samedi 21 mars 2020

Fourth successful launch in 2020 for Arianespace

ARIANESPACE - Flight ST28 Mission poster / OneWeb 3 - Alexei Leonov Mission patch.

March 21, 2020

Soyuz-2.1b carrying 34 OneWeb satellites launch

For Arianespace’s ST28 mission, a Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle launched another 34 OneWeb satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on 21 March 2020, at 17:06 UTC (22:06 local time). ST28 is Arianespace’s 28th Soyuz commercial mission from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and the third launch for the OneWeb constellation, orbiting satellites number 41 to 74. The satellites will be put into a near polar orbit at an altitude of 450 kilometers.

Today’s launch was the 51st Soyuz mission by Arianespace and Starsem, and the fourth successful flight in two months for the European launch services operator.

Soyuz-2.1b launches OneWeb 3

One month after its second launch for OneWeb, Arianespace continued the deployment for this global operator’s constellation by lofting 34 more satellites today, bringing the total to 74 satellites in orbit.

Today’s launch, Flight ST28, was the 28th Soyuz mission carried out by Arianespace and Starsem from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Performed on Saturday, March 21 at 10:06 p.m. local time at Baikonur Cosmodrome (17:06 UTC), Flight ST28 orbited 34 new OneWeb satellites – bringing the total in orbit to 74.

“I am very proud of the teams at Arianespace, Starsem and their partners here in Baikonur and also in French Guiana for having performed four successful launches within a 10-week period, including two on behalf of OneWeb,” said Stéphane Israël, Chief Executive Officer of Arianespace.

The first 40 satellites in the OneWeb constellation were orbited by Arianespace in two missions: the first six in February 2019 from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana; and the next 34 in February 2020 from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

OneWeb satellite

Satellite operator OneWeb aims to deliver high-speed internet through a next-generation satellite constellation that will be able to provide connectivity to everyone, everywhere. OneWeb’s system will be comprised of an initial 650 satellites and will provide global coverage in 2021.

The satellite prime contractor is OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defence and Space. The satellites are built in Florida, USA and Toulouse, France on dedicated assembly lines.

Arianespace offers proven launch solutions, fully adapted to the requirements of constellations and validated by the market. Since the early 1990s, Arianespace has launched 155 satellites for commercial constellations: 74 for OneWeb, 56 for Globalstar, 20 for the O3b constellation, four for the company Planet and one for the Orbcomm network. In addition, it has lofted another 26 satellites for the Galileo navigation system on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission.

About Arianespace:

Arianespace uses space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits. It has orbited more than 650 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore. Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74% of its share capital, with the balance held by 15 other shareholders from the European launcher industry.

About Starsem:

Starsem markets and operates Soyuz launches from Baikonur for the international market. Its shareholders are Arianespace, ArianeGroup, the Russian space agency Roscosmos and the Samara Space Center (TsSKB-Progress).

Related articles:

Liftoff of Arianespace’s Soyuz mission with six OneWeb satellites

Flight ST27 - Soyuz lifts off from Baikonur Cosmodrome

Related links:


OneWeb website:

OneWeb Satellites website:

Airbus Space website:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Arianespace/OneWeb/Roscosmos/SciNews.

Best regards,

vendredi 20 mars 2020

Spacesuit Work, Air Quality and Radiation Checks on Station Today

ISS - Expedition 62 Mission patch.

March 20, 2020

The Expedition 62 trio aboard the International Space Station spent their Friday on a variety of activities. The crew conducted a hearing test, swapped spacesuit components, and checked out computers, air quality and radiation.

Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan started the day with a hearing test for the Acoustic Diagnostics study. The research measures an astronaut’s hearing before, during and after a mission to understand the impacts of microgravity and the station’s noise levels.

Image above: This image taken from the space station 263 miles above Sudan shows the Nile River winding northward next to the Red Sea toward the Mediterranean Sea. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir worked in the Tranquility module on Friday morning servicing a device that measures the orbiting lab’s atmosphere. The life support gear monitors a variety of major constituents such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor to ensure a safe breathing environment for the crew. Meir wrapped up her day in the airlock, where she changed out a hard upper torso of one of the U.S. spacesuits with Morgan.

U.S. spacesuits in ISS. Image Credit: NASA

Over in the station’s Russian segment, Commander Oleg Skripochka replacing older laptop computers with new ones. In the afternoon, the veteran cosmonaut sampled the air quality and set up radiation detectors in the station’s Russian modules.

Related links:

Expedition 62:

Acoustic Diagnostics:

Tranquility module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Takes a New Selfie Before Record Climb

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) logo.

March 20, 2020

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recently set a record for the steepest terrain it's ever climbed, cresting the "Greenheugh Pediment," a broad sheet of rock that sits atop a hill. And before doing that, the rover took a selfie, capturing the scene just below Greenheugh.

Image above: This selfie was taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Feb. 26, 2020 (the 2,687th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). The crumbling rock layer at the top of the image is "the Greenheugh Pediment," which Curiosity climbed soon after taking the image. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

In front of the rover is a hole it drilled while sampling a bedrock target called "Hutton." The entire selfie is a 360-degree panorama stitched together from 86 images relayed to Earth. The selfie captures the rover about 11 feet (3.4 meters) below the point where it climbed onto the crumbling pediment.

Curiosity finally reached the top of the slope March 6 (the 2,696th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). It took three drives to scale the hill, the second of which tilted the rover 31 degrees — the most the rover has ever tilted on Mars and just shy of the now-inactive Opportunity rover's 32-degree tilt record, set in 2016. Curiosity took the selfie on Feb. 26, 2020 (Sol 2687).

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover or MSL. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Since 2014, Curiosity has been rolling up Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain at the center of Gale Crater. Rover operators at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California carefully map out each drive to make sure Curiosity will be safe. The rover is never in danger of tilting so much that it would flip over — Curiosity's rocker-bogie wheel system enables it to tilt up to 45 degrees safely — but the steep drives do cause the wheels to spin in place.

How Are Selfies Taken?

Before the climb, Curiosity used the black-and-white Navigation Cameras located on its mast to, for the first time, record a short movie of its "selfie stick," otherwise known as its robotic arm.

Curiosity's mission is to study whether the Martian environment could have supported microbial life billions of years ago. One tool for doing that is the Mars Hand Lens Camera, or MAHLI, located in the turret at the end of the robotic arm. This camera provides a close-up view of sand grains and rock textures, similarly to how a geologist uses a handheld magnifying glass for a closer look in the field on Earth.

By rotating the turret to face the rover, the team can use MAHLI to show Curiosity. Because each MAHLI image covers only a small area, it requires many images and arm positions to fully capture the rover and its surroundings.

"We get asked so often how Curiosity takes a selfie," said Doug Ellison, a Curiosity camera operator at JPL. "We thought the best way to explain it would be to let the rover show everyone from its own point of view just how it's done."

How NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Takes a Selfie

Video above: This video shows how the robotic arm on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover moves as it takes a selfie. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Curiosity Rover Report (June 13, 2013): Curiosity's Cameras

Video above: Watch how NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover takes a selfie at 2:45 in this video. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Located in Pasadena, California, Caltech manages JPL for NASA, and JPL, which built Curiosity, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. MAHLI was built by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego.

For more about Curiosity:

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


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of March 16, 2020

ISS - Expedition 62 Mission patch.

March 20, 2020

The crew members of the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of March 16, including studies of changes in vision and heart cell production in space.

Now in its 20th year of continuous human presence, the space station provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space. Experience gained on the orbiting lab supports Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.

Image above: The island of Japan at night, with the lights of Tokyo at bottom and an orbital sunrise at top, in an image taken as the International Space Station orbited 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:

Seeing better with a pair of pants

During the week, crew members set up hardware in the Russian segment and conducted Chibis testing for Fluid Shifts. This NASA investigation measures how much fluid shifts from the lower to the upper body and in or out of cells and blood vessels and determines the impact these shifts have on fluid pressure in the head and changes in vision. The experiment collects a number of measurements, including pressure in the lower body using the Roscosmos Lower Body Negative Pressure or Chibis hardware, essentially a pair of rubber suction pants. Using such a device to reverse the shift of fluids into the head could help prevent vision changes that occur in microgravity. The investigation began in 2015 and has measured the extent of body fluid shifts in multiple astronauts over time, one of several long-running investigations involving human subjects.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Examining gene expression in microgravity

The crew performed routine habitat maintenance activities, which include food and water supply, odor filter exchange, and waste collection, for the continuing JAXA Mouse Habitat Unit-5 (MHU-5) investigation. The study examines the effects of partial gravity on mice, analyzing alterations in gene expression and the possible effects on development of germ cells, which carry genetic information and expression to subsequent generations. Fundamental knowledge of how space travel affects a model organism at the level of gene expression and modification supports preparations for future long-term human space exploration. The investigation also provides data that could contribute to development of countermeasures for muscle atrophy caused by extended bedrest or disease on Earth.

Growing more heart cells faster

Image above: NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan works with heart cell samples for the Multi-use Variable-g Platform-02 Cell-03 (MVP Cell-03) experiment inside the portable glovebag. This investigation induces stem cells to generate heart precursor cells and cultures those cells on the space station to analyze and compare with cultures grown on Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Generation of Cardiomyocytes From Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Cardiac Progenitors Expanded in Microgravity (MVP Cell-03) examines whether microgravity increases the production of heart cells from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). The investigation analyzes cells cultured on the space station and compares them with cultures grown on Earth. Scientists could potentially use these heart cells or cardiomyocytes (CMs) to treat cardiac abnormalities experienced by astronauts and to replenish cells damaged or lost due to cardiac disease on Earth. CMs also could contribute to quicker and more cost-effective development of drugs. The crew conducted operations for the investigation, including injecting samples into a fixation bag to preserve them for later analysis.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- Engineered Heart Tissues looks at how adult human heart tissue functions in space using a unique three-dimensional culture of adult human cardiac muscle tissue embedded with tiny magnetic posts and an external magnet-based sensor to provide real-time measurement of muscle contractions.

Image above: NASA astronaut Jessica Meir swaps out growth media for bone samples inside the Life Science Glovebox for the OsteoOmics experiment. This experiment compares samples exposed to microgravity and others magnetically levitated to simulate microgravity on Earth for insights into bone ailments such as osteoporosis. Image Credit: NASA.

- OsteoOmics investigates the molecular and metabolic changes that occur in genetic expression in osteoblasts (cells in the body that form bone) in real and analog or simulated microgravity.

- 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.

- Probiotics, an investigation from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), studies whether beneficial bacteria (probiotics) improve the human intestinal microbiota and immune function on long-duration space missions.

- Food Acceptability examines the effect of repetitive consumption of the food currently available during spaceflight. “Menu fatigue” resulting from a limited choice of foods over time may contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases.

- ISS Ham gives students an opportunity to talk directly with crew members via ham radio when the space station passes over their schools. This interaction engages and educates students, teachers, parents and other members of the community in science, technology, engineering and math.

- Radi-N2, a Canadian Space Agency investigation, uses bubble detectors to better characterize the neutron environment on the space station, which could help define the risk this radiation source poses to crew members and provide data necessary to develop advanced protective measures for future spaceflight.

- Acoustic Diagnostics, sponsored by ESA (European Space Agency), tests the hearing of crew members before, during, and after flight to assess possible adverse effects of noise and the microgravity environment of the space station.

Space to Ground: In Times of Adversity: 03/20/2020

Related links:

Expedition 62:

Fluid Shifts:

Long-running investigations:


MVP Cell-03:

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 62.

Best regards,

jeudi 19 mars 2020

Quasar Tsunamis Rip Across Galaxies

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

March 19, 2020

Using the unique capabilities of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers has discovered the most energetic outflows ever witnessed in the universe. They emanate from quasars and tear across interstellar space like tsunamis, wreaking havoc on the galaxies in which the quasars live.

Quasars are extremely remote celestial objects, emitting exceptionally large amounts of energy. Quasars contain supermassive black holes fueled by infalling matter that can shine 1,000 times brighter than their host galaxies of hundreds of billions of stars.

As the black hole devours matter, hot gas encircles it and emits intense radiation, creating the quasar. Winds, driven by blistering radiation pressure from the vicinity of the black hole, push material away from the galaxy's center. These outflows accelerate to breathtaking velocities that are a few percent of the speed of light.

"No other phenomena carries more mechanical energy. Over the lifetime of 10 million years, these outflows produce a million times more energy than a gamma-ray burst," explained principal investigator Nahum Arav of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. "The winds are pushing hundreds of solar masses of material each year. The amount of mechanical energy that these outflows carry is up to several hundreds of times higher than the luminosity of the entire Milky Way galaxy."

Image above: This is an illustration of a distant galaxy with an active quasar at its center. A quasar emits exceptionally large amounts of energy generated by a supermassive black hole fueled by infalling matter. Using the unique capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered that blistering radiation pressure from the vicinity of the black hole pushes material away from the galaxy's center at a fraction of the speed of light. The "quasar winds" are propelling hundreds of solar masses of material each year. This affects the entire galaxy as the material snowplows into surrounding gas and dust. Image Credits: NASA, ESA and J. Olmsted (STScI).

The quasar winds snowplow across the galaxy's disk. Material that otherwise would have formed new stars is violently swept from the galaxy, causing star birth to cease. Radiation pushes the gas and dust to far greater distances than scientists previously thought, creating a galaxy-wide event.

As this cosmic tsunami slams into interstellar material, the temperature at the shock front spikes to billions of degrees, where material glows largely in X-rays, but also widely across the light spectrum. Anyone witnessing this event would see a brilliant celestial display. "You'll get lots of radiation first in X-rays and gamma rays, and afterwards it will percolate to visible and infrared light," said Arav. "You'd get a huge light show—like Christmas trees all over the galaxy."

Numerical simulations of galaxy evolution suggest that such outflows can explain some important cosmological puzzles, such as why astronomers observe so few large galaxies in the universe, and why there is a relationship between the mass of the galaxy and the mass of its central black hole. This study shows that such powerful quasar outflows should be prevalent in the early universe.

"Both theoreticians and observers have known for decades that there is some physical process that shuts off star formation in massive galaxies, but the nature of that process has been a mystery. Putting the observed outflows into our simulations solves these outstanding problems in galactic evolution," explained eminent cosmologist Jeremiah P. Ostriker of Columbia University in New York and Princeton University in New Jersey.

Astronomers studied 13 quasar outflows, and they were able to clock the breakneck speed of gas being accelerated by the quasar wind by looking at spectral "fingerprints" of light from the glowing gas. The Hubble ultraviolet data show that these light absorption features created from material along the path of the light were shifted in the spectrum because of the fast motion of the gas across space. This is due to the Doppler effect, where the motion of an object compresses or stretches wavelengths of light depending on whether it is approaching or receding from us. Only Hubble has the specific range of ultraviolet sensitivity that allows for astronomers to obtain the necessary observations leading to this discovery.

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

Aside from measuring the most energetic quasars ever observed, the team also discovered another outflow accelerating faster than any other. It increased from nearly 43 million miles per hour to roughly 46 million miles per hour in a three-year period. The scientists believe its acceleration will continue to increase over time.

"Hubble's ultraviolet observations allow us to follow the whole range of energy output from quasars, from cooler gas to the extremely hot, highly ionized gas in the more massive winds," added team member Gerard Kriss of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. "These were previously only visible with much more difficult X-ray observations. Such powerful outflows may yield new insights into the link between the growth of a central supermassive black hole and the development of its entire host galaxy."

The team also includes graduate student Xinfeng Xu and postdoctoral researcher Timothy Miller, both of Virginia Tech, as well as Rachel Plesha of the Space Telescope Science Institute. The findings were published in a series of six papers in March 2020, as a focus issue of The Astrophysical Journal Supplements.

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

Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

The Astrophysical Journal Supplements:


Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/GSFC/Claire Andreoli/STSi/Ann Jenkins/Ray Villard/Virginia Tech/Nahum Arav.

Best regards,

Space Cardiac Research as Station Orbits Higher For Next Crew

ISS - Expedition 62 Mission patch.

March 19, 2020

Cardiac research was a big part of the Expedition 62 crew’s schedule on Thursday. Meanwhile, the International Space Station is orbiting higher to get ready for April’s crew swap.

Two experiments taking place aboard the orbiting lab today are looking at cardiac function and the replenishment of heart cells in space. The NASA heart studies could lead to a better understanding of cardiac diseases and improved drug therapies on Earth. Astronauts living in space for months or years at a time could see strategies to maintain healthy cardiac function on long-term missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Image above: An aurora accents Earth’s atmospheric glow underneath a starry sky as the glare from computer instrumentation reflects off a window in the cupola. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir nourished and preserved heart tissue samples for an experiment watching how heart cells adapt to microgravity. Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan got to work replacing hardware for an investigation producing heart cells that may treat cardiac abnormalities.

Veteran cosmonaut and station Commander Oleg Skripochka updated inventory after cargo activities inside the Progress 74 resupply ship. He also monitored radiation readings in the orbital lab and checked a variety of Russian video and computer gear.

Flying over the Earth. Animation Credits: NASA/ISS HD Live

The space station raised its orbit to the correct altitude this afternoon to receive three new Expedition 63 crewmembers aboard the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship next month. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will launch and dock to the Poisk module on April 9 beginning a 195-day station mission.

Eight days later, the Expedition 62 crew will return to Earth and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. Skripochka and Meir will have logged 205 days in space while Morgan is returning after 272 days on orbit.

Related links:

Expedition 62:

Expedition 63:

Cardiac function:

Replenishment of heart cells:

Progress 74 resupply ship:

Poisk module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Chandra Data Tests 'Theory of Everything'

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

March 19, 2020

One of the biggest ideas in physics is the possibility that all known forces, particles, and interactions can be connected in one framework. String theory is arguably the best-known proposal for a “theory of everything” that would tie together our understanding of the physical universe.

Despite having many different versions of string theory circulating throughout the physics community for decades, there have been very few experimental tests. Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, however, have now made a significant step forward in this area.

By searching through galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity, researchers were able to hunt for a specific particle that many models of string theory predict should exist. While the resulting non-detection does not rule out string theory altogether, it does deliver a blow to certain models within that family of ideas.

“Until recently I had no idea just how much X-ray astronomers bring to the table when it comes to string theory, but we could play a major role,” said Christopher Reynolds of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who led the study. “If these particles are eventually detected it would change physics forever.”

The particle that Reynolds and his colleagues were searching for is called an “axion.” These as-yet-undetected particles should have extraordinarily low masses. Scientists do not know the precise mass range, but many theories feature axion masses ranging from about a millionth of the mass of an electron down to zero mass. Some scientists think that axions could explain the mystery of dark matter, which accounts for the vast majority of matter in the universe.

One unusual property of these ultra-low-mass particles would be that they might sometimes convert into photons (that is, packets of light) as they pass through magnetic fields. The opposite may also hold true: photons may also be converted into axions under certain conditions. How often this switch occurs depends on how easily they make this conversion, in other words on their "convertibility."

Some scientists have proposed the existence of a broader class of ultra-low-mass particles with similar properties to axions. Axions would have a single convertibility value at each mass, but “axion-like particles” would have a range of convertibility at the same mass.

“While it may sound like a long shot to look for tiny particles like axions in gigantic structures like galaxy clusters, they are actually great places to look,” said co-author David Marsh of Stockholm University in Sweden. “Galaxy clusters contain magnetic fields over giant distances, and they also often contain bright X-ray sources. Together these properties enhance the chances that conversion of axion-like particles would be detectable.”

To look for signs of conversion by axion-like particles, the team of astronomers examined over five days of Chandra observations of X-rays from material falling towards the supermassive black hole in the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster. They studied the Chandra spectrum, or the amount of X-ray emission observed at different energies, of this source. The long observation and the bright X-ray source gave a spectrum with enough sensitivity to have shown distortions that scientists expected if axion-like particles were present.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

The lack of detection of such distortions allowed the researchers to rule out the presence of most types of axion-like particles in the mass range their observations were sensitive to, below about a millionth of a billionth of an electron's mass.

“Our research doesn’t rule out the existence of these particles, but it definitely doesn’t help their case,” said co-author Helen Russell of the University of Nottingham in the UK. “These constraints dig into the range of properties suggested by string theory, and may help string theorists weed their theories.”

The latest result was about three to four times more sensitive than the previous best search for axion-like particles, which came from Chandra observations of the supermassive black hole in M87. This Perseus study is also about a hundred times more powerful than current measurements that can be performed in laboratories here on Earth for the range of masses that they have considered.

Clearly, one possible interpretation of this work is that axion-like particles do not exist. Another explanation is that the particles have even lower convertibility values than this observation’s detection limit, and lower than some particle physicists have expected. They also could have higher masses than probed with the Chandra data.

A paper describing these results appeared in the February 10th, 2020 issue of The Astrophysical Journal and is available online. In addition to Reynolds, Marsh, and Russell, the authors of this paper are Andrew C. Fabian, also from the University of Cambridge, Robyn Smith from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, Francesco Tombesi from the University of Rome in Italy, and Sylvain Veilleux, also from the University of Maryland.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge and Burlington, Massachusetts.

Astrophysical Journal:

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

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

Image, Animation, Text Credits: NASA/CXC/Cambridge Univ./C.S. Reynolds/NASA/Lee Mohon.


COVID-19: nitrogen dioxide over China

ESA - Sentinel-5P Mission logo.

March 19, 2020

Recent data have shown a decline of air pollution over northern Italy coinciding with its nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). This new map shows the variation of nitrogen dioxide emissions over China from December to March – thanks to the Tropomi instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite.

NO2 over China

As news of the coronavirus broke out in the Hubei province, China, in late December 2019, stricter measures were put in place. As a result, by late January, factories were closed and streets were cleared as Chinese authorities had ceased daily activities to stop the spread of the illness.

This led to the dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions – those released by power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles – in all major Chinese cities between late-January and February. The drop in emissions also coincided with Lunar New Year celebrations, which usually sees a similar drop in emissions each year.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) observed a decrease of fine particulate matter – one of the most important air pollutants – in February 2020 compared to the previous three years. By combining satellite observations with detailed computer models of the atmosphere, their studies indicated a reduction of around 20-30% in surface particulate matter over large parts of China.

Nitrogen dioxide emissions over China

As the coronavirus epidemic eases in China, many provinces have downgraded their emergency response levels. Schools, factories and other public spaces are starting to re-open and workers are gradually returning to their jobs.

This animation, using data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, shows the nitrogen dioxide emissions from 20 December 2019 until 16 March 2020 – using a 10-day moving average. The drop in emissions in late-January is visible, coinciding with the nationwide quarantine, and from the beginning of March, the nitrogen dioxide levels have begun to increase.

Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, says, “Satellites offer a unique vantage point to monitor the health of our planet. Sentinel-5P is one of seven Copernicus satellites in orbit today. It currently provides the most accurate measurements of nitrogen dioxide and other trace gases from space.

“As nitrogen dioxide is primarily produced by traffic and factories, it is a first-level indicator of industrial activity worldwide. What is clearly visible is a significant reduction of nitrogen dioxide levels over China, caused by reduced activity due to COVID-19 restrictions, but also the Chinese New Year in January.”

He continues, “The Copernicus programme is a perfect example of how space serves all European citizens by combining the political strength of the EU with the technical excellence of ESA.”

Bringing air pollution into focus

Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, comments, “We can certainly attribute a part of the nitrogen dioxide emission reduction to the impact of the coronavirus. We currently see around a 40% reduction over Chinese cities, however these are just rough estimates, as weather also has an impact on emissions.

“We are conducting a detailed scientific analysis which will soon provide more insights and quantified results in the following weeks and months.”

The Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor mission, also known as Sentinel-5P, is dedicated to monitoring air pollution by measuring a multitude of trace gases as well as aerosols – all of which affect the air we breathe.

Related links:

Sentinel-5P satellite:


Observing the Earth:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/ATG medialab.


A simple fusion recipe

Nuclear Fusion Energy logo.

19 March 2020

Permanent magnets could help to optimize the geometry of a future fusion reactor.

Image above: Visualization of how a stellarator’s plasma (orange) can be manipulated using a combination of permanent magnets (red and blue) and superconducting coils (grey rings). Image Credits: C. Zhu/PPPL.

Researchers have proposed a simplified design for nuclear-fusion reactors, based on powerful permanent magnets.

Fusion reactors are still at the prototype stage. They confine plasma inside a doughnut-shaped magnetic field and heat it to millions of degrees, with the goal of fusing light atomic nuclei into heavier ones and releasing vast amounts of energy.

One promising design, called a stellarator, normally requires sophisticated superconducting coils to make the plasma twist as it moves inside the doughnut.

While helping his son with a science-fair project, Michael Zarnstorff at the Max Planck Princeton Research Center for Plasma Physics in New Jersey realized that neodymium–boron permanent magnets had become powerful enough to help. His team’s conceptual design combines simpler, ring-shaped superconducting coils with pancake-shaped magnets attached outside the plasma’s vacuum vessel. Like refrigerator magnets — which stick on only one side — these would produce their magnetic field mainly inside the vessel.

Animation above:Nuclear fusion is the process that allows our Sun to be the ultimate source of energy. Animation Credit: UK ST40 Fusion Reactor.

The superconducting coils would be easier to make and would leave more space around the vacuum vessel for other key components of a future fusion reactor, the scientists say.

Read more: Phys. Rev. Lett. (2020):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: Nature/Physical Review Letter/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


GRACE, GRACE-FO Satellite Data Track Ice Loss at the Poles

NASA - GRACE Mission patch / NASA - GRACE Follow-On Mission patch.

March 19, 2020

Greenland and Antarctica are melting - but how quickly and which areas are most affected? Nearly 20 years of satellite data provide key insights into these questions.

Image above: Greenland's Steenstrup Glacier, with the midmorning sun glinting off the Denmark Strait in the background. The image was taken during a NASA IceBridge airborne survey of the region in 2016. Image Credits: NASA/Operation IceBridge.

During the exceptionally warm Arctic summer of 2019, Greenland lost 600 billion tons of ice - enough to raise global sea levels by nearly a tenth of an inch (2.2 millimeters) in just two months, a new study shows.

Led by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California, Irvine, the study also concludes that Antarctica continues to lose mass, particularly in the Amundsen Sea Embayment and the Antarctic Peninsula on the western part of the continent; however, those losses have been partially offset by gains from increased snowfall in the northeast.

"We knew this past summer had been particularly warm in Greenland, melting every corner of the ice sheet," said lead author Isabella Velicogna, senior project scientist at JPL and a professor at UCI. "But the numbers really are enormous."

Image above: Illustration of the twin GRACE Follow-On Satellites. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

For context, last summer's losses are more than double Greenland's 2002-2019 yearly average.

"In Antarctica, the mass loss in the west proceeds unabated, which will lead to an even further increase in sea level rise," Velicogna said. "But we also observe a mass gain in the Atlantic sector of East Antarctica caused by an uptick in snowfall, which helps mitigate the enormous increase in mass loss that we have seen in the last two decades on other parts of the continent."

She and her colleagues came to these conclusions in the process of establishing data continuity between the recently decommissioned Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission and its successor, GRACE Follow-On.

As mission partnerships between NASA and the German Aerospace Center, and NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences, respectively, the GRACE and GRACE-FO satellites were designed to measure changes to Earth's gravitational pull that result from changes in mass, including water. As water moves around the planet - flowing ocean currents, melting ice, falling rain and so on - it changes the gravitational pull ever so slightly. Scientists use the precise measurements of these variations to monitor Earth's water reserves, including polar ice, global sea levels and groundwater availability.

The first GRACE mission was launched in 2002 and decommissioned in October 2017. GRACE-FO, based on similar technology and designed to continue the data record of its predecessor, launched in May 2018. Because of this brief gap, the study team used independent data to test and confirm that the GRACE and GRACE-FO data over Greenland and Antarctica were consistent. Velicogna was pleased with the results.

Image above: Crevasses in southern Greenland are visible from a 2017 Operation IceBridge airborne survey of the region. Image Credits: NASA/Operation IceBridge.

"It is great to see how well the data line up in Greenland and Antarctica, even at the regional level," she said. "It is a tribute to the great effort by the project, engineering and science teams to make the mission successful."

The study, titled "Continuity of Ice Sheet Mass Loss in Greenland and Antarctica From the GRACE and GRACE Follow-On Missions," was published March 18 in Geophysical Research Letters. In addition to scientists from JPL and UCI, the GRACE and GRACE-FO data continuity project involved researchers from University of Grenoble in France, University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, and the Polar Ice Center at the University of Washington in Seattle.

JPL managed the GRACE mission and manages the GRACE-FO mission for NASA's Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.

More information on GRACE and GRACE-FO can be found here:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Jane J. Lee/University of California/Brian Bell/Written by Brian Bell, UCI, and Esprit Smith, NASA's Earth Science News Team.


mercredi 18 mars 2020

New LHCb analysis still sees previous intriguing results

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

18 March, 2020

The new analysis continues to find tension with the Standard Model, but more data are needed to identify its cause 

The LHCb experiment at CERN (Image: CERN)

At a seminar today at CERN, the LHCb collaboration presented a new analysis of data from a specific transformation, or “decay”, that a particle called B0 meson can undergo. The analysis is based on twice as many B0 decays as previous LHCb analyses, which had disclosed some tension with the Standard Model of particle physics. The tension is still present in the new analysis, but more data are needed to identify its nature.

The decay in question is the decay of a B0 meson, which is made up of a bottom quark and a down quark, into a K* meson (containing a strange quark and down quark) and a pair of muons. It is a rare process: The Standard Model predicts only one such decay for every million B0 decays. In many theories that extend the Standard Model, new unknown particles can also contribute to the decay, resulting in a change of the rate at which the decay should occur. In addition, the distribution of the angles of the B0 decay products with respect to the parent B0 – that is, of the muons and the kaon and pion from the K* decay – can also be affected by the presence of new particles.

In previous studies of this decay, the LHCb team analysed data from the first run of the Large Hadron Collider and found a deviation from Standard Model predictions in one parameter calculated from the angular distributions, technically known as P5'. In the new study, the LHCb team has added LHC data from the machine’s second run to their analysis and still sees a deviation from Standard Model calculations in P5' as well as other parameters. However, the old and new results have a statistical significance of about 3 standard deviations, whereas 5 standard deviations are the gold standard in particle physics. It is therefore too soon to tell whether the deviation is statistically significant and, if so, whether it is caused by a new particle or an unknown experimental or theoretical effect.

"This is a very exciting time to be doing what we call flavour physics," said Mat Charles, LHCb's Physics Coordinator. "Here and in other related analyses, we keep seeing moderate tensions with the Standard Model. We still don't know how this mystery will turn out – nothing has yet reached the level of solid proof – but we're very much looking forward to the next round of results using the full LHCb data, which will roughly double the number of events again."


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

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

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

Read more on the LHCb page:

LHCb previous studies:


Standard Model:

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

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Ana Lopes.

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 5 launched

SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

March 18, 2020

SpaceX Starlink 5 launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the sixth batch of 60 Starlink satellites (Starlink-5) from Launch Complex (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on 18 March 2020, at 12:16 UTC (08:16 EDT).

SpaceX Starlink 5 launch & Falcon 9 first stage attempted landing, 18 March 2020

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage (Block 5 B1048) attempted to land on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX Starlink Constellation

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the sixth batch of approximately 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network, a mission designated Starlink 5.

Falcon 9’s first stage for this mission previously launched the Iridium-7 NEXT mission in July 2018, the SAOCOM 1A mission in October 2018, the Nusantara Satu mission in February 2019, and the second launch of Starlink in November 2019. Falcon 9’s fairing previously supported the first launch of Starlink in May 2019.

Related articles:

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Panic wind among astronomers

SpaceX Starlink launched

For more information about SpaceX, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Station Science Promoting Earth, Space Therapies Ahead of Crew Swap

ISS - Expedition 62 Mission patch.

March 18, 2020

Expedition 62 is continuing a host of studies this week exploring how microgravity affects the human body. Researchers use the weightlessness environment of the International Space Station to provide advanced therapies for healthier humans on Earth and in space.

NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan wore a specialized suit, testing its ability to pull body fluids towards an astronaut’s feet. The Lower Body Negative Pressure suit is designed to prevent the space-caused upward fluid shifts and pooling in the head that create pressure on the eyes and cranium.

Image above: An aurora, above the city lights and a beneath a starry sky, fades into an orbital sunrise as the space station orbited above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of North America. Image Credit: NASA.

Fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir measured Morgan’s eye pressure with a tonometer Wednesday morning as doctors on the ground monitored in real-time. Commander Oleg Skripochka assisted the pair with the hardware and suit activities while the research operations took place in the Zvezda service module.

The trio split up in the afternoon for more space science and station maintenance tasks. The station residents also continued their daily routine of cardio and resistance exercises aboard the orbiting lab.

After lunchtime, Morgan set up gear that monitors airflow and where particles settle on the station. Meir tended to bone cell samples for insights into Earth ailments such as osteoporosis. Skripochka serviced an oxygen generator and plumbing hardware in the station’s Russian segment.

Flying over aurora's. Animation Credit: NASA

The space station will also boost its orbit on Thursday as it gears up for a crew swap in April. Expedition 62 is due to return to Earth on April 17 aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship.

The Expedition 63 crew will launch to the station on April 9 inside the Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy will lead Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner during the 195-day station mission.

Finally, the Cygnus space freighter that left the station on Jan. 31 ended its mission Tuesday night. It burned up safely in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean after several weeks of orbital engineering tests. The newest Cygnus is attached to the station’s Harmony module where it will stay until May.

Related links:

Expedition 62:

Expedition 63:

Fluid shifts:

Zvezda service module:

Bone cell samples:

Cygnus space freighter:

Harmony module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Remembers Apollo 15 Astronaut Al Worden

NASA logo.

March 18, 2020

Former astronaut Alfred M. Worden, command module pilot on the Apollo 15 lunar landing, passed away March 18, 2020, in Texas.

"I’m deeply saddened to hear that Apollo astronaut Al Worden has passed away," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted about Worden. "Al was an American hero whose achievements in space and on Earth will never be forgotten. My prayers are with his family and friends."

As command module pilot, Worden stayed in orbit while commander David Scott and lunar module pilot James B. Irwin explored the Moon’s Hadley Rille and Appennine Mountains. Apollo 15’s command module, dubbed Endeavour, was the first to have its own module of scientific instruments. During the flight back from the Moon, Worden made three spacewalks to retrieve film from cameras in the module. Altogether, Worden logged more than 295 hours in space.

Image above: Astronaut Alfred M. "Al" Worden served as the command module pilot for Apollo 15 in 1971, the fourth lunar landing mission and the first to use a lunar rover. Remaining in orbit while commander David Scott and lunar module pilot James B. Irwin explored Hadley Rille and the Apennine Mountains, Worden photographed the lunar surface and made other observations. On the return trip to Earth, Worden made three spacewalks to retrieve film from an instrument module in the Apollo spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA.

“The thing that was most interesting to me was taking photographs of very faint objects with a special camera that I had on board,” Worden told Smithsonian Magazine in 2011. “These objects reflect sunlight, but it’s very, very weak and you can’t see it from [Earth]. There are several places between the Earth and the moon that are stable equilibrium points. And if that’s the case, there has to be a dust cloud there. I got pictures of that.”

Like other command module pilots, Worden stayed as busy as his colleagues on the surface. But he also took some time to enjoy the view.

“Every time I came around the moon I went to a window and watched the Earth rise and that was pretty unique.”

After retirement from active duty in 1975, Worden became President of Maris Worden Aerospace, Inc., and was Vice-President of BF Goodrich Aerospace Brecksville, Ohio, in addition to other positions within the aerospace and aviation industries. Worden wrote several books: a collection of poetry, “Hello Earth: Greetings from Endeavour” in 1974; a children’s book, “I Want to Know About a Flight to the Moon”, also in 1974; and a memoir, “Falling to Earth,” in 2011. His interest in educating children about space led to an appearance on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”.

NASA Remembers Apollo Astronaut Al Worden

Worden was born Feb. 7, 1932, in Jackson, Michigan, on February 7, 1932. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1955. He earned master of science degrees in astronautical/aeronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1963. In 1971, the University of Michigan awarded him an honorary doctorate of science in astronautical engineering.

Before becoming an astronaut, Worden was an instructor at the Aerospace Research Pilots School. He had also served as a pilot and armament officer from March 1957 to May 1961 with the 95th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

Worden was one of 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He served as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 9 and as backup command module pilot for Apollo 12.

After leaving the astronaut corps, Worden moved to NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He was the Senior Aerospace Scientist there from 1972-73, and then chief of the Systems Study Division until 1975.

Al Worden’s full NASA biography (dated December 1993):

Image (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Brian Dunbar.


How Space Station Research is Helping NASA’s Plans to Explore the Moon and Beyond

ISS - International Space Station logo.

March 18, 2020

As part of the Artemis lunar exploration program, NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon and use that experience to inform future human exploration of Mars. To safely and comfortably explore for days at a time on the surface of these celestial bodies, astronauts need suitable equipment and places to live. Almost 20 years of human habitation aboard the International Space Station and a growing body of research conducted there are contributing important insights into how to meet these needs for future lunar explorers.

An orbiting Gateway

As a first step toward sustained human presence on the Moon, NASA is building an outpost in lunar orbit, known as Gateway. This spaceship will provide access to more of the lunar surface than ever before and serve as home base for astronaut expeditions on the Moon. Its capabilities for science, more autonomous exploration, and commercial and international partnerships all are influenced by and build on the experiences of the space station. Where the space station has provided opportunity for long-duration human spaceflight, Gateway takes the next step, into the deep space environment.

Image above: A full Moon seen from the International Space Station as it orbits 251 miles above the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, territories of India in the Bay of Bengal. Image Credit: NASA.

Home, home on the Moon

It will not be practical for astronauts on the Moon to spend extended time in a tent or the cramped quarters of a landing capsule like those used by Apollo astronauts. Scientists and engineers have used the space station to learn more about how we might one day create extraterrestrial habitats and make explorers comfortable in them.

For example, the space station enabled testing of BEAM, a prototype of a compact, lightweight expandable habitat that takes up minimal space at launch. After deployment in space or on the Moon, this type of habitat provides protection from solar and cosmic radiation, debris and other contaminants. Crew members expanded BEAM in May 2016 and have been in it dozens of times, collecting radiation, microbial air and surface samples that are returned to Earth for analysis.

Another technology studied on the space station, 3D printing, could address logistical constraints of future space exploration. Experiments on the space station have shown that 3D printers work normally in microgravity and demonstrated use of a refabricator, a 3D printer that uses recycled waste plastic materials. Eventually, astronauts could use 3D printing to make their own spare parts, tools and materials on demand. Missions to Mars will not have the capability for resupply or be able to carry many spare parts. Repurposing materials and printing spares could help solve these problems. The Refabricator offers one way to deal with the issue of trash on long space missions.

Image above: An expandable habitat, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), during testing on the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

If the suit fits

Spacecraft and habitats have life support systems to provide astronauts with oxygen, safe temperatures and protection from radiation. To work outside of these environments on, say, the Moon, requires wearing a spacesuit. Suits need to serve as individual, mobile life support systems, as well as feel comfortable and fit correctly.

Research on the space station tested a new thermal control technology that uses water to maintain appropriate temperatures in spacesuits. The Spacesuit Evaporation Rejection Flight Experiment investigation also evaluates this technology’s effect on contamination and corrosion of some materials used in spacesuits.

The human body changes in space and a suit that fits on Earth may not fit once its wearer is on the Moon. Research on the space station that collected comprehensive body measurements from astronauts before, during and after flight could help address the issue of suit sizing.

Space station research contributes to NASA’s design of a new suit specifically for Artemis missions, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU). It also provides a way to test and refine this suit and its features.

Image above: NASA spacesuit engineer Amy Ross and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine introduce spacesuit engineer Kristine Davis, wearing a ground prototype of NASA’s new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), and Orion Crew Survival Systems Project Manager Dustin Gohmert, wearing the Orion Crew Survival System suit. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Beyond the suit

The 227 spacewalks taken from the space station have provided useful experience for future spacewalk planning and preparation.

Teams map out specific tasks step by step for each spacewalk, typically working to fit them within about six hours. Spacewalks sometimes run longer -- the longest one lasted eight hours and 56 minutes – and these experiences help teams refine expectations for how long various tasks take in space.

A recent set of spacewalks set out to repair an instrument not originally designed for servicing in space, which meant it had no handrails or foot restraints and did not accommodate the usual spacewalk tools. The spacewalks required four years of planning but accomplished more than successfully repairing the instrument. The process of creating and testing special tools and procedures for the effort is contributing to better planning for tomorrow’s spacewalks on Moon and Mars missions. Furthermore, astronauts learned to cut and reconnect fluid lines on a spacewalk, which had never been done before and may be a valuable skill on missions several days or months from Earth.

Image above: ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, attached to the Canadarm2 robotic arm, with the new thermal pump system for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) during the third spacewalk to upgrade the cosmic particle detector. Image Credit: NASA.

Deadly showers

Meteors are fragments of rock or minerals created by the disintegration of comets or asteroids orbiting the sun. Small fragments burn up completely or partially in Earth’s atmosphere, but the Moon has no atmosphere to protect it – or astronauts.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), launched in 2009 to map the lunar surface, revealed that the Moon experiences a heavier bombardment by small meteoroids than models had predicted. That means a lunar base must be sturdier than previously thought. While a direct hit is unlikely, the intense rain of secondary debris thrown out by a nearby impact poses a risk.

Whipple shields, already in use on crewed modules of the space station, are one possible type of protection. The shields consist of a thin outer layer and a thicker rear layer, with a small space between the two. The outer layer breaks upon impact, disintegrating the projectile and spreading the force over a larger area of the inner wall of the spacecraft. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) have conducted research about how to make the systems more effective to support better protection of lunar facilities.

Image above: Time lapse of meteorites captured by the Crew Earth Observation (CEO) system on the space station during the Perseid meteor shower. Meteorites pose a greater risk to astronauts and structures on the Moon because of its lack of atmosphere, and researchers are looking for ways to provide better protection. Image Credit: NASA.

Related links:







Suit sizing:

The spacewalks:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO):


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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