vendredi 19 mai 2023

Light Duty Day During Spacewalk Safety Training and Axiom Mission Preps


ISS - Expedition 69 Mission patch.

May 19, 2023

The seven-member Expedition 69 crew split up on Wednesday with four astronauts enjoying some time off and three cosmonauts staying busy with cargo transfers and lab maintenance. The astronauts did have some time for spacewalk safety training and preparations for the arrival of four private astronauts to the International Space Station.

NASA Flight Engineers Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg each put on a pair of virtual reality goggles on Friday and practiced controlling the jet packs attached to Extravehicular Mobility Units, or spacesuits. The jetpacks, also called SAFERs (Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue), would provide an astronaut the ability to maneuver back to the station in the unlikely event they became untethered during a spacewalk. The duo also reviewed the Enhanced Caution and Warning System that monitors the spacesuit’s condition including oxygen, water, and battery power levels.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi took Friday morning off then spent the afternoon reviewing procedures and training on a computer for the approach and docking of Axiom Mission-2 (Ax-2). He also set up computers in the seven-window cupola and the Destiny laboratory module that will support the monitoring of the Ax-2 mission’s arrival aboard the SpaceX Dragon Freedom crew ship.

The four Ax-2 private astronauts are scheduled to lift off aboard Freedom from Kennedy Space Center at 5:37 p.m. on Sunday and dock to the Harmony module’s space-facing port on Monday at 9:24 a.m. Ax-2 Commander Peggy Whitson will lead Pilot John Shoffner and Mission Specialists Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi during the ride to the station for several days of research, outreach, and commercial activities before returning to Earth.

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon Endeavour carrying four Axiom Mission 1 astronauts approaches the space station above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco on April 9, 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio had Friday off in anticipation of supporting the Ax-2 crew arrival next week, taking time out for a pair of workout sessions on the advanced resistive exercise device and the exercise cycle.  Bowen and Hoburg also had a couple of hours of off-duty time in between their spacewalk safety training, installing extra sleeping units for the Ax-2 crew, and servicing combustion research hardware.

Commander Sergey Prokopyev, with assistance from Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev, continued cargo transfers from the ISS Progress 83 (83P) resupply ship docked to the Zvezda service module. The duo then split up the rest of the day for a variety of Roscosmos lab maintenance tasks. Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin spent his day configuring video and electronics gear before inspecting windows on the Nauka science module.

Image above: Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev waves to the camera while working outside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module during a spacewalk that lasted for six hours and 37 minutes to outfit Nauka and configure the European robotic arm on the International Space Station's Russian segment. Image Credit: NASA.

The space station is orbiting slightly higher after the 83P fired its engines for six minutes on Thursday. The orbital reboost raises the station to the correct altitude for the upcoming docking of the ISS Progress 84 resupply mission.

Related article (NASA):

NASA Sets Coverage for Axiom Mission 2 Briefings, Events, Broadcast

Related links:

Expedition 69:

Seven-window cupola:

Destiny laboratory module:

Harmony module:

Advanced resistive exercise device:

Exercise cycle:

Combustion research:

Zvezda service module:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards,

NASA’s Chase Aircraft Gets a Facelift


NASA - Armstrong Flight Research Center patch.

May 19, 2023

An F/A-18 aircraft received from the U.S. Navy in 2021 has been rejuvenated, had its NASA colors added, and is close to flight certification at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, in Edwards, California.

Image above: NASA 862, which is an F/A-18D, departs with its fresh colors from the U.S. Air Force Corrosion Control Facility on Edwards Air Force Base in California for its nearby home at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center. Image Credit: Steve Freeman.

Thanks to the U.S. Air Force Corrosion Control Facility on Edwards Air Force Base, also known as the Paint Barn, the F/A-18D aircraft designated NASA 862 will join the center’s stable of aircraft with its new colors. NASA 862 is intended to track, or “chase,” the quiet supersonic X-59 aircraft and provide a platform for videographers and photographers to document flights.

Image above: NASA 862, which is an F/A-18D now based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, arrives for the first time in 2021. The aircraft was stationed at the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. Once here, the aircraft was sent for major maintenance, painting, and preparation to join the NASA Armstrong aircraft fleet. Image Credit: Lauren Hughes.

The long road for this aircraft’s acquisition and preparation began in 2020. Troy Asher, director for Flight Operations at NASA Armstrong, initiated an effort to replace the center’s legacy, two-seat F/A-18B models with newer aircraft. To that end, Asher tasked Jack Ly, a NASA Armstrong flight operations engineer, to evaluate several aircraft that could meet the center’s mission.

Image above: U.S. Air Force Corrosion Control Facility personnel work to sand NASA 862, which is an F/A-18D based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The facility is located on Edwards Air Force Base and is also known as the Paint Barn. Image Credit: Steve Freeman.

“We’re excited to have this aircraft in our fleet,” Ly said. “Our hope is in the next couple of months we will be able to integrate more instrumentation to support more missions.”

Image above: U.S. Air Force Corrosion Control Facility personnel Kristian Snoots and Shelby Youngo remove masking from NASA 862, which is an F/A-18D based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The corrosion control facility is located on Edwards Air Force Base and is also known as the Paint Barn. Image Credit: Steve Freeman.

Ly identified the F/A-18D that would become NASA 862, was identified in May 2021 at its home base at the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. After leading a team to inspect the aircraft, its airframe and component records, Ly gave his recommendation to select it. Although the F/A-18D is considered old by military standards, it is more modern the F/A-18B, and its parts are easier to find.

Image above: U.S. Air Force Corrosion Control Facility’s Shelby Youngo paints tail art on to NASA 862, which is an F/A-18D based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The corrosion control facility is located on Edwards Air Force Base and is also known as the Paint Barn. Image Credit: Steve Freeman.

The aircraft spent four months having its military components removed during preparation for transfer to NASA Armstrong. The aircraft was delivered to NASA Armstrong in October 2021, and coordination continued to send it to the Naval Air Station North Island Base, near San Diego, in June 2022 for intense depot-level maintenance. NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and NASA Armstrong provided funding to enable the aircraft rejuvenation.

Image above: U.S. Air Force Corrosion Control Facility’s Shelby Youngo completes painting a danger warning on NASA 862, which is an F/A-18D based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The corrosion control facility is located on Edwards Air Force Base and is also known as the Paint Barn. Image Credit: Steve Freeman.

For the aircraft to fly NASA Armstrong missions, it needed an overhaul required when an aircraft flies a certain number of hours. That involves removing the wings, inspecting for corrosion, modernizing its systems, and conducting other key inspections and servicing. Technicians installed full aircraft controls in the rear cockpit to allow a second pilot to receive training or maintain proficiency. The maintenance to NASA 862 should support a life span of about 40 years for the aircraft based on NASA Armstrong usage.

Image above: Eric Miranda, who works at the U.S. Air Force Corrosion Control Facility, paints areas in a stencil for adding some finishing touches to NASA 862, which is an F/A-18D based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The corrosion control facility is located on Edwards Air Force Base and is also known as the Paint Barn. Image Credit: Steve Freeman.

NASA 862 returned to NASA Armstrong in February 2023, then made an initial trip to the Paint Barn in March for sanding, masking and preparation for painting. It then returned to the Paint Barn for the full NASA Armstrong paint scheme and the final application of safety decals and NASA and Armstrong identifications. The aircraft returned to NASA Armstrong May 15.

NASA entered the aircraft into its Aircraft Management Information System and completed weight and balance checks. The aircraft’s initial airworthiness review is expected this month. Once complete, Asher will sign its airworthiness certificate and send it to Center Director Brad Flick for final approval for the aircraft to begin flights.

Related links:



Armstrong Flight Research Center:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ryan Henderson/Armstrong Flight Research Center/Jay Levine, X-Press Editor.


Hubble Peers into a Glistening Star Cluster


NASA / ESA - Hubble Space Telescope (HST) patch.

May 19, 2023

The densely packed globular cluster NGC 6325 glistens in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This concentrated group of stars lies around 26,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus.

Globular clusters like NGC 6325 are tightly bound collections of stars with anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of members. They can be found in all types of galaxies and act as natural laboratories for astronomers studying star formation. This is because the constituent stars of globular clusters tend to form at roughly the same time and with similar initial composition, meaning astronomers can use them to fine-tune their theories of how stars evolve.

Astronomers inspected this particular cluster not to understand star formation, but to search for a hidden monster. Though it might look peaceful, astronomers suspect this cluster could contain an intermediate-mass black hole that is subtly affecting the motion of surrounding stars. Previous research found that the distribution of stars in some highly concentrated globular clusters – those with stars packed relatively tightly together – was slightly different from what astronomers expected.

This discrepancy suggests that at least some of these densely packed globular clusters – including perhaps NGC 6325 – could have a black hole lurking at the center. To explore this hypothesis further, astronomers turned to Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to observe a larger sample of densely populated globular clusters, which included this star-studded image of NGC 6325. Additional data from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys was also incorporated into this image.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Wide Field Camera 3:

Advanced Camera for Surveys:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, E. Noyola, R. Cohen.

Best regards,

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of May 15, 2023


ISS - Expedition 69 Mission patch.

May 19, 2023

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of May 15 that included studying the behavior of protein solutions, testing technology to monitor astronaut sleep quality, and examining the effect of exercise regimens that do not include a treadmill.

Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place aboard the orbiting lab:

Liquids, Uncontained

Image above: This image shows mixing at the interface of two shear-driven systems in a ground analog of hardware for Ring-Sheared Drop-IBP, which tests computer models for the behavior of high-concentration protein fluids. Image Credit: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Ring Sheared Drop-IBP, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, studies high-concentration protein solutions and tests computer models for predicting their behavior. The investigation uses a system without containers that removes the effects of interactions with solid walls. Results could lead to more accurate models of complex fluid behavior, enabling production of next-generation medicines and improving in-space manufacturing and 3D printing. Results also could help streamline pharmaceutical manufacturing, 3D printing, food processing, and other processes on Earth. During the week, crew members installed sample syringes and deployed drops into the system for processing.

Sleep, Improved

Image above: The hardware kit for Dreams, an ESA investigation that monitors the quality of astronaut sleep. Image Credit: NASA.

Insufficient sleep and sleep disorders can impair performance and increase the risk of medical problems such as cardiovascular disease. Dreams, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), demonstrates a wearable headband to monitor astronaut sleep quality during spaceflight. Sleep conditions for astronauts can be stressful and monitoring their sleep quality is difficult with the devices currently available. This device collects a variety of data including sleep duration, stages, and number of awakenings and heart rate. The easy-to-use tool also could help improve sleep for people on Earth. Crew members wore the headband for several sessions during the week.

Exercise, Tested

Missions to the Moon and Mars need to include exercise devices that provide a variety of aerobic and resistance options to maintain astronaut health and physical fitness and also meet launch weight and mass limits. Treadmills currently used to reinforce the motor pattern of walking in astronauts are too bulky and heavy for future long-term missions. Zero T2 examines the effects on bone, muscle, and aerobic health and performance when crew members do not exercise on a treadmill during flight. Results could help determine whether other exercise regimens are adequate to maintain physical health on future missions. Crew members exercised on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) during the week for the investigation.

Image above: Argentina’s glacier-fed Viedma Lake is visible as the space station orbits 268 miles above. Image Credit: NASA.

Other Investigations Involving the Crew:

- Students write software to control the space station’s Astrobee free-flying robots for Zero Robotics. The experience helps inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers.

- ISS Ham Radio provides students, teachers, and others the opportunity to communicate with astronauts using amateur radio units. Before a scheduled call, students learn about the station, radio waves, and other topics, and prepare a list of questions based on the topics they have researched.

- Space Health, an investigation from CSA (Canadian Space Agency), uses the wearable Bio-Monitor system integrated with the automated Artemis platform to assess the effect of space travel on heart health. Automated monitoring systems are needed as future missions travel farther from medical support.

- Immunity Assay, an investigation from ESA, monitors how spaceflight affects immune function using a newly developed process that can be done during flight. Results could support development of countermeasures for immunological issues during long-duration spaceflight.

- JEM Water Recovery System from JAXA demonstrates technology to generate potable water from urine. The system could contribute to life support systems on the space station and future exploration missions.

- Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM) demonstrates an instrument to measure the concentration of particles in the space station’s air. Maintaining air quality in the space station is vital for crew member health, but no capability currently exists to verify that maximum allowable concentrations of particles are met.

Space to Ground: Springing Into Flight: May 19, 2023

The space station, a robust microgravity laboratory with a multitude of specialized research facilities and tools, has supported many scientific breakthroughs from investigations spanning every major scientific discipline. The ISS Benefits for Humanity 2022 publication details the expanding universe of results realized from more than 20 years of experiments conducted on the station.

The ISS Benefits for Humanity 2022:

Related links:

Expedition 69:

Ring Sheared Drop-IBP:


Zero T2:


ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA9, Text, Credits: NASA/Carrie Gilder/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 69.


JWST spots biggest water plume yet spewing from a moon of Saturn


NASA / ESA / CSA-ASC - James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) patch.

May 19, 2023

The huge watery cloud spurting from Enceladus could carry the ingredients for life farther into space than previously known. 

Image above: The Cassini spacecraft swoops through plumes issuing from Saturn’s moon Enceladus (artist’s impression). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has spotted Saturn’s moon Enceladus spraying out a huge plume of water vapour, far bigger than any previously seen there. This enormous cloud might contain the chemical ingredients of life, escaping from beneath the moon’s icy surface.

In 2005, a NASA spacecraft called Cassini discovered icy particles squirting from Enceladus’s subsurface ocean through cracks in the moon’s surface. But JWST shows that material is spraying much farther than previously thought — many times deeper into space than the size of Enceladus itself.

“It’s immense,” said Sara Faggi, a planetary astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on 17 May at a conference at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. She declined to provide further details, citing a scientific paper that will be published soon.

Rare ocean world

Enceladus excites astrobiologists because it is one of the few ‘ocean worlds’ in the Solar System, making it one of the best places to look for extraterrestrial life. The salty ocean that lies beneath Enceladus’s outer covering of ice is a possible haven for living organisms, which could be sustained by chemical energy at hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.

Image above: Illustration of the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus showing a global liquid water ocean between its rocky core and icy crust. Thickness of layers shown here is not to scale. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The material that squirts out of Enceladus, primarily through fractures known as tiger stripes around the moon’s south pole, is a direct link to that potential extraterrestrial ecosystem. The plumes seen by Cassini contained silica particles that were probably carried up from the sea floor by churning fluids (1). Cassini flew many times through Enceladus’s plumes, measuring ice grains and life-friendly chemicals such as methane, carbon dioxide and ammonia.

But it took JWST, a telescope located 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, to discover something that Cassini could not see from its ringside seat. Whereas Cassini could spot ice grains that do not travel far from the surface, JWST has a wider perspective and sensitive instruments that can capture faint gas signals around Enceladus.

Enceladus at a glance

On 9 November 2022, JWST peeked briefly at Enceladus. Just 4.5 minutes’ worth of data revealed the enormous, very cold plume of water vapour. The forthcoming paper will quantify how much water is spraying out and its temperature, Faggi said. But the plume is likely to be of low density, more like a diffuse, cold cloud than a damp spray. That’s not great news for anyone looking to grab samples from the plume and hoping to find life, as the signs of life may be too sparse to detect (2). Ice grains seen by Cassini much closer to Enceladus are more likely to have high concentrations of organic particles, says Shannon MacKenzie, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

Image above: Though the northern hemisphere of Enceladus is pockmarked with impact craters, the southern hemisphere (especially near the pole) is almost entirely crater-free. Instead, this region is carpeted with countless house-sized ice boulders, as well as long, winding crevasses known as “tiger stripes.” From these relatively warm stripes, fissures form and disappear, creating huge geysers of water vapor fueled by a deep, subsurface ocean. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/ESA.

JWST also analysed the spectrum of sunlight reflecting off Enceladus and found evidence of many chemicals, including water and possibly other compounds that could hint at geological or biological activity in the moon’s ocean. “We have many more surprises,” Faggi said.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

Researchers are already planning how to follow up on the discovery. Last week, JWST organizers released a list of the observations to be taken in the telescope’s second round of operations — and it includes another project to study Enceladus. That work will look at Enceladus for six times longer than the first JWST study, and will aim to find chemical compounds associated with habitability, such as organic compounds and hydrogen peroxide. “The new observation will give us our best shot yet at searching for habitability indicators on the surface,” says project lead Christopher Glein, a geochemist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

Moon-scouting snake robot

JWST’s findings provide more grist for a possible NASA mission to Enceladus to search for signs of life there. Proposals under consideration include an ‘orbilander’ mission that would orbit the moon for a year and a half before landing at its south pole. Another proposal calls for the development of an autonomous snake robot that could slither beneath Enceladus’s ice to explore the ocean.

Image above: Team members from JPL test a snake robot called EELS at a ski resort in the Southern California mountains in February. Designed to sense its environment, calculate risk, travel, and gather data without real-time human input, EELS could eventually explore destinations throughout the solar system. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Other icy moons in the Solar System are also getting attention from JWST. At the conference, Geronimo Villanueva, a planetary scientist at Goddard, reported that the telescope had detected carbon dioxide on Jupiter’s moon Europa. That excites scientists because carbon and oxygen are key building blocks for life on Earth. NASA is launching a mission to Europa next year that will explore that ocean world in more detail. “This is definitely a new era in the exploration of the Solar System,” Villanueva said.



1. Schoenfeld, A. M. et al. Comm. Earth Environ. 4, 28 (2023).

2. Affholder, A., Guyot, F., Sauterey, B., Ferrière, R. & Mazevet, S. Planet. Sci. J. 3, 270 (2022).

Related article (JPL):

JPL’s Snake-Like EELS Slithers Into New Robotics Terrain

Related link:

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): and

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Nature/Alexandra Witze/ Aerospace.

Best regards,

NASA Selects Blue Origin for Astronaut Mission to the Moon


NASA - ARTEMIS Program logo.

May 19, 2023

NASA has awarded a NextSTEP-2 Appendix P Sustaining Lunar Development (SLD) contract to Blue Origin. Blue Origin’s National Team partners include Lockheed Martin, Draper, Boeing, Astrobotic, and Honeybee Robotics.

Image above: A rendering of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander that will return astronauts to the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program. Image Credit: Blue Origin.

Under this contract, Blue Origin and its National Team partners will develop and fly both a lunar lander that can make a precision landing anywhere on the Moon’s surface and a cislunar transporter. These vehicles are powered by LOX-LH2. The high-specific impulse of LOX-LH2 provides a dramatic advantage for high-energy deep space missions. Nevertheless, lower performing but more easily storable propellants (such as hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide as used on the Apollo lunar landers) have been favored for these missions because of the problematic boil-off of LOX-LH2 during their long mission timelines. 

Through this contract, we will move the state of the art forward by making high-performance LOX-LH2 a storable propellant combination. Under SLD, we will develop and fly solar-powered 20-degree Kelvin cryocoolers and the other technologies required to prevent LOX-LH2 boil-off. Future missions beyond the Moon, and enabling capabilities such as high-performance nuclear thermal propulsion, will benefit greatly from storable LH2. Blue Origin’s architecture also prepares for that future day when lunar ice can be used to manufacture LOX and LH2 propellants on the Moon.
Blue Origin and its partners are already at work and are excited to be on this journey with NASA.

Related links:

NASA Selects Blue Origin for Astronaut Mission to the Moon:

Blue Origin:


Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: Blue Origin.


jeudi 18 mai 2023

ISS Orbit Prepared for Progress MS-23 Cargo Spacecraft Launch


ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

May 18, 2023

The engines of the Progress MS-22 spacecraft, docked to the Russian service module Zvezda, were turned on at 19:43 Moscow time and worked for 353.1 seconds, generating an impulse of 0.55 m/s.

As a result, according to preliminary data, the average altitude of the station's orbit increased by 1 km and amounted to 416.6 km.

ISS reboost by Progress Cargo Spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

For the entire duration of the ISS flight, 339 corrections of its orbital altitude were carried out, including 187 with the help of Progress spacecraft engines.

The launch of the Progress MS-23 spacecraft by the Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome is scheduled for May 24, 2023.

The crew of the 69th long-term expedition is working on board the ISS, consisting of cosmonauts of the State Corporation Roscosmos Sergey Prokopiev, Dmitry Petelin, Andrey Fedyaev, NASA astronauts Franck Rubio, Stephen Bowen, Woody Hoburg, UAE astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Progress MS-22:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.