Ten years and still going strong for Microgravity Science Glovebox

Microgravity Science Glovebox
ESA astronaut Pedro Duque uses Glovebox in 2003

23 August 2012
Designing and operating equipment in space is an achievement in itself, but ESA’s Microgravity Science Glovebox has been working for ten years on the International Space Station.
This Glovebox is a sealed workspace that allows astronauts to conduct a large variety of experiments that could otherwise be hazardous to their health. Its large and versatile working area is accessed through loading ports and astronauts manipulate items inside using sturdier and safer versions of kitchen gloves, similar to the way researchers experiment with contagious materials and organisms on Earth.

Built by Astrium in Bremen, Germany, the Glovebox was the first European facility to use the standardised scientific rack system on the Space Station. It arrived on the ISS during Expedition 5 in 2002 and has been in operation ever since.


Microgravity Science Glovebox
Microgravity Science Glovebox

The equipment has been used for over 12 000 hours on 24 different experiments from NASA and ESA, certainly a record for all Space Station research facilities.

The atmosphere inside the Glovebox workspace can be kept at lower pressure than that of the International Space Station, so that if the experiment enclosure broke or was opened, any chemical spills, small parts or even fires are contained safely inside.

This technology has allowed astronauts to test different ways of safely fighting fires in space. By starting fires in the Glovebox, they could be sure that the fire would not spread, despite testing untried methods of extinguishing fires in spacecraft.


Microgravity Science Glovebox Logo
Microgravity Science Glovebox logo

The Glovebox facility has been used in many research fields, from materials science to fluid physics, for example providing data that may help design better brake systems or improve manufacturing of lighter and stronger metal alloys.

Despite its long life, the Microgravity Science Glovebox is not retiring soon. Instead of returning to Earth this year as originally planned, NASA has decided to keep using this unique hardware until at least 2020 and even upgrade the facility while it is still on the ISS.

The system will be improved to allow experiments on living organisms. Part of the upgrade will see the scientific laboratory fitted with new biological filters, new gloves and an ultraviolet decontamination system to support life-science experiments.


Astronaut training facilities
ESA astronaut André Kuipers training with Glovebox

Its video recording system will get new high-definition cameras and monitors, high frame-rate cameras and digital video storage to allow the scientists on Earth to review experiments in more detail. The upgrades should be ready to be flown to the International Space Station in 2013.

Martin Zell, ESA’s Head of Space Station Utilisation, concludes: “Our cooperation with NASA on this project has worked seamlessly during development and over the past ten years of operations to facilitate 14 ESA experiments in addition to all the NASA experiments. With hundreds of experiment runs, the Glovebox has led to excellent scientific results that are of high importance here on Earth. We foresee good perspectives for the new experiments under preparation.”


Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG)
Microgravity Science Glovebox

Curiosity Spotted on Parachute by Orbiter

NASA Curiosity Spotted on Parachute over Mars by Orbiter

NASA’s Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera captured this image of Curiosity while the orbiter was listening to transmissions from the rover. Curiosity and its parachute are in the center of the white box; the inset image is a cutout of the rover stretched to avoid saturation. The rover is descending toward the etched plains just north of the sand dunes that fringe “Mt. Sharp.” From the perspective of the orbiter, the parachute and Curiosity are flying at an angle relative to the surface, so the landing site does not appear directly below the rover.

The parachute appears fully inflated and performing perfectly. Details in the parachute, such as the band gap at the edges and the central hole, are clearly seen. The cords connecting the parachute to the back shell cannot be seen, although they were seen in the image of NASA’s Phoenix lander descending, perhaps due to the difference in lighting angles. The bright spot on the back shell containing Curiosity might be a specular reflection off of a shiny area. Curiosity was released from the back shell sometime after this image was acquired.

This view is one product from an observation made by HiRISE targeted to the expected location of Curiosity about one minute prior to landing. It was captured in HiRISE CCD RED1, near the eastern edge of the swath width (there is a RED0 at the very edge). This means that the rover was a bit further east or downrange than predicted.

The image scale is 13.2 inches (33.6 centimeters) per pixel .

HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the orbiter’s HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Watch live Mars Express tracking NASA Mars landing

ESOC Main Control Room
Main Control Room at ESA’s Space Operations Centre

3 August 2012
Watch a live event from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre on 6 August when Mars Express tracks the arrival of NASA’s Curiosity rover at the Red Planet. Webcast runs 06:30 to 08:30 CEST.

Watch live streaming video from eurospaceagency at livestream.com

NASA Mars Rover ‘Curiosity’ Lapel Pin

NASA Mars Curiosity-Lapel Pin Available from Spaceboosters

Call for Media: ESA at Farnborough International Airshow

Space Zone

22 June 2012
PR 17 2012 – ESA will be highlighting the key roles that space plays today in our rapidly changing world when the Space Zone – the very popular feature of the Farnborough international airshow opens its doors 9–15 July.
ESA, together with the UK Space Agency, the Italian space agency ASI, the Russian space agency Roscosmos and industry, will participate in a series of events in the Space Zone that bring together key players to address how space can contribute to competitiveness and growth at a time of unprecedented economic challenge.

Live video between Aquarius and Scotland
Tim Peake in Aquarius talks with UK space conference

An ESA exhibition will further demonstrate how space pushes the frontiers of knowledge, supports an innovative and competitive Europe, and creates technical innovation and new business.

The Space Zone is organised by ADS, the UK’s Aerospace, Defence and Security trade organisation.

There is a special Futures Day for students on Friday 13 July, and access for the general public on Saturday 14 July and Sunday 15 July.

Main events in the Space Zone

Tuesday 10 July, 11:00–12:30: Space Day Conference
The UK Space Agency hosts a conference of leaders from government, space agencies and the space industry focusing on the continued growth of the UK, European and international space sectors and the prospects for the ESA Council at Ministerial level, a critical moment of decision for European space, to be held later this year.

Speakers include David Willetts, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science; Francesco Profumo, Italian Minister of Education, Universities and Research and Chair of the ESA Council at Ministerial Level; Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA Director General; Vladimir Popovkin, General Director of the Russian Federal Space Agency; Enrico Saggese, President of ASI; David Williams, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency; and Andy Green, Co-Chair of the UK’s Space Leadership Council and CEO of Logica.

Thursday 12 July, 10:30–12:40: The Space Growth Agenda: Meet it or Beat it!
In 2010, the UK space industry announced an ambitious strategy to create an industry worth £40 billion by 2030, and 100 000 new jobs in the process. Find out whether the space industry is delivering on its plan and how it is refining its strategy to meet the prevailing economic winds.

Speakers will include Lord Stephen Green, UK Minister for Trade and Industry; Catherine Mealing-Jones, UK Space Agency Director of Growth, Applications and EU Programmes; Magali Vaissière, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications; Volker Leibig, ESA Director of Earth Observation; Keith Robson, University of Surrey Director of Research and Enterprise Support; and Richard Peckham, Chair of UKspace and ADS Vice-President.

Friday 13 July: Futures Day
A day of activities across the airshow for young people from UK schools and universities to explore today’s innovation and discover how science, technology, engineering and mathematics can allow them to be on the leading edge of the future. Come and meet ESA astronaut Timothy Peake and learn firsthand what it takes to have the right stuff, whether in space or on Earth.

Media registration

Media interested in attending events in the Space Zone must be accredited to attend the airshow. Accreditation can be requested via the FIA website:

The deadline for applying is 29 June.

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 19 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 17 are Member States of the EU. ESA has Cooperation Agreements with nine other Member States of the EU and is negotiating an Agreement with the one remaining (Bulgaria). Poland is in the process of becoming ESA’s 20th Member State. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities. Today it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

BIS West Midlands 3rd Droitwich Event

BIS West Midlands Group



June 13, 2012Posted in: BIS events, Featured article

Droitwich Library

Droitwich Library

Venue: Gallery, Droitwich Library, Victoria Square, Droitwich Spa, WR9 8DQ

Date: 14 July 2012
Start Time: 2 pm
End Time: 4:30 pm

Provisional Programme

2 -2.30 pm –  Meet old friends and new and enjoy a Coffee in the Gallery

2.30-3:30 pm – David A. Hardy is the longest-established living space artist, having illustrated his first book in 1954. For more details of David’s career see here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_A._Hardy and of course his excellent web site here http://www.astroart.org/

David will be presenting a review of space/astronomical art since the earliest days, from Lucien Rudaux and Chesley Bonestell, and of course R.A.Smith, but of course leaning heavily on his own work too! It includes images of how we thought space travel would develop, back in the 50s, and how our views of the universe have changed, from our own Moon and planets through to extrasolar planets and deep space. There will also be a short Tutorial on how to produce a ‘painting’ in Photoshop.

The gallery and coffee/tea will be available until 4.30 pm for further discussion.

Admission Charges are levied to fund the group and its activities and are payable on the door.

Members/Fellows: All donations gratefully received
Non-Members: £2
Concessions: £1

Limited number of seats so please register in advance.

Room capacity is 50 so please register if you are attending!

Follow this link to the booking form.

André Kuipers: world ambassador

ESA astronaut André Kuipers in Cupola
André Kuipers

15 May 2012
Observing Earth from far above, ESA astronaut André Kuipers is acting as a world ambassador for the WWF, which issued its flagship publication the Living Planet Report today.
The Living Planet Report measures changes in biodiversity by tracking 9000 populations of more than 2600 of the world’s species. André wrote the foreword to the report and is doing his part to show how fragile our world really is.



Jet contrails pictured from the Space Station
Aircraft trails

We only have one Earth
André has been concerned about our planet since his last mission to the International Space Station in 2004. He has been sending us images that show the impact humans are having on our climate.

“We only have one Earth. From up here I can see humanity’s footprint, including forest fires, air pollution and erosion – challenges which are reflected in this edition of the Living Planet Report,” said André.

The report illustrates how our demand on natural resources has become unsustainable. By 2050, two out of every three people will live in a city. Humanity requires new and improved ways of managing natural resources.


Night lights
Night lights in Europe as seen from satellites

André’s Flickr stream: recording humanity’s presence
Using ESA’s new NightPod camera aid, André is taking sharper pictures than ever before of cities at night. Light pollution is a dramatic example of energy that humans waste.

View all of André’s images in his Flickr photo stream, or follow the astronaut on Twitter. View the links to the right.

Satellites spot invisible effects
The effect we have on our planet extends beyond what is visible to the human eye. To be able to understand and manage human impact better, ESA is providing data from a range of satellites.

Sea-surface temperature, May 2008

Satellites offer the only practical means of monitoring Earth as a whole. Sensitive spaceborne instruments gather precise data to unravel the complexities of our planet and track changes taking place. They have contributed significantly to the information in the Living Planet Report.

Apart from benefitting European research requirements, this also ensures that decision-makers are equipped with the information to tackle the challenges of climate change, secure a sustainable future and respond to natural and human-induced disasters.


 •  WWF Living Planet Report 15 May 2012 (http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/)

ESA-NASA Overfed Black Holes Shut Down Galactic Star-Making


Artist's concept of an active black hole This artistically modified image of the local galaxy Arp 220, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, helps illustrate the Herschel results. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech     › Full image and caption

PASADENA, Calif. — The Herschel Space Observatory has shown galaxies with the most powerful, active black holes at their cores produce fewer stars than galaxies with less active black holes. The results are the first to demonstrate black holes suppressed galactic star formation when the universe was less than half its current age. Herschel is a European Space Agency-led mission with important NASA contributions.

“We want to know how star formation and black hole activity are linked,” said Mathew Page of University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the United Kingdom and lead author of a paper describing these findings in this week’s journal Nature. “The two processes increase together up to a point, but the most energetic black holes appear to turn off star formation.”

Supermassive black holes, weighing as much as millions of suns, are believed to reside in the hearts of all large galaxies. When gas falls upon these monsters, the material is accelerated and heated around the black hole, releasing great torrents of energy. Earlier in the history of the universe, these giant, luminous black holes, called active galactic nuclei, were often much brighter and more energetic. Star formation was also livelier back then.

Studies of nearby galaxies suggest active black holes can squash star formation. The revved-up, central black holes likely heat up and disperse the galactic reservoirs of cold gas needed to create new stars. These studies have only provided “snapshots” in time, however, leaving the overall relationship of active galactic nuclei and star formation unclear, especially over the cosmic history of galaxy formation.

Did you turn off the lights? André was watching

André observing Earth from Cupola
André in Cupola

30 March 2012
Are you turning off the lights in your home this weekend for Earth Hour? ESA astronaut André Kuipers will be watching that you do from the International Space Station.
Earth Hour is a world effort to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change. At 20:30 local time on Saturday, people all over the world will be turning off non-essential lights. World Wide Fund for Nature ambassador André Kuipers and ESA are doing their part.

Night lights
Night lights in Europe

World energy consumption has increased tremendously in recent years. This is strikingly illustrated by the amount of light produced by humans that is visible from space. The animation made from two night-time satellite images shows how much brighter Europe has become in just eighteen years.

Astronauts on the International Space Station have the rare opportunity to see our planet from far above, without boundaries and in its complete beauty. André calls our world ‘Spaceship Earth.’ From space it is clear how beautiful and fragile our planet is.


André took this video of Aurora Australis from the European Cupola module in the Space Station. The beautiful phenomenon is caused by bursts of particles from the Sun pouring down Earth’s magnetic field into the atmosphere.


ESA's magnetic field misssion

To understand auroras, we need to look at Earth in ways that humans cannot. Satellites can look at our atmosphere, ice and land in ways that are impossible with the human eye.

Swarm, a new trio of ESA satellites being launched this year, will track our planet’s magnetic fields. They will provide the best survey yet of the protective magnetic field shielding us from solar winds.

The mission will also offer new insights into Earth’s interior.

ESA is committed to observing Earth from space – our satellites have been sending data to scientists since 1977 to monitor the impact humans are having on the planet’s eco-system.

If André can spare the time from his busy schedule of scientific experiments, he will be taking photos and videos of Earth Hour from space. We are hoping for clear skies on Saturday – unlike some ESA satellites, André cannot see through clouds or beneath Earth’s crust, but he can certainly capture the delicate beauty our planet.


Earth at dusk
Earth at dusk

NASA/ESA Hubble Spies a Spiral Galaxy Edge-on

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the “UFO Galaxy.” NGC 2683 is a spiral galaxy seen almost edge-on, giving it the shape of a classic science fiction spaceship. This is why the astronomers at the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory, Cocoa, Fla., gave it this attention-grabbing nickname.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the "UFO Galaxy." NGC 2683 is a spiral galaxy seen almost edge-on

While a bird’s eye view lets us see the detailed structure of a galaxy (such as this Hubble image of a barred spiral), a side-on view has its own perks. In particular, it gives astronomers a great opportunity to see the delicate dusty lanes of the spiral arms silhouetted against the golden haze of the galaxy’s core. In addition, brilliant clusters of young blue stars shine scattered throughout the disc, mapping the galaxy’s star-forming regions.

Perhaps surprisingly, side-on views of galaxies like this one do not prevent astronomers from deducing their structures. Studies of the properties of the light coming from NGC 2683 suggest that this is a barred spiral galaxy, even though the angle we see it at does not let us see this directly.

This image is produced from two adjacent fields observed in visible and infrared light by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. A narrow strip which appears slightly blurred and crosses most the image horizontally is a result of a gap between Hubble’s detectors. This strip has been patched using images from observations of the galaxy made by ground-based telescopes, which show significantly less detail. The field of view is approximately 6.5 by 3.3 arcminutes.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

NASA/ESA Hubble Anniversary Embroidered Patch

Man and Machine

While Robonaut 2 has been busy testing its technology in microgravity aboard the International Space Station, NASA and General Motors have been working together on the ground to find new ways those technologies can be used.

The two groups began working together in 2007 on Robonaut 2, or R2, which in 2011 became the first humanoid robot in space. NASA and GM now are developing a robotic glove that auto workers and astronauts can wear to perform their respective jobs, while reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries. Officially, it’s called the Human Grasp Assist device, but generally it’s called the K-Glove or Robo-Glove.

In this image, Robonaut and a spacesuit-gloved hand are extended toward each other to demonstrate the collaboration between robots and humans in space.

Image Credit: NASA