samedi 31 décembre 2016

Station Crew Gearing Up for 2017

ISS - Expedition 50 Mission patch.

Dec. 31, 2016

Image above: International Space Station Crew Celebrates the Holidays Aboard the Orbital Lab. image Credit: NASA.

The Expedition 50 crew aboard the International Space Station spent the week working on an array of science, maintenance and spacewalking preparation to close out 2016.

ISS - International Space Station. Animation Credit: NASA

Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet are getting ready for a pair of spacewalks on Jan. 6 and 13. The spacewalks, in conjunction with remote robotics work, will complete the replacement of old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the station’s truss structure. The crew performed a loop scrub on their spacesuits, reviewed spacewalking procedures and did a fit verification with their suits on Friday.

Image above: Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 50 Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA sent holiday greetings and festive imagery from the Japanese Kibo laboratory module on Dec. 18. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew participated in a variety of science experiments during the week including the Fluid Shifts study, which investigates the causes for  lasting physical changes to astronauts’ eyes; performed the final harvest of the Outredgous Romaine Lettuce from the Veggie facility, which is further demonstrating the ability to grow fresh plants in space to supplement crew diets; and continued preparing the station’s Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) for the upcoming Cool Flames Investigation, which will provide new insight into the phenomenon where some types of fuels initially burn very hot, then appear to go out — but they continue burning at a much lower temperature, with no visible flames (cool flames).

Going into New Year’s weekend, the crew will enjoy their typical off-duty time on Saturday and Sunday. They also will have Monday, Jan. 2 off.

Thomas Pesquet ESA Astronaut - follow him and the mission via:

Holiday Greetings, send a Tweet to a NASA Astronaut on the International Space Station:

Related links:

Fluid Shifts study:

Outredgous Romaine Lettuce from the Veggie facility:

Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR):

Cool Flames Investigation:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/by dhuot.

Happy New Year 2017,

vendredi 30 décembre 2016

Satellite View of Big Snowstorm for the Northeastern U.S.

NASA / NOAA - GOES Mission patch.

Dec. 30, 2016

The National Weather Service has forecast a significant winter storm to impact the Interior Northeastern U.S. today, Thursday, Dec. 29 and Friday, Dec. 30. Imagery and animations from NOAA's GOES-East satellite show the clouds associated with this powerful storm were already over New England.

Image above: This visible image from NOAA's GOES-East satellite shows the clouds associated with the large weather system expected to bring a significant winter storm to the interior Northeast today and Friday, Dec. 30. Image Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

NOAA's GOES-East satellite provides infrared and visible data of the eastern half of the U.S. At the NASA-NOAA GOES Project, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that data is made into images and animations. The NASA-NOAA GOES Project created a visible image of the monster storm that was already affecting the northeastern U.S. at 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 UTC). At that time, the low pressure center was north of the Great Lakes and was moving east.

The project also made an animation of NOAA's GOES-East satellite's infrared and visible images from Dec. 27 to Dec. 29 that showed the development and easterly movement of the snowmaker.

Artist's view of NOAA's GOES-East satellite. Image Credit: Allan Kung

At 1:30 p.m. EST on Dec. 29, light snow was reported in Concord, New Hampshire, where a Winter Storm Warning is in effect until December 30, 05:00 a.m. EST.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Gray, Maine stated "A low pressure will intensify as it reaches the New England coastline late today. It is expected to track northeastward along the coast of Maine and New Hampshire tonight...bringing a period of very heavy snowfall to interior areas. Snow will transition to rain during the late afternoon and evening near the coast. This will limit accumulations closer to the coastline. Just inland of the transition zone snowfall accumulations will be quite heavy."

Animation from GOES-East Satellite of the Winter Storm in Dec. 2016

Video above: This visible image from NOAA's GOES-East satellite shows the clouds associated with the large weather system expected to bring a significant winter storm to the interior Northeast today and Friday, Dec. 30. Video Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

In addition, heavy snowfall is also expected from the Berkshires in eastern New York and western Massachusetts through southern Vermont where a winter storm warning remains in effect until 7 a.m. EST on Dec. 30. The NWS forecasts heavy snow and accumulations of 6 to 12 inches, except 5 to 9 inches in southern Berkshire County where rain may briefly mix with snow.

The NWS Storm Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland noted "Storm total accumulations of a foot or more are possible from the Adirondacks to western Maine. Gusty winds will also accompany the storm making travel across much of the region hazardous and difficult."

The NWS forecast brings the center of the low over Maine on Friday, December 30 and out over the Atlantic Ocean by Saturday, December 31.

For updated forecasts, visit the NWS website:

GOES (Geostationary Environmental Operational Satellites):

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Rob Gutro/Lynn Jenner.


Space Timekeeping: NASA's SDO Adds Leap Second to Master Clock

NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

Dec. 30, 2016

NASA's SunClock illustation. Image Credit: NASA

On Dec. 31, 2016, official clocks around the world will add a leap second just before midnight Coordinated Universal Time — which corresponds to 6:59:59 p.m. EST. NASA missions will also have to make the switch, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which watches the sun 24/7.

Clocks do this to keep in sync with Earth's rotation, which gradually slows down over time. When the dinosaurs roamed Earth, for example, our globe took only 23 hours to make a complete rotation. In space, millisecond accuracy is crucial to understanding how satellites orbit.

"SDO moves about 1.9 miles every second," said Dean Pesnell, the project scientist for SDO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "So does every other object in orbit near SDO. We all have to use the same time to make sure our collision avoidance programs are accurate. So we all add a leap second to the end of 2016, delaying 2017 by one second."

Image above: Images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory — such as this one showing the sun as it appears in wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light — have a time stamp showing Universal Time on it. To maintain accuracy, SDO will join official clocks around the world in adding a leap second on Dec. 31, 2016. Image Credits: NASA/SDO.

The leap second is also key to making sure that SDO is in sync with the Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC, used to label each of its images. SDO has a clock that counts the number of seconds since the beginning of the mission. To convert that count to UTC requires knowing just how many leap seconds have been added to Earth-bound clocks since the mission started. When the spacecraft wants to provide a time in UTC, it calls a software module that takes into consideration both the mission's second count and the number of leap seconds — and then returns a time in UTC.

SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, by Karen C. Fox/Rob Garner.


Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist, Week of Dec. 19, 2016

ISS - Expedition 50 Mission patch.

Dec. 30, 2016

(Highlights: Week of Dec. 19, 2016) - There is new mood lighting installed in parts of the International Space Station to help improve the health of crew members.

NASA engineers are testing a new light design to replace the fragile fluorescent lights currently used in orbit. The new light-emitting diodes are the focus of the Testing Solid State Lighting Countermeasures to Improve Circadian Adaptation, Sleep, and Performance During High Fidelity Analog and Flight Studies for the International Space Station (Lighting Effects) investigation. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson completed measurements of various light settings in multiple locations to ensure the LEDs provide enough light to be able to complete science experiments while improving her own cognitive performance. These LEDs are adjustable for intensity and color – the blue, white, or yellow sections of the light spectrum -- to determine if the new lights can improve crew sleep cycles and alertness during the day. Besides the potential health benefits, these lights also require less energy to run and are lower in mass, making them a prime candidate for use on future spacecraft. Using these lights and subtly adjusting their color temperature during the day may help people be more productive on Earth, especially people who work a night shift.

Image above: A satellite is ejected from the JAXA Small Satellite Orbital Deployer on the International Space Station. The satellite is actually two small satellites that, once at a safe distance from the station, separated from each other, but were still connected by a 100-meter-long Kevlar tether. Image Credit: NASA.

Whitson exchanged modules to prepare for another round of the Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature Control (ACE-T-1) study. For decades, astronauts and scientists have studied complex structures with unique properties in space. The station's microgravity environment allows for the study of microscopic structures in three dimensions without the potentially distorting properties of gravity. The ACE-T-1 investigation examines tiny suspended particles designed by scientists to connect themselves in a specific way to form organized structures in water. The investigation will help scientists understand how to control, change, and even reverse interactions between tiny particles, which helps in the development of self-assembling and replicating technologies on Earth.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough installed new sample cartridges for further materials research in the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF). The device is an experimental facility that melts and solidifies materials while levitating them to test a containerless processing technique. With this facility, thermo-physical properties of high-temperature melts can be measured and solidification from deeply undercooled melts can be achieved.

Image above: New LED lights are tested on Earth before being launched to the International Space Station. The lights will replace the fragile bulbs currently on station, will use less energy and are adjustable light sources, which could help improve the sleep cycle and cognitive performance of crew members. Image Credit: NASA.

Scientists want to levitate these materials so they won't introduce potential contaminants or impurities from a container holding the material as it changes from a solid to a liquid and back again. The ELF uses an electrostatic force to help levitate the material, and lasers of varying strengths to heat the material. Data from the investigation may help develop advanced materials for new technology and devices on Earth and in space.

Whitson helped the JAXA ground team to deploy the Space Tethered Autonomous Robotic Satellite (STARS-C) using the JAXA Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD). The satellite is actually two identical satellites connected by a 100-meter-long Kevlar tether. Once deployed, the satellites will point toward Earth and use a spring system and gravitational forces to separate, pushing one satellite closer to the planet. Besides being a technology demonstration, the investigation will also collect electrons from the plasma environment in space to analyze the creation of an electrical current.

The satellite deployment capability provides a unique satellite launching system for use on the station. Handled by the robotic arm known as the Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS), the system provides a reliable, safe and economically viable means of deploying small research satellites into orbit. Crew members load pre-packed satellites into J-SSOD on a special sliding table in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) airlock to transfer the payload to the space environment where the robotic arm will grapple it and maneuver into position for deployment. After the successful STARS-C deployment, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet recovered the J-SSOD and installed another set of satellites scheduled for deployment next week.

ISS - International Space Station. Animation Credit: NASA

Progress was made on other investigations and facilities this week, including Veg-03, ISS Ham, Story Time From Space, ACE-T-1, Group Combustion, Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE), Aerosol Samplers, Manufacturing Device, Personal CO2 Monitors, PS-TEPC, Combustion Integrated Rack, and Fluids Integrated Rack.

Crew members conducted other human research investigations this week, including Biochem Profile, Repository, Habitability, Fine Motor Skills, Fluid Shifts, Sarcolab, Dose Tracker and Space Headaches.

Related links:

Performance During High Fidelity Analog and Flight Studies for the International Space Station (Lighting Effects):

Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature Control (ACE-T-1) study:

Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF):

Space Tethered Autonomous Robotic Satellite (STARS-C):

JAXA Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD):

Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS):

Japanese Experiment Module (JEM):

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA):


ISS Ham:

Story Time From Space:


Group Combustion:

Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE):

Aerosol Samplers:

Manufacturing Device:

Personal CO2 Monitors:


Combustion Integrated Rack:

Fluids Integrated Rack:

Biochem Profile:



Fine Motor Skills:

Fluid Shifts:


Dose Tracker:

Space Headaches:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/John Love, Acting Lead Increment Scientist, Expeditions 49 & 50/Kristine Rainey.

Best regards,

Orbiter Recovering from Precautionary Pause in Activity

NASA - 2001 Mars Odyssey Mission patch.

Dec. 30, 2016


Orbiter Recovering from Precautionary Pause in Activity. Dec. 28, 2016

NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, which has been in service at Mars since October 2001, put itself into safe mode -- a protective standby status -- on Dec. 26, while remaining in communication with Earth.

The Odyssey project team has diagnosed the cause -- an uncertainty aboard the spacecraft about its orientation with regard to Earth and the sun -- and is restoring the orbiter to full operations. Odyssey's communication-relay service for assisting Mars rover missions is expected to resume this week, and Odyssey's own science investigations of the Red Planet are expected to resume next week.

The orbiter's knowledge of its orientation was restored Dec. 26 by resetting the inertial measurement unit and the circuit card that serves as interface between that sensor, the flight software and the star tracker, for determining spacecraft attitude. The mission last experienced a similar fault and solution in December 2013.

 Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars Odyssey left Earth on April 7, 2001, entered orbit around Mars on Oct. 24, and began systematically examining Mars in February 2002. In December 2010, it surpassed the previous record for longevity of a robotic mission at Mars. The Mars Odyssey Project has been extending that record daily for more than six years.

In addition to its direct contributions to planetary science, Odyssey provides important support for other missions in NASA's Journey to Mars through communication-relay service and observations of candidate landing sites.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Odyssey Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft and collaborates with JPL in mission operations. For more information about Odyssey, visit:

Related link:

NASA's Journey to Mars:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/Jon Nelson/JPL/Guy Webster.


jeudi 29 décembre 2016

Astronauts Study How Lack of Gravity Impacts Muscles

ISS - Expedition 50 Mission patch.

Dec. 29,2016

Animation above: The International Space Station flying over the Northern Lights. Animation Credit: NASA.

The crew wrapped up part of a muscle research program today while continuing other experiments to study the effects of living in space. Also, a new CubeSat deployer was installed in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Scientists want to understand how the lack of gravity impacts muscles that aren’t used due to working in the microgravity environment. The Sarcolab experiment is one study that measures how the calf muscle changes in space using an ultrasound and electrode stimulators. The first part of that experiment was completed today as its gear was stowed and data downlinked for analysis on Earth.

Image above: Expedition 50 crew members Peggy Whitson (left) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA (right) share fresh fruit that was recently delivered by the HTV-6 cargo vehicle to the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

The station residents also explored how astronauts adapt to spaceflight conditions, the effects of a long-term mission on the human circulatory system and how charged particles behave in a magnetic field.

An enhanced small satellite deployer was installed in the Kibo module replacing an older model that deployed its last CubeSat on Monday. The new CubeSat deployer has twice the satellite deployment capacity than the previous version. CubeSats scheduled for release from the new deployer will study a variety of space phenomena and enable advanced satellite communications.

Related article:

NASA Preps for Space Station Power Upgrade Spacewalks; Live NASA TV Coverage

Related links:

Sarcolab experiment:

Spaceflight conditions:

Circulatory system:

Charged particles:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


A New Home on Mars: NASA Langley’s Icy Concept for Living on the Red Planet

NASA logo.

Dec. 29, 2016

NASA Langley’s Icy Concept for Living on the Red Planet. Image Credit: NASA

When astronauts set foot on Mars, they may stay for months rather than days as they did during Apollo missions to the moon. The surface of Mars has extreme temperatures and the atmosphere does not provide adequate protection from high-energy radiation. These explorers will need shelters to effectively protect them from the harsh Martian environment and provide a safe place to call home.

For researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the best building material for a new home on Mars may lie in an unexpected material: ice.

Starting with a proposed concept called “Mars Ice Dome,” a group of NASA experts and passionate designers and architects from industry and academia came together at Langley’s Engineering Design Studio. The project was competitively selected through the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD) Center Innovation Fund to encourage creativity and innovation within the NASA Centers in addressing technology needs. This is just one of many potential concepts for sustainable habitation on the Red Planet in support of the agency’s journey to Mars.

“After a day dedicated to identifying needs, goals and constraints we rapidly assessed many crazy, out of the box ideas and finally converged on the current Ice Home design, which provides a sound engineering solution,” said Langley senior systems engineer Kevin Vipavetz, facilitator for the design session.

The team at Langley had assistance in their concept study, as a collaborative team from Space Exploration Architecture and the Clouds Architecture Office that produced a first-prize winning entry for the NASA Centennial Challenge for a 3D-printed habitat (Mars Ice House) played a key role in the design session.

Image above: Team members of the Ice Home Feasibility Study discuss past and present technology development efforts in inflatable structures at NASA's Langley Research Center. Image Credit: Courtesy of Kevin Kempton.

The “Mars Ice Home” is a large inflatable torus, a shape similar to an inner tube, that is surrounded by a shell of water ice. The Mars Ice Home design has several advantages that make it an appealing concept. It is lightweight and can be transported and deployed with simple robotics, then filled with water before the crew arrives. It incorporates materials extracted from Mars, and because water in the Ice Home could potentially be converted to rocket fuel for the Mars Ascent Vehicle, the structure itself doubles as a storage tank that can be refilled for the next crew.

Another critical benefit is that water, a hydrogen-rich material, is an excellent shielding material for galactic cosmic rays – and many areas of Mars have abundant water ice just below the surface. Galactic cosmic rays are one of the biggest risks of long stays on Mars. This high-energy radiation can pass right through the skin, damaging cells or DNA along the way that can mean an increased risk for cancer later in life or, at its worst, acute radiation sickness.

Space radiation is also a significant challenge for those designing potential Mars outposts. For example, one approach would envision habitats buried underneath the Martian surface to provide radiation shielding. However, burying the habitats before the crews arrive would require heavy robotic equipment that would need to be transported from Earth.

The Ice Home concept balances the need to provide protection from radiation, without the drawbacks of an underground habitat. The design maximizes the thickness of ice above the crew quarters to reduce radiation exposure while also still allowing light to pass through ice and surrounding materials.

“All of the materials we’ve selected are translucent, so some outside daylight can pass through and make it feel like you’re in a home and not a cave,” Kempton said.

Selecting materials that would accomplish these goals was a challenge for materials experts.

“The materials that make up the Ice Home will have to withstand many years of use in the harsh Martian environment, including ultraviolet radiation, charged-particle radiation, possibly some atomic oxygen, perchlorates, as well as dust storms – although not as fierce as in the movie ‘The Martian’,” said Langley researcher Sheila Ann Thibeault.

In addition to identifying potential materials, a key constraint for the team was the amount of water that could be reasonably extracted from Mars. Experts who develop systems for extracting resources on Mars indicated that it would be possible to fill the habitat at a rate of one cubic meter, or 35.3 cubic feet, per day. This rate would allow the Ice Home design to be completely filled in 400 days. The design could be scaled up if water could be extracted at higher rates.

Additional design considerations include a large amount of flexible workspace so that crews would have a place to service robotic equipment indoors without the need to wear a pressure suit. To manage temperatures inside the Ice Home, a layer of carbon dioxide gas would be used as in insulation between the living space and the thick shielding layer of ice. And, like water, carbon dioxide is available on Mars.

It’s important, Kempton said, for astronauts to have something to look forward to when they arrive on the Red Planet.

“After months of travel in space, when you first arrive at Mars and your new home is ready for you to move in, it will be a great day,” he said.

Related links:

Langley Research Center:

Journey to Mars:

Space Exploration Architecture:

Clouds Architecture Office:

NASA Centennial Challenge:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA Langley Research Center/Eric Gillard.


Hubble Gazes at a Cosmic Megamaser

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Dec. 29, 2016

This galaxy has a far more exciting and futuristic classification than most — it hosts a megamaser. Megamasers are intensely bright, around 100 million times brighter than the masers found in galaxies like the Milky Way. The entire galaxy essentially acts as an astronomical laser that beams out microwave emission rather than visible light (hence the ‘m’ replacing the ‘l’).

A megamaser is a process where some components within a galaxy (like gas clouds) are in the right stimulated physical condition to radiate intense energy  (in this case, microwaves).

This megamaser galaxy is named IRAS 16399-0937 and is located over 370 million light-years from Earth. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image belies the galaxy’s energetic nature, instead painting it as a beautiful and serene cosmic rosebud. The image comprises observations captured across various wavelengths by two of Hubble’s instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS).

NICMOS’s superb sensitivity, resolution, and field of view gave astronomers the unique opportunity to observe the structure of IRAS 16399-0937 in detail. They found it hosts a double nucleus — the galaxy’s core is thought to be formed of two separate cores in the process of merging. The two components, named IRAS 16399N and IRAS 16399S for the northern and southern parts respectively, sit over 11,000 light-years apart. However, they are both buried deep within the same swirl of cosmic gas and dust and are interacting, giving the galaxy its peculiar structure.

Hubble and the sunrise over Earth

The nuclei are very different. IRAS 16399S appears to be a starburst region, where new stars are forming at an incredible rate. IRAS 16399N, however, is something known as a LINER nucleus (Low Ionization Nuclear Emission Region), which is a region whose emission mostly stems from weakly-ionized or neutral atoms of particular gases. The northern nucleus also hosts a black hole with some 100 million times the mass of the sun!

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

Image Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (geckzilla)/Text credit: European Space Agency/NASA/Karl Hille/Video Credit: ESA.

Best regards,

NASA's NEOWISE Mission Spies One Comet, Maybe Two

NASA - NEOWISE Mission logo.

Dec. 29, 2016

NASA's NEOWISE mission has recently discovered some celestial objects traveling through our neighborhood, including one on the blurry line between asteroid and comet. Another--definitely a comet--might be seen with binoculars through next week.

An object called 2016 WF9 was detected by the NEOWISE project on Nov. 27, 2016. It's in an orbit that takes it on a scenic tour of our solar system. At its farthest distance from the sun, it approaches Jupiter's orbit. Over the course of 4.9 Earth-years, it travels inward, passing under the main asteroid belt and the orbit of Mars until it swings just inside Earth's own orbit. After that, it heads back toward the outer solar system. Objects in these types of orbits have multiple possible origins; it might once have been a comet, or it could have strayed from a population of dark objects in the main asteroid belt.

Image above: An artist’s rendition of 2016 WF9 as it passes Jupiter’s orbit inbound toward the sun. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

2016 WF9 will approach Earth's orbit on Feb. 25, 2017. At a distance of nearly 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) from Earth, this pass will not bring it particularly close. The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and the object is not a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future.

A different object, discovered by NEOWISE a month earlier, is more clearly a comet, releasing dust as it nears the sun. This comet, C/2016 U1 NEOWISE, “has a good chance of becoming visible through a good pair of binoculars, although we can't be sure because a comet's brightness is notoriously unpredictable," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

As seen from the northern hemisphere during the first week of 2017, comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE will be in the southeastern sky shortly before dawn. It is moving farther south each day and it will reach its closest point to the sun, inside the orbit of Mercury, on Jan. 14, before heading back out to the outer reaches of the solar system for an orbit lasting thousands of years. While it will be visible to skywatchers at Earth, it is not considered a threat to our planet either.

NEOWISE is the asteroid-and-comet-hunting portion of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. After discovering more than 34,000 asteroids during its original mission, NEOWISE was brought out of hibernation in December of 2013 to find and learn more about asteroids and comets that could pose an impact hazard to Earth. If 2016 WF9 turns out to be a comet, it would be the 10th discovered since reactivation. If it turns out to be an asteroid, it would be the 100th discovered since reactivation.

What NEOWISE scientists do know is that 2016 WF9 is relatively large: roughly 0.3 to 0.6 mile (0.5 to 1 kilometer) across.

It is also rather dark, reflecting only a few percent of the light that falls on its surface. This body resembles a comet in its reflectivity and orbit, but appears to lack the characteristic dust and gas cloud that defines a comet.

NASA's NEOWISE spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

"2016 WF9 could have cometary origins," said Deputy Principal Investigator James "Gerbs" Bauer at JPL. "This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one; perhaps over time this object has lost the majority of the volatiles that linger on or just under its surface."

Near-Earth objects (NEOs) absorb most of the light that falls on them and re-emit that energy at infrared wavelengths. This enables NEOWISE's infrared detectors to study both dark and light-colored NEOs with nearly equal clarity and sensitivity.

"These are quite dark objects," said NEOWISE team member Joseph Masiero, "Think of new asphalt on streets; these objects would look like charcoal, or in some cases are even darker than that."

NEOWISE data have been used to measure the size of each near-Earth object it observes. Thirty-one asteroids that NEOWISE has discovered pass within about 20 lunar distances from Earth's orbit, and 19 are more than 460 feet (140 meters) in size but reflect less than 10 percent of the sunlight that falls on them.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has completed its seventh year in space after being launched on Dec. 14, 2009.

Data from the NEOWISE mission are available on a website for the public and scientific community to use. A guide to the NEOWISE data release, data access instructions and supporting documentation are available at:

Access to the NEOWISE data products is available via the on-line and API services of the NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive.

A list of peer-reviewed papers using the NEOWISE data is available at:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/ony Greicius/JPL/DC Agle.


NASA Administrator Remembers NASA Scientist, Astronaut Piers Sellers

NASA logo.

Dec. 29, 2016

On Dec. 23, 2016, a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Piers Sellers, who passed away Friday 23 December in Houston of pancreatic cancer:

“The entire NASA family mourns the passing of scientist and astronaut Piers Sellers.

“Piers was dedicated to all facets of exploration. His curiosity and drive to uncover new knowledge was generously shared with audiences around the world, both from space and in wide travels to reach as many people as possible with an essential understanding of our fragile planet.

Image above: Piers Sellers most recently served as the deputy director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate and acting director of the Earth Sciences Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Image Credits: NASA/Rebecca Roth.

“Piers devoted his life to saving the planet. As a climate scientist, his work in computer modeling of the climate system, satellite remote sensing studies and field work using aircraft, satellites and ground teams broke new ground in our understanding of Earth’s systems. His legacy will be one not only of urgency that the climate is warming but also of hope that we can yet improve humanity’s stewardship of this planet. His cancer diagnosis became a catalyst for him to work even harder on efforts to save the planet from global warming for the benefit of future generations.

“Piers was an eternal optimist whose positive energy inspired all those who had the good fortune to know him. His laughter, humor, and lighthearted spirit are as much a part of his legacy as his work.

“In his three journeys to orbit as a NASA astronaut, he demonstrated robotics, performed research and helped build the International Space Station. These journeys and his ongoing dedication to scientific inquiry inspired a new generation to take up his challenge to become better caretakers of Earth and extend humanity’s reach in space. It was my great honor to present Piers with the Distinguished Service Medal in June 2016 in recognition of his service to our agency and the world.

Image above: Piers Sellers joined the NASA astronaut corps in 1996 and flew to the International Space Station in 2002, 2006 and 2010, performing six spacewalks and various space station assembly tasks. As STS-112 mission specialist, Sellers is pictured above on the aft flight deck of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2002. Image Credit: NASA.

“In a New York Times opinion piece in 2016, he said, ‘As an astronaut, I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its future.’

“Today we lost a tremendous public servant who was dedicated to NASA, the nation and the world. He was a strident defender and eloquent spokesperson for our home planet, Earth. Spacewalker and scientist, free thinker and friend to our planet, and all who seek new knowledge, to say he will be missed would be a gross understatement."

For more information about Piers Sellers’ NASA career, visit: and

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Bob Jacobs/Karen Northon.


mercredi 28 décembre 2016

NASA Preps for Space Station Power Upgrade Spacewalks; Live NASA TV Coverage

ISS - Expedition 50 Mission patch.

Dec. 28, 2016

Image above: Expedition 50 crew members Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Peggy Whitson and Shane Kimbrough of NASA capture a quick selfie during robotics training inside the Cupola of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

Expedition 50 astronauts will venture outside the International Space Station at 7 a.m. EST Jan. 6 and 13 to perform a complex upgrade to the orbital outpost’s power system. Coverage of the spacewalks will begin at 5:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

On Wednesday, Jan. 4, NASA TV will air a briefing at 2 p.m. from the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to preview the spacewalk activities. The briefing participants are:

-    Kenneth Todd, International Space Station Operations Integration Manager
-    Jud Frieling, flight director for Jan. 6 spacewalk
-    Gary Horlacher, flight director for Jan. 13 spacewalk
-    Troy McCracken, lead battery replacement robotics officer
-    Kieth Johnson, lead spacewalk officer

Working on the right side truss of the space station, the crew members will install adapter plates and hook up electrical connections for six new lithium-ion batteries that were delivered to the station in December.

Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA will perform the first spacewalk Jan. 6. The work will continue Jan. 13 during the second spacewalk, which will be conducted by Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency).

ESA's Astronaut Tim Peake spacewalk selfie. Image Credits: NASA/ESA/Tim Peake

Prior to each spacewalk, the new batteries will be robotically extracted from a pallet to replace 12 older nickel-hydrogen batteries through a series of robotic operations. Nine of the older batteries will be stowed in a cargo resupply craft for later disposal, while three will remain on the station’s truss, disconnected from the power grid. The robotic operations will not air on NASA TV.

This will be the 196th and 197th spacewalks in support of space station assembly and maintenance. Kimbrough will be designated extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing the suit bearing red stripes for both spacewalks, the third and fourth of his career.

Whitson will be making the seventh spacewalk of her career and match the record of NASA’s Suni Williams, for most spacewalks by a woman. She will be designated extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing the suit with no stripes for the first spacewalk.

Pesquet, who will be making the first spacewalk of his career, will be extravehicular crew member 2 for the second spacewalk, also wearing a suit with no stripes.

Get NASA TV streaming video, schedule and downlink information at:

For the latest on the International Space Station, its crew and their research, visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tabatha Thompson/Karen Northon/JSC/Dan Huot.

Best regards,

Basking in Light

NASA - Cassini International logo.

Dec. 28, 2016

Sunlight truly has come to Saturn's north pole. The whole northern region is bathed in sunlight in this view from late 2016, feeble though the light may be at Saturn's distant domain in the solar system.

The hexagon-shaped jet-stream is fully illuminated here. In this image, the planet appears darker in regions where the cloud deck is lower, such the region interior to the hexagon.  Mission experts on Saturn's atmosphere are taking advantage of the season and Cassini’s favorable viewing geometry to study this and other weather patterns as Saturn's northern hemisphere approaches Summer solstice.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 51 degrees above the ring plane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Sept. 9, 2016 using a spectral filter which preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 728 nanometers.

The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 750,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is 46 miles (74 kilometers) per pixel.

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

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit and The Cassini imaging team homepage is at and ESA's website

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Sarah Loff.

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S3 - Jaussi appeals to the Cantonal Court

S3 - Swiss Space Systems patch.

Dec. 28, 2016

The founder of the aerospace company based in Payerne (Switzerland) is trying everything to escape the bankruptcy.

The head of Swiss Space Systems Holdings (S3) Pascal Jaussi is appealing the decision to revoke the bankruptcy postponement pronounced by the Vaudois justice against his company. He filed an appeal with the Cantonal Court, said Wednesday the judicial order.

Pascal Jaussi, CEO & Founder of Swiss Space Systems or S3

On December 14, the District Court of the Broye and Northern Waldensian region made its decision, signing the bankruptcy of the aerospace company. Pascal Jaussi had announced that he would appeal the decision. The adjournment protected the company until March 2017. The company is the subject of numerous lawsuits exceeding 7 million francs.

Accounts not produced

After several extensions of the adjournments since February 2016, and following a hearing on December 6, the court finally declared bankruptcy two weeks ago, in view of the opinion of S3 over-indebtedness.

In this decision that the ats was able to consult on Wednesday, the civil court noted that no revised account had been produced, preventing any calculation of the exact amount of the over-indebtedness. He also notes that the transfer of $ 30 million in capital between daughter company S3 Solutions and S3 announced by Pascal Jaussi to recapitalize his company has not been finalized.

The court struggled to understand why, while the start-up had asserted that the only obstacle to this transfer was the FINMA investigation. The financial gendarme announced on 12 September to the Fribourg Public Prosecutor's Office that they had closed investigations against S3 for lack of concrete evidence of violations of financial market laws.


The Court also found that the aggression suffered by Pascal Jaussi did not prevent the production of accounts. At the end of August, the boss of S3 claimed to have been very violently assaulted in the woods of Aumont (FR).

Following this decision, Pascal Jaussi told La Liberté that the documents requested had not been provided at the hearing because the closed session had been refused and he considered that he was entitled to business secrecy. The case is now in the hands of the Cantonal Court.

Swiss Space Systems concept launch of mini-space shuttle made by Dassault Aviation

For weeks, the company of Pascal Jaussi, which the ats failed to reach Wednesday, is at the center of the attention because of its financial difficulties. S3 wants to launch mini-satellites from a shuttle from an airplane. The company also announced plans to organize weightless flights.

Related article:

The bankruptcy of S3 is pronounced

For more information about Swiss Space Systems (S3), visit:

Images, Text, Credits: Swiss Space Systems (S3)/ATS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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China Long March 2D Launches SuperView 1 & 2

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

Dec. 28, 2016

The 1,234-pound-pound (560-kilogram) satellites lifted off at 0323 GMT Wednesday (10:23 p.m. EST Tuesday) from the Taiyuan space center in northern China’s Shanxi province on top of a 13-story Long March 2D rocket, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

The launch occurred at 11:23 a.m. Beijing time, marking China’s 22nd attempted space launch of the year, and the 21st rocket mission to reach orbit.

China Launches High-resolution Remote Sensing Satellites

Two commercial Earth-imaging satellites launched by a Chinese Long March 2D booster Wednesday are flying in lower-than-planned orbits after an apparent rocket mishap, according to tracking data published by the U.S. military.

The two SuperView 1, or Gaojing 1, satellites are flying in egg-shaped orbits ranging from 133 miles (214 kilometers) to 325 miles (524 kilometers) in altitude at an inclination of 97.6 degrees.

Artist’s concept of Beijing Space View’s planned constellation of optical and radar imaging satellites. The spacecraft illustrated at upper left is one of the SuperView 1 satellites launched Wednesday.

The high-resolution Earth-observing platforms were supposed to go into a near-circular orbit around 300 miles (500 kilometers) above the planet to begin their eight-year missions collecting imagery for Siwei Star Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., a government-owned entity.

The SuperView 1 satellites are designed to collect optical black-and-white imagery with a resolution of less than 20 inches (about 50 centimeters), making them the highest-resolution civilian Earth-observing satellites launched by China.

SuperView 1 & 2

The satellites can capture imagery in nearly 7.5-mile-wide (12-kilometer) swaths, turning to observe multiple locations on a single pass, or record images of the same point from multiple angles, allowing processors on the ground to generate stereo three-dimensional images.

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and China National Space Administration (CNSA), visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: CASC/Beijing Space View/CCTV+/Spaceflight Now/Stephen Clark.


mardi 27 décembre 2016

The crew had a good Christmas with Spacewalk Preps

ISS - Expedition 50 Mission patch.

December 27, 2016

The six-member Expedition 50 crew from France, Russia and the U.S. had a good Christmas with spacesuit checks and eye studies. The international crew will share a Christmas meal, enjoy a light-duty weekend and take Dec. 26 off.

Commander Shane Kimbrough scrubbed cooling loops and tested the water in a pair of U.S. spacesuits today. Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Thomas Pesquet are getting ready for a pair of spacewalks on Jan. 6 and 13. The spacewalks, in conjunction with remote robotics work, will complete the replacement of old nickel-hydrogen batteries with new lithium-ion batteries on the station’s truss structure.

Image above: All six members of the Expedition 50 crew aboard the International Space Station celebrated the holidays together with a festive meal. Image Credit: NASA.

Whitson, who is spending her second Christmas in space, and Pesquet drew blood, urine and saliva samples for the Fluid Shifts study. That experiment investigates the upward flow of body fluids in space potentially causing lasting vision changes in astronauts.

In the Russian segment of the International Space Station, the three cosmonauts primarily worked on maintenance tasks and science work. Oleg Novitskiy worked on communications gear and experimented with space photography techniques. Sergey Ryzhikov worked on water transfers and a cardiac study. Andrey Borisenko worked on life support equipment before studying how a crew member learns to orient themselves in microgravity.

Related links:

Fluid Shifts study:

Space photography techniques:

Cardiac study:

Orient themselves in microgravity:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards, Happy Holidays,

jeudi 22 décembre 2016

Interstellar: Crossing the Cosmic Void

NASA logo.

Dec. 22, 2016

Humanity’s great leap into the space between the stars has, in a sense, already begun. NASA's Voyager 1 probe broke through the sun’s magnetic bubble to touch the interstellar wind. Voyager 2 isn’t far behind. New Horizons shot past Pluto on its way to encounters with more distant dwarf worlds, the rubble at the solar system’s edge.

Closer to home, we’re working on techniques to help us cross greater distances. Astronauts feast on romaine lettuce grown aboard the International Space Station, perhaps a preview of future banquets en route to Mars, or to deep space.

For the moment, sending humans to other stars remains firmly in the realm of science fiction—as in the new film, “Passengers,” when hibernating travelers awaken in midflight. But while NASA so far has proposed no new missions beyond our solar system, scientists and engineers are sketching out possible technologies that might one day help to get us there.

NASA’s Journey to Mars, a plan aimed at building on robotic missions to send humans to the red planet, could be helping lay the groundwork.

“Propulsion, power, life support, manufacturing, communication, navigation, robotics: the Journey to Mars is going to force us to make advances in every one of these areas,” said Jeffrey Sheehy, NASA’s Space Technology Missions Directorate chief engineer in Washington, D.C. “Those systems are not going to be advanced enough to do an interstellar mission. But Mars is stepping us that much farther into space. It’s a step along the way to the stars.”

Image above: A selfie taken by Curiosity the Mars rover in the Murray Buttes area. NASA’s Journey to Mars, a plan aimed at building on robotic missions to send humans to the red planet, could be helping lay the groundwork. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Charting the unknown

Hurling ourselves, Passengers-style, just to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, would require crossing almost inconceivably vast distances. We would need truly exotic technology, such as suspended animation or multi-generational life support. That places in-person visits well out of reach, at least for the near term.

But the possibility of robotic interstellar probes is coming into much sharper focus. Space probe pioneers say the radiation, energy and particle-bathed space between the stars—the so-called interstellar medium—is itself a worthy science destination.

“We need more explorers, more of these local probes into this region, so we can understand better these interface conditions between our sun and the interstellar medium," said Leon Alkalai, an engineering fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and co-author of a 2015 report on exploring interstellar space. "Like the ancient mariners, we want to start creating a map.”

Alkalai’s report, “Science and Enabling Technologies for the Exploration of the Interstellar Medium,” maps out the knowns and unknowns of largely uncharted regions, from the dark, distant, dwarf worlds of the Kuiper Belt to the “bow shock”—the turbulent transition thought to separate the sun’s bubble of plasma from the interstellar wind. Drawing on the work of more than 30 specialists during two workshops at the Keck Institute for Space Studies, the report poses pressing questions about the structure, composition and energy flow in this cosmic vastness. And it paints one of the most detailed pictures yet of a possible interstellar probe using present-day technology.

(Click on the image for enlarge)

Image above: An annotated illustration of the interstellar medium. The solar gravity lens marks the point where a conceptual spacecraft in interstellar space could use our sun as a gigantic lens, allowing zoomed-in close-ups of planets orbiting other stars. Image Credits: Charles Carter/Keck Institute for Space Studies.

Part of the report focuses on a “Design Reference Mission,” a conceptual starting point that allowed workshop scientists to begin teasing out some of the technical requirements of an interstellar probe. The resulting probe concept was meant to be “daring, challenging, inspirational to the public,” and “a rational first step towards attempting to reach another star,” the report said. It’s the latest in a long line of interstellar probe concepts by NASA scientists stretching back to the 1970s.

In this conceptual scenario, the disk-shaped probe in a bullet-shaped housing is launched as a payload on the Space Launch System, NASA’s next big rocket, in the late 2020s. With gravitational boosts from Earth, Jupiter and the sun itself, it could reach interstellar space in just 10 years. By comparison, it took Voyager 1 36 years to reach the heliopause, or the boundary of interstellar space.

The probe would rely on both rockets and electrical power from next-generation radioisotope thermoelectric generators, enhanced versions of the kind now onboard the Mars Curiosity Rover. Such a probe would carry a variety of sensors and a communications antenna. It could investigate the interstellar medium and its boundary with the solar system, and perhaps even conduct a flyby of a Kuiper Belt object, one of the many unknown space bodies that orbit the sun far beyond Pluto.

Future studies could examine the possibility of electric propulsion for the probe, or solar or electric sails.

Image above: Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Possible future techonology like solar gravitational lensing may give us pictures of other worlds detailed enough to reveal continents and oceans, like this photo of Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Solar gravity: a window on another world

One of the most extraordinary conceptual spacecraft detailed in the report also would exit the solar system, but only just. And its focus, literally, would be on alien worlds.

This conceptual spacecraft would be parked in near interstellar space to use our sun as a gigantic lens, allowing zoomed-in close-ups of planets orbiting other stars. A space telescope would be lofted to a position far beyond Pluto, some 550 times the distance from Earth to the sun, or farther. It would take advantage of an effect described by Einstein: the power of gravity to bend light rays.

The stream of light from a distant star and its planet would be bent around the edges of the sun, like water flowing around a rock, meeting on the other side at a focal point—where it would be greatly magnified. The telescope would be placed in just the right position to capture these images.

The images would be smeared into a ring around the sun, called an Einstein ring, and the technical challenges would be immense: the distortions would have to be corrected and the fragmentary images reassembled. But if successful, the lens could be powerful enough to reveal surface features of an exoplanet—a planet around another star.

“It would almost be like the Earthrise picture from the moon,” Alkalai said, recalling the iconic image sent back by the Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968. “You would see clouds and continents and oceans, that kind of scale of images. From Earth, every image of an exoplanet is a single pixel, so you’re looking with a straw at the exoplanet. If you want to image continents on an exoplanet, you need something like the solar gravitational lens.”

Once we are ready to take the giant stride to another star, the problem of propulsion takes center stage. Carrying bulky fuel tanks could increase the mass of an interstellar probe beyond the realm of feasibility.

But reaching even one-tenth the speed of light would allow a space probe to arrive at the nearest star in a 50-year time frame, Sheehy said.

“We would never be able to accelerate to that kind of velocity using a chemical reaction,” such as those in present-day rockets, he said.

One answer that might just possibly be within reach, he said, involves “beamed energy.” A powerful laser array, either on Earth’s surface or in orbit, could be used to accelerate space probes equipped with sails to some fraction of the speed of light. NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program (NIAC) recently chose one such project, led by Philip Lubin at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to receive a second grant for further development.

NIAC also recently provided funding for a conceptual project that might warm the hearts of “Passengers” fans. Called “Advanced Torpor Inducing Transfer Habitats for Human Stasis to Mars,” this research effort by John Bradford of Space Works Inc., in Atlanta, investigates how to place astronauts in a deep sleep state with reduced metabolic rates for trips between Earth and Mars. While it isn’t true suspended animation or intended for interstellar travel, such a project highlights the extreme technical difficulties involved in sending fragile human bodies across the reaches of interstellar space.

Image above: The first blooming zinnia flower in the Veggie plant growth system aboard the International Space Station. Growing food in space is one of the challenges humans will have to face before attempting interstellar travel. Image Credit: NASA.

Printing a pizza

If our species ever attempts such trips, they could take many decades or even centuries, perhaps requiring some kind of suspension and revival or vessels that can sustain human life for several generations.

“Maybe the people we launch won’t be the people who actually reach Alpha Centauri,” Sheehy said. “It will be their kids. But you’ve got to eat for those 80 years.”

Learning to grow food in space could help, he said, though growing plants from seeds requires “real estate in space. A tomato plant is so big, a head of lettuce is a certain size.”

Another possibility is using 3-D printers that “build 3-D objects up layer by layer. Why couldn’t we build a cell that way? Why couldn’t we build food that way? Could you print a pizza?”

Alkalai also considers human interstellar travel an extremely distant prospect.

“The notion of sending humans to interstellar space is so far out in the sense that people need to have resources on the scale of a planet,” he said. “The only sci-fi story that I like, that might have some scientific basis, is not to build a Star Trek Enterprise but to really hijack an asteroid.

“Imagine a population that would be able to be on a binary asteroid. Then they could use one of them to swing the other one into interstellar space. Then you have resources on the asteroid, a source of iron, carbon, other materials. They could mine that as a source of resources for living, for energy. You would have to imagine something like this designed for many, many generations.”

But the daunting challenges even to sending robotic probes to the stars should be motivating, not discouraging, Sheehy said.

“Anywhere we’ve ever gone as humans, we always learn something, even if it’s just over the next mountain range,” he said. “A lot of times you discover something about yourself on a journey like that. We always find something that surprises us.”

Related links:

Alkalai’s report, “Science and Enabling Technologies for the Exploration of the Interstellar Medium.”:

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts Program (NIAC):

Journey to Mars:



Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius.

Best regards,