European Mars Mission to Launch on Monday

The first phase of the joint venture between the European Space Agency and Russia, known as ExoMars is expected to be launching on Monday 14th of March. The launch will take place at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with a Proton-M rocket responsible for carrying the scientific payload onto a trajectory to Mars.

This mission will be to launch the Trace Gas Orbiter, which will hold an orbit around Mars in order to analyse the trace elements of the Mars’ atmosphere as well as deploying an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, named Schiaparelli. Despite the initial launch taking only 10 hours to place the TGO on its path to Mars, the satellite will then have to travel for seven months before reaching the red planet.

On the 16th of October, three days before arrival, Schiaparelli will be launched from the TGO, which has the dual duty of carrying scientific instruments to the surface of Mars, but more importantly, to provide data on the module’s performance during entry, descent and touchdown, with no assurance that it will survive the landing on October 19th. The data collected by Schiaparelli will be used to develop the landing module for the ExoMars rover which is expected to launch in 2018.

After detaching Schiaparelli, the TGO will spend almost a year positioning itself into a circular orbit around Mars at a height of 400km. It will then set about cataloguing the gasses of Mars, taking a special interest in those making up less than 1% of the planet’s atmosphere, including methane, water vapour, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide. Special interest is placed on methane, which is unexpected to be in Mars’ atmosphere at all which makes the source of the gas all the more useful to discover.

This mission is crucial to understanding more about the red planet, with the results of its analysis bringing us one step closer to putting humans on Mars. Like many space launches recently, this one will be live streamed by the ESA the launch from 8:30 AM GMT, 1 hour ahead of the projected launch time of 9:30 which will doubtlessly prove interesting to any space fanatics out there.

NASA Discovers ‘Super-Earth’ Exoplanet With an Atmosphere

Astronomers from NASA and ESA have, for the first time, been able to analyse the atmosphere of an exoplanet that is classified as a ‘Super-Earth’. Exoplanet 55 Cancri e, which is located around 40 light-years from Earth was observed by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and found to have a dry atmosphere comprising mainly of hydrogen and helium with no signs of water vapour.

A ‘super-Earth’ is quite simply a solid rocky planet with a greater mass than the Earth and are thought to be one of the most common types of planet in our galaxy. 55 Cancri e is an unusual super-Earth, being held in a very close orbit to its parent star. While this results in years on the exoplanet taking only 18 hours and an utterly inhospitable surface temperature of around 2000 degrees Celsius. This close orbit did allow the astronomers to employ new analysis techniques to examine the planet and gather information as it passes in front of the star.This finding is groundbreaking as it marks the first time that the spectral fingerprints that give away gasses present in the atmosphere have been discovered on a super-Earth.

This finding is groundbreaking as it marks the first time that the spectral fingerprints that give away gasses present in the atmosphere have been discovered on a super-Earth. “This result gives a first insight into the atmosphere of a super-Earth. We now have clues as to what the planet is currently like and how it might have formed and evolved, and this has important implications for 55 Cancri e and other super-Earths,” said Giovanna Tinetti, of  University College London.

While 55 Cancri e is certainly not a planet that anyone would want to live on, between extreme heat and a toxic atmosphere, the discovery of some of its features have proven the ability to detect the atmospheric qualities of other planets. It may still be a few years until a new generation of infrared telescopes prove the current discoveries correct, it is exciting that we develop more and more ways to learn about the nature of our neighbours in the universe.

Image credit to NASA

Aerospace Scientists Says Goodbye to Philae Lander

The German scientists behind the intrepid Rosetta space mission have given up hope of re-establishing communications with its Philae lander. The probe, which landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, has been silent since July 2015, and the team from the German Aerospace Center are now pessimistic that it will be able to wake it up.

“Unfortunately, the probability of Philae re-establishing contact with our team at the DLR Lander Control Center is almost zero, and we will no longer be sending any commands,” Stephan Ulamec, Philae Project Manager of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), said in a statement. “It would be very surprising if we received a signal now.”

While DLR has ceased any further attempts to communicate with Philae, the Rosetta mothercraft will continue to orbit 67P until September. So, if the little lander does wake up in the next seven months, Rosetta will still be listening:

The Rosetta space mission was overseen by the European Space Agency (ESA), with help from NASA. Rosetta chased 67P across our solar system for ten years, eventually rendezvousing with the comet in August 2014. Philae was launched at the comet on 12th November, 2014, and, despite its harpoon system failing, the probe successfully landed on its surface.

“The Philae mission was one-of-a-kind – it was not only the first time that a lander was ever placed on a comet’s surface, but we also received fascinating data,” Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board and a participating scientist on the mission, added. “Rosetta and Philae have shown how aerospace research can expand humankind’s horizon and make the public a part of what we do.”

EA, Nintendo, Playstation, and Ubisoft Launch Attack on KickAss Torrents

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which has EA, Nintendo, Playstation, and Ubisoft as its members, has reported a number of torrent sites to the US government, specifically highlighting popular site KickAss Torrents as the largest portal for video game piracy.

In a letter the ESA wrote to the US Director of Intellectual Property and Innovation, it says, “we regard the “Notorious Markets” out-of-cycle review as an important opportunity to shed light on markets that facilitate piracy or counterfeiting of industry products and services.”

“The ‘Kickass Torrents’ torrent indexing site (kickass.to) has changed domains repeatedly in the recent past in response to enforcement efforts, and is currently accessible at the domain ‘kat.cr’,”the letter continues. “It is the most well-trafficked torrent indexing site in the world, and as its Alexa ranking indicates, one of the most popular websites of any kind on the Internet.”

The ESA says that it recognises that taking down a website is not an effective solution to the problem, implicitly suggesting that harsher actions be taken, and expresses its concern over the proliferation of  “pirate servers” that target subscription-based game sites.

“When users are diverted to play on such servers, game publishers are not able to monetize their online games as described above and thus face reduced opportunities to recoup their investment in creating the online game,” the ESA adds.

By the end of the year, the US Trade Representative will collate submissions from the ESA, MPAA, and RIAA to form a master list of piracy sites, with global action planned to follow.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Softpedia.

Lost UK Beagle 2 Probe Found on Mars

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found the lost Beagle 2 probe – developed in the UK and launched on 2nd June 2003 – intact on the surface of Mars.

Beagle 2 was set to make a soft touchdown on Mars on Christmas Day 2003, by a combination of parachutes and airbags, but no radio contact was ever made with the probe. It was believed destroyed in a high-velocity impact.

High-resolution images from the NASA’s Orbiter show that not to be the case. From the pictures, it seems as though Beagle 2’s solar panel ‘petals’ failed to deploy, leaving the lander without enough power to transmit back to the European Space Agency.

Prof Mark Sims, Beagle’s mission manager from Leicester University, explained, “Without full deployment, there is no way we could have communicated with it as the radio frequency antenna was under the solar panels.”

He continued, “The failure cause is pure speculation, but it could have been, and probably was, down to sheer bad luck – a heavy bounce perhaps distorting the structure as clearances on solar panel deployment weren’t big; or a punctured and slowly leaking airbag not separating sufficiently from the lander, causing a hang-up in deployment.”

Sadly, Colin Pillinger, the principal investigator of the Beagle 2 project, died last year, before he could discover that his probe survived.

Source: BBC

This Sound System is Loud Enough To Kill

I’m betting most of you have had a moment in your life with a noisy neighbour, their music is too loud and all you want to do it tell them to STFU. It’s likely they only have a standard stereo system, so imagine what it would be like to live next door to the European Space Agency, who have a sound system so loud it would kill any human exposed to it!

Their horn system is part of their Large European Acoustic Facility in Noordwijk. The facility uses these horns to blast powerful sound waves at spacecraft components to test if they can survive the noise of launch. There are four horns in total, each creating a different range of frequencies as nitrogen has passed through them, allowing the horns to create noises of more than 154 decibels! Yikes.

What is unclear is how you would die if exposed to these speakers, would you just have your head explode, be slowly rattled to death by the vibrational forces, or kill yourself since the ESA have a love for extreme volume renditions of Justin Bieber, either way I wouldn’t like to find out.

To keep the scientists safe, the speakers are housed behind half-meter-thick walls of steel-reinforced concrete, coated with epoxy resin in a chamber that will not operate unless all of its door are closed.

Thank you Popsci for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Popsci.

10 Years & 4 Billion Miles Later, Rosseta Spacecraft Arrives at Comet Today

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has spent the last decade on an epic journey from Earth to the deep reaches of space, in a bid to hunt down and study a comet in unprecedented detail. The craft has made a series of ten thruster firings over the past few months to slow it down to just 2 miles per hour relative to the speed of its target, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko at a distance of just 60 miles.

The 2.5 mile wide comet is already having its picture taken by Rosetta, showing its irregular shape, which suggests it’s actually two icy bodies that have at some time, no doubt billions of years ago, come together to form a single rock.

“The key thing is we’re rendezvousing and escorting right in alongside the comet for an extended period, for over a year,” said Matthew Taylor, the mission’s project scientist.

At 334 million miles from the sun and travelling at 34,400 miles per hour relative to the earth this is no easy mission and the team will be tracking and studying the comet for well over a year to learn as much as they can about it. The comet is streaming off vapour at a rate of about two cups a second right now, but as it accelerates towards the sun this is expected to become hundreds of pounds of a vapour a second, forming the long tail that comets are known for.

Rosetta is also carrying a small 64-pound lander known as Philae, in November the team will launch the lander towards the comet, where it will secure its self using a harpoon to study the rock up close, and becoming the first time a soft landing has been achieved on a comet… if everything goes to plan of course.

Thank you NYT for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of NYT.

Coffee and Dessert Makes It’s Way to the ISS on ESA Resupply Ship

Now being aboard the ISS (International Space Station) must be an amazing privilege indeed, living way about the earth seeing everything that’s happening below. For the lucky few that get to live/work up there for a living they need to be able to function like the rest of us here on the gloomy earth. Eating, breathing, sleeping, you know, normal stuff that we do becomes incredibly difficult up in space because there is no gravity, which as awesome as that is, can be annoying.

Now astronauts deserve a treat now and again, they are away from their families most of the time, so in this next refueling mission the astronauts are being sent Cappuccino and Tiramisu, as well as Oxygen, fuel and other essentials. The resupply ship is set to dock with the ISS on August 12 at about 9:30 am. This is the last resupply mission that the ESA will perform.

Seeing as this is the last resupply mission ESA will ever perform, someone needs to take over. Russian Progress spacecraft and the Japanese HTC cargo ships will be taking over from ESA. When the resupply is launching from the USA, missions will be handled by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. So there are plenty of people to keep the astronauts topped up with air, fuel, spare parts and much more for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to Tweaktown for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of Tweaktown.

Quadcopter Style Drone May Offer Better Safe Landings for Mars Rovers

Quadcopters and drones are proving to be one of the most popular bits of technology of the last decade, and a team at the ESA are discovering that they’re not only great fun here on Earth, but could also provide us with benefits on Mars. The ESA recently tested a new Mars quadcopter style dropship. The fully automated concept known as Skycrane was created in just eight months under the ESA StarTiger program.

The Skycrane hardware development was mostly derived from commercially available quad-copter components, something that will no doubt have sped up its development whilst keeping costs lower than building propitiatory hardware. The automated nature means that the “dropter” could detect and navigate hazardous terrain, search for a safe and flat landing zone and deploy its payload safely. This is achieved by using a range of vision based navigation systems via on board cameras and software, laser ranging equipment and barometers.

The prototype was tested at Airbus’s Trauen site in Germany where it successfully navigated the mock Martian Surface and deployed its dummy rover to the chosen target zone using its bridle.

Thank you Gizmag for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Gizmag.

Replica Mini Mars Created Just Outside London by Airbus Defence

If you want to test a new rover for a mission on the red planet you’ve got two options. One would be to spend billions and fire your creation through space to Mars and put it straight to work, alternatively you can spend £500,000 and build a massive “Mars Yard” just outside London.

Engineers at Airbus Defence and Space in the UK have opted to build their own Mars as a testing ground for new Mars bound technology. It features 300 tons of sand that have been colour matched from the readings taken by NASA’s rovers, and even the light levels inside the testing ground have been set to mimic those of the red planet.

With ESA’s ExoMars program preparing to send two missions, the first to test if Mars could ever have supported life and another which will attempt to return samples from the planet in 2020.

With Mars bound missions have a high failure rate we hope this new testing ground proves useful in making these two missions a success. Unfortunately the first rover won’t touch down until 2019, so it looks like we’ll have to be patient to find out.

Thank you CNN for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of CNN.

European Space Agency Studying Potential Benefit of 3D Printing in Space

The lure of 3D printing technology in space is appealing, and the European Space Agency (ESA) is now studying implementing 3D-printed technology.

The use of 3D printing could help reduce waste, so the ESA Clean Space initiative wants to see how effective it would be on the International Space Station (ISS).  Although the current generation of 3D printing is still in its infancy, research to create needed parts on the ISS does have great potential.

Furthermore, a new ESA project will investigate different manufacturing techniques using laser and electron beam melting, while also looking at sandblasting, etching, nickel coating and painting as surface treatments.  Of specific note, the ESA wants to see if aluminum, titanium and stainless steel on satellites can be repaired by parts printed in space.

In the future, scientists hope to be able to make items that are currently impossible to create easily in space.  Space is a low-volume area where product design and storage considerations are analyzed – being able to 3D manufacture some technologies to avoid ferrying them to the ISS would be helpful.

Meanwhile, NASA is testing a Made in Space 3D printer that will eventually find its way to the ISS, after undergoing strict federal testing.

Thank you to the ESA for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of ESA

Billion-Pixel Gaia Space Telescope Snaps It’s First Picture

While the first image taken by the Gaia Space Telescope may not look incredible, it really is an incredible first step in what will be one of the most impressive technical achievements in space exploration. The billion-pixel space telescope snapped its first picture this week and while it is a little blurry, the teams at the UK Space Agency and ESA say that there is much more to come as the machine is still learning how to focus.

The picture may be off, but the mission is right on track and we can’t wait to see what this thing can really do when it gets its lens lined up. When fully operational, the Gaia telescope is going to work on creating the most accurate map of the Milky Way ever conceived. It’ll be able to make precise measurements of about 1% of all the 100 billion stars in our galaxy, unlocking more history and knowledge about the space around us than ever before.

“Seeing the first magnificent images from Gaia’s UK-built billion pixel camera first of all generates a huge vote of thanks to all those scientists and engineers who have worked so hard to make this happen. Second, it provides just a tiny taste of the excellence and challenges ahead, to turn Gaia data into human understanding of the Milky Way’s origins. One substantial step for astronomy, one huge leap still to come.”

Gaia will scan a billion suns 70 times each over the course of five years, tracking them, mapping them and photographing them from its current orbit of around 1.5 million kilometres from the earth and today’s test image is just the first step as the team bring the telescopes bring the various sensors online.

Thank you Huffington for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Huffington.

Space Probe Rosetta Is Operational After Being In Hibernation For 4 Years

An artists impression of space probe Rosetta rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

The space probe launched by The European Space Agency or ESA has sent its first transmission back to earth after 3 years of hibernation from over 800 million kilometers away. The probe named Rosetta sent its first signal to the ESA this morning, with the ESA saying they received Rosetta’s “Hello World” signal loud and clear. The probe was launched in 2004, but was put in hibernation mode in 2011 to save energy for the over 7 billion kilometer trek around the inner Solar System before it will rendezvous with the comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Space shuttle carrying the 3 tonne Rosetta blasting off from Kourou, French Guiana

Now that the probe is out of hibernation and if all goes to plan Rosetta will meet up with the comet in the next 10 of months. Once close enough to the comet Rosetta will drop a lunar probe to the comet’s surface to study and carry out experiments on the icy surface of the comet. Depending on whether you believe the creation of the universe happened with the “Big Bang”, comets are seen by those who do as being remnants of the birth of our star system and left overs from the “Big Bang”. Scientists hope that the information the lunar probe finds on the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will help unlock the secrets of how our solar system was created and what was the secret to kick-starting life on earth.

Artists impression of Rosetta’s lunar lander probe

Scientists from the ESA said that the reason Rosetta was placed in hibernation was because on its travels to rendezvous with 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko “it was so far from the sun that the light was too dim to power its solar array, so it was shut down to conserve energy”. With Rosetta being so far away scientists at the ESA had to wait over 8 hours for the signal to reach earth, with the transmission travelling over 800 million kilometers just to reach us. A press statement released by the ESA summed up the feelings of all those involved with the project “It was a fairy-tale ending to a tense chapter”.

An artists impression of Rosetta flying past Mars

Who knows what kind of data this expedition will uncover using this high-tech lunar probe, we’ll keep you updated on more information regarding Rosetta and it’s mission to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko when it becomes available.

Thank you news.com.au for the information provided 

Images courtesy of  news.com.au

Europe Launches Billion Dollar Telescope

An artists impression of the Gaia Telescope

The ESA (European Space Agency) has successfully launched a highly advanced telescope into space, it’s mission will be to detect over a billion stars whilst providing the most detailed map of the Milky Way Galaxy to date. The Gaia telescope was successfully launched from a Soyuz-STB-Fregat rocket from the ESA’s base in Kourou, French Guiana. The $1.4 billion telescope is the most sophisticated and hi-etch space telescope ever built by ESA and aims to build a “astronomical census”  of over a billion stars, roughly 1% of all the stars in the Milky Way.

Gaia will not only be measuring distance, speed, direction and motion of these stars to create a 3D map of our section of the galaxy. It will also be on the look out for new planets beyond our Solar System, with as many as 50,000 so called “extra-solar planets” hoping to be spotted during the telescopes five year life and mission. Gaia  will also be on the lookout for asteroids that could one day threaten Earth with the telescope mainly focusing on the massive asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter as well as looking for the distant explosion of exploding stars also known as a supernovae. Something that is rarely recorded let alone observed in real time, which this h-tech telescope will be capable of doing.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, head of the France National Center of Space Studies (CNES) which is taking lead of this mission had this to say;

‘We are at the dawn of revolutionizing our understanding of the history of the Milky Way. Gaia is the culmination of nine years of intense work which will enable exceptional advances in our understanding of the universe, it’s history and laws.” The 2-tonne telescope is so sensitive that it can measure the equivalent of the diameter of a hair at the distance of 1000 kilometers.”

Gaia will start it’s mission in May when it takes up a position at the Lagrange point L2, which is located about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. This position with offer year round observation of the cosmos with out being disturbed by the Earth, Moon or the Sun blocking its view. It will take years after the Gaia’s mission has finished to transform the million billion bytes of raw data into usable maps, catalogs and eventually a 3D map of our section of the Milky Way.

Thank you The Sydney Morning Herald for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of The Sydney Morning Herald.

E3 Preview LIVE! Call of Duty Ghosts All Access

Are you ready for the Electronic Entertainment Expo also known as E3 in Los Angeles, California. E3 is presented by the Entertainment Software Association, an annual trade fair for the computer and video game industry. E3 is only open to the electronics industry, not the public.

This Year E3 will be held June 12-13, and they will have an extensive list of developers showing off their wares!

Today we get an awesome Kick-Starting E3 All Access Event Live Streaming, Call of Duty: Ghost, which is currently playing, starting at 11 A.M. PST. Getting to see some awesome gameplay, showing of Activision’s Call of Duty: Ghosts. As well as insider knowledge on the workings of this new first person shooter installment.

Check it out! #CODGHOSTS

Livestream event can be found HERE

There will be several events over the next couple days which include

  • Microsoft Press Conference – June 10th at 9:30am PST
  • EA Press Conference – June 10th at 1:00pm PST
  • Ubisoft Press Conference – June 10th at 3:00pm PST
  • Sony Press Conference – June 10th at 6:00pm PST