China prepares for Shenzhou-11 crew announcement for launch to Tiangong-2
Following the successful launch of Tiangong-2 space module earlier this month, China is now gearing up for the launch of its next crewed space mission, Shenzhou-11. The next step is the selection of what is believed to be two taikonauts, set to take up residency at China’s latest orbital outpost.
The new orbital laboratory entered an initial orbit of 197 x 373 km and after that it executed two orbital maneuvers to raise its orbit to 369 x 378 km altitude.
Meanwhile, at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, preparations for the launch of Shenzhou-11 are entering a critical processing flow, with work taking place on the space capsule and its launch vehicle.
The Long March-2F/G that will launch Shenzhou-11 departed its Beijing plant by train bound for Jiuquan on August 3, arriving at the old Chinese spaceport on August 6. The Shenzhou-11 space capsule arrived at Jiuquan via a plane ride on August 13.
After arriving at Jiuquan, both the launcher components and the capsule components were checked and launch preparations began.
At the end of April, two images from the Shenzhou-11 launch simulation suggested that Shenzhou 11 would be launched on October 17.
Other clues also added to the launch window discussion, such as the Swiss experiment on Tiangong-2 that has to be switched off 28 days after the launch of the orbiting laboratory, until T+60 days. This points to a 32 day presence onboard Tiangong-2, starting on October 13.
So, if Shenzhou-11 takes two days to dock to the new orbital laboratory, and with docking taking place on October 13, then the launch will probably take place on October 11. With these figures, the two taikonauts will probably return to Earth on November 14.
The possible crew of Shenzhou-11:
Predicting crews involved with Chinese manned spaceflight is always a difficult and unreliable process.
History shows that there is no pattern, and, for example, being in a back-up crew, for SZ-5, SZ-6 or SZ-7 did not assure participation in the next mission.
The exception to this was SZ-10, which flew with the SZ-9 back-up crew. This was probably because, the missions were very similar, and in Chinese terms, were quite close together, being only 12 months apart.
So far, all the Chinese authorities have announced is that the crew will comprise two men.
This caused some surprise initially, but it appears that the anticipated third crew member has been sacrificed to enable the mission duration to be extended.
They may also want to assess the effectiveness and practicality of a two person crew, for future missions, and against the data they gathered on three person crews, on SZ-9 and SZ-10.
At the time of SZ-9, the Chinese announced that all future crews would include an experienced taikonaut, and it seems reasonable to assume that this requirement is still in place.
Logically, the most likely candidates are LUI Boming, veteran of SZ-7 and the commander of the SZ-10 back-up crew, LUI Wang, or Zhang Xiaoguan, who debuted on SZ-9 and SZ-10 respectively.
As these latter two, both have docking experience, and spent time on TG-1, they would appear to be the most likely choices, but we don’t know what other factors, such as crew compatibility, or their own health, fitness and readiness need to be considered.
We can also eliminate one or two other experienced contenders; Yang Liwei and Nie Haisheng are due to attend the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) Planetary Congress in Vienna on 5th October, so are clearly not involved.
Fei Junlong now occupies a management position within the Astronaut Training Centre and some other members of the 1998 cohort, both flown and unflown, are now over 50 years old, and are probably retired.
The second seat is even less certain. It could be a second ‘veteran’. In fact, the crew could comprise two of the three named above, but this does seem an unlikely option.
It could be an unflown member of the original 1998 group, such as Deng Qingmin or Pan Zhanchun. These two were both thought to have been part of the SZ-10 back-up crew.
This mission could well be their last chance to fly in space, after being in the squad for eighteen years, as they will both be over 50 by the time the Chinese Space Station (CSS) arrives in 2018.
It is possible the planners will want to recognise their long service, which has so far not been rewarded with a spaceflight.
Others from 1998, such as Chen Quan, Wu Jie, who had back-up assignments in the distant past, are probably retired, as they have not featured in crew plans for almost 10 years and are now well over 50 years old.
Perhaps the most likely option is that the second seat will be occupied by one of the five men recruited in 2010, and who became available for assignment, only in 2014. These men are much younger than the 1998 group and are likely to form the core of early CSS crew commanders, but none have flown, so far.
If one of this group flies this mission, it will provide a new ‘veteran’ who will be available to command an early CSS flight.
Of the five candidates, we can safely eliminate Ye Guangfu, as he took part in the ESA CAVES project last July, and his back-up, Chen Dong. This leaves Cai Xuzhe, Tang Hongbo, Lu Zhang as contenders in this scenario.
Is it possible, that a totally new name could emerge. In September 2014, Yang Liwei told the ASE Planetary Congress, in Beijing, that China would select a third taikonaut group, within two years. Since that time, nothing has been mentioned.
Yang implied that this group would be chosen from engineers, doctors and psychologists, already working inside the Chinese space industry.
Although it is possible that this group have now been selected, without any publicity, the chances of one of them being assigned, at this time, seem very low, especially to a two person crew.
On balance, the most logical option would be LUI Wang, or Zhang Xiaoguan, plus one of Cai Xuzhe, Tang Hongbo, Lu Zhang. However the Chinese will probably surprise us, as they have done before.
Shenzhou-11 to dock with Tiangong-2
Tiangong-2 will next month be visited by the crewed Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, carrying two as-yet unnamed male astronauts.
The crew's identity and the launch time have been kept secret by China, as is typical for its human spaceflight missions, but an article posted on Nasaspaceflight.com by keen observers of the Chinese space program makes predictions for both the crew and launch schedule based on available.
Above: Shenzhou-11 spacecraft undergoing tests in February 2016 (CCTV/Framegrab).
Shenzhou-11 will be only the sixth Chinese crewed mission, but each has advanced the country’s experience and capabilities by leaps and bounds.
If all goes smoothly, Tiangong-2 will be visited by China’s first refuelling and cargo vessel, Tianzhou-1 in the first half of next year, launched on a Long March 7 rocket from the new Wenchang spaceport.
The Tiangong-2, Shenzhou-11, and Tianzhou-1 missions will bring China one step closer to the ultimate goal of its three-step human spaceflight programme, a large, permanently inhabited space station.
China began its human spaceflight programme in 1992, and became only the third country in 2003 to independently put astronauts in space, after the United States and Russia.
Above: Wang Yaping, part of the three-person Shenzhou-10 mission in 2013.
Waiting for Shenzhou 11
With Tiangong 2 safely in orbit, attention is now shifting to the spacecraft that will soon meet it. The Shenzhou 11 spacecraft is expected to lift off at some point in mid-October, although China has yet to release an official launch date or time. We are also unsure about the crew, although China has stated it will consist of two astronauts.
That's a step back from recent trends of three-person crews for China. The smaller crew will allow logistics to be stretched further on this mission, allowing the crew of Shenzhou 11 to live aboard Tiangong 2 for roughly a month.
What about the Shenzhou spacecraft itself?
Earlier incarnations of Shenzhou were wildly different in terms of their design and appearance. Different experiment packages were attached to the front of the spacecraft.
The cylindrical Orbital Module at the front also featured solar panels in the first models. The Orbital Module itself became an independent spacecraft at the end of the primary mission for these flights, carrying out science experiments.
The internal design of Shenzhou also underwent revisions, as China reconfigured the wiring and other systems. This was natural. China was gradually evolving the design as it gained actual flight experience. These earlier Shenzhou missions never docked with other spacecraft, and carried no docking systems.
Starting with Shenzhou 8, China announced that the Shenzhou spacecraft had now entered its mass-production phase. Shenzhou had settled into its main role as a system for delivering crews to space laboratories and space stations.
The spacecraft now featured an androgynous docking system and no external experiment payloads. A single set of solar panels on the rear Instrument Module was now the norm.
Shenzhou 8 carried no crew, but proved China's docking capabilities when it flew to the Tiangong 1 laboratory. Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 carried three astronauts each. All three spacecraft were reportedly assembled concurrently.
Engineers have probably tinkered with some features of Shenzhou 11, but overall, we can expect this to be a standard spacecraft. The design is mature and proven. If it isn't broken, don't fix it.
China may be only country with space station in 2024
BEIJING, China may be the only country to have space station in service in 2024, said Lei Fanpei, chairman of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC).
Lei told Xinhua on Friday that China plans to launch the experimental core module of its space station around 2018 with a Long March-5 heavyload carrier rocket, and the 20 ton combination space station will be sent into orbit around 2022.
CASC is a major space developer.
When the International Space Station retires in 2024, China's space station may be the only one left in service, Lei said.
China's space station will include a core module and two lab modules, with ports that will allow multiple spacecraft to dock, according to Lei.
After that, a manned spacecraft and cargo spacecraft will travel between the space station and the Earth to provide supplies. Taikonauts can stay at the space station for over one year.
The space station has a designed life of 10 years in orbit 400 km above the earth surface.
With this space station, China will become the second country after Russia to have developed a space station, Lei said.
China in 1992 made a three-step strategy for its manned space program, the large-scale manned space station being the last step.
In the middle of October, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will transport two taikonauts to Tiangong-2. They will stay there for 30 days.
Heavenly vessel: China’s Shenzhou-11 ready for liftoff
At approximately 07:50 Beijing time Sunday, China’s Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will liftoff from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert. A Long March 2F rocket will send the vessel and its two astronauts into orbit where it will dock with the Tiangong-2 space lab, launched last month.
This will be the sixth manned mission for China’s rapidly expanding space program. If all goes according to plan, the 30 day stay aboard the Tiangong-2 will more than double the national record for longest time in space for its astronauts.
While the previous two Shenzhou missions in 2012 and 2013 carried three astronauts, the crew size for this mission was reduced to extend duration upon the Tiangong-2. The identities of the two astronauts will most likely be revealed just before launch.
The crew of Shenzhou-9, including Liu Yang, China’s first woman in space, training in 2012. (Courtesy: CSAC)
Shenzhou-11’s mission to the Tiangong-2 will give astronauts an opportunity to test onboard systems aboard the space lab, including life support, computers, propulsion, and lab equipment. They will also commence experiments in the research section of the craft. These initial activities are designed to help China move toward its goal of a modular and much larger permanent space station, Tianhe-1, which is slated to be launched sometime in 2018.
“This is going to provide evidence of astronauts’ long-term stay in space for the development of China’s space station in the future,” Lei Fanpei, chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) told CCTV.
The Tiangong-2 is considered to be a working prototype for the upcoming modular space station, which aims to be China’s most ambitious venture in orbital technology to date.
In March Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s human space program stated the Chinese space station project will include three modules, two 30m solar panel ‘wings’, two robotic arms and a Hubble-class telescope. The Tianhe-1 will be the core module for that station, which will join with two other modules in the following years. The final orbital assenbly is expected to be complete by 2022.
An accurate visual and spectral characterisation of the surface of Mars is fundamental to establish the geological context at the sites that the Rover will visit. This can be complemented by electromagnetic and neutron subsurface investigations, which will further contribute to understand the depositional environment (e.g. sedimentary, volcanic, Aeolic). Knowledge of the geological history of past water environments constitutes a necessary step in the search for traces of past or present signatures of life on Mars.
Data from the novel suite of instruments on-board the ExoMars rover will help scientists to conduct a step-by-step exploration of Mars, beginning at panoramic (metre) scales and progressively converging to smaller (sub-millimetre) studies, concluding with the molecular identification of organic compounds.
INSTRUMENTS IN BRIEF
PanCam - The Panoramic Camera
To perform digital terrain mapping of Mars.
Principal Investigator: Andrew John Coates, MSSL/University College London, London, United Kingdom Co-Principal Investigator (High Resolution Camera): Ralf Jaumann, DLR/IPF, Berlin, Germany Co-Principal Investigator (Wide Angle Cameras): Jean-Luc Josset, Institute for Space Exploration, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
ISEM - Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars
To assess the mineralogical composition of surface targets. Working with PanCam, ISEM will contribute to the selection of suitable samples for further analysis by the other instruments.
Principal Investigator: Oleg Korablev, Space Research Institute (IKI), Moscow, Russia
CLUPI - Close - UPImager
A camera system to acquire high-resolution colour close-up images of rocks, outcrops, drill fines and drill core samples.
Principal Investigator: Jean-Luc Josset, Space Exploration Institute, Neuchâtel, Switzerland Co-Principal Investigator: Frances Westall, Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, Orléans, France Co-Principal Investigator: Beda Hofmann, Natural History Museum, Bern, Switzerland.
WISDOM - Water Ice and Subsurface Deposit Observation On Mars
A ground-penetrating radar to characterise the stratigraphy under the rover. WISDOM will be used with Adron, which can provide information on subsurface water content, to decide where to collect subsurface samples for analysis.
Principal Investigator: Valérie Ciarletti, LATMOS, France Co-Principal Investigator: Svein-Erik Hamran, FFI, Norway Co-Principal Investigator: Dirk Plettemeier, TU-Dresden, Germany.
To search for subsurface water and hydrated minerals. Adron will be used in combination with WISDOM to study the subsurface beneath the rover and to search for suitable areas for drilling and sample collection.
Principal Investigator: Igor Mitrofanov, Space Research Institute (IKI), Moscow, Russia.
Ma_MISS - Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies
Located inside the drill, Ma_MISS will contribute to the study of the Martian mineralogy and rock formation.
Principal Investigator: Maria Cristina De Sanctis, Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica (IASF), INAF, Italy.
A visible plus infrared imaging spectrometer for mineralogy studies on Martian samples.
Principal Investigator: Jean-Pierre Bibring, Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, Orsay, France Co-Principal Investigator: Frances Westall, Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, Orléans, France Co-Principal Investigator: Nicolas Thomas, University of Bern, Switzerland.
RLS - Raman Spectrometer
To establish mineralogical composition and identify organic pigments.
Principal Investigator: Fernando Rull Perez, Centro de Astrobiología, Unidad Asociada (CSIC-UVA), Spain Co-Principal Investigator: Sylvestre Maurice, Laboratoire d'Astrophysique - Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (LAOMP), France.
MOMA – Mars Organic Molecule Analyser
MOMA will target biomarkers to answer questions related to the potential origin, evolution and distribution of life on Mars.
Principal Investigator: Fred Goesmann, Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research, Lindau, Germany Co-Principal Investigator: Francois Raulin, University of Paris 12 and 7, Paris, France.
CALL FOR MEDIA: EXOMARS ARRIVES AT THE RED PLANET
ExoMars 2016 approaching Mars
The ExoMars 2016 mission will enter orbit around the Red Planet on 19 October. At the same time, its Schiaparelli lander will descend to the surface. Representatives of traditional and social media are invited to attend a two-day event at ESA’s ESOC control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
ExoMars is a joint endeavour between ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, and comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing demonstrator.
TGO will make a detailed inventory of Mars’ atmospheric gases, with particular interest in rare gases like methane, which implies that there is an active, current source. TGO aims to measure methane’s geographical and seasonal dependence and help to determine whether it stems from a geological or biological source.
TGO will start its science mission at the end of 2017, following a year of complex aerobraking manoeuvres to circularise its orbit. It will also act as a relay for ESA’s ExoMars 2020 rover.
Schiaparelli will separate from TGO on 16 October, entering the atmosphere for a six-minute descent to a region in Meridiani Planum, on 19 October.
It will test a range of technologies to enable a controlled descent and landing on Mars in preparation for future missions, including a heatshield, a parachute, a propulsion system and a crushable structure.
Schiaparelli also carries a small science package that will record the wind speed, humidity, pressure and temperature at its landing site, as well as obtain the first measurements of electric fields on the surface of Mars that may provide insight into how dust storms are triggered.
The separation of Schiaparelli from TGO will be covered online. Media are invited to join mission experts at ESOC on 19 October to follow the orbit insertion of TGO and the landing of Schiaparelli, and to attend a briefing on 20 October when the first descent camera images are expected.
Provisional schedule at ESOC, 19–20 October
(all times in CEST, programme/times subject to change)
19 October 15:00–22:00 (Doors open at 14:00)
The event programme for media and ExoMars project members will bring both groups together to follow the highlights of the orbit insertion of TGO and of the entry, descent and landing of Schiaparelli. During the programme confirmations for mission success of TGO and Schiaparelli are expected. On stage, ExoMars engineers and scientists from ESA, Roscosmos and partner agencies will relay the technical and operational challenges of landing on Mars and will explain the scientific questions that are driving these ambitious Mars robotic exploration programme. Operational status updates will be broadcasted live from the ExoMars control room into the stage programme.
There will be live video connections to an Italian ExoMars event taking place in Rome and to the postflight tour of ESA astronaut Tim Peake, who will stop by in London.
The event will also be live-streamed online at http://esa.int and will be broadcasted over satellite. A special ESA social-TV programme will be available via Facebook Live on ESA’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ESA.
20 October 10:00–11:00 (Doors open at 09:00)
This media briefing will summarise the events of the night before, during which more telemetry and data are expected to arrive from TGO and Schiaparelli. ExoMars engineers, scientists and project managers will provide briefings on TGO and Schiaparelli. Images taken during the descent from Schiaparelli will also be presented.
The media briefing will be streamed live online at http://esa.int and broadcast over satellite.
Media accreditation Media representatives holding a valid press-ID should register here.
Social media users such as Youtubers, Tweeps, Bloggers, etc. may apply for social media credentials here. Given the expected high demand and limits owing to logistical, security and health and safety constraints, it is possible that not all applications will be successful. Applicants will be informed whether they have been successful at the latest on 11 October. Follow online Separation will be reported online on 16 October at 17:20 GMT /19:20 CEST.
The media briefings scheduled for 19 and 20 October will be live streamed via http://esa.int.
Europe's Daring Mars Mission Prepares for Touchdown
The Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are on their final approach to Mars, kicking off the first half of Europe's life-hunting ExoMars mission.
Mars, we've got our eyes on you. Next week, a European spacecraft will make a challenging entry into the Martian atmosphere to deploy a lander on the surface. Called Schiaparelli, the little lander is expected to demonstrate future landing technologies while doing at least a few days of observations on Mars. This is the first half of a two-part mission; the second half of ExoMars will be composed of a sophisticated "biosignature"-hunting rover that will launch to the Red Planet in 2020. But first, the trailblazing Schiaparelli will lead the way, testing key technologies behind a successful landing on Mars. Here are some of the milestones during Schiaparelli's descent:
Schiaparelli separates from the Trace Gas Orbiter above Mars, in this artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
The first major milestone for the landing has already passed. Last week, the European Space Agency sent commands to Schiaparelli to prepare for it landing. Commands were sent up in two rounds -- hibernation wake-ups and science work on Oct. 3, and the command sequence for landing on Oct. 7. The goal is for Schiaparelli to work autonomously as it gets ready for landing; as it takes an average of 40 minutes' round trip to send commands between Earth and Mars, any lander must make it to the surface on its own.
Schiaparelli has been riding on the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) for the past several months, but soon it will be time for each of the spacecraft to go their separate ways. On Oct. 16 (Sunday), Schiaparelli will separate from its carrier craft in preparation for the descent. On Oct. 19, Schiaparelli will make a descent to the surface while the TGO arrives in Mars orbit.
2) The Landing Zone
The landing ellipse of Schiaparelli is shown in this picture from ExoMars. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Once Schiaparelli leaves its host spacecraft, it will make a run at this landing site (circled) in Meridani Planum. The landing demonstrator is expected to land in a flat, smooth region just west of Endeavour crater, which NASA's Spirit opportunity rover is currently exploring. The region just to the south of Schiaparelli's landing site shows a number of grooved channels. The European Space Agency says they were likely carved by water. Also visible in the picture is Bopolu crater, a newer impact site within the much larger Miyamoto crater.
While Schiaparelli works below, the Trace Gas Orbiter will continue a separate mission to look at Martian atmospheric gases -- particularly methane, which could be a sign of geological or biological activity. Finding methane on Mars has been a historically difficult endeavor, with different spacecraft and telescopes measuring different abundances. Even the Curiosity rover spotted an increase int he gas, but the spike was not repeated at the same seasonal time as the mission continued into another Martian year.
3) 13,000 mph to Zero in 6 Minutes
Shielded in its protective heat shield, Schiaparelli falls to Mars in an artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
Schiaparelli will ride in a protective shell for most of the journey down to the surface. It's needed to protect delicate spacecraft components from the challenging entry -- traveling at 13,000 miles per hour! -- into the Martian atmosphere, which is thinner than Earth's but still thick enough to burn up a spacecraft riding down in the wrong orientation. As the spacecraft makes the descent, command sequences will have to work precisely to get the science package down safely for further observation. It will only take six minutes from entry into Mars' upper atmosphere to landing.
Mars has traditionally been a challenging planet for NASA, ESA and other agencies. In 2003, ESA attempted to send down the Beagle 2 lander on the Martian surface. The lander vanished from view and was not found again until high-resolution imagery of its site revealed the craft in 2015. The lander appeared intact, but its solar panels had only partially deployed.
A parachute pops above Schiaparelli in this artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
Mars has a thin atmosphere, but it is thick enough to eventually slow down the Schiaparelli capsule as it falls to the surface. When Schiaparelli is about 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from the surface and travelling at 1,700 km/h (1,056 mph), a parachute will pop out and slow its descent to a more reasonable 240 km/h (149 mph). At that point, the parachute will be jettisoned as Schiaparelli falls to the surface.
"The parachute is a 'disc-gap-band' type - the type that was used for the ESA Huygens probe descent to Titan [Saturn's moon] and for all NASA planetary entries so far," ESA wrote in a statement.
Schiaparelli on the surface of Mars, in this artist's impression. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
After losing the parachute, Schiaparelli will make a complicated descent to the surface. "Commands include ejecting the front and back aeroshells, operating the descent sensors, deploying the braking parachute and activating three groups of hydrazine thrusters to control its touchdown speed," ESA wrote in a statement. "A radar will measure Schiaparelli's height above the surface starting at about 7 km (4.3 miles). At around 2 m (6.5 feet), Schiaparelli will briefly hover before cutting its thrusters, leaving it to fall freely. A collapsible structure under the lander will absorb the shock of impact.
Schiaparelli represents just the beginning for ESA. The agency plans to send its first rover to the surface of Mars in the next phase of the ExoMars mission. Additionally, the technologies tested by Schiaparelli could be used in future missions. The lander is designed to operate for two days on the surface, but it could be longer.
"Schiaparelli also carries a small science package that will record the wind speed, humidity, pressure and temperature at its landing site, as well as obtain the first measurements of electric fields on the surface of Mars that may provide insight into how dust storms are triggered," ESA wrote in another statement.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM SCHIAPARELLI’S CAMERA
Simulating Schiaparelli's descent camera view
12 October 2016
As the ExoMars Schiaparelli module descends onto Mars on 19 October it will capture 15 images of the approaching surface. Scientists have simulated the view we can expect to see from the descent camera.
Schiaparelli will separate from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, on 16 October, with some six million km still to travel before entering the atmosphere of Mars at 14:42 GMT three days later.
Its descent will take just under six minutes, using a heatshield, parachute, thrusters and a crushable structure for the landing.
Schiaparelli is primarily a technology demonstrator to test entry, descent and landing technologies for future missions and is therefore designed to operate for a only few days.
The small surface science package will take readings of the atmosphere, but there is no scientific camera like those found on other landers or rovers – including the ExoMars rover that is planned for launch in 2020.
The lander does, however, carry ESA’s small, 0.6 kg technical camera, a refurbished spare flight model of the Visual Monitoring Camera flown on ESA’s Herschel/Planck spacecraft to image the separation of the two craft after their joint launch.
Simulated view of Schiaparelli’s descent images
Its role is to capture 15 black and white images during the descent that will be used to help reconstruct the module’s trajectory and its motion, as well giving context information for the final touchdown site.
The wide, 60º field-of-view will deliver a broad look at the landscape below, to maximise the chances of seeing features that will help to pinpoint the landing site and reveal Schiaparelli’s attitude and position during descent.
The camera will start taking images around a minute after Schiaparelli’s front shield is jettisoned, when the module is predicted to be about 3 km above the surface. This will result in images covering about 17 sq km on the surface.
Schiaparelli’s camera sequence
The images will be taken at 1.5 s intervals, ending at an altitude of about 1.5 km, covering an area of roughly 4.6 sq km.
Then, at an altitude of about 1.2 km, the parachute and rear cover will be jettisoned, and the thrusters ignited. The thrusters will cut out just 2 m above the surface, with the module’s crushable structure absorbing the force of impact.
Schiaparelli will target the centre of a 100 km x 15 km landing ellipse, in a relatively flat area in Meridiani Planum, close to the equator in the southern hemisphere. This region has been imaged extensively from orbit, including by ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
ExoMars 2016 approaching Mars
LIVE UPDATES: EXOMARS ARRIVAL AND LANDING
Updates from ESA’s space operations centre as the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter approaches and enters orbit around the Red Planet, and the Schiaparelli module lands on its surface
Updates on this page will cover the following expected milestones:
14 October: TGO final trajectory manoeuvre (08:45 GMT) 16 October: Separation of Schiaparelli from TGO at 14:42 GMT / 16:42 CEST 17 October: TGO orbit-raising manoeuvre at 02:42 GMT / 04:42 CEST 19 October: TGO Mars orbit insertion and Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing on Mars (atmospheric entry expected 14:42 GMT / 16:42 CEST, landing 14:48 GMT / 16:48 CEST) 20 October: Update on Schiaparelli status; descent images expected 21+ October: Schiaparelli status reports until end of mission Note: Times shown above are actual event times at Mars; the one-way signal travel time between Earth and Mars is currently just under 10 minutes.
The events of 16, 19 and 20 October will also be livestreamed here, all other events will be reported on this page and via Twitter from @esaoperations, @ESA_ExoMars, @ESA_TGO and @ESA_EDM, and via the hashtag #ExoMars.
Updates will appear below
At ESOC today: The ExoMars/TGO mission control team begins working from the large, general-purpose Main Control Room as of 02:00CEST. Activities include spacecraft health and status check-outs and ground station tracking passes to support the highly accurate 'delta DOR' navigation technique. By this evening, all files and configuration settings needed to support separation will be finalised. Separation is set for 14:42 GMT (16:42 CEST) spacecraft time tomorrow.
For separation, releasing a 577-kg lander will make TGO wobble. This could affect the very sensitive antenna pointing needed to ensure a full data link, so mission controllers will monitor progress only via the basic radio carrier signal, with the signal acting like a beacon. The separation wobble will be visible in the Doppler data associated with the carrier signal. With a one-way signal time of about 9 min and 45 secs, mission controllers will see a first indication of progress around 16:52 CEST. A full confirmation will come later (around 17:15 CEST) once controllers re-establish the full data link with the spacecraft.
18:35 CEST: Our coverage of separation on Sunday, 16 October, set for 14:42 GMT (16:42 CEST) spacecraft time, will begin a bit earlier than previously announced. You can watch a live webstream from ESA's mission control centre, Darmstadt, Germany, starting at 16:30 CEST.
14:05 CEST: The final pre-arrival orbit correction manoeuvre that took place at 10:45 CEST went very well. This burn was the last push needed to perfectly line TGO up on the right orbit to deliver Schiaparelli onto the surface three days after separation on Sunday. Flight Director Michel Denis reports a very tiny overperformance from TGO's thrusters, but the burn was overall very good. The next manoeuvre is scheduled for 12 hours after separation, at 04:42 CEST on 17 October, and will raise TGO's orbit above the planet.
10:25 CEST: This morning, the final pre-arrival team briefing was held at ESOC for everyone involved in ExoMars. Teams at ESTEC and from industry listened in via audio conference. The briefing was held to review and confirm readiness for separation on 16 October and arrival at Mars on 19 October. ExoMars/TGO orbiter and Schiaparelli demonstration lander health/status? Both GO for arrival. Schiaparelli is GO for entry, descent, landing and surface operations. TGO is GO for Mars orbit insertion. At our ESOC mission control centre: Simulation training complete; teams from Flight Dynamics, Flight Control, the ESA ground stations, networks and systems are all GO. NASA ground stations have also confirmed readiness to support. ESA's ExoMars Project Manager Don McCoy said: "People have put their hearts and souls into this. We're ready to go. Thank you to everyone."
08:50 CEST: This morning at 08:45 GMT (10:45 CEST) ExoMars/TGO will conduct the final orbit correction manoeuvre before separation on 16 October. The manoeuvre means that TGO's thrusters will be fired for a minute or so to deliver a change in speed and direction of just 1.4 cm/second. This burn will refine the already highly accurate orbit, and line TGO up to deliver Schiaparelli on to its intended landing site on Mars.
A full-size model of the ExoMars entry, descent and landing module, Schiaparelli, with its parachute deployed was revealed on ESA’s open day last Sunday in the Netherlands.
Weighing 600 kg, Schiaparelli is part of the joint ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars mission that will arrive at the Red Planet on 19 October. It will demonstrate Europe’s technology for a controlled landing on Mars, including the 12 m-diameter parachute.
The landing will take about six minutes, with the canopy deploying at a speed of 1700 km/h. In less than two minutes the parachute will slow the lander down to 240 km/h before being jettisoned at around 1 km above the surface.
Thrusters will then begin firing to control the probe’s speed, with the surface contact cushioned by a crushable structure on the underside of the module.
The module is housed inside the descent capsule in this picture – the rear cover and heatshield are discarded during descent.
Although it is on display, the ExoMars teams need to access the engineering model for diagnostics or checks because it is a replica of the module flying to Mars.
EXOMARS: EUROPA LANDET AM 19. OKTOBER 2016 AUF DEM MARS - DIE TU DARMSTADT IST MIT DABEI
Landemodul Schiaparelli und der Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO)
13 Oktober 2016
"Show Down" - am Mittwoch, den 19. Oktober 2016 um 18:20 Uhr mitteleuropäischer Sommerzeit wird es soweit sein: Alle Augen werden für die ExoMars-Landung auf den Hauptkontrollraum des Europäischen Raumfahrtkontrollzentrums ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt gerichtet sein.
An der Technischen Universität Darmstadt findet dazu eine öffentliche Informationsveranstaltung mit Live-Schaltungen ins ESOC statt.
In Kooperation mit der Europäischen Raumfahrtorganisation ESA
Die erste Raumsonde des Zwillingsgespanns ExoMars wird in den Mars-Orbit einschwenken und die Landekapsel "Schiaparelli" wird ihren turbulenten Flug durch die Marsatmosphäre beendet haben. In diesen Minuten werden alle gespannt auf die Funksignale der Sonde warten, welche die erste erfolgreiche Landung Europas auf dem Nachbarplaneten bestätigen sollen. Nach der erfolgreichen Landung von Schiaparelli und systematischen Messungen der ExoMars-Muttersonde aus dem Marsorbit wird dann 2020 das zweite Element der Zwillingsmission auf dem Mars spannende Untersuchungen unternehmen: Ein Rover soll dann erstmals Proben aus der Tiefe des Marsbodens entnehmen und vor Ort analysieren.
Suche nach "Aliens" auf dem Mars?
ExoMars sucht nach Spuren von Leben auf dem Mars, welche man ausschließlich unterhalb der Marsoberfläche erwartet. Die Mission soll ein weiteres Mosaiksteinchen liefern für die Beantwortung einer der großen Frage der Menschheit: Wo kommt das Leben her? Ist es auf der Erde entstanden? Welche Bedeutung hat der Mars im Hinblick auf die Entstehung und Verbreitung des Lebens in unserem Sonnensystem? Am 19. Oktober findet nun der Auftakt zu der spektakulären Mission mit der Landung des Schiaparelli-Moduls auf dem Mars statt. Gesteuert wird die Raumfahrtmission vom Raumfahrtkontrollzentrum der ESA (ESOC) in Darmstadt.
Die Wissenschaftsstadt Darmstadt ist mittendrin
Hauptkontrollraum der ESA in Darmstadt
Im Rahmen der Kooperation zwischen TU Darmstadt und ESOC findet in der Maschinenhalle der Universität (S1|05, 122) eine öffentliche Informations- und Diskussionsveranstaltung parallel zur formellen ESA-Veranstaltung am Kontrollzentrum ESOC statt. Studierende der TU und auch interessierte, externe Besucher können den Fortschritt der Mission in Live-Schaltungen aus dem berühmten Hauptkontrollraum des ESOC mitverfolgen, und Fachleute der ESA informieren per Videoschaltung über die wissenschaftlichen und technischen Hintergründe der äußerst anspruchsvollen Mission. Den Rahmen der Veranstaltung bildet jedoch ein hochwertiges Informationsprogramm speziell für Angehörige der Universität (Studierende, Wissenschaftler, Professoren) und externe, naturwissenschaftlich interessierte Gäste. Experten der ESA führen ein in Aufgaben und Tätigkeiten der ESA und von ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt und informieren über Möglichkeiten für Studierende und TU-Absolventen für Ausbildung und Karriere bei der ESA. Weiterhin berichten Studierende selbst über ihre Erfahrungen bei studentischen/akademischen Arbeiten mit der ESA, und schliesslich werden "Cool Topics", interessante technisch/wissenschaftliche Themen aus dem Kooperationsbereich ESA/TU vorgestellt.
Das Angebot richtet sich an alle Angehörigen der TU Darmstadt, aber auch an externe Gäste. Eine Voranmeldung ist nicht erforderlich.
It's the first major revision to the number since 1995, when scientists turned Hubble's gaze on one section of sky for 10 days and created an image, unveiled in 1996, that NASA called "mankind's deepest, most detailed optical view of the universe."
But that far from settled the question. Twenty years later, the new analysis begins by noting that the number of galaxies in the universe is still "a fundamental question."
The study, led by Christopher Conselice of the University of Nottingham and accepted for publication in the latest issue of The Astrophysical Journal, used deep-space images from the Hubble telescope as well as other deep space data that had already been published to create a 3-D image of the observable universe.
The results of the latest study suggest that 90 percent of the galaxies in the observable universe are too faint or far away for current telescope technology to see. Which means the 1996 estimate, which had been based only on what Hubble could see, was way off.
"It boggles the mind that over 90 percent of the galaxies in the universe have yet to be studied. Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we discover these galaxies with future generations of telescopes?" Conselice said in a NASA press release.
"In the near future, the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to study these ultra-faint galaxies," he said. The James Webb Space Telescope, one of the most expensive things NASA has ever built, is scheduled to launch in 2018, and will be able to peer deeper into space than its predecessor Hubble.
NANJING, Chinese scientists announced Thursday they have looked into three giant meteorite irons to ascertain the world's longest meteorite-strewn field in Altay, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Scientists with the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing, capital of the eastern province of Jiangsu, said Thursday that the meteorites were all from the same parent asteroid, as their chemical elements are identical.
The earliest dated discovery of the extraterrestrial stones was in 1898, when herdsmen in the Gobi Desert found a 28-tonne silvery stone, which was in the shape of a camel. The Meteoritic Society later named it Armanty, and confirmed it to be the world's fourth-largest meteorite.
Over 100 years later, a second one was found. It weighed 430 kg and was named Ulasitai.
It was not until 2011, when a third one -- Wuxilike -- weighing 5 tonnes was found, that scientists began to notice that the three meteorite were in a line, although across a distance of 425 km.
"They are on the same axis from southeast to northwest, which piqued our interest," said Xu Weibiao, meteorite curator with the observatory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
Xu, one of the chief scientists with the mineralogical research arm of the meteorites, said the meteorites were composed of the same chemical components and microelements.
Several smaller meteorites have also been found in the field, all with the same chemical composition as the larger rocks.
"This suggests that the meteorites were all from the same parent asteroid before it separated as it entered the Earth' atmosphere," said Xu.
HOW BIG WAS THE METEOR SHOWER?
An ordinary meteor shower can scatter meteorites across dozens of kilometers.
Before the finding in Altay, the world's largest meteorite strewn field was Gibeon, with a long axis of 275 km.
Judging by the 425-km strewn length of the Altay field, its meteor shower is likely the largest on the Earth.
However, there is no historical documentation on the incident. Scientists speculate it might have happened prehistorically.
"A meteor shower of such a scale must have had a great impact on the Earth. If it happened after humans walked the earth, we often find cave painting depicting the incident in the area," said Xu.
He said the team has used isotopic dating to determine when the meteor shower occurred.
An average of 20,000 meteorites fall to the Earth every year. Scientists use extraterrestrial stones to determine information about the universe and life signs in space through chemical classification.
For example, scientists previously discovered evidence of magma activity on Mars some 200 million years ago after sampling a meteorite.
In 2017, China will launch the Chang'e-5 lunar probe, which will collect samples from the moon.
"For the moon sample research, the observatory will use more advanced analytical equipment, which will greatly assist our petrological and mineralogical research," Xu said. Enditem
Chinese meteorite field likely to be world’s largest
The three-meteorite field stretches across 425 kilometres and is now believed to be the worlds largest. (Photo: China News Service)
Experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences confirmed on October 13 that the meteorite-strewn field in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region is likely the world's largest. According to a report by Xinhua News Agency, the field of meteorites stretches to an estimated 425 kilometres, 150 kilometres larger than the Gibeon meteorite shower in Namibia.
The shower has been named Altay, after the region in which it landed. First discovered in 1898, the 28-tonne Armanty meteorite was originally thought to be isolated, until the 430-kilogramme Ulasitai meteorite was discovered 100 years later.
However, Shanghai Daily reports that it was not until 2011 that a third - the 5-tonne Wuxilike - was found that scientists noticed that all three were in a line stretched across 425 kilometres.
“This suggests that the meteorites were all from the same parent asteroid before it separated as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere,” said Xu Weibiao, meteorite curator with the observatory under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
On Sept. 24, The Mars Society launched the ambitious two-phase Mars 160 Twin Desert-Arctic Analog simulation to study how seven crewmembers could live, work and perform science on a true mission to Mars. Mars 160 crewmember Annalea Beattie is chronicling the mission, which will spend 80 days at the Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah desert before venturing far north to Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island, Canada in summer 2017. Here's her first dispatch from the mission:
It's the 22nd of September here in the loft of the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah. It's my first night and I try to call home. There is a time delay from Mars to Tasmania and no response from Mum, no surprises there.
This is the first of our two-phase Mars 160 mission. You might already know that the second phase of our expedition is at Flashline Mars Arctic ResearchStation in the Arctic circle next year in the Canadian summer. Though there is a break between the two phases, this doesn't matter. Mars 160 is a comparative study in terms of science and science operations.
Downstairs, I can hear the conversation around the table as our crew has a cup of tea before bed. Australian geologist Jon Clarke is talking about how we are the only MDRS crew ever to be able to study two analogue environments in a twin desert study in a way that will help us understand more about conditions on Mars.
An analog is something similar to or representative of something else, like an analog clock. In planetary science, terrestrial analogues enable us to use counterparts of features seen on other planets (in this case, Mars) to better understand them and/or prepare for missions to them.
Analog research is typically field-based and is different from simulation (usually a mathematic or computer model, such as an MIT study of Mars One life support) and laboratory studies (where variables are tightly controlled, such as Mars 500 or at the Human Exploration Research Analog).
In terms of examples of analogue research, these could include scientific, engineering, operations and human factors, for instance as in previous missions at Mars Desert Research Station, Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station, Hi-SEAS and Concordia Station in the Antarctic.
It's true we are on a space simulation though of course some conditions in space can't be replicated, for instance Martian gravity. High in the southern Utah desert at MDRS our crew will be isolated and confined in a tiny space in an immense and extreme environment. We will eat dehydrated astronaut food and never leave the hab without suiting up, except in an emergency. Otherwise we would be breaking mission rules.
Yet the main aim of Mars 160 is not an isolation study of humans in space like recent Hi-Seas where only some of the crew went outside twice a week. Our goal is to see where we can get the most science return in terms of field science and field science operations. The point of our mission is that the two halves of our research links geology and biology in an analogous way to inform our knowledge of an extraterrestrial environment like Mars.
Characterized by the geology, biology for the mission focuses on halophiles in evaporite deposits, (easy to get to here but not so easy in the Arctic circle), lichens and their patterns, (studied more on Devon than here), hypoliths, found usually on the undersides of rocks and stromatolites, (those fossil structures and habitable environments that show the earliest visible signs of life and may have appeared at a time when Mars was habitable).
And btw here we will use the sexy MinION instrumenttested on the International Space Station.
Our second goal for Mars 160 is to examine science operations. These are the practices of science. We are especially interested in how Earth-Mars collaborations might function in field science, for instance, how science operations are best conducted on an EVA (extravehicular activity). The kinds of resources used, the tools, the processes the people and the communication procedures all underpin and support good science in the field. In terms of partnerships and outreach our mission has unprecedented Earth-based support for field science. More on this later as over the next few months I introduce our crew and our projects.
Meanwhile downstairs I can hear the "zzzzzzzzz" sound of Mars Society's President Robert Zubrin's new invention, the vacuum washing machine.
I'm washing a few sweaty shirts in this with its upside-down pressure.
Here's our Mars 160 Commander Alex Mangeot's explanation of this great machine:
For cleaning clothes you have to kill the bacteria that sticks to the fabric and remove all mineral and organic substances (such as oil, for instance). Usually soap kills bacteria by toxic chemical reactions and the water dissolves the stains (which are the mineral and organic substances). Here, with the vacuum washing machine, we are killing the bacteria and removing organic substances. Only the mineral stains will remain after the wash.
But that is fine because stains do not smell. This is not a hygiene issue, it is just a stain. In space we do not care that much about fashion. So in short, the physical process is basic thermodynamics. At sea level atmospheric pressure, we are used to seeing water boiling at 100 degrees Celsius. When you decrease the pressure, the water boils at a lower temperature. So if you decrease the pressure to 50 mbar (1/20th atmospheric pressure) water will boil at room temperature. Basically, at this pressure you can boil water without burning yourself!
This is what happens in the vacuum washing machine. It is a chamber where you put your clothes to wash in which the pressure is dropped to less than half an atmosphere. The water inside the bacterial cell boils, eventually breaks down the cell wall and deprived of its water, the bacteria dies (just like if you were deprived of the water contained in your body). The good thing is that the bad smell on your dirty clothes comes mostly from bacterial byproducts. No bacteria, no smell, happy crew.
This machine is perfectly fit for a space journey and for planetary exploration. It does not require water, or chemicals. The low pressure required for this machine to work is found on Mars where the atmospheric pressure is 6 mbar. In space vacuum is an unlimited resource. -- Alex
Here's the vacuum washing machine in action minus a pair of socks I missed.
Outside there is thunder and lightning and heavy rain. The desert floor is on the move as it turns to pink mud There was a wild tornado in Utah somewhere today causing havoc. Our crew member, storm chaser and geologist Paul Knightly is elated. He grabs his tripod and heads out into the night. Inside, I am more concerned with the sound of an occasional drip which might indicate a leak.
Goodnight from Mars.
Editor's note: To follow The Mars Society's Mars 160 mission and see daily photos and updates, visit the mission's website here:http://mars160.marssociety.org/. You can also follow the mission on Twitter @MDRSUpdates.
Notes from Mars 160: Going Outside for a Marswalk
On Sept. 24, The Mars Society launched the ambitious two-phase Mars 160 Twin Desert-Arctic Analog mission to study how seven crewmembers could live, work and perform science on a true mission to Mars. Mars 160 crewmember Annalea Beattie is chronicling the mission, which will spend 80 days at the Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah desert before venturing far north to Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island, Canada in summer 2017. Here's her second dispatch from the mission:
It's a funny feeling never to go outside unless I'm wearing a bulky spacesuit. Our time in the Utah desert as humans who breathe the air and feel the touch of the rocks without tanks and suits is over. Likewise, now our contact with Earth is limited. We feel alone but we are dependent. And our political freedom relies on those who control our oxygen. [See more Mars 160 photos here, and get daily images by the Mars 160 crew]
We are well into phase one of our 160-day full space simulation here at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in the southeast Utah desert. I'd like to write to you about that word, "simulation." as it often seems to be misunderstood. Because of our firsthand experiences, my crew and I have a rare opportunity to share what a "simulation" actually means — for us, for our research and for the Mars 160 mission. Although nearly all of us here have spent time in a simulated space environment, one hundred and sixty days is a long time to be confined in a small space with the same group of people. This extended duration of the simulation is new for us all.
In terms of how a simulation functions, this morning's science EVA (extravehicular activity) definitely provides some insight.
Just moments ago, our team left the habitat ("hab" for short) on a science field trip to sample lichens. It took all of us several hours to carefully plan for the journey. After breakfast we were briefed by our commander to discuss the particular schedule, the designated times of egress and return, the specific roles for everyone — both here at the hab and in the field — and all the potential safety risks, including variables like the weather.
Then there was a conversation with our mission scientists, where we revised the day's field science objectives. In this crew and on every crew that will travel into space, there are science generalists like me. As part of our simulation, and for us to fully support the field science goals of the mission, we are all in the process of cross-training.
We have been assigned specific science areas and at the end of each training session we overview what we have learnt. As well, we all study the basics of geology. Yesterday, we were cross-trained in lithostratiography, the day before, evaporites, and tomorrow, sedimentary structures. Writing the report on evaporites took forever, but now we have some basic understanding of the science. (You can find those cross- training and science reports on our Mars 160 web page.)
Early this morning we spent time preparing science equipment. This means tool bags, sampling equipment, notebooks, site maps and cameras. We assisted our crew engineer to check the suits, the fans, the battery charge of the tanks and all the communications.
After the safety discussion, we dress. We have to consider inner wear, which is dependent on the weather, and safety measures like sunglasses, sunblock, and our hair tied back under scarves. We always wear high boots for walking and protection against rattlesnakes. (I think there are also mountain lions out there, we have seen some scat). Cleaning your teeth before a four-hour EVA is advisable as you can smell your own breath in the helmet for hours. (Now you know how others feel, says our funny crew member, Anastayisa Stepanova.)
At the same time, we are not on Mars so we have to be reasonably hydrated to maintain our stamina in the field. Despite the fans in the helmets, at the moment it's hot outside and hot in those suits.
All of the preparation for an EVA has to be perfect. It's awkward getting the suits on and off. We need help — they weigh 12.8 kilos with the helmet and we carry another three to four kilos, more with samples on the way home. Procedures are very strict when entering and leaving the hab and there is no ducking back inside if we have forgotten something.
The crew spends five minutes in the airlock to allow for "de-pressurization," and "re-pressurization" takes a similar time. (Generally, in the lull between communications we try to pipe music into the airlock via the Hab-Com radio. Something space-like is the go- This morning, Jon Clarke sang the crew a couple of verses of an Australian ballad called "Clancy of the Overflow.") The crew members staying in the hab are all there to see the field team off, we wave goodbye and when they return, dinner is ready.
As soon as we step outside the hab into the desert, our crew understands how wearing spacesuits and tanks seriously impacts mobility and, consequently, the science and engineering activities we're conducting in the field. Basic physical movement in the suits is difficult (for instance, in a spacesuit it's impossible to turn your head) and we have to learn quickly.
On an EVA, to keep your crew in sight, you must walk side by side. And in the suits, you can't bend easily to pick up a stone or observe lichens. You have to squat down, otherwise you can topple over. In my case, everything falls out of my pockets onto the ground. Hmmm.
But there's more to a simulation on an analogue mission than spacesuits.
A full simulation means that as the seven of us are isolated and confined in a barren, hostile environment in the middle of nowhere, our resources are set and limited. We have to work together to conserve what supplies we do have. As a crew, we monitor all food and measure water use daily. In terms of water, we shower once a week if we are lucky, we wash as much as we can in the vacuum washing cleaner and we minimize the amount of water we use to wash up and cook.
If we can't sort out a problem or an issue ourselves, at the end of each day, our Capsule Communication Officer (CapCom), is there to help us with any issues or queries. For instance, the crew sends an EVA plan to CapCom as part of daily reports and CapCom reviews the safety measures of the EVA plan to make sure everything is in place. Daily, we send at least five reports to CapCom Mission Support, including information about science, engineering, food and daily pictures. The CapCom team are the principal point of contact between the crew and the mission specialists. They devote two hours of their lives everyday to check if are we doing well.
Knowing that we are actually here on Earth at the Mars Desert Research Station, in the simulation we put safety first, and then real science in real places. In this context, to be successful is to stay true to the idea of our priorities. And everything we learn here builds to assist us when we get to the second phase of our twin mission, at Flashline Mars in the Arctic Circle next year (though I will probably have to get some extra gun training back in Australia for polar bears!).
Part of being able to fulfill the science expectations on a full simulation EVA is a shared knowledge of potential difficulties and hazards. Adapting to air tanks and space suits in an extreme environment like the Utah desert also means adapting science techniques to find new strategies. For example, if we think about geology, a standard field test for a geologist is to spit or pour a bit of water on a rock. This moistens the surface, as sometimes layering and detail is more visible when a rock is wet. On Mars there will be no outside water use for geology. Water will boil away, evaporate or freeze.
And there will be no spitting.
Pre-simulation, as a group our crew discussed what a simulation in a Mars-like setting might be like. In planning meetings, we spoke about the kind of experiences each of us would bring to the simulation. Our Principal Investigator and Mission Director, biologist Shannon Rupert says, 'The challenge for simulation is to be able to behave like a scientist (or an artist or an engineer or a journalist) and think and act like a Martian at all times, seeking out Mars-like conditions and respecting the boundaries and rules in terms of behaviour. Crew cohesiveness must come before your own needs on a simulation."'
Australian geologist Jon Clarke says a scientific study of Mars analogues under conditions of full simulation enables us to quantify constraints and involves a test program that endeavours to replicate, as completely as practicable, the operational limitations of a Mars surface mission. This includes communication, scheduling, food restrictions, safety procedures, equipment, including the suits and vehicles, living arrangements and duration.
Jon has been here to MDRS three times as part of Crew 11 in 2003, Crew 92 in 2010 and Crew 104 in 2011. His first crew underwent a four week mission that built towards a full simulation in phases, culminating in an integrated simulation that included the habitat, suits, ATVs, and pressurized rovers with away teams departing on missions away from the hab that were 2-3 days in duration. In 2010, on Crew 92, MDRS was used as a field station. But in the last week of the mission, a simulated EVA was carried out with two people successfully testing a drilling program with a crew portable diamond drill. In 2011, suits were not used, but the Honeybee Robotics-developed robotic MARTE drill was operated in the field and its performance compared with a crew- operated drill.
Anastasiyaa Stepanova, who hopes to become a Russian cosmonaut, talks about how we bring our own Earthly experiences to the simulation and what this means. She says,
"For me, as a girl who dreamed to become [a] cosmonaut since I was a kid, a full simulation means a chance to actually check my guts. Many people think they would love to go to Mars, but when they get into the situation, close to their desire, they realize that their execution expectation and the reality are quite different."' For Anastasiya, a full simulation provides an opportunity to test her abilities, to learn about herself and grow as a human.
Our Crew Engineer Claude-Michel Laroche suggests that a good simulation needs to be asynchronous, in that nothing has direct feedback and it's about sticking to regulations.
To Claude, safety should always come before the simulation.
Crew Commander Alex Mangeot claims simulation should involve the best hardware possible in order to make the experience of Mars on Earth more realistic in terms of technology. His own space suit research aims to improve the hardware that surrounds us; in this case, the interface between the person, the habitat, the EVA and the spacesuit itself.
For crew member Anushree Srivastava, an astro-biologist from India, a full simulation is all about the science, and must involve rigorous planning and research, '"so we don't waste time during the science activity," she said'. This still means collecting samples, coming back to lab and studying those samples to find life. Anushree says, '"A full simulation is knowledge and experience applied outside in the field from all points of view —- from safety, field work and sample collection, especially in collaboration with the geologist. Inside it's all about protocols. What protocols do I have to follow to study lichens in a detailed way?"'
XO Yusuke Murakami is an architect who works on habitats in extreme environments, particularly in Antarctica. He has also worked in Nepal, where his shelters were used to aid earthquake victims. Yusuke suggests that the simulation enables creative design, in that it allows him to understand the value of human--centred measurements for living in space. His research on this mission is to explore architecture for life in space that relies neither on pure function nor pure aesthetics. Yusuke's previous experiences of isolated and confined environments have been with a Japanese crew on an expedition in Antarctica. His greatest challenge, he says, is to collaborate in simulation with an international crew.
As an artist, my research in geological field sketching reinforces the value of observational data in understanding emerging geology and biology in extreme settings. Drawing in the field involves geological sketching of the site and the investigation within EVA time constraints. Off-Earth, geologists will have to observe, document and relay multiple hypotheses to Earth through imagery, as well as verbally. As well as site documentation, context provided through observation is vital to meaningful sample interpretation. Field drawing combined with note-taking develops expertise as a critical skill set for planetary field science.
A successful simulation for me means I have to think carefully about addressing methodologies for adapting existing field sketching skills to the analogue Martian environment.
My aim is to improve how we best gather data, as well as build the experience of the explorer/researcher and extend drawing tools, methods, resources and protocols within the simulation. I've only just begun to really test out my own drawing skills in the spacesuit. Will this really work? I'll let you know how it goes.
Our crew has arrived home from their field trip and are decompressing in the airlock.
Our mission is Anushree's first experience in a simulated Mars-like environment and so this has been her first experience of sampling in a spacesuit. Now we have the new suits from North California Mars Society, (thank you, wonderful people from North Cal!).
Anushree says the experience of science in simulation is quite special and something that not everyone has the opportunity to do. "Physically you feel like you are in another world doing something unearthly, in this case collecting lichen samples. The suit is not convenient and it really makes you realise where you are and that the hab is there as your home. At one point when you start feeling exhausted, your shoulders ache with the heavy tank, you feel extremely thirsty and sweaty and you tell yourself — do it anyway. This is for all the challenges you went through before coming to do this special job! This is your opportunity for the sake of science and space exploration."
At the end of time here, Anushree will return to MDRS a second time, to gain further experience as part of Crew 172.
Here in the loft at the Mars Desert Research Station, a ray of sunlight creeps in through the tiniest chink in the roof and plays across the floor. Since our simulation began, I've begun noticing the flying ants and small spiders who share the hab with us.
Wie auch Bewölkung zu einer astronomischen Herausforderung wetrden kann, ergab sich am 13.Oktober über dsem Odenwald. Einfach die Chance bei Wolkenauflockerungen genutzt bei welcher die Sonnenscheibe zu sehen war. Nachfolgend die Aufnahmen welche die Ausgangslage zeigen und dann die Ergebnisse.
Aber erst einmal ein Blick auf SOHO-Aufnahme vom 13.Oktober:
This image shows crystals used for storing entangled photons, which behave as though they are part of the same whole. Scientists use crystals like these in quantum teleportation experiments.
Credits: Félix Bussières/University of Geneva
This image shows crystals used for storing entangled photons, which behave as though they are part of the same whole. Scientists use crystals like these in quantum teleportation experiments.
Credits: Félix Bussières/University of Geneva
Quantum physics is a field that appears to give scientists superpowers. Those who understand the world of extremely small or cold particles can perform amazing feats with them -- including teleportation -- that appear to bend reality.
The science behind these feats is complicated, and until recently, didn’t exist outside of lab settings. But that’s changing: researchers have begun to implement quantum teleportation in real-world contexts. Being able to do so just might revolutionize modern phone and Internet communications, leading to highly secure, encrypted messaging.
A paper published in Nature Photonics and co-authored by engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, details the first experiments with quantum teleportation in a metropolitan fiber cable network. For the first time, the phenomenon has been witnessed over long distances in actual city infrastructure. In Canada, University of Calgary researchers teleported the quantum state of a photon more than 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) in “dark” (unused) cables under the city of Calgary. That’s a new record for the longest distance of quantum teleportation in an actual metropolitan network.
While longer distances had been recorded in the past, those were conducted in lab settings, where photons were fired through spools of cable to simulate the loss of signal caused by long distances. This latest series of experiments in Calgary tested quantum teleportation in actual infrastructure, representing a major step forward for the technology.
“Demonstrating quantum effects such as teleportation outside of a lab environment involves a whole new set of challenges. This experiment shows how these challenges can all be overcome and hence it marks an important milestone towards the future quantum Internet,” said Francesco Marsili, one of the JPL co-authors. “Quantum communication unlocks some of the unique properties of quantum mechanics to, for example, exchange information with ultimate security or link together quantum computers.”
Photon sensors for the experiment were developed by Marsili and Matt Shaw of JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory, along with colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, Colorado. Their expertise was critical to the experiments: quantum networking is done with photons, and requires some of the most sensitive sensors in the world in order to know exactly what’s happening to the particle.
“The superconducting detector platform, which has been pioneered by JPL and NIST researchers, makes it possible to detect single photons at telecommunications wavelengths with nearly perfect efficiency and almost no noise. This was simply not possible with earlier detector types, and so experiments such as ours, using existing fiber-infrastructure, would have been close to impossible without JPL’s detectors,” said Daniel Oblak of the University of Calgary’s Institute for Quantum Science and Technology.
Safer emails using quantum physics
Shrink down to the level of a photon, and physics starts to play by bizarre rules. Scientists who understand those rules can “entangle” two particles so that their properties are linked. Entanglement is a mind-boggling concept in which particles with different characteristics, or states, can be bound together across space. That means whatever affects one particle’s state will affect the other, even if they’re located miles apart from one another.
This is where teleportation comes in. Imagine you have two entangled particles -- let’s call them Photon 1 and Photon 2 -- and Photon 2 is sent to a distant location. There, it meets with Photon 3, and the two interact with each other. Photon 3’s state can be transferred to Photon 2, and automatically “teleported” to the entangled twin, Photon 1. This disembodied transfer happens despite the fact that Photons 1 and 3 never interact.
This property can be used to securely exchange secret messages. If two people share an entangled pair of photons, quantum information can be transmitted in a disembodied fashion, leaving an eavesdropper with nothing to intercept and so unable to read the secret message.
Teleportation Means Going the Distance
This system of highly secure communications is being tested in a number of fields, Marsili said, including financial industries and agencies like NASA that want to protect their space data signals. The superconducting single photon detectors developed by Marsili, Shaw and their NIST colleagues are a key tool in doing this, because sending photons over long distances will inevitably lead to “loss” of the signal. Even when using a laser in space, light diffuses over distance, weakening the power of the signal being transmitted.
The next step is building repeaters that can further teleport the state of a photon from one location to the next. Just as repeaters are used to carry other telecommunication signals across long distances, they could be used to teleport entangled photons. Super-sensitive photon detectors would allow repeaters to send entangled photons across the country. For space-related communications, repeaters wouldn’t even be necessary; photons could eventually be fired into space using lasers, and photon states could be teleported from Earth.
No repeaters were used in the Calgary experiments, which were mainly meant to establish how quantum teleportation can be performed outside the lab. Researchers used the city’s dark fiber -- a single optical cable with no electronics or network equipment flowing through them.
“By using advanced superconducting detectors, we can use individual photons to efficiently communicate both classical and quantum information from space to the ground,” Shaw said. “We are planning to use more advanced versions of these detectors for demonstrations of optical communication from deep space and of quantum teleportation from the International Space Station.”
The study was funded by Alberta Innovates Technology Futures; the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada; and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Part of the detector research was carried out at JPL under a contract with NASA. Caltech in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.
For the second time, Boeing has delayed the first crewed flight of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft — the vehicle the company is building to transport NASA astronauts to and from the ISS, Aviation Week reports. Originally, the aim was for Starliner to carry astronauts for the first time in 2017, but Boeing announced in May that people wouldn’t fly on the vehicle until 2018. The optimistic goal was for crewed flights to begin in early to mid-2018, but now Boeing is saying that the first operational flights won’t occur until December of that year.
PRODUCTION DELAYS AND PROBLEMS WITH QUALIFICATION TESTS ARE PARTLY TO BLAME
Boeing says that production delays and problems with qualification tests are partly to blame for the timeline slip. The company also found a production flaw in September that forced them to get rid of a main element on one of their spacecrafts — a dome that made up the pressure shell of the crew module. All of these complications combined prompted Boeing to push back the development timeline of Starliner by about six months.
"When we were faced with these issues it was time for us to step back and say: ‘Hey listen, we have to readdress [this] and say what’s real and lay in where we are going forward’," John Mulholland, Boeing’s vice president and program manager for commercial programs in space exploration, told Aviation Week.
That means a lot of big production milestones for the Starliner are also being pushed back. Boeing still needs to do a pad abort test — to demonstrate that the Starliner can carry a crew to safety in case an emergency occurs on the launch pad. That was scheduled for October 2017, but now that test won’t happen until January of 2018. And the first uncrewed flight of the Starliner has now moved from December 2017 to June of 2018. Now, the first crewed test flight of Starliner is on track for August 2018, with the first fully operational flights getting underway in December.
The CST-100 Starliner is Boeing’s contribution to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a public-private partnership aimed at getting NASA astronauts back on American-made vehicles again. Currently, NASA relies on Russia’s Soyuz rocket to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station — a ride share that costs the space agency upwards of $80 million per seat. But in 2014, NASA contracted both Boeing and SpaceX to develop crew capsules that could ferry astronauts to the ISS on US vehicles for much lower costs. For the program, SpaceX has been developing a crewed version of its Dragon cargo capsule, which will launch on top of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. And when complete, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner will launch on top of the Atlas V rocket — the premier vehicle of the United Launch Alliance.
A RECENT REPORT PREDICTED THAT THE FIRST COMMERCIAL CREW FLIGHTS WOULD SLIP TO 2018
Despite these expectations, SpaceX has yet to formally announce any delays regarding its Commercial Crew program schedule — though it seems likely the company could experience its own timeline slippage. On September 1st, one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets exploded on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida as the vehicle was being prepared for a routine test. The explosion greatly damaged one of SpaceX’s launch pads, and the company has since grounded all of its flights while it investigates the cause of the failure. The exact origin of the explosion hasn’t been pinned down yet, but SpaceX says it had to do with a breach in the rocket’s helium system. The company says it will have a better idea of its timeline once the true cause of the explosion is known.
"We continue to review and analyze data from the anomaly," a representative for SpaceX tells The Verge. "We expect to stay on track with our Commercial Crew milestones with NASA, but we'll better know how our schedule will be impacted once the investigation is complete and we get back to flying."
But as the Commercial Crew program experiences delays, NASA’s dependence on Russian access to space continues to grow. Last year, the space agency was forced to buy six additional Soyuz seats for astronauts to get to the ISS in 2017 — a move that cost $490 million. Now it’s looking even more likely that Soyuz seats will be needed for 2018, too.
Quelle: THE VERGE
United Launch Alliance and the Boeing Company Unveil the Atlas V Configuration for the CST-100 Starliner Crew Capsule
ULA’s Atlas V will Provide Safe and Reliable Transportation for Starliner to the International Space Station
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. – United Launch Alliance (ULA) and The Boeing Company today unveiled an updated aerodynamic configuration of the Atlas V that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule for NASA after encountering unique challenges with aerodynamic stability and loads.
This new configuration incorporates an aeroskirt aft of the spacecraft, extending the Starliner Service Module cylindrical surface to improve the aerodynamic characteristics of the integrated launch configuration and bring loads margins back to acceptable flight levels.
“Through incredible coordination and continued innovative thinking, the collective team of NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance completed three wind tunnel tests in six months to investigate the aerodynamic stability of various configurations and to anchor our analytical predictions. Based on that information, we updated the configuration for the Atlas V Starliner integrated vehicle stack,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Human and Commercial Services. “This configuration is unique because it combines the Atlas V launch vehicle without a payload fairing with Boeing’s Starliner capsule, resulting in different aerodynamic interactions.”
The aeroskirt is a metallic orthogrid structure designed to be jettisoned for improved performance. In the unlikely event that an emergency occurs during boost phase of flight, the aeroskirt has venting provisions to control over-pressurization if the Starliner’s abort engines are fired. Fabrication of the aeroskirt is scheduled to begin this month at ULA’s factory in Decatur, Alabama, following completion of a Production Readiness Review.
"Our testing indicates the solution we chose will sufficiently smooth the air flow around the vehicle during ascent, ensuring crew safety and mission success," said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Boeing's Commercial Crew Program.
The ULA team completed the aeroskirt Preliminary Design Review earlier this month. The Atlas V with Starliner has a planned uncrewed flight test in 2018 with operational missions to follow.
“We look forward to our continued partnership with Boeing and NASA to ensure mission success and safety for American astronauts flying from U.S. soil on the Atlas V Starliner,” said Wentz.
With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 110 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.