samedi 17 juin 2017

Russian Cargo Craft Delivers Over Three Tons of Supplies

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

June 17, 2017

Russian Resupply Ship Arrives at the International Space Station

Video above: The unpiloted Russian ISS Progress 67 cargo ship automatically docked to the rear port of the station’s Zvezda Service Module on June 16, completing a two-day journey following its launch atop a Soyuz booster from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on June 14. The new Progress is delivering three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the residents of the station and will remain attached to the outpost through December. Video Credit NASA TV.

Traveling about 250 miles over the Philippine Sea, the unpiloted ISS Progress 67 Russian cargo ship docked at 7:37 a.m. EDT to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station.

Image above: Today’s docking of the Progress 67 resupply ship to the Zvezda service module makes four spacecraft docked to the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

Read more about visiting vehicle launches, departures and arrivals at the station.

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Russian Rocket Launches on Two-Day Cargo Delivery to Station

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

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vendredi 16 juin 2017

China successfully launches Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

June 16, 2017

Long March 4B carrying HXMT launches

Initially scheduled for launch back in 2010, China has finally launched the long-awaited Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) using a Long March-4B (Chang Zheng-4) launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Launch took place June 14, 2017 at 03:00 UTC from the 603 Launch Pad of the LC43 Launch Complex. The new orbiting telescope will be used to monitor pulsars and other objects that could help unravel the mystery of their energy sources.

China Launches Its First X-ray Space Telescope to Study Black Holes, Pulsars

The 2.5-ton Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), dubbed Insight according to the official Xinhua news agency, was carried aloft by a Long March-4B rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The newest of several x-ray telescope in space, the HXMT will observe some of the most turbulent processes in the universe. The x-rays generated by those events cannot penetrate Earth’s atmosphere; they can only be observed by instruments mounted on high-altitude balloons or satellites. The HXMT carries three x-ray telescopes observing at energies ranging from 20 to 200 kilo-electron volts as well as an instrument to monitor the space environment, according to its designers. While orbiting 550 kilometers above the planet, the HXMT will perform an all-sky survey that is expected to discover a thousand new x-ray sources. Over an expected operating lifetime of 4 years, it will also conduct focused observations of black holes, neutron stars, and gamma ray bursts.

This latest achievement by China’s space science program “is certainly welcomed” by the astronomical community, says Andrew Fabian, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. “It’s very meaningful that they’ve launched their first astronomical satellite and this will pave the way for others,” he says. Fabian predicts that the HXMT sky survey will prove particularly valuable for catching transient x-ray sources that emerge, flare up to tremendous brightness, and then just as quickly fade away. As yet, the processes behind x-ray transients are poorly understood. Other missions are also trying to catch transients in the act. But “any satellite looking at that phenomena is going to find interesting things and do good science,” Fabian says.

Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT)

The HMXT is the last of the cluster of four space science missions covered under China’s 12th 5-year plan that were developed by the National Space Science Center (NSSC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing—the other three are a dark matter probe, a collection of microgravity experiments, and a test of long-range quantum entanglement. Funding constraints meant all four had to be developed simultaneously, and all four were launched over the course of 18 months. “This is not a sustainable way to have a science program,” NSSC Director Ji Wu told Science in a 2016 interview.

It would be better to get steady funding annually instead of in 5-year lump sums, he said. Nevertheless, NSSC has again gotten a 5-year budget to develop its next batch of four space science missions, all of which will likely be launched between 2020 and 2022. Among these is the Einstein Probe, a next-generation x-ray telescope that Fabian expects will build on the accomplishments of the HXMT.

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), Visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: CASC/Science, by Dennis Normile/Günter Space PAge/CCTV+.

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Martian Crater Provides Reminder of Apollo Moonwalk

NASA - Mars Exploration Rover B (MER-B) patch.

June 16, 2017

(Click on the image for enlarge)

Image above: NASA's Opportunity Mars rover passed near this small, relatively fresh crater in April 2017, during the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 16 mission to the moon. The rover team chose to call it "Orion Crater," after the Apollo 16 lunar module. The rover's Panoramic Camera (Pancam) recorded this view. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity passed near a young crater this spring during the 45th anniversary of Apollo 16's trip to Earth's moon, prompting a connection between two missions.

Opportunity's science team informally named the Martian feature "Orion Crater." The name honors the Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion, which carried astronauts John Young and Charles Duke to and from the surface of the moon in April 1972 while crewmate Ken Mattingly piloted the Apollo 16 command module, Casper, in orbit around the moon. Orion is also the name of NASA's new spacecraft that will carry humans into deep space and sustain them during travel beyond Earth orbit.

 Mars Exploration Rover (Opportunity). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Opportunity's Panoramic Camera (Pancam) took component images for this view of Orion Crater on April 26, 2017. The crater is about 90 feet (27 meters) wide and estimated to be no older than 10 million years.

"It turns out that Orion Crater is almost exactly the same size as Plum Crater on the moon, which John Young and Charles Duke explored on their first of three moonwalks taken while investigating the lunar surface using their lunar rover," said Opportunity science-team member Jim Rice, of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.

Rice sent Duke the Pancam mosaic of Mars' Orion Crater, and Duke responded, "This is fantastic. What a great job! I wish I could be standing on the rim of Orion like I was standing on the rim of Plum Crater 45 years ago."

(Click on the image for enlarge)

Image above: This view of a 90-foot-wide, relatively fresh crater on Mars, "Orion Crater," combines images from the left eye and right eye of the Panoramic Camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. It appears three-dimensional when seen through blue-red glasses with the red lens on the left. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

A historical photo of Duke at Plum Crater is online at:

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Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/Tony Greicius/JPL/Guy Webster.

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Jupiter’s Clouds of Many Colors

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

June 16, 2017

(Click on the image for enlarge)

NASA’s Juno spacecraft was racing away from Jupiter following its seventh close pass of the planet when JunoCam snapped this image on May 19, 2017, from about 29,100 miles (46,900 kilometers) above the cloud tops. The spacecraft was over 65.9 degrees south latitude, with a lovely view of the south polar region of the planet.

This image was processed to enhance color differences, showing the amazing variety in Jupiter’s stormy atmosphere. The result is a surreal world of vibrant color, clarity and contrast. Four of the white oval storms known as the “String of Pearls” are visible near the top of the image. Interestingly, one orange-colored storm can be seen at the belt-zone boundary, while other storms are more of a cream color.

JunoCam's raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at:   

More information about Juno is at: and

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Martin Perez/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt /Seán Doran.


1,000 Days in Orbit: MAVEN’s Top 10 Discoveries at Mars

NASA - MAVEN Mission logo.

June 16, 2017

On June 17, NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) will celebrate 1,000 Earth days in orbit around the Red Planet. Since its launch in November 2013 and its orbit insertion in September 2014, MAVEN has been exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars. MAVEN is bringing insight to how the sun stripped Mars of most of its atmosphere, turning a planet once possibly habitable to microbial life into a barren desert world.

Image above: This artist concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft and the limb of Mars. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

“MAVEN has made tremendous discoveries about the Mars upper atmosphere and how it interacts with the sun and the solar wind,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder. “These are allowing us to understand not just the behavior of the atmosphere today, but how the atmosphere has changed through time.”

During its 1,000 days in orbit, MAVEN has made a multitude of exciting discoveries. Here is a countdown of the top 10 discoveries from the mission:

10. Imaging of the distribution of gaseous nitric oxide and ozone in the atmosphere shows complex behavior that was not expected, indicating that there are dynamical processes of exchange of gas between the lower and upper atmosphere that are not understood at present.

9. Some particles from the solar wind are able to penetrate unexpectedly deep into the upper atmosphere, rather than being diverted around the planet by the Martian ionosphere; this penetration is allowed by chemical reactions in the ionosphere that turn the charged particles of the solar wind into neutral atoms that are then able to penetrate deeply.

8. MAVEN made the first direct observations of a layer of metal ions in the Martian ionosphere, resulting from incoming interplanetary dust hitting the atmosphere. This layer is always present, but was enhanced dramatically by the close passage to Mars of Comet Siding Spring in October 2014.

7. MAVEN has identified two new types of aurora, termed “diffuse” and “proton” aurora; unlike how we think of most aurorae on Earth, these aurorae are unrelated to either a global or local magnetic field.

6. These aurorae are caused by an influx of particles from the sun ejected by different types of solar storms. When particles from these storms hit the Martian atmosphere, they also can increase the rate of loss of gas to space, by a factor of ten or more.

5. The interactions between the solar wind and the planet are unexpectedly complex.  This results due to the lack of an intrinsic Martian magnetic field and the occurrence of small regions of magnetized crust that can affect the incoming solar wind on local and regional scales. The magnetosphere that results from the interactions varies on short timescales and is remarkably “lumpy” as a result.

4. MAVEN observed the full seasonal variation of hydrogen in the upper atmosphere, confirming that it varies by a factor of 10 throughout the year. The source of the hydrogen ultimately is water in the lower atmosphere, broken apart into hydrogen and oxygen by sunlight. This variation is unexpected and, as yet, not well understood.

3. MAVEN has used measurements of the isotopes in the upper atmosphere (atoms of the same composition but having different mass) to determine how much gas has been lost through time. These measurements suggest that 2/3 or more of the gas has been lost to space.

2. MAVEN has measured the rate at which the sun and the solar wind are stripping gas from the top of the atmosphere to space today, along with the details of the removal processes. Extrapolation of the loss rates into the ancient past -- when the solar ultraviolet light and the solar wind were more intense -- indicates that large amounts of gas have been lost to space through time.

1. The Mars atmosphere has been stripped away by the sun and the solar wind over time, changing the climate from a warmer and wetter environment early in history to the cold, dry climate that we see today.

“We’re excited that MAVEN is continuing its observations," said Gina DiBraccio, MAVEN project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s now observing a second Martian year, and looking at the ways that the seasonal cycles and the solar cycle affect the system.”

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission or MAVEN. Animation Credit: NASA

MAVEN began its primary science mission on November 2014, and is the first spacecraft dedicated to understanding Mars’ upper atmosphere. The goal of the mission is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. MAVEN is studying the entire region from the top of the upper atmosphere all the way down to the lower atmosphere so that the connections between these regions can be understood.

MAVEN’s principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Boulder. The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN project and provided two science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory also provided four science instruments for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, provides navigation and Deep Space Network support, as well as the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.

For more information about MAVEN, visit:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Bill Steigerwald/Goddard Space Flight Center/Nancy Jones.


Hubble’s Spirograph

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

June 16, 2017

In this classic Hubble image from 2000, the planetary nebula IC 418 glows like a multifaceted jewel with enigmatic patterns. IC 418 lies about 2,000 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Lepus.

A planetary nebula represents the final stage in the evolution of a star similar to our sun. The star at the center of IC 418 was a red giant a few thousand years ago, but then ejected its outer layers into space to form the nebula, which has now expanded to a diameter of about 0.1 light-year. The stellar remnant at the center is the hot core of the red giant, from which ultraviolet radiation floods out into the surrounding gas, causing it to fluoresce. Over the next several thousand years, the nebula will gradually disperse into space, and then the star will cool and fade away for billions of years as a white dwarf. Our own sun is expected to undergo a similar fate, but fortunately, this will not occur until some 5 billion years from now.

The Hubble image of IC 418 is shown with colors added to represent the different camera filters used that isolate light from various chemical elements. Red shows emission from ionized nitrogen (the coolest gas in the nebula, located furthest from the hot nucleus), green shows emission from hydrogen and blue traces the emission from ionized oxygen (the hottest gas, closest to the central star). The remarkable textures seen in the nebula are newly revealed by the Hubble Space Telescope, and their origin is still uncertain.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit:

Text, Credits: NASA/Sara Blumberg/Space Telescope Science Institute/Photo Credits: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA);  Acknowledgment: Dr. Raghvendra Sahai (JPL) and Dr. Arsen R. Hajian (USNO).


Keeping the rhythm in space

ISS - International Space Station logo.

June 16, 2017

Image above: The International Space Station, photographed by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli following the undocking of his Soyuz-TMA on 23 May 2011.

Space is an inhospitable environment for the human body but we adapt remarkably well. Within hours, the brain adjusts to the lack of an up or down, as if floating is all it has ever known. Now researchers are learning how our internal clock similarly adjusts to the restrictions of space. An ESA-sponsored experiment has found that while you can take the body out of Earth, you can’t take an Earth-based rhythm out of the body. 

At the core

Circadian rhythms describe the changes our bodies undergo over about 24 hours. This internal clock is regulated by core temperature, which tells our bodies when its day or night and triggers systems such as metabolism and the sleep cycle.

Thermolab sensor on Samantha

On Earth, our core temperature is a steady 37°C, with half a degree decrease in the early morning and increase in the early evening.

“If our bodies are an orchestra, core body temperature is the conductor, signalling when hormones and other systemic functions should come into play,” explains Dr Hanns-Christian Gunga of the University of Berlin, principle investigator of the experiment.

The circadian rhythm is a smooth wave that synchronises with our day of 24 hours. 

What happens to this wave in space? Researchers predicted that the lack of regular sunlight and the artificial environment of the International Space Station would flatten it. In other words, core temperature would drop and the human body would lose its rhythm.

To test this theory, 10 astronauts measured their core temperatures for 36 hour periods before, during and after spaceflight using two sensors strapped to the forehead and the chest.

The results so far have amazed researchers. Core body temperature increased overall, and the half-degree fluctuations within 24 hours gradually shifted by about two hours.

Double space science

In order to keep its rhythm going, the body works harder and runs warmer. Triggers to eat, metabolise and sleep, for example, shift to account for this. Researchers are not yet sure why this is the case, but these initial results have important implications.  
Astronauts are shift workers with tight schedules. To ensure they work when they’re most alert and focused and rest when they need to, we must understand and anticipate enhanced circadian rhythms during spaceflight. Mission controllers can then more effectively plan longer missions to ensure crew are healthy and efficient.

The role of core temperature in tuning our clocks also suggests important research avenues for shift work studies on Earth. The non-invasive sensor developed to measure temperature on the Station can also be used to conveniently track core temperature in clinics or field studies. 

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli will be the next astronaut to take part this year, followed by Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai in 2018, by when the experiment will have collected all of its data and more conclusions can be made. Stay tuned.

Related links:

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International Space Station science reports:

International Space Station Benefits for Humanity:

Erasmus Space Exhibition Centre:

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Images, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA.

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jeudi 15 juin 2017

Technology Research on Station Breathes Life into Life Support

ISS - International Space Station patch.

June 15, 2017

There is nothing as refreshing as a breath of fresh air or cool glass of water. On Earth, an open window or turn of the tap provides those essential pleasures, but for NASA’s deep space journeys, it will not be that easy.

Water and oxygen for human exploration in deep space will need be launched with the crew, recycled from the spacecraft’s atmosphere and astronauts’ waste, or made using the resources of the destination -- such as water ice on Mars. Teams at NASA are using the world’s most advanced crewed spacecraft -- the International Space Station -- to test improvements to recycling technologies of the critical life support systems that provide oxygen and water to astronauts in space. The life support systems for NASA’s Deep Space Gateway and Deep Space Transport will be based on the improvements to the systems used on the space station.

“The space station is the perfect test bed,” said Robyn Gatens, team lead of environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) maturation at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Image above: The ECLSS purifies the crew’s waste -- including urine and sweat – to provide consumable water to the astronauts. Improvements to the technology are vital to sending humans out into deep space. Image Credit: NASA.

ECLSS provides astronauts with clean air, water, and comfortable temperature and humidity in the spacecraft. The station’s current system recycles about 90 percent of the water and about 42 percent of the oxygen in the spacecraft while disposing of the crew’s solid waste and the briny liquid waste left over from recycling. Regular resupply missions to the orbiting outpost supplement the unrecovered water and oxygen and replacement components for those that fail on the system.

“We have to use different technologies if we want to close the air and water loops beyond the current system,” Gatens said. “Missions into deep space will not have the space station’s resupply capability; therefore, improvements to recycling processes and technologies are needed to fly long-duration missions.”

To reach the water recovery goal of 98 percent, researchers will test new technology to reclaim additional water from the urine brine using a process to evaporate the liquids, causing the solids to separate out, and then the water can then be reused. In addition to upgrades to improve the water recovery system reliability and reduce maintenance, the team is also investigating using reverse osmosis, a process that applies pressure to push liquid through a semipermeable membrane. This process would reduce the number of filters required to operate the water processor.

Image above: European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, Expedition 36 flight engineer, removes and replaces the particulate filter for the water pump assembly 2 in the Tranquility module on the ISS. The pump assembly is part of water recovery system.
Image Credit: NASA.

Engineers aim to reach the goal of 75 percent recycled oxygen for deep space missions using methods that involve the reaction of hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce solid carbon and water, or acetylene and water. These candidate technologies go beyond the current system on the station that reacts carbon dioxide and hydrogen to produce methane and water, and would increase the current recovery to between 75 and 100 percent.  The resulting water is split into breathable oxygen for the crew by the oxygen generation system, and the hydrogen is recycled back to react with more carbon dioxide.

While water and oxygen recycling are critical, the robustness of the system itself is even more important. In the absence of cargo resupply missions flying replacements parts, teams must know what parts can be printed using 3-D printing technology during the mission and what spares have to be sent along from Earth. Many of the improvements in development will also extend the life of components and reduce failure rates.

Image above: This diagram shows the flow of recyclable resources in the ISS. The regenerative ECLSS, whose main components are the water recovery system and the oxygen generation system, reclaims and recycles water and oxygen. The ECLSS maintains a pressurized habitation environment, provides water recovery and storage, maintains and provides fire detection and suppression and provides breathable air and a comfortable atmosphere in which to live and work within the ISS. Improvements to the system will be key to sending humans to Mars and returning them safely to Earth. Image Credits: NASA.

Engineers plan to test the evolved system on the space station for at least two to three years to prove reliability before building the system for deep space. The greater efficiency and increased reliability from improvements to the life support system will strengthen systems in low-Earth orbit and enable continued presence in space – both near and far from humanity’s home planet.

To learn more about the work done on the ISS, visit

NASA’s deep space journeys:

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Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/William Bryan.


Crew Researches Mold, Rodents and Stem Cells as Cargo Ship Chases Station

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

June 15, 2017

ISS - International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

Russia’s Progress 67 (67P) cargo craft is orbiting Earth and on its way to the International Space Station Friday morning carrying over three tons of food, fuel and supplies. Meanwhile, the three member Expedition 52 crew researched a variety of space science on Thursday while preparing for the arrival of the 67P.

Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer will monitor the automated docking of the 67P to the Zvezda service module Friday at 7:42 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast live the resupply ship’s approach and rendezvous beginning at 7 a.m. The 67P’s docking will mark four spaceships attached to the space station.

Image above: NASA astronaut Jack Fischer checks out science gear inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

Fischer spent the morning photographing mold and bacteria samples on petri dishes as part of six student-led biology experiments that are taking place inside a NanoRacks module. In the afternoon, he removed protein crystal samples from a science freezer, let them thaw and observed the samples using a specialized microscope.

Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson tended to rodents Thursday morning cleaning their habitat facilities and restocking their food. In the afternoon, she moved to human research swapping out samples for the Cardiac Stem Cells study that is exploring why living in space may accelerate the aging process.

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

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Investigation Tests Drug to Activate Immune System, Help Fight Cancer

ISS - International Space Station logo.

June 15, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

On Earth, research into antibody-drug conjugates to treat cancer has been around a while. The research presents a problem, though, because Earth-based laboratories aren’t able to mimic the shape of the cancer cell within the body, which can sometimes produce incorrect findings. The International Space Station’s unique microgravity environment allows scientists to approach the research from a new, 3-D angle.

The Efficacy and Metabolism of Azonafide Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADCs) in Microgravity investigation seeks to activate immunogenic cell death within the cancer cells, which should kill the cancer and prevent the disease from reoccurring in the future. The experiment explores a new drug and antibody combination that may increase the effectiveness of the treatment and decrease secondary side effects associated with chemotherapy.

“In space, you can grow larger and larger cancer tumors spherical in shape, so you have a better model of what’s happening in the human body,” said Luis Zea, research associate for Bioserve Space Technologies. “The chances of having false negatives or false positives is decreased.”

Knowing how drug combinations work in microgravity is increasingly important as we plan for future deep-space missions, where we may need to be able to treat diseases such as cancer.

Image above: The cancer cells will be cultured within the six-well BioCell, featured above, created by BioServe Space Technologies. Image Credits: BioServe Space Technologies.

“We don’t know if the cells will be metabolizing the drug at the same rate as they do on Earth,” said Dhaval Shah, co-investigator. “In the long term, we need to be sure what drugs are going to work.”

To treat cancer currently, chemotherapy works by orally and intravenously injecting the patient with a drug to attack and kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, this untargeted approach also kills healthy cells.

The ADCs investigation is a combination of two molecules: a cancer-killing Azonafide drug and an antibody, which may enable a targeted approach for cancer treatment by only allowing the drug to kill cancer cells, while leaving the healthy cells intact.

“One of the reasons cancer cells grow in certain individuals is their defense mechanism fails to recognize them,” said Shah. “This molecule also has the ability to wake up, or release the break, on existing immune cells within the cancer. In any given tumor, when these molecules are released [from the cancer cell], they ‘wake up’ the surrounding immune cells and stimulate the body’s own immune system, making it recognize and kill the cancer cells itself.”

Image above: Once the Azonafide Antibody-Drug Conjugate (ADC) binds to the tumor surface, the construct is internalized by the tumor cells where the antibody is released and can begin cell death. Azonafide ADCs allow delivery of the drug to the tumor site, thereby avoiding the toxic side effects associated with chemotherapy. Image Credits: Oncolinx.

Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy often experience side effects such as nausea, fatigue, hair loss, cognitive impairment, and more during the course of treatment. Although this combination may decrease many of the negative side effects of chemotherapy, it may also have its own side effects, though potentially less severe and short-lived.

“The antibody is like a connector block,” said Zea. “On one side it will only bind to the drug and the other side, may only bind to cancer cells and not healthy cells. So by combining these two, the idea is to decrease the nasty side effects of chemotherapy.”

Related links:

The Efficacy and Metabolism of Azonafide Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADCs) in Microgravity:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/JSC/Jenny Howard/International Space Station Program Science Office.


Northern Summer on Titan

NASA & ESA - Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn & Titan patch.

June 15, 2017

NASA's Cassini spacecraft sees bright methane clouds drifting in the summer skies of Saturn's moon Titan, along with dark hydrocarbon lakes and seas clustered around the north pole.

Compared to earlier in Cassini's mission, most of the surface in the moon's northern high latitudes is now illuminated by the sun. (See PIA08363 for a view of the northern hemisphere from 2007.) Summer solstice in the Saturn system occurred on May 24, 2017.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on June 9, 2017, using a spectral filter that preferentially admits wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 938 nanometers. Cassini obtained the view at a distance of about 315,000 miles (507,000 kilometers) from Titan.

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 Caltech in Pasadena, California, 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.

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For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit and and

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

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mercredi 14 juin 2017

NuSTAR's First Five Years in Space

NASA - Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) patch.

June 14, 2017

Artist's concept of NuSTAR on orbit. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Five years ago, on June 13, 2012, Caltech's Fiona Harrison, principal investigator of NASA's NuSTAR mission, watched with her team as their black-hole-spying spacecraft was launched into space aboard a rocket strapped to the belly of an aircraft. The launch occurred over the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Many members of the team anxiously followed the launch from the mission's operations center at the University of California, Berkeley, anxious to see what NuSTAR would find.

Now, Harrison shares her take on five of the mission's many iconic images and artist concepts -- ranging from our flaring sun to distant, buried black holes. NuSTAR is the first telescope capable of focusing high-energy X-rays -- and it has taken the most detailed images of the sky in this energy regime to date.

Artist's of a blach hole. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"This is an artist's concept of a region very near a black hole," Harrison said. "It was made to go along with some of our very first results, where we measured the spin of a supermassive black hole unambiguously for the first time. NuSTAR's high-energy X-ray vision allowed us to distinguish between models that explain what produces black holes' X-ray emissions, and this information led us to conclude that the observed black hole is rapidly spinning."

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CXC/SAO

"This is a beautiful image, and one of the things we built NuSTAR to do -- to make the first-ever map of emission from radioactivity in the remnant of an exploded star," Harrison said. "We spent years developing specialized detectors to have the capability to make this image. From the image, we were able to determine the mechanism that caused the star to explode." NuSTAR data show high-energy X-rays from radioactive material in blue. Non-radioactive materials are red, yellow and green.

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAO/NOAO

"This result was one of the biggest surprises from NuSTAR. We detected X-ray pulses from an object in a galaxy that everybody had assumed was a black hole, thereby showing it was actually a stellar remnant called a pulsar. At the time, it was by far the brightest pulsar known. At first nobody believed it, but the signal was so strong and clear," Harrison said. Since this discovery two other extremely bright pulsars have been found -- prompted by NuSTAR's discovery. High-energy X-rays from the pulsar are seen in pink at the center of the image.

Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/JAXA

"With NuSTAR, we see flaring, active regions of the sun where high-energy particles are being created. NuSTAR was built as an astrophysics mission, not to study the sun," Harrison said. "People thought we were crazy at first to point such a sensitive observatory at the sun and potentially ruin it. But now, by studying the sun with much greater sensitivity in high-energy X-rays, we are making important contributions to the field of solar physics."

Image Credits: Carnegie-Irvine Galaxy Survey/NASA/JPL-Caltech

"This image illustrates another major accomplishment NuSTAR was designed for -- to find hidden black holes buried by dust and gas," Harrison said. "This is a wonderful result, led by two graduate students. What they found is that there is a thick layer of gas and dust hiding the active black hole in the galaxy NGC 1448 from our sight."

NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NuSTAR was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Virginia. NuSTAR's mission operations center is at UC Berkeley, and the official data archive is at NASA's High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center. ASI provides the mission's ground station and a mirror archive. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

For more information on NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array), visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Elizabeth Landau/Caltech, written by Whitney Clavin.


VST Captures Three-In-One

ESO -European Southern Observatory logo.

14 June 2017

The VST captures three spectacular nebulae in one image

Two of the sky’s more famous residents share the stage with a lesser-known neighbour in this enormous new three gigapixel image from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST). On the right lies the faint, glowing cloud of gas called Sharpless 2-54, the iconic Eagle Nebula is in the centre, and the Omega Nebula to the left. This cosmic trio makes up just a portion of a vast complex of gas and dust within which new stars are springing to life and illuminating their surroundings.

Highlights from huge VST nebula image

Sharpless 2-54 and the Eagle and Omega Nebulae are located roughly 7000 light-years away — the first two fall within the constellation of Serpens (The Serpent), while the latter lies within Sagittarius (The Archer). This region of the Milky Way houses a huge cloud of star-making material. The three nebulae indicate where regions of this cloud have clumped together and collapsed to form new stars; the energetic light from these stellar newborns has caused ambient gas to emit light of its own, which takes on the pinkish hue characteristic of areas rich in hydrogen.

Nebulae on the borders of the constellations of Sagittarius and Serpens

Two of the objects in this image were discovered in a similar way. Astronomers first spotted bright star clusters in both Sharpless 2-54 and the Eagle Nebula, later identifying the vast, comparatively faint gas clouds swaddling the clusters. In the case of Sharpless 2-54, British astronomer William Herschel initially noticed its beaming star cluster in 1784. That cluster, catalogued as NGC 6604 (eso1218), appears in this image on the object’s left side. The associated very dim gas cloud remained unknown until the 1950s, when American astronomer Stewart Sharpless spotted it on photographs from the National Geographic Society–Palomar Observatory Sky Survey.

The VST captures three spectacular nebulae in one image (annotated)

The Eagle Nebula did not have to wait so long for its full glory to be appreciated. Swiss astronomer Philippe Loys de Chéseaux first discovered its bright star cluster, NGC 6611, in 1745 or 1746 (eso0142). A couple of decades later, French astronomer Charles Messier observed this patch of sky and also documented the nebulosity present there, recording the object as Messier 16 in his influential catalogue (eso0926).

Zooming in on a rich region of star formation

As for the Omega Nebula, de Chéseaux did manage to observe its more prominent glow and duly noted it as a nebula in 1745. However, because the Swiss astronomer’s catalogue never achieved wider renown, Messier’s re-discovery of the Omega Nebula in 1764 led to its becoming Messier 17, the seventeenth object in the Frenchman’s popular compendium (eso0925).

Highlights from huge VST nebula image

The observations from which this image was created were taken with ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST), located at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. The huge final colour image was created by mosaicing dozens of pictures — each of 256 megapixels — from the telescope’s large-format OmegaCAM camera. The final result, which needed lengthy processing, totals 3.3 gigapixels, one of the largest images ever released by ESO.

The Omega Nebula region seen with the VST

The region of the Eagle Nebula seen with the VST

The Sharpless 2-54 region seen with ESO's VST

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 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. 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 and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.






ESOcast 111 Light: VST captures glowing celestial triplet:

Photos of the VST:

ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST):

ESO’s Paranal Observatory:

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/Richard Hook/IAU and Sky & Telescope/Videos: ESO/N. Risinger (

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Russian Rocket Launches on Two-Day Cargo Delivery to Station

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

June 14, 2017

Image above: The Russian Progress 67 cargo craft launch ascends to space after a flawless launch Wednesday from Kazakhstan. Image Credit: Roscosmos.

Carrying more than three tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the International Space Station crew, the unpiloted ISS Progress 67 cargo craft launched at 5:20 a.m. EDT (3:20 p.m. local time in Baikonur) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

At the time of launch, the International Space Station was flying about 258 miles over the south Atlantic southeast of Uruguay.

Russian Resupply Ship Launches to the International Space Station

Less than 10 minutes after launch, the resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned. The Russian cargo craft will make 34 orbits of Earth during the next two days before docking to the orbiting laboratory at 7:42 a.m. Friday, June 16.

Beginning at 7 a.m. on Friday, NASA Television will provide live coverage of Progress 67’s arrival to the space station’s Zvezda Service Module.

Watch live on NASA TV and the agency’s website:

International Space Station (ISS):

ROSCOSMOS website:

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

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mardi 13 juin 2017

Follow the fantastic voyage of the ICARUS detector

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

June 13, 2017

Image above: ICARUS has been at CERN for refurbishment before it makes its way to Fermilab over the next few months (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN).

It’s lived in two different countries and is about to make its way to a third. It’s the largest machine of its kind, designed to find extremely elusive particles and tell us more about them. Its pioneering technology is the blueprint for some of the most advanced science experiments in the world. And this summer, it will travel across the Atlantic Ocean to its new home (and its new mission) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

It’s called ICARUS, and you can follow its journey over land and sea with the help of an interactive map at (, or on Facebook (, Twitter ( and Instagram ( using the hashtag #IcarusTrip.

The ICARUS detector measures 18 meters (60 feet) long and weighs 120 tons. It began its scientific life under a mountain at the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics’ (INFN) Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy in 2010, recording data from a beam of particles called neutrinos sent by CERN. The detector was shipped to CERN in 2014, where it has been upgraded and refurbished, at the CERN Neutrino Platform, in preparation for its overseas trek.

Follow the fantastic voyage of the ICARUS detector, CERN

“We are very pleased and proud that CERN has been able to contribute to the refurbishment of the ICARUS detector and we are looking forward to first results from the Fermilab short-baseline neutrino programme in the coming years,” said Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General of CERN.

When it arrives at Fermilab, the massive machine will take its place as part of a suite of three detectors dedicated to searching for a new type of neutrino beyond the three that have been found. Discovering this so-called “sterile” neutrino, should it exist, would rewrite scientists’ picture of the universe and the particles that make it up.

“Nailing down the question of whether sterile neutrinos exist or not is an important scientific goal, and ICARUS will help us achieve that,” said Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer. “But it’s also a significant step in Fermilab’s plan to host a truly international neutrino facility, with the help of our partners around the world.” 

First, however, the detector has to get there. Today, it will begin its journey from CERN in Geneva, Switzerland to a port in Antwerp, Belgium. From there the detector, separated into two identical pieces, will travel on a ship to Burns Harbor, Indiana, in the United States, and from there will be driven by truck to Fermilab, one piece at a time. The full trip is expected to take roughly six weeks.

Im ICARUS, a neutrino hunter

The detector uses liquid-argon time projection technology – essentially a method of taking a 3-D snapshot of the particles produced when a neutrino interacts with an argon atom – which was developed by the ICARUS collaboration, and now is the technology of choice for the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), prototypes of which are currently being built at CERN.

"More than 25 years ago Nobel Prize winner, and a previous CERN Director-General, Carlo Rubbia started a visionary effort with the help and resources of INFN to make use of liquid argon as a particle detector, with the visual power of a bubble chamber but with the speed and efficiency of an electronic detector,” said Fernando Ferroni, president of INFN. “A long series of steps demonstrated the power of this technology that has been chosen for the gigantic future experiment DUNE in the U.S., scaling up the 760 tons of argon for ICARUS to 70,000 tons for DUNE. In the meantime, ICARUS will be at the core of an experiment at Fermilab looking for the possible existence of a new type of neutrino. Long life to ICARUS!”

This research is supported by the DOE Office of Science, CERN and INFN, in partnership with institutions around the world.

Read the full press release here:


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

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

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

Related links:

CERN Neutrino Platform:

Large Hadron Collider:

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

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

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Successful launches for Proton-M carrying EchoStar 21

ILS - Proton-M / EchoStar 21 Mission poster.

June 13, 2017

Launch of the Proton-M LV with EchoStar 21

June 8, 2017 at 6:45 Moscow Time the Proton-M launch vehicle successfully lifted off from the BAIKONUR Space Center in Kazakhstan, with the EchoStar 21 satellite on board. It was the first Proton-M launch in 2017.

The launch of the Proton-M LV with EchoStar 21

The first three stages of the Proton-M used a standard ascent profile to place the orbital unit (Breeze-M upper stage and the EchoStar 21 satellite) into a sub-orbital trajectory. From this point in the mission, the Breeze-M will perform planned mission maneuvers to advance the orbital unit first to a nearly circular parking orbit, then to an intermediate orbit, followed by a transfer orbit, and finally to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Separation of the EchoStar XXI satellite is scheduled to occur approximately 9 hours, 13 minutes after liftoff.

EchoStar 21 satellite

EchoStar 21 is a state-of-the-art S-band satellite designed to provide mobile connectivity throughout Europe. The spacecraft, based on SSL’s 1300 bus, will be located at the 10.25° East orbital slot. EchoStar subsidiary EchoStar Mobile Limited, an EU-wide licensee for an integrated mobile satellite service network with a complementary ground component, will utilize a portion of the capacity on EchoStar 21 to provision its next-generation, all IP-enabled mobile communications network.

Launch Vehicle Manufacturer: Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center.

Launch Services Provider: International Launch Services, Reston, Va.

For more information about ILS, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/ILS/Günter Space Page.