samedi 9 août 2014

Flight tests Meteor-M №2 continue



Shooting of MSU-MR Meteor-M №2, Black Sea / 30.07.2014

Work on the flight test program hydrometeorological spacecraft (SC) Meteor-M №2, running July 8, 2014 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, continue.

Shooting of  KMSS 100 Meteor-M № 2 of Greece / 29.07.2014

To date, completed the inclusion of key devices of the target spacecraft equipment. Tests have been conducted target equipment in accordance with the partial flight test program. According to preliminary estimates of experts, information obtained in the whole of Central Asia meets the specified requirements.

Western Hemisphere SM-A radio channel 18,7GGts GP; 31.07.2014

 Eastern Hemisphere SM-A radio channel 36,5GGts GP; 31.07.2014

Since the launch of the spacecraft performed a check of all the systems on board the spacecraft. Parameters characterizing the state of the spacecraft are within normal limits.

MTVZA-GYa Meteor-M №2 31.07.2014. Mercator projection channel 36,5GGts VI; CM-radio link

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Images, Text, Credits: The press service of the Russian Space Agency and JSC "Corporation VNIIEM" / ROSCOSMOS / Translation: Aerospace.


vendredi 8 août 2014

NASA Watches Storms in the Pacific

NASA - TRMM Mission patch / NASA/NOAA - GOES-West Mission patch.

August 8, 2014

Iselle (Eastern Pacific Ocean); Tropical Storm Iselle Hits Hawaii

Image above: The TRMM satellite had an excellent view of tropical storm Iselle as it neared the Hawaiian islands on August 8, 2014. Image Credit: SSAI/NASA, Hal Pierce.

Hurricane Iselle weakened to a tropical storm while approaching the island of Hawaii on Thursday August 7, 2014. As a tropical storm Iselle contained some heavy rain showers and strong winds when it hit the big island.

Iselle later dropped some heavy rain over Maui and scattered showers extended to Kauai and Oahu.

Image above: NOAA's GOES-West satellite. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA.

The TRMM satellite had an excellent view of tropical storm Iselle as it neared the Hawaiian islands on August 8, 2014 at 0152 UTC ( August 7 at 3:52 PM HST). A rainfall analysis from TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) and Precipitation Radar (PR) instruments is shown overlaid on a 0200 UTC GOES-WEST image. TRMM's TMI collected data showing that rain was falling at a rate of over 39 mm (1.5 inches) per hour near Iselle's center.

After crossing the island of Hawaii, Iselle is predicted to continue weakening as its center of circulation passes to the south of the other Hawaiian Islands.

TRMM and GOES Satellites See Hurricanes Iselle and Julio Menacing Hawaii

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission or TRMM satellite and NOAA's GOES-West satellite saw both weakening Hurricane Iselle and category two hurricane Julio at the same time on August 7 from its orbit in space because both storms are so close to each other in the Central Pacific Ocean.

Image above: Visualization of the TRMM satellite in space over a hurricane. Image Credit: NASA.

Both Iselle and Julio were moving toward the Hawaiian Islands on August 7, 2014 at 0922 UTC (5:22 a.m. EDT) when TRMM passed overhead. TRMM's Microwave Imager (TMI) instrument collected data as it passed overhead. Microwave brightness temperatures at 85.5 GHZ and at 37.0 GHZ were combined in the red, green and blue components to construct the image. Brightness temperature is a measurement of the radiance of the microwave radiation traveling upward from the top of the atmosphere to the satellite. The brighter the temperature, the more energy is being generated.

Image above: This GOES-West satellite image from August 7 at 1800 UTC (2 p.m. EDT) shows Hurricane Iselle approaching Hawaii and Hurricane Julio behind to the east. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

NOAA's GOES-West satellite captured an image of both storms on August 7 at 1800 UTC (2 p.m. EDT) as Iselle was approaching Hawaii and Hurricane Julio followed behind to the east. In the image, Julio appeared to have a better, more organized circulation.

An Air Force reconnaissance aircraft data shows that Iselle is no longer a hurricane and is on a weakening trend.  The eyewall was no longer visible on aircraft radar.  Flight level winds in the storm were near 60 knots and surface winds near 57 knots.  Iselle's forward motion has slowed as a weakness developed within the storm.  A mid and upper level low is forecast to develop within the weakness over the next couple of days that will cause the system to weaken to a shallow low.

Image above: The TRMM satellite saw both weakening Hurricane Iselle and category two Hurricane Julio in the same orbit as they were moving toward the Hawaiian islands on August 7, 2014. Image Credit: SSAI/NASA, Hal Pierce.

Iselle is not expected to survive after it makes landfall on the Big Island due to the interaction with the terrain and the strong shear along its track.  However, if it is able to survive landfall, a new ridge may develop north of the forecast track and it may strengthen again to hurricane strength prior to reaching the international dateline.

Image above: On August 9 at 23:15 UTC, the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite took this visible image of Hurricane Iselle in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team.

At 3:00 am HST, 1300 UTC, the center of tropical storm Iselle was located near latitude 19.2 north, longitude 155.4 west. Iselle is moving toward the west near 10 mph, 17 km/h, and this motion is expected to continue through Saturday, with an increase in forward speed.  Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 175 miles, 280 km from the center.

Satellite Movie Shows Hurricane Iselle and Julio Moving Toward Hawaii 

Video above: This animation of NOAA's GOES-East satellite imagery from August 2 through 7 shows the movement of Hurricanes Iselle (left) and Julio (right) toward the Hawaiian Islands. Video Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

For updated forecasts on Iselle, please visit NOAA's Central Pacific Hurricane Center website at: For updated forecasts on Hurricane Julio, please visit NOAA's National Hurricane Center website:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Hal Pierce / Lynn Jenner.

Best regards,

Sun sets for a NASA solar monitoring spacecraft

NASA - AcrimSat Mission patch.

August 8, 2014

After 14 years of monitoring Earth's main energy source, radiation from the sun, NASA’s Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor satellite has lost contact with its ground operations team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and its mission has been declared completed.

AcrimSat's ACRIM 3 instrument was the third in a series of satellite experiments that have contributed to a critical data set for understanding Earth's climate: the 36-year, continuous satellite record of variations in total solar radiation reaching Earth, or total solar irradiance. The three ACRIM instruments have supplied state-of-the-art data during more than 90 percent of that time. Three other satellite instruments launched in 1995, 2003 and 2013 continue to monitor total solar irradiance.

Launched on Dec. 21, 1999, for a planned five-year mission, AcrimSat went silent on Dec. 14, 2013. Attempts since then to reestablish contact have been unsuccessful. The venerable satellite most likely suffered an expected, age-related battery failure.

Image above: Artist's rendering of the AcrimSat spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA.

The sun puts out a fairly stable amount of energy compared with many other stars. "That's where the term 'solar constant' comes from," said AcrimSat project manager Sandy Kwan of JPL, referring to a standard unit of measurement in astronomy. Over the sun's 11-year cycle, the average variation in visible light is about one-tenth of one percent -- a change so small that scientists only discovered it when they were able to observe the sun from satellites above our light-scattering atmosphere. Kwan pointed out that AcrimSat's grandfather, the ACRIM 1 instrument on the Solar Maximum Mission satellite launched in 1980, was the first instrument to show clearly that solar irradiance does vary.

Although the percentage of change is minuscule, the energy it represents can have important effects on Earth. Scientists believe that sustained changes of as little as 0.25 percent in total solar irradiance over periods of decades to centuries caused significant climate change in Earth's distant past. Today, as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, it's critical to understand the relative contributions of variations in solar irradiance and human-produced greenhouse gases to changes in Earth’s climate. To gain that knowledge, a long, continuous series of solar observations is an essential tool.

"The data record from the ACRIM series remains valuable for studying solar variability," said Greg Kopp, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado's Laboratory of Astrophysics and Space Physics in Boulder. "This more than three-decade-long data series exceeds the duration of any other irradiance instruments."

Richard Willson, ACRIM principal investigator, has used the ACRIM data set to study cycles in the sun's variations. With co-investigator Nicola Scafetta of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, Willson has been able to attribute some regular cycles of variation in irradiance to the alignment of planets and their gravitational tug on the sun. "The sun, Earth and Jupiter are aligned in their orbits every 1.09 years, and we see a bump in solar irradiance every year at that time," Willson explained. "That's just one of many cycles we have found. People have guessed at these effects for 150 years, but finding these frequencies in ACRIM data made it possible to pin down the effects for the first time."

Image above: Dark sunspots and bright areas around them called faculae, visible in this 2001 solar image, cause most of the variation in total solar irradiance. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/SVS.

Willson noted that the cycles have been connected with past changes in climate through analyses of air trapped for centuries in glacial ice. "Our measurements have contributed significantly to understanding the sun's effect on climate on time scales up to half a million years."

AcrimSat was built at a cost of $26 million, equivalent to about $45 million today. Kwan noted that the ACRIM 3 instrument was still working perfectly when the satellite lost contact and that AcrimSat's batteries had far exceeded their shelf life.

The spacecraft, built by Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia, remains safely in orbit about 435 miles (700 kilometers) above Earth and is expected to stay aloft for another 64 years.

For more information on AcrimSat, please visit:

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

To learn more about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA.


Cassini Prepares For Its Biggest Remaining Burn

NASA / ESA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

August 8, 2014

NASA's Cassini spacecraft will execute the largest planned maneuver of the spacecraft's remaining mission on Saturday, Aug. 9. The maneuver will target Cassini toward an Aug. 21 encounter with Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

The main engine firing will last about a minute and will provide a change in velocity of 41 feet per second (12.5 meters per second). This is the largest maneuver by Cassini in five years. No other remaining maneuver comes close, in the amount of propellant it will consume and the amount by which it will change the spacecraft's velocity. By contrast, the smallest maneuvers Cassini routinely executes are about 0.4 inches (10 millimeters) per second.

Image above: Artist's concept of the Cassini spacecraft during Saturn orbit insertion. Cassini mission controllers are preparing for the biggest remaining burn planned for the mission, which is slated for Aug. 9. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The large size of the Aug. 9 burn is needed to begin the process of "cranking down" Cassini's orbit, so that the spacecraft circles Saturn nearer to the plane of the rings and moons. Previously, with each Titan flyby, mission controllers adjusted the spacecraft's orbit to be increasingly inclined, carrying Cassini high above Saturn's polar regions. The upcoming maneuver starts reversing that trend, making the orbit increasingly close to the equator.

Although Cassini has occasionally performed similar large propulsive maneuvers during its decade in the Saturn system, Titan itself has proven to be the workhorse for steering Cassini around Saturn. It is not uncommon for the spacecraft to receive a gravitational assist, or boost, from Titan that rivals or exceeds the 96-minute engine burn Cassini performed in 2004 to insert itself into Saturn orbit.

The Cassini mission recently celebrated a decade studying Saturn, its rings, moons and magnetosphere.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

For more information about Cassini, visit: and and

Image (mentioned),  Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Preston Dyches.


Ride Shotgun With NASA Saucer As It Flies to Near Space

NASA patch.

August 8, 2014

NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped, design could reach the altitudes and airspeeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

LDSD: Supersonic Test Flight

Video above: Rockets fire in this video clip captured by the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project. The test occurred above the Pacific Ocean, near Hawaii. Video Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Carried as payload during the shakeout flight were two cutting-edge technologies scheduled to be tested next year aboard this same type of test vehicle. The Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (SIAD) is a large, doughnut-shaped air brake that deployed during the flight, helping slow the vehicle from 3.8 to 2 times the speed of sound. The second, the Supersonic Disksail Parachute, is the largest supersonic parachute ever flown. It has more than double the area of the parachute which was used for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission that carried the Curiosity rover to the surface of Mars.

Image above: Moments into its powered flight, the LDSD test vehicle captured this image of the balloon which carried it to high altitudes. The image was taken by one of the saucer-shaped test vehicle's high-resolution cameras. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

"A good test is one where there are no surprises but a great test is one where you are able to learn new things, and that is certainly what we have in this case." said Ian Clark, principal investigator for LDSD at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Our test vehicle performed as advertised. The SIAD and ballute, which extracted the parachute, also performed beyond expectations. We also got significant insight into the fundamental physics of parachute inflation. We are literally re-writing the books on high-speed parachute operations, and we are doing it a year ahead of schedule."

Image above: The test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator is seen here before and after the balloon that helped carry it to near-space was deflated. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Hitching a ride aboard the 7,000-pound saucer were several high-definition video cameras. The arresting imagery is providing the engineers and scientists on the LDSD project with never before seen insights into the dynamics involved with flying such a vehicle at high altitudes and Mach numbers.

Image above: Divers retrieve the test vehicle for NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator off the coast of the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

"As far as I am concerned, whenever you get to ride shotgun on a rocket-powered flying saucer, it is a good day," said Clark.  "We hope the video will show everyone how beautiful and awesome the test was, and to just to give folks an insight into what experimental flight test is all about."

Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) flight profile. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The high-resolution images and video clips taken during the LDSD test flight are available at:

The LDSD cross-cutting demonstration mission tested breakthrough technologies that will enable large payloads to be safely landed on the surface of Mars and allow access to more of the planet's surface by enabling landings at higher altitude sites.

Image above: Moments into its powered flight, the LDSD test vehicle captured this image of the balloon which carried it to high altitudes. The image was taken by one of the saucer-shaped test vehicle's high-resolution cameras. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate funds the LDSD mission, a cooperative effort led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. NASA's Technology Demonstration Mission program manages LDSD at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, coordinated support with the Pacific Missile Range Facility, provided the core electrical systems for the test vehicle, and coordinated the balloon and recovery services for the LDSD test.

For more information about the LDSD space technology demonstration mission:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / David Steitz / JPL / DC Agle.


Gerst drives car-sized rover from space

ESA - Blue Dot Mission patch.

8 August 2014

Looking down from orbit, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst steered ESA’s Eurobot rover through a series of intricate manoeuvres on the ground yesterday, demonstrating a new space network that could connect astronauts to vehicles on alien worlds.

During an intense 90-minute live link on 7 August, Alex used a dedicated controller laptop on the International Space Station to operate Eurobot, relying on video and data feedback to feed commands from 400 km up, orbiting at 28 000 km/h.

Rover control centre

The link was provided by a new network that stores commands when signals are interrupted if direct line of sight with Earth or the surface unit is lost, forwarding them once contact is re-established.

In the future, controlling robots on Mars or the Moon will require a sort of ‘space Internet’ to send telecommands and receive data. Such networks must also accommodate signal delays across vast distances, considering that astronauts and rovers on Mars will have to be linked with mission controllers on Earth. 

Yesterday’s demonstration was the second in a series of experiments under the Meteron project, following the 2012 test by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who used an initial version of the network by steering a model rover at ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Eurobot rover under astronaut control

“This was the first time Eurobot was controlled from space as part of an experiment to validate communication and operations technologies that will ultimately be used for future human exploration missions,” noted Kim Nergaard, head of Advanced Mission Concepts at ESOC.

Rover driving license

During the session, which started at 16:35 GMT (18:35 CEST), Alexander Gerst commanded Eurobot to move and take pictures based on telemetry and pictures streaming to the Station from the rover.

ESA's Astronaut Alexander Gerst

Eurobot was inching around a test facility at ESA’s ESTEC technology centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, while ‘ground control’ was at ESOC and the disruption-tolerant network was routed via Belgium’s Station User Support and Operations Centre in Brussels, and NASA.

Ready to rove

Simulations to prepare for yesterday’s link included live connections between Darmstadt, Noordwijk and Brussels to the Space Station throughout July.

“Today’s result is even better than the simulations we conducted,” said Daniela Taubert, Meteron’s operations coordinator. “The whole experiment ran extremely smoothly. Alex was faster and more efficient that we had expected.”

Space-to-ground data screen

William Carey, ESA’s Meteron project engineer, agreed: “It is great to have a hands-on test of part of ESA’s long-term strategy to send humans and robots to explore our Solar System.”

Future space exploration will most likely involve sending robotic explorers to check out alien surfaces before landing humans. To prepare for this, ESA is running the Meteron human–robot exploration programme: Multi-Purpose End-To-End Robotic Operations Network.

More images of the team and activities at ESOC via Flickr:

Related links:

All about Blue Dot:

ESOC - European Space Operations Centre:


Connecting via the interplanetary Internet:

ESA Human Spaceflight:

Telerobotics & Haptics Laboratory:

Further information:

The Eurobot Testbed:

Images, Video, Text, Credit: European Space Agency (ESA).

Best regards,

jeudi 7 août 2014

Experiment in open space

ISS - Expedition 40 Mission patch.


August 18 is scheduled the second spacewalk Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev in the program of the expedition, 40/41 of the Russian segment of the ISS. At the time of the Russian Space Agency astronauts will install on the external surface of the service module Zvezda scientific equipment «EXPOSE-R2».

Part of a joint Russian-European project «EXPOSE-R2» Russian experiment is "Biodiversity".

The purpose of this experiment - evaluation of prolonged exposure (from 1 to 1.5 years) of the space environment on the survival of evolutionarily separated dormant forms of living creatures (bacteria, fungi, plants and animals).

Image above: Specialists RSC "Energia" and IBMP RAS during acceptance testing cassettes intended for delivery on board the ISS RS.

The results that will be obtained in this experiment, can make a significant contribution to the fundamental knowledge about the limits of viability of biological systems at various levels of the organization and, consequently, the possible extension of biological life forms in the universe, and will be of practical value to justify the requirements and development activities of the planetary quarantine in the implementation of interplanetary spaceflight.

In the experiment, "Biodiversity" in the equipment «EXPOSE-R2» contains the following biological objects:

· Bacteria - 4 species (52 samples).
· Mushrooms - 8 species (100 samples).
· Seeds - 6 species (64 samples).
· Mosquito larvae Polypedilum vanderplanki - 1 form (4 samples).
· Crustacean Triops cancriformis 1 view (4 samples).

Equipment «EXPOSE-R2» consists of a metal housing with universal three cartridges.

July 24, 2014 aboard the Russian segment of the International Space Station cargo spacecraft "Progress M-24M" were delivered 3 cassettes with biological samples. Later on the tape will be placed in the unit «EXPOSE», which was kept on board the ISS after the 2011 experiment «EXPOSE-R1» .

Image above: Part of the Russian biological samples placed in the cassette equipment «EXPOSE-R2».

In two cassettes are placed four assembly with biological samples, in the third - three assembly. Assemblies have a different design depending on the goals and objectives of the individual experiments. Biological samples in assemblies located on several levels (from 2 to 3). Biological samples which are arranged in the upper part of the apparatus is exposed under the action of ultraviolet radiation, other, which are disposed on the lower tiers in the dark. All assemblies in each cassette interconnected air channel designed to remove air. Tightness of the air passage is ensured by a special valve, which is opened after the removal of the equipment on the outer surface of the Russian segment of the ISS.

Image above: Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev conducts scientific equipment installation «EXPOSE-R2».

In the experiment «EXPOSE-R1», held on the outside of the Russian segment of the ISS for 22 months, was first established by the selective effect of the hard outer ultraviolet radiation (with a wavelength of 200 nm) on the resting forms of various biological objects. Exhibited in the space spores of microorganisms, seeds of higher plants, dry embryos of crustaceans, surviving in the absence of UV light, died under its influence, but the spores of microscopic fungi (Aspergillus sydowii, Aspergillus versicolor) and mosquito larvae (Polypedilum vanderplankii) partially retained their viability in these conditions.

ROSCOMOS Press Release:

For more information about the International Space Station (ISS), visit:

Images, text, Credits: The press service of the Russian Space Agency and the Institute of Biomedical Problems of RAS / ROSCOSMOS / Translation: Aerospace.


Amazing Filament

NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

Aug. 7, 2014

Amazing Filament

The Sun sported a very long filament (over 30 times the size of Earth) that angled diagonally across its surface for over a week (July 31 - Aug. 6, 2014). Filaments are clouds of cooler gas suspended above the Sun's surface by magnetic forces.

 Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft

They are notoriously unstable and often break apart in just hours or days. So far, this one has held together as it rotated along with the Sun for over a week. The images were taken in the 193 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light and were tinted red instead of its usual brown hue.

For more information about Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), visit: and

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


mercredi 6 août 2014

U.S. Spacewalks Postponed; Crew Preps for Russian Spacewalk, Robonaut Upgrades

ISS - Expedition 40 Mission patch.

August 6, 2014

The six-person Expedition 40 crew of the orbiting International Space Station spent Wednesday conducting medical research, gearing up for a Russian spacewalk and preparing the station’s robotic crew member for a mobility upgrade. The crew also stowed spacewalk tools and equipment following the postponement of two additional spacewalks that were planned for later in August.

International Space Station program managers decided Tuesday to postpone the U.S. spacewalks planned for Aug. 21 and 29 until the fall to allow new Long Life Batteries to be delivered to the station aboard the SpaceX-4 commercial resupply services flight. A potential issue with a fuse within the battery of the U.S. spacesuits prompted the decision. The delay in completing the proposed spacewalks does not affect any daily operational capabilities of the station.

Image above: Commander Steve Swanson sets up Robonaut in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Following the crew’s daily planning conference with the flight control teams around the globe, Commander Steve Swanson began the day with some routine maintenance on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment – the station’s toilet located in the Tranquility node.

Afterward, the commander participated in more Ocular Health exams as flight surgeons track the vision health of the astronauts aboard the station. NASA recently identified that some astronauts experience changes in their vision, which might be related to effects of microgravity on the cardiovascular system as the body’s fluids tend to move toward the upper body and head and cause the pressure in the skull to rise. After Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman assisted Swanson with blood pressure measurements, the commander tested his vision with an eye chart. Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst then checked the pressure in Swanson’s eyes with a tonometer.

Swanson then went to work in the Quest airlock stowing the spacewalk tools that had been configured for the now-postponed U.S. spacewalks. He also removed batteries from the spacesuits and moved another spacesuit into position so that the crew can remove and replace its fan pump separator next week.

Wiseman, who assisted Swanson with some of the activities in Quest, took a brief break to talk with elementary school students in Japan via the station’s amateur radio.

Gerst meanwhile unpacked cargo that arrived at the station aboard the ISS Progress 56 resupply ship on July 23. He also packed trash and unneeded items into Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo craft berthed at the station’s Harmony node. Cygnus, which arrived on July 16 with nearly 3,300 pounds of science and supplies, will be detached from Harmony by the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm on Aug. 15 and released by the crew for a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.

Image above: Flying 225 nautical miles above the Hawaiian Ridge in the North Pacific Ocean, one of the Expedition 40 crew members on the International Space Station photographed this oblique panorama showing many of the islands in the Hawaiian chain, some of them highlighted by sun glint. Image Credit: NASA.

On the Russian side of the station, Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev focused on preparations for their spacewalk set for Aug. 18. The two cosmonauts started the workday preparing the replaceable components of the Orlan spacesuits they will wear during their spacewalk. They also configured the Pirs docking compartment airlock and gathered spacewalking tools. During the excursion, the two cosmonauts will exit through Pirs to deploy a nanosatellite, install two experiment packages and retrieve three others.

Max Suraev, flight engineer and future station commander, began the day refilling the tank for the Elektron oxygen-generating system and performing routine maintenance on the life support system in the Zvezda service module. Later he downloaded micro-accelerometer data from the Identification experiment, which measures dynamic loads on the station during events such as dockings and reboosts.

After a break for lunch, Swanson gathered the tools he will use to perform some work Thursday and Friday on the station’s humanoid robot, Robonaut 2. Swanson will be installing a new processor board and other hardware to prepare Robonaut for the installation of its legs. Since Expedition 25, Robonaut has been put through a series of increasingly complex tasks to test the feasibility of a humanoid robot taking over routine and mundane chores from the human crew members, freeing up their time for more important work. After gathering the tools, Swanson set up Robonaut on its stanchion post in the Destiny laboratory.

Wiseman focused his attention on reviewing procedures for the spacesuit fan pump separator swap slated for next week and also initiated an autocycle of the spacesuit batteries to prepare them for storage.

Maryland Astronaut Talks to Home State Media About Life in Space

Video above: Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman, a Baltimore native, discusses the progress of his mission and life and research on the orbital laboratory in a pair of in-flight interviews Aug. 6 with Maryland Public Radio station WYPR and Maryland Public Television.

Wiseman, a Baltimore native, rounded out his day talking with reporters from WYPR Maryland Public Radio and Maryland Public Television.

Gerst meanwhile recorded an educational video for the Story Time project, which seeks to deliver station research content to communities that have not previously been engaged in the space program. Afterward, Gerst performed some maintenance on the Waste and Hygiene Compartment and replaced some audio hardware in the Harmony node.

The European Space Agency’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5), loaded with more than seven tons of scientific experiments, food and other supplies, remains on track for its automated docking to the aft port of Zvezda at 9:30 a.m., Aug. 12. Nicknamed the “Georges Lemaitre” in honor of the Belgian physicist and astronomer who first proposed the Big Bang theory, the ATV-5 will perform additional course correction maneuvers Thursday. The “Georges Lemaitre” is scheduled to fly directly under the station Friday at a distance of 3.7 miles in a test of sensors and radar systems designed to provide data for European engineers’ design of future spacecraft. After Friday’s “fly-under” of the station at 6:45 p.m., the ATV will move in front of the station and transition above and then behind the station for the final four days of its two-week rendezvous. ATV-5 launched atop an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, on July 29.

Related link:

Ocular Health experiment:

Robonaut 2:

For more information about the International Space Station (ISS), visit:

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


Hubble Finds Supernova Star System Linked to Potential “Zombie Star”

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

August 6, 2014

Using NASA’s/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers has spotted a star system that could have left behind a “zombie star” after an unusually weak supernova explosion.

A supernova typically obliterates the exploding white dwarf, or dying star. On this occasion, scientists believe this faint supernova may have left behind a surviving portion of the dwarf star -- a sort of zombie star.

While examining Hubble images taken years before the stellar explosion, astronomers identified a blue companion star feeding energy to a white dwarf, a process that ignited a nuclear reaction and released this weak supernova blast. This supernova, Type Iax, is less common than its brighter cousin, Type Ia. Astronomers have identified more than 30 of these mini-supernovas that may leave behind a surviving white dwarf.

Image above: The two inset images show before-and-after images captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope of Supernova 2012Z in the spiral galaxy NGC 1309. The white X at the top of the main image marks the location of the supernova in the galaxy. Image Credit: NASA, ESA

“Astronomers have been searching for decades for the star systems that produce Type Ia supernova explosions,” said scientist Saurabh Jha of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. “Type Ia’s are important because they’re used to measure vast cosmic distances and the expansion of the universe. But we have very few constraints on how any white dwarf explodes. The similarities between Type Iax’s and normal Type Ia’s make understanding Type Iax progenitors important, especially because no Type Ia progenitor has been conclusively identified. This discovery shows us one way that you can get a white dwarf explosion.”

The team’s results will appear in the Thursday, Aug. 7 edition of the journal Nature.

The weak supernova, dubbed SN 2012Z, resides in the host galaxy NGC 1309 which is 110 million light-years away. It was discovered in the Lick Observatory Supernova Search in January 2012. Luckily, Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys also observed NGC 1309 for several years prior the supernova outburst, which allowed scientists to compare before-and-after images.

Curtis McCully, a graduate student at Rutgers and lead author of the team’s paper, sharpened the Hubble pre-explosion images and noticed a peculiar object near the location of the supernova.

“I was very surprised to see anything at the location of the supernova. We expected  the progenitor system would be too faint to see, like in previous searches for normal Type Ia supernova progenitors. It is exciting when nature surprises us,” McCully said.

After studying the object’s colors and comparing with computer simulations of possible Type Iax progenitor systems, the team concluded they were seeing the light of a star that had lost its outer hydrogen envelope, revealing its helium core.

The team plans to use Hubble again in 2015 to observe the area, giving time for the supernova’s light to dim enough to reveal any possible zombie star and helium companion to confirm their hypothesis.

“Back in 2009, when we were just starting to understand this class, we predicted these supernovae were produced by a white dwarf and helium star binary system,” said team member Ryan Foley of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who helped identify Type Iax supernovae as a new class. “There’s still a little uncertainty in this study, but it is essentially validation of our claim.”

One possible explanation for the unusual nature of SN 2012Z is that a game of seesaw ensued between the bigger and smaller of the star pair. The more massive star evolved more quickly to expand and dump its hydrogen and helium onto the smaller star. The rapidly evolving star became a white dwarf. The smaller star bulked up, grew larger and engulfed the white dwarf. The outer layers of this combined star were ejected, leaving behind the white dwarf and the helium core of the companion star. The white dwarf siphoned matter from the companion star until it became unstable and exploded as a mini-supernova, leaving behind a surviving zombie star.

 Hubble orbiting Earth

Astronomers already have located the aftermath of another Type Iax supernova blast. Images were taken with Hubble in January 2013 of supernova 2008ha, located 69 million light-years away in the galaxy UGC 12682, in more than four years after it exploded. The images show an object in the area of the supernova that could be the zombie star or the companion. The findings will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

“SN 2012Z is one of the more powerful Type Iax supernovae and SN 2008ha is one of the weakest of the class, showing that Type Iax systems are very diverse,” explained Foley, lead author of the paper on SN 2008ha. “And perhaps that diversity is related to how each of these stars explodes. Because these supernovae don’t destroy the white dwarf completely, we surmise that some of these explosions eject a little bit and some eject a whole lot.”

The astronomers hope their new findings will spur the development of improved models for these white dwarf explosions and a more complete understanding of the relationship between Type Iax and normal Type Ia supernovae and their corresponding star systems.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: and and

Image (mentioned), Video (ESA), Text, Credits: NASA / Felicia Chou / Space Telescope Science Institute / Donna Weaver / Ray Villard.


Triangulum Galaxy Snapped by VST

ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

6 August 2014

VST snaps a very detailed view of the Triangulum Galaxy

The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has captured a beautifully detailed image of the galaxy Messier 33. This nearby spiral, the second closest large galaxy to our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is packed with bright star clusters, and clouds of gas and dust. The new picture is amongst the most detailed wide-field views of this object ever taken and shows the many glowing red gas clouds in the spiral arms with particular clarity.

Messier 33, otherwise known as NGC 598, is located about three million light-years away in the small northern constellation of Triangulum (The Triangle). Often known as the Triangulum Galaxy it was observed by the French comet hunter Charles Messier in August 1764, who listed it as number 33 in his famous list of prominent nebulae and star clusters. However, he was not the first to record the spiral galaxy; it was probably first documented by the Sicilian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna around 100 years earlier.

Messier 33 in the northern constellation of Triangulum

Although the Triangulum Galaxy lies in the northern sky, it is just visible from the southern vantage point of ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. However, it does not rise very high in the sky. This image was taken by the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre survey telescope with a field of view that is twice as broad as the full Moon. This picture was created from many individual exposures, including some taken through a filter passing just the light from glowing hydrogen, which make the red gas clouds in the galaxies spiral arms especially prominent.

Among the many star formation regions in Messier 33’s spiral arms, the giant nebula NGC 604 stands out. With a diameter of nearly 1500 light-years, this is one of the largest nearby emission nebulae known. It stretches over an area 40 times the size of the visible portion of the much more famous — and much closer — Orion Nebula.

Wide-field view of the sky around Messier 33

The Triangulum Galaxy is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, and about 50 other smaller galaxies. On an extremely clear, dark night, this galaxy is just visible with the unaided eye, and is considered to be the most distant celestial object visible without any optical help. Viewing conditions for the very patient are only set to improve in the long-term: the galaxy is approaching our own at a speed of about 100 000 kilometres per hour.

Zooming in on the Triangulum Galaxy

A closer look at this beautiful new picture not only allows a very detailed inspection of the star-forming spiral arms of the galaxy, but also reveals the very rich scenery of the more distant galaxies scattered behind the myriad stars and glowing clouds of NGC 598.

A close-up look at the Triangulum Galaxy

More information:

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.


Photos of the VST:

The VLT and Messier 33:

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/IAU and Sky & Telescope/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin/Videos: ESO/N. Risinger ( Malin. Music: movetwo.


Rosetta arrives at comet destination

ESA - Rosetta Mission patch.

6 August 2014

After a decade-long journey chasing its target, ESA’s Rosetta has today become the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, opening a new chapter in Solar System exploration.

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and Rosetta now lie 405 million kilometres from Earth, about half way between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, rushing towards the inner Solar System at nearly 55 000 kilometres per hour.

Comet on 3 August 2014

The comet is in an elliptical 6.5-year orbit that takes it from beyond Jupiter at its furthest point, to between the orbits of Mars and Earth at its closest to the Sun. Rosetta will accompany it for over a year as they swing around the Sun and back out towards Jupiter again.

Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the Solar System and may have helped to ‘seed’ Earth with water, perhaps even the ingredients for life. But many fundamental questions about these enigmatic objects remain, and through a comprehensive,in situstudy of the comet, Rosetta aims to unlock the secrets within.

Comet on 3 August 2014

The journey to the comet was not straightforward, however. Since its launch in 2004, Rosetta had to make three gravity-assist flybys of Earth and one of Mars to help it on course to its rendezvous with the comet. This complex course also allowed Rosetta to pass by asteroids Šteins and Lutetia, obtaining unprecedented views and scientific data on these two objects.

“After ten years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the Sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometres, we are delighted to announce finally ‘we are here’,” says Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General.

“Europe’s Rosetta is now the first spacecraft in history to rendezvous with a comet, a major highlight in exploring our origins. Discoveries can start.”

Today saw the last of a series of ten rendezvous manoeuvres that began in May to adjust Rosetta’s speed and trajectory gradually to match those of the comet. If any of these manoeuvres had failed, the mission would have been lost, and the spacecraft would simply have flown by the comet.

“Today’s achievement is a result of a huge international endeavour spanning several decades,” says Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

“We have come an extraordinarily long way since the mission concept was first discussed in the late 1970s and approved in 1993, and now we are ready to open a treasure chest of scientific discovery that is destined to rewrite the textbooks on comets for even more decades to come.”

Comet activity on 2 August 2014

The comet began to reveal its personality while Rosetta was on its approach. Images taken by the OSIRIS camera between late April and early June showed that its activity was variable. The comet’s ‘coma’ – an extended envelope of gas and dust – became rapidly brighter and then died down again over the course of those six weeks.

In the same period, first measurements from the Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter, MIRO, suggested that the comet was emitting water vapour into space at about 300 millilitres per second.

Meanwhile, the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer, VIRTIS, measured the comet’s average temperature to be about –70ºC, indicating that the surface is predominantly dark and dusty rather than clean and icy.

How to orbit a comet

Then, stunning images taken from a distance of about 12 000 km began to reveal that the nucleus comprises two distinct segments joined by a ‘neck’, giving it a duck-like appearance. Subsequent images showed more and more detail – the most recent, highest-resolution image was downloaded from the spacecraft earlier today and will be available this afternoon.

“Our first clear views of the comet have given us plenty to think about,” says Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.

“Is this double-lobed structure built from two separate comets that came together in the Solar System’s history, or is it one comet that has eroded dramatically and asymmetrically over time? Rosetta, by design, is in the best place to study one of these unique objects.”

Arriving at a comet

Today, Rosetta is just 100 km from the comet’s surface, but it will edge closer still. Over the next six weeks, it will describe two triangular-shaped trajectories in front of the comet, first at a distance of 100 km and then at 50 km.

At the same time, more of the suite of instruments will provide a detailed scientific study of the comet, scrutinising the surface for a target site for the Philae lander.

Eventually, Rosetta will attempt a close, near-circular orbit at 30 km and, depending on the activity of the comet, perhaps come even closer.

“Arriving at the comet is really only just the beginning of an even bigger adventure, with greater challenges still to come as we learn how to operate in this unchartered environment, start to orbit and, eventually, land,” says Sylvain Lodiot, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft operations manager.

Postcards from Rosetta

Image above:  Stunning close up detail focusing on a smooth region on the ‘base’ of the ‘body’ section of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera and downloaded today, 6 August. The image clearly shows a range of features, including boulders, craters and steep cliffs. The image was taken from a distance of 130 km and the image resolution is 2.4 metres per pixel. 

As many as five possible landing sites will be identified by late August, before the primary site is identified in mid-September. The final timeline for the sequence of events for deploying Philae – currently expected for 11 November – will be confirmed by the middle of October.

“Over the next few months, in addition to characterising the comet nucleus and setting the bar for the rest of the mission, we will begin final preparations for another space history first: landing on a comet,” says Matt.

“After landing, Rosetta will continue to accompany the comet until its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015 and beyond, watching its behaviour from close quarters to give us a unique insight and realtime experience of how a comet works as it hurtles around the Sun.”

Notes for Editors:

Rosetta woke up from deep space hibernation at 18:18 GMT on 20 January 2014, nine million kilometres from comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Following wake-up, the orbiter’s 11 science instruments and 10 lander instruments were reactivated and readied for science observations. Ten orbital correction manoeuvres were carried out between 7 May and 6 August, reducing the spacecraft’s velocity with respect to the comet from 775 m/s to 1 m/s, equivalent to walking pace. Each of these manoeuvres was critical: if any had failed, no rendezvous would have been possible. More information about these manoeuvres can be found on the Rosetta blog.

The latest ‘arrival’ image will be presented in the science session of today’s ‘Rosetta comet rendezvous’ event at ESA’s Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany, and in parallel will be published online on the ESA Portal.

About the European Space Agency:

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. It is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has Cooperation Agreements with eight other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

ESA is also working with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

Related links:

Rosetta at Astrium:

Rosetta at DLR:

Ground-based comet observation campaign:

More about...

Rosetta overview:

Rosetta factsheet:

Frequently asked questions:

Images , Video, Text, Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

Best regards,