Looking at Horizons

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst gave his last press conference in Europe ahead of his June launch to the International Space Station for the Horizons mission today.

Over 150 members of the press attended the event at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne to discuss Horizon’s science goals.

On Alexander’s busy six-month schedule in space are over 65 experiments investigating human cells, airway health, lighter weight materials and technology that will pave the way for lunar exploration.

Alexander remarked on how proud he was to be conducting research that is advancing medicines and vaccinations on Earth as well as human exploration of deep space. He is looking forward to returning to the Columbus laboratory, Europe’s gateway to space research and home to European astronauts, to continue this important work.

During the second half of the Horizons mission Alexander will serve as the Space Station commander. This is the second time a European will hold this leadership role. ESA astronaut Frank de Winne was the first in 2009.

“With the Horizons mission, I want to make people realise that there is always a chance to go beyond their personal horizons, doing something that they have never done before. For me, becoming the Space Station commander for the first time was a learning experience and something that I had to work hard for. It might be scary at the beginning, but then you grow into that position. And at the end, you realise that it was much easier than you thought.”

Watch a replay of the media event here (mostly in German). Follow Alexander via his blog and on social media and learn more about the Horizons mission in this online brochure

 

 

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GomX-4 CubeSat commissioning

ESA’s latest mission has completed its in-orbit commissioning. The cereal-box-sized GomX-4B performed a transfer of data across hundreds of kilometres of space from its Danish twin.

Both of the nanosatellites were built by GomSpace in Denmark. GomX-4A, financed by the Danish Ministry of Defence, is focused on monitoring and imaging Denmark’s Arctic territory. The ESA-backed GomX-4B is testing a micro-propulsion system as well as an inter-satellite radio link with its counterpart. It also carries other technology payloads, including a hyperspectral imager.

CubeSats are small satellites based around standard 10cm cubic units, but these two ‘six-unit’ CubeSats still required weeks of in-orbit testing once they reached space, just like full-sized missions.

GomSpace showed the satellites in action for the first time during a live press conference from their Aalborg headquarters on 12 April 2018. The retrieval process from GomX-4A to GomX-4B – and vice versa – down to Earth went according to schedule, confirming the satellite pair can share both data and images and send them home.

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Sentinel-3B being mated with the Rockot adapter

The Copernicus Sentinel-3B satellite being mated with the Rockot adapter at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.
The satellite is being prepared for liftoff, scheduled for 25 April 2018. Its identical twin, Sentinel-3A, has been in orbit since February 2016. The two-satellite constellation offers optimum global coverage and data delivery for Europe’s Copernicus environment programme.

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Sentinel-3B being mated with the Rockot adapter

Sentinel-3B being removed from the fuelling stand to be installed on its flight adapter.
The Copernicus Sentinel-3B satellite is being prepared for liftoff, scheduled for 25 April 2018. Its identical twin, Sentinel-3A, has been in orbit since February 2016. The two-satellite constellation offers optimum global coverage and data delivery for Europe’s Copernicus environment programme.

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Sentinel-3B being mated with the Rockot adapter

Sentinel-3B being removed from the fuelling stand to be installed on its flight adapter.
The Copernicus Sentinel-3B satellite is being prepared for liftoff, scheduled for 25 April 2018. Its identical twin, Sentinel-3A, has been in orbit since February 2016. The two-satellite constellation offers optimum global coverage and data delivery for Europe’s Copernicus environment programme.

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Fairing inspection

The Rockot fairing being inspected for cleanliness in preparation for the installation of Sentinel-3B.

The satellite is being prepared for liftoff, scheduled for 25 April 2018. Its identical twin, Sentinel-3A, has been in orbit since February 2016. The two-satellite constellation offers optimum global coverage and data delivery for Europe’s Copernicus environment programme.

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Horizons News Conference

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst's last news conference in Europe before his second launch into space. The event was presented in German and English.

The mission is called Horizons to evoke exploring our Universe, looking further than our planet and broadening our knowledge.
Alex will be launched in June with US astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev from the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft.

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Walking on the Moon – underwater


It’s one of the deepest ‘swimming pools’ in Europe, but for three years has been helping preparations for a human return to the Moon. ESA’s Neutral Buoyancy Facility at the European Astronaut Centre has been the site of the ‘Moondive’ study, using specially weighted spacesuits to simulate lunar gravity, which is just one sixth that of Earth.

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Walking on the Moon – underwater


It’s one of the deepest ‘swimming pools’ in Europe, but for three years has been helping preparations for a human return to the Moon. ESA’s Neutral Buoyancy Facility at the European Astronaut Centre has been the site of the ‘Moondive’ study, using specially weighted spacesuits to simulate lunar gravity, which is just one sixth that of Earth.

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Moondive

It’s one of the deepest ‘swimming pools’ in Europe, but for three years has been helping preparations for a human return to the Moon. ESA’s Neutral Buoyancy Facility at the European Astronaut Centre has been the site of the ‘Moondive’ study, using specially weighted spacesuits to simulate lunar gravity, which is just one sixth that of Earth.

The three-year study took place in the Centre’s 10-m deep Neutral Buoyancy Facility (NBF) near Cologne in Germany. This is one of four such immersion tanks worldwide – the others are in the United States, China and Russia – and is used to train astronauts for ‘extra vehicular activity’ (EVA), also known as spacewalks.

With International Space Station operations moving towards an international lunar return in the late 2020s, ESA’s NBF has been used to investigate moonwalk procedures for the lunar surface.

Moondive was run by a consortium led by the French company, COMEX, which specialises in human and robotic exploration of extreme environments.

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