vendredi 25 janvier 2019

Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars

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

January 25, 2019

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting.

The rover's last communication with Earth was received June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm blanketed the solar-powered rover's location on Mars.

"We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover," said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. "These new command strategies are in addition to the 'sweep and beep' commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September." With "sweep and beep," instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep.

Image above: A Goldstone 111.5-foot (34-meter) beam-waveguide antenna tracks a spacecraft as it comes into view. The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex is located in the Mojave Desert in California. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will use antennas like this one to transmit a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth.Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The new transmission strategies are expected to go on for several weeks. They address three possible scenarios: that the rover's primary X-band radio - which Opportunity uses to communicate with Earth - has failed; that both its primary and secondary X-band radios have failed; or that the rover's internal clock, which provides a timeframe for its computer brain, is offset. A series of unlikely events would need to have transpired for any one of these faults to occur. The potential remedies being beamed up to address these unlikely events include a command for the rover to switch to its backup X-band radio and commands directed to reset the clock and respond via UHF.

"Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times," said Callas. "While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch."

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

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The "dust-clearing season" - the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover's solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries - is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover's batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems.

If either these additional transmission strategies or "sweep and beep" generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

Related article:

NASA's Opportunity Rover Logs 15 Years on Mars

For more information about Opportunity and the Mars Exploration Rover program, visit:

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


Hubble Sees Plunging Galaxy Losing Its Gas

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Jan. 25, 2019

The rough-and-tumble environment near the center of the massive Coma galaxy cluster is no match for a wayward spiral galaxy. New images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show a spiral galaxy being stripped of its gas as it plunges toward the cluster’s center. A long, thin streamer of gas and dust stretches like taffy from the galaxy's core and on into space. Eventually, the galaxy, named D100, will lose all of its gas and become a dead relic, deprived of the material to create new stars and shining only by the feeble glow of old, red stars.

"This galaxy stands out as a particularly extreme example of processes common in massive clusters, where a galaxy goes from being a healthy spiral full of star formation to a 'red and dead galaxy,'" said William Cramer of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, leader of the team using the Hubble observations. "The spiral arms disappear, and the galaxy is left with no gas and only old stars. This phenomenon has been known about for several decades, but Hubble provides the best imagery of galaxies undergoing this process."

Image above: The spiral galaxy D100, on the far right of this Hubble Space Telescope image, is being stripped of its gas as it plunges toward the center of the giant Coma galaxy cluster. The dark brown streaks near D100's central region are silhouettes of dust escaping from the galaxy. The dust is part of a long, thin tail, also composed of hydrogen gas, that stretches like taffy from the galaxy's core. Hubble, however, sees only the dust. The telescope's sharp vision also uncovered the blue glow of clumps of young stars in the tail. The brightest clump in the middle of the tail (the blue feature) contains at least 200,000 stars, fueled by the ongoing loss of hydrogen gas from D100. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, M. Sun (University of Alabama), and W. Cramer and J. Kenney (Yale University).

Called "ram pressure stripping," the process occurs when a galaxy, due to the pull of gravity, falls toward the dense center of a massive cluster of thousands of galaxies, which swarm around like a hive of bees. During its plunge, the galaxy plows through intergalactic material, like a boat moving through water. The material pushes gas and dust from the galaxy. Once the galaxy loses all of its hydrogen gas — fuel for starbirth — it meets an untimely death because it can no longer create new stars. The gas-stripping process in D100 began roughly 300 million years ago.

In the massive Coma cluster this violent gas-loss process occurs in many galaxies. But D100 is unique in several ways. Its long, thin tail is its most unusual feature. The tail, a mixture of dust and hydrogen gas, extends nearly 200,000 light-years, about the width of two Milky Way galaxies. But the pencil-like structure is comparatively narrow, only 7,000 light-years wide.

Image above: A long streamer of hydrogen gas is being stripped from the spiral galaxy D100 as it plunges toward the center of the giant Coma galaxy cluster. This wide view is a composite of the Hubble Space Telescope's visible-light view of the galaxy combined with a photo of a glowing red streamer of hydrogen gas taken by the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. The narrow funnel-shaped feature emanating from the galaxy's center is the red glow of hydrogen gas. Image Credits: Hubble image: NASA, ESA, M. Sun (University of Alabama), and W. Cramer and J. Kenney (Yale University); Subaru image: M. Yagi (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan).

"The tail is remarkably well-defined, straight and smooth, and has clear edges," explained team member Jeffrey Kenney, also of Yale University. "This is a surprise because a tail like this is not seen in most computer simulations. Most galaxies undergoing this process are more of a mess. The clean edges and filamentary structures of the tail suggest that magnetic fields play a prominent role in shaping it. Computer simulations show that magnetic fields form filaments in the tail's gas. With no magnetic fields, the tail is more clumpy than filamentary."

The researchers' main goal was to study star formation along the tail. Hubble's sharp vision uncovered the blue glow of clumps of young stars. The brightest clump in the middle of the tail contains at least 200,000 stars, triggered by the ongoing gas loss from the galaxy. However, based on the amount of glowing hydrogen gas contained in the tail, the team had expected Hubble to uncover three times more stars than it detected.

The Subaru Telescope in Hawaii observed the glowing tail in 2007 during a survey of the Coma cluster's galaxies. But the astronomers needed Hubble observations to confirm that the hot hydrogen gas contained in the tail was a signature of star formation.

"Without the depth and resolution of Hubble, it's hard to say if the glowing hydrogen-gas emission is coming from stars in the tail or if it's just from the gas being heated," Cramer said. "These Hubble visible-light observations are the first and best follow-up of the Subaru survey."

Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

The Hubble data show that the gas-stripping process began on the outskirts of the galaxy and is moving in towards the center, which is typical in this type of mass loss. Based on the Hubble images, the gas has been cleared out all the way down to the central 6,400 light-years.

Within that central region, there is still a lot of gas, as seen in a burst of star formation. "This region is the only place in the galaxy where gas exists and star formation is taking place," Cramer said. "But now that gas is being stripped out of the center, forming the long tail."

Adding to this compelling narrative is another galaxy, appearing to the lower left of D100 in the image, that foreshadows D100's fate. The object, named D99, began as a spiral galaxy similar in mass to D100. It underwent the same violent gas-loss process as D100 is now undergoing, and is now a dead relic. All of the gas was siphoned from D99 between 500 million and 1 billion years ago. Its spiral structure has mostly faded away, and its stellar inhabitants consist of old, red stars. "D100 will look like D99 in a few hundred million years," Kenney said.

The Coma cluster is located 330 million light-years from Earth.

The team's results appear online in the January 8, 2019, issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

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

Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Space Telescope Science Institute/Donna Weaver/Ray Villard/Yale University/Jeffrey Kenney/William Cramer.


Cargo Ship Takes out Trash; Crew Works on Cygnus Preps and Science Hardware

ISS - Expedition 58 Mission patch.

January 25, 2019

A Russian cargo ship left the International Space Station this morning and was deorbited for a destructive demise over the Pacific Ocean. The Expedition 58 crew now turns its attention to the departure of a U.S. space freighter next month.

The Progress 70 (70P) resupply ship ended its six-and-a-half month stay at the station when it undocked from Pirs docking compartment today at 7:55 a.m. EST. It descended into Earth’s atmosphere less than four hours later loaded with trash and discarded gear and burned up safely over the southern Pacific.

Image above: Jan. 25, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Three spaceships are parked at the space station including the Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply ship and Russia’s Progress 71 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-11 crew ship. Image Credit: NASA.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus commercial cargo vessel is next up, scheduled to depart the Unity module in early February. Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques have been reviewing Cygnus departure procedures and carefully packing the spaceship throughout the week.

McClain and Saint-Jacques spent Friday working on a variety of science hardware and life support gear aboard the orbital lab. The duo first set up gear to measure airflow inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Next, they serviced a pair of science freezers nicknamed MELFI and GLACIER that store research samples at ultra-cold temperatures.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA’s McClain also replaced hardware in the Actiwatch Spectrum, a wearable device that analyzes an astronaut’s sleep quality, sleep onset, hyperactivity and other daily routines. Saint-Jacques from the Canadian Space Agency activated a new 3D printer known as the Refabricator that uses recycled plastics.

Commander Oleg Kononenko from Roscosmos monitored this morning’s 70P undocking and photographed the departing spacecraft. The station veteran also checked on Russian laptop computers and participated in a study that explores how cosmonauts adapt to complex space tasks.

Related links:

Expedition 58:

Pirs docking compartment:

Unity module:

Kibo laboratory module:



Actiwatch Spectrum:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

jeudi 24 janvier 2019

ISRO - PSLV-C44 launches Microsat-R and Kalamsat

ISRO - Indian Space Research Organisation logo.

Jan. 24, 2019

PSLV-C44 launches Microsat-R and Kalamsat

PSLV-C44 successfully launched Microsat-R on January 24, 2019 at 23:37 hrs (IST)  from the First Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota. Microsat-R, an imaging satellite was injected into Sun Synchronous Polar orbit.

PSLV-C44 launches Microsat-R and Kalamsat

For ISRO’s PSLV-C44 mission, a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in “DL” configuration launched Microsat-R, an imaging satellite, and Kalamsat, a student payload, from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota, on 24 January 2019, at 18:08 UTC (23:38 IST). PSLV-C44 is the first mission of PSLV-DL, a new variant of PSLV with 2 strap-on boosters.


India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), designated PSLV-C44, launches the Microsat-R imaging satellite and the Kalamsat student payload into low Earth orbit. ISRO will debut a new version of the PSLV, named the PSLV-DL, with two strap-on solid rocket boosters.

Kalamsat student developper team

The fourth stage of the rocket carries the battery-powered Kalamsat student-built payload to demonstrate the use of the PSLV upper stage as a long-lived experiment platform.

PSLV-C44 is the 46th flight of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and the first flight of PSLV-DL (with 2 strap-ons) variant.

For more information about Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO), visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


NASA's Opportunity Rover Logs 15 Years on Mars

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

Jan. 24, 2019

Mars Exploration Rover (MER). Image Credits: NASA/JPL/Cornell University

NASA's Opportunity rover begins its 16th year on the surface of Mars today. The rover landed in a region of the Red Planet called Meridiani Planum on Jan. 24, 2004, sending its first signal back to Earth from the surface at 9:05 p.m. PST (Jan. 25, 2004, at 12:05 a.m. EST). The golf-cart-sized rover was designed to travel 1,100 yards (1,006 meters) and operate on the Red Planet for 90 Martian days (sols). It has traveled over 28 miles (45 kilometers) and logged its 5,000th Martian day (or sol) back in February of 2018.

"Fifteen years on the surface of Mars is testament not only to a magnificent machine of exploration but the dedicated and talented team behind it that has allowed us to expand our discovery space of the Red Planet," said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "However, this anniversary cannot help but be a little bittersweet as at present we don’t know the rover’s status. We are doing everything in our power to communicate with Opportunity, but as time goes on, the probability of a successful contact with the rover continues to diminish."

Opportunity's last communication with Earth was received June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm blanketed the solar-powered rover's location on the western rim of Perseverance Valley, eventually blocking out so much sunlight that the rover could no longer charge its batteries. Although the storm eventually abated and the skies over Perseverance cleared, the rover has not communicated with Earth since then. However, Opportunity's mission continues, in a phase where mission engineers at JPL are sending commands to as well as listening for signals from the rover. If engineers hear from the rover, they could attempt a recovery.

Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003. Spirit landed on Mars in 2004, and its mission ended in 2011.

For more information about Opportunity and the Mars Exploration Rover program, visit:

Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/DC Agle.

Best regards,

Moving on the Moon

ESA - European Space Agency patch.

24 January 2019

Europe is preparing to go forward to the Moon, but how will astronauts move once they get there? Despite the Apollo missions, little is known about what lunar gravity may mean for our bodies. ESA’s space medicine team is working to find out through a series of studies.

The level of gravity on the Moon is about one sixth of Earth’s so while Apollo astronauts did not float as astronauts do on the International Space Station, they tended to hop rather than walk.

International Space Station flying in front of the Moon

Education coordinator at ESA’s astronaut centre in Cologne, Germany, David Green is leading this research alongside science operations engineer Tobias Weber. He says, though much research has been carried out into the impacts of microgravity as experienced on the International Space Station, the physiological impact of working in lunar gravity remains unknown.

Studying the effects of lunar gravity will help identify potential risks and create measures to keep astronauts fit and healthy.

“How microgravity influences our bodies is also investigated through bedrest studies that recreate some of the changes we associate with living in space by putting people in bed with their head below horizontal,” David explains.

“These studies show the way in which the body adapts to life in weightlessness, resulting in bone weakness and muscle loss, and it is why astronauts are prescribed daily exercise when in orbit.”

Do we need a gym on the Moon?

To help answer some of their questions such as how lunar gravity might impact the biomechanics of walking, running and hopping, the team – in collaboration with German Aerospace Center DLR and academic partners – conducted the first “Movement in low gravity study” in 2017. This study used a vertical treadmill to simulate various levels of reduced gravity.

During the study, researchers looked at movement patterns, muscle activity, ground reaction forces and aspects of Achilles tendon function.

While the initial study showed that jumping may be the best way to prevent muscle and bone loss, the vertical treadmill did not allow subjects to jump as high as they would be able to on the Moon.

The vertical treadmill at :envihab

“We believe jumping and hopping on the Moon may provide forces similar to walking and running on Earth. This would allow astronauts to maintain their bone and muscle condition through everyday movement,” Tobias says. “This may reduce the need for training equipment such as on the Space Station and it is something we hope to explore further.”

The second phase of the study will be conducted using NASA’s Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, which allows a greater range of vertical movement.

This will enable researchers to determine maximum jump heights, alongside what forces and strains will be placed on an astronaut’s muscles and bones.

Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) Montage

Simulating Moon, Mars and asteroids

A similar system to ARGOS will form part of a new facility at ESA’s astronaut centre known as Luna 2. Research into movement in low gravity will be used to build expertise and prepare for surface operations on the Moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond.

Related article:

NASA’s Campaign to Return to the Moon with Global Partners

Related links:

European vision for space exploration:

Exploration of the Moon:

Lunar exploration interactive guide:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/NASA JSC Engineering.


Hundreds of impact craters cover ESA’s Columbus science laboratory

ESA & DLR - Columbus Laboratory Module patch.

24 January 2019

On 6 September 2018, the 17-metre arm attached to humankind’s most distant outpost began to move. Its instructions were to survey the spaceship’s European science laboratory for signs of impact damage from marauding bits of space rock or space debris.

The robotic arm camera on the International Space Station has now completed the first two scans of the outer panels of the Columbus module, in search of micro impact 'craters'.

ESA Columbus module

The Columbus crater survey was requested by a European team of scientists, including Detlef Koschny, an expert from ESA's Planetary Defence Office focussing on space safety and security.

“Space is vast and mostly empty, but small space rocks are constantly passing into our local environment as well as debris from past spacecraft collisions and explosions”, explains Detlef.

The robotic arm of the ISS scanning the European Columbus module

The Columbus module, part of the International Space Station, is the first permanent European research facility in space, and the largest single contribution to the Station made by the ESA.

Launched in February 2008, the European Columbus laboratory has been in space for ten years, but until September it had not been thoroughly checked for signs of impact damage.

In their first analysis of the data, the team found several hundred small impact craters, visible in the image below as tiny dents in the laboratory’s outer casing. These would have been produced by very small pieces of either natural or artificial debris, typically smaller than 1 mm in size.

“These fragments can travel at extremely fast speeds, and if larger than a centimeter in size could do a great deal of damage to the Space Station and satellites in orbit”, Detlef continues.

Hundreds of impact craters cover the cosmic Columbus science laboratory

As was recently discovered on the Station, even a small hole in the protective casing of the Soyuz module created a noticeable loss of air pressure. This recent discovery is now thought not to be the result of an external impact, but it shows the importance of understanding how these events can happen.

Detlef concludes, “These little dents in the outer part of the Columbus module show how the space around Earth is not so empty after all. They also show what a good job the ESA-built module is doing to protect astronauts living and working in space”.

This study allows the team to better understand the density of human-made debris particles at the orbital altitude of the Space Station, in comparison to the natural micrometeorite density near Earth, both of which are important for constructing models to help us understand the risks of the meteorites marauding through space.

Columbus gets a look-over

The recordings will also be used by ESA's Space Debris Office, who are evaluating the footage in order to characterise the craters found – an important tool for validating current models, such as ESA's Meteoroid and Space Debris Terrestrial Environment Reference (MASTER), which describes the impact risk to missions in orbit from human-made and natural debris.

Find out more about ESA’s Space Debris Office and the Agency's asteroid defence efforts – including construction of the first-ever Flyeye telescope and the ambitious planned Hera mission to test asteroid deflection.

Editor's note: This project was proposed by Gerhard Drolshagen (University of Oldenburg, D), Robin Putzar (Fraunhofer/EMI, Freiburg, D), Dieter Sabath (DLR Oberpfaffenhofen, D), and Detlef Koschny (ESA) plus other experts from TU Braunschweig, D, ESA, and NASA.

Related links:

Columbus module:

ESA's Planetary Defence Office:

ESA’s Space Debris Office:

Flyeye telescope:

Hera mission:

Space Situational Awareness:

Images, Animations, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA.

Best regards,

mercredi 23 janvier 2019

BEAM Stowage, Medical Procedures Review and Commercial Crew Update

ISS - Expedition 58 Mission patch.

January 23, 2019

The Expedition 58 crew opened up the International Space Station’s “closet” today stowing hardware inside the experimental module. The three orbital residents also reviewed medical emergency procedures and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program announced a crew update Tuesday.

The Bigelow Experimental Activity Module (BEAM) had its stay extended at the orbital lab in November of 2017. BEAM now serves as a cargo hold and continues to undergo tests of its ability to withstand the rigors of microgravity. Crews periodically check BEAM’s sensors to determine its ongoing suitability for spaceflight.

Image above: A portion of the International Space Station’s solar arrays caps this nighttime view of the Earth’s limb with an aurora as the orbital complex orbited 258 miles above Ukraine and Russia. Image Credit: NASA.

Astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques entered BEAM today stowing a variety of station hardware inside the near three-year-old module. The added volume at the station enables more room for advanced space research at the orbital complex.

They later joined Commander Oleg Kononenko in the afternoon and reviewed procedures in the event a crew member experiences a medical emergency in space. Actions a crew can take if necessary include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, surgical procedures aboard the orbital lab or quickly returning an affected astronaut to Earth aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The Commercial Crew Program announced a crew change Tuesday afternoon with NASA astronaut Michael Fincke replacing NASA astronaut Eric Boe. Fincke now begins his training as a crew member for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Crew Flight Test. Boe will now become assistant chief of the commercial crew office at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Related links:

Expedition 58:

Commercial Crew Program:

Bigelow Experimental Activity Module (BEAM):

Johnson Space Center (JSC):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of January 14, 2019

ISS - Expedition 58 Mission patch.

Jan. 23, 2019

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is back on Earth after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean Sunday night, loaded with critical space research and International Space Station hardware.

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon departed from the orbiting lab and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, loaded with science and hardware. Image Credit: NASA.

Last week, the three-member Expedition 58 crew is conducting a wide array of microgravity science to improve life for humans on Earth and in space. Here’s a look at some of what they studied last week aboard the orbiting lab:

Robotics dry run conducted in preparation for high school competition

Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES), three free-flying, bowling-ball sized spherical satellites used inside the space station to test a set of well-defined instructions for spacecraft performing autonomous rendezvous and docking maneuvers, are used for a variety of investigations aboard the space station.

The SPHERES-Zero-Robotics investigation provides an opportunity for high school students to conduct research aboard the station. As part of a competition, students write algorithms for the satellites to accomplish tasks relevant to potential future missions. The most promising designs are selected to operate the SPHERES satellites aboard the orbiting laboratory as a part of the competition.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Oleg Kononenko of Roscomos conduct dry runs using the SPHERES satellites. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew performed a dry run in preparation for a high school tournament, currently planned for late January. The dry run is performed prior to the competition and allows ground controls to verify various aspects of the competition are working as intended. During the actual competition later this month, the teams will be tasked with completing a mock-scenario-- dodging virtual space debris in low-Earth orbit to retrieve a damaged SPHERES satellite.

Crew members measure changes in fluids within the body

More than half of American astronauts experience vision changes and anatomical alterations to parts of their eyes during and after long-duration spaceflight. It is thought that the headward fluid shift that occurs during space flight leads to increased pressure in the brain, which may push on the back of the eye, causing it to change shape. The Fluid Shifts investigation measures how much fluid shifts from the lower body to the upper body, in or out of cells and blood vessels, and determines the impact these shifts have on fluid pressure in the head, changes in vision and eye structures.

The crew performed the dilution measures portion of the ongoing Fluid Shifts investigation. This involves the ingestion of a tracer solution and collection of blood, saliva and urine samples. Additionally, the crew performed baseline for the investigation. Baseline imaging uses various hardware to measure a multitude of anatomical and physiological data points including arterial and venous measures of head and neck, tissue thickness of lower and upper body, ocular structure and more.

Radiation levels tested aboard station

The RaDI-N2 Neutron Field Study (Radi-N2) measures neutron radiation levels aboard the orbiting laboratory using Space Bubble Detectors. Results from this investigation may provide a better understanding of the connections between neutron radiation and DNA damage and mutation rates, symptoms that affect some astronauts, and other radiation health issues on Earth.

Image above: CSA astronaut David Saint-Jacques deployed radiation detectors as a part of the Radi-N2 investigation. Image Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The crew deployed all eight detectors into the Tranquility module rack area and took photos of the deployed detectors.

Other work was performed on these investigations:

- Bio-Monitor performs on-orbit quantification of biological molecules and their cellular composition in samples collected, and prepared, on board the space station:

- The Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) is an experimental facility designed to levitate, melt and solidify materials by container-less processing techniques using the electrostatic levitation method:

- Behavioral Core Measures examines an integrated, standardized suite of measurements for its ability to rapidly and reliably assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and psychiatric disorders during long-duration spaceflight:

- Team Task Switching studies whether or not crew members have difficulty in switching tasks and determines the impacts of these switches in order to both reduce any negative consequences and improve individual and team motivation and effectiveness:

- The MELFI is a cold storage unit that maintains experiment samples at ultra-cold temperatures throughout a mission:

- Kubik is a small controlled-temperature incubator or cooler with removable inserts designed for self-contained, automatic microgravity experiments such as those using seeds, cells, and small animals:

- SlingShot is a small satellite deployment system that can accommodate up to 18 satellites:

- LMM Biophysics 5 tests whether solution convection – movement of molecules through the fluid – enhances or suppresses formation of the dense liquid clusters from which crystals form:

Related links:

Expedition 58:



Fluid Shifts:


Space Bubble Detectors:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Vic Cooley, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 57/58.

Best regards,

Blue Origin NS-10: New Shepard Launches NASA-sponsored Research

Blue Origin logo.

Jan. 23, 2019

Blue Origin NS-10 New Shepard Launch

The New Shepard reusable launch system was launched and landed at Blue Origin’s West Texas Launch Site, on 23 January 2019, at 15:05 UTC (09:05 CST).

Blue Origin NS-10: New Shepard launch & landing, 23 January 2019

This was the fourth mission, launch and landing, for this New Shepard launch vehicle. For Blue Origin’s mission NS-10, the New Shepard Crew Capsule 2.0 transported nine NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads: Collection of Regolith Experiment (CORE), Collisions into Dust Experiment (COLLIDE), Electromagnetic Field Measurements, Flow Boiling in Micrograp Coolers – Embedded Thermal Management for Space Applications, Microgravity Propellant Gauging Using Modal Analysis, Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 (SFEM-2), Validating Telemetric Imaging Hardware for Crew-Assisted and Crew-Autonomous Biological Imaging in Suborbital Applications, Vibration Isolation Platform (VIP) and Zero-Gravity Green Propellant Management Technology.

NS-10 New Shepard capsule landing

More details on the experience embedded in my previous article below.

Related article:

New Shepard to Fly 9 NASA-sponsored Payloads to Space on NS-10

For more information about Blue Origin, visit:

Image, Video, Text, Credits: Blue Origin/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


The future CERN LHC dug by Elon Musk?

Elon Musk - Founder & Owner of SpaceX & Tesla Motors.

Jan. 23, 2019

The boss of Tesla says he has been contacted by the CERN director for the creation of the super particle accelerator that will replace the current LHC.

Elon Musk. Founder & Owner of SpaceX/Tesla Motors

Elon Musk would be well digging the future LHC tunnel at CERN in Geneva. The co-founder and boss of car manufacturer Tesla split a tweet Monday to announce that the director of the European Organization for Nuclear Research had asked him if The Boring Co could build the new tunnels for the future. LHC.

The Hyperloop. Image Credit: SpaceX

With this company, Elon Musk wants to create underground tunnels to avoid traffic jams. The South African billionaire, who presented a first project in Los Angeles last December, said such collaboration would save several billion euros at CERN.

Artist's view of  future FCC tunnel interiors. Image Credit: CERN

CERN confirmed the meeting between its director, Fabiola Gianotti, and Elon Musk last July without saying more. "CERN is always open to new cost-effective technologies that could lead to their implementation, including the tunnels we will need," said a spokesman.

Boson of Higgs in 2012

The large hadron collider, known as LHC, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, detected the Higgs boson in 2012. The 27-km circular ring, which is undergoing a profound transformation, has been shut down for two years. When restarted in 2021, the accelerator will be brought to its maximum potential to be the scene of collisions between particles at an energy of 14 TeV.

Designing the Future Circular Collider

And CERN plans the creation of a new accelerator, even more powerful, with a circumference of 100 km. The ring, called FCC, would cross the lake, part of the canton of Geneva, the Country of Gex (F) and Haute-Savoie (F). Its costs are estimated at several billion euros.

Editor's and writer note:

Switzerland already has a great deal of experience and expertise in tunneling, with the longest tunnel in the world, the Gotthard, length of 57.1 km and 152 km of galleries in total and many other tunnels in the Alps and everywhere in Switzerland (920 rail and road tunnels).

Related article:

International collaboration publishes concept design for a post-LHC future circular collider at CERN

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

Images (mentioned), Video (CERN), Text, Credits: ATS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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mardi 22 janvier 2019

Astronaut Health Study and Spacesuit Work Onboard Station

ISS - Expedition 58 Mission patch.

January 22, 2019

The three Expedition 58 crew members continued studying today the upward flow of fluids inside astronauts’ bodies caused by living in space. The crew also worked on packing a U.S. cargo craft and servicing U.S. spacesuits at the International Space Station.

One easily recognizable symptom of living in space is the “puffy face” astronauts get due to the upward flow of fluids in the body. Underlying impacts of this phenomenon include head and eye pressure changes that occur off Earth which the Fluid Shifts experiment is seeking to better understand.

Image above: Astronaut Anne McClain is inside the Destiny laboratory module surrounded by exercise gear, including laptop computers and sensors that measure physical exertion and aerobic capacity. Image Credit: NASA.

All three crew members gathered in the Zvezda service module throughout the day using a special suit to temporarily reverse these upward fluid shifts. NASA astronaut Anne McClain wore the Lower Body Negative Pressure suit, which pull fluids downward, while Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques checked her head and eye pressure using a variety of biomedical devices. Commander Oleg Kononenko assisted the duo with guidance from specialists on the ground.

McClain and Saint-Jacques also partnered up before lunchtime to get the Cygnus resupply ship ready for its departure on Feb. 12. The duo reviewed packing procedures and stowed inventory aboard the U.S. space freighter from Northrop Grumman.

Image above: Flyingt over Autral Ocean, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'572 Km/h, altitude: 422,60 Km, image captured by Roland Berga (on Earth in Switzerland) from International Space Station (ISS) using ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam's from ISS on January 22, 2019 at 20:58 UTC. Image Credits: Aerospace/Roland Berga.

McClain started the day installing the new Facet Cell crystal growth experiment in the Kibo laboratory module. She spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning cooling loops on U.S. spacesuits in the Quest airlock as NASA prepares for spacewalks at the orbital lab later this year.

Related links:

Expedition 58:

Zvezda service module:

Cygnus resupply ship:

Kibo laboratory module:

Quest airlock:

Fluid Shifts:

Facet Cell:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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A Fleeting Moment in Time

ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

22 January 2019

European Southern Observatory’s Cosmic Gems Programme captures last breath of a dying star

A Fleeting Moment in Time

The faint, ephemeral glow emanating from the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 persists for only a short time — around 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this shell of glowing ionised gas — the last breath of the dying star whose simmering remains are visible at the heart of this image. As the gaseous shell of this planetary nebula expands and grows dimmer, it will slowly disappear from sight.

Digitized Sky Survey image around the planetary nebula ESO 577-24

An evanescent shell of glowing gas spreading into space — the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 —  dominates this image [1]. This planetary nebula is the remains of a dead giant star that has thrown off its outer layers, leaving behind a small, intensely hot dwarf star. This diminished remnant will gradually cool and fade, living out its days as the mere ghost of a once-vast red giant star.

The planetary nebula ESO 577-24 in the constellation Virgo

Red giants are stars at the end of their lives that have exhausted the hydrogen fuel in their cores and begun to contract under the crushing grip of gravity. As a red giant shrinks, the immense pressure reignites the core of the star, causing it to throw its outer layers into the void as a powerful stellar wind. The dying star’s incandescent core emits ultraviolet radiation intense enough to ionise these ejected layers and cause them to shine. The result is what we see as a planetary nebula — a final, fleeting testament to an ancient star at the end of its life [2].

Panning across the evanescent planetary nebula ESO 577-24

This dazzling planetary nebula was discovered as part of the National Geographic Society  — Palomar Observatory Sky Survey in the 1950s, and was recorded in the Abell Catalogue of Planetary Nebulae in 1966 [3]. At around 1400 light years from Earth, the ghostly glow of ESO 577-24 is only visible through a powerful telescope. As the dwarf star cools, the nebula will continue to expand into space, slowly fading from view.

Zooming in on ESO 577-24

This image of ESO 577-24 was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems Programme, an initiative that produces images of interesting, intriguing, or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes for the purposes of education and public outreach. The programme makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for scientific observations; nevertheless, the data collected are made available to astronomers through the ESO Science Archive.


[1] Planetary nebulae were first observed by astronomers in the 18th century — to them, their dim glow and crisp outlines resembled planets of the Solar System.

[2] By the time our Sun evolves into a red giant, it will have reached the venerable age of 10 billion years. There is no immediate need to panic, however — the Sun is currently only 5 billion years old.

[3] Astronomical objects often have a variety of official names, with different catalogues providing different designations. The formal name of this object in the Abell Catalogue of Planetary Nebulae is PN A66 36.

More information:

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It has 16 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and with Australia as a Strategic Partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.


ESOcast 191 Light: A Fleeting Moment in Time:

Cosmic Gems Programme:

More information on the VLT:

More information on FORS:

Images of the VLT:

ESO Science Archive:

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/Calum Turner/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin/IAU and Sky & Telescope/Videos: ESO. Music: Thomas Edward Rice — Phantasm Retro/Digitized Sky Survey 2, N. Risinger ( Music: Astral Electronic.

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lundi 21 janvier 2019

Locations on the surface of Ryugu have been named!

JAXA - Hayabusa-2 Mission patch.

Jan. 21, 2019

Place names for locations on the surface of Ryugu were discussed by Division F (Planetary Systems and Bioastronomy) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (hereafter IAU WG) and approved in December 2018. We will introduce the place names in this article and the background to their selection.

As the appearance of Ryugu gradually became clear during the approach phase in June 2018, we used nicknames amongst the Hayabsua2 Project team to distinguish regions of the terrain. (For example, the crater now named “Urashima” was referred to as the Death Star crater in Star Wars!) However, in order to introduce Ryugu to the world, it is necessary to have names that are intentionally recognized rather than nicknames, which can be referred to in scientific papers and other articles. Therefore, the discussion regarding naming the Ryugu surface topology began within the team.

Image above: Figure 1: Map of Ryugu showing the place names. Trinitas and Alice’s Wonderland are nicknames of the MINERVA-II1 and MASCOT landing sites, respectively, and not place names recognized by the IAU. Image credit:JAXA ※2.

To name a place on a celestial body in the Solar System, you must first decide on a theme. For example, the theme for places on Venus is the “names of goddesses”. During discussions between the domestic and overseas project members, suggestions such as “names of castles around the world”, “word for ‘dragon’ in different languages” and the “names of deep-sea creatures” were proposed for the place name theme on Ryugu. After an intense debate, the theme was selected to be “names that appear in stories for children” and a theme proposal was put to the IAU WG. The proposal was accepted on September 25, after which the discussion moved to selecting the topographical features to be named and the choice of name.

Names cannot be attributed to any location. Instead, there are restrictions on the places that can be assigned an official name involving considerations such as scientific importance or size on the celestial body. With this in mind, volunteers from the project members as well as planetary geology experts (hereinafter referred to as the Place Name Core Members ※1) discussed the place selection and completed the application forms for naming based on the exploration data. On October 12, we proposed 13 place names to the IAU WG. After additional discussion with the WG, 9 were accepted as proposed by the team and the remaining 4 names were approved after an amendment suggested by the IAU.

Image above: Figure 2: The location of place names on Ryugu. Trinitas and Alice’s Wonderland are nicknames of the MINERVA-II1 and MASCOT landing sites, respectively, and not place names recognized by the IAU. Image credit:JAXA ※2.

The surface of celestial bodies has a range of different topologies. We applied to give names to four different topology types on the Ryugu surface. The first type is “dorsum” which originates from the Latin for peak or ridge. The second type is “crater” which are familiar structures on the Moon and asteroids. Then “fossa” meaning grooves or trenches and finally the Latin word “saxum” for the rocks and boulders that are a main characteristic of the Ryugu terrain. Saxum is actually a new classification of terrain type that we applied to introduce due to the nature of Ryugu.

Numerous boulders are distributed on the surface of Ryugu. Regardless of where you look, there are rocks, rocks and more rocks. This is a major characteristic of Ryugu and continues to make plans for the touchdown operation of the spacecraft difficult. Additionally, spectroscopic observations revealed that the giant boulder (Otohime saxum) at the south pole has not only a substantial size, but also a distinct visible light spectrum that reveals materials and surface conditions that are different from the surrounding areas. Since this boulder is the most important topographical feature for understanding the formation history of Ryugu, the Project strongly hoped to name it. However, there was no precedent for boulder nomenclature and even the name type did not exist (during the exploration of the first Hayabusa mission, naming the huge boulder protruding from asteroid Itokawa was not allowed). We therefore proposed the type name for boulders at the same time as applying for the place names. Since terrain type names are usually Latin, we proposed “saxum” (meaning rocks and stones in Latin) as the type name for boulders. The IAU accepted this nomenclature for boulders with a few conditions (such as the boulder must be 1% or more of the diameter of the celestial body) and the type name that we suggested was adopted (!). This is how the new terrain type “saxum” was born.

Figure 1 shows a map of Ryugu with the place names labelled. Additionally, Figure 2 shows the location of the places on images of Ryugu taken from four different directions. In these figures, the north pole of Ryugu is at the image top. Please keep in mind that the north pole of Ryugu is in the same direction as the south pole on Earth, as Ryugu rotates in the opposite direction. Table 1 shows a list of the place names.

Image above: (Note 1) While “Cinderella” was proposed, the WG modified the name to the original French. (Note 2) “Peter Pan” was proposed but changed by the WG due to copyright issues. (Note 3) “Sleeping Beauty” was proposed but it was suggested that the character number was too long, so “Brabo” was proposed and accepted. (Note 4) “Oz” was proposed but this is used for Charon (moon of Pluto) so was changed by the WG. Image Credit: JAXA.

As it is difficult to get a feel for how the place names were chosen from just a list, we will introduce the story behind the main choices below.

The asteroid name “Ryugu” comes from the Japanese fairy tale of Taro Urashima. In the story, Urashima is a fisherman who rescues a sea turtle from the cruelty of a group of children. The turtle takes Urashima to the underwater palace of Ryugo-jo (Dragon Palace), where he meets the princess, Otohime. After 3 years, Urashima wishes to return home and is given a treasure box (tamatebako) by Otohime with instructions never to open it. But when Urashima returns to the surface, he discovers everything he knew has changed as 300 years has actually past. In confusion, Urashima opens the treasure box and is engulfed in white fog. When it clears, he has become an old man, as the box contained his age.

With the name of the asteroid being Ryugu, there was a strong desire from the Project to use other names that appear in Urashima’s story for major asteroid topography. However, place names cannot be common nouns so words such as “sea bream”, “flounder” and “turtle” do not work and we were limited to names such as Taro Urashima, Otohime etc.

JAXA Hayabusa 2 probe

Therefore, “Urashima” was chosen for the biggest crater on Ryugu and “Otohime” for the largest boulder near the south pole. Both of these are very important features for deciphering the formation history of Ryugu. However, Otohime had already been used! Venus (whose place theme uses the names of goddesses) had already a location named Otohime Tholus. Otohime was therefore initially refused by the IAU when it was proposed. But Otohime is an extremely important person in the story of Taro Urashima and how can we collect the tamatebako if Otohime is not on Ryugu?! (That was a joke, but we did want to use such a relevant name.) Since the name was important to the Project, the place name core members refined the proposal to the IAU, explaining why Otohime should be one of the main topological features on Ryugu and this was accepted.

A defining feature of Ryugu is that the shape is similar to a spinning top or abacus bead. This shape is the combination of two cones which appear almost circular when seen from the north pole. The ridge where they join was named “Ryujin”, after the ruler of the Dragon Palace who is the father of princess Otohime. This name came from the Place Name Core Members who felt the ridge resembled a dragon coiling around the asteroid or an ouroboros (the image of the serpent or dragon that swallows its own tail). (There was actually a similar illustration in the “Imagining Ryugu” art contest!)

On either side of Otohime saxum there are large grooves extending in the equatorial direction. In the story of Taro Urashima, Otohime lives in this mysterious place at the bottom of the ocean which is sometimes depicted as a different world in the various retellings of the tale. This world is often called “Horai”, “Tokoyo” or “Niraikanai”. The grooves adjacent to Otohime saxum were therefore named Horai fossa and Tokoyo fossa.

There is a reasonably big boulder to the southeast of the Urashima crater. According to one version of the tale, the place where Taro Urashima helped the turtle and left to travel to Ryugu-jo is the place “Ejima”, which gave the boulder its name Ejima saxum.

Image above: Figure 3: Distribution of the gravitational acceleration on the surface of asteroid Ryugu. Image credit: JAXA.

Figure 3:  The gravitational acceleration on the surface of Ryugu is approximately 0.11~0.15 mm/s2, which is about eighty thousandths (~ 1/80000th) the strength of the Earth’s gravity and a few times stronger than that of Itokawa. We can additionally see that the gravity near the poles of Ryugu is stronger than near the asteroid’s equator. This is due to the equatorial ridge protruding from the surface.

There are also large craters on both sides of Urashima crater. In particular, there are two craters stuck together along the north-south direction to the west. This state reminded us of the kibidango (Japanese dumplings) in another Japanese fairy tale called Momotaro. The northern crater of the pair was therefore named “Momotaro crater” and the southern crater became “Kibidango crater”. To the east of the Urashima crater, there is a crater with big black boulder inside. This reminded us of the Japanese tale of Kintaro, a boy with super strength who carried a broad-axe, and so was named “Kintaro crater”.

Ryugu also has topological names derived from children’s stories from outside Japan. For example, while you might not immediately recognize the name of the Cendrillion crater, the name is from the original French name for the familiar fairy tale, “Cinderella”. The name of the Brabo crater is derived from the name of the hero of a Netherlands tale, which was proposed by the overseas project members. The Kolobok crater and Catafo saxum were both names proposed by the IAU WG. They are taken from Russian and Cajun (famous for Cajun cuisine in the USA) folktales.

These are the place names formally recognized by the IAU WG. In addition, there are two nicknames shown in Figures 1 and 2; Trinitas (the MINERVA-II1 landing site and named for the goddess Minerva’s birth place) and Alice’s Wonderland (the MASCOT landing site). These were places named by the project to identify the points where MINERVA-II1 and MASCOT landed, but are not official names recognized by the IAU.

We are planning to review and propose place names from time to time as we continue to observe and research asteroid Ryugu. What kind of story should appear on Ryugu next?


※1. Place name core members (in no particular order): Rina Noguchi, Yuri Shimaki, Makoto Yoshikawa, Yuichi Tsuda (JAXA), Seiichio Watanabe (Nagoya University), Hideaki Miyamoto, Seiji Sugita (University of Tokyo), Goro Komatsu (Università d'Annunzio), Yoshiaki Ishihara (National Institute for Environmental Studies), Sho Sasaki (Osaka University), Naru Hirata, Chikatoshi Honda, Hirohide Demura (University of Aizu), Masatoshi Hirabayashi (Auburn University).

※2. The images of Ryugu are from the ONC team (JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST).


Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: JAXA/Rina Noguchi & Yuri Shimaki (Hayabusa2 Project).

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