samedi 8 juin 2019

KLM wants to make its passengers travel in the wings

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines logo.

June 8, 2019

Flying V-900

A student imagined the plane of the future. The concept is developed by Dutch researchers with the support of the KLM company. It would notably save 20% of kerosene.

"Economic and environmentally friendly" aircraft are at the heart of the development of the aviation industry, which is under enormous cost pressure and is regularly criticized for its environmental impact. A student from the Technical University of Berlin has thus devised a new concept of futuristic aircraft. His craft, developed by Dutch researchers with the support of the airline KLM, was named "Flying V-900", in honor of the famous Gibson guitar of the same name.

Flying V-900

If the characteristics of this aircraft are close to an Airbus 350-900, its fuel consumption would be 20% lower than the most economical airliners currently in service. A good point in an international context in search of a cleaner and less polluting tourism. The device takes the triangular shape of a guitar, which gives it a much better penetration in the air (+ 15%) compared to conventional aircrafts, notes a site specializing in aeronautics. The weight of the aircraft, much lighter than current aircraft of equivalent size, also plays a big role.

New options for passengers

"The new shape of the aircraft offers us interesting opportunities to design the interior, making the flight more comfortable for passengers," explains the general manager of KLM. For example, as part of the Flying-V search, we are exploring new options for resting or dining on the plane. Offering buffet food is one of the options. " The future aircraft is a "V" shaped flying wing that will integrate the passenger cabin, the cargo hold and the fuel tanks in the wings. It will accommodate more than 300 passengers.

Flying V-900

A flying model and a full-size part of the interior of the Flying-V will be officially presented next October, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of KLM. The project will not be realized before 2040, because many tests are still necessary.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (Wikipedia):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: KLM/CGA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

vendredi 7 juin 2019

The waltz of the LHC magnets has begun

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

7 June, 2019

In the LHC tunnel during LS2 (Image: CERN)

Major endeavours have got under way way in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) over the past few weeks, with the extraction of magnets from the accelerator tunnel. The LHC has a total of 1232 dipoles, magnets which bend the particles’ trajectories, and 474 quadrupoles, which squeeze the bunches. All these magnets are superconducting, i.e. they operate at a temperature of -271°C, are 15 metres long and weigh up to 28 tonnes. So moving them around is no trivial matter.

(Image: CERN)

During the second long shutdown, 22 of these large components (including 19 dipoles) have to be replaced, especially as several have been showing operating deficiencies. Twelve have already been brought above ground and the last one is scheduled to be dismantled at the beginning of July.

Exchanging LHC magnets at CERN

The replacement magnets are arriving one by one. Ten new magnets have been installed, aligned and are being connected in the first sectors of the accelerator (sectors 8-1 and 1-2). This involves reconnecting the beam-pipes, the superconducting cables that transport currents of up to 13 000 amps, the transfer lines for the helium that cools the magnets, the beam shields that thermally insulate the magnets once they have been cooled down to -271°C. Care needs to be taken to ensure the tightness of the insulating vacuum, and tests then are carried to check that the new magnets are perfectly interconnected with the neighbouring magnets. These operations take several weeks for each magnet ! All 22 magnets should thus be connected at the beginning of 2020.


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

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

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 23 Member States.

Related link:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

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

Images (mentioned), Video (CERN), Text, Credits: CERN/Anaïs Schaeffer.

Best regards,

Mature Galaxy Mesmerizes in New Hubble View

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

June 7, 2019

This striking image was taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), a powerful instrument installed on the telescope in 2009. WFC3 is responsible for many of Hubble’s most breathtaking and iconic photographs.

Shown here, NGC 7773 is a beautiful example of a barred spiral galaxy. A luminous bar-shaped structure cuts prominently through the galaxy's bright core, extending to the inner boundary of NGC 7773's sweeping, pinwheel-like spiral arms. Astronomers think that these bar structures emerge later in the lifetime of a galaxy, as star-forming material makes its way towards the galactic center — younger spirals do not feature barred structures as often as older spirals do, suggesting that bars are a sign of galactic maturity. They are also thought to act as stellar nurseries, as they gleam brightly with copious numbers of youthful stars.

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is thought to be a barred spiral like NGC 7773. By studying galactic specimens such as NGC 7773 throughout the universe, researchers hope to learn more about the processes that have shaped — and continue to shape — our cosmic home.

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, J. Walsh.


Three-Day Weekend for Astronauts as Cosmonauts Study Space Exercises

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 7, 2019

Four Expedition 59 astronauts are taking a three-day weekend aboard the International Space Station after packing a U.S. space freighter for return to Earth. The two cosmonauts focused on exercise studies, physics research and life support maintenance on the Russian side of the orbiting lab.

Image above: This view from the International Space Station looks from northeast to southwest, from Greece, Italy and across the Mediterranean Sea to Libya. The Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft is pictured in the foreground. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Anne McClain and Nick Hague and Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques are relaxing today following last weekend’s SpaceX Dragon cargo loading and closeout activities. The quartet spent the first part of the week cleaning and stowing hardware after Dragon returned to Earth Monday full of completed experiments and station gear for analysis.

Venus at Sunrise From the Space Station

Image above: From the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Christina Koch (@AstroChristina) snapped and posted this image of the planet Venus at sunrise. The blue glow of Earth's atmosphere shimmers as the station orbits our planet. Image Credit: NASA/@AstroChristina.

Station Commander Oleg Kononenko attached sensors to Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin today monitoring his vital signs during an exercise study to determine the most effective workouts in space. Ovchinin cleaned up afterward then researched plasma crystals, or highly charged micro-particles that form self-organized structures in microgravity. The duo also checked life support systems, configured communications gear and inspected the structural integrity of the station’s Russian segment.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Exercise study:

Plasma crystals:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Opens International Space Station to New Commercial Opportunities, Private Astronauts

ISS - International Space Station patch.

June 7, 2019

NASA is opening the International Space Station for commercial business so U.S. industry innovation and ingenuity can accelerate a thriving commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA/STS-132

This move comes as NASA focuses full speed ahead on its goal of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, where American companies also will play an essential role in establishing a sustainable presence.

NASA officials, including the agency’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit, will discuss details of the five-part near-term plan in a news conference at 10 a.m. EDT today. The news conference will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website:

NASA will continue research and testing in low-Earth orbit to inform its lunar exploration plans, while also working with the private sector to test technologies, train astronauts and strengthen the burgeoning space economy. Providing expanded opportunities at the International Space Station to manufacture, market and promote commercial products and services will help catalyze and expand space exploration markets for many businesses.

The agency’s ultimate goal in low-Earth orbit is to partner with industry to achieve a strong ecosystem in which NASA is one of many customers purchasing services and capabilities at lower cost.

NASA’s plan addresses both the supply-side and demand-side for a new economy, enabling use of government resources for commercial activities, creating the opportunity for private astronaut missions to the space station, enabling commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit, identifying and pursuing activities that foster new and emerging markets, and quantifying NASA’s long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit.

Commercial Activities Aboard the Space Station

More than 50 companies already are conducting commercial research and development on the space station via the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, and their results are yielding great promise. In addition, NASA has worked with 11 different companies to install 14 commercial facilities on the station that support research and development projects for NASA and the ISS National Lab.

This effort is intended to broaden the scope of commercial activity on the space station beyond the ISS National Lab mandate, which is limited to research and development. A new NASA directive will enable commercial manufacturing and production and allow both NASA and private astronauts to conduct new commercial activities aboard the orbiting laboratory. The directive also sets prices for industry use of U.S. government resources on the space station for commercial and marketing activities.

Pricing released Friday is specific to commercial and marketing activities enabled by the new directive, reflects a representative cost to NASA, and is designed to encourage the emergence of new markets. As NASA learns how these new markets respond, the agency will reassess the pricing and amount of available resources approximately every six months and make adjustments as necessary.

To qualify, commercial and marketing activities must either:

- Require the unique microgravity environment to enable manufacturing, production or development of a commercial application;

- Have a connection to NASA’s mission; or

- Support the development of a sustainable low-Earth orbit economy.

NASA’s directive enabling commercial and marketing activities aboard the space station addresses manufacturing, production, transportation, and marketing of commercial resources and goods, including products intended for commercial sale on Earth. NASA astronauts will be able to conduct coordinated, scheduled and reimbursable commercial and marketing activities consistent with government ethics requirements aboard the station.

To ensure a competitive market, NASA initially is making available five percent of the agency’s annual allocation of crew resources and cargo capability, including 90 hours of crew time and 175 kg of cargo launch capability, but will limit the amount provided to any one company.

Private Astronaut Missions

NASA also is enabling private astronaut missions of up to 30 days on the International Space Station to perform duties that fall into the approved commercial and marketing activities outlined in the directive released Friday, with the first mission as early as 2020. A new NASA Research Announcement focus area issued today outlines the path for those future private astronaut missions.

If supported by the market, the agency can accommodate up to two short-duration private astronaut missions per year to the International Space Station. These missions will be privately funded, dedicated commercial spaceflights.  Private astronaut missions will use a U.S. spacecraft developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The commercial entity developing the mission will determine crew composition for each mission and ensure private astronauts meet NASA’s medical standards and the training and certification procedures for International Space Station crew members. Market studies identified private astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit as a key element to demonstrate demand and reduce risk for future commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit.

Commercial Destinations in Low-Earth Orbit

In the long-term, NASA’s goal is to become one of many customers purchasing services from independent, commercial and free-flying habitable destinations in low-Earth orbit. A robust low-Earth orbit economy will need multiple commercial destinations, and NASA is partnering with industry to pursue dual paths to that objective that either go through the space station or directly to a free-flying destination.

As a first step, NASA is making one space station port and utilities available for industry to attach a commercial module to support commercial activities, and today is releasing a synopsis as Appendix I in NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) 2 Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). NASA expects to release the solicitation June 14, with awards made by the end of the fiscal year. The forward port of the station’s Harmony module will be available to industry for a finite period of time.

NASA will follow up with a synopsis for NextSTEP 2 Appendix K in July to partner with industry in the development of future free-flying commercial stations in low-Earth orbit.

Stimulate Sustainable Demand

NASA continues to seek and pursue opportunities to stimulate sustainable commercial demand in low-Earth orbit and, to that end, has added two new focus areas to the NASA Research Announcement soliciting proposals for commercial concepts. these focus areas include in-space manufacturing, regenerative medicine, bioengineering, and other fields that may lead to a scalable, financially self-sustaining demand for low-Earth orbit capabilities.

In addition, NASA is seeking targeted studies to better understand real and perceived barriers of potential new market entrants and to address broad ideas which could help stimulate demand. Successful proposals will define the path to broadly foster market growth, provide data-driven rationale to support the defined path, and lead to recommendations on which NASA, industry or other organizations could act. More details are available in the synopsis for NextSTEP 2 BAA Appendix J. NASA expects to release the solicitation for Appendix J on June 14 with awards made by the end of the fiscal year.

NASA also is working to increase the research and development community’s understanding of the potential value of microgravity research and the path to conducting research in low-Earth orbit by coordinating across the microgravity community to lower barriers to entry and refinement of research via drop towers, parabolic, and suborbital flights.

Quantify NASA’s Long-term Demand

NASA is providing a forecast of its minimum long-term, low-Earth orbit requirements, representing the type and amount of services that NASA intends to purchase when those services become commercially available. The goal is to reduce uncertainty for commercial destination providers about NASA as a customer, and to help them make decisions about which NASA requirements they are interested in fulfilling.

NASA also is providing details and estimated quantities for NASA crew accommodation, human research, biological and physical science research, technology demonstrations, and hosted science instruments. In addition, NASA intends to continue purchasing services for a national laboratory capability in low-Earth orbit. For example, NASA’s strategy research in the areas of space biology, physical sciences, and fundamental physics is driven by recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Fundamental research and applied exploration research are not mutually exclusive, and advances in one area often enable advancements in the other. NASA’s Space Life and Physical Sciences Research Applications division has identified the highest research priorities for long-term use of low-Earth orbit: in life sciences, the priorities are studies of plants, model organisms, and of the microbiome of the built environment; and in physical sciences, the priorities are studies into combustion and phase change-associated energy transfer.

To improve the agency’s five-part plan and its effectiveness, NASA is seeking feedback from industry and others through a request for information, with responses due by July 3.

For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked aboard the International Space Station, conducting thousands of experiments in areas such as human research, biology, and physical science, as well as advanced technology development. Many of these experiments, conducted via the ISS National Lab, have been research and development with commercial objectives.  New opportunities are needed to move beyond research and development, and the station will play an essential role in enabling those opportunities for new commercial markets needed to build a sustainable ecosystem in low-Earth orbit.

Learn more about opportunities for commercial activities aboard the International Space Station:

Related links:

International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory:

NASA directive:

NASA Research Announcement:

Commercial Crew Program:

Synopsis as Appendix:

NextSTEP 2 BAA Appendix:

Humans in Space:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Northon/Stephanie Schierholz/JSC/Gary Jordan.


Antarctic glaciers named after satellites

ESA - European Space Agency patch.

7 June 2019

 Ice streams named

Dramatic changes in the shape of the Antarctic ice sheet have become emblematic of the climate crisis. And, in deference to the critical role that satellites play in measuring and monitoring Antarctic glaciology, seven areas of fast-flowing ice on the Antarctic Peninsula have been named after Earth observation satellites.

Reports of iceberg calving, changes in ice-sheet speed, thickness and mass have informed the climate change debate. These reports are thanks largely to routine monitoring by an international fleet of Earth observation satellites.

Recognising the importance of observations from space, the UK Antarctic Place-names Committee has approved seven new names for international use.

The decision follows a request by Anna Hogg from the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds, UK, who identified that the major glaciers flowing westwards from the Dyer Plateau are thinning and flowing at rates of more than 1.5 metres a day.

To describe them in scientific papers, Dr Hogg requested that seven outlet glaciers be named.

“Naming the glaciers after the Earth observation satellites we use to measure them is a great way to celebrate the international collaboration in space, and on big science questions.

“It’s fantastic news that the UK Foreign Office have formally approved these new place names, which will be on the record forever more,” said Dr Hogg.

Antarctic Peninsula

The Ers Ice Stream that flows west between Jensen Nunataks and Gunn Peaks was named after the two ESA satellites – ERS-1 and ERS-2 – that operated between 1991 and 2011. They provided the first high-resolution, wide-swath and day-and-night images that were used to calculate the speed and direction of the flow of glacier ice.

The Envisat Ice Stream lies further to the west and commemorates ESA’s largest Earth observation satellite, which was launched in 2002 and operated until 2012. It carried 10 instruments that extended the datasets generated by ERS-1 and ERS-2.

The Cryosat Ice Stream flows further west and is named after the ESA Earth Explorer satellite launched in 2010. CryoSat was designed specifically to detect changes in the height of polar ice using a sophisticated instrument that provides high-accuracy elevation measurements over the rugged ice-sheet margins and for sea ice in polar waters.

Still further west lies the Grace Ice Stream, which commemorates the joint Gravity Recovery and Climate Change Experiment (GRACE) mission run by NASA and the German Aerospace Center. Between 2002 and 2017, the mission mapped, for the first time, Earth’s time-varying gravitational field, detecting Antarctic ice-sheet mass changes with unprecedented accuracy.

Sentinel Ice Stream

The Sentinel Ice Steam is named after the more recent series of satellites that ESA develops for the EU’s Copernicus programme to the environment and climate change. This programme provides open access to images, allowing the public to easily view and witness ongoing, year-round changes in Antarctica and the rest of the world.

The ALOS Ice Rumples are named after a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mission. Its optical and radar image data acquired between 2006 and 2011 have been used to map ice in the polar regions, with dedicated imaging campaigns to capture Antarctic ice-sheet surface changes during the International Polar Year campaign that ran between 2007 and 2009.

Finally, the Landsat ice stream is the most westerly of the newly named glaciers. It is named after the joint NASA/US Geological Survey series of Landsat Earth observation satellites that have been operating since 1972. Landsat has been one of the primary systems used in Antarctic studies, providing over 40 years of uninterrupted mapping of the continent for climate and environment studies.

Fifteen space agencies currently collaborate on coordinating Antarctic data collection from a wide range of satellites, and on the planning of data acquisition and products to address the needs of the scientific community, under the banner of the World Meteorological Organization’s Polar Space Task Group.

George VI Ice Shelf from the air

Mark Drinkwater, ESA chair of the task group, said, “Interagency planning is paying dividends for polar science, with more comprehensive multi-satellite, multi-instrument datasets and better coverage than previously possible, which enables the science community to address today’s key climate research challenges.”

This gesture of naming Antarctic glaciers after these ground-breaking satellites is a mark of recognition of the importance of Earth observation data in addressing the climate crisis.

Related links:

British Antarctic Survey:

Antarctic Place-names Committee:

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research:

Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica:

Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling:

World Meteorological Organization’s Polar Space Task Group:

ESA's Climate Change Initiative (CCI):

Geophysical Research Letters:

Increased ice flow in Western Palmer linked to ocean melting:

Related missions:










Images, Text, Credits: ESA/CPOM/A. Hogg/Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017-2019), processed by ESA.


jeudi 6 juin 2019

Heart of Lonesome Galaxy Is Brimming with Dark Matter

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

June 6, 2019

Isolated for billions of years, a galaxy with more dark matter packed into its core than expected has been identified by astronomers using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The galaxy, known as Markarian 1216 (abbreviated as Mrk 1216), contains stars that are within 10% the age of the universe – that is, almost as old as the universe itself. Scientists have found that it has gone through a different evolution than typical galaxies, both in terms of its stars and the invisible dark matter that, through gravity, holds the galaxy together. Dark matter accounts for about 85% of the matter in the universe, although it has only been detected indirectly.

Mrk 1216 belongs to a family of elliptically shaped galaxies that are more densely packed with stars in their centers than most other galaxies. Astronomers think they have descended from reddish, compact galaxies called “red nuggets” that formed about a billion years after the big bang, but then stalled in their growth about 10 billion years ago.

If this explanation is correct, then the dark matter in Mark 1216 and its galactic cousins should also be tightly packed. To test this idea for the first time, a pair of astronomers studied the X-ray brightness and temperature of hot gas at different distances from Mrk 1216’s center, so they could “weigh” how much dark matter exists in the middle of the galaxy.

“When we compared the Chandra data to our computer models, we found a much stronger concentration of dark matter was required than we find in other galaxies of similar total mass,” said David Buote of the University of California at Irvine. “This tells us the history of Mrk 1216 is very different from the typical galaxy. Essentially all of its stars and dark matter was assembled long ago with little added in the past 10 billion years.”

According to the new study, a halo, or fuzzy sphere, of dark matter formed around the center of Mrk 1216 about 3 or 4 billion years after the big bang. This halo is expected to have extended over a larger region than the stars in the galaxy. The formation of such a red nugget galaxy was typical for a wide range of elliptical galaxies seen today. However, unlike Mrk 1216, most giant elliptical galaxies continued to gradually grow in size when smaller galaxies merged with them over cosmic time.

"The old ages and dense concentration of the stars in compact elliptical galaxies like Mrk 1216 seen relatively nearby provided the first key evidence that they are the descendants of the red nuggets seen at great distances”, said co-author Aaron Barth, also of the University of California at Irvine. “We think the compact size of the dark matter halo seen here clinches the case."

Chandra X-ray Observatory

Previously, astronomers estimated that the supermassive black hole in Mrk 1216 is more massive than expected for a galaxy of its mass. This most recent study, however, concluded that the black hole is likely to weigh less than about 4 billion times the mass of the Sun. That sounds like a lot, but it may not be unusually massive for a galaxy as large as Mrk 1216.

The authors also searched for signs of outbursts from the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy. They saw hints of cavities in the hot gas similar to those observed in other massive galaxies and galaxy clusters like Perseus, but more data are needed to confirm their presence.

The Mrk 1216 data also provide useful information about dark matter. Because dark matter has never been directly observed, some scientists question whether it exists at all. In the study, Buote and Barth interpreted the Chandra data using both standard, "Newtonian" models of gravity and an alternative theory known as modified Newtonian dynamics, or “MOND” designed to remove the need for dark matter in typical galaxies. The results showed that both theories of gravity required about the same extraordinary amount of dark matter in the center of Mrk 1216, effectively removing the need for the MOND explanation.

“In the future we hope to go a step further and study the nature of dark matter,” said Buote. “The dense accumulation of dark matter in the middle of Mrk 1216 may provide an interesting test for non-standard theories that predict less centrally concentrated dark matter, such as for dark matter particles that interact with each other by an additional means other than gravity."

A paper describing these results appeared in the May 29th issue of The Astrophysical Journal and is available online. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

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

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

The Astrophysical Journal:

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA/Lee Mohon/CXC/Univ. of CA Irvine/D. Buote; Optical: NASA/STScI.


BEAM Opens for Tests; Crew Studies Biotech and Fluid Physics

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 6, 2019

The International Space Station’s BEAM opened up today for environmental sampling and cargo stowage activities as NASA continues to test the commercial module.  The Expedition 59 crew also explored biotechnology and fluid physics to improve Earth applications and space habitability.

Astronauts Anne McClain, Christina Koch and David Saint-Jacques checked out BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, today to sample the air for microbes and stow spare hardware inside. BEAM had its stay at the station’s Tranquility module extended in November 2017 after a successful installation and expansion in the spring of 2016. The soft material module is providing extra storage space at the orbiting lab and additional technology demonstrations that may inform future missions.

Image above: NASA astronaut Nick Hague assembles and installs the Water Storage System inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

After the BEAM work, McClain sampled algae grown inside the Photobioreactor to explore the viability of closed, hybrid life-support systems in space. Koch wrapped up a study observing how fluids slosh and wave in space to improve satellite fuel systems and increase knowledge of Earth’s oceans and climate.

Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). Image Credits: NASA/BEAM

Flight Engineer Nick Hague spent the majority of Thursday installing Water Storage System components in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. The space plumbing work consisted of installing a variety of hoses including power and data cables to the main Potable Tank Assembly.

Commander Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin started the morning taking breath and blood pressure measurements for a cardiopulmonary study. Next, they tested communication systems in the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship and spent the rest of the afternoon on a variety of Russian science and maintenance activities.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM):

Tranquility module:


Fluids slosh and wave in space:

U.S. Destiny laboratory module:

cardiopulmonary study:

Soyuz MS-11 crew ship:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Planck finds no new evidence for cosmic anomalies

ESA - Planck Mission patch.

6 June 2019

ESA’s Planck satellite has found no new evidence for the puzzling cosmic anomalies that appeared in its temperature map of the Universe. The latest study does not rule out the potential relevance of the anomalies but they do mean astronomers must work even harder to understand the origin of these puzzling features.

Planck’s latest results come from an analysis of the polarisation of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation – the most ancient light in cosmic history, released when the Universe was just 380 000 years old.

Temperature and polarisation maps

The satellite’s initial analysis, which was made public in 2013, concentrated on the temperature of this radiation across the sky. This allows astronomers to investigate the origin and evolution of the cosmos. While it mostly confirmed the standard picture of how our Universe evolves, Planck’s first map also revealed a number of anomalies that are difficult to explain within the standard model of cosmology.

The anomalies are faint features on the sky that appear at large angular scales. They are definitely not artefacts produced by the behaviour of the satellite or the data processing, but they are faint enough that they could be statistical flukes – fluctuations which are extremely rare but not entirely ruled out by the standard model.

Alternatively, the anomalies might be a sign of ‘new physics’, the term used for as-yet unrecognised natural processes that would extend the known laws of physics.

To further probe the nature of the anomalies, the Planck team looked at the polarisation of the CMB, which was revealed after a painstaking analysis of the multi-frequency data designed to eliminate foreground sources of microwave emission, including gas and dust in our own Milky Way galaxy.

The history of the Universe

This signal is the best measurement to date of the so-called CMB polarisation E-modes, and dates back to the time when the first atoms formed in the Universe and the CMB was released. It is produced by the way light scattered off electron particles just before the electrons were gathered into hydrogen atoms.

Polarisation provides an almost independent view of the CMB, so if the anomalies were also to show up there, this would increase astronomers’ confidence that they could be caused by new physics rather than being statistical flukes.

While Planck was not originally designed to focus on polarisation, its observations have been used to create the most accurate all-sky maps of the CMB polarisation to date. These were published in 2018, greatly improving the quality of Planck’s first polarisation maps, released in 2015.

When the Planck team looked at this data, they saw no obvious sign of the anomalies. At best, the analysis, published today in Astronomy and Astrophysics, revealed some weak hints that some of the anomalies may be present.

“Planck’s polarisation measurements are fantastic,” says Jan Tauber, ESA Planck project scientist.

“Yet in spite of the great data we have, we don’t see any significant traces of anomalies.”

On the face of it, this would seem to make the anomalies more likely to be statistical flukes, but actually it does not rule out new physics because nature might be trickier than we imagine.

The CMB polarisation on large angular scales

As yet, there is no convincing hypothesis for what kind of new physics could be causing the anomalies. So, it could be that the phenomenon responsible only affects the temperature of the CMB, but not the polarisation.

From this point of view, while the new analysis does not confirm that new physics is taking place, it does place important constraints on it.

The most serious anomaly that showed up in the CMB temperature map is a deficit in the signal observed at large angular scales on the sky, around five degrees – as a comparison, the full Moon spans about half a degree. At these large scales, Planck’s measurements are about ten per cent weaker than the standard model of cosmology would predict.


Planck also confirmed, with high statistical confidence, other anomalous traits that had been hinted at in previous observations of the CMB temperature, such as a significant discrepancy of the signal as observed in the two opposite hemispheres of the sky, and a so-called 'cold spot' – a large, low-temperature spot with an unusually steep temperature profile.

“We said at the time of the first release that Planck would be testing the anomalies using its polarisation data. The first set of polarisation maps which are clean enough for this purpose were released in 2018, now we have the results,” says Krzysztof M. Górski, one of the authors of the new paper, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Caltech, USA.

Unfortunately, the new data did not take the debate any further, as the latest results neither confirm nor deny the nature of the anomalies.

The CMB temperature on large angular scales

“We have some hints that, in the polarisation maps, there could be a power asymmetry similar to the one that is observed in the temperature maps, although it remains statistically unconvincing,” adds Enrique Martínez González, also a co-author of the paper, from Instituto de Física de Cantabria in Santander, Spain.

While there will be further analysis of the Planck results taking place, it is unlikely that they will yield significantly new results on this subject. The obvious route to make progress is for a dedicated mission specially designed and optimised to study the CMB polarisation, but this is at least 10 to 15 years into the future.

“Planck has given us the best data we will have for at least a decade,” says co-author Anthony Banday from Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie in Toulouse, France.

In the meantime, the mystery of the anomalies continues.

Notes for editors:

“Planck 2018 results. VII. Isotropy and Statistics of the CMB” by the Planck Collaboration is published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. The results are based on the Planck legacy data release, which was made public on 17 July 2018.

The Planck Legacy Archive:

More about Planck:

Images, Animation, Text, Credits: ESA/Markus Bauer/Jan Tauber/JPL/Calla Cofield/Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, Toulouse/Anthony Banday/Instituto de Física de Cantabria/Enrique Martínez González/Planck Collaboration.

Best regards,

mercredi 5 juin 2019

Eye and Artery Scans, Robotics and Fluid Studies for Earth and Space Benefits

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 5, 2019

The International Space Station residents continued exploring today what living off the Earth for long periods is doing to their body. The Expedition 59 crew also researched ways to improve life in space and even filmed a virtual experience aboard the orbiting lab.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch took turns serving as Crew Medical Officer during a round of ultrasound eye exams Wednesday morning. The duo scanned the eyes of Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques ahead of their homecoming June 24. Astronauts have reported vision issues during and after their missions. The eye imaging helps doctors understand how microgravity impacts the cornea, lens, optic nerve and the shape of the eyeball.

Image above: The six-member Expedition 59 crew gathers for a portrait inside of the vestibule between the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and the Harmony module the day before the commercial space freighter’s departure. Image Credit: NASA.

Saint-Jacques once again had his blood pressure checked and arteries scanned with an ultrasound device to investigate how weightlessness affects the cardiovascular system. Arterial stiffness has been observed in space and the study may help offset the negative effects improving life in space and on Earth. The astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency also recorded a virtual reality video of his biomedical activities for later viewing on Earth.

McClain monitored a small cube-shaped robot called the Astrobee and tested its ability to float around the Kibo laboratory module autonomously. Engineers are assessing the free-flying device’s potential to perform routine maintenance duties and provide additional lab monitoring capabilities.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Koch wrapped up the day in Europe’s Columbus laboratory module setting up a fluid physics study that has been observing sloshing and waves on the station since 2016. The Fluidics study uses a motorized instrument to slosh fluids in tanks with video and data downlinked to researchers on the ground. Results could optimize the design of satellite fuel systems and increase the understanding of Earth’s oceans and climate.

Related links:

Expedition 59:

Cardiovascular system:

Virtual reality video:


Kibo laboratory module:

Columbus laboratory module:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Chandra Detects a Coronal Mass Ejection From Another Star

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

June 5, 2019

This artist's illustration depicts a coronal mass ejection, or CME, which involves a large-scale expulsion of material, and have frequently been observed on our Sun. A new study using the Chandra X-ray Observatory detected a CME from a star other than our own for the first time, providing a novel insight into these powerful phenomena. As the name implies these events occur in the corona, which is the outer atmosphere of a star.

 Artist's illustration of Chandra X-ray Observatory. Image Credits: NASA/CXC

This "extrasolar" CME was seen emanating from a star called HR 9024, which is located about 450 light years from Earth. This represents the first time that researchers have thoroughly identified and characterized a CME from a star other than our Sun. This event was marked by an intense flash of X-rays followed by the emission of a giant bubble of plasma, i.e., hot gas containing charged particles.

Chandra X-Ray Observatory:

Image, Text, Credits: NNASA/Yvette Smith/CXC/INAF/Argiroffi, C. et al./S. Wiessinger.


China’s first sea launch: Long March-11 launches from a ship at sea

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

June 5, 2019

First sea launch for an Long March-11 rocket

For the first time in China, a Long March-11 launch vehicle was launched from a ship in the Yellow Sea, on 5 June 2019, at 04:06 UTC (12:06 local time). The rocket, also known as CZ-11 WEY, launched two technology experiment satellites, Bufeng-1A and Bufeng-1B (捕风一号A, 捕风一号B), and five commercial satellites: Tao Xingzhi Education No.1 (陶行知教育一号), Tianqi No.3 (天启三号), Xiaoxiang-1 04 (潇湘一号04), Jilin-1 Gaofen 03A (吉林一号高分03A).

China’s first sea launch: Long March-11 launches from a ship at sea

Long March-11 is a solid-fueled rocket (21m length, 2m diameter) capable of sending a 500 kilograms spacecraft into a 500 kilometers orbit.

Jilin-1 Optical-A Chang Guang Sat. Tech. Co.

According to Li Tongyu, Chief Commander of Long March-11, a bigger solid-fueled carrier rocket is under development, which has a carrying capacity of 1.5 to two tons and can cover the sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 kilometers.

Long March-11’s first launch from sea

The two Jilin 1 Earth-imaging satellites for Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd. The solid-fueled Long March 11 rocket will take off from an ocean platform in the Yellow Sea on China’s first sea-based orbital launch attempt.

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

Images, videos, Text, Credits: CASC/China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/China Daily/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


mardi 4 juin 2019

US, Russian Spaceships Depart Amid Physics and Biology on Station

ISS - Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 4, 2019

A pair of U.S. and Russian resupply ships have departed the International Space Station this week. Russia’s Progress 71 (71P) cargo craft undocked this morning and the SpaceX Dragon returned to Earth Monday.

The 71P, packed with trash and unused hardware, undocked from the aft end of the Zvezda service module today at 3:40 a.m. EDT. It reentered Earth’s atmosphere and safely burned up over a remote portion of the Pacific Ocean. This completes a mission that began when the 71P launched Nov. 16 and delivered almost three tons of cargo two days later to the Expedition 57 crew.

Image above: Four spaceships are docked at the space station including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter and Russia’s Progress 72 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-11 and MS-12 crew ships. Image Credit: NASA.

Amidst all the cargo transfers and spaceship departures, the Expedition 59 crew found time for continuing space research. Monday saw astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Christina Koch explore the possibility of fueling satellites in space and separating gases and fluids in advanced life support systems. Flight Engineer Anne McClain cleaned an incubator after the completion of an experiment that observed altered gene expressions occurring in space.

Today, the crew is conducting a variety of biomedical research and space botany.

NASA astronaut Nick Hague examined the eyes of cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Alexey Ovchinin today using optical coherence tomography hardware. Saint-Jacques had his leg artery remotely scanned by a doctor on the ground studying cardiovascular health in space.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credits: NASA/STS-119

Koch set up botany hardware today in Europe’s Columbus laboratory module for ongoing research into growing a continuous supply of fresh food in space. McClain continued incubator closeout activities in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module.

Related article:

Dragon Resupply Ship Leaves Station, Heads for Pacific Splashdown

Related links:

Expedition 57:

Expedition 59:

Zvezda service module:

Fueling satellites in space:

Separating gases and fluids:


Cardiovascular health in space:

Columbus laboratory module:

Fresh food in space:

Kibo laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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SpaceX Cargo Spacecraft Splashes Down in Pacific Ocean with Scientific Research

SpaceX - Dragon CRS-17 Mission patch.

June 4, 2019

SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft carrying 4,200 pounds of scientific experiments and other cargo back to Earth departed the International Space Station at 12:01 p.m. EDT Monday, and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 5:48 p.m. (2:48 p.m. PDT).

Flight controllers at mission control in Houston used the space station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach Dragon from the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony module and maneuver the vehicle into its release position. Expedition 59 Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency monitored its departure as the spacecraft was released through ground-controlled commands.

Dragon’s thrusters fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, commanded its deorbit burn. The SpaceX recovery team retrieved Dragon packed with science samples from human and animal research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities.

SpaceX Dragon following splashdown. Image Credits: SpaceX/NASA

NASA’s Biophysics-6 experiment looks at the growth of two proteins of interest in cancer treatment and radiation protection. Scientists are using ground-based predictions and in-space X-ray crystallography to determine which proteins benefit from crystallization in microgravity, where some proteins can grow larger and with fewer imperfections.

Microalgae Biosynthesis in Microgravity (MicroAlgae) studies the effects of microgravity on Haematococcus pluvialis, an algae capable of producing a powerful antioxidant, astaxanthin. It could provide a readily available dietary supplement to promote astronaut health on long-duration space exploration missions. A community college student and alumnae of the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program proposed the research, and NCAS is engaging community colleges across the US to conduct ground studies for comparison to the on-orbit investigation.

On Thursday, May 23, 2019, astronauts successfully edited DNA using CRISPR/Cas9 technology for the first time in space, working on the Genes in Space 6 investigation. This milestone advances understanding of how DNA repair mechanisms function in space and supports better safeguards to protect space explorers from DNA damage. Genetic damage caused by cosmic radiation poses a serious risk to space travelers, especially those on long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars. CRISPR/Cas9 now joins a growing portfolio of molecular biology techniques available on the ISS National Lab.

Scientists are using a new technology called tissue chips, which could help predict the effectiveness of potential medicines in humans. Fluid that mimics blood can be passed through the chip to simulate blood flow, and can include drugs or toxins. In microgravity, changes occur in human health and human cells that resemble accelerated aging and disease processes. This investigation allows scientists to make observations over the course of a few weeks in microgravity rather than the months it would take in a laboratory on Earth.

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. national laboratory portion of the space station, received time-sensitive samples and worked with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.

Dragon, the only space station resupply spacecraft currently able to return to Earth, launched May 4 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrived at the station two days later for the company’s 17th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station.

Related article:

Dragon Resupply Ship Leaves Station, Heads for Pacific Splashdown

Related links:

Expedition 59:


Microalgae Biosynthesis in Microgravity (MicroAlgae):

NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS):

Genes in Space 6:

ISS National Lab:

Tissue chips:

Commercial Resupply:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


lundi 3 juin 2019

HERA Mission XIX Departs for Mars Moon Phobos

NASA - HERA Mission XIX (C5M2) patch.

June 3, 2019

While NASA is planning a human mission to the Moon in 2024, researchers on the ground are preparing the most precious cargo that will be aboard: the human body and mind. By studying the effects of isolation and confinement in ground-based analogs, scientists are learning how to counter the hazards of human spaceflight without leaving Earth.

The 19th Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) analog mission “departed” on May 24 for a trip to Phobos, the larger of the two moons of Mars. HERA XIX, also known as C5M2 (Campaign 5, Mission 2), is the second of four planned missions in the mock spacecraft located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston.

Image above: The HERA XIX crew completed training and is ready for a 45-day mock mission to Phobos. Crewmembers are Barret Schlegelmilch, Christian Clark, Ana Mosquera and Julie Mason. Image Credit: NASA.

“Some of this research is conducted to look at their levels of autonomy,” Human Research Program’s Flight Analogs Project Manager, Lisa Spence said. In a real mission, the crew will be very far from Earth which will cause communications delays. The crew must work together with only sporadic input from Mission Control. These HERA simulations help provide research data for autonomous conditions.

NASA's Human Research Program requires the crews of all four C5 missions to conduct the same experiments, which enables researchers to identify patterns and variances in the research data. The C5 crewmembers will have less privacy in their crew quarters and in the hygiene module, and less “free volume” in which to work.

Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) module. Image Credit: NASA

The HERA Mission Control Center is just outside of the mock spacecraft in Building 220 of JSC. The crew will be monitored while in mission for physiological and psychological effects of extended isolation and confinement, team dynamics, and conflict resolution.

Crewmembers for C5M2 are Barret Schlegelmilch of Kent, Washington; Christian Clark of Honoloula, Hawaii; Ana Mosquera of Washington, D.C.; and Julie Mason of Huntsville, Alabama. Banumathi Cole of Charlottesville, Virginia trained with the crew as a backup member. The crewmembers will live in the HERA spacecraft for 45 days without actually leaving JSC.

“It's critically important we're able to find suitable volunteers, people who mimic or emulate the type of people that we select for astronauts. That's very important to us,” Spence said.

Image above: Ana Mosquera enters the HERA habitat ready for a 45-day mission followed by one of her four crewmates, Christian Clark. Image Credit: NASA.

Campaign 5 is the second campaign to utilize 45-day missions. Longer mission length allows for more mission-like crew effects and more data points relevant to longer duration spaceflight missions. The next two Campaign 5 missions are scheduled as follows: Mission 3 will begin in August 2019 and Mission 4 will begin in January 2020.

Analog missions like HERA allow researchers to gather more data on more test subjects, within the confines of Earth. One goal of these missions is to look for possible safeguards from the hazards of life in space, and contribute to sustained human presence on the Moon.

The NASA HRP Test Subject Screening group is accepting resumes for healthy, non-smoking volunteers, ages 30 to 55 for future missions. Volunteers will be compensated and must pass a physical and psychological assessment to qualify. Volunteers wishing to become test subjects should go to this website to fill out a quick survey and find further instructions:

For more information on NASA’s Human Research Program, visit:

NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) is dedicated to discovering the best methods and technologies to support safe, productive human space travel. HRP enables space exploration by reducing the risks to astronaut health and performance using ground research facilities, the International Space Station, and analog environments. This leads to the development and delivery of an exploration biomedical program focused on: informing human health, performance, and habitability standards; developing countermeasures and risk mitigation solutions; and advancing habitability and medical support technologies. HRP supports innovative, scientific human research by funding more than 300 research grants to respected universities, hospitals, and NASA centers to over 200 researchers in more than 30 states.

Related links:

Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA):

Moon to Mars:

Humans in Space:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kelli Mars/Human Research Program Strategic Communications/Monica Edwards/Laurie Abadie.