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.
On 14 September 2016 in Berlin, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the French space agency (Centre national d'études spatiales; CNES) signed a cooperation agreement for the design, construction and operational phases of the Franco-German climate satellite MERLIN in the presence of Brigitte Zypries, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and Federal Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy, as well as Thierry Mandon, French Minister of State for Higher Education and Research.
On 9 September 2016 at 13:00 CEST, the BIROS (Bi-Spectral Infrared Optical System) fire detection satellite developed and built by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) released BEESAT-4 (Berlin Educational and Experimental Picosatellite) into space 515 kilometres above the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago.
The comet lander Philae has been found. The OSIRIS camera on board the Rosetta orbiter took the revealing images of the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 2 September 2016. They show the landing craft lying sideways in a crevasse. Two of the three landing legs are clearly visible.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has finally confirmed the new launch date for the InSight mission, with the first launch opportunity to the Red Planet set for 5 May 2018. The mission was in fact scheduled for launch in March 2016, and land on Mars six months later.
In the Situation Centre, an alarm flashes on the screen – a passenger ferry has changed its planned course for no apparent reason. The AIS (Automatic Identification System) signal eventually disappears from the display. By now, all ship-specific information must have been requested and compared in order to quickly clarify the situation and take immediate action.
Headaches, nausea or even swollen hands and feet: the test subjects currently ascending at a rapid pace to Europe’s highest building to voluntarily experience altitude sickness have all of these things coming their way. Ten test subjects will gather at the Margherita Hut in the Valais Alps in Italy, where their bodies will be closely monitored to see how they respond to an altitude of 4554 metres above sea level, oxygen depletion and low air pressure. “If astronauts are stationed in a Mars habitat some time in the future, it is extremely probable that they will live and work in an atmosphere with similar pressure conditions,” explains Ulrich Limper, the mission’s medical director from the German Aerospace Center (DLR). “As things stand, though, we are unable to predict which persons will experience altitude sickness and what the causes may be.” A possible explanation: “The oxygen depletion encountered at high altitudes damages the vascular barrier, allowing fluid and proteins to seep into the connective tissue. In some instances, this will produce dangerous oedema in the body, especially in the lungs and the brain.”