mercredi 8 avril 2020

NASA Awards Contract to Deliver Science, Tech to Moon Ahead of Human Missions

NASA - Artemis Program logo.

April 8, 2020

NASA has selected Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, to deliver and operate eight payloads – with nine science and technology instruments – to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024.

Image above: Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. Image Credit: Masten Space Systems.

The payloads, which include instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon, are being delivered under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

As the country and the world face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA is leveraging virtual presence and communications tools to safely make progress on these important lunar exploration activities, and to award this lunar surface delivery as it was scheduled prior to the pandemic.

“Under our Artemis program, we are going to the Moon with all of America,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Commercial industry is critical to making our vision for lunar exploration a reality. The science and technology we are sending to the lunar surface ahead of our crewed missions will help us understand the lunar environment better than we ever have before. These CLPS deliveries are on the cutting edge of our work to do great science and support human exploration of the Moon. I’m happy to welcome another of our innovative companies to the group that is ready to start taking our payloads to the Moon as soon as possible.”

The $75.9 million award includes end-to-end services for delivery of the instruments, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the Moon’s surface, and operation for at least 12 days. Masten Space Systems will land these payloads on the Moon with its XL-1 lander.

“The Moon provides great scientific value, and these payloads will advance what we know and help define and improve the science astronauts can do,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD). “Our commercial Moon delivery efforts are seeking to demonstrate how frequent and affordable access to the lunar surface benefits both science and exploration.”

The payloads that will be delivered have been developed predominantly from the two recent NASA Provided Lunar Payloads (NPLP) and Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads (LSITP) solicitations.

The nine instruments to be delivered are:

- Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS) will deploy a radiometer – a device that measures infrared wavelengths of light – to explore the Moon's surface composition, map its surface temperature distribution, and demonstrate the instrument's feasibility for future lunar resource utilization activities.

- Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer (LETS) is a sensor that will measure the radiation environment on the Moon’s surface. The payload also is being flown on a CLPS flight to the Moon in 2021.

- Heimdall is a flexible camera system for conducting lunar science on commercial vehicles. This innovation includes a single digital video recorder and four cameras: a wide-angle descent imager, a narrow-angle regolith imager, and two wide-angle panoramic imagers. This camera system is intended to model the properties of the Moon's regolith – the soil and other material that make up the top layer of the lunar surface – and characterize and map geologic features. Other goals for this instrument include characterizing potential landing or trafficability hazards.

- MoonRanger is a small robotic rover that weighs less than 30 pounds and will demonstrate communications and mapping technologies. It will demonstrate the ability to move quickly across long distances on the lunar surface with autonomous navigation and without the ability to communicate with Earth in real time. It is a technology that could enable exploration of destinations that are far from lunar landing sites. The MoonRanger will carry the Neutron Spectrometer System, which will measure the concentration of hydrogen in the Moon’s regolith – a possible indication of the existence of buried water.

- Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) is a device to measure potentially accessible resources on the Moon’s surface. It will identify gases coming off a lander during touchdown on the lunar surface to help scientists understand what elements are coming from the lunar surface and which ones are introduced by a lander itself.

- Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System (NIRVSS) is a tool to measure surface composition and temperature. The instrument will characterize the variability of the lunar soils and detect volatiles such as methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia and water.

- Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) is a series of eight small mirrors to measure distance and support landing accuracy. It requires no power or communications from the lander and can be detected by future spacecraft orbiting or landing on the Moon.

- Sample Acquisition, Morphology Filtering, and Probing of Lunar Regolith (SAMPLR) is a robotic arm that will collect samples of lunar regolith and demonstrate the use of a robotic scoop that can filter and isolate particles of different sizes. The sampling technology makes use of a flight spare from the Mars Exploration Rover project.

NASA’s MSolo: A tool for measuring lunar resources

NASA has contracted with 14 American companies to deliver science and technology to the lunar surface through competed task orders. The agency plans to issue at least two such task orders per year through which the companies can propose to take payloads to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, early commercial deliveries of payloads to the lunar surface missions enable NASA to perform science experiments, test technologies and demonstrate capabilities to further explore the Moon and prepare for human missions.

“I am very pleased to award our next delivery service task order to Masten Space Systems,” said Steven Clarke, deputy associate administrator for exploration in SMD. “With the first delivery in 2022, we are continuing to execute our strategy of providing two delivery opportunities per year of science investigations and technology demonstration payloads to the lunar surface.”

In May 2019, NASA selected two CLPS providers, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines, who are each making progress toward sending payloads to the Moon next year. In February, NASA asked the 14 companies to provide proposals to fly the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), which will be the first rover on the Moon that will look for and map the distribution of water and other important volatiles at one of the lunar poles. In addition to these deliveries and the delivery to be made by Masten Space Systems, payloads for a fifth lunar delivery are in development, and NASA will soon be initiating a new series of payload acquisitions for targeted science investigations for years to come.

Related links:

Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo):

Moon to Mars:

Find more information about the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services project at:

Read more about NASA’s Artemis program at:

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Grey Hautaluoma/JSC/Rachel Kraft/ Jenny Knotts.


Gel, respirators ... CERN come into battle against coronavirus

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

April 8, 2020

With a large community of researchers, the scientific organization has set up an action group dedicated to the fight against the pandemic.

Fabiola Gianotti

"We want to deploy our resources and skills to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic," said Fabiola Gianotti.

Production of hydro-alcoholic gel, design and construction of sophisticated medical equipment ... CERN, which hosts the largest particle accelerator in the world, is also launching into the battle against the coronavirus.

This organization, which is also the place where the British Tim Berners-Lee conceptualized the World Wide Web more than 30 years ago, has tremendous scientific, physical and computer resources allowing him to contribute to the global fight against the coronavirus, against which there is no treatment, no vaccine.

In a press release, CERN said on Wednesday that it had set up an action group responsible for identifying and supporting the possible contributions of the 18,000 people making up its community of scientists around the world.

"Deploy our resources"

If CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) was originally a European organization, today it counts Israel among its members and the United States and Russia among its observer members.

CERN announce on Twitter

“CERN is a leading laboratory for particle physics and related technologies. It therefore has certain resources, such as very advanced facilities for the design and production of prototypes, and, of course, advanced technologies and considerable expertise both in the fields of science and engineering and in that of industrialization ”, underlined its general manager, Fabiola Gianotti.

"Now we want to deploy our resources and skills to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic," she said in the statement.

Gels, respirators and masks

Projects already launched include the production of one tonne of hydro-alcoholic gel for distribution to local rescue teams. CERN's capabilities in 3D printing and workshop work have been deployed to complement the production of protective equipment such as masks and Plexiglas barriers for law enforcement in the region.

Studies are underway to deploy the formidable computing capacity of the particle physics community to assist in the search for a vaccine, while the pandemic has killed more than 82,000 since its appearance in December in China.

CERN establishes task force to contribute to global fight against COVID-19

Video above: In particular, a novel streamlined ventilator, called HEV, is being prototyped at CERN. Led by a team of physicists and engineers from the LHCbExperiment collaboration at CERN, HEV is supported by several CERN services.

A prototype of a new respirator was developed at the end of March, scientists having had the idea of ​​using the systems used to regulate the gas flows for the particle detectors. This respirator could be used for patients with mild forms, or in the healing phase, which would free up the most efficient machines for the most serious cases, according to CERN.

The organization intends to publish all of its innovations so that they are "freely reproduced as necessary".

CERN Courrier:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ATS/CERN/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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Event Horizon Telescope: Black hole produces twisting jet

Event Horizon Telescope logo.

8 April 2020

One year on from publishing the first ever image of a black hole, the team behind that historic breakthrough is back with a new picture.

This time we're being shown the base of a colossal jet of excited gas, or plasma, screaming away from another black hole at near light-speed.

Image above: The right-hand image was captured with a less powerful telescope. It shows the jet streaming away to the lower-right. In the new EHT image on the left, scientists can now see detail where the jet connects to the accretion disc. The supermassive black hole will be somewhere at the disc's centre. Image Credits: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration .

The scene was actually in the "background" of the original target.

The scientists who operate the Event Horizon Telescope describe the jet in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

3C 279 is what astronomers term a quasar - the extremely bright core of a very distant galaxy. This one is about 5.5 billion light-years from Earth.

It is well known, and was used as the calibration target to align the performance of the EHT's eight individual radio telescopes when they simultaneously made their astonishing map of the supermassive black hole at the centre of Galaxy M87.

The remarkable resolution achieved by the EHT - put to such great effect with M87 - pays dividends again with 3C 279, because we see previously unrecognised features.

Image above: M87's black hole is surrounded by a halo of bright gas pulled inwards by gravity. Image Credits: ESO/EHT Collaboration.

3C 279 also has a supermassive black hole at its heart. It's about one billion times the mass of our Sun and its gravity is pulling in and shredding any stars or gas that get too close. This material is likely being accreted on to a disc that winds around the hole, but some of it is being shot back out into space along two jets moving in opposite directions.

In previous images of 3C 279, we've been able to detect the outline of the jet coming that moves towards us (the one moving in the opposite direction is not detected). But in the new EHT picture, we can resolve detail close to the point where this jet leaves the black hole. What's more, this base area seems twisted and somewhat offset from the main axis of the jet.

"It's curious," said EHT Collaboration member Dr Ziri Younsi. "We're seeing a region that's actually pretty close to the black hole. It could be an interaction layer where the jet couples to the accretion disc and extracts all of its energy from the black hole.

"We don't really understand how jets are powered by black holes. Black holes, when they rotate rapidly, are the most efficient liberators of energy in the Universe, but the mechanism by which the jet can extract that energy is unknown. There are a few ideas, but we're not sure yet which one is the right one," the University College London, UK, researcher told BBC News.

Image above: Artwork: Quasars like 3C 279 that point one of their jets in our direction are also called blazars. Image Credits: M.Weiss/CfA.

The data in the images of M87 and 3C 279 was collected by the ENT's widely dispersed array of radio telescopes in 2017. The project has gone on to collect data on the supermassive black hole that exists at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

"We have that data - of a region we call Sagittarius A*," said Dr Younsi. "We are working on it right now and although we have some preliminary results, these can't be shared just yet. We hope to have something perhaps before the end of this year." The team finds itself in a position to concentrate on this analysis because the observational time it had booked on the EHT array for this year got cancelled in the coronavirus outbreak.

A PDF of the A&A paper describing 3C 279 is available link bellow. Its lead author is Dr Jae-Young Kim from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

Image above: Early observations used eight radio telescopes but the EHT aims to get to a network of 12. Image Credit: BBC.

The Event Horizon Telescope is a "virtual telescope" that links a large array of radio receivers - from the South Pole, to Hawaii, to the Americas and Europe. It uses a technique called very long baseline array interferometry (VLBI). This combines the observations from the dispersed network to mimic a telescope aperture that can produce the resolution necessary to perceive a pinprick on the sky. For the EHT, this pinprick is measured in microarcseconds.

To convey such performance to the general public, EHT team-members talk about the sharpness of vision as being the equivalent of seeing from Earth something the size of a grapefruit on the surface of the Moon.

Related links:

The journal Astronomy & Astrophysics:

The Event Horizon Telescope:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration/BBC/Jonathan Amos.


CryoSat still cool at 10

ESA - CRYOSAT 2 Mission logo.

April 8, 2020

ESA's ice mission (CRYOSAT)

Today marks 10 years since a Dnepr rocket blasted off from an underground silo in the remote desert steppe of Kazakhstan, launching one of ESA’s most remarkable Earth-observing satellites into orbit. Tucked safely within the rocket fairing, CryoSat had a tough job ahead: to measure variations in the height of Earth’s ice and reveal how climate change is affecting the polar regions. Carrying novel technology, this extraordinary mission has led to a wealth of scientific discoveries that go far beyond its primary objectives to measure polar ice. And, even at 10 years old, this incredible mission continues to surpass expectations.

The launch of a satellite is always a time to hold your breath, but CryoSat’s liftoff on 8 April 2010 was arguably more tense than most as it came less than five years after the original satellite was lost owing to a rocket malfunction.

Successful launch for ESA’s CryoSat-2 ice mission

So important was the need to understand what was happening to Earth’s ice, the decision to rebuild was taken quickly – and thankfully, this day 10 years ago heralded the beginning of a mission that was set to advance polar science like no other.

While other satellite missions can measure changes in the extent of Earth’s ice, CryoSat completes the picture by recording changes in ice height, which are used to work out changes in thickness and volume – key to understanding the total amount of ice loss.

CryoSat was designed to observe two types of ice: the vast ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland that rest on land, and the sea ice floating in the polar oceans.

Not only do these two forms of ice have different consequences for our planet and climate, but they also pose different challenges when trying to measure their thickness.

To do this, CryoSat carries the first spaceborne synthetic aperture interferometric radar altimeter, a sensor optimised to detect sea-ice floes as they drift in the ocean and to study the rugged glaciers that drain the polar ice sheets.

In addition, CryoSat’s orbit reaches latitudes of 88° North and South, which takes it closer to the poles than all previous polar-orbiting altimetry satellites.

ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, said, “CryoSat is the epitome of an ESA Earth Explorer. It uses completely new technology to fill gaps in our scientific knowledge. The issue of diminishing ice linked to climate change is a real concern, and over the last 10 years this mission has been a game changer.

Antarctica and Greenland’s contribution to sea level change

“For example, CryoSat has contributed to the recent worrying findings that Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice six times faster than in the 1990s, which has clear implications for future sea-level rise. Information such as this is vital for international policy making in responding to climate change.”

Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds, UK, added, “CryoSat’s contribution to polar science is truly astonishing. Not only do we now have a clear picture of how much ice Earth is losing, but its measurements have helped to improve the models we use to predict future climate change – information that is critical for society to adapt.”

CryoSat has also revealed how the world’s 200 000 mountain glaciers have succumbed to climate change, thanks to advanced swath processing of its radar measurements, which allows small regions to be mapped in fine detail. This new technique takes the mission beyond its brief to study polar ice alone.

2011–16 November Arctic sea-ice thickness

Although changes in sea ice do not affect sea level directly because it is afloat, it plays a central role in the global climate system as it reflects solar radiation back into space, and because it moderates ocean heat transport around the planet by insulating the relatively warm water from the cold polar air. CryoSat has been instrumental in mapping changes in the thickness and volume of Arctic sea ice.

Prof. Shepherd added, “Despite the long-term decline in the extent of Arctic sea ice, there have been significant year-to-year fluctuations in its thickness, and its volume has fallen in only seven of the past 10 years. But even with a decade of CryoSat measurements, the seasonal cycle of sea-ice growth and decay is still too large to confidently detect a long-term trend in volume, and so continued observation is essential.

As well as fulfilling its primary role as a polar ice mission, CryoSat’s measurements have been put to good use in a wide range of alternative and innovative applications. During the winter, CryoSat has been able to record changes in the thickness of ice on lakes, and in the summer it has been used to monitor lake and river water levels across the globe – information that is important for travel and fishing, for example.

CryoSat’s measurements are now an important reference of global sea level in the polar regions and beyond, thanks to its high-inclination orbit and long-repeat cycle, allowing scientists to refine the long-term trend and to detect short-term fluctuations associated with ocean dynamics.

Gravity reveals seafloor

And, it has even revealed what lies beneath the ocean surface thanks to its ability to detect tiny changes in marine gravity, which reflect the shape of the sea bed. CryoSat’s bathymetric charts are now an important tool for studying ocean dynamics, currents and tides, as well as for ship safety.

ESA’s CryoSat Mission Manager, Tommaso Parrinello, said, “These are just some of CryoSat’s outstanding results and the mission is still going strong, but we will focus more on this at the CryoSat anniversary conference, which we’ve had to postpone until October because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, however, I cannot praise the mission and all the people who have worked on it enough.”

ESA’s Mark Drinkwater added, “Indeed, CryoSat is still giving us incredible data to advance science, and with its new synthetic aperture radar and interferometric capabilities it has also laid the foundation for the Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter (CRISTAL) operational mission, which we are now developing on behalf of the ESA Member States and the European Commission.”

CRISTAL will fill the recognised gap in sustained long-term monitoring of polar ice variability for the Copernicus Climate Change Service and Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service, maritime security and international ice charting, and in support of the EU Integrated Arctic Policy and commitments to the Paris Agreement and Green New Deal.

Related links:


Observing the Earth:

Images, Animation, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/S. Corvaja/AOES Medialab/CPOM/Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


Rethinking cosmology: Universe expansion may not be uniform

ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch.

April 8, 2020

The Universe might not be expanding at the same rate everywhere

Astronomers have assumed for decades that the Universe is expanding at the same rate in all directions. A new study based on data from ESA’s XMM-Newton, NASA’s Chandra and the German-led ROSAT X-ray observatories suggests this key premise of cosmology might be wrong.

Konstantinos Migkas, a PhD researcher in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Bonn, Germany, and his supervisor Thomas Reiprich originally set out to verify a new method that would enable astronomers to test the so-called isotropy hypothesis. According to this assumption, the Universe has, despite some local differences, the same properties in each direction on the large scale.

Widely accepted as a consequence of well-established fundamental physics, the hypothesis has been supported by observations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). A direct remnant of the Big Bang, the CMB reflects the state of the Universe as it was in its infancy, at only 380 000 years of age. The CMB’s uniform distribution in the sky suggests that in those early days the Universe must have been expanding rapidly and at the same rate in all directions.

In today’s Universe, however, this may no longer be true.

Cosmic expansion measured across the sky

Image above: A map showing the rate of the expansion of the Universe in different directions across the sky as measured by the current study.

“Together with colleagues from the University of Bonn and Harvard University, we looked at the behaviour of over 800 galaxy clusters in the present Universe,” says Konstantinos. “If the isotropy hypothesis was correct, the properties of the clusters would be uniform across the sky. But we actually saw significant differences.”

The astronomers used X-ray temperature measurements of the extremely hot gas that pervades the clusters and compared the data with how bright the clusters appear in the sky. Clusters of the same temperature and located at a similar distance should appear similarly bright. But that is not what the astronomers observed.


“We saw that clusters with the same properties, with similar temperatures, appeared to be less bright than what we would expect in one direction of the sky, and brighter than expected in another direction,” says Thomas. “The difference was quite significant, around 30 per cent. These differences are not random but have a clear pattern depending on the direction in which we observed in the sky.”

Before challenging the widely accepted cosmology model, which provides the basis for estimating the cluster distances, Konstantinos and colleagues first looked at other possible explanations. Perhaps, there could be undetected gas or dust clouds obscuring the view and making clusters in a certain area appear dimmer. The data, however, do not support this scenario.

In some regions of space the distribution of clusters could be affected by bulk flows, large-scale motions of matter caused by the gravitational pull of extremely massive structures such as large cluster groups. This hypothesis, however, also seems unlikely. Konstantinos adds that the findings took the team by surprise.

Hot X-ray glow from massive cluster of galaxies

Image above: Galaxy clusters are believed to be distributed rather evenly across the sky.

“If the Universe is truly anisotropic, even if only in the past few billion years, that would mean a huge paradigm shift because the direction of every object would have to be taken into account when we analyse their properties,” he says. “For example, today, we estimate the distance of very distant objects in the Universe by applying a set of cosmological parameters and equations. We believe that these parameters are the same everywhere. But if our conclusions are right than that would not be the case and we would have to revisit all our previous conclusions.”

“This is a hugely fascinating result,” comments Norbert Schartel, XMM-Newton project scientist at ESA. “Previous studies have suggested that the present Universe might not be expanding evenly in all directions, but this result – the first time such a test has been performed with galaxy clusters in X-rays – has a much greater significance, and also reveals a great potential for future investigations.”

The scientists speculate this possibly uneven effect on cosmic expansion might be caused by dark energy, the mysterious component of the cosmos which accounts for the majority – around 69% – of its overall energy. Very little is known about dark energy today, except that it appears to have been accelerating the expansion of the Universe in the past few billion years.

Rethinking cosmic expansion

ESA’s upcoming telescope Euclid, designed to image billions of galaxies and scrutinise the expansion of the cosmos, its acceleration and the nature of dark energy, might help solve this mystery in the future.

“The findings are really interesting but the sample included in the study is still relatively small to draw such profound conclusions,” says René Laureijs, Euclid project scientist at ESA. “This is the best one could do with the available data, but if we were to really re-think the widely accepted cosmological model, we would need more data.”

And Euclid might do exactly that. The spacecraft, to be launched in 2022, might not only find evidence that dark energy is really stretching the Universe unevenly in different directions, it will also enable the scientists to gather more data on the properties of a large amount of galaxy clusters, which might support or disprove the current findings.

Further data will also come soon from the X-ray eROSITA instrument, built by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. The instrument, aboard the recently launched German-Russian satellite Spektr-RG, will conduct the first all-sky survey in medium energy X-rays, focusing on the discovery of tens of thousands previously unknown galaxy clusters and active galactic centres.

More information:

‘Probing cosmic isotropy with a new X-ray galaxy cluster sample through the LX−Tscaling relation’ by K. Migkas et al. (2020) is published in Astronomy & Astrophysics:

Related links:


observations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB):

Accepted cosmology model:

X-ray eROSITA instrument:


Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ESA/Norbert Schartel/Argelander Institute for Astronomy/University of Bonn/Thomas Reiprich/Konstantinos Migkas (K. Migkas et al. 2020, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)/XMM-Newton (X-rays); CFHT-LS (optical); XXL Survey.

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mardi 7 avril 2020

NASA Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Apollo 13, ‘A Successful Failure’

NASA - Apollo 13 Mission patch.

April 7, 2020

Image above: S70-35614 (17 April 1970) The crewmembers of the Apollo 13 mission, step aboard the USS Iwo Jima, prime recovery ship for the mission, following splashdown and recovery operations in the South Pacific Ocean. Exiting the helicopter which made the pick-up some four miles from the Iwo Jima are (from left) astronauts Fred W. Haise Jr., lunar module pilot; James A. Lovell Jr., commander; and John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot. The crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft splashed down at 12:07:44 p.m. (CST), April 17, 1970. Image Credit: NASA.

As NASA marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission – which has become known as “a successful failure” that saw the safe return of its crew in spite of a catastrophic explosion – the agency is sharing a variety of resources, recognizing the triumph of the mission control team and the astronauts, and looking at how those lessons learned can be applied to its lunar Artemis program.


“Our goal 50 years ago was to save our valiant crew after sending them around the Moon and return them safely to Earth,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Our goal now is to return to the Moon to stay, in a sustainable way. We are working hard to ensure that we don’t need to respond to this kind of emergency in Artemis, but to be ready to respond to any problems we don’t anticipate.”

The crew of Apollo 13 consisted of Commander James (Jim) Lovell Jr., Command Module Pilot John Swigert Jr. and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise Jr. Their Saturn V rocket launched at 2:13 p.m. EST on April 11,1970, from Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The command module was named Odyssey, and the lunar module was named Aquarius.

APOLLO 13 - Part 2

While en route to the Moon on April 13, an oxygen tank in the Apollo service module ruptured. The lunar landing and moonwalks, which would have been executed by Lovell and Haise, were aborted as a dedicated team of flight controllers and engineering experts in the Apollo Mission Control Center devoted their efforts to developing a plan to shelter the crew in the lunar module as a “lifeboat” and retain sufficient resources to bring the spacecraft and its crew back home safely. Splashdown occurred in the Pacific Ocean at 1:07 p.m. April 17, after a flight that lasted five days, 22 hours and 54 minutes.

Image above: A group of flight controllers gathers around the console of Glynn S. Lunney (seated, nearest camera), Shift 4 flight director, in the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) of Mission Control Center (MCC), located in Building 30 at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). Their attention is drawn to a weather map of the proposed landing site in the South Pacific Ocean. Among those looking on is Dr. Christopher C. Kraft, deputy director, MSC, standing in black suit, on right. When this photograph was taken, the Apollo 13 lunar landing mission had been canceled, and the problem-plagued Apollo 13 crew members were in trans-Earth trajectory attempting to bring their crippled spacecraft back home. Image Credit: NASA.

Apollo 13 on NASA TV

NASA TV is commemorating the anniversary with multiple videos and interviews, anchored by an original special program, “Apollo 13: Home Safe,” premiering at 8 p.m. EDT Friday, April 10, on NASA Television and all of the agency’s streaming and social media platforms. The 30-minute program features an interview with Lovell, a conversation with Haise and Flight Directors Gene Kranz and Glynn Lunney, and engineer Hank Rotter, in the restored Apollo mission control room mixed with archival footage from the mission. In addition, NASA TV will air replays of historic mission footage and “pop-up” mission factoids at the exact times the events happened 50 years ago.

Houston, We Have A Podcast

Listen as Lovell and Haise remember the fateful mission from their perspective 50 years later and reflect on the highlights of their expansive careers and share wisdom gained from their famous mission on its 50th anniversary. Houston, We Have A Podcast is the official podcast of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in Houston.

Apollo 13 In-Flight Video Recordings

These TV transmissions are film recordings of television transmissions, or kinescopes, transferred onto broadcast videotape, then converted to digital files and posted to Johnson’s Internet Archive collection.

Apollo 13 Imagery Collections

NASA makes imagery available in many formats and resolutions, and NASA’s Image and Video Library contains many items related to Apollo 13. Apollo 13 images also are available on the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal, a volunteer-created site managed by NASA’s History Office.

Additional Apollo Resources

Additional Apollo audio and video resources are available for download in the highest resolutions available in this publicly curated collection on the Internet Archive. Additional resources related to all the Apollo missions are available at NASA’s Apollo 50th Anniversary website.,%20NASA

As NASA marks the anniversary of Apollo 13, the agency is progressing with its Artemis program, which will send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024, and establish sustainable exploration with its commercial and international partners by 2028. What we learn on during sustained operations on the Moon will prepare us for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

Learn more about Artemis and NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach at:

Related article:

The Hard-won Triumph of the Apollo 13 Mission - 45 Years Later

Related links:

Apollo Mission Control Center:

Apollo 13:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/JSC/Kelly Humphries/Videos Credits: Aerospace/Videos was made using Orbiter Space Flight Simulator 2010 and many add-ons made by the Orbiter Community. Scenario inspired by 1995 movie "Apollo 13". Musics: Original Apollo 13 Movie Soundtracks (courtesy) by James Horner. Production: Aerospace Studio/Roland Berga.

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Dragon Leaves Station, Returns to Earth with Valuable Science

SpaceX - Dragon CRS-20 Mission patch.

April 7, 2020

Image above: Astronaut Andrew Morgan monitored the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s release from the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Tuesday morning. Image Credit: @AstroDrewMorgan.

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. PDT), approximately 300 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s 20th contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft returned more than 4,000 pounds of valuable scientific experiments and other cargo.

SpaceX CRS-20: Dragon departure

Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:

Generating a nutritional meal

Planning ways to supply food for a multi-year mission on the Moon or Mars may require making food and nutrients in space. BioNutrients demonstrates a technology that enables on-demand production of nutrients needed during long-duration space missions. Although designed for space, this system also could help provide nutrition for people in remote areas of our planet.

Toward printing human organs in space

Biological printing of the tiny, complex structures found inside human organs, such as capillaries, is difficult in Earth’s gravity. The BioFabrication Facility (BFF) attempts to take the first steps toward the printing of human organs and tissues in microgravity. The facility may also help maintain the health of crews on deep space exploration missions by producing food and personalized pharmaceuticals on demand.

Helping the heart

The Engineered Heart Tissues (EHTs) study looks at how human heart tissue functions in space. It uses unique 3D tissues made from heart cells derived from human induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (hiPSCs), essentially adult stem cells. Researchers expect significant differences in function, structure and gene expression between EHTs in microgravity and those on the ground. Understanding these differences could help them find ways to prevent or mitigate problematic changes on future long-duration missions.

Biofilm festival

Samples from the Space Biofilms investigation, which examines microbial species and their formation of biofilms, are returning on Dragon. Biofilms are collections of one or more types of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and protists – that grow on wet surfaces. Better control of biofilms may help maintain crewed spacecraft and protect the health and safety of crew members as well as help prevent the introduction of Earth-based microbes to planetary bodies on which humans land.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

Image above: Dragon splashdown in Pacific Ocean (archive image). Image Credit SpaceX.

For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. As a global endeavor, 239 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries.

Related links:


BioFabrication Facility (BFF):

Engineered Heart Tissues (EHTs):

Moon and Mars:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/NASA TV/SciNews.

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