Mars500 Crew Enters Orbit Around Red Planet

Mars500 crewmembers testing the Russian Orlan suits before their mission started in early June 2010. Credits: IBMP/ Oleg Voloshin

Mars500 ‘arrives’ in orbit around Mars
ESA Press Release
2 February 2011

The first full-duration simulation of a manned voyage to Mars has reached a major milestone: the ‘spacecraft’ yesterday ‘arrived’ at Mars after 244 days of virtual interplanetary flight. Three crewmembers will ‘land’ on Mars on 12 February and make three sorties onto simulated martian terrain.

Mars500, a pioneering international study of the complex psychological and technical issues that must be tackled for long spaceflights, has been running for more than eight months in hermetically sealed modules imitating a Mars spacecraft at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) in Moscow.


Mars500 Diary: Approaching the Red Planet

Whole Mars500 crew in portrait, September 2010: (clockwise from top left) Sukhrob Kamolov, Romain Charles, Diego Urbina, Yue Wang, Alexandr Smoleevskiy and Alexey Sitev. Credit: ESA

In this 11th Mars500 Mission Diary, Diego Urbina writes about the preparations for the ‘arrival’ at Mars on 1 February and about his feelings now that the action is hotting up.


Cash-Strapped Nations Boost ESA Contributions

ESA Budget Rises to $4B as 14 Nations Boost Contributions
Space News

Fourteen of the European Space Agency’s (ESA)18 member nations have agreed to raise their contributions for 2011 despite public debt concerns that have reached near-crisis levels in some of them, ESA officials said.


Romania to Become 19th ESA Member State


Romania took a step further in its relations with ESA by signing the Accession Agreement to the ESA Convention on 20 January 2011, to become the 19th ESA Member State.

ESA’s ATV-2 Ready for Launch to ISS

ATV-2 Johannes Kepler undergoing preparations. Credits: 2011 ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique Vidéo du CSG / S. Martin


ATV-2 is almost ready for launch on 15 February from Europe’s Spaceport. It will be the heaviest load ever lofted into space by the Ariane 5 rocket, making the 200th flight of the European launcher even more spectacular.

ESA’s latest Automated Transfer Vehicle space ferry, named after the German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, is now fully fuelled, its oxygen tanks are filled and most of the cargo from ESA and NASA is placed inside.


ESA’s Bold New Idea: Audit Arianespace

An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG

ESA Putting Arianespace Finances Under the Microscope
Space News

European governments have ordered a detailed audit of the sources and uses of money at the Arianespace commercial launch consortium and its industrial suppliers as a condition of granting the company’s request for what may be a permanent financial aid package to assure its ongoing financial viability, European government and industry officials said.


Mars500 Update: Darkness on the Edge of Mars

Of emergencies and Christmas trees – an exciting end to 2010
12 January 2011

In the 10th Mars500 Mission Diary, Romain writes about end-of-year excitements in the crew’s spacecraft mockup on their virtual journey to Mars. With almost half the mission completed, the crew is now counting the days to their ‘arrival’ in orbit around the red planet, on 1 February.

During the last few weeks we experienced two major events inside our Mars500 modules. First, an off-nominal situation left us for 20 hours without water, electricity and ventilation during the first two days of December. The second event is merrier: Christmas! Let me share with you how we went through these both.


ESA’s Coming Attractions for 2011


Expected key events of the year (follow the ESA website to get the final dates):


  • Planck early release of compact source catalogue

Release of the first processed data package from Planck’s first full-sky scan, which will help the investigation into the origin of the Universe.
Location: Planétarium. Cité des sciences et de l’industrie (La Villette)
Date : 11 January

  • Director General’s Annual Press Conference

Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain will provide media with a synthesis of the major achievements of 2010 and the key milestones foreseen for 2011.
Location: ESA HQ, Paris
Date: 14 January


Officials Ponder Arianespace’s Future as Consortium Gears Up for Busy 2011

Ariane 5

As Arianespace celebrates a successful year in which it went 6-for-6 with Ariane 5 launches and looks forward to the introduction of the Soyuz and Vega rockets in Guiana later this year, European officials have been trying to figure out how to help the consortium avoid a loss:

Europe’s Arianespace commercial launch consortium on Jan. 4 said revenue for 2010 dropped by about 10 percent compared to 2009 and that the company will report a loss unless it receives requested financial aid from European governments.

The Evry, France-based company conducted six launches of its heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket in 2010, down from seven in 2009, and this is the main reason for the revenue drop, to slightly more than 900 million euros ($1.2 billion), in 2010.


ESA Commitment to ISS Extension Contingent Upon Solving Arianespace Funding Issue

International Space Station

ESA Unable To Secure Commitment to Station Extension
Space News

The European Space Agency (ESA) was unable to win its member governments’ approval of NASA’s proposed five-year extension of operations of the international space station because of an unrelated dispute over financial support for Europe’s Arianespace commercial launch services consortium, ESA and European government officials said….


SpaceX’s Success Gets the Attention of Foreign Space Officials

SpaceX's Falcon 9 on the pad at Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX)
SpaceX's Falcon 9 on the pad at Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX)

SpaceX’s success in launching two Falcon 9 rockets and recovering a Dragon capsule from orbit last year has captured the attention of foreign space officials, who are eager for the services the company can provide and believe that valuable lessons can be learned from how the California-based start-up operates. Simonetta di Pippo, ESA’s director of human spaceflight, said:

“SpaceX certainly got our attention. This is a kind of revolution. We now know they can make it, and so we have to concentrate, on the government side, on new developments. We cannot just stick with our ATV now that the commercial sector is able to do this. Having visited the SpaceX facilities, I am not surprised by their success. But we need to react to it.”


Arianespace Finishes the Year 6-for-6

An Ariane 5 rocket soars into orbit on Dec. 29, 2010. (Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique vidéo du CSG)


This evening, an Ariane 5 launcher lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport on a journey to place two telecommunications satellites, Hispasat-1E and Koreasat-6, into their planned transfer orbits. Flight V199 was the sixth Ariane 5 launch of 2010 and the last of the year.


To Infinity and Beyond! ESA Extends 11 Science Missions

The Venus Express spacecraft. (Credit: ESA)

Nov. 22, 2010

ESA has decided to extend the productive lives of 11 of its operating space science missions. This will enable ESA’s world-class science missions to continue returning pioneering results until at least 2014.

ESA’s Science Programme Committee (SPC) had to make significant decisions at its 18-19 November meeting in Paris: 11 science missions, all of them still working beyond their planned lifetimes, all of them still delivering exceptional science, and yet all coming to the end of their funding.