European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst snapped this spectacular view of the moon, Earth’s nearest neighbour and the next target for astronauts moving beyond low-Earth orbit, from his perch aboard the International Space Station. This week, ESA hosted a workshop in the Netherlands to discuss lunar resources and their role in sustainable space exploration. Learning how to extract oxygen and water for life support, producing propellants and building habitats and other structures using available resources will be critical to making such missions affordable, space planners say. ESA is meeting with industry officials, potential partners and space experts to explore “the technological readiness, commercial viability, legal status and international context for lunar resource use.”
When Edwin Hubble discovered nearly 100 years ago that the universe was uniformly expanding in all directions, the finding was a big surprise. Then, in the mid-1990s, another shocker occurred: astronomers found that the expansion rate was accelerating, perhaps due to “dark energy.” Now, the latest measurements of our runaway universe suggest that it is expanding faster than astronomers thought.
Due for launch in 2020, ESA’s Euclid satellite will set astronomers a huge challenge: to analyse 100,000 strong gravitational lenses. The gravitational deflection of light from distant astronomical sources by interposing massive galaxies can create multiple images of the source that are not just visually stunning, but are also valuable tools for probing our universe.