samedi 1 juillet 2017

Earth-based Views of Jupiter to Enhance Juno Flyby

GEMINI Observatory logo / SUBARU Observatory logo.

July 1, 2017

Rotating Jupiter With Great Red Spot, January 2017

Animation above: This animation shows Jupiter as revealed by a powerful telescope and a mid-infrared filter sensitive to the giant planet's tropospheric temperatures and cloud thickness. It combines observations made on Jan. 14, 2017, using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. Animation Credit: Subaru Telescope.

Telescopes in Hawaii have obtained new images of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot, which will assist the first-ever close-up study of the Great Red Spot, planned for July 10. On that date, NASA's Juno spacecraft will fly directly over the giant planet's most famous feature at an altitude of only about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers).

Throughout the Juno mission, numerous observations of Jupiter by Earth-based telescopes have been acquired in coordination with the mission, to help Juno investigate the giant planet's atmosphere. On May 18, 2017, the Gemini North telescope and the Subaru Telescope, both on Hawaii's Mauna Kea peak, simultaneously examined Jupiter in very high resolution at different wavelengths. These latest observations supplement others earlier this year in providing information about atmospheric dynamics at different depths at the Great Red Spot and other regions of Jupiter.

Jupiter With Great Red Spot, Near Infrared, May 2017

Image above: This composite, false-color infrared image of Jupiter reveals haze particles over a range of altitudes, as seen in reflected sunlight. It was taken using the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii on May 18, 2017, in collaboration with observations of Jupiter by NASA's Juno mission. Image Credits: NASA/Gemini North telescope.

The Great Red Spot is a swirling storm, centuries old and wider than the diameter of Earth. Juno will use multiple instruments to study this feature when it flies over it about 12 minutes after the spacecraft makes the closest approach to Jupiter of its current orbit at 6:55 p.m. on July 10, PDT (9:55 p.m. on July 10, EDT; 1:55 a.m. on July 11, Universal Time). Juno entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

"Observations with Earth's most powerful telescopes enhance the spacecraft's planned observations by providing three types of additional context," said Juno science team member Glenn Orton of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "We get spatial context from seeing the whole planet. We extend and fill in our temporal context from seeing features over a span of time. And we supplement with wavelengths not available from Juno. The combination of Earth-based and spacecraft observations is a powerful one-two punch in exploring Jupiter."

Jupiter With Great Red Spot, Mid-Infrared, May 2017

Image above: This false-color image of Jupiter was taken on May 18, 2017, with the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, using a mid-infrared filter centered at a wavelength of 8.8 microns. The Great Red Spot appears at the lower center of the planet as a cold region with a thick cloud layer. Image Credit: Subaru Telescope.

Orton collaborated with researchers at Gemini; Subaru; the University of California, Berkeley; Tohoku University, Japan; and elsewhere in planning the recent observations.

The observers used Gemini North on May 18 to examine Jupiter through special near-infrared filters. The filters exploit specific colors of light that can penetrate the upper atmosphere and clouds of Jupiter, revealing mixtures of methane and hydrogen in the planet's atmosphere. These observations showed a long, fine-structured wave extending off the eastern side of the Great Red Spot.

On the same night, researchers used Subaru's Cooled Mid-Infrared Camera and Spectrometer (COMICS), with filters sensitive to temperatures at different layers of Jupiter's atmosphere. These mid-infrared observations showed the Great Red Spot "had a cold and cloudy interior increasing toward its center, with a periphery that was warmer and clearer," Orton said. "A region to its northwest was unusually turbulent and chaotic, with bands that were cold and cloudy, alternating with bands that were warm and clear."

Related article:

NASA's Juno Spacecraft to Fly Over Jupiter's Great Red Spot July 10

For more information about the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan's Subaru Telescope, visit:

For more information about the Gemini Observatory, a partnership of the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, visit:

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California. More information on the Juno mission is available at:

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/JPL/DC Agle/Guy Webster/Subaru Telescope/Yuko Kakazu/Gemini Observatory/Peter Michaud/Southwest Research Institute/Deb Schmid.


Veteran Ocean Satellite to Assume Added Role

NASA / CNES - OSTM Jason-2 patch.

July 1, 2017

A venerable U.S./European oceanography satellite mission with NASA participation that has expanded our knowledge of global sea level change, ocean currents and climate phenomena like El Niño and La Niña will take on an additional role next month: improving maps of Earth's sea floor.

The Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite, a partnership among NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the French Space Agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), marked its ninth year in orbit on June 20. Designed to fly three to five years, OSTM/Jason-2 has now completed more than 42,000 trips around our planet, contributing to a database of satellite altimetry that dates back to the launch of the U.S./French Topex/Poseidon satellite in 1992.

Image above: Illustration of the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite in orbit. OSTM/Jason-2 will soon take on an additional role to help improve maps of Earth's sea floor. Image Credits: NASA-JPL/Caltech.

Over the past nine years, OSTM/Jason-2 has precisely measured the height of 95 percent of the world's ice-free ocean every 10 days. Since its launch in June 2008, it has measured a 1.6-inch (4-centimeter) increase in global mean sea level, which has been rising at a rate of about 0.12 inches (3 millimeters) a year since satellite altimetry records began in 1993. It has also tracked changes in regional sea level; monitored the speed and direction of ocean surface currents; enabled more accurate weather, ocean and climate forecasts; and observed multiple El Niño and La Niña events. Since October 2016, it has operated in a tandem mission with its successor, Jason-3, launched in January 2016, doubling coverage of the global ocean and improving data resolution for both missions.

But as OSTM/Jason-2's onboard systems age and key components begin to show signs of cumulative space radiation damage, it has become prudent to move the older satellite out of its current shared orbit with Jason-3. On June 20, Jason-2's four mission partner agencies agreed to lower Jason-2's orbit by 17 miles (27 kilometers) in early July, from 830 to 813 miles (1,336 to 1,309 kilometers), placing it in a new orbit with a long repeat period of just more than one year. The move is designed to safeguard the orbit for Jason-3 and its planned successor, Jason-CS/Sentinel-6, planned for launch in 2020.

In its new orbit, OSTM/Jason-2 will also undertake a new science mission. The long-repeat orbit will allow OSTM/Jason-2 to collect data along a series of very closely spaced ground tracks just 5 miles (8 kilometers) apart. The result will be a new, high-resolution estimate of Earth's average sea surface height.

The shape of the sea surface is partly determined by underwater hills and valleys, which pull the water due to the force of gravity. Scientists will use these new OSTM/Jason-2 data to improve maps of the shape and depth of the sea floor, resolving many presently unknown seamounts (underwater mountains) and other geologic features on the ocean bottom. These new maps will permit advances in ocean modeling, tsunami wave forecasting, and naval operations support, and will boost understanding of the dynamics of the solid Earth.

The data will also help prepare for the next generation of global satellite altimetry missions, including the NASA/CNES/Canadian Space Agency/UK Space Agency Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, planned for launch in 2021; and Sentinel-3B, to be launched by the European Space Agency in early 2018.

"It's still too early for OSTM/Jason-2 to sail off into the sunset," said OSTM/Jason-2 and Jason-3 Project Scientist Josh Willis of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "The ocean covers more than 71 percent of Earth's surface, so improving our knowledge of the shape of the sea floor is like mapping a whole new world. These new data will also help pave the way for satellite altimetry missions that don't need to follow traditional satellite ground tracks."

While OSTM/Jason-2 is leaving its old orbit, data from its new orbit will continue to be used by operational agencies to provide societal and strategic benefits ranging from deriving ocean currents and improving marine, fishery and naval operations; to assisting in forecasting the intensity of tropical hurricanes and cyclones by identifying regions of high thermal energy in the ocean.

For more information, visit: and

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/NOAA/John Leslie/JPL/Alan Buis/ESA/Claudia Ritsert-Clark/CNES/Pascale Bresson.


vendredi 30 juin 2017

SpaceX Dragon Departure Slips to Monday

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

June 30, 2017

Due to a forecast of unacceptable sea states in the Pacific Ocean in the prime opportunity splashdown zone, SpaceX and NASA have elected to delay the return of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft to Monday, July 3.The splashdown zone for Monday has an acceptable weather forecast and is closer to port in Long Beach, California. Splashdown is expected around 260 miles southwest of the California coast.

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon was pictured May 31, 2012, moments before its release from the grip of the Canadarm2 and its departure from the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA TV coverage of the departure of Dragon Monday, July 3 will begin at 2:00 a.m. EDT for a release at 2:28 a.m.

Related article:

NASA Science to Return to Earth aboard SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

Related links:

Commercial Resupply:

Commercial Space:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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The LHC racks up records

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

June 30, 2017

Image above: View of the LHC. It took only five weeks for the operators of the LHC to reach 2256 particle bunches circulating in each direction of the accelerator. (Image : Maximilien Brice/CERN).

An unprecedented number of particles has been reached in record time. Just five weeks after physics resumed, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is already running at full throttle. On Wednesday 28 June 2017 the LHC established yet another record-breaking high, with 2556 proton bunches circulating in each direction of the accelerator. The beams in the LHC are made up of bunches of protons, spaced seven metres (25 nanoseconds) apart, with each one containing more than 100 billion protons. 2556 is the maximum possible number of bunches that can be reached with the beam preparation method currently used.

The particle bunches that are delivered to the LHC are prepared and accelerated by a chain of four accelerators. Since last year, a new method to group and split the bunches enables the particles to be squeezed even closer together. With an equal number of protons, the beam diameter was reduced by 40 per cent. Denser bunches means a higher probability of collisions at the centre of the experiments.

This success has led to a new luminosity record for the LHC of 1.58x1034 cm-2s-1. This figure may not mean much to most of us, but it’s crucial for the accelerator’s experts. It measures the number of potential collisions per second and per unit of area . This new peak luminosity surpasses initial expectations defined by the original designs for the LHC, which  hoped it could reach a maximum of 1x1034cm-2s-1.

Graphic above: This plot shows the values of the luminosity reached during the last few weeks by the LHC, with the record of 1.58x1034 cm-2s-1 achieved on Wednesday 28 June. Graphic Credit: CERN.

A higher luminosity means more collisions for the experiments collecting data: in just a few weeks ATLAS and CMS stored more than 6 inverse femtobarns, over an eighth of the total anticipated for the whole year.

Nevertheless, the operators cannot sit on their hands. Many parameters can be tuned to further improve the luminosity.

Next week, the LHC and its experiments will take a short break for the first of the two technical stops planned for the year. This will be an opportunity to carry out maintenance.

Read a more detailed article on LHC recent performances:


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:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):




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

Image (mentioned), Graphic (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Corinne Pralavorio.

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NASA’S First Asteroid Deflection Mission Enters Next Design Phase

NASA - Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) logo.

June 30, 2017

The first-ever mission to demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique for planetary defense -- the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) -- is moving from concept development to preliminary design phase, following NASA’s approval on June 23.

Image above: Artist concept of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft. DART, which is moving to preliminary design phase, would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique for planetary defense. Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL.

“DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique -- striking the asteroid to shift its orbit -- to defend against a potential future asteroid impact,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This approval step advances the project toward an historic test with a non-threatening small asteroid.”

While current law directs the development of the DART mission, DART is not identified as a specific budget item in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

The target for DART is an asteroid that will have a distant approach to Earth in October 2022, and then again in 2024. The asteroid is called Didymos -- Greek for “twin” -- because it’s an asteroid binary system that consists of two bodies: Didymos A, about one-half mile (780 meters) in size, and a smaller asteroid orbiting it called Didymos B, about 530 feet (160 meters) in size. DART would impact only the smaller of the two bodies, Didymos B.

The Didymos system has been closely studied since 2003. The primary body is a rocky S-type object, with composition similar to that of many asteroids. The composition of its small companion, Didymos B, is unknown, but the size is typical of asteroids that could potentially create regional effects should they impact Earth.

“A binary asteroid is the perfect natural laboratory for this test,” said Tom Statler, program scientist for DART at NASA Headquarters. “The fact that Didymos B is in orbit around Didymos A makes it easier to see the results of the impact, and ensures that the experiment doesn’t change the orbit of the pair around the sun.”

After launch, DART would fly to Didymos, and use an on-board autonomous targeting system to aim itself at Didymos B. Then the refrigerator-sized spacecraft would strike the smaller body at a speed about nine times faster than a bullet, approximately 3.7 miles per second (6 kilometers per second). Earth-based observatories would be able to see the impact and the resulting change in the orbit of Didymos B around Didymos A, allowing scientists to better determine the capabilities of kinetic impact as an asteroid mitigation strategy. The kinetic impact technique works by changing the speed of a threatening asteroid by a small fraction of its total velocity, but by doing it well before the predicted impact so that this small nudge will add up over time to a big shift of the asteroid’s path away from Earth.

“DART is a critical step in demonstrating we can protect our planet from a future asteroid impact,” said Andy Cheng of The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, the DART investigation co-lead. “Since we don’t know that much about their internal structure or composition, we need to perform this experiment on a real asteroid. With DART, we can show how to protect Earth from an asteroid strike with a kinetic impactor by knocking the hazardous object into a different flight path that would not threaten the planet.”

Dart Moon Collision

Video above: This animation shows how NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) would target and strike the smaller (left) element of the binary asteroid Didymos to demonstrate how a kinetic impact could potentially redirect an asteroid as part of the agency’s planetary defense program. Video Credits: NASA/JHUAPL.

Small asteroids hit Earth almost daily, breaking up harmlessly in the upper atmosphere. Objects large enough to do damage at the surface are much rarer. Objects larger than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) in diameter -- large enough to cause global effects -- have been the focus of NASA’s ground-based search for potentially hazardous objects with orbits that bring them near the Earth, and about 93 percent of these sized objects have already been found. DART would test technologies to deflect objects in the intermediate size range—large enough to do regional damage, yet small enough that there are many more that have not been observed and could someday hit Earth. NASA-funded telescopes and other assets continue to search for these objects, track their orbits, and determine if they are a threat.

To assess and formulate capabilities to address these potential threats, NASA established its Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) in 2016, which is responsible for finding, tracking and characterizing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets coming near Earth, issuing warnings about possible impacts, and assisting plans and coordination of U.S. government response to an actual impact threat.

DART is being designed and would be built and managed by The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. The project would be overseen by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. DART also is supported by teams from the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland; Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas; and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Related link:

Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO):

To learn more about NASA planetary defense and DART visit:

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tricia Talbert.


NASA Simulates Asteroid Impacts to Help Identify Possible Life-Threatening Events

NASA logo.

June 30, 2017

Supercomputer Simulation of Chelyabinsk-like Asteroid Entering Earth’s Atmosphere

Video above: The animation above from an ALE3D simulation shows a Chelyabinsk-like asteroid breaking up during atmospheric entry at about 45,000 miles per hour, with a high-pressure shock wave that forms around the asteroid causing it to fracture and flatten like a pancake. Video Credits: NASA Ames/Darrel Robertson.

When an asteroid struck the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013, the blast from the asteroid’s shock wave broke windows and damaged buildings as far away as 58 miles (93 kilometers), injuring more than 1,200 people.

In support of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, researchers are creating 3-D models and using one of NASA’s most powerful supercomputers to produce simulations of hypothetical asteroid impact scenarios. Their results help first responders and other agencies to identify and make better informed decisions for how best to defend against life-threatening asteroid events.

High-fidelity simulations of potential asteroids covering a wide range of sizes were run on the Pleiades supercomputer using NASA’s Cart3D and Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s ALE3D modeling software by experts on the Asteroid Threat Assessment Project at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility at Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Chelyabinsk asteroid breaking trace during atmospheric entry. Image Credit: ESA

The NASA team was able to run large-scale simulations of the Chelyabinsk asteroid event on Pleiades to produce many impact scenarios quickly, because Cart3D is dozens of times faster than typical 3-D numerical modeling used for aerodynamic analysis. The detailed simulations allowed the team to model the fluid flow that occurs when asteroids melt and vaporize as they break up in the atmosphere.

NASA’s asteroid research is shared with scientists at universities, national labs, and government agencies who develop assessment and response plans to look at damage to infrastructure, warning times, evacuations, and other options for protecting lives and property.

For more information on NASA’s Asteroid Threat Assessment Project work, visit:

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office:

High-Tech Computing:

Ames Research Center:

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kimberly Williams/Ames Research Center/Kimberly Minafra.

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NASA's Juno Spacecraft to Fly Over Jupiter's Great Red Spot July 10

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

June 30, 2017

JUNO spacecraft approaching Jupiter. Animation Credit: NASA

Just days after celebrating its first anniversary in Jupiter orbit, NASA's Juno spacecraft will fly directly over Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the gas giant's iconic, 10,000-mile-wide (16,000-kilometer-wide) storm. This will be humanity's first up-close and personal view of the gigantic feature -- a storm monitored since 1830 and possibly existing for more than 350 years.

"Jupiter's mysterious Great Red Spot is probably the best-known feature of Jupiter," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "This monumental storm has raged on the solar system's biggest planet for centuries. Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special."

The data collection of the Great Red Spot is part of Juno's sixth science flyby over Jupiter's mysterious cloud tops. Perijove (the point at which an orbit comes closest to Jupiter's center) will be on Monday, July 10, at 6:55 p.m. PDT (9:55 p.m. EDT). At the time of perijove, Juno will be about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet's cloud tops. Eleven minutes and 33 seconds later, Juno will have covered another 24,713 miles (39,771 kilometers) and will be directly above the coiling crimson cloud tops of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The spacecraft will pass about 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers) above the Giant Red Spot clouds. All eight of the spacecraft's instruments as well as its imager, JunoCam, will be on during the flyby.

Image above: This true color mosaic of Jupiter was constructed from images taken by the narrow angle camera onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft on December 29, 2000, during its closest approach to the giant planet at a distance of approximately 10 million kilometers (6.2 million miles). Image Credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

On July 4 at 7:30 p.m. PDT (10:30 p.m. EDT), Juno will have logged exactly one year in Jupiter orbit. At the time, the spacecraft will have chalked up about 71 million miles (114.5 million kilometers) in orbit around the giant planet.

"The success of science collection at Jupiter is a testament to the dedication, creativity and technical abilities of the NASA-Juno team," said Rick Nybakken, project manager for Juno from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Each new orbit brings us closer to the heart of Jupiter's radiation belt, but so far the spacecraft has weathered the storm of electrons surrounding Jupiter better than we could have ever imagined."

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet's cloud tops -- as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Early science results from NASA's Juno mission portray the largest planet in our solar system as a turbulent world, with an intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones. 

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena. More information on the Juno mission is available at:

The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/Laurie Cantillo/Tony Greicius/JPL/DC Agle/Guy Webster/Southwest Research Institute/Deb Schmid.


NASA Science to Return to Earth aboard SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

SpaceX - Dragon CRS-11 Mission patch.

June 30, 2017

SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to splash down in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, July 2, west of Baja California, with more than 4,100 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station.

The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to Long Beach, where some cargo will be removed immediately for return to NASA. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for final processing.

A variety of technological and biological studies are returning in Dragon. The Fruit Fly Lab-02 experiment seeks to better understand the effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity on the heart. Flies are small, with a well-known genetic make-up, and age rapidly, making them good models for heart function studies. This experiment could significantly advance understanding of how spaceflight affects the cardiovascular system and could help develop countermeasures to help astronauts.

Dragon cargo spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

Samples from the Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for osteoporosis will return as part of an investigation using rodents as models to test a new drug that can both rebuild bone and block further bone loss, improving crew health. When people and animals spend extended periods of time in space, they experience bone density loss, or osteoporosis. In-flight countermeasures, such as exercise, prevent it from getting worse, but there isn’t a therapy on Earth or in space that can restore bone density. The results from this ISS National Laboratory-sponsored investigation is built on previous research also supported by the National Institutes for Health and could lead to new drugs for treating bone density loss in millions of people on Earth.

The Cardiac Stem Cells experiment investigated how microgravity affects stem cells and the factors that govern stem cell activity. The study focuses on understanding cardiac stem cell function, which has numerous biomedical and commercial applications. Scientists will also look to apply new knowledge to the design of new stem cell therapies to treat heart disease on Earth.

Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft able to return a significant amount of cargo to Earth. The spacecraft lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3 carrying about 6,000 pounds of supplies and scientific cargo on the company’s eleventh commercial resupply mission to the station.

For more than 16 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,000 research investigations from researchers in more than 95 countries.

Learn more about SpaceX's mission at:

Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crews, at:

Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram and Twitter: and

Related links:

Fruit Fly Lab-02 experiment:

Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for osteoporosis:

ISS National Laboratory:

Cardiac Stem Cells:

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Commercial Space:

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


Asteroid landing systems given trial by software

ESA - European Space Agency patch.

30 June 2017

On screen, the cratered alien landscape hurtles ever closer – putting asteroid or planetary touchdown techniques through the most realistic simulation possible, short of actual spaceflight. A new generation of high-performance software is enabling real-time testing of both landing algorithms and hardware.

‘Entry, descent and landing’ on a planetary body is an extremely risky move: decelerating from orbital velocities of multiple km per second down to zero, at just the right moment to settle softly on an unknown surface, while avoiding craters, boulders and other unpredictable hazards.

Simulated Itokawa asteroid

In the case of low-gravity comets or asteroids, the experience of Rosetta’s Philae lander in 2014 shows there is a real danger of actually bouncing off the surface back into space. The Moon’s stronger gravity makes crashing more likely, as is also true for higher-mass Mars – coupled with the added complication of its thin but non-negligible atmosphere.

But practice makes perfect: that is the thinking behind ESA’s new generation ‘Planetary and Asteroid Natural scene Generation Utility’ or Pangu software, developed for the Agency by the University of Dundee in Scotland.

Pangu – simulating planetary close encounters

“The software can now generate realistic images of planets and asteroids on a real-time basis, as if approaching a landing site during an actual mission,” explains guidance, navigation and control engineer Manuel Sanchez Gestido.

“New images are generated every tenth of a second, with no rendering delay. What this means is we can test landing algorithms, or dedicated microprocessors or entire landing cameras or other hardware ‘in the loop’ – plugged directly into the simulation – or run thousands of simulations one after the other on a ‘Monte Carlo’ basis, to test all eventualities.”

Pangu has been under continuous development since it was first created in the late 1990s, initially for lunar landing projects.

Actual Itokawa asteroid

“Back then it was wireframe imagery, and images were generated in slow motion – an entire landing would have taken hours to render,” adds Manuel.

“But we’ve taken advantage of general improvements in computing capabilities to bring its performance up to real-time, and to make the graphics as realistic as possible.

“That’s important because many modern navigation and landing algorithms work on the basis of visual detection and mapping of surface features.”

Simulated Phobos

At high altitude, some features cannot be resolved, but smaller details are revealed as the simulated lander comes closer and the field of view shrinks, keeping the software’s computational needs roughly constant.

Generation of a target body begins with a digital model acquired from past observations to create a polygon mesh, around which a textured surface is draped, with colours based on observed reflectivity properties. Craters and boulders can be added based on known distribution values for the destination in question.

In a further test of Pangu’s fidelity, Manuel recounts that past landings or close encounters can be recreated precisely from recorded telemetry: “We’ve rerun the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, for instance, and Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft approaching the Itokawa asteroid, and putting them next to each other it was hard to tell which one was real and which was simulated.”

As a next step, ESA’s Guidance, Navigation and Control section is working on a comparable software system for simulating close approach to satellites for proposed servicing and debris removal spacecraft, starting with the Agency’s 2023 e.Deorbit mission.

Related links:

2023 e.Deorbit mission:

Control Systems:

University of Dundee:

Asteroid Day:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/JAXA.

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jeudi 29 juin 2017

Astronauts Sharpen Dragon Release Skills and Examine Microbes

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

June 29, 2017

A pair of NASA astronauts are almost finished packing the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship and are training for its Sunday morning departure. The three-member Expedition 52 crew also explored life science researching microgravity’s effect on microbes and plants.

Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer will be inside the Cupola Sunday to robotically release Dragon at 11:38 a.m. EDT. They duo trained today to prepare for Sunday’s departure activities. The astronauts are also nearly done loading Dragon with time-sensitive research samples and used station hardware for analysis on Earth by scientists and engineers.

Image above: NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson works on a science experiment in the Unity module. Image Credit: NASA.

The commercial space freighter will parachute to a splash down in the Pacific Ocean about 5-1/2 hours after release. A SpaceX team will retrieve Dragon from the ocean and ship it to port in southern California. NASA engineers will then unload Dragon on shore and return the cargo back to Houston for analysis.

Today’s life science activities included photographing mold and bacteria samples for a suite of student-designed experiments. Finally, microbes that have been swabbed from station surfaces are set to be examined for extremophiles, or microorganisms that live in extreme conditions that are normally hostile to life.

Related links:

Expedition 52:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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An Algorithm Helps Protect Mars Curiosity's Wheels

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

June 29, 2017

There are no mechanics on Mars, so the next best thing for NASA's Curiosity rover is careful driving.

A new algorithm is helping the rover do just that. The software, referred to as traction control, adjusts the speed of Curiosity's wheels depending on the rocks it's climbing. After 18 months of testing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the software was uploaded to the rover on Mars in March. Mars Science Laboratory's mission management approved it for use on June 8, after extensive testing at JPL and multiple tests on Mars.

Image above: A "scarecrow" rover at NASA's JPL drives over a sensor while testing a new driving algorithm. Engineers created the algorithm to reduce wheel wear on the Mars Curiosity rover. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Even before 2013, when the wheels began to show signs of wear, JPL engineers had been studying how to reduce the effects of the rugged Martian surface. On level ground, all of the rover's wheels turn at the same speed. But when a wheel goes over uneven terrain, the incline causes the wheels behind or in front of it to start slipping.

This change in traction is especially problematic when going over pointed, embedded rocks. When this happens, the wheels in front pull the trailing wheels into rocks; the wheels behind push the leading wheels into rocks.

In either case, the climbing wheel can end up experiencing higher forces, leading to cracks and punctures. The treads on each of Curiosity's six wheels, called grousers, are designed for climbing rocks. But the spaces between them are more at risk.

"If it's a pointed rock, it’s more likely to penetrate the skin between the wheel grousers," said Art Rankin of JPL, the test team lead for the traction control software. "The wheel wear has been cause for concern, and although we estimate they have years of life still in them, we do want to reduce that wear whenever possible to extend the life of the wheels."

The traction control algorithm uses real-time data to adjust each wheel's speed, reducing pressure from the rocks. The software measures changes to the suspension system to figure out the contact points of each wheel. Then, it calculates the correct speed to avoid slippage, improving the rover's traction.

Mars Curiosity rover (MSL) rolling. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

During testing at JPL, the wheels were driven over a six-inch (15-centimeter) force torque sensor on flat terrain. Leading wheels experienced a 20 percent load reduction, while middle wheels experienced an 11 percent load reduction, Rankin said.

Traction control also addresses the problem of wheelies. Occasionally, a climbing wheel will keep rising, lifting off the actual surface of a rock until it's free-spinning. That increases the forces on the wheels that are still in contact with terrain. When the algorithm detects a wheelie, it adjusts the speeds of the other wheels until the rising wheel is back into contact with the ground.

Rankin said that the traction control software is currently on by default, but can be turned off when needed, such as for regularly scheduled wheel imaging, when the team assesses wheel wear.

The software was developed at JPL by Jeff Biesiadecki and Olivier Toupet. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the Curiosity mission for NASA.

MSL - Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Andrew Good.


Small Wonders

NASA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

June 29, 2017

This montage of views from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows three of Saturn's small ring moons: Atlas, Daphnis and Pan at the same scale for ease of comparison.

Two differences between Atlas and Pan are obvious in this montage. Pan's equatorial band is much thinner and more sharply defined, and the central mass of Atlas (the part underneath the smooth equatorial band) appears to be smaller than that of Pan.

Images of Atlas and Pan taken using infrared, green and ultraviolet spectral filters were combined to create enhanced-color views, which highlight subtle color differences across the moons' surfaces at wavelengths not visible to human eyes. (The Daphnis image was colored using the same green filter image for all three color channels, adjusted to have a realistic appearance next to the other two moons.)

A version of the montage using only monochrome images is also provided here:

All of these images were taken using the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera. The images of Atlas were acquired on April 12, 2017, at a distance of 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) and at a sun-moon-spacecraft angle (or phase angle) of 37 degrees. The images of Pan were taken on March 7, 2017, at a distance of 16,000 miles (26,000 kilometers) and a phase angle of 21 degrees. The Daphnis image was obtained on Jan. 16, 2017, at a distance of 17,000 miles (28,000 kilometers) and at a phase angle of 71 degrees. All images are oriented so that north is up.

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.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit and The Cassini imaging team homepage is at and

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

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mercredi 28 juin 2017

Liftoff of Arianespace’s Ariane 5 with Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN and GSAT-17

ARIANESPACE - Flight VA238 Mission poster.

June 28, 2017

Image above: Arianespace’s Ariane 5 launches two multi-mission satellites for fixed and mobile services.

The 80th consecutive success for Arianespace’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 lofted two satellites tonight, delivering new capacity for use in the distribution of TV and video content, telecommunications services, mobile satellite services, data relay, along with coverage of search and rescue missions. Launch occurred at 20:59 GMT (4:59 p.m. EDT; 5:59 p.m. French Guiana time).

Arianespace Flight VA238 / Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN and GSAT-17

Orbited by Arianespace Flight VA238 from the Spaceport in French Guiana were a so-called “condosat” composed of two payloads for Hellas Sat and Inmarsat, along with a spacecraft for the Indian Space Research Organisation.

On its fourth mission at the service of Arianespace this year, the Ariane 5 had a payload lift performance estimated at 10,177 kg. to geostationary transfer orbit, maintaining the company’s sustained launch pace in 2017.

Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN deployed first in the mission

Riding as the upper passenger on Flight VA238 was Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN, which integrated two relay payloads.

Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN satellite

The payload for Hellas Sat 3 will expand this company’s business reach by providing direct-to-home (DTH) TV broadcast and telecommunications services, as well as the distribution of high-definition (HD) and ultra-high definition (UHD) video content in Europe, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. These fixed satellite services (FSS) and broadcast satellite services (BSS) include a cross-strap service between Europe and South Africa.

Keeping airline passengers connected while aloft

Also integrated on the Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN satellite is a relay payload for a system developed by Inmarsat with Deutsche Telekom to offer high-speed, high-capacity Wi-Fi connections for airline passengers anywhere in the world.

Inmarsat is specialized in mobile satellite communications, and the first customer for this airborne connectivity is the International Airlines Group (AIG), which has begun equipping its aircraft and aims to have 90 percent of its short-haul fleet complete by early 2019.

Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN, built by Thales Alenia Space

Weighing an estimated 5,780 kg. at liftoff, Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN was produced by Thales Alenia Space using its Spacebus 4000C4 platform. With the satellite’s successful launch tonight, Arianespace has now orbited a total of 149 spacecraft built by the company – continuing a long-time partnership.

Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN also marks key milestones between Arianespace and the two operators: it is the ninth satellite launched at the service of Inmarsat, and the first orbited for Hellas Sat.

The dual-payload condosat has a total coverage area that includes spans Europe, the Middle East and sub-Saharan African regions, and will operate from a 39-deg. East orbital slot.

21 satellites launched for ISRO

GSAT-17 was the 21st spacecraft orbited by Arianespace for the Indian Space Research Organisation, extending a relationship that dates back to 1981 with launch of the APPLE experimental satellite.

GSAT-17 satellite

Built by ISRO/ISAC (the ISRO Satellite Centre) utilizing the Standard I-3K satellite bus, GSAT-17 – with a mass at liftoff of 3,476 kg. – will expand the Indian national space agency’s current fleet of 17 telecommunications satellites. It is to provide continuity of Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) in Normal C and Upper Extended C bands, as well as Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) in S-band and Data Relay and Search & Rescue services in UHF band – operating from a final orbital position of 93.5 deg. East.

Next up for Arianespace: Vega Flight VV10

Arianespace’s next mission is set for August 1, utilizing the lightweight vehicle Vega on a mission to Sun-synchronous orbit. Its two passengers will be OPTsat-3000 for the Italian Ministry of Defense, along with VenµS for the French and Israeli space agencies.

For more information about Arianespace, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ARIANESPACE/Thales Alenia Space/ISRO.

Best regards,

NASA Keeps a Close Eye on Tiny Stowaways

ISS - International Space Station patch.

June 28, 2017

Wherever you find people, you also find bacteria and other microorganisms. The International Space Station is no exception.

That generally is not a problem. For one thing, the space station is kept cleaner than many environments on Earth. Routine cleaning activities are included on astronaut task schedules. Cargo sent to the station, and the vehicles that carry it, undergo a rigorous cleaning process and monitoring for microorganisms before launch. Crew members assigned to the space station spend 10 days in pre-flight quarantine.

For another, scientists regularly monitor the interior of this and other spacecraft, a process that started with the Apollo missions.

“Once every three months, we sample from two locations in each module of the U.S. segment of the station,” says Mark Ott, a microbiologist at Johnson Space Center. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, monitors its segments. Samples collected from surfaces and from the air are cultured on plates containing a growth medium, one specific for bacteria and another for fungi. Those plates return to the ground and scientists identify each organism that grows on them.

Image above: View of Microbiome swab kit containing Microbiome samples from various physical surfaces prior to being stowed in MELFI or GLACIER to achieve experiment objectives. Image Credit: NASA.

Drinking water on the station is treated similarly to the water we drink on earth to kill and keep microorganisms from growing. Regular monitoring also keeps an eye on the station’s drinking water system. For years, scientists conducted this monitoring once a month, but samples kept coming back so clean that the schedule changed to once every three months. The astronauts’ drinking water is, microbiologically speaking, cleaner than just about anything they drink on earth, says Ott.

This environmental monitoring is driven by the ISS medical requirements, and has consistently shown the space station contains the same types of microorganisms commonly found in most offices and homes here on Earth. Microorganisms are found everywhere, but very few types are medically significant, or capable of making someone sick under the right circumstances. The medical staff keeps a particularly sharp eye out for those, though, and when any turn up, the space station gets a more-thorough-than-usual cleaning.

Ott adds that the mere presence of such microorganisms poses little risk to the health of the astronauts.

“It may be something typically found in a bathroom, for example, but that you wouldn’t want in an office space,” he says.

Finally, a microorganism found on the station may initially look like something risky, but, on closer examination, turn out to be a slightly different type. NASA scientists use DNA to identify specific microorganisms, but it can still be difficult to distinguish between closely related species.

That was the case with a recent investigation that verified 11 strains of bacterium belonging to what microbiologists call the Bacillus anthracis, cereus, thuringiensis group, or Bacillus cereus group that had been previously reported in 2014. While this large family of microbes includes some bad bugs, Bacillus is extremely common on Earth and around humans, so finding this type of bacteria on the space station is not unusual. Using DNA hybridization, researchers identified individual species in the samples and, while some were a close match to Bacillus anthracis type strains, they did not have the physical characteristics or the toxin-producing plasmids required to consider them a potential risk. Continued research is being done to understand what organisms grow on the space station.

There have been many studies of the microbial environment on the space station. These investigations often use different techniques and have different objectives from the required environmental monitoring conducted by NASA, but can support the goals of that program.

“We should be investigating new and different ways of monitoring spacecraft for microorganisms,” says Ott. “But we must be careful when we interpret the results. NASA has and continues to closely monitor the International Space Station to ensure it provides a safe and healthy environment for our astronauts.”

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

This study that has been ongoing since 2013, Study of the Impact of Long-Term Space Travel on the Astronauts' Microbiome, Microbiome for short, investigates how space travel affects the human immune system and an individual’s microbiome, which is the collection of microbes that live in and on the human body at any given time. Researchers will take periodic samples from different parts of the astronauts’ bodies and from the station for analysis back on Earth.

In addition, NASA and the Sloan Foundation recently partnered on a program to support research on the microbiome of the built environment, or the microbial ecosystem of human-made environments – in this case, the space station. In April, five post-doctoral fellowships were awarded for experiments using NASA’s archive of more than a decade of microbes collected from the NASA modules of the space station. These experiments will improve understanding of how microbial communities colonize, adapt, and evolve on the space station, contributing to its ongoing use as well as to future space exploration vehicles.

Because when humans go to space, microorganisms go with us.

Related links:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/JSC/Melissa Gaskill.


Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist, week of June 19, 2017

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

June 28, 2017

(Highlights: Week of June 19, 2017) - Crew members on the International Space Station prepared another investigation using the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES).

A pair of small, bowling-ball-sized satellites were used for test sessions of the SPHERES Halo investigation. Currently, almost all spacecraft are completely assembled and tucked into a rocket fairing for launch into space, which limits the size and weight of objects that can be directly sent to orbit. This investigation studies the possibility of launching several separate components and then attaching them once they are in space.

Image above: The aurora borealis shimmers through the upper atmosphere as the International Space Station traverses the Northern Hemisphere. Image Credit: NASA.

Retired, obsolete, or failed satellites currently cannot be accessed for repair, and wind up as new pieces of space debris. Results from the SPHERES Halo investigation also can address remote or autonomous servicing of spacecraft. In addition, future space habitats, large telescopes or exploration vehicles, which may be too difficult and costly to launch from Earth, may instead be completed in orbit. The SPHERES Halo investigation improves research methods for computer systems that would control space-based repairs and constructions. Computer programs developed through the Halo investigation could be applied to robotics on the ground, including robots that can form a swarm and work together to accomplish a single task.

Another burgeoning technology on the space station was examined when crew members inspected the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) attached to the station. It was another periodic checkup of BEAM, which was deployed May 28, 2016. Expandable habitats are designed to take up less room on a spacecraft while providing greater volume for living and working in space once expanded. The various sensors and radiation monitors were inspected. Tasks included checking for leaks and taking surface samples to assess the microbe environment inside the expandable node.

Image above: NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson changes out the imaging unit on the Bone Densitometer aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

BEAM, the first test of an expandable module, allows investigators to gauge how well the habitat performs -- specifically, how well it protects against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes of space. Crew members will continue to inspect the module every three months to check for stability. Durable, reliable and safe expandable structures have applications on Earth as well. Expandable modules can be used as pop-up habitats in disaster areas or remote locations; storm surge protection devices; pipeline or subway system plugs to prevent flooding; fluid storage containers; or hyperbaric chambers for pressurized oxygen delivery.

Crew members also became the focus of the Microbial Payload Tracking Series (Microbial Observatory) by collecting human saliva for study. Along with the crew members, the station is home to a variety of microbes, which can potentially impact crew health and equipment. This second round of the Microbial Observatory investigation monitors the types of microbes present on the station over a one-year period. Samples returned to Earth for study will enable scientists to understand the diversity of microbes in orbit and how they can change over time.

Image above: he Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) is a new type of solar panel that rolls open in space like a party favor and is more compact than current rigid panel designs. The ROSA investigation tests deployment and retraction, shape changes when the Earth blocks the sun, and other physical challenges to determine the array’s strength and durability. ROSA was deployed from the International Space Station this week. Image Credit: NASA.

Techniques developed to detect these microbes on the station can be used to identify the organisms in hospitals, laboratories and other environments on Earth. Results could also provide insight into the microbes' metabolic pathways, which may lead to new drugs and antibacterial products to combat microbes.

Other investigations showing progress this week included Bone Densitometer, NanoRacks Module 9, 48, 52 and 70, Stem Cells, Seedling Growth, Combustion Integration Rack (CIR), Fine Motor Skills, Sprint, METEOR, Long Duration Sorbent Testbed, Vascular Echo, TangoLab, and Rodent Research-5.

Space to Ground: Roll 'Em: 06/23/2017

Video above: NASA's Space to Ground is a weekly update on what is happening on the International Space Station. Social media users can post with #spacetoground to ask questions or make a comment. Video Credit: NASA.

Related links:


Microbial Observatory:

Stem Cells:

Seedling Growth:

Combustion Integration Rack (CIR):

Fine Motor Skills:


Long Duration Sorbent Testbed:

Vascular Echo:

Rodent Research-5:

Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 51 & 52.

Best regards,

The Niagara Falls of Mars

NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

June 28, 2017

Various researchers are often pre-occupied with the quest for flowing water on Mars. However, this image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows one of the many examples from Mars where lava (when it was molten) behaved in a similar fashion to liquid water.

In a 3D image from MRO's Context Camera, the northern rim of a 30-kilometer diameter crater situated in the western part of the Tharsis volcanic province is shown. (See the HiRISE 3D image as well.) The image shows that a lava flow coming from the north-northeast surrounded the crater rim, and rose to such levels that it breached the crater rim at four locations to produce spectacular multi-level lava falls (one in the northwest and three in the north). These lava "falls" cascaded down the wall and terraces of the crater to produce a quasi-circular flow deposit. It seems that the flows were insufficient to fill or even cover the pre-existing deposits of the crater floor. This is evidenced by the darker-toned lavas that overlie the older, and possibly dustier, lighter-toned deposits on the crater floor.

This image covers the three falls in the north-central region of the crater wall. The lava flows and falls are distinct as they are rougher than the original features that are smooth and knobby. In a close-up image the rough-textured lava flow to the north has breached the crater wall at a narrow point, where it then cascades downwards, fanning out and draping the steeper slopes of the wall in the process.

This is a stereo pair with

The map is projected here at a scale of 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) per pixel. [The original image scale is 54.5 centimeters (21.5 inches) per pixel (with 2 x 2 binning); objects on the order of 164 centimeters (64.6 inches) across are resolved.] North is up.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Related links:

3D image from MRO's Context Camera:

HiRISE 3D image:

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO):

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.


Aging and Heart Research Lead Station Science Yesterday

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

June 28, 2017

Expedition 52 explored the aging process in space Yesterday and measured the lighting conditions on the International Space Station. The crew is also getting spacesuits ready for an upcoming Russian spacewalk.

Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson swapped out stem cell samples today inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox for the Cardiac Stem Cells study. The experiment is researching spaceflight’s effect on accelerated aging and may provide a treatment for heart disease on Earth. Scientists are observing the stem cells in space to determine their role in cardiac biology and effectiveness in tissue regeneration.

Image above: Astronaut Peggy Whitson floats inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

Whitson also set up light meters to measure the intensity and color of new LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs installed in the station. The data is being collected for the Lighting Effects study to determine how the new lights affect crew sleep, circadian rhythms and cognitive performance.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer checked out Russian Orlan spacesuits with Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin this morning. The spacesuit maintenance work is doing being done ahead of a Russian spacewalk planned for later this year.

Related links:

Expedition 52:

Cardiac Stem Cells:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,