ESA Bulletin 147 (August 2011)
31 August 2011
Twenty-five years of comet science, satellite communications for air traffic management, and robotic operations controlled from orbit.
This month’s Bulletin cover shows a Soyuz launcher at Europe’s Spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana. The launch site was declared ready for its first Soyuz flight and, after a simulated launch campaign, an official ceremony took place in May to mark ESA’s transfer of the site to Arianespace.
In Giotto and Rosetta, we look at how 25 years ago ESA made its mark in deep space. A small spacecraft swept to within 600 km of Comet Halley. The Giotto probe was nearly destroyed by the encounter, but what it saw changed our picture of comets forever. Today, ESA’s comet-chaser Rosetta is on its way to meet with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014, and possibly provide answers to one of today’s most interesting questions of science: did comets bring water and the chemicals necessary for life to Earth?
In Safe Skies, we give some background to the Iris project, which is placing satellite communications at the forefront of the world aviation industry’s modernisation programme. By 2020, Iris will be contributing to this programme by providing digital data links to cockpit crews in continental and oceanic airspace. The use of satellites for air traffic safety and communications will be a major confirmation of the value of space as a means to benefit European citizens.
Imagine astronauts being able to operate robots on the surface of another world – that is the ultimate aim of ESA’s exciting Meteron project, which is helping to prepare Europe for future exploration missions to the Moon, Mars or other celestial bodies. Our Meteron article tells how astronauts on the ISS will be able to control advanced robots on Earth using ‘telepresence’ control equipment, providing essential experience for planning and preparing real human exploration missions.
The Bulletin is published four times a year to inform the space-interested public of ESA’s activities. In addition to a wide range of articles, every issue provides an overview of the status of ESA’s major space projects.