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ESA

— Space

Oxia Planum firms at landing site for ExoMars 2018 mission

ESA has named the Oxia Planum region as the primary candidate for the landing site of the ExoMars 2018 Mars mission. The Russo-European mission to the Red Planet is the second of two missions of the ExoMars program and is aimed at demonstrating new technologies and seeking signs of past or present life. Consisting of a lander and rover, the mission is scheduled to launch in May 2018 with a landing in January 2019.

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— Space

ESA's GomX-3 CubeSat goes online

The European Space Agency has declared that its miniature GomX-3 technology demonstration satellite is in good health and ready to begin its primary mission. Deployed on October 5 from the International Space Station, the CubeSat will spend six-months testing new radio technology for tracking civil aircraft in previously inaccessible regions of the world and measuring telecom satellite signal quality.

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— Space

SkinSuit designed to reduce harmful physical effects of weightlessness tested on ISS

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) got a fashion show with a medical twist last month as Denmark’s first astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, donned a SkinSuit designed to counteract the harmful effects of prolonged periods of weightlessness on the human body. Developed as part of an international effort led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the new suit is designed to simulate the pressures of normal gravity to prevent unhealthy stretching of the spine.

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— Space

Asteroid Impact Mission sets sights on new laser communications record

Laser-based communications has the ability to beam enormous amounts of data at high speed, but the use of this technology in space is still in its infancy. To help push things along, ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) will carry out a record-setting demonstration of space laser communications across a distance of 75 million kilometers while orbiting a binary asteroid.

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— Space

Rosetta explores the dark side

Earth isn't the only place with seasons. Other planets and even very small celestial bodies can have them, too, as ESA's Rosetta probe has shown in its explorations of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. When the unmanned spacecraft went into orbit about the comet, it revealed that the southern hemisphere of the dumbbell-shaped nucleus is shrouded in a dark winter that lasts over five years and, according to data collected by the Rosettas's onboard spectrometer, hides ice in larger amounts than the rest of the comet.

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— Space

Orbital telescopes detect increased activity from the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way

Three space-based observatories appear to have picked up an unusual increase in activity from the supermassive black hole located at the center of our galaxy. According to the data, the black hole known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), which has a mass of roughly 4 million times our Sun, is throwing out ten times the usual amount of bright X-ray flares.

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— Space

ESA astronaut successfully drives rover from low-Earth orbit

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen has successfully driven and manipulated an Earth-based rover whilst orbiting at a height of 400 km (249 miles) aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The control system used a sophisticated form of force-feedback that allowed Mogensen to determine when the rover's robotic arm met resistance. The technology has the potential to be used in a number of roles both in space and back on Earth, possibly taking human workers out of harms way.

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