vendredi 12 avril 2019

Hubble Peers at Cosmic Blue Bauble

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

April 12, 2019

Globular clusters are inherently beautiful objects, but the subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, Messier 3, is commonly acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful of them all.

Containing an incredible half-million stars, this 8-billion-year-old cosmic bauble is one of the largest and brightest globular clusters ever discovered. However, what makes Messier 3 extra special is its unusually large population of variable stars — stars that fluctuate in brightness over time. New variable stars continue to be discovered in this sparkling stellar nest to this day, but so far we know of 274, the highest number found in any globular cluster by far. At least 170 of these are of a special variety called RR Lyrae variables, which pulse with a period directly related to their intrinsic brightness. If astronomers know how bright a star truly is based on its mass and classification, and they know how bright it appears to be from our viewpoint here on Earth, they can thus work out its distance from us. For this reason, RR Lyrae stars are known as standard candles — objects of known luminosity whose distance and position can be used to help us understand more about vast celestial distances and the scale of the cosmos.

Messier 3 also contains a relatively high number of so-called blue stragglers, which are shown quite clearly in this Hubble image. These are blue main sequence stars that appear to be young because they are bluer and more luminous than other stars in the cluster. As all stars in globular clusters are believed to have formed together and thus to be roughly the same age, only a difference in mass can give these stars a different color. A red, old star can appear bluer when it acquires more mass, for instance by stripping it from a nearby star. The extra mass changes it into a bluer star, which makes us think it is younger than it really is.

Messier 3 is featured in Hubble’s Messier catalog, which includes some of the most fascinating objects that can be observed from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. See the NASA-processed image and other Messier objects at:

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA/Rob Garner/Image, Animation, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, G. Piotto et al.

Best regards,

Rocket break-up provides rare chance to test debris formation

ESA - Clean Space logo.

12 April 2019

The discarded ‘upper stage’ from a rocket launched almost ten years ago has recently crumbled to pieces.

“Leaving a trail of debris in its wake, this fragmentation event provides space debris experts with a rare opportunity to test their understanding of such hugely important processes”, explains Tim Flohrer, ESA's Senior Space Debris Monitoring Expert.

Rocket body fragments

Fragmentation events like this one – either break ups or collisions – are the primary source of debris objects in space in the range of a few millimetres to tens of centimetres in size. Travelling at vast speeds, these bits of technological trash pose a threat to crucial space infrastructure, such as satellites providing weather and navigation services, and even astronauts on the ISS.

A remarkable video captured by the Deimos Sky Survey in Spain shows the stream of newly-made debris objects as they rush across the sky.

In the clip, a number of small point-like fragments can be seen spread horizontally across frame. As the observatory moves with the debris objects, the background stars are seen as white streaks.

The remnant piece is clearly visible as the largest and brightest point at the centre of about 40-60 smaller pieces, many larger than 30 cm in size, and has been traced back to the upper stage of a rocket launched in September 2009.

Example of the Atlas V Centaur upper stage

Originally an Atlas V Centaur upper stage, this rather large nearly cylindrical object would have measured about 12.5 metres in length and three metres in diameter, with a mass of more than two tonnes.

Given the international code 2009-047B, this rocket remnant had been flying in an eccentric orbit around our planet for just under a decade – flung as far as 34 700 km from Earth at the most distant point in its orbit and just 6675 km at the closest.

For an as-yet-unknown reason, the rocket body fragmented some time between 23 to 25 March.

An international effort

During a meeting of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) on 26 March, ESA’s space debris team met their counterparts from Russia, who informed the international community of fragments detected orbiting in the sky.

Just hours later, the Zimmerwald Observatory in Switzerland scheduled immediate observations of the cloud of fragments, and by 26 March had acquired the first views.

Zimmerwald Observatory gets the first look

The animation to the left shows the first series of exposures taken by the 0.8 metre telescope, ZimMAIN, which followed the debris cloud. It reveals several small dots, each a fragment larger than a few tens of centimetres, with background stars again appearing as long streaks.

Not long after, the Deimos Sky Survey followed up with observations of the event from 26-28 March (lead animation in this article), using the ‘Antsy’ optical sensor in Spain, which is adapted for tracking objects in low-Earth orbit.

While Zimmerwald continues to observe the cloud in close collaboration with Russian and ESA experts, ESA’s own 1-metre telescope at the Optical Ground Station at Tenerife, Spain, has joined the observation campaign, detecting a large number of fragments down to 10-20 cm in size.

Modeling the mess

ESA keeps an eye on events like this and continually updates the international community through its public database, enabling researchers to find patterns and come up with mitigation strategies for spacecraft in all variety of shapes, sizes and orbits. The database also allows operators of satellites and spacecraft to determine the changing risk to their missions from specific fragmentation events.

Once detected and observed, events like these are put into ‘space debris environment models’, allowing teams to compare the fragmentation of real-life debris with predictions – a rare but crucial opportunity to validate or improve models as necessary.

Developing models of the space debris environment allows ESA to design spacecraft that can withstand impacts from small objects, and design systems to avoid collisions. These models are the baseline for predicting not just the present, but our future space debris environment, which is essential to developing efficient space debris mitigation guidelines.

Our human-made space environment (debris not to scale)

International collaboration is essential to exchanging data and models, which takes place via a technical body called the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, which comprises all major European and international space agencies.

“As this example shows, international collaboration is essential if we want to respond quickly to debris creating events”, concludes Holger Krag, Head of ESA's Space Safety Office.

“Incidents like this are rare, so to have such rich observations and data from across the globe is a unique opportunity to better understand the human-made environment around Earth, in which our satellites live out their lives”.

Space Safety & Security at ESA

To find out more about ESA's space safety and security activities, including the work being done by the Planetary Defence and Space Weather Offices, click here:

Related links:

Deimos Sky Survey:

‘Space debris environment models’:

ESA public database:

Zimmerwald Observatory:

ESA’s space debris team:

International Academy of Astronautics (IAA):

ESA reentry predictions:

ESA Space Environment Report 2018 (PDF):

Collision warning:

Space debris:

Clean space:

Space Safety & Security:

Image, Animations, Text, Credits: ESA/Deimos Sky Survey/NASA/Roy Allison/Zimmerwald Observatory, AIUB/CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.


Curiosity Tastes First Sample in 'Clay-Bearing Unit'

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) logo.

April 12, 2019

Scientists working with NASA's Curiosity Mars rover have been excited to explore a region called "the clay-bearing unit" since before the spacecraft launched. Now, the rover has finally tasted its first sample from this part of Mount Sharp. Curiosity drilled a piece of bedrock nicknamed "Aberlady" on Saturday, April 6 (the 2,370th Martian day, or sol, of the mission), and delivered the sample to its internal mineralogy lab on Wednesday, April 10 (Sol 2374).

Curiosity's First Clay Unit Drill Hole

Animation above: The Mast Camera, or Mastcam, on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this set of images before and after it drilled a rock nicknamed "Aberlady," on Saturday, April 6 (the 2,370th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). The rock and others nearby appear to have moved when the drill was retracted. This was the first time Curiosity has drilled in the long-awaited "clay-bearing unit." Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

The rover's drill chewed easily through the rock, unlike some of the tougher targets it faced nearby on Vera Rubin Ridge. It was so soft, in fact, that the drill didn't need to use its percussive technique, which is helpful for snagging samples from harder rock. This was the mission's first sample obtained using only rotation of the drill bit.

Curiosity Surveys the Clay-Bearing Unit

Image above: The Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this mosaic as it explored the clay-bearing unit on February 3, 2019 (Sol 2309). This landscape includes the rocky landmark nicknamed "Knockfarril Hill" (center right) and the edge of Vera Rubin Ridge, which runs along the top of the scene. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

"Curiosity has been on the road for nearly seven years," said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Finally drilling at the clay-bearing unit is a major milestone in our journey up Mount Sharp."

Scientists are eager to analyze the sample for traces of clay minerals because they usually form in water. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spied a strong clay "signal" here long before Curiosity landed in 2012. Pinpointing the source of that signal could help the science team understand if a wetter Martian era shaped this layer of Mount Sharp, the 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain Curiosity has been climbing.

Curiosity has discovered clay minerals in mudstones all along its journey. These mudstones formed as river sediment settled within ancient lakes nearly 3.5 billion years ago. As with water elsewhere on Mars, the lakes eventually dried up.

Curiosity Sees Waves in the Clay Unit (Click on the image for enlarge)

Image above: The hills and troughs in this little valley, carved between a ridge and cliffs higher up Mount Sharp, almost look like undulating waves. The Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this mosaic as it explored the clay-bearing unit on Jan. 23, 2019 (Sol 2299). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

The clay beacon seen from space brought the rover here, but the region clearly has several other stories to tell. Now that Curiosity is searching this area, scientists can peer around as geological tourists, finding a landscape both ancient and new. There are several kinds of bedrock and sand, including active sand ripples that have shifted in the past year. Pebbles are scattered everywhere - are they eroding from the local bedrock? Several eye-catching landmarks, such as "Knockfarril Hill," stick out as well.

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) or Curiosity rover. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"Each layer of this mountain is a puzzle piece," said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of JPL. "They each hold clues to a different era in Martian history. We're excited to see what this first sample tells us about the ancient environment, especially about water."

The Aberlady sample will give the team a starting point for thinking about the clay-bearing unit. They plan to drill several more times over the course of the next year. That will help them understand what makes this region different from the ridge behind it and an area with a sulfate signal up higher on the mountain.

More information about Curiosity is at:

More information about Mars is at:

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Andrew Good.


jeudi 11 avril 2019

SpaceX - ARABSAT-6A Mission Success

SpaceX - Falcon Heavy / ArabSat-6A Mission patch.

April 11, 2019

Falcon Heavy carrying Arabsat 6A launch (Illustration)

On Thursday, April 11 at 6:35 p.m. EDT, Falcon Heavy launched the Arabsat-6A satellite from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The satellite was deployed approximately 34 minutes after liftoff.


Following booster separation, Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters landed at SpaceX’s Landing Zones 1 and 2 (LZ-1 and LZ-2) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

 Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters landing at SpaceX’s Landing Zones

Falcon Heavy’s center core landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Arabsat 6A communications satellite

Arabsat 6A communications satellite for Arabsat of Saudi Arabia. Arabsat 6A will provide Ku-band and Ka-band communications coverage over the Middle East and North Africa regions, as well as a footprint in South Africa.

For more Information about SpaceX, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Günter's Space Page.


More Brain and Breath Studies Top Research on Station Today

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

April 11, 2019

The Expedition 59 crew continued more brain and breath research aboard the International Space Station today. Along with a variety of other life science activities, the crew also filmed a virtual reality experience inside the station.

NASA is planning longer human missions, farther out in space and having a safe spacecraft atmosphere to breathe in is vitally important. Flight Engineers Nick Hague and Anne McClain spent most of Thursday helping doctors understand what exacerbates and how to alleviate the inflammation of an astronaut’s airways. The duo worked in the Quest airlock measuring and sampling their breath at a reduced air pressure.

Image above: The orbital lab becomes a high-flying hair salon as David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency trims NASA astronaut Anne McClain’s hair aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

Astronaut Christina Koch carried on today with more brain research then closed out the neuroscientific experiment. She worked with human research gear including the Cardiolab Portable Doppler and the Continuous Blood Pressure Device. The instruments measure blood pressure waveforms in the arteries and blood flow velocity to the brain. The data will help doctors understand how the brain regulates blood flow in microgravity.

Koch later videotaped herself in virtual reality for a film depicting life on the station. David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency set up the 360° camera inside the Unity module that links the station’s U.S. segment with the Russian segment. Saint-Jacques later collected his urine samples for stowage in a science freezer and later analysis.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin also explored an array of space phenomena today for the Roscosmos science program. The duo researched cardiovascular activity and enzyme reactions to give doctors better insight into crew health. The cosmonauts also photographed Earth landmarks to help predict catastrophes and studied how space crews relate to mission controllers on the ground.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Quest airlock:

Brain regulates blood flow:

Virtual reality:

Unity module:

Science freezer:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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An Anti-aging Antidote for Arteries

ISS - International Space Station logo.

April 11, 2019

When astronauts return to Earth, their carotid arteries, which carry blood to the head and neck, appear to have aged 20 to 30 years. Artery walls become stiffer and thicker in space, the same as when people grow older on Earth.

Arterial and other aging-related changes seem to accelerate during time spent in space. For example, after six months in space, astronauts also show signs associated with developing insulin resistance.

Animation above: Spaceflight causes changes in the heart and arteries that resemble accelerated aging. Animation Credit: NASA.

A number of earlier investigations aboard the International Space Station first recognized this accelerated aging in the carotid artery, representing a potential significant long-term risk for astronauts. Results from two investigations, Vascular and Vessel Imaging, suggest that a daily session of aerobic or cardio exercise is not sufficient to counteract what amounts to an otherwise sedentary lifestyle in microgravity.

One of the latest investigations into this phenomenon is Vascular Aging, sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). It uses ultrasounds of arteries, blood samples, oral glucose tolerance tests, and wearable sensors to look for early indicators of cardiovascular aging. The resulting data may point to mechanisms to reduce the risk of such aging.

“You can take extremely healthy, fit astronauts and put them in an environment that restricts their ability to do daily exercise, and they run the risk of developing insulin resistance that on Earth could lead to Type II diabetes,” said principal investigator Richard L. Hughson of Schlegel-University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. “We know that on Earth, Type II diabetes is strongly associated with sedentary behavior.”

Image above: Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques wearing the Bio-Monitor, a Canadian technology designed to measure and record astronauts’ vital signs. The Vascular Aging investigation uses the shirt to collect data. Image Credits: Canadian Space Agency/NASA.

A special shirt provided by the CSA, the Bio-Monitor, records the physical activity of astronauts during the day along with their heart rate and respiration. Other devices take regular blood pressure readings and estimate arterial stiffness. These measurements enable researchers to assess relationships between an individual’s metabolism, or ability to regulate blood sugar in the body, and aging-like symptoms of the arteries and bones. Crew members also take blood samples so researchers can identify and detect biomarkers that may predict early signs of cardiovascular aging. The investigation takes the same measurements before, during and after spaceflight.

“We believe we’ll see higher levels of glucose for a period of time after each meal, similar to that seen in people with Type II diabetes on Earth,” Hughson said. “Those elevated levels can cause glucose to bind to protein molecules in the blood and to proteins in the blood vessel walls, which contributes to arterial stiffness.” That effect is largely irreversible, but others are likely reversible once astronauts return to Earth.

Image above: Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques performs an ultrasound for the Vascular Echo experiment, one of the trio of experiments in the Vascular group that includes Vascular Aging. Image Credit: NASA.

“If we do see elevated glucose after meals, the best way to prevent that is by introducing more physical activity,” he said. “There are ways to accomplish that rather than spending another hour on the treadmill. You have to be active for different periods throughout the day.”

Changes in diet, such as decreasing salt and cholesterol, also can contribute to vascular health, improving some markers of arterial stiffness. A better understanding of the daily interaction of exercise and diet can help lead to developing preventative measures that delay or even reverse some of the effects of aging, both in space and on Earth.

Another CSA-sponsored study underway by members of the same research team, Vascular Echo, monitors arterial stiffness for up to six months post-flight to help determine whether space-related changes are reversible.

“The idea is to keep blood glucose regulation optimal in our daily lives, both with physical activity and diet interventions,” Hughson said. “Fortunately, we expect the blood glucose response to recover fairly quickly when they get back to Earth and resume normal activities.”

Take that, old and stiff arteries.

Related links:

Vascular Aging:

Vascular Echo:


Canadian Space Agency (CSA):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/Melissa Gaskill.

Best regards,

Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes Into Moon During Landing Attempt

SpaceIL - Google Lunar XPrize Mission patch.

April 11, 2019

Israel's first moon lander came up just short in its historic touchdown bid this afternoon (April 11).

The robotic Beresheet spacecraft, built by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), aimed to become the first Israeli craft, and the first privately funded mission, ever to land softly on the moon. But the little robot couldn't quite make it, crashing into the gray dirt around 3:25 p.m. EDT (1925 GMT). Mission control lost communications with the spacecraft when it was about 489 feet (149 meters) above the moon's surface.

Image above: An artist's illustration of the Beresheet moon lander, built by SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries. Image Credits: SpaceIL/IAI.

"We had a failure in the spacecraft; we unfortunately have not managed to land successfully," Opher Doron, the general manager of IAI, said during a live broadcast from mission control. "It's a tremendous achievement up 'til now."

"If at first you don't succeed, you try again," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who watched Beresheet's landing attempt from SpaceIL's control center in Yehud, Israel.

So the list of moon-landing nations remains at three, all of them superpowers — the Soviet Union, the United States and China.

But Beresheet accomplished plenty during its short life, as we shall see.

Image above: The Beresheet spacecraft captured this "selfie" during its landing maneuver on April 11, 2019. It was about 22 kilometers above the moon at the time. Image Credit: SpaceIL/IAI.

The competition ended last year without a winner, but SpaceIL and IAI, the country's biggest aerospace and defense company, continued working on the 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) Beresheet. (Some other former GLXP teams, such as Florida-based Moon Express, have kept going as well.)

Last month, the X Prize Foundation announced that SpaceIL could win a special $1 million Moonshot Award if Beresheet successfully landed on the lunar surface.  Just minutes after the moon crash,  X Prize founder and Executive Chairman Peter Diamandis and CEO Anousheh Ansari said SpaceIL and IAI will receive the award despite failing to land.

"I think they managed to touch the surface of the moon, and that's what we were looking for for our Moonshot Award," Ansari said.

"And also, besides touching the surface of the moon, they touched the lives and the hearts of an entire nation, an entire world, schoolkids around the world," Diamandis said.

The lander launched on the night of Feb. 21, soaring into Earth orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Beresheet continued looping around our planet for the next six weeks, performing engine burns now and again to push its elliptical orbit closer and closer to the moon.

Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes Into Moon During Landing

Beresheet ended up covering about 4 million miles (6.5 million kilometers) during this phase of the mission, team members said. No other spacecraft has taken such a long road to the moon.

Beresheet's slow-and-steady strategy paid off on April 4, when the moon's gravity captured the lander. Beresheet then lowered its lunar orbit via a series of burns, the last of which occurred yesterday (April 10). That 32-second maneuver shifted the spacecraft into a highly elliptical orbit with a closest lunar approach of just 9 to 10 miles (15 to 17 kilometers) and a most-distant point 125 miles (200 km) from the gray dirt, mission team members said.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement on the Beresheet lunar lander:

"While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the state of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit. Every attempt to reach new milestones holds opportunities for us to learn, adjust and progress. I have no doubt that Israel and SpaceIL will continue to explore and I look forward to celebrating their future achievements."

Related articles:

SpaceX - NUSANTARA SATU Mission Success

NASA is Aboard First Private Moon Landing Attempt

Related links:

Google Lunar X Prize:

SpaceIL: and

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: Wall/NASA/SpaceIL/IAI.


NASA’s Landmark Twins Study Reveals Resilience of Human Body in Space

ISS - The Twins Study patch.

April 11, 2019

Results from NASA’s landmark Twins Study, which took place from 2015-2016, were published Thursday in Science. The integrated paper — encompassing work from 10 research teams — reveals some interesting, surprising and reassuring data about how one human body adapted to — and recovered from — the extreme environment of space.

The Twins Study provides the first integrated biomolecular view into how the human body responds to the spaceflight environment, and serves as a genomic stepping stone to better understand how to maintain crew health during human expeditions to the Moon and Mars.

Twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. Image Credit: NASA

Retired NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and his identical twin brother Mark, participated in the investigation, conducted by NASA’s Human Research Program. Mark provided a baseline for observation on Earth, and Scott provided a comparable test case during the 340 days he spent in space aboard the International Space Station for Expeditions 43, 44, 45 and 46. Scott Kelly became the first American astronaut to spend nearly a year in space.

“The Twins Study has been an important step toward understanding epigenetics and gene expression in human spaceflight,” said J.D. Polk, chief Health and Medical Officer at NASA Headquarters. “Thanks to the twin brothers and a cadre of investigators who worked tirelessly together, the valuable data gathered from the Twins Study has helped inform the need for personalized medicine and its role in keeping astronauts healthy during deep space exploration, as NASA goes forward to the Moon and journeys onward to Mars.”

Living and Working in Space: Twins Study

Video above: Living and working in space requires human perseverance. Future missions will focus on exploration at greater distances from Earth; to the Moon and then to Mars. These missions will mean humans will stay in space for extended durations. To ensure that these goals are achieved, NASA's astronauts must be able to perform at peak productivity under even the most daunting conditions. Video Credit: NASA.

Key results from the NASA Twins Study include findings related to gene expression changes, immune system response, and telomere dynamics. Other changes noted in the integrated paper include broken chromosomes rearranging themselves in chromosomal inversions, and a change in cognitive function. Many of the findings are consistent with data collected in previous studies, and other research in progress.

The telomeres in Scott’s white blood cells, which are biomarkers of aging at the end of chromosomes, were unexpectedly longer in space then shorter after his return to Earth with average telomere length returning to normal six months later. In contrast, his brother’s telomeres remained stable throughout the entire period. Because telomeres are important for cellular genomic stability, additional studies on telomere dynamics are planned for future one-year missions to see whether results are repeatable for long-duration missions.

A second key finding is that Scott’s immune system responded appropriately in space. For example, the flu vaccine administered in space worked exactly as it does on Earth. A fully functioning immune system during long-duration space missions is critical to protecting astronaut health from opportunistic microbes in the spacecraft environment.

A third significant finding is the variability in gene expression, which reflects how a body reacts to its environment and will help inform how gene expression is related to health risks associated with spaceflight. While in space, researchers observed changes in the expression of Scott’s genes, with the majority returning to normal after six months on Earth. However, a small percentage of genes related to the immune system and DNA repair did not return to baseline after his return to Earth. Further, the results identified key genes to target for use in monitoring the health of future astronauts and potentially developing personalized countermeasures.

“A number of physiological and cellular changes take place during spaceflight,” said Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist of the Human Research Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We have only scratched the surface of knowledge about the body in space. The Twins Study gave us the first integrated molecular view into genetic changes, and demonstrated how a human body adapts and remains robust and resilient even after spending nearly a year aboard the International Space Station. The data captured from integrated investigations like the NASA Twins Study will be explored for years to come.”

Part of the record-setting one-year mission, the NASA Twins Study incorporated 10 investigations to advance NASA’s mission and benefit all of humanity. Scott participated in a number of biomedical studies, including research into how the human body adjusts to known hazards, such as weightlessness and space radiation. Meanwhile, Mark participated in parallel studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects of space on a body down to the cellular level. The findings represent 27 months of data collection.

The Twins Study helped establish a framework of collaborative research that serves as a model for future biomedical research. Principal investigators at NASA and at research universities across the nation initiated an unprecedented sharing of data and discovery. Supported by 84 researchers at 12 locations across eight states, the data from this complex study was channeled into one inclusive study, providing the most comprehensive and integrated molecular view to date of how a human responds to the spaceflight environment. While significant, it is difficult to draw conclusions for all humans or future astronauts from a single test subject in the spaceflight environment.

“To our knowledge, this team of teams has conducted a study unprecedented in its scope across levels of human biology: from molecular analyses of human cells and the microbiome to human physiology to cognition,” said Craig Kundrot, director, Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Application Division at NASA Headquarters. “This paper is the first report of this highly integrated study that began five years ago when the investigators first gathered. We look forward to the publication of additional analyses and follow-up studies with future crew members as we continue to improve our ability to live and work in space and venture forward to the Moon and on to Mars.”

The unique aspects of the Twins Study created the opportunity for innovative genomics research, propelling NASA into an area of space travel research involving a field of study known as “omics,” which integrates multiple biological disciplines. Long-term effects of research, such as the ongoing telomeres investigation, will continue to be studied.

NASA has a rigorous training process to prepare astronauts for their missions, including a thoroughly planned lifestyle and work regime while in space, and an excellent rehabilitation and reconditioning program when they return to Earth. Thanks to these measures and the astronauts who tenaciously accomplish them, the human body remains robust and resilient even after spending a year in space.

Related articles:

NASA Twins Study Confirms Preliminary Findings

Symphonizing the Science: NASA Twins Study Team Begins Integrating Results

Fireworks in Space: NASA’s Twins Study Explores Gene Expression

How Stressful Will a Trip to Mars Be on the Human Body? We Now Have a Peek Into What the NASA Twins Study Will Reveal

Related links:


Human Research Program:

Humans in Space:

One-Year Crew:

nternational Space Station (ISS):

For more information about the NASA Twins Study, visit:

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Northon/Stephanie Schierholz/JSC/Shaneequa Vereen.


NASA Invests in Potentially Revolutionary Tech Concepts

NASA logo.

April 11, 2019

Smart spacesuits and solar surfing may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but they are just two of the technology concepts NASA has selected for further research as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The program will fund 18 studies to determine the feasibility of early-stage technologies that could go on to change what's possible in space.

The funded technologies have the potential to transform human and robotic exploration of other worlds, including the Moon and Mars. One researcher, for example, will study an affordable way to mine the ample ice at the Moon's polar regions. NASA aims to send astronauts to land on the Moon's South Pole in five years.

Two studies were chosen from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, including a Venus lander charged by a floating power generator, and a fleet of small satellites that could explore the edges of the solar system and beyond.

Image above: NASA has selected two new concepts from JPL for future mission ideas, including a small satellite that could fly to the outer edges of the solar system. In this photo, a set of Earth-observing CubeSats launch from the International Space Station in 2014. Image Credit: NASA.

"Our NIAC program nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions by investing in revolutionary technologies," said Jim Reuter, acting associate administrator of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. "We look to America's innovators to help us push the boundaries of space exploration with new technology."

The latest NIAC selections include Phase I and Phase II awards. The selected Phase I studies cover a wide range of innovations. Each Phase I award is valued at approximately $125,000, helping researchers define and analyze their proposed concepts over nine months. If the initial feasibility studies are successful, awardees can apply for Phase II awards.

Image above: A Venus lander charged by a floating power station is one of the JPL concepts chosen by NASA. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The new Phase I selections are:

Power Beaming for Long Life Venus Surface Missions: New approach to support a Venus surface mission with power beaming:
Erik Brandon, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California

Low-Cost SmallSats to Explore to Our Solar System's Boundaries: A design for a low-cost, small satellite heliophysics mission to the outer solar system:
Robert Staehle, JPL

Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration (BREEZE): Combines inflatable structures with bio-inspired kinematics to explore and study the atmosphere of Venus:
Javid Bayandor, State University of New York, Buffalo

SmartSuit: An intelligent spacesuit design with soft-robotics, self-healing skin and data collection for extravehicular activity in extreme environments that allows for greater mobility for exploration missions:
Ana Diaz Artiles, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, College Station

Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope (DUET): A novel telescope design to find and characterize planetary systems outside the solar system:
Tom Ditto, 3DeWitt LLC, Ancramdale, New York

Micro-Probes Propelled and Powered by Planetary Atmospheric Electricity (MP4AE): Similar to the ballooning capabilities of spiders, these floating microprobes use electrostatic lift to study planetary atmospheres:
Yu Gu, West Virginia University, Morgantown

Swarm-Probe Enabled ATEG Reactor (SPEAR) Probe: An ultra-lightweight nuclear electric propulsion probe for deep space exploration, designed to keep mass and volume low for commercial launch:
Troy Howe, Howe Industries LLC, Tempe, Arizona

Ripcord Innovative Power System (RIPS): An investigation of a drag using ripcord unspooling power system for descent probes into planets with atmospheres, such as Saturn:
Noam Izenberg, Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, Maryland

Power for Interstellar Fly-by: Power harvesting from ultra-miniature probes to enable interstellar missions:
Geoffrey Landis, NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland

Lunar-polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO): Affordable lunar pole ice mining for propellant production:
Joel Serce, TransAstra Corporation, Lake View Terrace, California

Crosscutting High Apogee Refueling Orbital Navigator (CHARON): Novel system for small space debris mitigation:
John Slough, MSNW LLC, Redmond, Washington

Thermal Mining of Ices on Cold Solar System Bodies: Proposes using a unique heat application on frozen volatiles and other materials for resource extraction:
George Sowers, Colorado School of Mines, Golden

Phase II studies allow researchers to further develop concepts, refine designs and start considering how the new technology would be implemented. This year's Phase II selections address a range of cutting-edge concepts from flexible telescopes to new heat-withstanding materials. Awards under Phase II can be worth as much as $500,000 for two-year studies.

The 2019 Phase II selections are:

The High Étendue Multiple Object Spectrographic Telescope (THE MOST): A new, flexible optical telescope design that can be a deployed in a cylindrical roll and installed upon delivery, on a 3D printed structure:
Tom Ditto, 3DeWitt LLC, Ancramdale, New York

Rotary-Motion-Extended Array Synthesis (R-MXAS): A geostationary synthetic aperture imaging radiometer with a rotating tethered antenna:
John Kendra, Leidos, Inc., Reston, Virginia

Self-Guided Beamed Propulsion for Breakthrough Interstellar Missions: An effort to advance self-guided beamed propulsion technology:
Chris Limbach, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, College Station

Astrophysics and Technical Lab Studies of a Solar Neutrino Spacecraft Detector: A small-scale neutrino detector study to advance detector technology for future probe missions:
Nickolas Solomey, Wichita State University, Kansas

Diffractive LightSails: A study to design and advance passive and electro-optically active diffractive films for missions in low-Earth orbit, inner solar orbits and to distant stars:
Grover Swartzlander, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York

Solar Surfing: A materials-science study to determine the best protective materials to enable heliophysics missions closer to the Sun:
Doug Willard, NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida

NASA selected Phase I and II proposals through a peer-review process that evaluates innovativeness and technical viability. All projects are still in the early stages of development, most requiring a decade or more of concept maturation and technology development.

For the first time this summer, the NIAC program will select one Phase III research study. The award will be up to $2 million for as long as two years. This final phase is designed to strategically transition a NIAC concept with the highest potential impact to NASA, other government agencies or commercial companies.

"NIAC is about going to the edge of science fiction, but not over," said Jason Derleth, NIAC program executive. "We are supporting high impact technology concepts that could change how we explore within the solar system and beyond."

NIAC partners with forward-thinking scientists, engineers and citizen inventors from across the nation to help maintain America's leadership in aeronautics and space research. NIAC is funded by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

For more information about NASA's investments in space technology, visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Clare Skelly/JPL/Arielle Samuelson.


mercredi 10 avril 2019

Crew Trains to Capture U.S. Spaceship and Studies the Brain and Breathing

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

April 10, 2019

The Expedition 59 crew is now training to capture a U.S. cargo ship when it arrives at the International Space Station next week. The orbital lab residents are also busy researching how living in space affects the human mind and body.

Fresh off their spacewalk Monday, astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are now practicing to capture Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter with the Canadarm2 robotic arm. McClain will be at the robotics workstation in the cupola April 19 and command the Canadarm2 to capture Cygnus around 5:30 a.m. EDT. Saint-Jacques will back her up while Flight Engineer Nick Hague monitors Cygnus’ systems during its approach and rendezvous. The commercial cargo craft is due to launch April 17 at 4:46 p.m. from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Image above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain is suited up in the U.S. Quest airlock preparing to begin what would be a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk on April 8, 2019. Image Credit: NASA.

Hague started his day with more brain research in the Japanese Kibo lab module. The NASA astronaut used a Doppler device to record his arterial blood flow waveforms. The data will help doctors understand how the brain regulates blood flow in microgravity.

The astronauts also researched how the station’s atmosphere affects breathing. The experiment studies how dust, particles and exhaled breath inflames a crewmember’s airways. Observations may reveal conditions that exacerbate or alleviate airway inflammation influencing future space missions.

Image above: Flying over Canada, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'607 Km/h, altitude: 414,73 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 April 10, 2019 at 21:40 UTC. Image Credits: Aerospace/Roland Berga.

SpaceX has announced April 26 as the launch date for its next Dragon cargo mission. The private space freighter will blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida arriving at the station April 28. This time Saint-Jacques will lead the robotics capture activities while Hague backs him up.

Related article:

Northrop Grumman Carries Technology, Scientific Investigations on Mission to Space Station

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Kibo lab module:

Brain regulates blood flow:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

First results from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

ESA & ROSCOSMOS - ExoMars Mission patch.

10 April 2019

New evidence of the impact of the recent planet-encompassing dust storm on water in the atmosphere, and a surprising lack of methane, are among the scientific highlights of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter’s first year in orbit.

Two papers are published in the journal Nature today describing the new results, and reported in a dedicated press briefing at the European Geosciences Union in Vienna.

A third paper, submitted to the Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Science, presents the most detailed map ever produced of water-ice or hydrated minerals in the shallow subsurface of Mars.

Analysing the martian atmosphere

The joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, or TGO, arrived at the Red Planet in October 2016, and spent more than one year using the aerobraking technique needed to reach its two-hour science orbit, 400 km above the surface of Mars.

“We are delighted with the first results from the Trace Gas Orbiter,” says Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s TGO project scientist.

“Our instruments are performing extremely well and even within the first few months of observation were already providing exquisite data to a much higher level than previously achieved.”

First results from TGO

TGO’s main science mission began at the end of April 2018, just a couple of months before the start of the global dust storm that would eventually lead to the demise of NASA’s Opportunity rover after 15 years roving the martian surface.

Spacecraft in orbit, however, were able to make unique observations, with TGO following the onset and development of the storm and monitoring how the increase in dust affected the water vapour in the atmosphere – important for understanding the history of water at Mars over time.

Exploiting the dust storm

Two spectrometers onboard – NOMAD and ACS – made the first high-resolution solar occultation measurements of the atmosphere, looking at the way sunlight is absorbed in the atmosphere to reveal the chemical fingerprints of its ingredients. 

This enabled the vertical distribution of water vapour and ‘semi-heavy’ water – with one hydrogen atom replaced by a deuterium atom, a form of hydrogen with an additional neutron – to be plotted from close to the martian surface to above 80 km altitude. The new results track the influence of dust in the atmosphere on water, along with the escape of hydrogen atoms into space.

“In the northern latitudes we saw features such as dust clouds at altitudes of around 25–40 km that were not there before, and in southern latitudes we saw dust layers moving to higher altitudes,” says Ann Carine Vandaele, principal investigator of the NOMAD instrument at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy.

“The enhancement of water vapour in the atmosphere happened remarkably quickly, over just a few days during the onset of the storm, indicating a swift reaction of the atmosphere to the dust storm.”

Dust storm evolution

The observations are consistent with global circulation models. Dust absorbs the Sun’s radiation, heating the surrounding gas and causing it to expand, in turn redistributing other ingredients – like water – over a wider vertical range. A higher temperature contrast between equatorial and polar regions is also set up, strengthening atmospheric circulation. At the same time, thanks to the higher temperatures, fewer water-ice clouds form – normally they would confine water vapour to lower altitudes.

The teams also made the first observation of semi-heavy water simultaneously with water vapour, providing key information on the processes that control the amount of hydrogen and deuterium atoms escaping to space. It also means the deuterium-to-hydrogen (D/H) ratio can be derived, which is an important marker for the evolution of the water inventory on Mars.

“We see that water, deuterated or not, is very sensitive to the presence of ice clouds, preventing it from reaching atmospheric layers higher up. During the storm, water reached  much higher altitudes,” says Ann Carine.“This was theoretically predicted by models for a long time but this is the first time we have been able to observe it.”

Since the D/H ratio is predicted to change with the season and with latitude, TGO’s continued regional and seasonal measurements are expected to provide further evidence of the processes at play.

Methane mystery plot thickens

The two complementary instruments also started their measurements of trace gases in the martian atmosphere. Trace gases occupy less than one percent of the atmosphere by volume, and require highly precise measurement techniques to determine their exact chemical fingerprints in the composition. The presence of trace gases is typically measured in ‘parts per billion by volume’ (ppbv), so for the example for Earth’s methane inventory measuring 1800 ppbv, for every billion molecules, 1800 are methane.

Methane is of particular interest for Mars scientists, because it can be a signature of life, as well as geological processes – on Earth, for example, 95% of methane in the atmosphere comes from biological processes. Because it can be destroyed by solar radiation on timescales of several hundred years, any detection of the molecule in present times implies it must have been released relatively recently – even if the methane itself was produced millions or billions of years ago and remained trapped in underground reservoirs until now. In addition, trace gases are mixed efficiently on a daily basis close to the planet’s surface, with global wind circulation models dictating that methane would be mixed evenly around the planet within a few months.

Reports of methane in the martian atmosphere have been intensely debated because detections have been very sporadic in time and location, and often fell at the limit of the instruments’ detection limits. ESA’s Mars Express contributed one of the first measurements from orbit in 2004, at that time indicating the presence of methane amounting to 10 ppbv.

Earth-based telescopes have also reported both non-detections and transient measurements up to about 45 ppbv, while NASA’s Curiosity rover, exploring Gale Crater since 2012, has suggested a background level of methane that varies with the seasons between about 0.2 and 0.7 ppbv – with some higher level spikes. More recently, Mars Express observed a methane spike one day after one of Curiosity’s highest-level readings.

TGO’s search for methane on Mars

The new results from TGO provide the most detailed global analysis yet, finding an upper limit of 0.05 ppbv, that is, 10–100 times less methane than all previous reported detections. The most precise detection limit of 0.012 ppbv was achieved at 3 km altitude.

As an upper limit, 0.05 ppbv still corresponds to up to 500 tons of methane emitted over a 300 year predicted lifetime of the molecule when considering atmospheric destruction processes alone, but dispersed over the entire atmosphere, this is extremely low.

“We have beautiful, high-accuracy data tracing signals of water within the range of where we would expect to see methane, but yet we can only report a modest upper limit that suggests a global absence of methane,” says ACS principal investigator Oleg Korablev from the Space Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. 

“The TGO’s high-precision measurements seem to be at odds with previous detections; to reconcile the various datasets and match the fast transition from previously reported plumes to the apparently very low background levels, we need to find a method that efficiently destroys methane close to the surface of the planet.”

“Just as the question of the presence of methane and where it might be coming from has caused so much debate, so the issue of where it is going, and how quickly it can disappear, is equally interesting,” says Håkan.

“We don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle or see the full picture yet, but that is why we are there with TGO, making a detailed analysis of the atmosphere with the best instruments we have, to better understand how active this planet is – whether geologically or biologically.”

Key methane measurements at Mars

Best map of shallow subsurface water

While the lively debate on the nature and presence of methane continues, one sure thing is that water once existed on Mars – and still does in the form of water-ice, or as water-hydrated minerals. And where there was water, there might have been life.

To help understand the location and history of water on Mars, TGO’s neutron detector FREND is mapping the distribution of hydrogen in the uppermost metre of the planet’s surface. Hydrogen indicates the presence of water, being one of the constituents of the water molecule; it can also indicate water absorbed into the surface, or minerals that were formed in the presence of water.

The instrument’s mapping task will take about one Mars year – almost two Earth years – to produce the best statistics to generate the highest quality map. But the first maps presented based on just a few month’s data already exceed the resolution of previous measurements.

Shallow subsurface water distribution on Mars

“In just 131 days the instrument had already produced a map that has a higher resolution than that of the 16 years data from its predecessor onboard NASA’s Mars Odyssey – and it is set to continue getting better,” says Igor Mitrofanov, principal investigator of the FREND instrument at the Space Research Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.

Aside from the obviously water-rich permafrost of the polar regions, the new map provides more refined details of localised ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ regions. It also highlights water-rich materials in equatorial regions that may signify the presence of water-rich permafrost in present times, or the former locations of the planet’s poles in the past.

“The data is continually improving and we will eventually have what will become the reference data for mapping shallow subsurface water-rich materials on Mars, crucial for understanding the overall evolution of Mars and where all the present water is now,” adds Igor. “It is important for the science on Mars, and it is also valuable for future Mars exploration.”

Dust devil detail

“We have already been enjoying beautiful images and stereo views of Mars thanks to the TGO’s imaging system and now we are delighted to share the first look at data from the other instruments,” concludes Håkan.

“We have a promising future in contributing to the many fascinating aspects of Mars science, from the distribution of subsurface water, to active surface processes and to the mysteries of the martian atmosphere.”

Notes for editors:

“Early observations by ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter show no signs of methane on Mars” by O. Korablev et al, is published in the journal Nature:

“Martian dust storm impact on atmospheric water and D/H observed by ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter” by A.C Vandaele et al, is published in the journal Nature:

“Neutron Mapping of Mars with High Spatial Resolution: First Results of FREND experiment of the ExoMars Project” by I.G. Mitrofanov et al, is accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Science, the Branch of Physical Science:

The results were presented during a press briefing at the EGU General Assembly in Vienna, Austria. Click here for a replay of the briefing.

Related links:

EGU General Assembly:




Images, Text, Credits: ESA/ATG medialab/Data: A-C Vandaele et al., O. Korablev et al., I. Mitrofanov et al./Roscosmos/CaSSIS, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Best regards,

Northrop Grumman Carries Technology, Scientific Investigations on Mission to Space Station

Northrop Grumman - CRS Cygnus NG-11 patch.

April 10, 2019

A Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft scheduled to liftoff on April 17 carries supplies and scientific experiments to the International Space Station. It uses a new late load capability that allows time-sensitive experiments to be loaded just 24 hours before liftoff. Previously, all cargo had to be loaded about four days prior to launch, creating challenges for some types of experiments.

Image above: A Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo craft pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm as the International Space Station orbits over the Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

The launch on the company’s Antares rocket departs from Pad-0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. This Cygnus mission is the 11th and final under Northrop’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)-1 contract with NASA; a CRS-2 contract begins with a cargo launch in the fall. Resupply missions from U.S. companies ensure NASA’s capability to deliver critical science research to the space station and significantly increase its ability to conduct new investigations in the only laboratory in space.

Here are some of the scientific investigations Cygnus delivers to the space station:

Models for growing increasingly complex materials

Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-10 (ACE-T-10) investigates the growth, microscopic dynamics, and restructuring processes in ordered and disordered structures such as colloidal crystals, glasses, and gels.

Image above: European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst with the Advanced Colloids Experiment hardware during a previous ACE experiment. Image Credit: NASA.

Colloids provide ideal models for researching the fundamental principles of internal organization in such structures because their particles are small enough to engage in relevant phenomena, yet large enough for detailed study. Colloidal system interactions vary precisely with temperature and undergo a variety of transitions including crystallization and glass formation. Conducting the study in microgravity removes the effects of gravitational stresses.

Better life science research in a few drops

Image above: The Bio-Analyzer, a tool the size of a videogame console, easily tests different body fluids such as blood, saliva, and urine. It helps astronauts accelerate the process of scientific data collection. Image Credit: CSA-ASC.

Bio-Analyzer, a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) instrument, enhances life sciences research capabilities on the space station. It performs on-orbit detection and quantification of cell surface molecules on a per cell basis, including blood cell counts, and assesses soluble molecule concentration in a liquid sample such as blood, saliva, or urine. Part of the Life Science Research System (LSRS), the Bio-Analyzer uses just a few drops of liquid – a finger prick versus a standard blood draw, for example – and eliminates the need for freezing and storing samples.

Analyzing aging of the arteries in astronauts

Recent research suggest links between cardiovascular health risk, carotid artery aging, bone metabolism and blood biomarkers, insulin resistance, and radiation. Data also indicate accelerated aging-like changes in many astronauts on the space station, including changes to their arteries. The Space Environment Causes Acceleration of Vascular Aging: Roles of Hypogravity, Nutrition, and Radiation (Vascular Aging) looks at these changes using artery ultrasounds, blood samples, oral glucose tolerance tests, and wearable sensors. It is one of three related Canadian experiments studying the effects of weightlessness on the blood vessels and heart.

Testing immune response in space

The U.S. National Laboratory selected 12 investigations for its Rodent Research Reference Mission-1, Applications for Spaceflight Biospecimens. Tetanus Antibody Response by B cells in Space (RR-12) examines the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory. Spaceflight has a dramatic influence on human immune response, but there is little research on how that affects the body’s immune system response to an actual challenge. Using a mouse model makes it possible to examine this question since the mouse immune system closely parallels that of humans.

Big buzz for new robot

A small robot takes on big jobs aboard the space station. The free-flying Astrobee can help scientists and engineers develop and test technologies for use in microgravity, give astronauts a hand with routine chores, and provide additional eyes and ears for flight controllers in Houston.

Image above: Astrobee development engineers Vinh To and Roberto Carlino conduct acoustics testing on the Astrobee Free Flyers and Docking Station before its flight to the space station on Cygnus. Image Credit: NASA.

Building on the success of SPHERES, NASA’s first-generation free-flyer, Astrobee, operates either in fully automated mode or under remote control from the ground. It can run longer and requires no supervision from the crew, freeing up more astronaut time for research. It also opens up more opportunities to experiment and test capabilities with lower risk. Astrobee is a product of the NASA Game Changing Development Program.

Scientific Investigations Set for Space on NG-11

Related links:

Northrop Grumman Cygnus:

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility:

Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-10 (ACE-T-10):


Vascular Aging:

U.S. National Laboratory:

Rodent Research Reference Mission-1:




NASA Game Changing Development Program:

Spot the Station:

Commercial Resupply:

Commercial Space:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (JSC), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/International Space Station Program Science Office/Melissa Gaskill.

Best regards,