From European Space Agency: “Recreating space on Earth – two facilities join ESA’s platforms for spaceflight research”

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From European Space Agency

6 February 2019

Science is everywhere but opportunities to carry out research in space can be limited. To combat this, ESA works with institutes across Europe to maintain a network of ground-based facilities that recreate aspects of spaceflight.

From radiation to weightlessness, isolation and a lack of Earthly comforts, astronauts and robots on missions far from home face many challenges in space.

To help mitigate these, two new facilities have been added to Europe’s roster of places where researchers can apply to run spaceflight experiments on Earth with ESA.

New opportunities for young researchers. Released 06/02/2019 ESA–G. Porter

Random Positioning Machine Simulates martian Gravity

In Toulouse, France, the Scientific Group of Space Biology and Medicine with support from France’s space agency CNES has a number of instruments that can recreate microgravity for plant experiments. One of these is a random positioning machine that moves its experiment along all axes as it rotates, turning it upside-down and left-to-right for long periods of time.

Multigen Arabidopsis. Released 04/07/2016 . Copyright ESA

Charles Darwin first described how plant stems grow in a corkscrew fashion, but how it happens was unclear. The Multigen experiment on the International Space Station showed in 2007 it is driven by an interplay of light and gravity driving cell signals in the plants. The Aradopsis plants were grown in ESA’s European Modular Cultivation System – a miniature greenhouse to probe how plants grow in weightlessness.

On average, over weeks or months, the effect of gravity negates to zero allowing researchers to study how plants grow in and react to different levels of gravity.
The facility in Toulouse also has a low-level radiation generator that bombards cells with similar levels of radiation levels to those that plants would receive on Mars or in Earth orbit. These kinds of plant-based experiments are paving the way for greenhouses in space and could see astronauts harvest their own food during long missions away from Earth.

Space simulation facilities in Germany

The second new addition comes from the German aerospace center DLR where Planetary Space Simulation Facilities focus on how biological and chemical materials react to spaceflight.
DLR facilities enable cells and particles to be exposed to ultra-high vacuum, gas compositions, extreme temperatures, UV radiation and x-rays, helping researchers better prepare their experiment or hardware for the realities of spaceflight.

Planetary and space simulation facilities
Released 06/02/2019 11:38 am
Copyright DLR

The fully equipped and monitored Planetary and Space Simulation facilities allow a broad range of tests with biological and chemical material individually or integrated into space hardware. The equipment can simulate ultra high vacuum, gas compositions, low and high temperature limits, temperature oscillations, extraterrestrial UV radiation and x-ray.
The analysis of these exposure tests contribute to a deeper under-standing of the individual and synergistic effects of space with the exposed material. In this way they support the design optimisation and verification of spacecraft devices and the selection of the most promising biological candidates and chemical compositions for flight experiments in low Earth orbit or other space destinations.

“As with any expedition, preparing and testing equipment is key to successful exploration,” says Jennifer Ngo-Anh head of ESA’s human spaceflight research team, “the better prepared we are for the extreme environments humans and robots must face as we explore our Universe, the better the outcome of the missions.

“We offer researchers state-of-the-art facilities all over Europe and beyond our planet to carry out experiments and increase knowledge of our world. I am very happy to include these two sites in the roster with our partners and hope to see more ground-breaking research projects in the future.”

European researchers can apply to run their experiment through ESA’s continuously open research announcements here.

See the full article here .

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The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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