samedi 24 août 2019

Uptick in Amazon Fire Activity in 2019

NASA - EOS Terra Mission patch / NASA - EOS Aqua Mission logo.

Aug. 24, 2019

Amazon Fire August 19, 2019

With the fire season in the Amazon approaching its midpoint, scientists using NASA satellites to track fire activity have confirmed an increase in the number and intensity of fires in the Brazilian Amazon in 2019, making it the most active fire year in that region since 2010.

Fire activity in the Amazon varies considerably from year-to-year and month-to-month, driven by changes in economic conditions and climate. August 2019 stands out because it has brought a noticeable increase in large, intense, and persistent fires burning along major roads in the central Brazilian Amazon, explained Douglas Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. While drought has played a large role in exacerbating fires in the past, the timing and location of fire detections early in the 2019 dry season are more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought.

EOS Aqua satellite. Image Credit: NASA

“Satellites are often the first to detect fires burning in remote regions of the Amazon,” Morton said. NASA’s primary tool for fire detections since 2002 has been the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites.

At this point in the fire season, MODIS active fire detections in 2019 are higher across the Brazilian Amazon than in any year since 2010. The state of Amazonas is on track for record fire activity in 2019.

Morton noted that 2019 fire activity statistics distributed by NASA and Brazil’s Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE) are in agreement. “INPE also uses active fire data from NASA’s MODIS sensors to monitor fire activity in the Brazilian Amazon,” Morton said. “As a result, NASA and INPE have the same estimates of changes in recent fire activity. MODIS detections are higher in 2019 than at this time last year in all seven states that comprise the Brazilian Amazon.”

EOS Terra Satellite. Image Credit: NASA

MODIS fire detections are analyzed by the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) project, which includes Morton and colleagues from NASA Goddard, the University of California, Irvine, and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Over the years, the GFED team has processed 17 years of NASA satellite data to better understand the role of fire for changes in the Earth system. Their analysis of the southern Amazon includes parts of Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia that typically see fires between July and October. Their data plots are available online here:

January 1, 2012 - August 21, 2019
January 1, 2012 - August 21, 2019

These plots show cumulative active fire detections from MODIS and the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP through August 22, 2019. The data confirm that 2019 is the highest fire year since 2012 (the start of the VIIRS record) across the seven states that comprise the Brazilian Amazon. In addition, fires in 2019 are more intense than previous years, as measured in terms of cumulative fire radiative power.

January 1, 2012 - August 21, 2019

January 1, 2012 - August 21, 2019

On August 19, 2019, the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite captured a natural-color image (top of the page) that shows fires burning in the vicinity of Novo Progresso in the Brazilian state of Pará. The town is located along BR-163, a straight north-south highway that connects farmers in the southern Amazon with an ocean-going port on the Amazon river in Santarém. Pasture and croplands are clustered around the highway in ordered, rectangular plots. To the west of the highway, winding roads connect a series of small-scale mines that extend deep into the rainforest.

August 15 - 22, 2019

The map above shows active fire detections in Brazil as observed by Terra and Aqua MODIS between August 15-22, 2019. The locations of the fires, shown in orange, have been overlain on nighttime imagery acquired by VIIRS. In these data, cities and towns appear white; forested areas appear black; and tropical savannas and woodland (known in Brazil as Cerrado) appear gray. Note that fire detections in the Brazilian states of Pará and Amazonas are concentrated in bands along the highways BR-163 and BR-230.

Since 2003, MODIS sensors on NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites have made daily observations of thermal anomalies (usually fires) around the world. The fire detection map on this page is based on data from the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS), a product developed by the University of Maryland and NASA’s Applied Sciences Program. FIRMS provides near-real-time fire information to natural resource managers and researchers. Note that each point on the map does not necessarily correspond to one fire on the ground. Active fire detections represent the center of a 1 square kilometer area with one or more thermal anomalies. Sometimes one continuous fire can be recorded as multiple anomalies arranged in a line, representing a fire front.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview, Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) data from NASA EOSDIS, and data from the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED). Story by Adam Voiland, with information from Douglas Morton (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center).

References & Resources:

- Arima, E. et al. (2016) Explaining the fragmentation in the Brazilian Amazonian forest. Journal of Land Use Science, 11 (3), 257-277.

- Global Fire Emissions Database (2019, August 23) Amazon Forecast: Totals. Accessed August 23, 2019.

- Global Forest Watch (2019) Fires. Accessed August 23, 2019.

- Institute of Environmental Research in Amazonia (2019, August 22) Technical note — Amazon on fire. Accessed August 23, 2019.

- Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (2019) Situacao Atual. Accessed August 23, 2019.

- NASA Earth Observatory (2013) World of Change: Amazon Deforestation.

- The Globe and Mail (2018, January 26) The Road. Accessed August 23, 2019.

- NASA (2019) Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) Accessed August 23, 2019.

- University of Maryland (2019) MODIS Active Fire Products and Burned Area Products. Accessed August 23, 2019.

- Van Marle, M.J.E. et al. (2017) Fire and deforestation dynamics in Amazonia (1973-2014). Global Biochemical Cycles, 31 (1), 24-38.

Related article:

NASA's AIRS Maps Carbon Monoxide from Brazil Fires & Cross Country Smoke

Related links:

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS):

Terra satellite:

Aqua satellite:

Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE):

Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED):

Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS):


Images, Text, Credits: NASA/GSFC/JPL.


What's Mars Solar Conjunction, and Why Does It Matter?

Deep Space Network (DSN) logo.

August 24, 2019

Animation above: This animation illustrates Mars solar conjunction, a period when Mars is on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth. During this time, the Sun can interrupt radio transmissions to spacecraft on and around the Red Planet. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The daily chatter between antennas here on Earth and those on NASA spacecraft at Mars is about to get much quieter for a few weeks.

That's because Mars and Earth will be on opposite sides of the Sun, a period known as Mars solar conjunction. The Sun expels hot, ionized gas from its corona, which extends far into space. During solar conjunction, this gas can interfere with radio signals when engineers try to communicate with spacecraft at Mars, corrupting commands and resulting in unexpected behavior from our deep space explorers.

Mars in a Minute: What Happens When the Sun Blocks our Signal?

To be safe, engineers hold off on sending commands when Mars disappears far enough behind the Sun's corona that there's increased risk of radio interference.

"It's that time again," said Roy Gladden, manager of the Mars Relay Network at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Our engineers have been preparing our spacecraft for conjunction for months. They'll still be collecting science data at Mars, and some will attempt to send that data home. But we won't be commanding the spacecraft out of concern that they could act on a corrupted command."

When is this taking place?

Solar conjunction occurs every two years. This time, the hold on issuing commands - called a "command moratorium" - will run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7, 2019. Some missions will have stopped commanding their spacecraft earlier in preparation for the moratorium.

What happens to the spacecraft?

Although some instruments aboard spacecraft - especially cameras that generate large amounts of data - will be inactive, all of NASA's Mars spacecraft will continue their science; they'll just have much simpler "to-do" lists than they normally would carry out.

Image above: Curiosity's Selfie at 'Aberlady' and 'Kilmarie': NASA's Curiosity Mars rover took this selfie on May 12, 2019 (the 2,405th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). To the lower-left of the rover are its two recent drill holes, at targets called "Aberlady" and "Kilmarie." Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

On the surface of Mars, the Curiosity rover will stop driving, while the InSight lander won't move its robotic arm. Above Mars, both the Odyssey orbiter and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will continue collecting data from Curiosity and InSight for return to Earth. However, only Odyssey will attempt to relay that data to Earth before conjunction ends. Meantime, another orbiter, MAVEN, will continue to collect its own science data but won't support any relay operations during this time.

Image above: InSight Deploys its Instruments: This artist's concept depicts NASA's InSight lander after it has deployed its instruments on the Martian surface. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

All of this means that there will be a temporary pause in the stream of raw images available from Curiosity, InSight and the other Mars missions. Mars solar conjunction impacts operations of all spacecraft currently at Mars, not just NASA's.

What happens when solar conjunction ends?

Once conjunction is over, the spacecraft will beam the data they've collected to NASA's Deep Space Network, a system of massive Earth-based radio antennas managed by JPL. Engineers will spend about a week downloading the information before normal spacecraft operations resume.

Image above: Deep Space Network antennas at Goldstone's "Apollo Valley". Image Credit: NASA.

If the teams monitoring these missions determine any of the collected science data are corrupted, they can usually have that data retransmitted after the moratorium ends on Sept. 7.

Related links:

Mars solar conjunction:

Curiosity (MSL):


Deep Space Network (DSN):

For more about NASA's Mars Exploration Program, visit:

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


Uncrewed Russian Spacecraft Aborts Station Approach & Docking Attempt No Earlier Than Monday

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-14 / Skybot F-850 patch.

August 24, 2019

At 1:36 a.m. EDT, Russian cosmonauts issued a command to abort the automated approach of an uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station after the craft was unable to lock onto its target at the station’s space-facing Poisk module.

Image above: The unpiloted Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is pictured near the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 11:38 p.m. EDT (8:38 a.m. Aug. 22 Baikonur time) on a test flight. It made 34 orbits of Earth en route to its anticipated docking to the station.

Soyuz MS-14 aborted docking

Following the abort, the spacecraft backed a safe distance away from the orbital complex while the Russian flight controllers assess the next steps.

Russian Spacecraft Docking Attempt No Earlier Than Monday

An uncrewed Russian Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is now a safe distance away from the International Space Station following an abort during its final approach for a docking to the Poisk module.

After the cosmonauts on the station aborted an automated docking attempt early Saturday, Russian flight controllers told the crew on the station that early data indicates the issue that prevented its automated docking resides on the station’s side of the so-called KURS automated rendezvous system, not on the Soyuz itself.

Image above: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-12 and MS-13 crew ships. Image Credit: NASA.

The Soyuz is on a safe trajectory above and behind the space station that will bring it in the vicinity of the orbital complex again in 24 hours and 48 hours. Russian flight controllers have indicated the next earliest docking attempt could be Monday morning.

Possible cause of Soyuz MS-14 aborted docking

In the meantime, Russian controllers informed Expedition 60 commander Alexey Ovchinin and flight engineer Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos they will send instructions to swap the signal amplifier of the station’s KURS docking system and test it before proceeding with another docking attempt.

The Soyuz launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 11:38 p.m. EDT (8:38 a.m. Aug. 22 Baikonur time) on a test flight to validate the spacecraft’s compatibility with a revamped Soyuz booster rocket.

Related article:

Uncrewed Soyuz Rocket Launches on Two-Day Trip to Station:

Related links:

Expedition 60:

NASA TV: and

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/NASA TV/Roscosmos/SciNews.

Best regards,

vendredi 23 août 2019

NASA's AIRS Maps Carbon Monoxide from Brazil Fires & Cross Country Smoke

NASA - EOS Aqua Mission logo / NOAA & NASA - Suomi NPP Mission patch.

Aug. 23, 2019

Animation above: This time series shows carbon monoxide associated with fires from the Amazon region in Brazil from Aug. 8-22, 2019. Made with data collected from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA's Aqua satellite, the images map carbon monoxide at approximately 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) altitude. Each "day" in the series is made by averaging three day's-worth of measurements. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

New data from NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument, aboard the Aqua satellite, shows the movement high in the atmosphere of carbon monoxide associated with fires in the Amazon region of Brazil.

This time series maps carbon monoxide at an altitude of 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) from Aug. 8-22, 2019. As the series progresses, the carbon monoxide plume grows in the northwest Amazon region then drifts in a more concentrated plume toward the southeastern part of the country.

Each "day" in the series is made by averaging three days' worth of measurements, a technique used to eliminate data gaps. Green indicates concentrations of carbon monoxide at approximately 100 parts per billion by volume (ppbv); yellow, at about 120 ppbv; and dark red, at about 160 ppbv. Local values can be significantly higher.

EOS Aqua satellite. Image Credit: NASA

A pollutant that can travel large distances, carbon monoxide can persist in the atmosphere for about a month. At the high altitude mapped in these images, the gas has little effect on the air we breathe; however, strong winds can carry it downward to where it can significantly impact air quality. Carbon monoxide plays a role in both air pollution and climate change.

AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU), senses emitted infrared and microwave radiation from Earth to provide a three-dimensional look at Earth's weather and climate. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the instruments create a global, three-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations and many other atmospheric phenomena.

The AIRS and AMSU instruments are managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, under contract to NASA. JPL is a division of Caltech.

Wildfires in the Brazilian Rainforest Creating Cross Country Smoke

This natural-color image of smoke and fires in several states within Brazil including Amazonas, Mato Grosso, and Rondônia was collected by NOAA/NASA's Suomi NPP using the VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) instrument on August 20, 2019.  It is not unusual to see fires in Brazil at this time of year due to high temperatures and low humidity. Time will tell if this year is a record breaking or just within normal limits.

NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) Worldview application provides the capability to interactively browse over 700 global, full-resolution satellite imagery layers and then download the underlying data. Many of the available imagery layers are updated within three hours of observation, essentially showing the entire Earth as it looks "right now.” Suomi NPP is managed by NASA and NOAA. Image Courtesy: NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS).  Caption: Lynn Jenner.

Suomi NPP satellite. Image Credit: NASA

More information about AIRS can be found at:

Related links:

Aqua Satellite:

Fire and Smoke:

Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership):

Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS):


Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Esprit Smith.


Life Science Today as Crew Readies for Spacecraft Arrivals and Departures

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

August 23, 2019

The Expedition 60 crew is continuing ongoing space science today and packing a U.S. resupply ship for departure next week. Russia’s first unpiloted Soyuz spacecraft is also on its way to the International Space Station where it will dock early Saturday morning.

Four astronauts, Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) with Christina Koch, Andrew Morgan and Nick Hague, all from NASA, are readying the SpaceX Dragon for its return to Earth. They will be packing Dragon with cargo and completed space experiments all weekend and into Monday.

Image above: Expedition 60 crewmembers (from left) Alexey Ovchinin, Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan pose for a portrait inside the vestibule between the Columbus laboratory module and the Harmony module. Image Credit: NASA.

Ground controllers will remotely command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach Dragon from the Harmony module before releasing it into orbit on Tuesday at 10:42 a.m. EDT. SpaceX personnel will retrieve Dragon from the Pacific Ocean after its splashdown off the coast of southern California a few hours later. NASA TV begins its live broadcast of Dragon’s departure on Tuesday at 10:15 a.m.

A multitude of space experiments is continuing aboard the orbiting lab today. Hague explored how moss grows in microgravity to inform self-sustaining human missions to the Moon and Mars. Koch serviced 3D printed tissue samples for a study investigating printing human organs in space. Parmitano researched cell differentiation to help doctors design medical therapies for humans on Earth and in space. Finally, Morgan collected and spun his blood samples in a centrifuge before stowing them in a science freezer for analysis.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The two cosmonauts, Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov, will be up early Saturday several hours before the rest of their crewmates. They will be monitoring the automated arrival of the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft set to dock to the Poisk module at 1:31 a.m. EDT Saturday. It will stay there for two weeks before undocking and parachuting to a landing in Kazakhstan with no crew onboard Sept. 6.

Related links:

Expedition 60:

SpaceX Dragon:

NASA TV: and


Harmony module:

Moss grows in microgravity:

Printing human organs in space:

Cell differentiation:

Poisk module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Captures Dynamic Dying Star

NASA . Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Aug. 23, 2019

This atmospheric image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a dark, gloomy scene in the constellation of Gemini (the Twins). The subject of this image confused astronomers when it was first studied — rather than being classified as a single object, it was instead recorded as two objects, owing to its symmetrical lobed structure (known as NGC 2371 and NGC 2372, though sometimes referred to together as NGC 2371/2).

These two lobes are visible to the lower left and upper right of the frame, and together form something known as a planetary nebula. Despite the name, such nebulas have nothing to do with planets; NGC 2371/2 formed when a Sun-like star reached the end of its life and blasted off its outer layers, shedding the constituent material and pushing it out into space to leave just a superheated stellar remnant behind. This remnant is visible as the bright star at the center of the frame, sitting neatly between the two lobes.

The structure of this region is complex. It is filled with dense knots of gas, fast-moving jets that appear to be changing direction over time, and expanding clouds of material streaming outwards on diametrically opposite sides of the remnant star. Patches of this scene glow brightly as the remnant star emits energetic radiation that excites the gas within these regions, causing it to light up. This scene will continue to change over the next few thousand years. Eventually the knotty lobes will dissipate completely, and the remnant star will cool and dim to form a white dwarf.

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, R. Wade et al.


NASA-JPL Names 'Rolling Stones Rock' on Mars

NASA - InSight Mission patch.

August 23, 2019

Animation above: This animation illustrates NASA's InSight lander touching down on Mars, its thrusters setting a rock in motion. A little bigger than a golf ball, the rock was later nicknamed "Rolling Stones Rock" by the InSight team in honor of The Rolling Stones. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

For decades, the music of The Rolling Stones has had a global reach here on Earth. Now, the band's influence extends all the way to Mars. The team behind NASA's InSight lander has named a Martian rock after the band: 'Rolling Stones Rock.'

Image above: The rock in the center of this image was tossed about 3 feet (1 meter) by NASA's InSight spacecraft as it touched down on Mars on November 26, 2018. The rock, which is a little bigger than a golf ball, was later nicknamed "Rolling Stones Rock" in honor of The Rolling Stones. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The Rolling Stones - Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood - were delighted with the news and commented, "What a wonderful way to celebrate the 'Stones No Filter' tour arriving in Pasadena. This is definitely a milestone in our long and eventful history. A huge thank you to everyone at NASA for making it happen."

Image above: Actor Robert Downey Jr. posed with members of NASA's Mars InSight lander team before the Rolling Stones took the stage at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 22, 2019. Image Credit: Rolling Stones.

A little larger than a golf ball, the rock appeared to have rolled about 3 feet (1 meter) on Nov. 26, 2018, propelled by InSight's thrusters as the spacecraft touched down on Mars to study the Red Planet's deep interior. In images taken by InSight the next day, several divots in the orange-red soil can be seen trailing Rolling Stones Rock. It's the farthest NASA has seen a rock roll while landing a spacecraft on another planet.

Image above: The Rolling Stones took the stage at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 22, 2019. NASA's Mars InSight lander team named a Martian rock "Rolling Stones Rock." Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

More photos and videos as they become available:

NASA Names 'Rolling Stones Rock' on Mars

Video above: The team behind NASA's InSight lander has informally named a rock on Mars "Rolling Stones Rock" after the band.

"The name Rolling Stones Rock is a perfect fit," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division in Washington. "Part of NASA's charter is to share our work with different audiences. When we found out the Stones would be in Pasadena, honoring them seemed like a fun way to reach fans all over the world."

Actor Robert Downey Jr. made the announcement Thursday, Aug. 22 at Pasadena's Rose Bowl Stadium before the iconic band took the stage. Backstage before making the announcement, Downey said, "Cross-pollinating science and a legendary rock band is always a good thing..."

Robert Downey Jr. Announces NASA's 'Rolling Stones Rock'

Video above: Before The Rolling Stones took the stage at the Rose Bowl Stadium for a concert on Aug. 22, 2019, actor Robert Downey Jr. announced to the crowd that a rock on Mars had been named for the band by NASA's Mars InSight lander team. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of Caltech, manages InSight for NASA. JPL is located about three miles away from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Image Credit: Rolling Stones.

The InSight mission is led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, just up the road from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Having helped NASA land all of its Mars missions since 1997, JPL geologist Matt Golombek is a rock star in his own right. He and fellow scientists count rocks and assess the safety of potential landing sites.

"I've seen a lot of Mars rocks over my career," Golombek said. "This one probably won't be in a lot of scientific papers, but it's definitely one of the coolest."

Official scientific names for places and objects throughout the solar system - including asteroids, comets and locations on planets - can be designated only by the International Astronomical Union. But scientists working with NASA's Mars rovers have given lots of unofficial nicknames to rocks and other geological features. Doing so makes it easier for them to discuss different objects and refer to them in science papers. So while the name Rolling Stones Rock is informal, it will appear on working maps of the Red Planet.

NASA will use its robotic missions to Mars to help prepare for eventual human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon, NASA's Artemis program is the next step in human exploration. It is a part of NASA's broader Moon to Mars exploration approach, which will quickly and sustainably explore the Moon and enable humanity's next giant leap to Mars.

About InSight

JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission. A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain's Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

For more about InSight, visit:

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


jeudi 22 août 2019

ULA Successfully Launches GPS III Satellite for U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center

ULA - Delta IV /GPS III Magellan Mission poster.

Aug. 22, 2019

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket carrying the second Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite, designated Magellan, for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37 on August 22 at 9:06 EDT. This mission marked the 29th and final flight of the Delta IV Medium rocket and the 73rd GPS launch by a ULA or heritage vehicle.

“Thank you to the team and our mission partners for the tremendous teamwork as we processed and launched this critical asset, providing advanced capabilities for warfighters, civil users, and humankind across the globe,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We are proud of the strong legacy of the Delta IV Medium program, and look forward to the future with our purpose-built Vulcan Centaur.”

Delta IV Medium launches GPS III SV02 Magellan

The GPS III system, built by Lockheed Martin, represents the next step in modernization of the worldwide navigation network with a new generation of advanced satellites offering improved accuracy, better anti-jam resiliency and a new signal for civil users.

This mission launched aboard a Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) configuration vehicle, which included a 4-meter Payload Fairing and two Northrop Grumman solid rocket motors. The common booster core for Delta IV was powered by the RS-68A engine, and the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage was powered by the RL10B-2 engine, both supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

ULA’s next launch is Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, Orbital Flight Test, aboard an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Global Positioning System III SV02 Magellan satellite

ULA maintains a track record of 100% mission success with 135 successful launches.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 130 satellites to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

ULA website:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: United Launch Alliance (ULA)/SciNews.


Full Science Schedule Today After Spacewalk and Rocket Launch

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

August 22, 2019

Russia’s uncrewed Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station following its launch just a few hours after Wednesday’s spacewalk. The Expedition 60 crew is back on a full science schedule today and preparing to send a U.S. cargo craft back to Earth.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan called down to Mission Control today to discuss yesterday’s spacewalk when they installed the station’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3. The duo, including NASA Flight Engineer Christina Koch, talked about normal technical issues and task challenges they faced before, during and after the spacewalking job.

Image above: NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is pictured working outside the International Space Station during a six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk to install the orbiting lab’s second commercial crew vehicle docking port, the International Docking Adapter-3. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Koch spent most of Thursday tending to lab mice living aboard the station. Scientists seek therapeutic insights not possible on Earth by observing the rodents due to their genetic similarity to humans.

Hague spent a portion of his day contributing to experiments designed by middle and high school students researching a variety of space phenomena. Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) continued exploring ways to manufacture safer, more fuel-efficient tires before moving on to more cell differentiation research.

Image above: A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station July 27, 2019, on the company's 18th cargo delivery to the space station as it orbits 265 miles above the Atlantic Ocean, off the west coast of Namibia. Image Credit: NASA.

Morgan is preparing the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for its return to Earth next week. The crew will be packing Dragon over the weekend and into Monday with the results of numerous space experiments for analysis. Robotics controllers will command the Canadarm2 to release Dragon from its grips on Tuesday at 10:42 a.m. EDT. It will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California a few hours later for retrieval by SpaceX personnel.

The first unpiloted Soyuz spacecraft launched yesterday from Kazakhstan about nine hours after Hague and Morgan completed their spacewalk. The Soyuz MS-14 is orbiting Earth today headed toward the station following a successful 2.1a booster test during its ascent. Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov will monitor its automated approach and rendezvous when it docks Saturday to the Poisk module at 1:31 a.m. EDT.

Artemis Program Identity Makes Its Debut in Space

During a spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Aug. 22, astronaut Nick Hague debuted the Artemis program identity in space. Hague and fellow crewmember Andrew Morgan installed the second International Docking Adapter on the complex to enable commercial spacecraft from Boeing and SpaceX to carry astronauts to the station.

The work happening now is paving the way for the future. We are going to the Moon to stay, by 2024. NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program will send the first woman and the next man to surface of the Moon within five years, and prepare for human exploration of Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit:

Related articles:

NASA TV to Air US Cargo Ship Departure from Space Station

Uncrewed Soyuz Rocket Launches on Two-Day Trip to Station

Related links:

Expedition 60:


NASA TV: and


International Docking Adapter-3:

Lab mice:

Variety of space phenomena:

Manufacture safer, more fuel-efficient tires:

Cell differentiation:

SpaceX Dragon:


Poisk module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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30 Years Ago: Voyager 2's Historic Neptune Flyby

NASA - Voyager 1 & 2 Mission patch.

Aug. 22, 2019

Image above: This picture of Neptune was taken by Voyager 2 less than five days before the probe's closest approach of the planet on Aug. 25, 1989. The picture shows the "Great Dark Spot" — a storm in Neptune's atmosphere — and the bright, light-blue smudge of clouds that accompanies the storm. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Thirty years ago, on Aug. 25, 1989, NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft made a close flyby of Neptune, giving humanity its first close-up of our solar system's eighth planet. Marking the end of the Voyager mission's Grand Tour of the solar system's four giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — that first was also a last: No other spacecraft has visited Neptune since.

"The Voyager planetary program really was an opportunity to show the public what science is all about," said Ed Stone, a professor of physics at Caltech and Voyager's project scientist since 1975. "Every day we learned something new."

Wrapped in teal- and cobalt-colored bands of clouds, the planet that Voyager 2 revealed looked like a blue-hued sibling to Jupiter and Saturn, the blue indicating the presence of methane. A massive, slate-colored storm was dubbed the "Great Dark Spot," similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot. Six new moons and four rings were discovered.

During the encounter, the engineering team carefully changed the probe's direction and speed so that it could do a close flyby of the planet's largest moon, Triton. The flyby showed evidence of geologically young surfaces and active geysers spewing material skyward. This indicated that Triton was not simply a solid ball of ice, even though it had the lowest surface temperature of any natural body observed by Voyager: minus 391 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 235 degrees Celsius).

Image above: This global color mosaic shows Neptune's largest moon, Triton. Pink-hued methane ice may compose a massive polar cap on the moon's surface, while dark streaks overlaying this ice is thought to be dust deposited from huge geyser-like plumes that erupt from Triton's surface. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The conclusion of the Neptune flyby marked the beginning of the Voyager Interstellar Mission, which continues today, 42 years after launch. Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1 (which had also flown by Jupiter and Saturn), continue to send back dispatches from the outer reaches of our solar system. At the time of the Neptune encounter, Voyager 2 was about 2.9 billion miles (4.7 billion kilometers) from Earth; today it is 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from us. The faster-moving Voyager 1 is 13 billion miles (21 billion kilometers) from Earth.  

Getting There

By the time Voyager 2 reached Neptune, the Voyager mission team had completed five planetary encounters. But the big blue planet still posed unique challenges.

Voyager 2 into deep space. Animation Credit: NASA

About 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth is, the icy giant receives only about 0.001 times the amount of sunlight that Earth does. In such low light, Voyager 2's camera required longer exposures to get quality images. But because the spacecraft would reach a maximum speed of about 60,000 mph (90,000 kph) relative to Earth, a long exposure time would make the image blurry. (Imagine trying to take a picture of a roadside sign from the window of a speeding car.)

So the team programmed Voyager 2's thrusters to fire gently during the close approach, rotating the spacecraft to keep the camera focused on its target without interrupting the spacecraft's overall speed and direction.

The probe's great distance also meant that by the time radio signals from Voyager 2 reached Earth, they were weaker than those of other flybys. But the spacecraft had the advantage of time: The Voyagers communicate with Earth via the Deep Space Network, or DSN, which utilizes radio antennas at sites in Madrid, Spain; Canberra, Australia; and Goldstone, California. During Voyager 2's Uranus encounter in 1986, the three largest DSN antennas were 64-meters (210 feet) wide. To assist with the Neptune encounter, the DSN expanded the dishes to 70 meters (230 feet). They also included nearby non-DSN antennas to collect data, including another 64-meter (210 feet) dish in Parkes, Australia, and multiple 25-meter (82 feet) antennas at the Very Large Array in New Mexico.

Image above: Voyager 2 took these two images of the rings of Neptune on Aug. 26, 1989, just after the probe's closest approach to the planet. Neptune's two main rings are clearly visible; two fainter rings are visible with the help of long exposure times and backlighting from the Sun. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The effort ensured that engineers could hear Voyager loud and clear. It also increased how much data could be sent back to Earth in a given period, enabling the spacecraft to send back more pictures from the flyby.

Being There

In the week leading up to that August 1989 close encounter, the atmosphere was electric at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which manages the Voyager mission. As images taken by Voyager 2 during its Neptune approach made the four-hour journey to Earth, Voyager team members would crowd around computer monitors around the Lab to see.

"One of the things that made the Voyager planetary encounters different from missions today is that there was no internet that would have allowed the whole team and the whole world to see the pictures at the same time," Stone said. "The images were available in real time at a limited number of locations."

But the team was committed to giving the public updates as quickly as possible, so from Aug. 21 to Aug. 29, they would share their discoveries with the world during daily press conferences. On Aug. 24, a program called "Voyager All Night" broadcast regular updates from the probe's closest encounter with the planet, which took place at 4 a.m. GMT (9 p.m. in California on Aug. 24).

The next morning, Vice President Dan Quayle visited the Lab to commend the Voyager team. That night, Chuck Berry, whose song "Johnny B. Goode" was included on the Golden Record that flew with both Voyagers, played at JPL's celebration of the feat.

Image above: (From left) Chuck Berry and Carl Sagan at a Voyager 2 Neptune flyby celebration at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in August 1989. Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" is the only rock-and-roll song on the Golden Records currently traveling in interstellar space aboard Voyagers 1 and 2. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Of course, the Voyagers' achievements extend far beyond that historic week three decades ago. Both probes have now entered interstellar space after exiting the heliosphere — the protective bubble around the planets created by a high-speed flow of particles and magnetic fields spewed outward by our Sun.

They are reporting back to Earth on the "weather" and conditions from this region filled with the debris from stars that exploded elsewhere in our galaxy. They have taken humanity's first tenuous step into the cosmic ocean where no other operating probes have flown.

Voyager data also complement other missions, including NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), which is remotely sensing that boundary where particles from our Sun collide with material from the rest of the galaxy. And NASA is preparing the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), due to launch in 2024, to capitalize on Voyager observations.

The Voyagers send their findings back to DSN antennas with 13-watt transmitters — about enough power to run a refrigerator light bulb.

"Every day they travel somewhere that human probes have never been before," said Stone. "Forty-two years after launch, and they're still exploring."

Related links:

Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX):

Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP):

Golden Record:

NASA History:

For more information about the Voyager mission visit:

For more images of Neptune taken by Voyager 2 visit:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Calla Cofield.

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Jupiter mission takes first images of destination – from Earth!

ESA - European Space Agency patch.

22 August 2019

Artist's impression of JUICE

As part of preparations for the launch of ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, its navigation camera has been given a unique test: imaging its destination from Earth.

The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, will launch in 2022 on a seven-year journey to the Jupiter system. In the first mission of its kind, it will not only orbit Jupiter and make repeated flybys of the planet’s large and ocean-bearing moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, but will culminate in a dedicated orbital tour of Ganymede – the largest moon in the Solar System.

Jupiter system captured in Juice NavCam test

The spacecraft will be equipped with a scientifically powerful suite of instruments for an in-depth analysis of Jupiter, its environment, and moons, but it also flies essential elements such as a navigation camera, or NavCam. Together with radio tracking, the NavCam will be used to obtain the position and velocity of the spacecraft relative to the moon it is flying by.

The NavCam has been specifically designed to be resistant to the harsh radiations environment around Jupiter and to acquire images of the planet, moon and background stars. Importantly, NavCam measurements will allow the spacecraft to be in the optimal trajectory and to consume as little fuel as possible during the grand tour of Jupiter, and to improve the pointing accuracy during these fast and close rendezvous approaches. The close encounters will bring the spacecraft between about 200 and 400 km to the moons.

In June, a team of engineers took to the roof of the Airbus Defence and Space site in Toulouse to test the NavCam engineering model in real sky conditions. The purpose was to validate hardware and software interfaces, and to prepare the image processing and onboard navigation software that will be used in-flight to acquire images.

Jupiter system captured in Juice NavCam test (annotated)

In addition to observing Earth’s Moon and other objects, the instrument was pointed towards an obvious target in the night sky: Jupiter. The camera used the ‘Imaging mode’ and ‘Stars Centroiding Mode’ to test parameter settings which in turn will be used to fine-tune the image processing software at attitude control and navigation levels.

“Unsurprisingly, some 640 million kilometres away, the moons of Jupiter are seen only as a mere pixel or two, and Jupiter itself appears saturated in the long exposure images needed to capture both the moons and background stars, but these images are useful to fine-tune our image processing software that will run autonomously onboard the spacecraft,” says Gregory Jonniaux, Vision-Based Navigation expert at Airbus Defence and Space. “It felt particularly meaningful to conduct our tests already on our destination!”

Simulated NavCam views of Jupiter moons

During the flybys themselves it will be possible to see surface features on these very different moons. In a separate test, the NavCam was optically fed with simulated views of the moons to process more realistic images of what can be expected once in the Jupiter system.

“The simulated views of the moons of Jupiter give a more realistic impression of what our NavCam will capture during flybys,” adds Daniele Gherardi, ESA Guidance, Navigation and Control expert. “Of course, the high-resolution scientific camera suite will impress us with even more detail of these enigmatic moons.”

Simulated NavCam view of Jupiter and moons

Meanwhile the test navigation camera will be further improved with a full flight representative performance optics assembly by the end of the year, and will subsequently be used to support onboard software tests of the complete Juice spacecraft. After launch, the test camera will be used at ESA’s operations centre to support the mission operations throughout its mission.

Juice is the first large-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015–2025 programme. The prime contractor is Airbus Defence and Space. The camera is supplied by Sodern.

Related link:

JUICE in depth:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Airbus Defence and Space/AOES.