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Space | 30. June 2017 | posted by Manuela Braun | 1 Comment

ROBEX Part 4: Ash, beetles and blustering winds

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Dust is inescapable after four weeks of field research on Mount Etna: a tenaciously fine layer covers everything: equipment, transport crates and notebook keypads. It penetrates the mission container and sticks to hands and legs lathered in sunscreen. Every step in the black lava soil kicks up clouds of dust. Even the white body of the LRU-2 Rover is coated in black deposits. A small mercy is that the last few days have seen significantly fewer flies and beetles buzzing around Mount Etna who, despite the gaunt landscape, insistently settle on the jackets and hats of the ROBEX team members.

After all, Mount Etna is not a conventional laboratory and remains unpredictable. Gusts of wind up to 100 kilometres an hour pummel the mountain on Thursday, carrying with it not only dust but heavy rocks, putting a stop to any work with the Rover – the force of the wind against the Rover's body and arm would simply be too great and could well have damaged it. The lander is also packed away safely, the flaps on its charging port not just folded down, but securely strapped in place. Finally, the engineers face the battering wind to remove the signs on the lander that the Rover uses as points of orientation during its approach. read more

Space | 28. June 2017 | posted by Manuela Braun

ROBEX Part 3: Hammering for science

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Mount Etna is very close to being a substitute Moon for the planetary researchers of the ROBEX project – it is here that they find volcanic basalt in quantities similar to those of the constituents of the lunar soil. In addition, the Sicilian volcano is the only place in Europe that experiences earthquakes at a depth of up to 600 kilometres. Mount Etna is like the Moon in this respect as well, as Earth's lunar companion experiences most earthquakes 700 to 1100 kilometres below the surface. "Etna is the only place in Europe where we can measure earthquakes at a similar depth," says planetary researcher Martin Knapmeyer.

Two experiments are to be conducted on the mountain; in the active measurements, the scientists use a hammer to strike the surface and seismometers to measure the transmission of the sound waves through the ground. The volcanic ash of 2001 rests on top of a more solid layer in Piano del Lago, so waves that take different routes through the surface material arrive at the seismometers at different times, providing information on the structures below the ground. The passive experiment uses four measurement stations to listen to the processes inside the volcano. read more

Space | 27. June 2017 | posted by Manuela Braun

ROBEX Part 2: Lander on a trolley

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

500. 350. 80. On Friday, these numbers set the rhythm. Weighing in at 500 kilograms, the RODIN lander will be taken 350 metres from its current location, 80 metres downhill. The lander was initially kept near base camp – the perfect location for carrying out repairs following its transit to Sicily and for the first tests and connection to the control room on Mount Etna. To conduct the actual 'Moon mission', the RODIN lander will be on the Piano del Lago.

The plain – located between Torre del Filosofo and La Montagnola crater – was once covered with meltwater. This changed when Mount Etna erupted in 2001; ash was spewn all over the plain and the Laghetto crater was formed. An ash blanket now covers a solidified layer of lava. It is its thickness that DLR planetary researchers want to measure. To do this, the heavy lander needs to be moved. Once lifted onto a trolley with rollers, the lander was able to start its descent down the slope. read more

Space | 23. June 2017 | posted by Heinz-Theo Hammes

ROBEX Part 1: Mission in the lava landscape

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

A journey to the Moon is an arduous one, even if this 'Moon' is located here on Earth, 2600 metres above sea level, directly on Mount Etna.

A heavy transporter winds its way slowly and laboriously through the narrow, serpentine roads above Catania in Sicily to arrive at our lunar destination. The landscape becomes increasingly black as the team from the HGF Alliance ROBEX (Robotic Exploration under Extreme Conditions) approaches its temporary work location. Everyone clambers into all-terrain vehicles at Rifugio Sapienza to cover the last stretch to base camp, which is located right in the middle of a lava field. There, one lander, two rovers and several seismometers have been prepared for this one and a half week 'mission'. For the next four weeks, the on-site containers will be home to the almost 50 team members from DLR, AWI, the University of Würzburg and the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, where they will function as multipurpose laboratories, workshops and offices. read more

Space | 06. June 2017 | posted by Philipp Burtscheidt

DLR audio – The Sound of Science

Credit: murdelta (CC BY 2.0)

Science is simulating, measuring, and evaluating data in order to gather knowledge. On an elementary level, however, science is a description of human experience: touching, observing, and listening. Helicopter rotors make a very particular sound; satellites send beacon signals from outer space; wind tunnels also produce a characteristic soundscape.

One of the latest audio recordings in the SoundCloud archives comes from the School_Lab in Göttingen, and it is a real treat for stereo enthusiasts. read more

Space | 26. April 2017 | posted by Heinz-Theo Hammes

Double anniversary for SOFIA

SOFIA Take-off
Credit: NASA
SOFIA during take-off for the Functional Check Flight on 26 April 2007

The coming week will bring two occasions to celebrate with SOFIA. Just yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the virgin flight by SOFIA's 'flying base' on 25 April 1977: operating under the registration N536PA, the Boeing 747 SP flew for the former airline PAN AM, mainly on long-haul routes to Asia or South America. There are images of the aircraft in its original livery and a detailed history of the 21441-306 airframe.

And it was 10 years ago today, on 26 April 2007, that the Boeing took off for the first time with the SOFIA observatory on board, following extensive modification of the aircraft and the installation of a telescope and door system. read more

Space | 15. February 2017 | posted by Fabian Walker

Video: The flying observatory SOFIA

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The flying observatory SOFIA is rolled into the NASA hangar in Palmdale.

How does the flying observatory SOFIA work? What is infrared astronomy? What sets SOFIA apart from other space observatories, and what happens on a typical day in the air?

read more

Space | 24. January 2017 | posted by Fabian Walker | 1 Comment

Video: The flying observatory SOFIA

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
SOFIA on the runway, being prepared for its night flight over the United States in Palmdale, California.

In Palmdale, USA, approximately 60 kilometres north of Los Angeles, is the home of the flying infrared observatory SOFIA. SOFIA takes off from here, expansively gazing into space as it flies across the night sky four days a week. read more

Space | 19. October 2016 | posted by Bernadette Jung

How researchers use the latest Earth observation data – Part two

Credit: DLR/NASA GSFC/Lee
Elevation model of the mangrove forest region in the Sundarbans

In the second part of the series on the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X Science Meeting in Oberpfaffenhofen, we present further applications for satellite data. This time, for example, biomass is determined with the help of 'Earth observers from space'. Up until Thursday, 20 October 2016, international scientists will use the congress to show their research results on satellite-based Earth observation and to exchange ideas.

High above the swamp

Wet, warm and salty – the perfect habitat for mangroves. These tropical trees only feel at home in seawater or the brackish water of rivers. Together with other water-loving plants and shrubs, they can spread across entire forests or swamps. They offer protection against land loss through coastal erosion along seaboards and act as buffers to block storm surges and tsunamis. Around the world, mangrove forests account for an expanse of roughly 150,000 square kilometres. This equates to an enormous quantity of biomass – plant constituents that act as natural carbon reservoirs and that influence the climate. But exactly how much biomass is stored in these forests? And what about the inaccessible areas? read more