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Life aboard the Space Station

TWO HIGH-PROFILE SPACE MISSIONS came to end in May and June. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli returned to Earth on May24, after spending almost six months aboard the International Space Station on his MagISStra mission. Then in June his countryman, ESA Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori, participated in the penultimate Space Shuttle mission to the ISS, the Italian Space Agency’s DAMA mission. This video shows the highlights of these two missions with commentary by Paolo Nespoli.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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Tropical atoll seen from orbit

Ebon Atoll seen from space

Tiny, delicate Ebon Atoll lies deep in the Pacific in the Marshall Islands chain.

EBON ATOLL IS A CORAL ATOLL of 22 islands in the Pacific Ocean that is part of the Marshall Islands, located about 1000 km to the north east of the Solomon Islands (04° 38′ N 168° 43’E).

Forming a legislative district of the Ralik Chain of the Marshalls, its total land area is only 5.75 square kilometres, but it encloses a deep lagoon with an area of 104 square kilometres. A passage leads to the lagoon from the southwest edge of the atoll. The winding passage is called Ebon Channel.

Ebon Atoll is located approximately 155 kilometres (96 mi) south of Jaluit, and is the southern most landmass of the Marshall Islands as it is on the southern extremity of the Ralik Chain.

Ebon Atoll was a centre for commercial whaling in the 19th century, as well as European missionary activities from 1857. It was claimed by the Empire of Germany along with the rest of the Marshall Islands in 1884, and the Germans established a trading outpost.

After World War I, the island came under the South Pacific Mandate of the Empire of Japan. Following the end of World War II, it came under the control of the United States as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands until the independence of the Marshall Islands in 1986.

This photo was taken on 12 February 2011 by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli who is currently serving as a member of the six-strong Expedition 26 crew on the International Space Station.

Adapted from information issued by ESA and Wikipedia (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/).

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Rocket launch seen from space

Launch of ATV-2 seen from the ISS

Expedition 26 crewmember Paolo Nespoli aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the Ariane 5 rocket (squiggly vertical line), just after if lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

THESE REMARKABLE PHOTOS were taken by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the International Space Station (ISS) on 16 February 2011, just minutes after Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Johannes Kepler lifted off aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana.

The images show the rising exhaust trail of Ariane, still in its initial vertical trajectory phase. The trail can be seen in the image above as a thin streak just beneath the Station’s robot arm.

The unmanned supply ship will deliver critical supplies and re-boost the ISS during its almost four-month mission. It is due to dock with the ISS on Friday, February 25, Sydney time.

Launch of ATV-2 seen from the ISS

An enlarged view of the Ariane 5 launch. The rocket's exhaust plume has been blown into a squiggly shape by different winds at different altitudes.

Adapted from information issued by ESA/ NASA.

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Italian in orbit

FROM DECEMBER 2010 to May 2011, Paolo Nespoli, ESA’s Italian astronaut, is carrying out an intensive programme of tasks, experiments and educational activities aboard the International Space Station.

His duties include participating in the docking operations to receive two cargo spacecraft: Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Johannes Kepler, and the second Japanese HII Transfer Vehicle (HTV).

More than 30 experiments are planned during the mission, a programme that will cover human research, fluid physics, radiation, biology and technology demonstrations. Educational activities are also scheduled during this six-month mission.

The overall project is called MagISStra, combining the Latin word ‘magistra’, a female teacher, with ISS, the acronym of the International Space Station. This Latin influence not only brings an Italian flavour to the project, it also echoes the humanistic value of the mission.

Please note this video was produced in December 2010, before Nespoli launched to the ISS. He arrived at the station aboard Soyuz flight TMA-20 on December 15, 2010, and is due to return in May 2011.

More information can be found ESA’s MagISStra site.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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Europe’s year ahead in space

THIS VIDEO FROM THE European Space Agency (ESA) gives a preview of what to expect in 2011.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first human space flight: it was half a century ago that Yuri Gagarin made his historic orbit around our planet. Today, cosmonauts and astronauts from many nations are living and working together aboard the International Space Station.

Among them is ESA’s Paolo Nespoli, due to return in May from the 3rd European long-duration stay. He will later be joined by fellow ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori aboard one of the last space shuttle missions.

Other important ESA missions in 2011 are the debut of the second ATV unmanned cargo craft, planned for launch by Ariane 5 in February. Later, Europe’s spaceport in French Guyana will see the inaugural launches of the Russian Soyuz rocket and the new Vega.

ESA is also expecting interesting results from its Earth observing satellites and its Mars probe, Mars Express.

Adapted from information issued by ESA.

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