European Space Agency Flickr Update

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Lunar building block
23-01-2019 02:41 PM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Lunar building block

This 1.5 tonne block was 3D printed from simulated lunar dust, to demonstrate the feasibility of constructing a Moon base using local materials.

The building block is on show in the laboratory corridor of ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands, visited during public tours from neighbouring Space Expo.

Produced using a binding salt as ‘ink’, its design is based on a hollow closed-cell structure – combining strength with low weight, similar to bird bones. The structure was made during an initial feasibility project on lunar 3D printing.

ESA has subsequently investigated other types of lunar 3D printing, including solar sintering and ceramics.

A recently completed study also looked into all the ways that 3D printing could contribute to the construction and operation of a lunar base, and included a competition asking the public for ideas to 3D print to make the Moon feel like home.

Credits: ESA–G. Porter, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Lunar eclipse over Lake Maggiore
23-01-2019 10:15 AM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Lunar eclipse over Lake Maggiore

The lunar eclipse that took place in the early hours of Monday 21 January kicks off a major year for our satellite. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the first crewed landing on the Moon.

After more than four decades, the Moon is again in the spotlight of space agencies worldwide as a destination for both robotic missions and human explorers.

But first, the lunar eclipse.

The phenomenon known as a total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes directly between the Moon and the Sun, hiding the light that illuminates the surface of our satellite.

As the Moon passes through the shadow of Earth it appears in orange and red hues. This is because a small portion of sunlight is refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere and mostly red light reaches the Moon.

Many across Europe woke in the early hours to view this phenomenon and shared their images on social media. The images were stunning across the continent, but particularly over Lake Maggiore. This image of the eclipse at totality was taken at 06:23 CET by Alberto Negro.

In collaboration with international partners, ESA is preparing to go forward to the Moon on several missions to be developed over the next few years.

ESA has already delivered a key component to the NASA Orion spacecraft that will take humans back to the Moon. The European Service Module, the powerhouse engine that will propel the spacecraft, is currently undergoing mating and testing with the rest of the spacecraft in the United States.

Moving away from one-shot orbital missions, ESA is also teaming up with international partners on missions to explore the polar regions hand-in-hand with robots, in international cooperation and commercial participation.

Learn more about our closest neighbour in the Solar System in our interactive exploration guide or this new set of infographics.

Credits: Alberto Negro

European Space Agency YouTube Update

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22-01-2019 07:27 PM CET

What’s the difference between spotting asteroids in space, and debris objects in Earth orbit? At first, both look like tiny dots streaming across the sky, against a backdrop of twinkling stars. As part of its Space Safety & Security activities, ESA brings together experts in asteroid and debris detection, asking what these two vital fields have in common, and how they can protect us from hazards in space.

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ESA is Europe’s gateway to space. Our mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. Check out http://www.esa.int/ESA to get up to speed on everything space related.

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Best CanSat final reports 2018 – Congratulations!

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Best CanSat final reports 2018 – Congratulations!
22-01-2019 05:57 PM CET

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The ESA Education team is pleased to announce the top 3 final reports that were submitted by student teams, after they competed in the 2018 European CanSat Competition. Last year the final launch campaign was hosted by the Regional Fund for Science and Technology (FRCT) in Santa Maria, Azores, Portugal.

European Space Agency Flickr Update

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Spotlight on Antarctica
21-01-2019 10:24 AM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Spotlight on Antarctica

This ethereal image was taken by Daniel Michalik, currently a research fellow at ESA. It was shortlisted as a finalist in the Royal Society photography competition in 2017, and went on to become the overall winner in the ‘Astronomy’ category – and it’s easy to see why.

It captures a beautiful scene at the Earth’s South Pole in Antarctica, where the dry, cold conditions allow for observations of a number of rare celestial phenomena that are seen far less often elsewhere. The sight captured beautifully here by Daniel is a good example of such a phenomenon: a light pillar.

The Moon illuminates a column of bright light between it and the frozen plateau below, creating a scene akin to a dramatic lunar spotlight beaming downwards. This is caused by moonlight reflecting from and refracting through ice crystals suspended in our planet’s atmosphere, producing a diffuse, eerie glow. Atmospheric ice crystals are behind a number of the phenomena showcased wonderfully at the South Pole, including halos and arcs (glowing rings that encircle the Sun or Moon in the sky), as well as sun and moon dogs (bright, circular spots of light that sometimes appear along these halos around the Sun or Moon).

Jupiter can be seen as a bright spot to the upper left of the Moon. This photograph is one single long exposure with minor contrast and exposure adjustments, taken at -60°C.

Daniel wintered at the Geographic South Pole in 2017 while he worked at the 10-metre South Pole Telescope (SPT), visible here as the leftmost radio dish. The other two dishes visible are BICEP2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization 2), and the Keck Array. These telescopes are exploring the very earliest days of the cosmos. They are located in the Dark Sector of the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, where any sources of electro-magnetic interference that could potentially affect the observations are kept as low as possible. This means no wifi, no radio contact, and no bright lights in this area, amongst others.

A line of flags is visible snaking away from the camera towards these telescopes – it helps astronomers and staff find their way to the site during the five months of continuous winter darkness.

The Moon creates a number of fascinating and unique sights for terrestrial observers, perhaps the most famous being eclipses. The most recent lunar eclipse – when the Earth slips between the Moon and the Sun, casting its shadow onto our satellite – occurred during the early hours of this morning. The total lunar eclipse could be seen from North America, South America, and parts of western and northern Europe and Africa.

While the Moon has not welcomed human visitors since the 1970s, it is again becoming a target for space agencies. The Moon is a key reference point for understanding the evolution of the early Solar System. There is also renewed interest in a long-term human presence on the Moon as it offers great potential as a ‘springboard’ for humans to explore other regions of space – Mars being the next goal.

Credits: D. Michalik/NSF/SPT