On our 12th week, we arrived at ESA, the European Space Agency. It was tons of fun. Although some of us were jet lagged and there was plenty of yawning during classes, the casual, permissive atmosphere was quite heartening and laid out their content and method of training for all the crews. The photography crews got free range of the facility, the training hall and inside the modules of Columbus, the module of the old ATV and the Russian module. Are these names new to you? - No worries. I’ll explain each module - all in good time.
Our team of guides is highly impressive. Some of them are experiment operators, others manage the communication with the astronauts, mainly the European astronauts. Everything is done in English, with a French, or German, or Italian, or Russian accent. International Station, indeed. We were given some general information about the Columbus, and in more detail we learned about each and every laboratory installed within it.
Finally, after we passed the tests, we were treated to a tour of the moon and hovering around the Space Station in an exquisitely-designed virtual reality system.
In the evening we strolled the streets of Koln, its Christmas markets, with the sweet smells and treats, the barbecued delicacies and of course beer and warm sweet wine, which at least enabled us to keep our hands warm.
I stayed behind for one day for personal training on the experiments I will be carrying out there with ice cubes.
Terms from Outer Space:
5 words about a module - a replaceable, autonomous component
104 words about Columbus - a scientific laboratory, which is part of the International Space Station. It was built in Turin, Italy by Thales Alenia Space, was transported to the Kennedy Space Center and launched on the Atlantis Space shuttle on February 7, 2008. Its “end of life” was expected in 2018, but in the meantime it’s still hanging in there. The laboratory is controlled from the Columbus Control Center in Germany, near the German Space Science Center - this is the largest single contribution of the European Space Agency to the Space Station, worth approximately two billion USD, which were invested in building the module and operating it.
152 words on the ATV - the Automated Transfer Vehicle this is a robotic supply spacecraft, designed to be launched once very 17 months. (Between 2008 and 2015 there have been five successful launches). Advanced technologies have enabled it to navigate on its own in space and to dock with the International Space Station - all automatically. It was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. It has a special pressurized compartment, which served as a temporary extension of the Space Station. At the end of its life it was converted into a giant trash bin, disengaged, disintegrated and burned up with its contents on re-entry.
The ATV’s missions were controlled from the ATV control center (CST) in Toulouse, France, with communication support from the Columbus Control Center in Germany, via the American TDRSS system and the European Artemis system, and in coordination with NASA in Houston, and with the Russian Space Agency in Moscow.
75 words on the Russian modules (MKC) - these are modules and spaces that make up part of the International Space Station and which belong to the Russian Space Corporation Roscosmos. They are Space Station pioneers - the first parts of the Station were built by them. Over the years the Russians have sent up seven modules. The first, the old Zaria cargo module (November 1998) and the last, the universal nodal module Prichal connected with the Space Station on July 29, 2021.
62 words about Ice Cubes - this is one of the private laboratories already on the International Space Station. It is used for various research tasks. Numerous experimental blocks can be assembled there concurrently, providing researchers on Earth with remote access to each experiment. In January, a GoPro camera is going to be installed on this laboratory, which will enable beaming of live video in real-time to Earth.
Want to find out a bit more about the various Space Agencies and their logos? - more on that in another post.