Lake Disappointment, Australia

The Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite takes us over Lake Disappointment in northwest Australia. Found in one of the most remote areas of the country, it is believed to have been discovered by an early explorer called Frank Hann in 1897. He was convinced that the series of creeks that he had been following in the east Pilbara area would lead to a freshwater lake and drinking water supply. Such was his disappointment to find a salt lake at the end of his journey, he gave the lake its memorable name.

Although the lake is dry most of the time, it is home to many species of water birds. When it is full, primarily during very wet periods, the lake retains water and allows no outflow and is hence classified as an endorheic basin.

In this false-colour image, the differences in the shades of blue in the lake reflect the depth of the water. The darker the blue, the deeper the water is. A higher concentration of salt might also explain the different colours of the water round the edges of the lake.

It is likely that the red lines spread across the top part of the image represent some form of vegetation in this predominantly arid area on the edge of the Gibson Desert. Karlamilyi National Park, Western Australia's largest and most remote national park, can be found north of the lake. The park spans over 1.3 million hectares between the Great Sandy Desert and the Little Sandy Desert.

Covering an area of almost 380 000 sq km, the Shire of East Pilbara, also to the north of the lake, is the third largest municipality in the world. The population was registered as only around 11 000 in 2017, with mining constituting the backbone of the local economy.

The Sentinel-2 mission for Europe’s Copernicus programme is tasked with monitoring our changing lands. Designed specifically to monitor vegetation, it can also detect differences in sparsely vegetated areas, as well as the mineral composition of soil.

This image, which was captured on 1 April 2017, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.

Click here to visit Original posting

Horizons science – soft matter dynamics

In the absence of gravity, foams and granular materials stick together for longer. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst shares how researchers are studying the properties of these materials in space to help innovation on Earth.

ESA’s Soft Matter Dynamics experiment was transported to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule in June 2018 and installed in the Columbus laboratory on 19 July. It is one of over 50 experiments Alexander has direct involvement with, with many more taking place on board the International Space Station throughout his Horizons mission.

Alexander took over as commander of the International Space Station for Expedition 57 on 3 October 2018. Follow Alexander and the Horizons mission on social media via http://alexandergerst.esa.int/ and on http://blogs.esa.int/alexander-gerst/.

ESA is Europe's gateway to space. Our mission is to shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. Check out http://www.esa.int/ESA to get up to speed on everything space related.

Click here to visit Original posting

Awaiting final countdown

After years of planning and countless hours of simulations, mission teams at ESA’s control centre in Germany are ready to take flight on the long and complex journey to Mercury.

Years of planning and preparation have lead to this moment, and teams at ESOC have been working closely with teams across the Agency, as well as the many colleagues at scientific institutions, in European industry, and of course our mission partners at the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA).

BepiColombo — Europe’s first-ever mission to the innermost planet of our Solar System — will take seven years, travel nine billion km, and will use nine planetary flybys to reach its volatile destination, and it could not be in more experienced hands.

After completing months of simulations, culminating in the the final ‘dress-rehearsal’ on Wednesday, mission teams came together for the pre-launch briefing to confirm the status of all ground systems, ground stations and team readiness.

All systems are GO for launch at ESOC — Europe’s gateway to space.

Live coverage starts at 03:15 CEST, Saturday 20 October, at esa.int/live.

#EuropesGateWaytoSpace

Click here to visit Original posting

BepiColombo stacked for launch

Video footage from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou showing the three BepiColombo spacecraft modules being 'stacked' in launch configuration.

BepiColombo is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA. The mission comprises two science orbiters: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. The ESA-built Mercury Transfer Module will carry the orbiters to Mercury using a combination of solar electric propulsion and gravity assist flybys. It is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System, and the first to send two spacecraft to make complementary measurements of the planet and its dynamic environment at the same time.

The mission is scheduled to launch on 20 October 2018 at 01:45 GMT. Watch live: www.esa.int/live

Click here to visit Original posting