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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) President José Raimundo Braga Coelho have signed agreements to further research into heliophysics and space weather and to enhance global climate study and educational opportunities.

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NASA Television will provide live coverage of the launch and docking of an unpiloted Russian resupply ship to the International Space Station (ISS).

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NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who is making final preparations for his launch next month on his first mission to the International Space Station, will be available for live satellite interviews from 8 to 9 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 7.

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In late May 2015, the highest volcano in the Galapagos Islands, Wolf volcano, erupted for the first time in 33 years. The wide image and closeup of Wolf was acquired on June 11, 2015, by the ASTER instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite. The false-color images combine near-infrared, red, and green light (ASTER bands 3-2-1).

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On 13 August 2015, Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko will reach its closest point to the Sun along its 6.5-year long orbit. It will be around 185 million km from the Sun at ‘perihelion’, between the orbits of Earth and Mars.

ESA’s Rosetta mission reached the comet on 6 August 2014, and has been accompanying it ever since, monitoring the evolution of the nucleus and its surrounding atmosphere, or coma.

The nucleus is a mixture of frozen ices and dust. As the comet approaches the Sun, solar light warms its surface, causing the ices to boil away. This gas streams away carrying along large amounts of dust, and together they build up the coma.

This image was obtained with Rosetta’s navigation camera on 21 June 2015, when the spacecraft was 177 km from the comet centre.

Parts of the nucleus are lit by sunlight, revealing the variety of terrains that are found on this curious object. The diffuse luminosity, produced by the comet’s activity, is visible all around the nucleus, but appears especially striking in the upper part of the image.

The small lobe of this oddly shaped comet, visible at the top left in this orientation, is crowned by several jets of outflowing material, streaming into space from the surface.

Signs of activity are also visible around the ‘neck’ region that connects the two lobes, set against cliffs that are cast in shadow.

The comet’s large lobe, to the bottom right, reveals the rich morphology of the nucleus, with rugged terrains, circular features and smoother portions punctuated by boulders.

Rosetta will keep observing how the comet’s activity evolves in the lead up to perihelion, and for a full year after that, until the end of the mission in September 2016.

This image is published for the first time in today’s CometWatch on the Rosetta blog.

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A full-size working model of Gaia’s internal systems arrived in Germany this week. The Avionics Model is mounted in a circular set-up representing the systems on the actual satellite, now orbiting the Sun–Earth L2 point about 1 500 000 km from Earth.

With the model at ESA’s European Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany, the ESA flight control specialists responsible for Gaia now have access to a fully functional test bench of the inner workings of the billion-star surveyor.

The model will remain at ESOC for the rest of the mission, with the team trained to use and maintain it with the support of Airbus Defence and Space, Toulouse, the prime contractor during Gaia’s development.

The model was a whopping 4×4 m at its base, and could only be moved at night owing to its size.

Gaia is on a mission to make the largest, most precise 3D map of our Galaxy by surveying more than a thousand million stars.

Gaia will monitor each of its target stars about 70 times over a five-year period. It will precisely chart their positions, distances, movements and changes in brightness. It is expected to discover hundreds of thousands of new celestial objects, such as extrasolar planets and brown dwarfs, and observe hundreds of thousands of asteroids within our own Solar System.

The mission will also study some 500 000 distant quasars and will provide stringent new tests of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

In the image (L-R): Sonia Perez (AirbusD&S), Andreas Rudolph, Kevin Kewin, Guillermo Lorenzo.

Gaia mission operations

Gaia mission website

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Sentinel-2A captured this image of a ship crossing the Mediterranean Sea – possibly from Italy’s Civitavecchia port towards Barcelona in Spain – on 27 June 2015 during its first-ever acquisition.

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Arianespace’s next Ariane 5 flight has entered its final preparations with installation of Star One C4 on the launcher’s SYLDA dual-passenger dispenser system – positioning it for the upper slot of this July 8 mission’s payload arrangement.

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The ExoMars spacecraft is almost complete. A joint mission between ESA and Roscosmos, it begins with the launch of the ExoMars orbiter in 2016 and carries an aerodynamically designed capsule containing a robotic lander. Getting to Mars, landing there safely and searching for life is a huge scientific and technical challenge. ExoMars 2016 will send back information about the Martian atmosphere and the lander’s findings. These will inform the second part of the mission, in 2018, when a European rover will drill into the Martian surface, up to two metres down. The rover will be trying to detect traces of organic molecules that indicate the presence of past or present life on Mars. Both A-roll and B-roll contain interview clips from Jorge Vago, ExoMars Project Scientist, ESA (English) and Pietro Baglioni, ExoMars Rover Manager, ESA (English). It shows ExoMars 2016 nearing construction in its clean room at Thales Alenia Space in France and a prototype ExoMars rover in the ExoMars test yard at ESA’s ESTEC facility in the Netherlands.

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If an asteroid were spotted headed towards Earth, what could humanity do about it? On 30 June, world renowned scientists, Nobel laureates, astronauts, technologists and artists join forces for Asteroid Day, a global awareness movement to spread knowledge about asteroids and ways to protect Earth from such threats. The Day is held on the anniversary of the 1908 Siberian Tunguska event, the largest asteroid to impact our planet in recent history.

To mark Asteroid Day, ESA experts on Near-Earth Objects (NEO) and asteroids have answered the public’s most insightful questions. Respondents include Ian Carnelli, AIM Project Manager, Detlef Koshny, SSA-NEO Segment Manager and Michael Kueppers, AIM Project Scientist.

If approved next year by Europe’s space ministers, 2020 will see the launch of ESA’s deep space Asteroid Impact Mission or AIM, as part of AIDA (Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment), a larger international effort to investigate planetary defence techniques. AIM will travel to a binary asteroid system – the paired Didymos asteroids, which will come a comparatively close 11 million km to Earth in 2022. After encounter and study, the mission will then witness the asteroid being struck by another spacecraft, returning data to help guide planetary defence strategies. Visit AIM for more information.

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