ESA-sponsored medical doctor Nick Smith snapped this photo of the storage containers at Concordia research station in Antarctica shortly before sunset, 8 April 2021. The dark blue line at the horizon is the shadow of the Earth.
The containers store food, recycling and the scientific samples of blood, saliva, and stool that Nick routinely takes. The units on the right are part of the summer camp, during which researchers sleep in tents.
Science for the benefit of space exploration does not only happen off planet. While some studies require the weightless isolation of the International Space Station, Antarctica also provides the right conditions for investigating the consequences of spaceflight, and it is a little easier to access than space.
Part of the 17th crew to spend an entire year at one of the most remote bases in the world, Nick and 11 other crew members have taken up the adventurous challenge in the backdrop of a pandemic to continue important research that is furthering space exploration.
Located at the mountain plateau called Dome C, Concordia is a collaboration between the French Polar Institute and the Italian Antarctic programme, and is one of only three bases that is inhabited all year long.
As well as offering around nine months of complete isolation, Concordia’s location at 3233 m altitude means the crew experience chronic hypobaric hypoxia – lack of oxygen in the brain.
During the Antarctic winter, the crew of up to 15 people also endure four months of complete darkness: the sun disappears from May and is not seen again until late August.
Temperatures can drop to –80°C in the winter, with a yearly average of –50°C. The temperature at the time of this image was -65°C, with wind chill at about -80°C. To put this cold into perspective, it was so cold that the camera battery died within ten minutes.
As a station set in Earth’s harshest space, Concordia is an ideal stand-in for studying the human psychological and physiological effects of extreme cold, isolation and darkness. For the rest of the year, Nick is poking and prodding the crew for samples to study changes in mood, immune systems, blood cells, and gut health.
Follow his adventures on the Chronicles from Concordia blog.
Applications are open for ESA’s first astronaut selection in over a decade, and all qualified candidates are encouraged to put themselves forward.
On 31 March 2021, the European Space Agency is opening the application process for its first astronaut selection in over a decade.
If you meet the minimum requirements and want to join Europe’s journey into space, this is your chance to apply.
Website esa.int/YourWayToSpace provides everything you need to know to prepare your application. All applications must be submitted to ESA’s careers website by 28 May 2021.
ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has started training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA. Set to launch for her second mission in spring 2022, Samantha is already getting reacquainted with International Space Station systems in a series of refresher courses.
Samantha was last on the International Space Station in 2014 for her Futura mission. She spent 200 days in space, conducting European and international scientific experiments and Space Station operations.
In the coming months, her schedule will intensify as she trains for the specific experiments and tasks she will perform in space during her second mission.
As a collaborative, international effort between the United States, Europe, Canada, Russia and Japan, Space Station training takes place across the globe. Samantha will be training between Johnson Space Center in the USA, the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia and the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.
Samantha and her fellow Class of 2009 astronauts will soon welcome new colleagues. For the first time in over a decade, the European Space Agency is seeking new astronauts and applications are open from 31 March to 28 May 2021. A six-stage selection process will start thereafter. This is expected to be completed in October 2022.
Ready to make #YourWayToSpace? Check out the dedicated website with all the information relating to ESA’s 2021–22 astronaut selection.
Most importantly, get ready to apply. Perhaps you will find yourself where Samantha is today.
One of the cheapest experiments ever flown in orbit has finished operating after 22 months on the International Space Station. Running on a Raspberry Pi Zero costing just a few Euros, ESA’s CryptIC payload was exploring cryptography techniques running on off-the-shelf hardware, to ensure cybersecurity for future low-cost space missions.