December 5, 2022

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Samantha Science: AstroPi – Astronauts News

L ‘Astro B Challenge It offers young students an incredible opportunity to conduct scientific research in space by writing programs to run on Raspberry Pi computers aboard the International Space Station.

2 computers Raspberry pie to improve (Call AstroPi) to the station in 2015, as part of the mission of European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake, and remained available in subsequent years for More educational activities by ESA.


Both devices are equipped with the device FEELING HAT (The device is connected to the top), which measures the properties of the environment inside the station, detects its movement in space, and measures the Earth’s magnetic field. Each computer is also equipped with a different camera: one in infrared and one in visible.

As part of the scientific activities of the European Space Agency’s astronauts, a program has been developed with the aim of increasing the interest of European students in science and engineering topics. To achieve this goal, a competition was organized between schools facing different software/hardware challenges within the needs of the space industry such as: survival in the space environment, measurement and calibration techniques, hardware reconfiguration, and image processing. At the center of each of these challenges is the AstroPi/Raspberry Pi computer, with its peripherals, as a platform to run programs in orbit.

Activities related to this project aim to encourage and strengthen the teaching of computer science and thus stimulate students’ curiosity by motivating them to continue studying STEM subjects (STEM)

the team

Scientific team led byFrench space agency (CNES) is benefiting from the cooperationESTEC (European Center for Space Research) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, and of course Raspberry Pi . Foundation Cambridge, United Kingdom. The project was funded by the European Space Agency.


At the moment, the results of this project do not find immediate applications in the space field. On the contrary, the educational aspects of this project on the ground are beyond doubt. Speaking of applications, regarding Astro Pi, it makes sense only if we consider the computer medium as a technological tool with unlimited potential and only if we are able to make the student understand this concept. In this sense, the students used the “medium” computer, mastering its potential in order to achieve their goals. The number of participating teams and the variety of projects proposed perfectly fulfill one of the mandates of the European Space Agency (ESA), namely the promotion of scientific disciplines for young European students. The Agency recognizes the fact that its training commitment can play an important role in contributing to the development of a scientifically literate and informed society, from which it derives a solid responsibility and interest.


To allow the two computers to execute the programs sent by the participating teams, they are placed by the astronauts in the areas of the station relevant to the needs of the code to be executed. The enclosures protecting the two units are equipped with systems that allow them to be fixed and positioned using multi-purpose movable arms. Both units are powered in two ways: via a Griffin adapter connected to the station’s electrical system or via a USB port connected to a crew laptop.

Astro Pi VIS is installed on the ISS hatch. Credits: ESA/NASA

Units operate indecapitated”, that is, without connecting to keyboards, monitors or a mouse. It is configured to start working on its own and start working independently without crew interaction. Moreover, it can be controlled remotely using another computer, using an Ethernet cable and a browser.

at the end of Principia missionAstroPi Vis (the device equipped with a visual camera) is connected to a network LAN shared station (JSL) over an Ethernet cable so that it can be managed by a specific USOC (User support and operations center).

Two Astro Pi devices are on during Pesquet’s Proxima mission. Credits: ESA/NASA

On the basis of the transmitted programs, the processing of the two AstroPi programs produces files, through interactive sessions, or independent data collection systems, which must be sent back to Earth for analysis. In these cases, the files are transferred to the center Biotesc in Lucerne, Switzerland, via the station’s JSL LAN connection.

Competition and results

The competition has been held over the years in different courses with different modes of participation, mission zerofor beginners and mission space labFor more experienced people. In this article we will focus briefly on the session that saw our participation Samantha Cristoforetti: Astro Pi Mission Space Lab 2021/22.

Aral Sea Photographed by Adastra Team. Credits: ESA

The two units used for this course, Dedicated to Nikola Tesla and Marie Curie, with the addition of high-quality cameras and an array of sensors. Launched on December 21, 2021 with Falcon 9 on board SpaceX Dragon CRS-2 SpX-24. Two Astro Pis have replaced the two original computers, which have been on the International Space Station for 6 years, that is, since the first challenge in 2015.

The original two Astro Pi units were photographed with the two new ones by Samantha Cristoforetti on August 4, 2022. Credits: ESA/NASA

in competition mission space labteams of young students (aged 19 and up) had to work as a team to create science experiments to be conducted on board the station using two Raspberry Pis, their cameras and their array of sensors.

For the 21/22 session of the competition, 799 teams submitted their experiences to mission space lab 502 of them were invited to Phase 2. These teams received an Astro Pi set so that they could write and test their tokens and 299 projects passed the rigorous tests of Astro Pi Mission Control, thus earning “flight statusA total of 28,126 young people from 26 countries worked in this competition and a total of 17,168 programs were implemented.

The English St. Marx team conducted research for the presence of macroplastics in the oceans, by calculating the NDVI (Standard Difference Vegetation Index), a graphical indicator that assesses whether the observed area contains live vegetation. The team looked for the Sargasso Islands, which typically form around concentrations of floating plastics. Students were able to identify and photograph several floating formations off the Brazilian coast within the three hours of available time, such as the one circled in green in this image. Credits: ESA

After each program collected its own ISS data, in a three-hour test time frame, the teams analyzed the results and wrote a short report describing their experience.

All in all, it was announced 10 winning teams6 received special mentions from a panel of 17 judges from the ESA and the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Among the top ten teams, we can count two Italian teams: GreenPi And the Reds team.

In general, the experiments proposed by the participants covered the areas of environmental problems, climate change, changes in sea levels, fires, volcanoes, and global warming.

Finally, the campaign is already underway Astro B Challenge 2022/23.

Sources: NASA; ESA; Raspberry Pi . Foundation

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