Space | 12. December 2018 | posted by Manfred Gottwald

TanDEM-X image of Hiawatha Glacier

Credit: DLR
TanDEM-X radar amplitude image of the region around Hiawatha Glacier. The apparent texture is due to the surface structure of the ice and its dynamics.

Glaciers abound on Greenland's coastline; fed by the Greenland ice sheet, they flow towards the Arctic Ocean. In the northwest, Hiawatha Glacier is located at 78.8 degrees north, 67 degrees west. It emerges from a semi-circular lobe at the ice sheet margin and forms a narrow tongue with a length of 10 kilometres extending onto the ice-free Inglefield Land. Hiawatha Glacier’s northern neighbour, the large Humboldt Glacier, is much more widely known. The front of the Humboldt Glacier is over 100 kilometres wide where it flows into the Nares Strait. The TanDEM-X image shows the region around Hiawatha Glacier.

Recently, however, Hiawatha Glacier has received worldwide attention. Some years ago, radar measurements performed as part of NASA’s Operation IceBridge, a campaign to monitor changes in the polar ice caps, revealed a circular depression in the ground underneath the ice where Hiawatha Glacier emerges from the ice sheet. Subsequent surveying by an international research team using a more advanced airborne radar system on board the Polar 6 aircraft operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) yielded a more detailed view of that bowl-shaped feature. With a diameter of 31 kilometres and a depth of more than 300 metres, it resembles impact craters on Earth or the solid surface of other celestial bodies. read more

Space | 02. October 2018 | posted by Tra-Mi Ho

MASCOT – Just hours before separation

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Ready for #asteroidlanding - MASCOT Control Center at the DLR site in Cologne

About 7 years ago, when the MASCOT lander took its 'first steps' in the form of a CAD drawing was – at least for some of us – an unimaginable moment. Today, we are in the control room, following the slow descent of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft carrying our small landing package through the returned housekeeping data. We are ready to go. read more

Space | 28. September 2018 | posted by Nicole Schmitz

Teamwork: Hayabusa2 and MASCOT and the role of the lander's camera

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
The MASCOT camera MASCAM is positioned directly in front of MASCOT's 'feet'

Hayabusa2 and MASCOT will make a first-class team when they start investigating Ryugu. While Hayabusa2 will observe the asteroid's surface from the home position and take soil samples, MASCOT will examine the asteroid surface directly on site. Our MASCOT camera, called MASCAM, plays an important role here, as it will take high-resolution images of the surface, while Hayabusa2 will later obtain soil samples that will be brought back to Earth. This is important in ensuring that the samples are later interpreted in the correct context in the laboratory on Earth. The pictures that the camera acquires of the surface thus serve as the bridge between the lower-resolution images provided by the Hayabusa2 probe, at a distance from the asteroid, and the laboratory images of the samples brought back to Earth. read more

Space | 26. September 2018 | posted by Matthias Grott

What does the MASCOT radiometer MARA measure?

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Temperature measurement with the MASCOT radiometer MARA. The highlighted area on the surface is also observed by the MASCOT camera.

A radiometer is a device for determining the radiation emitted by a surface. Its objective is to measure the temperature of the surface without touching it. When MASCOT separates from the Hayabusa2 probe on 3 October 2018, the MASCOT radiometer MARA will already be switched on, and will measure the surface temperature of the asteroid Ryugu during the descent, landing and rest periods. At first glance, measuring surface temperature sounds rather mundane and not particularly exciting. But what can the temperature tell us about the asteroid? In order to gain a better understanding, we have to consider the factors that determine the surface temperature on a body that lacks an atmosphere. Naturally, sunlight is an important factor – as are the properties of the surface material, known as the regolith. The key factor here is the speed at which the heat dissipates into the ground, a property known as thermal inertia. read more

Space | 24. September 2018 | posted by Friederike Wolff

Moving around on an unfamiliar celestial body

Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
MASCOT's swing arm

Moving around on small bodies is difficult, because the gravitational pull and thus the friction between a lander and the ground is very small. Conventional means of transport, such as wheels or chains, are based on traction and are thus unsuitable for use on asteroids. Therefore, a mobility mechanism was developed for MASCOT in order to enable movement in such an environment: the lander is equipped with a swing arm that accelerates and decelerates an eccentrically mounted mass. The resulting reaction forces, in turn, allow the lander to push itself away from the ground. As the gravitational pull is very low, even small push-off forces can result in big jumps: a distance of 17 metres can be achieved with an initial speed of only five centimetres per second. The gravitational acceleration on the surface of Ryugu is only 0.00015 metres per second squared and is thus 60.000 times lower than on Earth (9.81 m/s2). read more

Space | 21. September 2018 | posted by Michael Maibaum

What will happen in the MASCOT control room before and during the landing?

Michael Maibaum vor jeder Menge Daten
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
Lots of data: The MASCOT teams receive the lander's data via the Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe

MASCOT will begin its main and also final mission phase on 3 October 2018. Early in the morning, at 03:58:15 local time, MASCOT will separate from Hayabusa2 and land on the surface of Ryugu a few minutes later. It will already begin to conduct scientific measurements before starting its descent, and will continue doing so after landing, right up until its battery runs out. Standing on the surface, MASCOT will observe its surroundings and carry out various measuring sequences, depending on whether it is night or day at the landing site at the time. A day on Ryugu is only 7:38 hours, meaning that MASCOT will land in the early afternoon, local asteroid time. read more

Space | 17. September 2018 | posted by Christian Grimm

Point of no return – when MASCOT separates from Hayabusa2

Credit: DLR
Christian Grimm working on the MASCOT lander with colleagues

The date has been set! On 3 October 2018, after almost four years in space, the Franco-German MASCOT asteroid lander will separate from its Japanese mother craft Hayabusa2 and free-fall onto the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. The separation, driven by a small mechanism, will be a pivotal moment on which much depends. Once triggered, it will create a mechanically coupled chain reaction that will irrevocably initiate the mission. This is the point of no return. The way in which the mechanism functions and the possible risks of separation are briefly outlined here. read more

Space | 23. August 2018 | posted by Johannes Weppler

Nocturnal thrills – a tale of an EVA, live from Moscow

Credit: DLR, MPO, Roskosmos
The ICARUS team in the Russian control centre on the evening of the launch of the antenna to the ISS

It is 01:28 on 16 August 2018, and applause has suddenly broken out in the MCC-M, the Russian control centre for the International Space Station (ISS). The room is full of happy faces. The ICARUS antenna, which will be used to track animals from space, has just been successfully installed on the exterior of the Russian Zvezda module on the ISS. read more

Space | 17. August 2018 | posted by Elke Heinemann

ICARUS - Understanding and protecting life on Earth by giving animals an opportunity to communicate with us

Quelle: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
ICARUS: Global monitoring of the movement of birds and small animals

If animals could talk, they could tell us a lot about life on our planet. Their migratory movements help us to better understand how to protect human health and wildlife on Earth. Yet scientists are unable to follow small animals and insects on their long journey. Billions of songbirds move every year from continent to continent. Bats and countless insect species may do the same, but we don’t know for sure. This knowledge could provide insights into animal behaviour, the spread of epidemics such as bird flu and Ebola, the impact of climate change, as well as food security in some regions. It would also help predict natural disasters by tapping the highly developed senses of animals, which often react faster to such dangers than humans do.

In order to observe the global migratory movements of small animals through a satellite system, the ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space) initiative is using miniaturised transmitters attached to animals to collect data on their migration patterns. read more

Space | 16. August 2018 | posted by Freya Scheffler-Kayser

Everyday life on the ISS – part 2

Credit: ESA/NASA–A. Gerst
Sunrise seen from the ISS

How does Alexander Gerst spend his days on the ISS? After getting up, washing and breakfast, he attends the 07:30 – 07:45 early conference with the entire crew and the five control centres operated by the ISS partners, which are located in Houston (USA), Korolyov near Moscow (Russia), Saint-Hubert (Quebec, Canada), Tsukuba (Japan) and for Europe at the Columbus Control Centre at DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen, close to Munich. read more