samedi 8 septembre 2018

Long March 2C launches Haiyang-1C

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

September 8, 2018

Haiyang-1C launched by Long March 2C

On September 7, 2018, China launched its third ocean survey satellite of the Haiyang-1 series on Friday, with the launch taking place from the Taiyuan Satellite Launching Center at 03:15 UTC. A Long March-2C (Chang Zheng-2C) rocket was used to loft the new satellite.

Haiyang-1C will be used to monitor and prevent oceanic pollution, resource investigation, construction of bayou and ports, and for the development of coastal areas, using the system to monitor ocean temperatures.

Haiyang-1C (HY-1C) launched by Long March-2C

Onboard HY-1C there are two instruments: The China Ocean Colour & Temperature Scanner (COCTS), a medium-resolution optical imager developed by SITP (Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics) of CAS (China Academy of Sciences), and the Coastal Zone Imager (CZI), a multispectral push broom CCD instrument developed by the Beijing Institute of Space Machines and Electricity, CAST.

Developed for measuring the ocean color and sea surface temperature, the 50 kg COCTS will be used for determining the Aerosol Optical Depth, Aerosol column burden, biomass, the Colour Dissolved Organic Matter (CDOM) and the Earth surface albedo.

Haiyang-1C satellite

The 15 kg CZI will be used to analyze the vegetation and coastal zone, determining the biomass, the Fraction of Absorbed PAR (FAPAR), Fraction of vegetated land, Land cover and the Leaf Area Index (LAI). The CZI used on Haiyang-1C was improved to 50 m resolution (from 250 m from the Haiyang-1B) and also has a wider image swath.

HY-1C is now able to image at up to 20 degrees pitch angles which would minimize problems from sun spots. The satellite lifetime is now five years (up from 3-5 years on HY-1B).

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

Images, Video, Text, Credits: CASC/China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/NASA C. Barbosa.


vendredi 7 septembre 2018

The incredible lightness of the Higgs

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

7 Sep 2018

Why is the Higgs boson so light? That’s one of the questions that has been bothering particle physicists since the famous particle was discovered in 2012. This is because the theory of how the particle interacts with the most massive of all observed elementary particles, the top quark, involves corrections at a fundamental (quantum) level that could result in a Higgs mass much larger than the measured value of 125 GeV. How large? Perhaps as much as sixteen orders of magnitude larger than the measured Higgs mass. Since the Higgs mass is so light, this suggests more particles could exist that cancel the quantum corrections from the top quark (and other heavy particles).

In a paper posted online and submitted to the journal Physical Review Letters, the ATLAS collaboration reports results of a combination of searches for a new particle – dubbed a vector-like top quark – that could help keep the Higgs boson light.

Image above: View of the ATLAS detector. The ATLAS collaboration reports results of a combination of searches for a new particle – dubbed a vector-like top quark – that could be the culprit behind the Higgs lightness. (Image: Claudia Marcelloni/ATLAS CERN).

Various proposals attempt to cancel out the large quantum corrections to the Higgs boson mass. Many of them involve vector-like top quarks, which are hypothetical particles not predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics. Unlike the Standard Model top quark, which always decays to a bottom quark and a W boson, vector-like top quarks would decay in one of three different ways, if they decayed to Standard Model particles. Specifically, a vector-like top quark would decay to a bottom quark and a W boson, or to a Z boson and a top quark, or still to a Higgs boson and a top quark.

To maximise the chances of finding vector-like top quarks, the ATLAS collaboration conducted several different types of search using data from proton–proton collisions collected at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2015 and 2016 at an energy of 13 TeV; each individual search is sensitive to a particular set of particle decays. They then combined the results to increase the sensitivity to vector-like top quarks, yet found no sign of them.

Despite this, their analysis allowed them to expand the reach of individual searches and place the most stringent lower bounds on the mass of vector-like top quarks to date. The analysis excludes vector-like top quarks with masses below about 1300 GeV for any combination of the three top-quark decays into Standard Model particles. The previous best lower limit from an individual search was 1190 GeV.

It will now get more challenging: for masses heavier than 1300 GeV a single vector-like top quark is created more often than a pair. But with a wealth of data coming from the LHC, the search continues.


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:

Physical Review Letters:

Higgs boson:

Standard Model of particle physics:


Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

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

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Ana Lopes.

Best regards,

Japan Is Go for Monday Cargo Launch to Station

ISS - Expedition 56 Mission patch.

September 7, 2018

Japan’s seventh cargo mission (HTV-7) to the International Space Station is in the final stages of preparation for launch on Monday at 7:32 p.m. EDT. Mission controllers are monitoring the weather at the Tanegashima Space Center launch site while the Expedition 56 crew is preparing for its arrival early Friday.

JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) HTV-7 is delivering a wide variety of science gear to support new research aboard the orbital lab. The new facilities will enable astronauts to observe physical processes at high temperatures, protein crystal growth and genetic alterations as well as a variety of other important space phenomena.

Image above: The Japanese HTV-6 cargo vehicle is seen during final approach to the International Space Station on Dec. 13, 2016. Image Credit: NASA:

HTV-7, also known as Kounotori, is also carrying six new lithium-ion batteries that robotics controllers will remove then install on the station’s port 4 truss structure. Astronauts Alexander Gerst, Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold will complete the battery maintenance work over two spacewalks set for Sept. 20 and 26.

Feustel will lead the effort to capture Kounotori when he commands the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and grapple it Friday at 7:40 a.m. He trained today with Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor, who will back him up in the Cupola, practicing capture techniques on a computer.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA/STS-134

All six crew members got together at the end of the day for more eye checks. The sextet from the U.S., Russia and Germany used an ultrasound device, with assistance from doctors on the ground, and scanned each other’s eyes.

Related links:

Expedition 56:

JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) HTV-7:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

The Legacy of NASA’s Dawn, Near End of Mission

NASA - Dawn Mission patch.

Sept. 7, 2018

Revealing Solar System Time Capsules, Breaking Engineering Barriers

NASA’s Dawn mission is drawing to a close after 11 years of breaking new ground in planetary science, gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering.

Dawn’s mission was extended several times as it explored Ceres and Vesta, which when combined, make up 45 percent of the mass of the main asteroid belt. Now, the spacecraft is about to run out of a key fuel, hydrazine. When that happens, most likely between September and October, Dawn will lose its ability to communicate with Earth. It will remain in a silent orbit around Ceres for decades.

“Although it will be sad to see Dawn’s departure from our mission family, we are intensely proud of its many accomplishments,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at Headquarters in Washington. “Not only did this spacecraft unlock scientific secrets at these two small but significant worlds, it was also the first spacecraft to visit and orbit bodies at two extraterrestrial destinations during its mission. Dawn’s science and engineering achievements will echo throughout history.”

Dusk for Dawn: NASA Mission to the Asteroid Belt

Video above: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft turned science fiction into science fact by using ion propulsion to explore the two largest bodies in the main asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres. The mission will end this fall, when the spacecraft runs out of hydrazine, which keeps it oriented and in communication with Earth. Video Credit: JPL.

Dawn launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in September 2007, strapped on a Delta II-Heavy rocket. From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft swept over Vesta, capturing images of craters, canyons and even mountains of this planet-like world.

Then in 2015, Dawn’s cameras spotted a cryovolcano and mysterious bright spots on Ceres, which scientists later found might be salt deposits produced by the exposure of briny liquid from Ceres’ interior.

“Dawn’s legacy is that it explored two of the last uncharted worlds in the inner Solar System,” said Marc Rayman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena California, who serves as Dawn’s mission director and chief engineer. “Dawn has shown us alien worlds that, for two centuries, were just pinpoints of light amidst the stars. And it has produced these richly detailed, intimate portraits and revealed exotic, mysterious landscapes unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

Engineering Feats

Dawn is the only spacecraft to orbit a body in the asteroid belt. And it is the only spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestrial destinations. These feats were possible thanks to ion propulsion, a tremendously efficient propulsion system familiar to science-fiction fans and space enthusiasts. Dawn pushed the limits of the system’s capabilities and stamina, showing how useful it is for other missions that aim to visit multiple destinations.

Pushed by ion propulsion, Dawn reached Vesta in 2011 and investigated it from surface to core during 14 months in orbit. In 2012, engineers maneuvered Dawn out of orbit, and steered it though the asteroid belt for more than two years before inserting it into orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it has been collecting data since 2015.

Artist's view of Dawn spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL

The mission targeted Ceres and Vesta because they function as time capsules, intact survivors of the earliest part of our history.

“Vesta and Ceres have each told their story of how and where they formed, and how they evolved -- a fiery magmatic history that led to rocky Vesta and a cooler, water-rich history that resulted in the ancient ocean world Ceres,” said Carol Raymond of JPL, principal investigator of the Dawn mission. “These treasure troves of information will continue to help us understand other bodies in the Solar System far into the future.”

Spectacular Ceres

On Ceres’s surface, scientists found the chemistry of an ancient ocean. “What we found was completely mind-blowing. Ceres’ history is just splayed all over its surface,” Raymond said.

Some of the bright spots turned out to be brilliant, salty deposits, made mainly of sodium carbonate that made its way to the surface in a slushy brine from within or below the crust.

The findings reinforce the idea that dwarf planets, not just icy moons like Enceladus and Europa, could have hosted oceans during their history -- and potentially still do. Analyses from Dawn data suggest there still may be liquid under Ceres’ surface and that some regions were geologically active relatively recently, feeding from a deep reservoir.

Bright Spots On Ceres

Image above: Bright surface features on the dwarf planet Ceres known as faculae were first discovered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft in 2015. This mosaic of one such feature, Cerealia Facula, combines images obtained from altitudes as low as 22 miles (35 km) above Ceres' surface. The mosaic is overlain on a topography model based on images obtained during Dawn's low altitude mapping orbit (240 miles or 385 km altitude). No vertical exaggeration was applied. The center of Cerealia Facula is located at 19.7 degrees north latitude and 239.6 degrees south longitude. During its mission of over a decade, the Dawn spacecraft has studied the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, celestial bodies believed to have formed early in the history of the solar system. The mission's goal is to characterize the early solar system and the processes that dominated its formation. Image Credit: NASA.

One of Dawn’s biggest reveals on Ceres lay in the region of Ernutet Crater. Organic molecules were found in abundance. Organics are among the building blocks of life, though Dawn’s data can’t determine if Ceres’ organics were formed from biological processes.

“There is growing evidence that the organics in Ernutet came from Ceres’ interior, in which case they could have existed for some time in the early, interior ocean,” said Julie Castillo-Rogez, Dawn’s project scientist and deputy principal investigator at JPL.

Vibrant Vesta

At Vesta, Dawn mapped the craters of this planet-like world and revealed that its northern hemisphere had experienced more large impacts than expected, suggesting there were more large objects in the asteroid belt early on than scientists thought.

In 1996, the Hubble space telescope relayed images of a mountain at the center of an enormous Vesta basin now called Rheasilvia. Dawn’s mapping showed it to be twice the height of Mt. Everest, and it revealed canyons that rival the Grand Canyon in size.

Dawn also confirmed Vesta as the source of a very common family of meteorites.

Nearing the End

Dawn has continued to gather high-resolution images, gamma ray and neutron spectra, infrared spectra and gravity data at Ceres. Nearly once a day, it will swoop over Ceres about 22 miles (35 kilometers) from its surface -- only about three times the altitude of a passenger jet -- gathering valuable data until it expends the last of the hydrazine that feeds thrusters controlling its orientation.

Because Ceres has conditions of interest to scientists who study chemistry that leads to the development of life, NASA follows strict planetary protection protocols for the disposal of the Dawn spacecraft. Unlike Cassini, which deliberately plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere to protect the system from contamination -- Dawn will remain in orbit around Ceres, which has no atmosphere.

Engineers designed Dawn’s final orbit to ensure it will not crash for at least 20 years -- and likely decades longer.

Rayman, who led the team that flew Dawn throughout the mission and into its final orbit, likes to think of Dawn’s end this way: as “an inert, celestial monument to human creativity and ingenuity.”

More on Dawn’s mission legacy is here:

The Dawn mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Northrop Grumman in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.

For a complete list of mission participants, visit:

More information about Dawn is available at the following sites:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/JoAnna Wendel​/Tony Greicius/JPL/Gretchen McCartney.


jeudi 6 septembre 2018

Curiosity Surveys a Mystery Under Dusty Skies

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) logo.

Sept. 6, 2018

Image above: This 360-degree panorama was taken on Aug. 9 by NASA's Curiosity rover at its location on Vera Rubin Ridge. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

After snagging a new rock sample on Aug. 9, NASA's Curiosity rover surveyed its surroundings on Mars, producing a 360-degree panorama of its current location on Vera Rubin Ridge.

The panorama includes umber skies, darkened by a fading global dust storm. It also includes a rare view by the Mast Camera of the rover itself, revealing a thin layer of dust on Curiosity's deck. In the foreground is the rover's most recent drill target, named "Stoer" after a town in Scotland near where important discoveries about early life on Earth were made in lakebed sediments.

The new drill sample delighted Curiosity's science team, because the rover's last two drill attempts were thwarted by unexpectedly hard rocks. Curiosity started using a new drill method earlier this year to work around a mechanical problem. Testing has shown it to be as effective at drilling rocks as the old method, suggesting the hard rocks would have posed a problem no matter which method was used.

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover on Vera Rubin Ridge (360 View)

There's no way for Curiosity to determine exactly how hard a rock will be before drilling it, so for this most recent drilling activity, the rover team made an educated guess. An extensive ledge on the ridge was thought to include harder rock, able to stand despite wind erosion; a spot below the ledge was thought more likely to have softer, erodible rocks. That strategy seems to have panned out, but questions still abound as to why Vera Rubin Ridge exists in the first place.

The rover has never encountered a place with so much variation in color and texture, according to Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. JPL leads the Mars Science Laboratory mission that Curiosity is a part of.

"The ridge isn't this monolithic thing -- it has two distinct sections, each of which has a variety of colors," Vasavada said. "Some are visible to the eye and even more show up when we look in near-infrared, just beyond what our eyes can see. Some seem related to how hard the rocks are."

Image above: A self-portrait by NASA's Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover's location in Gale Crater. A drill hole can be seen in the rock to the left of the rover at a target site called "Duluth." Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

The best way to discover why these rocks are so hard is to drill them into a powder for the rover's two internal laboratories. Analyzing them might reveal what's acting as "cement" in the ridge, enabling it to stand despite wind erosion. Most likely, Vasavada said, groundwater flowing through the ridge in the ancient past had a role in strengthening it, perhaps acting as plumbing to distribute this wind-proofing "cement."

Much of the ridge contains hematite, a mineral that forms in water. There's such a strong hematite signal that it drew the attention of NASA orbiters like a beacon. Could some variation in hematite result in harder rocks? Is there something special in the ridge's red rocks that makes them so unyielding?

For the moment, Vera Rubin Ridge is keeping its secrets to itself.

Two more drilled samples are planned for the ridge in September. After that, Curiosity will drive to its scientific end zone: areas enriched in clay and sulfate minerals higher up Mt. Sharp. That ascent is planned for early October.

Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA/JPL), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Andrew Good.

Best regards,

Cosmic Collision Forges Galactic One Ring—in X-rays

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Sept. 6, 2018

Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to discover a ring of black holes or neutron stars in a galaxy 300 million light years from Earth.

This ring, while not wielding power over Middle Earth, may help scientists better understand what happens when galaxies smash into one another in catastrophic impacts.

In this new composite image of the galaxy AM 0644-741 (AM 0644 for short), X-rays from Chandra (purple) have been combined with optical data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (red, green, and blue). The Chandra data reveal the presence of very bright X-ray sources, most likely binary systems powered by either a stellar-mass black hole or neutron star, in a remarkable ring. The results are reported in a new paper led by Anna Wolter from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera in Milano, Italy.

Where did the ring of black holes or neutron stars in AM 0644 come from? Astronomers think that it was created when one galaxy was pulled into another galaxy by the force of gravity. The first galaxy generated ripples in the gas of the second galaxy, AM 0644, located in the lower right. These ripples then produced an expanding ring of gas in AM 0644 that triggered the birth of new stars. The first galaxy is possibly the one located in the lower left of the image.

The most massive of these fledgling stars will lead short lives — in cosmic terms — of millions of years. After that, their nuclear fuel is spent and the stars explode as supernovas leaving behind either black holes with masses typically between about five to twenty times that of the Sun, or neutron stars with a mass approximately equal to that of the Sun.

Some of these black holes or neutron stars have close companion stars, and siphon gas from their stellar partner. This gas falls towards the black hole or neutron star, forming a spinning disk like water circling a drain, and becomes heated by friction. This superheated gas produces large amounts of X-rays that Chandra can detect.

While a ring of black holes or neutron stars is intriguing in itself, there is more to the story of AM 0644. All of the X-ray sources detected in the ring of AM 0644 are bright enough to be classified as ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs). This is a class of objects that produce hundreds to thousands of times more X-rays than most "normal" binary systems in which a companion star is in orbit around a neutron star or black hole. Until recently most astronomers thought that ULXs generally contained stellar-mass black holes, with the possible presence in some cases of intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) that contain over a hundred times the mass of the Sun. However, this thinking was overturned when a few ULXs in other galaxies, including M82 and M51, were found to contain neutron stars.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

Several other explanations besides IMBHs have been suggested for the intense X-ray emission of ULXs. They include unusually rapid growth of the black hole or neutron star, or geometrical effects arising from the funneling of infalling material along magnetic field lines.

The identity of the individual ULXs in AM 0644 is currently unknown. They may be a mixture of black holes and neutron stars, and it is also possible that they are all black holes or all neutron stars.

Not all of the X-ray sources in the image are located in the ring of AM 0644. One of the sources is a rapidly growing black hole that's located well behind the galaxy at a distance of 9.1 billion light years from Earth. Another intriguing source detected by Chandra is a growing supermassive black hole located at the center of the galaxy. In the new study, the researchers also used Chandra observations to study six other ring galaxies in addition to AM 0644. A total of 63 sources were detected in the seven galaxies, and 50 of them are ULXs. The authors see a larger average number of ULXs per galaxy in these ring galaxies than in other types of galaxies. Ring galaxies have stimulated the interest of astronomers because they are ideal testbeds for examining models of how double stars form, and understanding the origin of ULXs.

The paper describing the study of AM 0644 and its sister ring galaxies appeared in the August 10, 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal and is available online. The co-authors of the paper are Antonella Fruscione from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and Michela Mapelli from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Padova, Italy.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

Read more from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory:

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

Image, Animation, Text, credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/INAF/A. Wolter et al; Optical: NASA/STScI.


Astronauts Swap Roles as Scientists, Spacewalkers and Robotics Controllers

ISS - Expedition 56 Mission patch.

September 6, 2018

September is gearing up to be a very busy month aboard the International Space Station. The six Expedition 56 crew members are headlong in the first week of the month switching roles and juggling a wide variety of critical tasks.

Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA has been swapping roles today as space scientist and spacewalker. The educator-astronaut sequenced RNA today from microbes swabbed from inside the orbital lab’s surfaces. The research is helping scientists understand how life adapts to microgravity providing insights to improve crew health.

Image above: NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold works on an experiment that extracts RNA from biological samples to help researchers decipher the changes in gene expression that take place in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

Arnold then joined his fellow crew mates, Commander Drew Feustel of NASA and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of ESA, at the end of the day for a review of two spacewalks scheduled for Sept. 20 and 26. The trio reviewed robotics maneuvers and other tasks required for the external battery maintenance work on the Port 4 truss structure at the end of the month.

Feustel also trained for his role as the prime robotics controller when he captures JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) HTV-7 cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Sept. 14. JAXA’s seventh resupply ship to visit the space station is due to launch Monday at 6:32 p.m. EDT.

Image above: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) unpiloted H-II Transport Vehicle-6 (HTV-6) makes its final approach to the International Space Station Dec. 13, 2016. Image Credit: NASA.

From inside the cupola, Feustel will command the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-7 as Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor backs him up next Friday at 7:40 a.m. Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor both joined Feustel for the robotics training today during their afternoon.

Related article:

NASA Television to Air Launch, Capture of Japanese Cargo Ship to Space Station

Related links:

Expedition 56:

Sequenced RNA:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Bone cells round trip to space, rinse and repeat

ESA / DLR - Columbus Laboratory patch.

6 September 2018

The bones in your body are constantly dissolving – but don’t worry, healthy people naturally create new cells daily to repair and keep your bones strong. This process of disappearing bone is called osteoclast and its rebuilding at the cellular level is called osteoblast.

For most people this natural cycle happens continuously without us being aware of it. For astronauts and people suffering from osteoporosis something hampers the creation of bone-forming cells, causing their bones to slowly waste away and become more fragile.

Alexander Gerst exercising on Space Station

On average astronauts in space lose 1% bone density a month due to living in weightlessness. Astronauts recuperate back on Earth but sending humans to explore our Solar System on long missions poses serious problems. They might not be able to withstand the gravity on a distant planet after months of travelling through space.

For researchers trying to understand the phenomenon, studying how bones react to spaceflight is crucial. It offers a way to research immediate changes that take weeks to manifest on Earth.

Growing bones in microgravity

The InVitroBone research teams from Italy and France sent the facility into space on the SpaceX Dragon cargo ferry to the International Space Station. The facility is the size of a desk drawer and held two sets of three experiments that monitored bone cells as they reacted to spaceflight in different conditions.

The less time the bone cells spent on Earth, the better for the scientific results, so the researchers had to get everything ready for the last possible moment – 32 hours before liftoff. Working backwards from that moment required careful planning, coordination and practice.

InVitroBone preparation

The consortium  wanted to see if the Irisin protein that has been found to increase bone and muscle growth on Earth works in space too. The results can give clues to how the protein works and might one day be used by astronauts to help them stay healthy. Other experiments looked at how human stem cells turn into bone-forming cells – or adipocytes – in microgravity, this is fundamental to understand what is happening in astronaut’s bones.

The facility is automated, requiring only electricity to run, so astronauts simply moved it from Dragon’s cargo hold to the US Destiny laboratory during its 35-day stay in space. Inside, the cells were fed with fluids at set times all while being monitored from Earth.

Science on a timer

After circling Earth over 500 times the experiment was retrieved after the Dragon splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. From there the equipment was shipped to the payload manufacturer in Canada for refurbishment and the science samples were sent back to each of the science labs for detailed analysis. As a follow-up, the mission hardware and science went through preparations for a reference test at ESA’s Life, Physical Sciences and  Life Support Laboratory at its ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

Dragon spacecraft

The researchers recreated the exact same experiment – minus the microgravity – as a control study to compare results. Preparing the cells, structure, syringes, fluids and so on is a painstaking job that needs to be done meticulously for scientific value.

“Preparing samples in a lab with petri dishes is easy compared to getting everything ready for space where we cannot touch our experiments once launched” says ESA payload manager Nadine Boersma, “avoiding contamination and bubbles in the equipment is hard.”

InVitroBone facility

The experiments have now completed their session on Earth with the researchers already thinking of expanding the study by running the experiments in hypergravity in ESA’s short-arm centrifuge.

ESA’s head of human research, Jennifer Ngo-Anh concludes: “The InVitroBone experiment is a showcase of how ESA covers many interesting topics that are relevant for space but also on Earth, combining science from space exploration as well as science that enables space exploration. There are many applications that stem from space research that have already led to cross-cutting societal and economic benefits and the results from In Vitro Bone will contribute to these.”

Related links:

Human Spaceflight:

Experiment archive:

International Space Station Benefits for Humanity:

European space laboratory Columbus:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/A. Conigli/NASA.


Satellites, Space Station Crew Watching Hurricane Florence

NASA & JAXA - GPM Mission patch / ISS - International Space Station patch.

September 6, 2018

Florence (was Potential Tropical Cyclone 6) 2018

Sep. 06, 2018 – Pics from Astronaut Ricky Arnold from the ISS

Image above: Astronaut Ricky Arnold took this image of Hurricane Florence strengthening in the early morning hours over the Atlantic. Image Credits: NASA/Ricky Arnold.

Image above: Astronaut Ricky Arnold captured this image from the ISS of Florence strengthening in the early morning hours over the Atlantic. Image Credits: NASA/Ricky Arnold.

Sep. 06, 2018 – NASA’s GPM Peers Under the Clouds of Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence became more powerful over the past few days while moving through the central Atlantic Ocean and wind speeds increased from tropical storm force to a Category 3 hurricane. The GPM core satellite provided a look under the clouds to investigate the rate rain in which was falling throughout the storm.

Image above: On Sept. 15, GPM revealed that storms north of Florence’s eye were producing heavy rainfall at a rate of 50 mm/2 inches per hour (red). The GPM satellite’s Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) scanned the nearly rain-free areas to the west of the hurricane. Image Credit: NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce.

The Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core observatory satellite passed over hurricane Florence on Sept. 5, 2018 at 1:14 a.m. EDT (0514 UTC).  Data collected by the GPM satellite’s Microwave Imager (GMI) instruments showed the intensity and location of precipitation around the center of the hurricane. GPM’s GMI revealed that storms north of Florence’s eye were producing heavy rainfall a rate of 50 mm/2 inches per hour. The GPM satellite’s Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) only scanned the nearly rain-free areas to the west of the hurricane.

At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. a 3D animation was created that showed the estimated heights of storms within hurricane Florence at the time of the GPM satellite pass. Heights are based on data observed by GPM’s radar (DPR Ku Band) blended with estimates from geostationary satellite cloud top temperatures. GPM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA.

GPM Flyby of Florence

Video above: On Sept. 15, GPM revealed that storms north of Florence’s eye were producing heavy rainfall. The GPM satellite’s Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) scanned the nearly rain-free areas to the west of the hurricane. Video Credit: NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center noted that Florence was weakening, although still a hurricane. It was centered near latitude 24.1 degrees north and longitude 47.9 degrees west. That’s about 1,060 miles (1,705 km) east-northeast of the Northern Leeward Islands and about 1,170 miles (1,885 km) east-southeast of Bermuda.

Florence is moving toward the northwest near 12 mph (19 kph).  NHC forecasters said a turn toward the west-northwest with a decrease in forward speed is expected later today, followed by a turn toward the west by the weekend. Maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 115 mph (185 kph) with higher gusts.  Florence is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  Some additional weakening is forecast today, but Florence is expected to remain a strong hurricane for the next several days.

Image above: Visualization of the GPM Core Observatory and Partner Satellites. Image Credits: NASA/JAXA.

Although still quite a distance from Bermuda, ocean swells generated by Florence will begin to affect Bermuda on Friday and will reach portions of the U.S. East Coast over the weekend.  These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Hurricane Florence is being steered toward the northwest by the Atlantic subtropical ridge. Early next week the National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicts that hurricane Florence will have moved to a location southeast of Bermuda. Interests in Bermuda should watch the progression of the storm.

For updates on Florence, visit:

Global Precipitation Measurement mission (GPM):

International Space Station (ISS):

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


ANA HOLDINGS and JAXA Partner to Create a New Space Industry Centered Around Real-World Avatars

ANA - AVATAR X Prize logo.

September 6, 2018

"AVATAR X" program launches to boost humanity's access to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

ANA HOLDINGS INC. (hereinafter ANA HD) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are proud to announce the launch of "AVATAR X," a multi-phased program to revolutionize space exploration and development using real-world Avatars (1).


AVATAR X aims to capitalize on the growing space-based economy by accelerating development of real-world Avatars that will enable humans to remotely build camps on the Moon, support long-term space missions and further explore space from afar.

AVATAR X is part of "ANA's AVATAR Vision (2)," a breakthrough endeavor to advance and pioneer real-world Avatar technologies, and JAXA's new research and development program "J-SPARC" (JAXA Space Innovation through Partnership and Co-creation). Together with a growing list of public and private partners, AVATAR X hopes to catalyze new space-based businesses that will provide key services and an unprecedented level of access to space.

Some of the new business fields that AVATAR X aims to unlock, using real-world Avatars, include:

・Remote construction in space, including the lunar surface and Mars
・Operation and maintenance of space stations and facilities from Earth
・Space-based entertainment and travel for the general public

The first phase of AVATAR X starts in 2018 with the establishment of the AVATAR X consortium. The consortium will be the official forum to discuss and construct a roadmap for the AVATAR X program. The consortium is open to companies and organizations from all sectors that are interested in jointly pioneering this new space initiative.

The second phase consists of building the "AVATAR X Lab@OITA" in Japan's southern prefecture of Oita. This facility will be the world's first dedicated Avatar space test field. Key telecommunication and research infrastructure will be installed at the facility to enable testing for Avatars in space scenarios defined by the AVATAR X consortium. Unique structures, designed by award-winning architecture firm CLOUDS Architecture Office (3) (CLOUDS AO), will also be built at the AVATAR X Lab@OITA to house research facilities, conference and exhibition rooms as well as restaurants and other amenities for researchers and visitors.

AVATAR X Prize poster

Planned for the early 2020's, the third phase of AVATAR X will transport technologies developed at the AVATAR X Lab@OITA to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for testing in space. Once the capabilities of these new technologies are confirmed in the space environment, the fourth phase will begin. Phase four involves deploying AVATAR X technology to begin building and further exploring the Moon, Mars and beyond.

"ANA is driven by a bold and inspiring vision of the future of flight and this boldness doesn't stop on our planet," said Shinya Katanozaka, President and CEO of ANA HD. "Through innovative partnerships, like AVATAR X, we are excited about the possibilities of what we can accomplish and where we can go when the private and public sectors join forces."


(1). A real-world Avatar is essentially a robot controlled by a human that will enable a person to see, hear, feel and interact freely in a remote environment in real-time. Each Avatar consists of an operator apparatus (pilot) and remote apparatus (Avatar) that are in complete synchronization. The intentions of the operator are transmitted to the remote Avatar and the resulting sensations of sight, sound and touch detected by the remote Avatar are fed back to the operator.

(2). ANA AVATAR Vision website:

ANA AVATAR Vision press release:

(3). CLOUDS AO was awarded first place in NASA's Centennial Challenge Mars Habitat Competition.

AVATAR X Website:

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA):

Images, Text, Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS CO., LTD.

Best regards,

mercredi 5 septembre 2018

Science Gear Work, Japan Spaceship Preps Ahead of Orbital Reboost

ISS - Expedition 56 Mission patch.

September 5, 2018

The Expedition 56 crew members conducted maintenance work on a variety of advanced science gear today to ensure ongoing space research aboard the International Space Station. The crew also continued a pair of exercise studies and trained to capture a Japanese cargo craft before tonight’s orbital reboost of the station.

Commander Drew Feustel spent Wednesday afternoon inside ESA’s (European Space Agency) Columbus laboratory module working on the Electromagnetic Levitator (EML). He installed a new storage disc and a high speed camera controller inside the EML. The space furnace enables research and observations of the properties of materials exposed to extremely high temperatures.

Image above: The Expedition 56 crew members pose for a fun portrait in the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Clockwise from top are Expedition 56 Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor, Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Prokopyev and Ricky Arnold. In the center, from left, are ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel of NASA. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold worked in JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module during the morning replacing valves inside the EXPRESS Rack-5. The science rack, which was delivered to the orbital lab in 2001, can host a variety of experiments operated by astronauts on the station or remotely by scientists on Earth.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA has been contributing to a pair of German exercise studies for a few weeks to help doctors maintain astronaut health. Today, he continued testing a custom-designed thermal t-shirt and researching a wearable device for real-time cardio-pulmonary diagnosis during a workout.

Sunrise from International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Gerst and Feustel wrapped up the day with Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor reviewing next week’s arrival of JAXA’s HTV-7 resupply ship. The HTV-7’s launch is planned for Monday at 6:32 p.m. EDT and its capture with the Canadarm2 set for Sept. 14 at 7:40 a.m. NASA TV will cover both activities live.

Finally, the orbital lab is due to raise its orbit tonight in the second of three planned maneuvers to prepare for a crew swap in October. The Zvezda service module will fire its engines for 13 seconds slightly boosting the station’s orbit in advance of a pair of Soyuz crew ships departing and arriving next month.

Related links:

Expedition 56:

Electromagnetic Levitator (EML):

Custom-designed thermal t-shirt:

Real-time cardio-pulmonary diagnosis:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Aeolus laser shines light on wind

ESA - Aeolus Mission logo.

5 September 2018

Following the launch of Aeolus on 22 August, this extraordinary satellite’s instrument has been turned on and is now emitting pulses of ultraviolet light from its laser, which is fundamental to measuring Earth’s wind. And, this remarkable mission has also already returned a tantalising glimpse of the data it will provide.

Lofted into space on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana just two weeks ago, ESA’s Earth Explorer Aeolus satellite has been designed to measure winds around the globe.

First light from Aeolus

Aeolus will play a key role in our quest to better understand the workings of the atmosphere and, importantly, this novel mission will also improve weather forecasting.

Aeolus carries a revolutionary instrument, which comprises a powerful laser, a large telescope and a very sensitive receiver. It works by emitting short, powerful pulses – 50 pulses per second – of ultraviolet light from a laser down into the atmosphere.

The instrument then measures the backscattered signals from air molecules, dust particles and water droplets to provide vertical profiles that show the speed of the world’s winds in the lowermost 30 km of the atmosphere.

The mission is now being commissioned for service – a phase that lasts about three months. One of the first things on the ‘to do’ list was arguably the one of the most important: turn on the instrument and check that the laser works.

ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Josef Aschbacher, explained, “Aeolus is a world premiere. After the launch two weeks ago the whole community has been anxiously awaiting the switch-on of the ultra-violet laser, which is a real technological marvel.

Profiling the world's winds

“This has been successful. We have pioneered new technology for one of the largest data gaps in meteorology – global wind profiles in cloud-free atmosphere.  I am grateful to all who have made this success possible.”

ESA’s Aeolus project manager, Anders Elfving, added, “Aeolus has been one of the most challenging missions on ESA’s books. And, unsurprisingly, we have had to overcome a number of technical challenges.

“After many years in development, we had absolute confidence that it would work in space, but it was still somewhat nerve-racking when we turned on the instrument a few days ago.

“But the years of work certainly appear to have paid off. After turning it on, we started slowly and steadily increasing the power.

“It is now emitting at high power – and we couldn’t be happier.”

Richard Wimmer from Airbus Defence and Space noted, “It is a very exciting time to have Aeolus safely in orbit and doing what we and our industrial teams spent years building it to do.”

Aeolus reveals all

Aeolus has also already made some astonishing first measurements.

ESA’s Fabio Buscaglione, who heads the data processing for Aeolus, said, “We have already been able to process the first wind data, which are quite remarkable.”

Oliver Reitebuch from the German Aerospace Center, DLR, remarked, “We are extremely pleased to see that the first light from the atmosphere looks exactly as we had hoped – confirming that the mission is already well and truly on track.”

Michael Rennie from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, added, “At this very early stage in the mission – just three days after the instrument was switched on – Aeolus has already exceeded expectations by delivering data that show clear features of the wind.

ESA’s wind mission lifts off

“The instrument is not yet even fully calibrated, so these results are just incredible.”

With Aeolus instrument healthy and performing well, engineers will continue ticking off other items on the ‘commissioning to do list’ so that in a few months Aeolus will be ready to deliver essential information to improve our knowledge of atmospheric dynamics, further climate research and improve weather forecasts.

Related links:

ESA Aeolus:

Airbus Defence and Space:



Centre Spatial de Liège:


Europe's Spaceport:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/S. Corvaja/ECMWF/ATG medialab.


mardi 4 septembre 2018

Astronauts Get Ready for Japan’s Seventh Cargo Mission and Two U.S. Spacewalks

ISS - Expedition 56 Mission patch.

September 4, 2018

A rocket carrying Japan’s seventh H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) is poised to launch next Monday on a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. The Expedition 56 crew members trained for the HTV-7’s arrival, conducted eye checks and prepared for a pair of spacewalks.

On Sept. 10, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is launching a cargo craft, exactly nine years to the day JAXA launched its first HTV mission, to the space station. The HTV-7 will take a four-day trip before reaching a point just 10 meters away from the orbital lab. Commander Drew Feustel will then grapple it with the Canadarm2 robotic arm as Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor backs him up inside the cupola.

Image above: Japan’s last cargo craft, the HTV-6, is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 moments before its release ending its stay Jan. 27, 2017, at the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

The duo practiced for next week’s approach and rendezvous of the HTV-7 then turned their attention to eye exams and ultrasound eye scans. Their cosmonaut crewmates, Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Prokopyev, also participated in the eye exams using Optical Coherence Tomography for detailed views of their retinas.

After the HTV-7 arrives, robotics controllers will begin the work of removing six new lithium-ion batteries from the HTV-7’s External Pallet and storing them on the Port 4 (P4) truss structure. They will replace a dozen older nickel-hydrogen batteries on the station’s P4. Nine of the older batteries will be stowed inside the HTV-7 for disposal and the other three stored on the P4.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Three astronauts will then install and hookup the battery adapter plates over a pair of spacewalks planned for Sept. 20 and 26. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will participate in both spacewalks, with Feustel on the first and NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold on the second.

NASA TV is broadcasting live the HTV-7 launch and rendezvous activities as well as both spacewalks.

Related links:

Expedition 56:

H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) launch:

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA):


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Jupiter’s Swirling Cloudscape

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Sep. 04, 2018

Intricate swirls in Jupiter’s volatile northern hemisphere are captured in this color-enhanced image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Bursts of bright-white “pop-up” clouds appear scattered throughout the scene, with some visibly casting shadows on the neighboring cloud layers beneath them. Juno scientists are using shadows to determine the distances between cloud layers in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which provide clues to their composition and origin.

This image was taken at 10:27 p.m. PDT on May 23, 2018 (1:27 a.m. EDT on May 24) as the spacecraft performed its 13th close flyby of Jupiter. At the time, Juno was about 7,050 miles (11,350 kilometers) from the planet's cloud tops, above a northern latitude of approximately 49 degrees.

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager.

JUNO spacecraft orbiting Jupiter

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, Animation,Text, Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstäd/Seán Doran.


NASA Finds Tropical Storm Gordon’s Strength East of Its Center

NASA - EOS Aqua Mission logo.

Sep. 04, 2018

Gordon (Atlantic Ocean) 2018

After drenching south Florida, Tropical Storm Gordon moved into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and is headed to the northwest. NASA’s Aqua satellite found three areas of the strongest storms east of Gordon’s center when it passed overhead on Sept. 4 .

Image above: At 4:05 a.m. EDT (0805 UTC) on Sept. 4, the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite looked at Tropical Storm Gordon in infrared light. MODIS found coldest cloud tops (red) had temperatures near minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 56.6 degrees Celsius) in three areas east of the center. Image Credits: NASA/NRL.

Infrared satellite data on Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 4:05 a.m. EDT (0805 UTC) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite revealed several strongest areas in Gordon where cloud top temperatures were indicative of strong storms and heavy rainmakers. In those areas, MODIS found coldest cloud tops had temperatures near minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 56.6 degrees Celsius). NASA research has found that cloud top temperatures that cold have the capability to generate heavy rainfall.

At 5 a.m. EDT (0900 UTC), the National Hurricane Center or NHC noted “The storm has a small CDO [central dense overcast] with convective banding features primarily over the eastern semicircle of the circulation.” It is in the eastern semicircle where Aqua found the strongest storms.

There are numerous watches and warnings in effect as Gordon is forecast to track through the Gulf of Mexico and make landfall along the northern Gulf coast. NHC said A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for Shell Beach to Dauphin Island, Alabama. A Storm Surge Watch is in effect from west of Shell Beach to the Mouth of the Mississippi River and east of Dauphin Island to Navarre, Florida. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for. The mouth of the Pearl River to the Alabama-Florida Border. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for west of the mouth of the Pearl River to east of Morgan City, Louisiana, including Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas and from the Alabama-Florida Border to Okaloosa-Walton County Line, Florida..

At 8 a.m. EDT (1200 UTC), the center of Tropical Storm Gordon was located near latitude 28.1 degrees north and longitude 86.2 degrees west. That’s about 190 miles (305 km) east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Gordon is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 mph (25 kph). A west-northwestward to northwestward motion with some decrease in forward speed is expected over the next few days.

Aqua satellite. Image Credit: NASA

NHC said that maximum sustained winds are near 65 mph (100 kph) with higher gusts.  Some strengthening is expected today, and Gordon is forecast to be a hurricane when it makes landfall along the north-central Gulf Coast.  Rapid weakening is expected after Gordon moves inland.

On the forecast track, the center of Gordon will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico today, and will approach the north-central Gulf Coast within the warning area late this afternoon or evening, and move inland over the lower Mississippi Valley tonight or early Wednesday, Sept. 5.

For updates on Gordon, visit:

NASA’s Aqua satellite:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, by Rob Gutro.