In the 1990s, a photo taken by the probe Voyager showed the Earth as a small island right in the middle of an infinite black ocean 6 billion kilometres away. A ‘Blue Marble’ turned into a ‘Pale Blue Dot’ and initiated a public discourse about a sustainable handling of our resources. Therefore, ‘Blue Dot – Shaping the Future’ became the title of the mission of Alexander Gerst’s space flight. From 28 May to 10 November 10, 2014 the ESA Astronaut fascinated the German public with his live-impressions from the International Space Station (ISS). Simultaneously, the project ‘Columbus Eye – Live-Imagery from the ISS in Schools’ established a learning portal on earth observation from the ISS (www.columbuseye.uni-bonn.de). The portal makes use of NASA’s High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment which features four cameras observing the earth 24/7. Columbus Eye is carried out at the University of Bonn and sponsored by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Space Administration. The main goal of Columbus Eye is to enable children to observe our planet from the astronaut’s perspective while applying professional remote sensing analysis tools. During the IAC 2014, we published a concept on how the fascination of technology and environment should be bundled in order to ignite the pupil’s interest on spaceflight and earth observation. Following up on this, in 2015 we are proud to present the implementations of this concept: the HDEV archive and, even more important, the observatory. While the archive provides spectacular footage of e.g. the Mediterranean Sea, the Himalaya, and sunrises available for everybody, the observatory was specifically constructed for pupils and teachers. Here, it is possible to learn about processes and phenomena of the coupled human- environment system in an interactive manner. The pupils can conduct easy-to-use image processing analyses on their own. In doing so, they get the opportunity to derive a map out of an HDEV image and hence turn a continuous spatial texture into a discrete spatial pattern of land uses. The presentation explains how teachers can be taught to apply the Columbus Eye learning tools in their everyday school lessons. Additionally, we present the next mission of the project: HDEV videos will be edited in order to perceive them in virtual reality. Witnessing geospatial analysis turns into experience and enters our understanding.
Adaptive optics correction into single mode fiber for a low Earth orbiting space to ground optical communication link using the OPALS downlink
An adaptive optics (AO) testbed was integrated to the Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) ground station telescope at the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory (OCTL) as part of the free space laser communications experiment with the flight system on board the International Space Station (ISS). Atmospheric turbulence induced aberrations on the optical downlink were adaptively corrected during an overflight of the ISS so that the transmitted laser signal could be efficiently coupled into a single mode fiber continuously. A stable output Strehl ratio of around 0.6 was demonstrated along with the recovery of a 50 Mbps encoded high definition (HD) video transmission from the ISS at the output of the single mode fiber. This proof of concept demonstration validates multi-Gbps optical downlinks from fast slewing low-Earth orbiting (LEO) spacecraft to ground assets in a manner that potentially allows seamless space to ground connectivity for future high data-rates network.
Survival of Antarctic Cryptoendolithic Fungi in Simulated Martian Conditions On Board the International Space Station
Dehydrated Antarctic cryptoendolithic communities and colonies of the rock inhabitant black fungi Cryomyces antarcticus (CCFEE 515) and Cryomyces minteri (CCFEE 5187) were exposed as part of the Lichens and Fungi Experiment (LIFE) for 18 months in the European Space Agency’s EXPOSE-E facility to simulated martian conditions aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Upon sample retrieval, survival was proved by testing colony-forming ability, and viability of cells (as integrity of cell membrane) was determined by the propidium monoazide (PMA) assay coupled with quantitative PCR tests. Although less than 10% of the samples exposed to simulated martian conditions were able to proliferate and form colonies, the PMA assay indicated that more than 60% of the cells and rock communities had remained intact after the "Mars exposure." Furthermore, a high stability of the DNA in the cells was demonstrated. The results contribute to assessing the stability of resistant microorganisms and biosignatures on the surface of Mars, data that are valuable information for further search-for-life experiments on Mars.
Viability of the lichen Xanthoria elegans and its symbionts after 18 months of space exposure and simulated Mars conditions on the ISS
The lichen Xanthoria elegans has been exposed to space conditions and simulated Mars-analogue conditions in the lichen and fungi experiment (LIFE) on the International Space Station (ISS). After several simulations and short space exposure experiments such as BIOPAN, this was the first long-term exposure of eukaryotic organisms to the hostile space conditions of the low Earth orbit (LEO). The biological samples were integrated in the EXPOSE-E facility and exposed for 1.5 years outside the ISS to the combined impact of insolation, ultraviolet (UV)-irradiation, cosmic radiation, temperatures and vacuum conditions of LEO space. Additionally, a subset of X. elegans samples was exposed to simulated Martian environmental conditions by applying Mars-analogue atmosphere and suitable solar radiation filters. After their return to Earth the viability of the lichen samples was ascertained by viability analysis of LIVE/DEAD staining and confocal laser-scanning microscopy, but also by analyses of chlorophyll a fluorescence. According to the LIVE/DEAD staining results, the lichen photobiont showed an average viability rate of 71%, whereas the even more resistant lichen mycobiont showed a rate of 84%. Post-exposure viability rates did not significantly vary among the applied exposure conditions. This remarkable viability is discussed in the context of particular protective mechanisms of lichens such as anhydrobiosis and UV-screening pigments.
This paper will explore the opportunities and challenges in developing the commercial market in LEO through the ISS program and all its facets, including operations, mission support activities, utilization, and contracting. The role of NASA-funded research in the vertical translation of basic research in space to practical application in the market or to other government service agencies will also be addressed. Other aspects, including government regulation, investment and tax incentives, and possible roles of various government agencies will also be explored. Of particular importance, the role of private industry, currently in the supply business, in the development of the demand for LEO capabilities and services beyond the federal government will be highlighted. In conclusion, this paper will address the prospects in reaching the goal of commercializing LEO starting from where we are today in human spaceflight and the International Space Station.
Observation of radiation environment in the International Space Station in 2012–March 2013 by Liulin-5 particle telescope
Since June 2007 the Liulin-5 charged particle telescope, located in the spherical tissue-equivalent phantom of the MATROSHKA-R project onboard the International Space Station (ISS), has been making measurements of the local energetic particle radiation environment. From 27 December 2011 to 09 March 2013 measurements were conducted in and outside the phantom located in the MIM1 module of the ISS. In this paper Liulin-5 dose rates, due to galactic cosmic rays and South Atlantic Anomaly trapped protons, measured during that period are presented. Particularly, dose rates and particle fluxes for the radiation characteristics in the phantom during solar energetic particle (SEP) events occurring in March and May 2012 are discussed. Liulin-5 SEP observations are compared with other ISS data, GOES proton fluxes as well as with solar energetic particle measurements obtained onboard the Mir space station during previous solar cycles.
A reliable radiation risk assessment in space is a mandatory step for the development of countermeasures and long-duration mission planning in human spaceflight. Research in radiobiology provides information about possible risks linked to radiation. In addition, for a meaningful risk evaluation, the radiation exposure has to be assessed to a sufficient level of accuracy. Consequently, both the radiation models predicting the risks and the measurements used to validate such models must have an equivalent precision. Corresponding measurements can be performed both with passive and active devices. The former is easier to handle, cheaper, lighter, and smaller but they measure neither the time dependence of the radiation environment nor some of the details useful for a comprehensive radiation risk assessment. Active detectors provide most of these details and have been extensively used in the International Space Station. To easily access such an amount of data, a single point access is becoming essential. This review presents an ongoing work on the development of a tool that allows obtaining information about all relevant measurements performed with active detectors providing reliable inputs for radiation model validation.
Complex Plasma Research under Microgravity Conditions: PK-3 Plus Laboratory on the International Space Station
Complex (dusty) plasmas are composed of weakly ionised gas and charged microparticles and represent the plasma state of soft matter. Due to the ”heavy” component — the microparticles — and the low density of the surrounding medium, the rarefied gas and plasma, it is necessary to perform experiments under microgravity conditions to cover a broad range of experimental parameters which are not available on ground. The investiga- tions have been performed onboard the International Space Station (ISS) with the help of the ”Plasma Crystal-3 Plus” (PK-3 Plus) laboratory. It was perfectly suited for the formation of large stable liquid and crystalline sys- tems and provided interesting insights into processes like crystallisation and melting, laning in binary mixtures, electrorheological effects due to ac electric fields and projectile interaction with a strongly coupled complex plasma cloud.
We present here an observation of the Cygnus Superbubble (CSB) using the Solid-state slit camera (SSC) aboard the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI). The CSB is a large diffuse structure in the Cygnus region with enhanced soft X-ray emission. By utilizing the CCD spectral resolution of the SSC, we detected Fe, Ne, Mg emission lines from the CSB for the first time. The best-fit model implies a thin hot plasma of kT 0.3 keV with a depleted abundance of 0.26 ̇ 0.1 solar. Joint spectrum fittings of the ROSAT/PSPC data and MAXI/SSC data enabled us to measure precise values of NH and the temperature inside the CSB. The results show that all of the regions in the CSB have a similar NH and temperature, indicating that the CSB is a single unity. An energy budgets calculation suggests that (2–3) 106 yr of stellar wind from the Cyg OB2 is sufficient to power up the CSB, whereas due to its off-center position, the origin of the CSB is most likely to be a Hypernova.
For over two decades nighttime satellite imagery from the Operational Linescan System (OLS) has been used to detect impervious surfaces. However, OLS-based maps suffer from the sensor’s coarse resolution (2.7 km/pixel), overglow, and saturation in urban areas, resulting in inaccurate estimates of the extent and degree of impervious surfaces. In order to provide more reliable estimates of impervious surface extent, we used high resolution (~10 m/pixel) nighttime photography from the International Space Station (ISS). Focusing on the city of Berlin in Germany, we produced a map of the extent of impervious surfaces. Our classification was 85% accurate for both user and producer measures. Impervious surfaces omitted by ISS photography were mainly transit roads and airport runways, while green areas and water bodies within the city were falsely identified. An analysis based on ISS imagery classified 55.7% of the study area as impervious, which is only 3.9% less than ground truth (while the OLS-based estimate was 40% higher than ground truth). ISS imagery failed to provide reliable information about the degree of imperviousness for individual pixels (±20% errors); nevertheless it accurately estimated the spatially-averaged degree of imperviousness for the whole study area (30.2% vs. the reference value of 30.1%). These results show that ISS photography is an important source of nighttime imagery for mapping the extent of impervious surfaces, and represents a considerable improvement over OLS capabilities.