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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

Space | 19. October 2016 | posted by Bernadette Jung | 2 Comments

How researchers use the latest Earth observation data - Part one

KIOST inertial DEM
Quelle: DLR/KIOST/NASA GSFC
Elevation model of coastal area

Researchers from across the globe are in Oberpfaffenhofen for the TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X Science Meeting. For four days, from 17 to 20 October 2016, they have the opportunity to present their results from the data acquired by the two Earth observation satellite missions and exchange information. Here, approximately 200 presentations give an overview of the latest research in satellite-based Earth observation. The radar data are used in various scientific fields, from climate research to geosciences to forestry, infrastructure planning and remote sensing methodology.

Covering the Science Meeting, the Space Blog presents some of the work presented. The short examples provided outline how the data of the German radar satellites support researchers worldwide. read more

Space | 28. September 2016 | posted by Fabian Walker | 1 Comment

#GoodbyePhilae: mosaic poster and goodbye video

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
#GoodbyePhilae: mosaic poster generated from the 'postcards' sent to Philae

A few weeks ago we invited the public to say goodbye to the lander Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – the response was overwhelming! For some weeks, under the cross-platform hashtag #GoodbyePhilae, we collected the goodbyes you sent to Philae on Comet 67P. On Twitter and Instagram alone, the hashtag reached 47 million users – almost 7000 people around the world took part in the campaign to say farewell to the first man-made object to land on a comet. read more

Aeronautics | 01. September 2016 | posted by Fabian Locher | 1 Comment

A day in the tropical sky

Flugplatz Togo
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The apron of the hangar – the Falcon is ready for more measurements

It is the middle of the night on the coast of West Africa. A team of sleepy aircraft technicians and atmospheric researchers exit the hotel lobby. The humidity hits them like a brick wall – it is already 25 degrees Celsius outside. Their departure for Gnassingbé Eyadéma Airport is scheduled at four AM sharp. The first motorcycles of the day thunder past the walls of the hotel complex. Today’s take-off is set for 09:30. But the chauffeurs are late – again.

At 04:30, two cars drive up along the beach promenade through the still quiet streets of Lomé, the capital city of Togo.

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
En route to the hangar via Boulevard Du Mono.

Twenty minutes later, the group reaches their destination – a small hangar next to the international airport. Waiting for them, ready for use, is the Falcon 20E , a very reliable member of DLR’s fleet of research aircraft. read more

Other | 31. August 2016 | posted by Manuela Braun

Back in saturated air at sea level

Source: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Into the tube: after the descent, all test subjects in the study were given an MRI scan to examine their brains.

The altitude sickness study conducted in the Valais Alps has delivered a sizeable yield: almost 1500 vials containing blood samples from the test subjects, frozen in dry ice at minus 80 degrees Celsius, were transported from the Margherita Hut at an altitude of 4554 metres back down to the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne. There are also just under 200 urine samples, 44 saliva samples and 66 blood counts. The test subjects themselves are also contributing 11 carefully kept 'journals', in which they noted the extent to which they felt symptoms of altitude sickness. Twenty-two measurements of the test subjects' blood pressure and another 22 revealing oxygen saturation levels in their blood are also included in the dataset. For investigator Ulrich Limper this means a detailed evaluation that will take over six months to complete.

Departure from the top station

The test subjects completed their morning ritual for the last time on Monday, 22 August: upon waking, they measured their blood pressure in a supine position and then hopped onto the scales. The investigator in the study drew blood one final time. And then, at 07:00, the first group set off across the glacier accompanied by a mountain guide, and headed for the cable car station in Punta Indren to travel from the vantage point at 1600 metres to the base of the valley. Meanwhile, the second group was busy packing the equipment left at the Margherita Hut: the ultrasound device, crates of samples tucked away in dry ice and luggage. Altogether, 600 kilograms had to be prepared for return transport by helicopter. read more

Space | 26. August 2016 | posted by Manuela Braun

Study routines with ice axe and crampon training

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Storing samples in the ice: first the test subjects use ice axes to create a shelf.

It is 04:00, and outside Margherita Hut the world is pitch black. The clocks of the test subjects in the altitude sickness study sound their alarms. As the first group of mountaineers leave their lodgings for climbing tours in the Valais Alps, the study participants are already busy delivering the first set of data: headaches, quality of sleep, nausea, dizziness. All of these are noted in a daily journal, graded on a scale according to severity. Then they reach for the blood pressure monitor and attach the clip that measures oxygen saturation in the blood to a fingertip. “We’ve all gotten used to it by now,” says DLR investigator Ulrich Limper. The same applies to the subsequent hop onto the scales. Each morning, test subjects record their bodyweight.

The first samples are collected at 04:30. The participants are asked to give blood, saliva and urine. When the samples are analysed at the DLR laboratory in Cologne, it will be important to determine whether protein molecules from the lungs have entered the bloodstream, and whether other protein molecules are present in the urine. These factors would indicate that the hypothesis of the study is accurate: when the body is exposed to reduced atmospheric pressure and a lack of oxygen, inflammation will form in the body that causes the blood vessels to become permeable, hence allowing fluid and proteins to seep from the vessels and into the surrounding tissue. read more

Space | 24. August 2016 | posted by Manuela Braun

When bad news is good news

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Even during the climb, it was apparent who was better suited to the altitude and thinner air.

Some of the test subjects are suffering. The diary of one female student participant records all that one would not want to have – massive headache, severe fatigue, nausea and vomiting, oedema – water retention – in the hands, insomnia. The first symptoms appeared during the climb, as the 10 test subjects first climbed from Alagna in Italy up to the Orestes Hut, and on to the Gnifetti Hut at an altitude of 3647 metres. On Tuesday it was finally time to climb to the final destination – the Regina Margherita Hut situated at an altitude of over 4500 metres.

For the participants with no – or only minor symptoms – of altitude sickness, it was a hike over the Lys Glacier with beautiful views; for the very sick, step by step, with crampons on their shoes and a five-kilogram pack on their backs, it was an arduous walk and anything but pleasurable. But, in this case, bad news is good news – DLR lead investigator Ulrich Limper needs to test subjects whose bodies are reacting to the lower air pressure and lack of oxygen. read more

Space | 26. July 2016 | posted by Fabian Walker

Say goodbye to Philae

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Some members of the Philae lander team at the DLR Lander Control Center in Cologne.

+++ Update: Thank you for all the great pictures and wishes you sent to Philae. You can find all photos in our flickr-Gallery. We also produced a video from these pictures:  +++

12 November 2014 would have been an otherwise unremarkable day on Earth were it not for the historic event that took place – for the first time ever, humankind landed on the surface of a comet. Well actually, it was the robot lander Philae who touched down on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at 17:09 CET. On 27 July 2016, the Electrical Support System (ESS) on Rosetta, which is used to communicate with Philae, will be switched off to save energy before September 30, the day the Rosetta mission will come to an end.

The robot lander Philae made it into history books: he didn’t just land on a comet, he also told the world about it as he did it – another first! He reported the landing, step by step, in real time, making everyone a part of his mission. His landing tweet "Touchdown! My new address: 67P" was retweeted more than 36,000 times, and he has 448,000 followers on Twitter (@Philae2014). We know that the little robot has a place in the hearts of many – to this day, his twitter account is filled with messages of hope and concern for his well-being.

We invite you all to help us and our partners say goodbye to Philae. But how? read more

Space | 15. July 2016 | posted by Christian Grimm

Half-time for MASCOT – half the journey is completed

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The MASCOT spare Flight Unit (FS) during further testing in Bremen

On December 3rd 2014, the French-German MASCOT asteroid lander was launched with its carrier probe Hayabusa2 from Tanegashima, an island about 40 kilometres south of the Japanese mainland. With MASCOT halfway to its destination, we look back on all that has happened since the launch.

At the beginning of 2015, MASCOT's spare flight unit, the so-called Flight Spare (FS), was refurbished and made ready. On Earth, this identical 'twin' of the asteroid lander serves as a reference system for the flight unit, the Flight Model (FM). The spare unit underwent the same qualification tests as the flight model and can also be used for advanced unit tests that were no longer possible for the FM due to scheduling constraints. These additional tests mainly focused on getting the best possible performance out of the system and on precisely calibrating the parameters required for the landing in October 2018. To achieve this, the scientific instruments on MASCOT performed a series of measurements. read more