Hatch is closed

Luca, Karen and Fyodor have left the International Space Station for their Soyuz spacecraft. They will now perform leak tests to make sure everything is airtight. Separation is set for 00:26

Helicopters are standing by…

In Kazakhstan the weather is good for tonight’s landing. The helicopters that will arrive first at Luca, Karen and Fyodor’s landing site are ready to roll…

Wind, sand and stars – (with apologies once again...

That is my planet. I gaze lovingly at the surface with its boundless and beautiful colours. How many times have I explored its borders as the dawn immortalises its curves, glowing in an indescribable light-blue that is perfectly outlined by the light of iridescent mesospheric clouds: the colour of infinite patience. Shrouded in silence I look out: I feel our planet’s heart beat as I watch the vital water run along infinite veins across the land, nourished and protected by the clouds that cover Earth’s surface like the cloak of a vestal virgin. Its breathing is calm and eternal like the tides but large as ocean waves. It holds the power of...

Mission accomplished with more than 100 000 000 km flow...

Mission control at Columbus Control Centre is ready for Luca’s return. Watch live from Sunday 20:30 CET and follow the landing via Twitter @esaoperations: We knew the day would come, Luca’s last day in orbit. Everything is go for the return of the three astronauts that stayed 166 days in orbit since the end of May. We have spent 166 days working around the clock in the Columbus Control Centre supporting Luca’s mission, he experienced more than 2600 nights and days and has flown more than 100 million kilometres. In addition Luca spent more than 100 hours working on ESA scientific experiments. The mission was a great success and it goes without...

Guide to the International Space Station for the occasi...

Pressurised Mating Adaptor (PMA1) From the FGB, moving toward the bow, we pass through a corridor that looks rather strange. The corridor is an asymmetrical truncated cone. Starting from the round hatch, it transforms into a square that is Node-1. This transitional area is called PMA1, and in addition to connecting the two main segments, it is also a convenient place to store things: its walls are covered with the typical white bags we call CTBs that contain equipment on the Station. When you float through the PMA1 it feels as though you are going down because of its asymmetrical shape . Node-1 (Unity) This is the oldest module of the American...

Super Luca: the proof

This entry was written yesterday by Volare mission director Roland Luettgens: Today we had our weekly crew conference with Luca and we had quite a list of topics to talk about. The crew conference is a weekly coordination between astronauts and the Control Centres. We talk about many topics including details about activities to come. Luca is preparing to relocate the Soyuz spacecraft on Friday so we had a lot to talk about. As usual, first we performed a voice check between Luca and us to ensure we can hear each other and the audio quality is good. After this check, we turn on the camera inside the Columbus module so that...

Mission-X: jump for the Moon

Luca will be leaving the Station on 10 November and will pass over Mission-X duties to  NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins.  Next year’s Mission-X: Train Like an Astronaut challenge is set to take off with the largest community of future space explorers ever. Don’t miss your chance. More information here on how to take part: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Education/Mission-X_jump_for_the_Moon

Guide to the International Space Station for the occasi...

Last week I spoke to students from three universities in Italy, Germany and Israel. I liked their questions a lot because they allowed me to be playful in my answers, I tried to get them to leave with more questions that their young minds can investigate further. One deceptively simple question came from a girl who asked me: “What impresses you most about the Space Station?”. She was not referring to my mission, nor to my view of Earth that over the past 150 or so days has reshaped my mind’s geography but she asked about the Station itself. I had never asked myself this question because an orbiting space...

A day on the International Space Station

A day on the International Space Station The first of two alarms sounds at 5:50 GMT, like every morning, Mondays to Fridays. It shakes me from dreams that I never remember. Still sleepy I stretch my arms, which were folded through the night, and automatically I poke them through the two slots on either side of the sleeping bag  to allow the arms out. In space, every move starts a chain reaction so my sleeping bag is tied with four thin cords to the wall of the crew quarters or else it would float away. My head often gently touches the ‘ceiling’ causing my body to bounce slowly in the opposite direction...

Many changes before Luca returns

ESA mission director Roland Luettgens keeps us up to date on Luca’s Volare mission: There is an incredible period of activity around the International Space Station these days with many things happening onboard as well as on ground over the next three weeks. In three weeks Luca will be back on Earth but the activity planning between now and when he returns has changed considerably. Tuesday 22 October:  Cygnus unberthing The Cygnus spacecraft will leave the Space Station around midday. The ground teams and astronauts are busy preparing for its departure. Luca and crewmate Karen will operate the Canadian Robotics Arm to release the spacecraft. Like all spacecraft that do not land...