samedi 7 décembre 2019

Silver Spitfire completes round the world trip

Silver Spitfire - The Longest Flight logo.

Dec. 7, 2019

A 76-year-old demilitarized aircraft made a 43'500-kilometer journey through some 30 countries before returning to the UK.

A Spitfire landed in the UK on Thursday after a successful world tour, a great first for this iconic symbolic aircraft of the Battle of Britain in 1940. The journey lasted exactly four months.

Silver Spitfire around the World. Image Credits: John Dibbs / Simon Smith

The silver plane landed at Goodwood Airfield near the southern coast of England. 76 years old and demilitarized, the machine made a journey of 27'000 miles (43'500 km) in thirty countries. He was flown in turn by Steve Brooks, 58, and Matt Jones, 45, two British airmen.

Matt Jones drove it for the final leg of the trip from Lelystad in the Netherlands to the UK. When he got off the plane, he hugged his girlfriend and their newborn son Arthur. During his trip, the pilot and former banker had to return to Russia urgently for the birth.

During his world tour, the Spitfire flew over the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Pyramids of Egypt. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean via the Faroe Islands and Reykjavik, crossing Greenland before flying over the remote wilderness of northern Canada.

The Silver Spitfire road. Image Credit: The Telegraph

In a Texas ranch

In the United States, he stopped for two days on a ranch in Texas after a temperature probe problem and made a stop in the Californian Mojave Desert for a visit to British billionaire Rochard Branson's Virgin Galactic space company. After flying over the North Pacific coast by Canada, Alaska and Russia, the Spitfire ended up in Japan during the typhoons.

He traveled his longest leg in the Saudi desert, a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Kuwait to Akaba in Jordan (1,300 kilometers). He then returned to Britain via Egypt, Greece, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

Tribute to the designers

Agile interceptors, the Spitfires played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain, while the United Kingdom fought the threat of an invasion of Nazi Germany.

Silver Spitfire record sets for round the world trip

With this world tour, Steve Brooks and Matt Jones wanted to pay tribute to those who designed, built and piloted the Spitfire, and invite those who see him to cherish freedom.

Of the more than 20,000 aircraft built, less than 250 remain, of which only about 50 are flying, most of them based in the United Kingdom.

Related article:

Silver Spitfire Flying Around the World

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Silver Spitfire Flying Around the World:


Silver Spitfire Flying Around the World for FSX. Image Credit: Aerospace

Download (for free) the Silver Spitfire Flying Around the World for FSX:

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

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Two Kuaizhou-1A launches in one day

CASIC - Kuaizhou-1A - Jilin-1 Gaofen 02B / CASIC - Kuaizhou-1A - HEAD-2A, HEAD-2B, Spacety-16, Spacety-17, Tianqi-4A and Tianqi-4B.

Dec. 7, 2019

Two Kuaizhou-1A rockets were launched within hours of each other:

Kuaizhou-1A (KZ-1A) launches Jilin-1 Gaofen 02B satellite

- A Kuaizhou-1A (KZ-1A) launch vehicle launched the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02B satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Shanxi Province, northern China, on 7 December 2019, at 02:55 UTC (10:55 local time);

Image above: Kuaizhou-1A (KZ-1A) launches HEAD-2A, HEAD-2B, Spacety-16, Spacety-17, Tianqi-4A and Tianqi-4B satellites.

- A Kuaizhou-1A (KZ-1A) launch vehicle launched the HEAD-2A, HEAD-2B, Spacety-16, Spacety-17, Tianqi-4A and Tianqi-4B satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Shanxi Province, northern China, on 7 December 2019, at 08:52 UTC (16:52 local time).

Two Kuaizhou-1A launches in one day

The Jilin-1 Gaofen 02B satellite (吉林一号高分02B) is a new optical remote sensing satellite, developed by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd., that will form a network with the 14 previously launched Jilin-1 satellites, providing remote sensing data and services for agriculture, forestry, resources and environment.

Jilin-1 Gaofen 02B satellite (吉林一号高分02B)

HEAD-2A and HEAD-2B are the first batch of satellites for the Skywalker Constellation for environmental monitoring and information collection on global ships and aircraft.
The Spacety-16 and Spacety-17 satellites are medium-resolution micro-nano remote sensing satellites that are mainly used for disaster prevention, maritime applications, agricultural remote sensing and polar environment monitoring.

Spacety satellite

Tianqi-4A and Tianqi-4B satellites will provide services such as global Internet of Things data transmission, emergency communications and material tracking.

KZ-1A (快舟一号) rocket

KZ-1A (快舟一号) is a low-cost solid-fuelled launch vehicle designed to launch low-orbit satellites weighing under 300 kg each. Kuaizhou-1A is developed by ExPace Technology Corporation, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/Günter Space Page/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Helping Heracles EL3 to survive the long, cold, dark nights on the Moon

ESA - European Space Agency patch.

Dec. 7, 2019

ESA has kicked off an activity with Prototec – a NORCE company – and its partners Airbus and Air Liquide to develop alternative technologies for surviving the lunar night.

Rosetta image of the Moon

When the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3) lands on the Moon, some of its cargo might require to survive the lunar night that lasts up to two weeks on Earth.

A sample return mission, the original mission for the Heracles scenario, would require camping out for at least two nights: a full day-night-day-night-day cycle, which takes 70 Earth days because of the approximately 28 days it take for the Moon to do a full rotation of its axis. The sample collection rover is planned to continue operating for a whole Earth year – 12 Moon day-night cycles – to prospect lunar resources and perform surface science.

Different technologies exist to address the problem and ESA is interested in considering all viable options, of which regenerative fuel cell technology is a very promising one. The fuel cells would convert water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity generated by solar arrays. When night falls, hydrogen and oxygen would be recombined to turn the reactants back into energy and water.

Heracles lander and rover

The Heracles EL3 programme is set on establishing a European lunar cargo landing capability based on Ariane 64. It will allow for two kinds of missions: scientifically-driven missions such as returning well-preserved and well-characterised samples from unexplored and inaccessible lunar regions, or delivering cargo to support human missions on NASA’s Artemis programme. The missions of Heracles EL3 should be ready by 2027 to fit properly into the plans of ESA’s international partners.

The Heracles EL3 system should be capable of delivering up to 1700 kg of cargo to the Moon as a cargo mission, or retrieve 15 kg of precious samples from the surface and bring them back to Earth for analysis by European scientists in its sample-return configuration.

Heracles cargo Moon landing

Prototec and partners will perform a preliminary design and requirement specification for a fuel-cell based night survival system based on requirements formulated in the frame of the Heracles EL3 sample return scenario.

Related links:




Air Liquide:

Human and Robotic Exploration:

Science & Exploration:

European Space Agency (ESA):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA ©2007 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA/ATG Medialab.


vendredi 6 décembre 2019

Progress MS-13 spacecraft at Earth’s orbit

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

December 06, 2019

Progress MS-13 launch

On December 6, 2019, at 09:34:11 UTC the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket with the Progress MS-13 (74P) cargo spacecraft launched from launchpad No. 31 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Antennas and solar batteries panels’ extension went routinely.

Progress MS-13 launch

After the cargo vehicle separation from the third stage of the carrier rocket, the Chief Operating Control Group of the Russian segment of the International Space Station at the Mission Control Center took over the flight control.

Progress MS-13 spacecraft approach to the ISS and berthing to the Pirs docking module is planned to be performed automatically under control of the Chief Operating Control Group of the Russian segment of the ISS at the Mission Control Center and the Russian ISS crewmembers – Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka. The docking is scheduled for December 9, 2019, at 10:38 UTC. The broadcast will be available in the Live Broadcast section at Roscosmos website and NASA website.

Progress MS Cargo (Progress MS-05)

The spacecraft is to deliver 700 kg of fuel and gas, as well as 1,350 kg of various equipment and cargo including resource facilities of the onboard control and life support systems, equipment to conduct scientific and research experiments, sanitary and hygiene products and medical control means, 420 kilograms of water in the Rodnik system tanks and standard food rations.

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International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Video, Text Credits: Roscosmos/NASA/SciNews.

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Next Generation Electron Booster on the Pad for Rocket Lab’s 10th Mission

Rocket Lab - Running Out Of Fingers Mission patch.

Dec. 6, 2019

Electron “Running Out Of Fingers” launch

Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle launched the “Running Out Of Fingers” mission from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, on 6 December 2019, at 08:18 UTC (21:18 NZDT).

“Running Out Of Fingers” is Electron’s 10th mission, with six PocketQube microsatellites from Alba Orbital and one payload from ALE Co. Tokyo.

Electron “Running Out Of Fingers” launch

The Electron rocket and its Curie upper stage place the ALE-2 microsatellite into orbit for ALE Co. Ltd. of Japan to create human-made shooting stars by simulating re-entering meteor particles.

Onboard this rideshare mission are six spacecraft comprised of 5cm PocketQube microsatellites from satellite manufacturer and mission management provider Alba Orbital. The final payload on board was procured by satellite rideshare and mission management provider Spaceflight for ALE Co., Ltd (ALE), a Tokyo-based company creating microsatellites that simulate meteor particles.

Also on the launch are six spacecraft comprised of 5-centimeter PocketQube picosatellites from satellite manufacturer and mission management provider Alba Orbital. The mission is nicknamed “Running Out Of Fingers.”

Electron’s first stage will not be recovered from this mission, however the stage includes new hardware and sensors to inform future recovery efforts. As part of a first stage block upgrade, Electron’s booster will include guidance and navigation hardware, including S-band telemetry and onboard flight computer systems, to gather data during the first stage’s atmospheric re-entry. The stage is also equipped with a reaction control system to orient the booster during its re-entry descent.

ALE Co. Ltd.:

Rocket Lab:

Credits: Text, Images and video courtesy of Rocket Lab/SciNews.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of December 2, 2019

ISS - Expedition 61 Mission patch.

Dec. 6, 2019

Crew members conducted a variety of investigations aboard the International Space Station during the week of Dec. 2, including research into wearable health sensors and using DNA to understand how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living in space. On Monday, Luca Parmitano of the ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA’s Andrew Morgan completed their third in a series of spacewalks to repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02). The crew also prepared to welcome the 19th SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) carrying supplies and new scientific experiments, which launched Dec. 5.

The space station, now in its 20th year of continuous human presence, conducts research critical to future missions such as Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.

Here are details on some of the scientific investigations taking place on the orbiting lab:

Smart shirt supports health research

Image above: Crew members collect microbial DNA samples by swabbing surfaces in the space station and process them using the Biomolecule Sequencer as shown here. The device enables direct sequencing to identify microbes able to survive in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

To monitor their health and conduct health-related experiments aboard the space station, astronauts use a variety of medical devices. These devices can be bulky and invasive and their use often is disruptive and time-consuming. The Canadian Space Agency developed the Bio-Monitor, a device that uses wearable sensors to monitor and record heart rate, respiration rate, skin temperature and other parameters during an astronaut's daily routine. The smart vest can unobtrusively collect data for up to 48 hours and send it to the ground. Crew members updated software and conducted checks of the Bio-Monitor in preparation for additional testing.

Swabbing and sequencing in space

Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST) tests the use of DNA sequencing to observe microbial responses to spaceflight, which can improve our understanding of how humans, plants and microbes adapt to living in space. BEST uses a process that does not require cultivation of organisms prior to processing and can identify microbes aboard the space station not detected by current culture-based methods. The crew collected samples via swabbing at specific locations and stored them in the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) for later return to Earth for processing. Crew members also removed frozen liquid cultures from MELFI for incubation on the space station, after which they will sequence part of the cultures and store other parts for return to Earth for DNA and RNA sequencing.

Animation above: Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques wearing the Bio-Monitor vest while exercising on the space station. The vest, currently undergoing testing aboard the space station, contains various sensors to unobtrusively monitor astronaut health and contribute to health-related experiments. Animation Credits: Canadian Space Agency.

No more boring menus

Food Acceptability examines how the appeal of food to astronauts changes during long-duration missions. “Menu fatigue” from repeatedly consuming a limited choice of foods may contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases. Crew members completed questionnaires evaluating each food and beverage in one meal for overall acceptability. Astronauts complete questionnaires at regular intervals and various times of day for a total of 26 times during their mission.

Image above: The crew shared a special Thanksgiving meal aboard the space station, a break from what can be a repetitive, limited menu (left to right, Christina Koch, Alexander Skvortsov, Jessica Meir, Oleg Skripochka, Andrew Morgan, Luca Parmitano). The ongoing Food Acceptability investigation examines changes in the appeal of food that can occur during long-duration missions. Image Credit: NASA.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- The ISS Experience creates virtual reality videos from footage taken by astronauts of different aspects of crew life, execution of science and the international partnerships involved on the space station.

- The BioFabrication Facility (BFF) tests a technology to print organ-like tissues in microgravity as a step toward manufacturing human organs in space using refined biological 3D printing techniques.

- Fluid Shifts measures how much fluid shifts from the lower to the upper body and in or out of cells and blood vessels in microgravity in an effort to determine how these shifts affect fluid pressure in the head and eye and related effects on vision.

- The Food Physiology experiment is designed to characterize the key effects of an enhanced spaceflight diet on immune function, the gut microbiome and nutritional status indicators.

- Standard Measures captures an ongoing, optimized set of measures from crew members to characterize how their bodies adapt to living in space. Researchers use these measures to create a data repository for high-level monitoring of the effectiveness of countermeasures and better interpretation of health and performance outcomes.

Space to Ground: Round Three: 12/6/2019

Related links:

Expedition 61:

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02):



Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST):

Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI):

Food Acceptability:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 61.

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Hubble Spots Galaxy’s Dramatic Details

NASA - Hubble Space Station patch.

Dec. 6, 2019

Some of the most dramatic events in the universe occur when certain stars die — and explode catastrophically in the process.

Such explosions, known as supernovae, mainly occur in a couple of ways. In one scenario, a massive star depletes its fuel at the end of its life, becoming dynamically unstable and unable to support its bulk, causing it to collapse inward and violently explode. In another outcome, a white dwarf (the dense remnant of a once-normal star) in an orbiting stellar couple siphons more mass off its companion than it is able to support, igniting runaway nuclear fusion in its core and beginning the supernova process. Both types result in an intensely bright object in the sky that can rival the light of a whole galaxy.

In the last 20 years the galaxy NGC 5468, visible in this image, has hosted a number of observed supernovae of both the aforementioned types: SN 1999cp, SN 2002cr, SN2002ed, SN2005P and SN2018dfg. Despite being just over 130 million light-years away, the orientation of the galaxy with respect to us makes it easier to spot these new “stars” as they appear; we see NGC 5468 face on, meaning we can see the galaxy’s loose, open spiral pattern in beautiful detail in images such as this one from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

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, W. Li et al.


NASA's OSIRIS-REx Explains Bennu Mystery Particles

NASA - OSIRIS-REx Mission patch.

December 6, 2019

Image above: This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on Jan. 6, 2019, was created by combining two images taken by the NavCam 1 imager aboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft: a short exposure image, which shows the asteroid clearly, and a long-exposure image (five seconds), which shows the particles clearly. Other image-processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each layer. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin.

Shortly after NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, an unexpected discovery by the mission's science team revealed that the asteroid could be active, or consistently discharging particles into space. The ongoing examination of Bennu - and its sample that will eventually be returned to Earth - could potentially shed light on why this intriguing phenomenon is occurring.

The OSIRIS-REx team first observed a particle-ejection event in images captured by the spacecraft's navigation cameras taken on Jan. 6, just a week after the spacecraft entered its first orbit around Bennu. At first glance, the particles appeared to be stars behind the asteroid, but on closer examination, the team realized that the asteroid was ejecting material from its surface. After concluding that these particles did not compromise the spacecraft's safety, the mission began dedicated observations in order to fully document the activity.

Bennu's Mysterious Particles

Video above: This animation illustrates the modeled trajectories of particles that were ejected from Bennu's surface on January 19. After ejecting from the asteroid's surface, the particles either briefly orbited Bennu and fell back to its surface or escaped away from Bennu and into space.

"Among Bennu's many surprises, the particle ejections sparked our curiosity, and we've spent the last several months investigating this mystery," said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "This is a great opportunity to expand our knowledge of how asteroids behave."

After studying the results of the observations, the mission team released their findings in a Science paper published Dec. 6. The team observed the three largest particle-ejection events on Jan. 6 and 19, and Feb. 11, and concluded that the events originated from different locations on Bennu's surface. The first event originated in the southern hemisphere, and the second and third events occurred near the equator. All three events took place in the late afternoon on Bennu.

The team found that, after ejection from the asteroid's surface, the particles either briefly orbited Bennu and fell back to its surface or escaped from Bennu into space. The observed particles traveled up to 10 feet (3 meters) per second, and measured from smaller than an inch up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) in size. Approximately 200 particles were observed during the largest event, which took place on Jan. 6.

The team investigated a wide variety of possible mechanisms that may have caused the ejection events and narrowed the list to three candidates: meteoroid impacts, thermal stress fracturing and released water vapor.

Meteoroid impacts are common in the deep space neighborhood of Bennu, and it is possible that these small fragments of space rock could be hitting Bennu where OSIRIS-REx is not observing it, shaking loose particles with the momentum of their impact.

OSIRIS-Rex orbiting Bennu. Image Credit: NASA

The team also determined that thermal fracturing is another reasonable explanation. Bennu's surface temperatures vary drastically over its 4.3-hour rotation period. Although it is extremely cold during the night hours, the asteroid's surface warms significantly in the mid-afternoon, which is when the three major events occurred. As a result of this temperature change, rocks may begin to crack and break down, and eventually particles could be ejected from the surface. This cycle is known as thermal stress fracturing.

Water release may also explain the asteroid's activity. When Bennu's water-locked clays are heated, the water could begin to release and create pressure. It is possible that as pressure builds in cracks and pores in boulders where absorbed water is released, the surface could become agitated, causing particles to erupt.

But nature does not always allow for simple explanations. "It could be that more than one of these possible mechanisms are at play," said Steve Chesley, an author on the paper and Senior Research Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "For example, thermal fracturing could be chopping the surface material into small pieces, making it far easier for meteoroid impacts to launch pebbles into space."

If thermal fracturing, meteoroid impacts or both are in fact the causes of these ejection events, then this phenomenon is likely happening on all small asteroids, as they all experience these mechanisms. However, if water release is the cause of these ejection events, then this phenomenon would be specific to asteroids that contain water-bearing minerals, like Bennu.

Bennu's activity presents larger opportunities once a sample is collected and returned to Earth for study. Many of the ejected particles are small enough to be collected by the spacecraft's sampling mechanism, meaning that the returned sample may possibly contain some material that was ejected and returned to Bennu's surface. Determining that a particular particle had been ejected and returned to Bennu might be a scientific feat similar to finding a needle in a haystack. The material returned to Earth from Bennu, however, will almost certainly increase our understanding of asteroids and the ways they are both different and similar, even as the particle-ejection phenomenon continues to be a mystery whose clues we'll also return home with in the form of data and further material for study.

Sample collection is scheduled for summer 2020, and the sample will be delivered to Earth in September 2023.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona in Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission's science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Related article & link:

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx in the Midst of Site Selection

OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Alana Johnson/JPL/DC Agle/Greenbelt, Md./Nancy Neal-Jones.

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Life of a foam

ISS - International Space Station logo.

Dec. 6, 2019

Foam bubbles

A fine coffee froth does not last forever. The bubbles that make the milk light and creamy are eventually torn apart by the pull of gravity. But there is a place where foams have a more stable life – in the weightless environment of the International Space Station, bubbles don’t burst so quickly and foams remain wet for longer.

Beyond the pleasures of sipping a cappuccino with its signature froth, the presence of foams in our daily lives extends to food, detergents, cosmetics and medicines. However, creating the perfect bubble for the right foam is tricky.

Three experiments will investigate properties of foam

On Earth, the mixture of gas and liquid that makes up a foam quickly starts to change. Gravity pulls the liquid between the bubbles downwards, and the small bubbles shrink while the larger ones tend to grow at the expense of others. Due to the drainage, coarsening and rupture of the bubbles, foam starts to collapse back to a liquid state.

A foam’s existence in space is marked by more equilibrium because drainage is suppressed. Bubble sizes are evenly spread and that makes it easier for scientists to study it in more detail.

Lessons on foams in space

In 2009, ESA astronaut Frank De Winne ran the Foam Stability experiment on the International Space Station. Frank shook several liquid solutions contained in 60 closed cells and recorded what happened next. The samples ranged from pure water to protein-based fluids, like the ones used for chocolate foams, and antifoaming agents.

De Winne with the Foam Stability experiment

After just ten seconds, fluids stabilised more quickly and produced more foam than on Earth. Scientists discovered that it was possible to create super stable foams in zero gravity.

Research in space for all: foams

Antifoaming agents had a reduced effect in microgravity, a new behaviour that took researchers by surprise. On a parabolic flight, 20 seconds of microgravity were enough to make foams out of pure water.

From space to your bubble

Foam research in microgravity allowed researchers to better understand foam behaviour and improve food production.

“The stability of foam bubbles can enhance the quality, texture, taste and shelf-life of some foods and drinks. It was a game changer for our business,” points out Cécile Gehin-Delval, senior R&D specialist from Nestlé research laboratories in Switzerland.

“This study helped us to create near-to-perfect air bubbles for our dairy, ice cream and pet food products,” she adds.

Metallic foams on Earth and in space

Foams can also be metallic, and have incredible structural characteristics. Aluminium foam, for example, is as strong as pure metal but much lighter. This research can help in the construction of light-weight and sturdy aerospace structures and new shielding systems for diagnostic radiology equipment in hospitals. 

“All this knowledge harvested in orbit will have, sooner or later, an impact on our daily lives. I believe fundamental research in space can make the world a better place,” reflects bioengineer Leonardo Surdo.

“Think outside your bubble next time you look at a foam, be it in your beer, cake frost or shaving gel,” he adds.

Related links:

Foam research:

Foam Stability experiment:

Human and Robotic Exploration:

Science & Exploration:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/SSC/GRASP, University of Liège–Denis Terwagne.


jeudi 5 décembre 2019

Glancing Back

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Dec. 5, 2019

Just after its close flyby of Jupiter on Nov. 3, 2019, NASA's Juno spacecraft caught this striking view of Jupiter's southern hemisphere as the spacecraft sped away from the giant planet. This image captures massive cyclones near Jupiter's south pole, as well as the chaotic clouds of the folded filamentary region — the turbulent area between the orange band and the brownish polar region.

When this image was taken, Juno was traveling at about 85,000 mph (137,000 kilometers per hour) relative to the planet. A little more than an hour earlier — at the point of closest approach to the cloud tops — the spacecraft reached speeds relative to Jupiter in excess of 130,000 mph (209,000 kilometers per hour).

Citizen scientist Ali Abbasi created this image using data from the spacecraft's JunoCam imager. It was taken on Nov. 3, 2019, at 3:29 p.m. PST (6:29 p.m. EST) as Juno performed its 23rd close flyby of Jupiter. At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 65,500 miles (104,600 kilometers) from the planet at a latitude of about -70 degrees.

Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Animation Credit: NASA

JunoCam's raw images are available for the public to peruse and process into image products at

More information about Juno is at and

Animation (mentioned), Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Image processing by AliAbbasiPov, © CC BY/Text, Credits: NASA/Sarah Loff.


SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station with NASA Science, Cargo

SpaceX - CRS-19 Dragon Mission patch.

Dec. 5, 2019

Image above: SpaceX launches its 19th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station at 12:29 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2019, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Image Credit: NASA TV.

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station after launching at 12:29 p.m. EST Thursday. Dragon will deliver more than 5,700 pounds of NASA cargo and science investigations, including studies of malting barley in microgravity, the spread of fire, and bone and muscle loss.

The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is scheduled to arrive at the orbital outpost on Sunday, Dec. 8. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival at the space station will begin at 4:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

SpaceX CRS-19 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing

Dragon will join three other spacecraft currently at the station. Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will grapple Dragon with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan acting as a backup. NASA’s Jessica Meir will assist the duo by monitoring telemetry during Dragon’s approach. Coverage of robotic installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin at 8 a.m.

This delivery, SpaceX’s 19th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, will support dozens of new and existing investigations. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including future Moon and Mars missions.

Image above: Dragon’s solar arrays deploy following spacecraft separation from the second stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on SpaceX’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station on Dec. 5, 2019. Photo credit: NASA.

Here are details about some of the scientific investigations Dragon is delivering:

A Better Picture of Earth’s Surface

The Hyperspectral Imager Suite (HISUI) is a next-generation, hyperspectral Earth imaging system. Every material on Earth’s surface – rocks, soil, vegetation, snow/ice and human-made objects – has a unique reflectance spectrum. HISUI provides space-based observations for tasks such as resource exploration and applications in agriculture, forestry and other environmental areas.

Malting Barley in Microgravity

Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity tests an automated malting procedure and compares malt produced in space and on the ground for genetic and structural changes. Understanding how barley responds to microgravity could identify ways to adapt it for nutritional use on long-duration spaceflights.

Spread of Fire

The Confined Combustion investigation examines the behavior of flames as they spreads in differently shaped confined spaces in microgravity. Studying flames in microgravity gives researchers a better look at the underlying physics and basic principles of combustion by removing gravity from the equation.

Keeping Bones and Muscles Strong

Rodent Research-19 (RR-19) investigates myostatin (MSTN) and activin, molecular signaling pathways that influence muscle degradation, as possible targets for preventing muscle and bone loss during spaceflight and enhancing recovery following return to Earth. This study also could support the development of therapies for a wide range of conditions that cause muscle and bone loss on Earth.

Checking for Leaks

NASA is launching Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS), a docking station that allows Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL) units to be stored on the outside of space station, making it quicker and simpler to deploy the instruments. The leak locator is a robotic, remote-controlled tool that helps mission operators detect the location of an external leak and rapidly confirm a successful repair. These capabilities can be applied to any place that humans live in space, including NASA’s lunar Gateway and eventually habitats on the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. As a global endeavor, more than 230 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.

Related links:

Expedition 61:


Hyperspectral Imager Suite (HISUI):

Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity:

Confined Combustion:

Studying flames in microgravity:

Rodent Research-19 (RR-19):

Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL):

Moon and Mars:

Commercial Resupply:

International Space Station (ISS):

Related articles:

SpaceX Gears Up for Second CRS-19 Launch Attempt

Radiation rotifer

For more information about the International Space Station, its research, and crew, visit:

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Northon/Kathryn Hambleton/JSC/Courtney Beasley/SciNews.

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SpaceX Gears Up for Second CRS-19 Launch Attempt

SpaceX - CRS-19 Dragon patch.

December 5, 2019

SpaceX is preparing for the second launch attempt of its 19th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-19) mission to the International Space Station today at 12:29 p.m. EST (17:29:23 GMT). The company’s Falcon 9 rocket and uncrewed Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Join us here on the blog, as well as on NASA TV and the agency’s website, for live launch countdown coverage, beginning at 12 p.m. EST.

Image above: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands ready for liftoff at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida on Dec. 5, 2019, for the company’s 19th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 12:29 p.m. EST. Photo credit: NASA.

SpaceX made the decision to call off the first launch attempt yesterday due to upper-altitude winds and high winds at sea, creating dangerous conditions around the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You,” which the rocket’s first stage will attempt landing on following its separation from the rest of the launch vehicle.

The Dragon spacecraft that will deliver critical supplies, equipment and material to the space station on this mission first flew to the orbiting laboratory in 2014 on CRS-4, and then again on CRS-11, making it the first spacecraft that SpaceX reused for resupply missions. Now preparing to fly for a third time, the material it will carry on CRS-19 will directly support dozens of research investigations taking place in space. To learn more about some of those research experiments, visit:

Related links:

International Space Station:


Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Danielle Sempsrott.


Radiation rotifer

ISS - International Space Station logo.

Dec. 5, 2019

The 19th SpaceX Dragon supply mission to the International Space Station will carry cargo for astronauts to run experiments for European researchers on Earth. One curious cargo is the microscopic organism, rotifers, that researchers will study in space to hopefully reveal some secrets of their unique powers.

Rotifers, commonly called wheel animals, can be found in almost all pools of water no matter how small including moist ground, moss and even on other animals. Most species are less than a millimetre in size and are fascinating to biologists as they are masters of survival.

A species of rotifers called bdelloids are exceptional as no male has ever been found, meaning they produce offspring from unfertilised eggs. Despite the genetic similarity they can survive for very long periods without water; rolling up into a pod they can survive year-long droughts in the Sahara desert as well as in the frozen plains of Antarctica. Simply add water and the bdelloids will uncurl and spring back to normal function.

Adineta vaga rotifer

Bdelloids have another trick up their sleeve: they are extremely resistant to radiation. Understanding how they survive radiation levels that would kill many other organisms (and indeed ourselves) will gain insights into how we could improve spacecraft and protect astronauts against cosmic radiation. Earth’s atmosphere protects us from cosmic radiation but at 400 km altitude on the International Space Station astronauts already receive radiation doses 250 times higher than at sea level.

As humankind ventures farther to explore our Solar System on longer missions, finding ways to protect ourselves from radiation is key. The results from the Rotifer-B study could also lead to measures to improve protection of professionals who are exposed to radiation in their work or cancer patients during radiation therapy.

Kubik on Space Station

The experiment is split into two halves: one focuses explicitly on the effects of microgravity (Part 1) and the other on DNA damage and repair (Part 2). Part 1 will see culture bags of fresh rotifers with a meal of lettuce juice and water launched to the ISS, where they will experience conditions inside the Columbus module on the ISS in a special temperature-controlled Kubik facility. Once back on ground, researchers will examine the gene expression of the rotifers that were frozen in space to get a clear snapshot of what they were experiencing at the time at the molecular level. 

Rotifer-B science team

In Part 2, the rotifers will be dried onto special agarose gels, where they will be strongly irradiated using an X-Ray machine. This will deliberately destroy their DNA but not kill them. Once in space, the dried rotifers will be reactivated with the lettuce juice and water mixture, exposed to space conditions and sent back to Earth in the frozen state. Eventually, researchers will examine the effects that their trip to space had on their ability to repair their own DNA, compared to ground controls.

The experiment is being designed and run by the University of Namur and result institute SCK-KEN of Belgium with the facility hardware built by Kayser Italia.

Human and Robotic Exploration:

Science & Exploration:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA.

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mercredi 4 décembre 2019

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx in the Midst of Site Selection

NASA - OSIRIS-REx Mission logo.

Dec. 4, 2019

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is just days away from selecting the site where the spacecraft will snag a sample from asteroid Bennu. After a lengthy and challenging process, the team is finally ready to down-select from the four candidate sites to a primary and backup site.

OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission, so this decision of a sample collection site is key for asteroid operations and mission success.

After selecting the four candidate sample sites – Sandpiper, Osprey, Kingfisher, and Nightingale – in July, the mission completed its Reconnaissance A phase. During Recon A, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft performed a month-long series of four flyovers – one over each potential sample collection site. This mission phase provided the team with high-resolution imagery in order to thoroughly examine the sampleability (fine-grained material), topography, albedo, and color of each site. The data collected from these high-altitude flyovers is central for determining which site is best-suited for sample collection.

Image above: These images show the four candidate sample collection sites on asteroid Bennu: Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey and Sandpiper. One of these four sites will ultimately be the location on which NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will touch down to collect a sample. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.

While the mission is one step closer to collecting a sample, Recon A observations have revealed that even the best candidate sites on Bennu pose significant challenges to sample collection, and the choice before the site selection board is not an easy one.

“Sample site selection really is a comprehensive activity. It requires that we look at many different types of data in many different ways to ensure the selected site is the best choice in terms of spacecraft safety, presence of sampleable material, and science value,” said Heather Enos, OSIRIS-REx deputy principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and chair of the sample site selection board. “Our team is incredibly innovative and integrated, which is what makes the selection process work.”

The most recent images show that while there is fine-grained material (smaller than 2.5 cm in diameter), much of it may not be easily accessible. The mission was originally designed for a beach-like surface, with “ponds” of sandy material, not for Bennu’s rugged terrain. In reality the potential sample sites are not large, clear areas, but rather small spaces surrounded by large boulders, so navigating the spacecraft in and out of the sites will require a bit more fine-tuning than originally planned.

Starting in Bennu’s southern hemisphere, site Sandpiper was the first flyover of the Recon A mission phase. Sandpiper is one of the “safer” sites because it is located in a relatively flat area, making it easier for the spacecraft to navigate in and out. The most recent images show that fine-grained material is present, but the sandy regolith is trapped between larger rocks, which makes it difficult for the sampling mechanism to operate.

OSIRIS-REx collecting sample on Bennu. Image Credit: NASA

Site Osprey was the second site observed during Recon A. This site was originally chosen based on its strong spectral signature of carbon-rich material and because of a dark patch in the center of the crater, which was thought to possibly be fine-grained material. However, the latest high-resolution imagery of Osprey suggests that the site is scattered with material that may be too large to ingest for the sampling mechanism.

Site Kingfisher was selected because it is located in a small crater – meaning that it may be a relatively young feature compared to Bennu’s larger craters (such as the one in which Sandpiper is located). Younger craters generally hold fresher, minimally-altered material. High-resolution imagery captured during the Recon A flyover revealed that while the original crater may be too rocky, a neighboring crater appears to contain fine-grained material.

Recon A concluded with a flyover of site Nightingale. Images show that the crater holds a good amount of unobstructed fine-grained material. However, while the sampleability of the site ranks high, Nightingale is located far to the north where the lighting conditions create additional challenges for spacecraft navigation. There is also a building-size boulder situated on the crater’s eastern rim, which could be a hazard to the spacecraft when backing away after contacting the site.

Image above: This flat projection mosaic of asteroid Bennu shows the relative locations of the four candidate sample collection sites on the asteroid: Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey and Sandpiper. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to touch down on one of these four sites to collect a sample in summer 2020. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.

Bennu has also made it a challenge for the mission to identify a site that won’t trigger the spacecraft’s safety mechanisms. During Recon A, the team began cataloguing Bennu’s surface features to create maps for the Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) autonomous navigation system. During the sample collection event, the spacecraft will use NFT to navigate to the asteroid’s surface by comparing the onboard image catalog to the navigation images it will take during descent. In response to Bennu’s extremely rocky surface, the NFT system has been augmented with a new safety feature, which instructs it to wave-off the sampling attempt and back away if it determines the point of contact is near a potentially hazardous surface feature. With Bennu’s building-sized boulders and small target sites, the team realizes that there is a possibility that the spacecraft will wave-off the first time it descends to collect a sample.

“Bennu’s challenges are an inherent part of this mission, and the OSIRIS-REx team has responded by developing robust measures to overcome them,” said Mike Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at Goddard. “If the spacecraft executes a wave-off while attempting to collect a sample, that simply means that both the team and the spacecraft have done their jobs to ensure the spacecraft can fly another day. The success of the mission is our first priority.”

Surprises from Asteroid Bennu

Video above: The team is mere months away from a sample collection attempt at the asteroid surface. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Whichever site wins the race, the OSIRIS-REx mission team is ready for whatever new challenges Bennu may bring. Next spring, the team will undertake further reconnaissance flights over the primary and backup sample sites, and will then start spacecraft rehearsals for touchdown. Sample collection is scheduled for summer 2020, and the sample will return to Earth in September 2023.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer):

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/University of Arizona, written by Brittany Enos.