Fourteen years ago, astronomers studying Saturn via ESA’s Infrared Space Observatory discovered a mysterious supply of gaseous water in Saturn’s upper atmosphere. Now, ESA’s Herschel observatory has figured out exactly where that water is coming from: Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which spews water onto its host planet via huge water jets emanating from its southern polar region.
The biggest, most sensitive digital camera ever constructed for a space mission has been built by the European Space Agency, and it makes your Leica look pretty lame by comparison. The Galaxy-mapping Gaia mission’s “billion-pixel array” has been cobbled together from 106 charge coupled devices (CCDs), and the result is some super high-resolution capability. When Gaia opens its eyes in 2013, it will be able to spot stars a million times fainter than the ones humans can see on the clearest night.
Since 2009 the European Space Agency's Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) has been mapping the Earth's gravitational field, and today the agency released its most detailed model of the geoid to date.
The ESA’s newest Automated Transfer Vehicle--ATV-2, otherwise known as Johannes Kepler--is loaded up and primed for its February 15th launch to the International Space Station, marking a several significant milestones for the European Space Agency and its contribution to ISS operations. Among those benchmarks, it marks the first “operational” flight for the ESA’s ATVs, the 200th launch aboard the European Ariane 5 rocket, and the heaviest load an Ariane 5 has ever hurled into orbit.
Though NASA has abandoned its moon base ambitions, that doesn't mean we won't see a permanent lunar presence sometime in the foreseeable future. Japan has plans to establish a robot moon base on the moon by 2020, with an initial robotic landing by 2015. Now the European Space Agency is upping the ante, announcing plans to put a mammoth lunar lander on the moon by the end of the decade, complete with a robotic rover that will study the site in anticipation of eventual human habitation.
Energy shields haven't arrived just yet, but this magnetic heat shield could do nicely in the meantime. European researchers have created a magnetic field technology that can protect spacecraft from fiery atmospheric temperatures during reentry, and perhaps cut back on the need for traditional heat shields.
The recent anniversary of Apollo 11 has sparked a revived call for manned exploration of Mars. And many have responded to that call by listing the vast technical challenges that such a journey would entail. However, some have worried that the psychological challenge of sending men to the red planet far outweighs any engineering issue.
To test the psychological effect of such a trip, the European Space agency set up simulated Mars missions where six "astronauts" were locked in a tube for months on end. The volunteers for the initial, 105-day, test have just emerged from their titanium chrysalis, and it seems like it wasn't a day to soon.
Want to experience all the travails of being an astronaut with none of the glory? Now's your chance! The European Space Agency is seeking healthy, psychologically-stable test subjects to make a mock trip to Mars.
Last night, a few of us PopSci editors were invited to an IMAX screening of the new movie Poseidon, the Wolfgang Petersen flick about a cruise ship thats hit by a huge rogue wave. The film, which opens today, has all the teeth-gritting suspense of The Day After Tomorrow—with the cheesy dialogue slashed by a good 75 percent. As the star, actor Josh Lucas, explained in a Q&A session after our screening, thats because the actors realized on-set that the script was pathetically absurd and cut out as much of the dialogue as they could get away with.
Lucas also bluntly acknowledged that the reason actors do these films is just for the money and that the filming itself was a painful slog. Literally; two emergency-room visits resulted from injuries he sustained as he struggled through the submerged maze of wires and debris that made up the set.
But enough about the star. How about the 100-foot wall of water that scuttles the ship in the first place? About as absurd as The Day After Tomorrows 24-hour global freeze, right?
Actually, no. It turns out these waves are real, and they actually do sink a number of ships each year. Rogue waves (also called freak waves or monster waves) were long assumed to be just the stuff of mariner legend. Until January 1, 1995, when just such a wave was definitely documented at a North Sea oil platform (in a rare though insignificant case of action flick mimicking reality, the wave also strikes the fictional Poseidon on New Years). In 2000, the EU initiated Project MaxWave, which used imagery from European Space Agency satellites to conclude once and for all that rogue waves are real. Scientists are now using the projects finding to study the root causes of the monster swells. My conclusion: Add rogue waves to the long list of good reasons never to go on a cruise. And check out this link for more on the science behind them. —Kalee Thompson
With test targets in sight, European scientists ramp up for the first-ever asteroid-deflection mission
By Gregory MonePosted 01.01.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Despite its playful name, taken from Miguel de Cervantes´s classic novel, the European Space Agency´s Don Quijote mission is deadly serious. Slated for 2012, the $180-million mission will attempt to move one of two target asteroids, just identified this fall, by rear-ending it with a speeding spacecraft. Quijote is the first venture of its kind, although the B612 Foundation, a privately-funded nonprofit based in Tiburon, California, intends to launch a similar effort by 2015.