Horizons mission – preparing for a spacewalk

Known to the crew as an EVA (extravehicular activity), each spacewalk provides a valuable opportunity to carry out repairs, test new equipment and even perform science experiments beyond the confines of a spacecraft. Exiting the International Space Station however, brings heightened risk and activities are planned down to the minute.

In this clip, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor help NASA astronauts Feustel and Ricky Arnold prepare to step out into space for EVA 51.

This spacewalk occurred on 14 June, 2018 – during Alexander Gerst’s Horizons mission.

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Good evening, Kraftwerk / Guten Abend Kraftwerk, guten Abend Stuttgart!

On 20 July 2018 around 21:50 local time, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst welcomed the legendary electronic band Kraftwerk and 7500 visitors to the Jazz Open Festival on Stuttgart’s Schlossplatz – live from the International Space Station, where he will live and work until mid-December 2018. During the call with space, Kraftwerk founding member Ralf Hütter and Alexander played a special duet version of the track Spacelab, for which Alexander had a tablet computer configured with virtual synthesizers on board. With thanks to Kraftwerk for sharing this video footage.

Copyright: Kraftwerk/ESA/JazzOpen – Sitara Schmitz

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So begrüßte ESA-Astronaut Alexander Gerst am 20. Juli 2018 um 21:50 Uhr Ortszeit die legendären Elektro-Pioniere Kraftwerk sowie 7500 Besucherinnen und Besucher des Jazz Open-Festivals auf dem Stuttgarter Schlossplatz – und zwar live von der Internationalen Raumstation ISS, auf der er noch bis Mitte Dezember 2018 lebt und arbeitet.

Kraftwerk-Gründungsmitglied Ralf Hütter und Alexander Gerst spielten eine spezielle Version des Tracks Spacelab im Duett an, für das Gerst eigens einen mit virtuellen Synthesizern konfigurierten Tablet-Computer an Bord hatte.

Horizons science – installing ICE Cubes

The International Commercial Experiments service – ICE Cubes for short – facility provides commercial access to microgravity offering faster, easier and more affordable access to research in space.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst installed the first experiment cubes in the facility that is housed in Europe’s research laboratory Columbus, part of the International Space Station.
The International Space University is the first customer to run experiments in ICE Cubes. The plug-and-play cubes need only to be slotted into the facility and the data collection can begin.
The first cube houses an experiment that is continuing research on methane-producing microorganisms to see how they survive in space conditions. In the longer term, the knowledge gained could lead to these microorganisms for bio-mining of asteroids to produce methane to fuel future space missions.
The second International Space University experiment is an interactive art installation that brings space to Earth and back again, highlighting the versatility of the ICE Cubes facility. The cube contains a kaleidoscope linked to a ground installation that is activated by the pulse of participants. The images are then beamed down to the installation on Earth, thanks to ICE Cubes’ unique 24-hour accessibility.
Researchers can access the data from their payloads at any time via a dedicated mission control centre at Space Applications Services’ premises in Sint-Stevens-Woluwe, Belgium. Clients can connect to their experiment from their own location over internet to read the data and even send commands directly.
For more information on ICE Cubes, visit http://www.icecubesservice.com/ to see how you can fly your experiment.

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Horizons mission – Getting a good GRASP on gravity

Unbound by a traditional up or down, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is getting a handle on how microgravity affects our ability to grab and manipulate objects in space. It’s all part of the French Gravitational References for Sensimotor Performance: Reaching and Grasping experiment (or GRASP) designed to give researchers a better understanding of how our brains draw information from different sources – like sight, sound, and most importantly in this case, gravity – to aid hand-eye coordination.

This investigation will help researchers better treat disorders relating to vertigo and dizziness, balance, spatial orientation and other aspects of the vestibular system here on Earth. It will also be helpful in guiding astronauts during spacewalks and developing the most effective ways of controlling robots remotely. This is not only applicable to astronauts exploring new solar landscapes, but also surgeons who may need to operate on patients remotely and other professionals who need to operate equipment from afar.

While our astronauts are pretty quick, in reality, GRASP experiment sessions aren’t quite as speedy as what you see here. In fact, 20 minutes of real-time footage has been condensed to create this shortened clip.

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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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Horizons mission – docking and hatch opening highlights

After orbiting Earth 34 times to catch up to the International Space Station, the car-sized spacecraft carrying ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Roscosmos commander Sergei Prokopyev, arrived at the Station two days after launch.

The German astronaut 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.

The mission is called Horizons as a symbol for the unknown and what lies beyond – reflecting on ESA’s strategy to extend human and robotic exploration beyond Earth orbit. While in space, Alexander will work on over 50 European experiments, including testing ways of operating and working with robots to develop techniques required for further human and robotic exploration of our Solar System.

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Horizons mission – crew is ready

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst talks from Baikonur Cosmodrome, just a couple of days before his second launch to the International Space Station for the Horizons mission.

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