Tue, 30 Nov 2021 12:39:00 +0100
Isolate in Antarctica, for science
It can be hard to appreciate that a human-made, football-pitch-sized spacecraft is orbiting 400 km above our heads, but there it is.
The jewel of human cooperation and ingenuity that is the International Space Station shines brightly in this image captured by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour.
Crew-2 got these amazing views during a flyaround of the orbiting lab after undocking from the Harmony module on 8 November, before their return to Earth.
Since this image was taken, there has even been a new addition in the form of the Russian Node Module, known as Prichal. The final Russian module planned for the Station, it is a spherical node attached to the Russian segment with six docking ports for future Progress and Soyuz arrivals.
A collaboration between five space agencies, the Station has become a symbol of peaceful international cooperation for 23 years now. It represents the best of our space engineering capabilities as well as humankind’s pursuit of scientific knowledge and exploration.
By any standards, it is an incredible piece of spacecraft engineering. Weighing 420 tonnes, it travels in low-Earth orbit at more than 27 000 km/hour, circling Earth approximately 16 times every day.
Crew members conduct scientific research in microgravity at facilities such as ESA’s Columbus module. Some of these experiments and tests are preparing the way for human exploration of the Moon and beyond. But the Station also provides a unique view of Earth, while its science benefits life on our planet.
Current ESA astronaut in residence is Matthias Maurer, a first-time flier spending around six-months in orbit for his Cosmic Kiss mission. Matthias will continue to support a wide range of European and international science experiments and technological research on the Station before handing off to the next ESA astronaut to fly, Samantha Cristoforetti.
Follow Matthias’s mission on the Cosmic Kiss page.
Thu, 25 Nov 2021 12:09:00 +0100
Applications are now open for the role of ESA-sponsored research medical doctor at Concordia research station in Antarctica for the 2023 winter over season. Do you have a medical degree, an interest in space exploration and the fortitude to spend almost a year in isolation in the world’s largest desert? Apply today for this unique post.
The blank backdrop
Located at the mountain plateau called Dome C in Antarctica, the French-Italian base is one of only three that is inhabited all year long.
Between the extreme altitude – 3233 m above sea level means the crew experience chronic hypobaric hypoxia or lack of oxygen in the brain – four months of total darkness during the winter, and temperatures as low as –80°C, the base is fertile ground to research the effects of isolated, confined, and extreme environments on the human body and mind.
For this reason, each year ESA sponsors a medical doctor to oversee biomedical experiments at the base.
The 2021 winter over doctor, Nick Smith from the UK, is on his way back home after a successful year in Antarctica. Taking his place is Hannes Hagson from Sweden. He arrived with his crew of 12 in early November and will oversee research such as how isolation changes people’s brains, sleep and their immune system.
Summer in December
Concordia is currently hosting the summer season of researchers. About 60 researchers flock to the station to check equipment, set up sensors and run experiments for a few weeks. The last of the summer crew is expected to leave in February, and then the isolation begins. The 13-member crew will spend the next nine months with only each other for company as the sun begins to set, returning after four months.
If you think you have what it takes, apply for the position of ESA research doctor by 21 January 2022.
Good luck to Hannes and the DC 18 crew! Follow Hannes’ year on the Chronicles from Concordia blog.