Grasping for space

When you reach for an object your brain processes many factors to calculate how far to extend your arm. It comes naturally, but have you ever stopped to think how gravity could play a role in the subconscious calculations?

Living in space requires adaptation from more than just the astronaut’s body. The absence of a traditional up or down requires the brain to adapt to the three-dimensional world of weightlessness.

Virtual reality headsets offer a way to understand how an astronaut brain adapts to its new environment and the Grasp experiment shown in this video used a new headset on the International Space Station supplied by France’s space agency CNES. Grasp saw Thomas reaching for virtual objects so researchers could understand how important gravity is compared to the other senses.

Thomas was the first astronaut to use the Perspectives virtual reality gear in space and take part in the Grasp experiment during his six-month Proxima mission in 2017.

The research will help us understand the workings of the human vestibular system and how it connects to the other sensory organs. In other words it will achieve a better understanding of the physiology behind eye-hand coordination as well as shedding light on how to best treat the loss of vestibular function on Earth. This research will also be useful in helping astronauts during spacewalks and how to develop ways of controlling robots for further exploration of our Solar System.

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Horizons mission – First call from space

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst spoke to European media from the International Space Station on 12 June 2018, just three days after docking with the orbiting outpost.

The press conference was held at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, and was mainly in German.

Alexander answered questions on climate, how it feel to be in space a second time, and the football World Cup.

This is Alexander’s second six-month stay on the International Space Station. The mission is called Horizons as a symbol for the unknown and what lies beyond. The mission further cements ESA’s know-how for living and working off-planet. Alexander will be testing ways of operating and working with robots to develop techniques required for further human and robotic exploration of our Solar System such as commanding rovers while orbiting another planet.

The Horizons science programme is packed with European research: Alexander will take part in over 50 experiments to deliver benefits to people on Earth as well as prepare for future space exploration. Many of these experiments will take place in Europe’s Columbus laboratory that is celebrating its 10th anniversary in space this year.

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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 – 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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Follow Alexander and the Horizons mission on social media via 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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Do you know Alexander Gerst?

Meet ESA astronaut, Alexander Gerst, and see him prepare for his next ISS mission: Horizons.

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Learn more about Horizons: http://bit.ly/HorizonsAlexanderGerst

Paxi on the ISS: A view of Earth

Our alien friend Paxi, ESA Education’s mascot, went to visit American astronaut Mark Vande Hei on board the International Space Station. Vande Hei shows Paxi the views outside of the Cupola, the biggest window on Earth in the International Space Station.

Credit: ESA/NASA

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Space Storm Hunter’s trip to space

The Space Storm Hunter, also known as the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor, completed its trip to space in a Dragon cargo vehicle in April 2018.

This video shows the different stages of that voyage, from launch to installation on the International Space Station.
The suite of instruments rode in the Dragon cargo vehicle that was launched on 2 April from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA.
After orbiting Earth for two days, Dragon positioned itself below the Station for capture. ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen played a crucial role at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston as lead ‘capcom’ during Dragon’s rendezvous and berthing.
Operators on Earth commanded the International Space Station’s 16-m long robotic arm to move the 314-kg facility from the Dragon spacecraft’s cargo hold to its place of operation on Europe’s Columbus laboratory on 13 April.

It is the first time that such a set of sensitive cameras, light sensors and X- and gamma-ray detectors will study the anatomy of luminous phenomena in Earth’s upper atmosphere and bursts of high-energy radiation.

Data from this observatory will improve our understanding of the effect of thunderstorms on the atmosphere and contribute to more accurate climate models.

Credits: ESA

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Horizons News Conference – 17 April 2018

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst’s last news conference in Europe before his second launch into space. The event was presented in German and English.

The mission is called Horizons to evoke exploring our Universe, looking further than our planet and broadening our knowledge.
Alex will be launched in June with US astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev from the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft.

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Learn more about:

Horizons: http://bit.ly/HorizonsOverview

Electromagnetic levitator: http://bit.ly/ElectroMagneticLevitator

Live cell imaging: http://bit.ly/LiveCellImagingHorizons

CIMON: http://bit.ly/CIMONAirbus

Testing astronauts lungs: http://bit.ly/TestingAstronautsLungsInSpaceStation

Astro-Pi Challenge: http://bit.ly/AstroPiChallenge2017

Alexander Gerst training in Houston

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will fly to the International Space Station on the Russian Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft in June 2018.

It will be the second mission to space for the German astronaut. During his stay he will take over duties as commander of the Space Station.

This video shows Alexander training for his mission at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, USA. It includes interviews in English and German.

Alexander will spend some six months aboard for his Horizons mission, named for its goal of broadening our knowledge of Earth, low-Earth orbit and beyond.

Alexander has an exciting (and packed) schedule of science for Horizons. Over 50 European experiments are planned, targeting areas such as human ageing and medicine, climate, digitalisation and fundamental research.