d better be quick because in 2015 we close the shop’,” he said.
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The ExoMars programme will be launched in partnership with NASA. Credit: ESA
The European Space Agency, in collaboration with NASA, will launch two Mars exploration
missions in 2016 and 2018.
The ExoMars mission will be undertaken to probe the Martian atmosphere, especially astrobiological issues and to develop and demonstrate new technologies for planetary exploration with a long-term view of a future Mars sample return mission in the 2020s, ESA said.
The project, for which around $1.2 billion (850 million euro) has been sanctioned, will include an Orbiter plus an Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator, to be launched in 2016, and two rovers which would be sent in 2018.
“This marks an important moment for Europe in its steps towards space exploration on the world scale,” David Southwood, Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, said.
“We have been to the planets before, sure. But now we have a plan for exploration ahead to build our technical capability and explore Mars in a long-term partnership,” he said.
Eleven of ESA’s 17 member states are participating in the project.
Source: BNS (Paris)
Having a national agency will not change the relationship with Esa
The new organisation is expected to have a budget and will represent the UK in all its dealings with international partners.
The announcement, made by the Science Minister Lord Drayson, follows a 12-week consultation held with academia, industry and government departments.
Britain spends about £270m a year on space, most of it via its membership of the European Space Agency (Esa).
But it also has a highly successful industry which currently contributes some £6.5bn a year to the UK economy.
“We have a real success story in our space research and space industry, and we need to make sure we make the most of it,” Lord Drayson told BBC News.
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