Horizons mission – Soyuz: launch to orbit

This unique video shows a full launch of the Soyuz MS-09: from liftoff to orbit.

Watch the launch from inside the crew capsule with first-ever shots from outside the spacecraft recorded by cameras fixed to the exterior of the Soyuz.

The intense launch lasts less than ten minutes whereby the Soyuz spacecraft is propelled 1640 km and gains 210 km altitude. Every second for nine minutes, the spacecraft accelerates 50 km/h on average as the rocket’s boosters burn their fuel and are discarded.
See the astronaut’s reactions and what the spacecraft looks like as the main steps are carried out to get into orbit:

-00:12 Launch command issued
-00:10 Engine turbopumps at flight speed
-00:05 Engines at maximum thrust
00:00 Launch
+1:54 Separation of emergency rescue system
+1:57 First stage separation
+2:38 Fairing separation
+4:48 Second stage separation
+4:58 Tail adapter separation
+8:45 Third stage engine cut off having arrived in orbit
+8:49 Soyuz separation, deploy solar arrays and antennae

The astronauts, from left to right, are NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Roscosmos commander Sergei Prokopyev and ESA astronaut and flight engineer Alexander Gerst launched in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the International Space Station on 6 June 2018. ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and ESA television host Richard Hollingham provide commentary taken from the live event.

Hunched in their Sokol flight suits that offer protection in case of fire or depressurisation, the trio stay in the crew capsule of the Soyuz – the only module that is also designed to survive a return to Earth. The bags above their heads contain supplies for the International Space Station as every bit of space is used.

During a Soyuz launch astronauts typically experience forces of up to 4g – having to work while being pressed into their seats with a force that is four times more than the gravity felt on Earth. The Soyuz commander uses a stick to press buttons as they are too far away from the control panel.

The fluffy toys above the astronauts’ heads are mascots and good luck charms but also serve as a simple but effective test to see when the spacecraft is in orbit: when they start to float the spacecraft is weightless and orbiting Earth. Above Sergei is the mascot for the 2018 FIFA soccer World Cup held in Russia. Alexander took German children television icon “Die Maus” with him.

The launch went as planned as the 50-m tall Soyuz rocket propelled the astronauts to their cruising speed of around 28 800 km/h.
For this launch the astronauts took 34 orbits of Earth over two days to arrive at their destination spending their time in the cramped orbital module of the Soyuz that is no larger than a car. With limited communications and living space the astronauts had time to adapt to weightlessness and reflect on their mission ahead. They aligned their spacecraft with the International Space Station and approached the orbital outpost for docking on 8 June 2018. The files for this video were downloaded by the astronauts after arriving at the Space Station.

Alexander is a returning visitor to the International Space Station, the first of ESA’s 2009 class of astronauts to be sent into space for a second time. During the second part of his mission Alexander will take over as commander of the International Space Station, only the second time an ESA astronaut will take on this role so far.

Credits: ESA / NASA / Roscosmos

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Follow Alexander and the Horizons mission on social media via http://bit.ly/AlexanderGerstESA and on http://bit.ly/HorizonsBlogESA.

Horizons mission – all systems go

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is about to return to to the International Space Station. His last trip occurred four years ago in May 2014 making him the first of ESA’s 2009 class of astronauts to be sent into space for a second time. Since then he has been busy preparing for his next mission called Horizons. Continuous training helps astronauts to be mentally prepared to handle emergencies.

Alexander will be launched into space alongside NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos commander Sergei Prokopyev in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. The trio will blast off from Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan and will arrive at the International Space Station two days later, marking the start of Alexander’s Horizons mission.

The mission is called Horizons as a symbol for the unknown and what lies beyond. As part of all Space Station missions, scientific experiments make up a large part of the astronauts’ time to broaden our horizons as humankind.

During the second part of his mission Alexander will take over as commander of the International Space Station, only the second time an ESA astronaut will take on this role so far.

The Space Station allows for long-term studies with humans in microgravity. ESA’s Columbus research module has been doing so since 2008 and is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Follow Alexander and the Horizons mission on social media via bit.ly/AlexanderGerstESA and on bit.ly/HorizonsBlogESA.

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ExoMars is ready for science!

ExoMars is ready for Martian science!

ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter mission arrived at Mars in October 2016. After a year spent carefully adjusting its position, the spacecraft is now beginning its science operations.

The Trace Gas Orbiter’s instruments will be able to look through the atmosphere to identify trace gases – in particular methane – which could indicate signs of past or even present life. The orbiter will also act as a relay for rovers on the Martian surface.

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Learn more: http://bit.ly/ESAExoMars

Fly over Neukum crater

This movie, based on images taken by ESA’s Mars Express, showcases the 102 km wide Neukum Crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars.

The crater is named for the German physicist and planetary scientist, Gerhard Neukum, one of the founders of ESA’s Mars Express mission who inspired and led the development of the high-resolution stereo camera on Mars Express.

This complex impact crater has a diverse geologic history, as indicated by various features on the crater rim and floor. Particularly striking are the dark dune fields, likely made up of volcanic material blown in and shaped by strong winds.

The crater’s shallow interior has been infilled by sediments over its history. It is also marked with two irregular depressions that may be a sign of a weaker material that has since eroded away, leaving behind some islands of more resistant material.

Over time the crater rim has undergone varying degrees of collapse, with landslides and slumped material visible in the crater walls. Many smaller craters have also overprinted the rim and pockmarked the interior since Neukum Crater was formed, highlighting its long history.

Neukum Crater is situated in Noachis Terra, one of the oldest known regions on Mars, dating back to at least 3.9 billion years.

Credits: Animation: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO; Music: Coldnoise, CC BY-SA 4.0 and Adrian Neesemann

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Learn more: http://bit.ly/ESACraterNeukum

Preparing CHEOPS

The space telescope CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) has left a clean room in Switzerland, where it was assembled and tested, and is on its way to Madrid for further launch preparations. The telescope will study hundreds of known exoplanets using the transit method – measuring the dip in light as a planet transits its parent star.

CHEOPS will herald a new era of discovery. Its precision measurements will give more detailed information about a planet’s structure, atmosphere and surface temperature. It was built at the University of Bern and the mission is a partnership between ESA and Switzerland with additional contributions from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Integration and testing of the CHEOPS spacecraft is ongoing and the project is on track to reach flight readiness by the end of 2018.

This film contains soundbites from Willy Benz, CHEOPS principal investigator, ESA/University of Bern and Andrea Fortier, Cheops Instrument Scientist, ESA/University of Bern.

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Learn more: bit.ly/ESACHEOPS

Mars sample return

Spacecraft in orbit and on Mars’s surface have made many exciting discoveries, transforming our understanding of the planet and unveiling clues to the formation of our Solar System, as well as helping us understand our home planet. The next step is to bring samples to Earth for detailed analysis in sophisticated laboratories where results can be verified independently and samples can be reanalysed as laboratory techniques continue to improve.

Bringing Mars to Earth is no simple undertaking—it would require at least three missions from Earth and one never-been-done-before rocket launch from Mars.

A first mission, NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover, is set to collect surface samples in pen-sized canisters as it explores the Red Planet. Up to 31 canisters will be filled and readied for a later pickup – geocaching gone interplanetary.

In the same period, ESA’s ExoMars rover, which is also set to land on Mars in 2021, will be drilling up to two meters below the surface to search for evidence of life.

A second mission with a small fetch rover would land nearby and retrieve the samples in a Martian search-and-rescue operation. This rover would bring the samples back to its lander and place them in a Mars Ascent Vehicle – a small rocket to launch the football-sized container into Mars orbit.

A third launch from Earth would provide a spacecraft sent to orbit Mars and rendezvous with the sample containers. Once the samples are safely collected and loaded into an Earth entry vehicle, the spacecraft would return to Earth, release the vehicle to land in the United States, where the samples will be retrieved and placed in quarantine for detailed analysis by a team of international scientists.

Credits: NASA

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Learn more: http://bit.ly/BringingMartianSoilToEarth

Earth from Space: special edition

Discover more about our planet with the Earth from Space video programme. In this special edition, Sentinel-3 Mission Scientist Craig Donlon joins us from the cleanroom at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes to explain how Sentinel-3 is helping us better understand our oceans.

ESA Euronews: Mars on Earth

The Rio Tinto river snakes through the Spanish countryside for 100 kilometres, a dark, blood-red stain of acid water and rusty-looking rocks that scientists love to study. Both ESA and NASA experts regularly spend weeks in the Rio Tinto, examining the life underground, and using it as a test bed to look for life on Mars.

This video is also available in the following languages:
German: https://youtu.be/K2D8T5i_Myk
French: https://youtu.be/7cynIaX5O0I
Italian: https://youtu.be/LOYgvHSR84g
Spanish: https://youtu.be/YI9Prr0ZVrw
Portuguese: https://youtu.be/VSDmRn-rRTE
Greek: https://youtu.be/7KW2SJc2Yjo
Hungarian: https://youtu.be/M0c6Ev63acs

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter completes aerobraking

Since arriving at Mars in October 2016, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has been aerobraking its way into a close orbit of the Red Planet by using the top of the atmosphere to create drag and slow down. It is almost in the right orbit to begin observations – only a few hundred kilometres to go! With aerobraking complete, additional manoeuvres will bring the craft into a near-circular two-hour orbit, about 400 km above the plane, by the end of April. The mission’s main goal is to take a detailed inventory of the atmosphere, sniffing out gases like methane, which may be an indicator of active geological or biological activity. The camera will help to identify surface features that may be related to gas emissions. The spacecraft will also look for water-ice hidden below the surface, which could influence the choice of landing sites for future exploration. It will also relay large volumes of science data from NASA’s rovers on the surface back to Earth and from the ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars rover, which is planned for launch in 2020.

Visit our website to learn more about ExoMars: https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ExoMars