On 15 November 2018 at 11:40 CET, the mission team in the Biotechnology Space Support Center (BIOTESC) at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts watched with baited breath. After two-and-a-half years of highly intensive preparations, as well as countless testing and training sessions with CIMON on Earth, you could hear a pin drop – there was an atmosphere of total concentration and thrilled anticipation.
On 7 November 2018 at 01:47 CET, the European weather satellite MetOp-C was launched on board a Soyuz rocket from the European spaceport in French Guiana. MetOp-C will join two structurally identical satellites, MetOp-A and MetOp-B, which were launched in October 2006 and September 2012, respectively.
An extraordinary mission has drawn to an end, after the NASA space probe Dawn fell silent on 31 October. On 27 September 2007, Dawn set off to explore the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres, which are located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The European-Japanese planetary mission BepiColombo lifted off from the European spaceport in French Guiana at 03:45 Central European Summer time on 20 October 2018 (22:45 on 19 October local time), on board an Ariane 5 launch vehicle.
Six minutes of free fall, a gentle impact on the asteroid and then 11 minutes of rebounding until coming to rest. That is how, in the early hours of 3 October 2018, the journey of the MASCOT asteroid lander began on Asteroid Ryugu – a land full of wonder, mystery and challenges.
The 90-metre TanDEM-X Digital Elevation Model has been released for scientific use and is now available as a global dataset. By providing this data, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) follows the EU data policy under the Copernicus Earth observation programme, which encourages free and open access to satellite data.
It was a day full of exciting moments and a happy team of scientists and engineers: late in the afternoon of 3 October 2018, the German-French lander MASCOT completed its historic exploration of the surface of the asteroid Ryugu at 21:04 CEST, as its battery ran out. On-asteroid operations were originally scheduled to last 16 hours after separation from the Japanese mothercraft Hayabusa2.
The near-Earth asteroid Ryugu, located approximately 300 million kilometres from Earth, has a new inhabitant: On 3 October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) landed on the asteroid and began to work. The lander successfully separated from the Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe at 03:58 CEST.
Alexander Gerst will undoubtedly never forget 3 October 2018 – on the 'Day of German Unity', the 42-year old geophysicist and astronaut will be the first German and second European to become Commander of the International Space Station (ISS). The ceremony aboard the ISS will last from 04:10 to 16:30 CEST and be broadcast live on the Internet by NASA and ESA.
The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), and Teledyne Brown Engineering presented the first images of the DESIS hyperspectral Earth observation instrument at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). The instrument was mounted to the exterior of the International Space Station on 27 August 2018.
International experts from aerospace agencies, research and industry will gather at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) from 1 to 5 October 2018. The International Astronautical Federation (IAF) has chosen Bremen as its venue this year. IAF represents 320 organisations from six continents and 68 countries. Workshops, tours and technical sessions with talks, round-table discussions and an exhibition will provide numerous opportunities for dialogue.
On 25 September 2018, Matthias Maurer graduated as an astronaut – an accolade granted following basic cosmonaut training – thereby receiving formal approval for a flight into space.
The Antarctic greenhouse EDEN ISS has weathered the polar night – as well as Antarctic storms and temperatures below minus 40 degrees Celsius – in its practical test under the direction of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It has been yielding herbs, lettuce and freshly harvested vegetables to the 10-member overwintering crew in the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Neumayer Station III for the first time since the beginning of 2018. After more than half a year of operation in Antarctica, the self-sufficient greenhouse concept appears to be effective for climatically demanding regions on Earth, as well as for future manned missions to the Moon and Mars. DLR researcher Paul Zabel is overcoming challenges, as well as acquiring knowledge from cultivating plants under such harsh conditions. To the overwintering team, the fresh greens are a welcome change during their long-term isolation. Zabel will report on his experiences in a live transmission from Antarctica on 13 September 2018.
Over the next few weeks, the Dawn asteroid mission will run out of the fuel required for attitude control. The spacecraft will orbit around the small planet Ceres in the asteroid belt for decades, although it will be impossible for the researchers to stay in contact with it. But before that happens, the scientists are once more presenting significantly improved mapping of the largest object in the asteroid belt thanks to the German camera system on board – as is particularly apparent in the example of the biggest crater, Occator. “In the past year, by means of an elliptical orbit which brings Dawn as close as 35 kilometres above the surface, we have been able to acquire images of up to three metres per pixel,” states planetary scientist and camera-team member of the NASA Dawn mission Ralf Jaumann, from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), where the image data for the elevation model were processed. “This has provided us with image data that is almost 10 times more accurate – a fantastic success before the end of the mission.”
Its view of Earth will be something special: The DESIS hyperspectral instrument has 235 spectral channels to look at our planet and observe the changes in land and water surfaces. On 27 August 2018 at about 21:00 CEST, the instrument developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and equipped with a robotic arm was taken out of the airlock of the International Space Station (ISS) and installed on the MUSES platform located on the space station's exterior.
The operating conditions might be unconventional, and the means of transport is certainly far from common, but a modular aerial camera system (MACS) developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has been installed on board the POLAR 5 research aircraft of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).
Not too hot and not too cold. Not too many boulders, nor too few. Easily accessible and scientifically exciting. Meeting the requirements that the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) team had for the landing site on the asteroid Ryugu was no easy task. "However, we have now decided on an almost perfect landing site," says Ralf Jaumann from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Institute of Planetary Research, who is Principal Investigator of the MASCOT landing probe and responsible for the lander's MasCam camera experiment.
For anyone who watches TV weather reports, the satellite images of cloud formations and winds that play such a crucial role in our weather will be a familiar sight. No direct information about winds has been collected until now, but that is set to change with the advent of Aeolus.
On the evening of 15 August 2018, Russian cosmonauts Sergei Prokopyev and Oleg Artemyev deployed the antennas of the German-Russian ICARUS project on the Zvezda module of the International Space Station (ISS) during an almost eight hour extravehicular activity (EVA).
In early October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander is expected to be in operation for approximately 16 hours on the Ryugu asteroid. The selection of the landing site will take place this August. The ideal site must firstly offer the MASCOT team engineers excellent conditions for a safe landing and stable operation on the asteroid, while providing the researchers with a wealth of new and productive measurements.