Spectacular Eruptions of Mt. Etna in Sicily from Space and Earth


Spectacular eruptions from Mt Etna are spewing massive quantities of lava, smoke and ash many hundreds of meters high into the skies above the island of Sicily. Mt Etna is the most active volcano in Europe and one of the most active on all of Earth. The volcano rumbled to life again this week on the evening of January 12, 2011 and lit up the night sky. Mt Etna is 3350 meters high and located on the northeast coast of Sicily near the boot of Italy (see above, below).

Updated: comment or send me your Etna erupting photos/accounts to post below.
This fearsome natural wonder is providing an awe inspiring show from both Earth and Space. Local residents and lucky tourists nearby took stunning videos and photos (below) showing fountains of brilliant lava eruptions streaming mightily from the volcano.

This Envisat MERIS image, acquired on 11 January 2011, shows the plume of smoke billowing into the atmosphere from Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy. Activity gradually increased the following day, peaking in the evening. Credits: ESA
Click to Enlarge all images

Amazing photos from space were captured by Earth orbiting satellites from NASA and ESA. NASA’s Terra satellite took the above image on Jan. 11 as Mt Etna was spewing forth smoke or ash just prior to the volcanic eruptions on Jan. 12. The photo of Etna is NASA’s Earth Observatory Image of the Day, today, Jan. 15, 2011.

ESA’s Envisat likewise snapped a gorgeous view of the billowing plume of smoke rising to space (photo at left) and the international crew aboard the ISS, which currently includes Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Perhaps he’ll send us a shot !

Local news and eyewitness accounts say that tremors from the volcano began increasing on Jan. 11. Emissions of volcanic gases and water vapor have been ongoing since late September 2010. The sounds of explosive tremors from deep inside were also detected months ago.

This sizzling hot video – “Etna at Maximum Activity” – is set to music and records the magnificent flowing streams of lava and the thunderous sounds of the crackling, explosive eruptions. Be sure to view at full screen, then just sit back and enjoy !

Plumes of volcanic ash from the eruptions spread across Sicily and forced the closure of the local Fontanarossa airport – nearby to the city of Catania, which is 24 kilometers away.

Rumblings of Mt Etna have been recorded in historical documents dating back to about 1500 BC.

Another short, dramatic video with the raw sounds of the eruption from a group of German tourists visiting the beautiful city of Taormina, Sicily

Eyewitness Description:
“Mount Etna erupted in the evening of January 12, 2011 for around four hours, providing an amazing scenery. We shot this unique video from Taormina on January 12, 2011 at 11.45 p.m. and uploaded it on YouTube.

On the evening of 11th January 2011 an increase in volcanic tremor was recorded at the summit of the volcano. The recorded seismic activity reached a peak at 7 a.m. on 12th January when the source moved from north of NE crater to the SE crater. The eruption started with strombolian explosive activity at SE crater at around 9.p.m. Lava overflowed the eastern rim of SE crater and fed a flow that moved toward the western wall of the Valle del Bove (Valley of the oxen), an ancient huge uninhabited depression on the NE side of the volcano.

The Sicilian communities near the volcano were not threatened by this latest fascinating eruption. Best place to watch the fascinating eruptions of Mount Etna is the town of Taormina, nestled on a hill at 220 meters / 722 feet above the sea level and at a safe linear distance of approx. 28 Km / 17,4 miles from the top craters of the Sicilian volcano.”

Fearsome lava eruptions spewing from Mt Etna on Jan. 11, 2011

A few years back, I visited Mt Etna and was incredibly lucky to witness this spectacle of nature myself. It was an unforgettable experience to see the glowing red-orange colored lava flowing out from the bowels of the Earth. It was like a living being with circulating blood.

In the excitement, I did something that in retrospect was incredibly stupid. I stood on a ledge, perhaps 50 cm thick, right above the porthole of the scalding hot lava erupting from the earth beneath my feet. Many others did too.

Sicily is a lovely place of manmade and natural wonders. Don’t pass up an opportunity to see Etna aflame

Look at Etnaweb (in Italian, but Universal) for a fantastic collection of local photos and webcams of the eruption.

Volcanic eruptions are breathtaking events to behold. The residual plumes of smoke and ash can stay aloft for many years and can also effect how we see other astronomical events such as our view of solar and lunar eclipses.

For a more tranquil view of Earth and inspiration from Carl Sagan, click here

NASA’s Spirit robot is positioned next to an ancient and extinct volcanic feature on Mars. Learn more here

Can you envision a place hotter than Etna ? … A scorching, molten hellish world where the temperatures are unimaginably hot

Read about a newly detected Earth-sized planet with lava flows vastly hotter than Etna – or anywhere on Earth for that matter – in this story about a historic new discovery from NASA’s Kepler space telescope

Comment or send me your photos and eyewitness accounts of erupting Mt Etna

Signs of activity at the summit of Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano.
Water vapor and other volcanic gases overflow Etna’s summit craters, spilling out over the volcano’s upper slopes. A steam plume rises from a collapse pit that formed in late 2009, the newest volcanic feature on Etna. Dark lava flows from recent eruptions cover the peak, overlaying lighter, weathered flows from hundreds or thousands of years ago. (Numbers on the image indicate when a flow was erupted.) The oldest lavas are covered by green vegetation. Eruptive cones and fissures also dot the landscape. Frequent explosions deep within the Northeast Crater, which may presage an upcoming eruption, are audible at the summit. These explosions were occurring sporadically every few minutes, as recorded by nearby seismometers. This natural-color satellite image was acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard (EO-1) on September 26, 2010.
Mt Etna photographed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station on August, 2, 2006.
One of the most consistently active volcanoes in the world, Sicily’s Mount Etna has a historical record of eruptions dating back to 1500 BC. This astronaut photograph captures plumes of steam and possibly ash originating from summit craters on the mountain: the Northeast Crater and Central Crater, which includes two secondary craters (Voragine and Bocca Nuova). Locals heard explosions coming from the rim of the Northeast Crater on July 26, 2006, and the plumes shown in this image are likely a continuation of that activity. Credit: NASA.

Great View! January 4 Solar Eclipse As Seen From Space

Here’s a unique view of the January 4 partial solar eclipse: ESA’s sun-watching microsatellite Proba-2 captured the conjunction of the spheres as the Sun, Moon and Earth all lined up in front of it. Shortly after the Moon partially blocked Proba-2’s view of the Sun, the satellite flew into Earth’s shadow. At that point – when the video seen here goes dark – the Sun, Moon, Earth and Proba-2 were all on the same line in space.

“This is a notable event,” said Bogdan Nicula of the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB), who calculated where and when this double-eclipse would happen. “It is a nice exercise to model the orbit and relative positions of all three celestial bodies.”
Continue reading “Great View! January 4 Solar Eclipse As Seen From Space”

Highlights of 2010 from the European Space Agency

It has been another great year in space, and the European Space Agency has put together a video highlight reel for 2010. They look at the achievements in different areas, including Earth Observation, Science, Human Spaceflight and Telecommunications. From the launch of Cryosat to the Planck sky scan, from Node 3 Cupola completing the ISS to Paolo Nespoli launching on the Soyuz to the ISS, from the Rosetta flyby of asteroid Lutetia to the launch of Hylas providing broadband for Europe.

Melas Chasma: The Deepest Abyss on Mars


Melas Chasma is part of the huge Valles Marineris that cuts into the middle of Mars surface, making it a pretty interesting place: there is abundant evidence for water having flowed here, with ancient water-cut channels visible even from orbit. Also visible are landslides that have created huge fans of rubble at the base of the cliffs. These newest images from ESA’s Mars Express show Melas Chasma, which sinks 9 km below the surrounding surface, making it one of the lowest depressions on the planet. This is just a small part of the bigger Valles Marineris, which stretches for more than 4,000 km across the surface of Mars. Around Melas Chasma, there are lighter-coloured deposits of sulphate components that were probably deposited in a former lake.

Melas Chasma stretches for more than 4000 km across the face of Mars. Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

These images were captured in 2006 and just released by the Mars Express team. See more details and images at the ESA website.

Planck, XMM Newton Find New Galaxy Supercluster


Scanning the sky in microwaves, the Planck mission has obtained its very first images of galaxy clusters, and found a previously unknown supercluster which is among one of the largest objects in the Universe. The supercluster is having an effect on the Cosmic Microwave Background, and the observed distortions of the CMB spectrum are used to detect the density perturbations of the universe, using what is called the Sunyaev–Zel’dovich effect (SZE). This is the first time that a supercluster has been discovered using the SZE. In a collaborative effort, the XMM Newton spacecraft has confirmed the find in X-rays.

Sunyaev-Zel’dovich Effect (SZE) effect describes the change of energy experienced by CMB photons when they encounter a galaxy cluster as they travel towards us, in the process imprinting a distinctive signature on the CMB itself. The SZE represents a unique tool to detect galaxy clusters, even at high redshift. Planck is able to look across nine different microwave frequencies (from 30 to 857 GHz) to remove all sources of contamination from the CMB, and over time, will provide what is hoped to be the sharpest image of the early Universe ever.

“As the fossil photons from the Big Bang cross the Universe, they interact with the matter that they encounter: when travelling through a galaxy cluster, for example, the CMB photons scatter off free electrons present in the hot gas that fills the cluster,” said Nabila Aghanim of the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale in Orsay, France, a leading member of the group of Planck scientists investigating SZE clusters and secondary anisotropies. “These collisions redistribute the frequencies of photons in a particular way that enables us to isolate the intervening cluster from the CMB signal.”

Since the hot electrons in the cluster are much more energetic than the CMB photons, interactions between the two typically result in the photons being scattered to higher energies. This means that, when looking at the CMB in the direction of a galaxy cluster, a deficit of low-energy photons and a surplus of more energetic ones is observed.

The SZE signal from the newly discovered supercluster arises from the sum of the signal from the three individual clusters, with a possible additional contribution from an inter-cluster filamentary structure. This provides important clues about the distribution of gas on very large scales which is, in turn, crucial also for tracing the underlying distribution of dark matter.

These images of the Coma cluster (also known as Abell 1656), a very hot and nearby cluster of galaxies, show how it appears through the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich Effect (top left) and X-ray emission (top right). Copyright: Planck image: ESA/ LFI & HFI Consortia; ROSAT image: Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik; DSS image: NASA, ESA, and the Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble)

“The XMM-Newton observations have shown that one of the candidate clusters is in fact a supercluster composed of at least three individual, massive clusters of galaxies, which Planck alone could not have resolved,” said Monique Arnaud, who leads the Planck group following up sources with XMM-Newton.

“This is the first time that a supercluster has been discovered via the SZE,” said Aghanim. “This important discovery opens a brand new window on superclusters, one which complements the observations of the individual galaxies therein.”

Superclusters are large assemblies of galaxy groups and clusters, located at the intersections of sheets and filaments in the wispy cosmic web. As clusters and superclusters trace the distribution of both luminous and dark matter throughout the Universe, their observation is crucial to probe how cosmic structures formed and evolved.

The first Planck all-sky survey began in mid-August 2009 and was completed in June 2010. Planck will continue to gather data until the end of 2011, during which time it will complete over four all-sky scans.

The Planck team is currently analyzing the data from the first all-sky survey to identify both known and new galaxy clusters for the early Sunyaev-Zel’dovich catalogue, which will be released in January of 2011.

Source: ESA

Weird Crater on Mars is a Mystery


This is one of the strangest looking craters ever found on Mars, and this platypus-tail-shaped depression, called Orcus Patera, is an enigma. The term ‘patera’ is used for complex or irregularly shaped volcanic craters, but planetary scientists aren’t sure if this landform is volcanic in origin. Orcus Patera lies between the volcanoes of Elysium Mons and Olympus Mons, but its formation remains a mystery. This is the latest image of the object, taken by ESA’s Mars Express.

It could be an impact crater that originally was round, but then subsequently deformed by compressional forces. Or, it could have formed from two craters next to each where the adjoining rims eroded. However, the most likely explanation is that it was made in an oblique impact, when a small body struck the surface at a very shallow angle.

Relief image of Orcus Patera. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

It is 380 km long by by 140 km wide, and has a rim that rises up to 1,800 meters above the surrounding plains, while the floor of the depression lies 400–600 m below the surroundings. The floor of the depression is unusually smooth.

The image above was created using a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) obtained from the High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft. Elevation data from the DTM are color-coded: purple indicates the lowest-lying regions, and beige the higher elevations. The scale is in meters.

Source: ESA

Instruments Chosen for Joint ESA/NASA Mission to Mars


From a NASA press release:

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working on a joint program to explore Mars in the coming decades and announced today they have selected five science instruments for the first mission. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, scheduled to launch in 2016, is the first of three joint robotic missions to the Red Planet. It will study the chemical makeup of the Martian atmosphere with a 1000-fold increase in sensitivity over previous Mars orbiters. The mission will focus on trace gases, including methane, which could be potentially geochemical or biological in origin and be indicators for the existence of life on Mars. The mission also will serve as an additional communications relay for Mars surface missions beginning in 2018.

“Independently, NASA and ESA have made amazing discoveries up to this point,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Working together, we’ll reduce duplication of effort, expand our capabilities and see results neither ever could have achieved alone.”

The selection of the instruments begins the first phase of the new NASA-ESA alliance for future ventures to Mars. The instruments and the principal investigators are:

— Mars Atmosphere Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer — A spectrometer designed to detect very low concentrations of the molecular components of the Martian atmosphere: Paul Wennberg, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena Calif.
— High Resolution Solar Occultation and Nadir Spectrometer — A spectrometer designed to detect traces of the components of the Martian atmosphere and to map where they are on the surface: Ann C. Vandaele, Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, Brussels, Belgium.
— ExoMars Climate Sounder — An infrared radiometer that provides daily global data on dust, water vapor and other materials to provide the context for data analysis from the spectrometers: John Schofield, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.
— High Resolution Color Stereo Imager — A camera that provides four-color stereo imaging at a resolution of two million pixels over an 8.5 km swath: Alfred McEwen, University of Arizona.
— Mars Atmospheric Global Imaging Experiment — A wide-angle, multi-spectral camera to provide global images of Mars in support of the other instruments: Bruce Cantor, Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, Calif.

The science teams on all the instruments have broad international participation from Europe and the United States, with important hardware contributions from Canada and Switzerland.

“To fully explore Mars, we want to marshal all the talents we can on Earth,” said David Southwood, ESA director for Science and Robotic Exploration. “Now NASA and ESA are combining forces for the joint ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter mission. Mapping methane allows us to investigate further that most important of questions: Is Mars a living planet, and if not, can or will it become so in the future?”

The plan consists of two Mars cooperative missions in 2016 and 2018, and a later joint sample return mission. The 2016 mission features the European-built ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a European-built small lander demonstrator, a primarily-U.S. international science payload, and NASA-provided launch vehicle and communications components. ESA member states will provide additional instrument support.

The 2018 mission consists of a European rover with a drilling capability, a NASA rover capable of caching selected samples for potential future return to Earth, a NASA landing system, and a NASA launch vehicle. These activities are designed to serve as the foundation of a cooperative program to increase science returns and move the agencies toward a joint Mars sample return mission in the 2020s.

Cryosat-2 Set to Launch Next Week

The ESA  has scheduled the launch of Cryosat-2 for February 25th aboard a Russian Dnepr rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. This is the second attempt at launching the Earth-observing satellite that’s tasked with monitoring global ice thickness. The initial launch of Cryosat on October 8th, 2005 failed due to an anomaly of the launch sequence.

Other Earth-observing satellites have taken measurements of the ice thickness near the poles, but Cryosat-2 will be the first such satellite completely dedicated to monitoring ice thickness variations, and will keep tabs on the decline of sea ice, which in the Arctic has been shown to have shrunk 2.7% per decade since 1978.

The first Cryosat mission was initially destined to become the first of the ESA’s Earth Explorer satellites. The other two – Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) and Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) – are currently in orbit.

Cryosat-2 will have a highly inclined polar orbit, and will reach 88 degrees north and south, so as to maximize the amount of observations of the Earth’s poles. The instruments aboard the satellite will be able to monitor the thickness changes in both sea ice and land ice with an accuracy of one centimeter. This will give scientists an unprecedented amount of data to work with to study how Arctic and Antarctic ice changes impact climate change, and vice versa.

The instrument aboard Cryosat-2 that will be measuring ice thickness is the SAR/Interferometric Radar Altimeter (SIRAL). This is a an altimeter and interferometer that operates in the Ku-band (13.575 GHz), and uses radar signals bounced off the ice to measure its thickness variations.

Cryosat-2 also has two other instruments to determine its position with a high amount of accuracy, the Doppler Orbit and Radio Positioning Integration by Satellite (DORIS) and Laser Retro-Reflector (LRR). DORIS detects and measures the Doppler shift of signals broadcast from a network of radio beacons spread around the world to give the velocity of the satellite relative to the Earth.

The LRR instrument will complement and help calibrate DORIS. The LRR is a small laser retroreflector that is attached to the underside of the satellite, and lasers from a network of tracking stations will be fired at the satellite. By measuring the interval between the firing of the laser and the return of the pulse, the position of the satellite can be measured very accurately.

The mission has a three-year lifespan, with a potential for a two-year extension. Cryosat-2 is currently nestled safely inside the Dnepr rocket’s protective fairing, and in the next nine days the satellite will be integrated into the rest of the launcher and moved out to the launch pad.

Source: ESA

Mars 2016 Methane Orbiter: Searching for Signs of Life


The new joint Mars exploration program of NASA and ESA is quickly pushing forward to implement an agreed upon framework to construct an ambitious new generation of red planet orbiters and landers starting with the 2016 and 2018 launch windows.

The European-led ExoMars Trace Gas Mission Orbiter (TGM) has been selected as the first spacecraft of the joint initiative and is set to launch in January 2016 aboard a NASA supplied Atlas 5 rocket for a 9 month cruise to Mars. The purpose is to study trace gases in the martian atmosphere, in particular the sources and concentration of methane which has significant biological implications. Variable amounts of methane have been detected by a martian orbiter and ground based telescopes on earth. The orbiter will likely be accompanied by a small static lander provided by ESA and dubbed the Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM).

The NASA Mars Program is shifting its science strategy to coincide with the new joint venture with ESA and also to build upon recent discoveries from the current international fleet of martian orbiters and surface explorers Spirit, Opportunity and Phoenix (see my earlier mars mosaics). Doug McCuiston, NASA’s director of Mars Exploration at NASA HQ told me in an interview that, “NASA is progressing quickly from ‘Follow the Water’ through assessing habitability and on to a theme of ‘Seeking the Signs of Life’. Looking directly for life is probably a needle in the haystack, but the signatures of past or present life may be more wide spread through organics, methane sources, etc”.

NASA and ESA will issue an “Announcement of Opportunity for the orbiter in January 2010” soliciting proposals for a suite of science instruments according to McCuiston. “The science instruments will be competitively selected. They are open to participation by US scientists who can also serve as the Principal Investigators (PI’s)”. Proposals are due in 3 months and will be jointly evaluated by NASA and ESA. Instrument selections are targeted for announcement in July 2010 and the entire cost of the NASA funded instruments is cost capped at $100 million.

Mars Trace Gas Mission orbiter slated for 2016 launch is the first spacecraft in the new ESA & NASA Mars Exploration Joint Initiative. Credit: NASA ESA
Mars Trace Gas Mission orbiter slated for 2016 launch is the first spacecraft in the new ESA & NASA Mars Exploration Joint Initiative. Credit: NASA ESA

“The 2016 mission must still be formally approved by NASA after a Preliminary Design Review, which will occur either in late 2010 or early 2011. Funding until then is covered in the Mars Program’s Next Decade wedge, where all new-start missions reside until approved, or not, by the Agency”, McCuiston told me. ESA’s Council of Ministers just gave the “green light” and formally approved an initial budget of 850 million euros ($1.2 Billion) to start implementing their ExoMars program for the 2016 and 2018 missions on 17 December at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France. Another 150 million euros will be requested within two years to complete the funding requirement for both missions.

ESA has had to repeatedly delay its own ExoMars spacecraft program since it was announced several years ago due to growing complexity, insufficient budgets and technical challenges resulting in a de-scoping of the science objectives and a reduction in weight of the landed science payload. The ExoMars rover was originally scheduled to launch in 2009 and is now set for 2018 as part of the new architecture.

The Trace Gas orbiter combines elements of ESA’s earlier proposed ExoMars orbiter and NASA’s proposed Mars Science Orbiter. As currently envisioned the spacecraft will have a mass of about 1100 kg and carry a roughly 115 kg science payload, the minimum deemed necessary to accomplish its goals. The instruments must be highly sensitive in order to be capable of detecting the identity and extremely low concentration of atmospheric trace gases, characterizing the spatial and temporal variation of methane and other important species, locating the source origin of the trace gases and determining if they are caused by biologic or geologic processes. Current photochemical models cannot explain the presence of methane in the martain atmosphere nor its rapid appearance and destruction in space, time or quantity.

An Atlas rocket similar to this vehicle I observed at Cape Canaveral Pad 41 is projected to launch the 2016 Mars orbiter. Credit: Ken Kremer
An Atlas rocket similar to this vehicle I observed at Cape Canaveral Pad 41 is projected to launch the 2016 Mars orbiter. Credit: Ken Kremer

Among the instruments planned are a trace gas detector and mapper, a thermal infrared imager and both a wide angle camera and a high resolution stereo color camera (1 – 2 meter resolution). “All the data will be jointly shared and will comply with NASA’s policies on fully open access and posting into the Planetary Data System”, said McCuiston.
Another key objective of the orbiter will be to establish a data relay capability for all surface missions up to 2022, starting with 2016 lander and two rovers slotted for 2018. This timeframe could potentially coincide with Mars Sample Return missions, a long sought goal of many scientists.

If the budget allows, ESA plans to piggyback a small companion lander (EDM) which would test critical technologies for future missions. McCuiston informed me that, “The objective of this ESA Technology Demonstrator is validating the ability to land moderate payloads, so the landing site selection will not be science-driven. So expect something like Meridiani or Gusev—large, flat and safe. NASA will assist ESA engineering as requested, and within ITAR constraints.” EDM will use parachutes, radar and clusters of pulsing liquid propulsion thrusters to land.

“ESA plans a competitive call for instruments on their 3-4 kg payload”, McCuiston explained. “The Announcement of Opportunity will be open to US proposers as well so there may be some US PI’s. ESA wants a camera to ‘prove’ they got to the ground. Otherwise there is no significant role planned for NASA in the EDM”.

The lander would likely function as a weather station and be relatively short lived, perhaps 8 Sols or martian days, depending on the capacity of the batteries. ESA is not including a long term power source, such as from solar arrays, so the surface science will thus be limited in duration.

The orbiter and lander would separate upon arrival at Mars. The orbiter will use a series of aerobraking maneuvers to eventually settle into a 400 km high circular science orbit inclined at about 74 degrees.

The joint Mars architecture was formally agreed upon last summer at a bilateral meeting between Ed Weiler (NASA) and David Southwood (ESA) in Plymouth, UK. Weiler is NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate and Southwood is ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration. They signed an agreement creating the Mars Exploration Joint Initiative (MEJI) which essentially weds the Mars programs of NASA and ESA and delineates their respective program responsibilities and goals.

“The key to moving forward on Mars exploration is international collaboration with Europe”, Weiler said to me in an interview. “We don’t have enough money to do these missions separately. The easy things have been done and the new ones are more complex and expensive. Cost overruns on Mars Science Lab (MSL) have created budgetary problems for future mars missions”. To pay for the MSL overrun, funds have to be taken from future mars budget allocations from fiscal years 2010 to 2014.

“2016 is a logical starting point to work together. NASA can have a 2016 mission if we work with Europe but not if we work alone. We can do so much more by working together since we both have the same objectives scientifically and want to carry out the same types of mission”. Weiler and Southwood instructed their respective science teams to meet and lay out a realistic and scientifically justifiable approach. Weiler explained to me that his goal and hope was to reinstate an exciting Mars architecture with new spacecraft launching at every opportunity which occurs every 26 months and which advance the state of the art for science. “It’s very important to demonstrate a critical new technology on each succeeding mission”.

More on the 2018 mission plan and beyond in a follow up report.

Mars from orbit.  Valles Marineris and Volcanic region
Mars from orbit. Valles Marineris and Volcanic region

Explore the Universe with [email protected]


If you’re looking for some superb space and astronomy vodcasts, ESA has produced a series of informative video podcasts that explore our Universe as seen through the “eyes” of ESA’s fleet of science spacecraft. “The [email protected] podcast series was started as part of an education and public outreach project for the International Year of Astronomy,” said Dr. Salim Ansari, from ESA’s Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration, “but it will continue on past IYA, continuing to cover more missions and discoveries.”

The series is a high quality video podcast with HD graphics and stunning visuals. Ansari said the production all done in house.

“One of my favorites is actually the first podcast that shows how with our eyes we see just a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum,” Ansari said. “But we demonstrate how the different spacecraft can provide insight across the whole spectrum.”
ESA podcast screenshot.
Other podcasts delve into specifics of the electromagnetic spectrum that will be explored by the new Planck (microwave) and Herschel (infrared) spacecraft, to learning about the Gaia galaxy mapper mission that will determine the position of a billion stars.

A new 7th podcast will be released next week that introduces the solar system as seen by the Venus Express, Mars Express, Rosetta, Cassini-Huygens, SoHO and Cluster.

See the [email protected] page for a complete list of podcasts.