mercredi 19 juillet 2017

In Orbit Today: Improving Longer-Duration Space Travel and Cancer Treatments










ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

July 19, 2017

The Expedition 52 crew embarked on tasks Wednesday to further NASA’s eventual journey to Mars and aid researchers in understanding how to stimulate cancer-fighting drugs to target cancer cells—and cancer cells alone—in the human body.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

The astronauts lent their opinions to a food questionnaire designed to explore if the current food available in the spaceflight food system would be acceptable for even longer-duration missions, like a Martian sojourn. Their input will help develop strategies to improve futuristic food systems in support of crew health and performance.

Of even greater magnitude to Earthlings approximately 240 miles below the orbiting laboratory is the work being performed with the Efficacy and Metabolism of Azonafide Antibody-Drug Conjugates in Microgravity (ADCs in Microgravity) investigation. The crew retrieved a BioCell Habitat, inoculation kits and ADC samples from a Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI), set up hardware inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) and inoculated the Multiwall BioCells using syringes. Later, the astronauts will repeat these steps with a second BioCell Habitat, which begins an 11-day experiment stretch. In the zero-g environment of space, cancer cells grow in spheroid structures that closely resemble how they form in the human body. This study may speed up the development of targeted therapies for cancer patients, increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment and while reducing unwanted side effects.


Image above: This angled image of space station solar arrays frames the Earth scene. Image Credit: NASA.

Expedition 52 is taking out the trash midday tomorrow when Russia’s Progress 66 (66P) uncrewed cargo craft departs the International Space Station for a fiery disposal over the Pacific Ocean. The 66P is loaded with garbage and obsolete gear and will undock from the Pirs docking compartment Thursday at 1:46 p.m. EDT. The Russian resupply ship will orbit Earth for a few more hours before reentering Earth’s atmosphere harmlessly over the Pacific. NASA TV will not be covering the undocking activities.

Related links:

Expedition 52: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition52/index.html

ADCs in Microgravity: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2347.html

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Catherine Williams.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

July 14 Solar Flare and a Coronal Mass Ejection












NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

July 19, 2017


A medium-sized (M2) solar flare and a coronal mass ejection (CME) erupted from the same, large active region of the sun on July 14, 2017. The flare lasted almost two hours, quite a long duration. The coils arcing over this active region are particles spiraling along magnetic field lines, which were reorganizing themselves after the magnetic field was disrupted by the blast. Images were taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light.

Solar flares are giant explosions on the sun that send energy, light and high speed particles into space. These flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). While these are the most common solar events, the sun can also emit streams of very fast protons – known as solar energetic particle (SEP) events – and disturbances in the solar wind known as corotating interaction regions (CIRs).

video
Bastille Day Solar Flare and a Coronal Mass Ejection

The Solar Dynamics Observatory is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Its Atmosphere Imaging Assembly was built by the Lockheed Martin Solar Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL), Palo Alto, California.

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/main/index.html

Image, Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Sarah Loff/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Goodbye HERA, Hello Sleep: NASA’s HERA XIII Crew Returns Home to Slumber












NASA - HERA XIII Mission patch.

July 19, 2017

After 45 days in NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA), the four-man crew can hardly hold their eyes open. This mission was the first of its kind to last 45 days, as well as incorporate sleep reduction for research purposes.

“The sleep deprivation was really difficult,” said, James Titus, HERA crew member. “It really hindered our normalcy. We are used to working and living our lives at a higher level. During this mission the sleep reduction, the no-nap rule and limited caffeine – went hand in hand to really slow us down,” he said.


Image above: Moments after turning the vessel back over to NASA after 45-days inside, the HERA XIII crew is given their mission patch to place on the door. Image Credit: NASA.

HERA is one of several ground-based analogs used by NASA’s Human Research Program (HRP) to research ways to help astronauts move from lower-Earth orbit to deep space explorations. A spaceflight analog is a situation on Earth that produces physical and mental effects on the body similar to those experienced in space. Participants are volunteers that must pass a physical and psychological assessment to qualify.

During this thirteenth HERA mission, crew members went through many of the motions of a real deep space mission without ever actually leaving the Johnson Space Center. This was the fourth in a series of studies, called campaigns, with progressively longer simulated mission lengths. In this campaign, this was the first of four 45-day simulated missions. Previous campaigns studied seven-day, 14-day, and 30-day missions. Longer mission lengths allow for more research studies and more data points relevant to longer duration spaceflight missions.

Several research studies utilize a limited sleep protocol for the four missions of Campaign 4. During Mission 1, crewmembers were allowed to sleep five hours per night, five days per week with a recovery period of two days where they could sleep eight hours each night. No naps and limited caffeine are included in this protocol.

This practice allows researchers to test the use of habitat lighting as a method of combating crewmember fatigue. It also allows for the evaluation of the usability of bio-mathematical models to predict crewmember fatigue. Team cohesion, performance, and interpersonal relationships are also tested under these conditions.


Image above: Flight Analog Program Manager, Lisa Spence, toasts with sparkling grape juice the HERA XIII crew for a successful end to the first 45-day mission. Image Credit: NASA.

Despite the no siesta rule, the crew took their mission tasks seriously. As with past crews, they particularly enjoyed the extravehicular activity (EVA) on an asteroid conducted with virtual reality technology. “It was fun learning to maneuver in three dimensions, and going through the decompression protocol just like a real astronaut would. It was fascinating to me,” said Timothy Evans, HERA crew member.

Not only are the HERA crews isolated from the outside world, they must unplug during their mission. “It was really a little bit disorienting,” said Mark Settles, HERA crew member. “You get in this mode of addressing electronic communications on a daily basis. It was like stepping back 20 years by having a reduced level of constant input of demands on your time from electronic communication.”

This was a rather competitive group. One of their tasks was to use the robotic arm to grab a transport vehicle while dealing with sleep deprivation. They had 12 chances to do so and were given a score on their efforts. “The score was very important to all of us. We’d strive to get better. The ROBoT [Robotic On-Board Trainer] and cognition had a level of inter-competiveness with us,” said John Kennard, HERA crew member.

HERA Graphic Illustration. Image Credit: NASA

When asked their favorite thing to do while on the mission, there was a consensus: Sleep. They also enjoyed playing board games and watching movies together while not working on mission tasks. Upon splashdown at the end of the simulated mission, they planned to call their families and grab some greasy, salty fast food. But soon afterward, they all planned on catching some Zs!

Mission 2 of Campaign 4 will begin on Aug. 5. The Test Subject Screening group is accepting curriculum vitaes (CV) for healthy, non-smoking volunteers, ages 30 to 55 for future missions. Volunteers will be compensated and must pass a physical and psychological assessment to qualify. Volunteers wishing to become test subjects should e-mail their CV to jsc-hera@mail.nasa.gov (US citizen).

NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) is dedicated to discovering the best methods and technologies to support safe, productive human space travel. HRP enables space exploration by reducing the risks to human health and performance using ground research facilities, the International Space Station and analog environments. This leads to the development and delivery of a program focused on: human health, performance and habitability standards; countermeasures and risk-mitigation solutions; and advanced habitability and medical-support technologies. HRP supports innovative, scientific human research by funding more than 300 research grants to respected universities, hospitals and NASA centers to over 200 researchers in more than 30 states.

Related links:

NASA's Human Research Program (HRP): http://www.nasa.gov/hrp

HERA: http://www.nasa.gov/analogs/hera

Johnson Space Center (JSC): https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/home/index.html

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Timothy Gushanas/Monica Edwards/Laurie Abadie.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA’s New Horizons Team Strikes Gold in Argentina












NASA - New Horizons Mission logo.

July 19, 2017

Preparations for the July 17, 2017, observations in Argentina. Image Credit: NASA

A primitive solar system object that’s more four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) away passed in front of a distant star as seen from Earth. Just before midnight Eastern Time Sunday (12:50 a.m. local time July 17), several telescopes deployed by the New Horizons team in a remote part of Argentina were in precisely the right place at the right time to catch its fleeting shadow — an event that’s known as an occultation.

In a matter of seconds, NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. Weary but excited team members succeeded in detecting the spacecraft’s next destination, in what’s being called the most ambitious and challenging ground occultation observation campaign in history.

“So far we have five confirmed occultations,” said Marc Buie of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, holding up five fingers as New Horizons scientists pored over the exhilarating initial data. Buie led a team of more than 60 observers who battled high winds and cold to set up a “picket fence” of 24 mobile telescopes in a remote region of Chubut and Santa Cruz, Argentina. Their goal: to spot the shadow of the mysterious Kuiper Belt object (KBO) where New Horizons will fly by on New Year’s Day 2019 – to better understand its size, shape, orbit and the environment around it. Before these observations, only the Hubble Space Telescope successfully detected MU69, and even it had not been able to determine MU69’s size or shape.



Animation above: Now you see it, now you don’t: NASA’s New Horizons team trained mobile telescopes on an unnamed star (center) from rural Argentina on July 17, 2017. A Kuiper Belt object 4.1 billion miles from Earth -- known as 2014 MU69 -- briefly blocked the light from the background star, in what’s called an occultation. The time difference between frames is 200 milliseconds, or 0.2 seconds. This data helps scientists to better measure the shape, size and environment around the object; the New Horizons spacecraft will fly by this ancient relic of solar system formation on Jan. 1, 2019. Animation Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

“It was the most historic occultation on the face of the Earth,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science in a congratulatory call to the team. “You pulled it off and you made it happen.”

The first MU69 occultation campaign scientist to see the telltale signature of MU69 was Amanda Zangari, a New Horizons co-investigator from SwRI, who said, “We nailed it spectacularly.”

The New Horizons team enjoyed strong support from Argentinian scientists, government officials, and locals, who went above and beyond to ensure mission success. “I’ve been calling the people who helped us, our ‘twelfth player,’” Buie said. “The Comodoro Rivadavia community came together and did some amazing things for us.” A major national highway was closed for two hours to keep car headlights away. Street lights were turned off to ensure absolute darkness. People like the Intendente or Mayor of the Comodoro parked trucks as wind breaks. Said Buie, “The local people were a major team player.”



Image above: Marc Buie, New Horizons occultation campaign lead, holds up five fingers to represent the number of mobile telescopes in Argentina initially thought to have detected the fleeting shadow of 2014 MU69. The New Horizons spacecraft will fly by the ancient Kuiper Belt object on Jan. 1, 2019. Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Adriana Ocampo.

“Planning for this complex astronomical deployment started just a few months ago and although the odds seem daunting -- like finding a needle in a haystack -- the team succeeded, thanks to the help of institutions like CONAE (Argentina's National Commission on Space Activities), and all the goodwill of the Argentinian people. This is another example of how space exploration brings out the best in us,” said New Horizons Program Executive Adriana Ocampo.

This was the third of three ambitious occultation observations for New Horizons, and all contributed to the success of the campaign. On June 3, teams in both Argentina and South Africa attempted to observe MU69. On July 10, researchers using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, studied the environment around MU69 while flying over the Pacific Ocean from Christchurch, New Zealand.

When New Horizons flies by it, MU69 will be the most distant object ever explored by a spacecraft, over a billion miles farther from our sun than Pluto. This ancient Kuiper Belt object is not well understood, because it is faint (likely 14-25 miles or 22-40 kilometers across) and so far away. To study this distant object from Earth, the New Horizons team used Hubble Space Telescope and Gaia satellite data to calculate where MU69 would cast a shadow on Earth’s surface. Both satellites were crucial to the occultation campaign.



Image above: New Horizons Co-Investigator Amanda Zangari was the first occultation campaign scientist to see the telltale signature of MU69 while analyzing data from July 17, saying, “We nailed it spectacularly.” Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Adriana Ocampo.

It will take weeks for scientists to analyze the many datasets from the multi-faceted campaign. This advance observation is a critical step in flyby planning before the New Horizons spacecraft arrives at MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019.

“This effort, spanning six months, three spacecraft, 24 portable ground-based telescopes, and NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory was the most challenging stellar occultation in the history of astronomy, but we did it!” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from SwRI. “We spied the shape and size of 2014 MU69 for the first time, a Kuiper Belt scientific treasure we will explore just over 17 months from now. Thanks to this success we can now plan the upcoming flyby with much more confidence.”

To see a video of preparations for the July 17 observations in Argentina: https://t.co/nzyOzbPVh3

Related links:


NASA New Horizons website: http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

Hubble Space Telescope: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/index.html

Gaia satellite: http://sci.esa.int/gaia/

KBO Chasers: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Mission/KBO-Chasers.php

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tricia Talbert.


Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mardi 18 juillet 2017

HIE-ISOLDE: Nuclear physics gets further energy boost












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

July 18, 2017


Image above: This is the Miniball germanium array, which is using the first HIE-ISOLDE beams for the experiments described below (Image: Julien Ordan /CERN).

For the first time in 2017, the HIE- ISOLDE linear accelerator began sending beams to an experiment, marking the start of ISOLDE’s high-energy physics programme for this year.

The HIE-ISOLDE (High-Intensity and Energy upgrade of ISOLDE) project incorporates a new linear accelerator (Linac) into CERN’s ISOLDE facility (which stands for the Isotope mass Separator On-Line). ISOLDE is a unique nuclear research facility, which produces radioactive nuclei (ones with too many, or too few, neutrons) that physicists use to research a range of topics, from studying the properties of atomic nuclei to biomedical research and to astrophysics.

Although ISOLDE has been running since April, when the accelerator chain at CERN woke up from its technical stop over winter, HIE-ISOLDE had to wait until now as new components, specifically a new cryomodule, needed to be installed, calibrated, aligned and tested.

Each cryomodule contains five superconducting cavities used to accelerate the beam to higher energies. With a third module installed, HIE-ISOLDE is able to accelerate the nuclei up to an average energy of 7.5 MeV per nucleon, compared with the 5.5 MeV per nucleon reached in 2016.

This higher energy also allows physicists to study the properties of heavier isotopes – ones with a mass up to 200, with a study of 206 planned later this year, compared to last year when the heaviest beam was 142. From 2018, the HIE-ISOLDE Linac will contain four of these cryomodules and be able to reach up to 10 MeV per nucleon.

“Each isotope we study is unique, so each experiment either studies a different isotope or a different property of that isotope. The HIE-ISOLDE linac gives us the ability to tailor make a beam for each experiment’s energy and mass needs,” explains Liam Gaffney, who runs the Miniball station where many of HIE-ISOLDE’s experiments are connected.

The HIE-ISOLDE beams will be available until the end of November, with thirteen experiments hoping to use the facility during that time – more than double the number that took data last year. The first experiment, which begins today, will study the electromagnetic interactions between colliding nuclei of the radioactive isotope Selenium 72 and a platinum target. With this reaction they can measure whether or not the nuclei is more like a squashed disc or stretched out, like a rugby ball; or some quantum mechanical mixture of both shapes.

Note:

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related link:

Miniball station: http://isolde.web.cern.ch/experiments/miniball

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit: http://home.cern/

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Harriet Jarlett.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Five Ways ISS National Lab Enables Commercial Research












ISS - International Space Station patch.

July 18, 2017

A growing number of commercial partners use the International Space Station National Lab. With that growth, we will see more discoveries in fundamental and applied research that could improve life on the ground.


Image above: NASA astronaut Tim Kopra sets up hardware for the Burning and Suppression of Solids – Milliken (BASS-M) investigation, which will test flame-retardant clothing against microgravity conditions. Results from the investigation will impact how flame-retardant textiles will be used on Earth and in space. Image Credit: NASA.

Since 2011, when NASA engaged the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage the ISS National Lab, CASIS has partnered with academic researchers, other government organizations, startups and major commercial companies to take advantage of the unique microgravity lab. Today, more than 50 percent of the CASIS flight manifest represents commercial research.


Image above: NASA astronaut Kate Rubins after the installation of the Global AIS on Space Station (GLASS) investigation hardware. This investigation uses a space-based AIS receiver system on ISS to acquire and disseminate ship information. Image Credit: NASA.

Here’s a look at five ways the ISS National Lab is enabling new opportunities for commercial research in space:

1. Supporting commercial life sciences research: One of the main areas of focus for NASA in the early origins of the space station program was life sciences, and it is still a major priority for the agency today. Studying the effects of microgravity on astronauts provides insight into human physiology, and how it evolves or erodes in space. CASIS took this knowledge and began robust outreach to the pharmaceutical community, which could now take advantage of the microgravity environment on the ISS National Lab to develop and enhance therapies for patients on Earth. Companies such as Merck, Eli Lilly & Company, and Novartis have sent several payloads to the station, including investigations aimed at studying diseases such as osteoporosis, and examining ways to enhance drug tablets for increased potency to help patients on Earth. These companies are trailblazers for many other life science companies who are looking at how the ISS National Lab to advance their research aims.

2. Enabling commercial investigations in material and physical sciences: Over the past few years, CASIS and the ISS National Lab also have seen a major push toward material and physical sciences research by companies interested in enhancing their products for consumers. Examples range from Proctor and Gamble’s investigation aimed at increasing the longevity of daily household products, to Milliken’s flame-retardant textile investigation to improve protective clothing for individuals in harm’s way, and companies looking to enhance materials for household appliances. Additionally, CASIS has been working with a variety of companies to improve remote sensing capabilities in order to better monitor our oceans, predict harmful algal blooms, and ultimately, to better understand our planet from a vantage point roughly 250 miles above Earth.

3. Supporting startup companies interested in microgravity research: CASIS has funded a variety of investigations with small startup companies (in particular through seed funding and grant funding from partnerships and funded solicitations) to leverage the ISS National Lab for both research and test-validation model experiments. CASIS and The Boeing Company recently partnered with MassChallenge, the largest startup accelerator in the world, to fund three startup companies to conduct microgravity research.

4. Enabling validation of low-Earth orbit business models: The ISS National Lab helps validate low-Earth orbit business models. Companies such as NanoRacks, Space Tango, Made In Space, Techshot, and Controlled Dynamics either have been funded by CASIS or manifested to send hardware instruments to the ISS National Lab that the research community can use, and that open new channels for inquiry. This has allowed the companies that operate these facilities to validate their business model with the space station while also building for the future beyond station.

5. Demonstrating the commercial value of space-based research: NASA has been a key partner in working with CASIS to demonstrate to American businesses the value of conducting research in space. Through outreach events such as NASA’s Destination Station, where representatives from the International Space Station Program Science Office and CASIS select cities with several major companies and meet with the companies to discuss how they could benefit from space-based research. Over the past few years, this outreach mechanism has proven a terrific example of building awareness on the benefits of microgravity research.

Benefits for Humanity: Space is Our Business

Related links:

Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS): http://www.iss-casis.org/

Remote sensing capabilities: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1915.html

Monitor our oceans: http://www.iss-casis.org/NewsEvents/OnStation/tabid/113/ArticleID/198/ArtMID/570/PgrID/570/PageID/2/Looking-into-the-Eye-of-a-Hurricane.aspx

MassChallenge: http://www.iss-casis.org/NewsEvents/PressReleases/tabid/111/ArticleID/57/ArtMID/586/CASIS-and-MassChallenge-Announce-Partnership-to-Send-Entrepreneurial-Research-to-the-ISS.aspx

NanoRacks: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/829.html

Space Tango: http://www.spacetango.com/

Made In Space: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/researchpark/partners/space/made-in-space/

Techshot: http://techshot.com/

Controlled Dynamics: http://controlled-dynamics.com/

Destination Station: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/news/destination_station/index.html

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/JSC/Jenny Howard.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Gamma-ray Telescopes Reveal a High-energy Trap in Our Galaxy's Center











NASA - Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope logo.

July 18, 2017

A combined analysis of data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.), a ground-based observatory in Namibia, suggests the center of our Milky Way contains a "trap" that concentrates some of the highest-energy cosmic rays, among the fastest particles in the galaxy.


Image above: An illustration of NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbiting Earth. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab.

"Our results suggest that most of the cosmic rays populating the innermost region of our galaxy, and especially the most energetic ones, are produced in active regions beyond the galactic center and later slowed there through interactions with gas clouds," said lead author Daniele Gaggero at the University of Amsterdam. "Those interactions produce much of the gamma-ray emission observed by Fermi and H.E.S.S." 

Cosmic rays are high-energy particles moving through space at almost the speed of light. About 90 percent are protons, with electrons and the nuclei of various atoms making up the rest. In their journey across the galaxy, these electrically charged particles are affected by magnetic fields, which alter their paths and make it impossible to know where they originated.

But astronomers can learn about these cosmic rays when they interact with matter and emit gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light.


Image above: The five telescopes of the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.), located in Namibia, capture faint flashes that occur when ultrahigh-energy gamma rays are absorbed in the upper atmosphere. A new study of the galactic center combines high-energy observations from H.E.S.S. with lower-energy data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope to show that some of the speediest particles become trapped there. Image Credits: H.E.S.S., MPIK/Christian Foehr.

In March 2016, scientists with the H.E.S.S. Collaboration reported gamma-ray evidence of the extreme activity in the galactic center. The team found a diffuse glow of gamma rays reaching nearly 50 trillion electron volts (TeV). That's some 50 times greater than the gamma-ray energies observed by Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT). To put these numbers in perspective, the energy of visible light ranges from about 2 to 3 electron volts.

The Fermi spacecraft detects gamma rays when they enter the LAT. On the ground, H.E.S.S. detects the emission when the atmosphere absorbs gamma rays, which triggers a cascade of particles resulting in a flash of blue light.   

In a new analysis, published July 17 in the journal Physical Review Letters, an international team of scientists combined low-energy LAT data with high-energy H.E.S.S. observations. The result was a continuous gamma-ray spectrum describing the galactic center emission across a thousandfold span of energy.

"Once we subtracted bright point sources, we found good agreement between the LAT and H.E.S.S. data, which was somewhat surprising due to the different energy windows and observing techniques used," said co-author Marco Taoso at the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Madrid and Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) in Turin.

This agreement indicates that the same population of cosmic rays — mostly protons — found throughout the rest of the galaxy is responsible for gamma rays observed from the galactic center. But the highest-energy share of these particles, those reaching 1,000 TeV, move through the region less efficiently than they do everywhere else in the galaxy. This results in a gamma-ray glow extending to the highest energies H.E.S.S. observed.

"The most energetic cosmic rays spend more time in the central part of the galaxy than previously thought, so they make a stronger impression in gamma rays," said co-author Alfredo Urbano at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva and INFN Trieste.

This effect is not included in conventional models of how cosmic rays move through the galaxy. But the researchers show that simulations incorporating this change display even better agreement with Fermi data.

"The same breakneck particle collisions responsible for producing these gamma rays should also produce neutrinos, the fastest, lightest and least understood fundamental particles," said co-author Antonio Marinelli of INFN Pisa. Neutrinos travel straight to us from their sources because they barely interact with other matter and because they carry no electrical charge, so magnetic fields don't sway them.

"Experiments like IceCube in Antarctica are detecting high-energy neutrinos from beyond our solar system, but pinpointing their sources is much more difficult," said Regina Caputo, a Fermi team member at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who was not involved in the study. "The findings from Fermi and H.E.S.S. suggest the galactic center could be detected as a strong neutrino source in the near future, and that's very exciting."

The Fermi mission is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed by NASA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States. The H.E.S.S. Collaboration includes scientists from Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Armenia, South Africa and Namibia.

Related link:

High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.): https://www.mpi-hd.mpg.de/hfm/HESS/

Physical Review Letters: https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.031101

Experiments like IceCube in Antarctica: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/nasas-fermi-telescope-helps-link-cosmic-neutrino-to-blazar-blast

For more information about NASA's Fermi, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/fermi

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Francis Reddy.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA Neutron Star Mission Begins Science Operations












ISS - International Space Station logo.

July 18, 2017

NASA’s new Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) mission to study the densest observable objects in the universe has begun science operations.

Launched June 3 on an 18-month baseline mission, NICER will help scientists understand the nature of the densest stable form of matter located deep in the cores of neutron stars using X-ray measurements.


Animation above: This time-lapse animation shows NICER being extracted from the SpaceX Dragon trunk on June 11, 2017. Animation Credit: NASA.

NICER operates around the clock on the International Space Station (ISS). In the two weeks following launch, NICER underwent extraction from the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, robotic installation on ExPRESS Logistics Carrier 2 on board ISS and initial deployment. Commissioning efforts began June 14, as NICER deployed from its stowed launch configuration. All systems are functioning as expected.

“No instrument like this has ever been built for the space station,” said Keith Gendreau, the principal investigator for NICER at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “As we transition from an instrument development project to a science investigation, it is important to recognize the fantastic engineering and instrument team who built a payload that delivers on all the promises made.”

To date, NICER has observed over 40 celestial targets. These objects were used to calibrate the X-ray Timing Instrument and supporting star-tracker camera. The observations also validated the payload’s performance that will enable its key science measurements.

video
NICER in Space

Video above: Several cameras on the International Space Station have eyes on NICER. Since arriving to the space station on June 5 – aboard SpaceX’s eleventh cargo resupply mission – NICER underwent robotic installation on ExPRESS Logistics Carrier 2, initial deployment, precise point tests and more. This video shows segments of NICER’s time in space. Scientists and engineers will continue to watch NICER using these cameras throughout the mission’s science operations. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Along with the instrument’s transition to full science operations, the embedded Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT) demonstration will begin using NICER data to tune the built-in flight software for its first experiment.

“Our initial timing models use data collected by terrestrial radio telescopes,” said Jason Mitchell, the SEXTANT project manager at Goddard. “Because NICER observes in X-rays, we will account for the difference between the pulses we recover in X-rays compared to our radio models.”


Graphic above: During NICER commissioning, an observation of low-mass X-ray binary 4U 1608–522 revealed a serendipitous Type I X-ray burst, a flare resulting from a thermonuclear explosion on the surface of a neutron star. 4U 1608 consists of a neutron star in a close orbit with a low-mass star from which it is drawing gas. As this matter accretes and piles up on the neutron star surface, its density in the strong-gravity environment increases until an explosive nuclear fusion reaction is ignited. The heated neutron star surface and atmosphere glow in X-rays, cooling and dimming over the span of about one minute. The hot-spot on the star swings in and out of NICER’s view as the star spins, approximately 619 times each second; these fluctuations in X-ray brightness, and their evolution during the burst, are indicated by the purple contours in the lower panel. NICER provides a unique such bursts, tracing flame propagation and other phenomena through the burst's temperature and brightness changes over time, with simultaneous fast-timing and spectroscopy capability not previously available. Graphic Credit: NASA.

Once NICER collects data on each of SEXTANT’s target pulsars, the software will exploit timing models developed using NICER-only data.

NICER-SEXTANT is a two-in-one mission. NICER will study the strange, ultra-dense astrophysics objects known as neutron stars to determine how matter behaves in their interiors. SEXTANT will use NICER’s observations of rapidly rotating neutron stars, or pulsars, to demonstrate autonomous X-ray navigation in space.


Graphic above: GX 301–2, a high mass X-ray binary, is a system in which a massive, aging star's dense wind is drawn toward the strong gravity of a neutron star. The column of falling material emits X-rays, dominated at certain times by the fluorescent glow of atoms of heavy metals such as iron and nickel. NICER's X-ray detectors measure the energies (or colors) of X-ray photons – the technique of spectroscopy – to determine the chemical makeup and density of the accreting material in this 1,200-second exposure. Graphic Credit: NASA.

NICER is an Astrophysics Mission of Opportunity within NASA's Explorer program, which provides frequent flight opportunities for world-class scientific investigations from space utilizing innovative, streamlined, and efficient management approaches within the heliophysics and astrophysics science areas. NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate supports the SEXTANT component of the mission, demonstrating pulsar-based spacecraft navigation.

For more information about NICER, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/nicer/

To download NICER Multimedia: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/Gallery/NICER.html

For more information about SEXTANT, visit:

https://gameon.nasa.gov/projects/deep-space-x-ray-navigation-and-communication/

For more information about research and technology on the International Space Station, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Animation (mentioned), Graphics (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center/Clare Skelly.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

lundi 17 juillet 2017

All About the Human, and New Crew at Launch Site










ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

July 17, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 52 astronauts furthered investigative data for NASA’s Human Research Program, collecting in-flight data and blood and urine samples over the weekend.

Today, the crew will take additional samples for the Biochem Profile, Repository and Cardio Ox investigations. An ultrasound was also used for the Cardio Ox study, which seeks to determine whether biological markers of oxidative and inflammatory stress are elevated during and after spaceflight, and whether this could result in an increased, long-term risk of the hardening of the arteries for space-faring explorers.


Image above: Expedition 52-53 crew members Paolo Nespoli (left), Sergey Ryazanskiy (center) and Randy Bresnik (right) arrive at their launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on July 16. Image Credits: NASA/Victor Zelentsov.

Also on tap is the Mag 3D cell culturing experiment. The crew will fixate the BioCells and insert them into the Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI). The orbiting laboratory provides a way to manipulate and culture cells in 2D and 3D in space and on the ground, which can help isolate the effects of gravity in experiments and enable biological research previously deemed unfeasible in space.

The next crew to lift off to the International Space Station has arrived at its launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The experienced space travelers from Roscosmos, NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are due to blast off inside the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft July 28 for a six-hour ride to the space station’s Rassvet module. Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, with astronauts Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli, are scheduled to live and work in space until mid-December.

Related links:

Biochem Profile: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1008.html

Repository: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/981.html

Mag 3D: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1929.html

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Catherine Williams.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

A star emits "strange" radio signals












Arecibo Observatory logo.

July 17, 2017

Astronomers seek to elucidate the origin of intriguing radios signals from a star close to the Earth.

American astronomers have detected "strange" radio signals that they try to explain nature and which come from a star among the closest to Earth, at only eleven light years.


Image above: Ross 128 is a dim red dwarf star, like Gliese 623 A (M2.5V) and B (M5.8Ve) at lower right. (See a 2MASS Survey image of Ross 128 from the NASA Star and Exoplanet Database.)

These "very strange" programs appear unique to a red dwarf star, scientists at the Arecibo observatory in Puerto Rico say in a blog, pointing out that observations of similar stars in the neighborhood did not Receive similar signals.

In April and May, these scientists recorded signals from several stars in the same neighborhood, including Gliese 436, Ross 128, Wolf 359 and HD 95735. After analyzing these data, they found that star Ross 128 Emitted strange radio signals.

"We realized that these signals were very strange in the ten-minute sequence in which we captured them," writes Abel Mendez, director of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo, adding that their origin is unknown.

Screenshot of Tweet of the Arecibo Observatory

"We believe that these signals are not radio interference since they are unique to Ross 128 and that observations from other stars immediately before and after capturing those broadcasts have not shown anything similar," he says. "We do not know the origin of these signals but there are three main explanations possible," continues the astronomer.

This could be solar eruption, emissions from another object in the Ross 128 field of view, or simply an explosion of a star satellite traveling in an orbit Very distant.

Arecibo Observatory, aerial view of the Radio Telescope

The astronomer also emphasizes with irony that "the hypothesis of an emission coming from extraterrestrials comes very far after many other better explanations possible".

On Sunday evening, these astronomers made new observations of the star with the Arecibo observatory. Scientists from Berkeley, California's SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) also conducted listening to Ross 128 with the Green Bank Telescope and the Telescope Array, a group of telescopes.

Screenshot of Tweet of the Prof. Abel Méndez

"We have to collect the data from the other telescopes to gather all these observations in order to reach a conclusion, probably by the end of the week," Professor Mendez wrote on Twitter (@ProfAbelMendez).

The findings of these investigations will also be published at https://twitter.com/PlanetaryHabLab and https://twitter.com/NAICobservatory.

Related links:

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI): http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/

Arecibo Observatory: http://www.naic.edu/

New Search for Extrasolar Planets from the Arecibo Observatory: https://t.co/2XCSqS0R60

NASA Star and Exoplanet Database: http://nsted.ipac.caltech.edu/index.html

Images, Text, Credits: Arecibo Observatory/Prof. Abel Méndez/NASA/ESA/Hubble/STSc/Wikipedia/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

NASA-funded Citizen Science Project Discovers New Brown Dwarf








NASA - Neo WISE Mission logo.

July 17, 2017

One night three months ago, Rosa Castro finished her dinner, opened her laptop, and uncovered a novel object that was neither planet nor star. Therapist by day and amateur astronomer by night, Castro joined the NASA-funded Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project when it began in February — not knowing she would become one of four volunteers to help identify the project's first brown dwarf, formally known as WISEA J110125.95+540052.8.


Image above: This illustration shows the average brown dwarf is much smaller than our sun and low mass stars and only slightly larger than the planet Jupiter. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

After devoting hours to skimming online, publicly available "flipbooks" containing time-lapse images, she spotted a moving object unlike any other. The search process involves fixating on countless colorful dots, she explained. When an object is different, it simply stands out. Castro, who describes herself as extremely detail oriented, has contributed nearly 100 classifications to this specific project.

A paper about the new brown dwarf was published on May 24 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Four citizen scientists are co-authors of the paper, including Castro. Since then, Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 has identified roughly 117 additional brown dwarf candidates.

The collaboration was inspired by the recently proposed ninth planet, possibly orbiting at the fringes of our solar system beyond Pluto.

"We realized we could do a much better job identifying Planet Nine if we opened the search to the public," said lead researcher Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Along the way, we're hoping to find thousands of interesting brown dwarfs."

It's been roughly two decades since researchers first discovered brown dwarfs, and the scientific community opened its eyes to this new class of objects between stars and planets. Although they are as common as stars and form in much the same way, brown dwarfs lack the mass necessary to sustain nuclear fusion reactions. They therefore do not have the energy to maintain their luminosity, so they slowly cool over the course of their lifetimes. Their low temperatures also render them intrinsically dim.

For years, Kuchner has been fascinated by infrared images of the entire sky captured by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), launched in 2009. The space telescope is specially designed to observe cold objects emitting light at long wavelengths — objects like brown dwarfs. With its initial mission complete, WISE was deactivated in 2011. It was then reactivated in 2013 as NEOWISE, a new mission funded by the NEO Observations Program with a different goal: to search for potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs).


Animation above: The newly discovered brown dwarf WISEA J110125.95+540052.8 appears as a moving dot (indicated by the circle) in this animated flipbook from the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project. Animation Credits: NASA/WISE.

Previously, Kuchner had focused on stationary objects seen by WISE. But the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project shows the WISE and NEOWISE data in a way custom-tailored for finding fast-moving objects. His team layers many images of the same location to create a single, comprehensive snapshot. These are then combined with several similarly "co-added" pictures to form flipbooks that show motion over time.

Anyone with internet access can scour these flipbooks and click on anomalies. If they would like to call the science team's attention to an object they found, they can submit a report to the researchers or share their insights on a public forum. Kuchner and his colleagues then follow up the best candidates using ground-based telescopes to glean more information.

According to Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen scientist Dan Caselden, participants are free to dig as deep into the results as they choose. A security researcher by trade, Caselden developed a series of tools allowing fellow participants to streamline their searches and visualize their results, as well as aggregate various user statistics. He also helped identify several of the additional brown dwarf candidates while the first discovery was being confirmed.

Kuchner and his co-author, Adam Schneider of Arizona State University, Tempe, agree WISEA J110125.95+540052.8 is an exciting discovery for several reasons. "What's special about this object — besides the way it was discovered — is that it's unusually faint," Schneider said. "That means our citizen scientists are probing much deeper than anyone has before."

While computers efficiently sift through deluges of data, they can also get lost in details that human eyes and brains easily disregard as irrelevant.

However, mining this information is extremely arduous for a single scientist or even a small group of researchers. That's precisely why collaborating with an enthusiastic public is so effective — many eyes catch details that one pair alone could miss.

While Kuchner is delighted by this early discovery, his ultimate goal for Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is to find the smallest and coldest brown dwarfs, called Y dwarfs.  Some of these Y dwarfs many even be lurking closer to us than Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the sun.


Image above: This illustration shows a close-up view of a Y dwarf. Objects like this, drifting just beyond our solar system, have been imaged by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer and could be discovered by Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Their low temperatures make Y dwarfs extremely dim, according to Adam Burgasser at the University of California San Diego. "They're so faint that it takes quite a bit of work to pull them from the images, that's where Kuchner's project will help immensely," he said. "Anytime you get a diverse set of people looking at the data, they'll bring unique perspectives that can lead to unexpected discoveries."

Kuchner anticipates the Backyard Worlds effort will continue for several more years — allowing more volunteers like Caselden and Castro to contribute.

As Castro put it: "I am not a professional. I'm just an amateur astronomer appreciating the night sky. If I see something odd, I'll admire and enjoy it."

Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is a collaboration between NASA, UC Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Arizona State University, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and Zooniverse, a collaboration of scientists, software developers and educators who collectively develop and manage citizen science projects on the internet.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the NEOWISE mission for NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office within the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Related links:

The Astrophysical Journal Letters: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/aa7200/meta

Zooniverse: https://www.zooniverse.org/

For more information about Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, visit:  http://backyardworlds.org

For more information about NASA's WISE mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/wise

Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/mission/index.html

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Raleigh McElvery.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA Langley Turns 100: A Storied Legacy, A Soaring Future











NASA Langley celebrating 100 years, 1917-2017 logo.

July 17, 2017

A Storied Legacy, A Soaring Future


Image above: NASA Langley celebrating 100 years, 1917-2017. Image Credits: NASA/Langley Research Center.

Something happened 100 years ago that changed forever the way we fly. And then the way we explore space. And then how we study our home planet. That something was the establishment of what is now NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, which is commemorating its 100th anniversary in 2017. This article is the first in a series that will examine Langley's past, present and future over the next year.

"If a competition were held to determine that organization that had accomplished the largest number of advancements to aeronautic and aerospace progress, my nomination would be this place." –Neil Armstrong.

Celebrating 100 Years: A Storied Legacy, A Soaring Future

Video above: NASA Langley – 100 Years: This 45-minute documentary looks back across the 100 years, updates us on work being done at Langley today, and takes a peek into the future. Find out more about NASA Langley’s centennial at: https://www.nasa.gov/langley/100. Video Credit: NASA.

Founded just three months after America's entry into World War I, Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory was established as the nation's first civilian facility focused on aeronautical research. The goal was, simply, to "solve the fundamental problems of flight."

From the beginning, Langley engineers devised technologies for safer, higher, farther and faster air travel. Top-tier talent was hired. State-of-the-art wind tunnels and supporting infrastructure was built. Unique solutions were found.


Image above: NACA test pilot prepares to fly an Apache biplane to high altitude as part of efforts to improve performance. Virtually every aircraft that has flown was improved by Langley in some way. Image Credits: NASA/Langley Research Center.

Langley researchers developed the wing shapes still used today in airplane design. Better propellers, engine cowlings, all-metal airplanes, new kinds of rotorcraft and helicopters, faster-than-sound flight - these were among Langley's many groundbreaking aeronautical advances spanning its first decades.

By 1958, Langley's governing organization, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, would become NASA, and Langley's accomplishments would soar from air into space.

Faster Still

During World War II, Langley tested planes like the P-51 Mustang in the nation's first wind tunnel built for full-size aircraft. The changes made to warplanes like the P-51 decreased fuel use and increased speeds: a combination that helped win the war.

As Langley engineers pushed the aeronautics envelope, they partnered with the military on the Bell X-1, an experimental aircraft that would fly faster than the speed of sound. Then-Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager piloted the X-1 into history, becoming the first person to break the sound barrier.

But that wasn't fast enough, so researchers went back to work in Langley wind tunnels. Follow-on high-speed research would extend the reach of American aeronautics into the once-thought-impractical fields of supersonics and hypersonics.


Image above: X-15 and Air Force pilot William J. "Pete" Knight is seen here in front of the X-15A-2 aircraft (56-6671). Image Credit: NASA.

By 1959, the X-15 would rocket to hypersonic speeds, traveling five times faster than sound, paving the way for manned spaceflight. Data gathered during X-15 flights would directly contribute to the creation of the U.S. space program.

Racing to Space

Working in isolation on Virginia's Eastern Shore beaches, Langley scientists and engineers solved vexing rocket-launch issues, distilling expertise from among a small team that would eventually create America's manned space program.

Concerns over potential Soviet domination of space transformed the NACA into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: NASA. As a moon landing became America's Space Race goal, Langley tackled the many challenges of spaceflight, train astronauts, managed Project Mercury, and assumed major roles in both the Gemini and Apollo programs.


Image above: On April 9, 1959, NASA introduced its first astronaut class, the Mercury 7. Front row, left to right: Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, John H. Glenn, Jr., and M. Scott Carpenter; back row, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. Image Credit: NASA.

Langley led the Lunar Orbiter initiative, which not only mapped the moon, but chose the spot for the first human landing. Langley aerospace engineer John Houbolt championed the lunar-orbit rendezvous concept, enabling the Apollo 11 moon landing and the safe return of its crew to Earth.

Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the lunar surface, trained at Langley's Lunar Landing Research Facility on equipment that cancelled all but one-sixth of Earth's gravitational force to match that of the moon's. In all, 24 astronauts practiced lunar landings at this facility, the base of which was modeled with fill dirt to resemble the lunar pitted surface.

Earth, Mars, Beyond

Closer to home, as planes flew higher and faster, raising concerns about environmental impact, NASA science went airborne and, eventually, orbital. NASA's space shuttle was an essential step on that journey. Langley evaluated shuttle designs, improved materials, and tested landing systems crucial to all 135 shuttle missions. Easier access to space meant more satellites, satellites that could be used to observe Earth's atmosphere from above.

Langley scientists and engineers created, built and managed a series of instruments — both on planes and on spacecraft — to study the planet's changing climate. Langley set new environmental science standards by collecting and archiving the resultant data.

A better understanding of Earth's atmosphere would lead to work on how best to touch down on other worlds. With the Viking 1 landing in 1976, Langley led the first successful U.S. mission to the surface of Mars, setting the stage for subsequent Red Planet exploration. Another milestone occurred in August 2012, with the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity rover, whose heat shield included a suite of advanced sensors developed by and at Langley.

NASA's Space Launch System, or SLS, is a powerful, advanced launch vehicle for a new era of human exploration beyond Earth orbit. With its unprecedented power and capabilities, SLS will launch crews of up to four astronauts in the agency's Orion spacecraft on missions to explore multiple, deep-space destinations.

A Heritage Going Green

As aviation lifts into the second decade of the 21st century, Langley continues a rich heritage of aeronautical innovation. Today, for example, many planes feature wing tips, or winglets, a concept first proposed by Langley research engineer and National Aviation Hall of Famer Richard Whitcomb, whose groundbreaking research led to routine high-subsonic jet flight as well as practical supersonic flight.

Other standouts include breakthroughs in wind shear and lightning protections, digital control systems, glass cockpits, new kinds of "composite" materials and supercritical wings, among a number of others.

In the search for even greener, quieter planes, researchers returned to Langley wind tunnels and computer labs to explore ideas for new aircraft, like those known as hybrid wing bodies, a design that blends wings directly into the fuselage in a manta-ray-like shape.


Image above: Artist concept shows an Earth science satellite called CALIPSO, or Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations. CALIPSO measures Earth's clouds and aerosols, which are things like dust, sea salt, ash and soot. Image Credits: NASA/Langley Research Center.

More recently, air traffic management and control took center stage as a better way of moving planes more efficiently on the ground and in the air. It's all part of NASA's "green" aviation push to make air travel less polluting, more fuel efficient, and quieter on the ground and during flight.

NASA recently selected five green technology concepts that could transform the aviation industry within the coming decade: alternative fuel cells, morphing wings, lithium-air batteries for energy storage, aerogels for aircraft antennae, and a way to 3D print electric motor components.

Farther ahead, Langley stands to play a major role if a proposed 10-year NASA plan known as New Aviation Horizons – an ambitious undertaking to design, build and fly a variety of flight demonstration vehicles, or "X-planes" – is approved and funded.

Now, as it was a century ago, research into next-generation aircraft and their supporting technologies remains central to Langley's work. Tomorrow, as today, Langley is anticipating the future by inventing it, creating firsts in aeronautics, science and exploration.


Image above: NASA Langley celebrating 100 years, 1917-2017. Image Credits: NASA/Langley Research Center.

Learn More About NASA Langley's centennial celebration:

Crafting Flight: https://www.nasa.gov/langley/100/crafting-flight

Breaking the Sound Barrier: https://www.nasa.gov/langley/100/breaking-the-sound-barrier

Launching the Space Race: https://www.nasa.gov/langley/100/launching-the-space-race

Understanding Earth's Climate: https://www.nasa.gov/langley/100/understanding-earths-climate

Advancing Military Might: https://www.nasa.gov/langley/100/advancing-military-might

Responding to Emergencies: https://www.nasa.gov/langley/100/responding-to-emergencies

Revealing the Red Planet: https://www.nasa.gov/langley/100/revealing-the-red-planet

Living and Working in Space (Coming August 2017)

Benefitting Humankind (Coming September 2017)

Inventing the Future (Coming 2017)

NASA History: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/history/index.html

NACA: https://www.nasa.gov/subject/6913/naca

Langley Research Center: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/home/index.html

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Bob Allen/Langley Research Center/Jim Schultz.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Jets from a Distance












NASA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

July 17, 2017


Enceladus' intriguing south-polar jets are viewed from afar, backlit by sunlight while the moon itself glows softly in reflected Saturn-shine.

Observations of the jets taken from various viewing geometries provide different insights into these remarkable features. Cassini has gathered a wealth of information in the hopes of unraveling the mysteries of the subsurface ocean that lurks beneath the moon's icy crust.

This view looks toward the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Enceladus (313 miles or 504 kilometers across). North is up. The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 13, 2017.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 502,000 miles (808,000 kilometers) from Enceladus and at a sun-Enceladus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 176 degrees. Image scale is 3 miles (5 kilometers) per pixel.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/cassini. The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org and http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Cassini-Huygens

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Martin Perez/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch