The highest decision-making body of the European Space Agency (ESA) met this year on 1 and 2 December at the Culture and Convention Centre (KKL) in Lucerne, Switzerland, to set the financial and programme-based course for European space travel for the coming years. Ministers in charge of space in Europe last came together exactly two years ago on 2 December 2014 in Luxembourg.
The plasma crystal experiments are among the most successful research projects on the International Space Station (ISS). The PKE-Nefedov plasma crystal laboratory was one of the first scientific research laboratories on the International Space Station (ISS).
The Rosetta mission reached the end of its observation phase in late September when the orbiter touched down spectacularly on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gersimenko. By then, it had spent 4595 days in space, and had travelled 7.9 billion kilometres, performed a total of six fly-bys past Earth, Mars and two asteroids and accompanied Comet 67P during its journey through the Solar System on a mission lasting more than two years.
Antonianna, Lisa, Kimberley and Tijmen – those are the names of the four Galileo satellites launched on 17 November 2016, at precisely 14:06 CET, for the first time with a specially adapted version of the European heavyweight carrier Ariane 5 from the European spaceport in French Guiana.
Human beings do not always retain the same level of dexterity in a weightless environment as they would on Earth – not even with practice. This is a familiar, yet still mysterious, phenomenon encountered in human spaceflight: what is the reason for the reduced hand-to-eye coordination in space, and what can be done to compensate these performance deficits?
At 10:30 Central European Time (CET) on 8 November 2016, the HEROS3 (Hybrid Experimental Rocket Stuttgart) research rocket was successfully launched from the Esrange Space Centre in Sweden to great enthusiasm from the students. Reaching an altitude of 30 kilometres, it set a new European altitude record for student rockets.
The menu for polar explorers in the Antarctic is not usually very exciting. Often, there are only durable goods, especially in the polar winter, when the researchers are cut off from the outside world for months.
A unique experiment – with a very special goal – has been devised by the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). The AVANTI experiment (Autonomous Visual Approach Navigation and Target Identification) is intended to demonstrate how a satellite can detect a spacecraft in space and approach it autonomously.
Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have set a new record in data transmission using laser: 1.72 terabits per second across a distance of 10.45 kilometres, which is equivalent to the transmission of 45 DVDs per second.
Starting 24 October 2016, a four-week 'space mission' will take place in Utah's semi-desert: this field test programme of the Field Trials Utah (FT-Utah) project is focusing on the SherpaTT Rover and Coyote III. In the impassable, Mars-like test area not far from the small town of Hanksville in the south of the US state, the robots will have to undergo endurance and stress tests and should also successfully complete a mock-up mission scenario.
The European Space Agency's (ESA) Venus Express mission has provided a great amount of data from the surface and atmosphere of Earth's inner twin planet. Among these observations was the mapping of the southern hemisphere of Venus in the near infrared spectral range using the VIRTIS (Visible and InfraRed Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) instrument.
Since 14 March 2016, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli lander have been flying together towards Mars for the ESA ExoMars mission. On 16 October 2016, the journey to the Martian surface begins for the lander, while the TGO will enter orbit around Mars.
On 5 October 2016 at 15:33 CEST, the research balloon BEXUS 22 took off from the Esrange Space Center, near Kiruna, Sweden, en route to the stratosphere. BEXUS 23 is scheduled to be launched on 6 October.
The new three-dimensional map of Earth has been completed. Mountain peaks and valley floors across the globe can now be seen with an accuracy of just one metre. The global elevation model was created as part of the TanDEM-X satellite mission; it offers unprecedented accuracy compared with other global datasets and is based on a uniform database.
On 30 September 2016 at 13:19 CEST, the final signal from the Rosetta orbiter was received back on Earth. The ESA mission ended when the spacecraft touched down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The international team of scientists had already said their farewells to the Philae lander back in February 2016, when its prolonged radio silence indicated that it would no longer report back to the team in the control centre at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).
Vegetation and soil are currently slowing down global warming by absorbing about a quarter of human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). This land carbon sink is believed to be in part due to increases in photosynthesis. A new study in the journal Nature shows that doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere will cause global plant photosynthesis to increase by approximately one third.
The Philae landing craft touched down on comet on 12 November 2014. It has now been found: it is not located at the convenient site originally selected for its landing, but rather – following a series of three bounces – in a grim and dark environment.
METimage, a new satellite instrument for weather and climate forecasting, is now entering its final phase. On 20 September 2016, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and Airbus Defence and Space signed an agreement for the design, construction and testing of the radiometer.
With a diameter of 20 metres, Earth appears to float above visitors to the Gasometer Oberhausen, while banks of clouds, days and nights – and even rain showers – flow across its surface. Over half a million people have already visited the 'Wonders of Nature' exhibition, making this display in the old industrial monument one of this year's most popular exhibitions.
With a new Malik Verlag publication, 'm4 Mountains – Die vierte Dimension' (m4 mountains – the fourth dimension), the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) presents another image book from the world of satellite-supported Earth observation. In 200 pages, Stefan Dech and Nils Sparwasser, together with mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner, show some of our planet's fascinating mountains in a completely innovative way.