samedi 25 juillet 2020

CASC - Long March-4B launches Ziyuan III 03

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

July 25, 2020

Long March-4B launches Ziyuan III 03

A Long March-4B launch vehicle launched the Ziyuan III 03 satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Shanxi Province, northern China, on 25 July 2020, at 03:13 UTC (11:13 local time).

Long March-4B launches Ziyuan III 03

Ziyuan III 03 (资源三号03) is a new high-resolution mapping satellite developed by the China Academy of Space Technology. It will join Ziyuan III 02 to form a network and capture high-definition 3D images and multispectral data.

Ziyuan III satellite

Also on board the rocket were two satellites used for dark matter detection and commercial data acquisition respectively. They were developed by the Shanghai ASES Spaceflight Technology Co. Ltd.

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

Images, video, Text, Credits: CCTV/SciNews/Günter Space Page/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 24 juillet 2020

Two Astronauts Prep for Homecoming After Spacewalk and Cargo Mission

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

July 24, 2020

The Expedition 63 crew has started the weekend following a spacewalk and a same-day delivery this week to resupply the International Space Station. Two NASA astronauts are also getting ready to return to Earth after a two-month stay in space.

Commander Chris Cassidy cleaned water loops today inside the U.S. spacesuits he and Flight Engineer Bob Behnken wore during Tuesday’s five-hour and 29-minute spacewalk. The skilled astronaut has chalked up 10 career spacewalks gaining nearly 55 hours of external lab maintenance experience. This was also the tenth spacewalk for Behnken netting him just over 61 hours of service outside the station.

Image above: NASA spacewalker Bob Behnken takes a “space-selfie” with his helmet visor up on his U.S. spacesuit. Image Credit: NASA.

Behnken is now turning his attention to readying the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle that will return he and fellow NASA astronaut Doug Hurley to Earth at the beginning of August. They will undock from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter on Aug. 1. The duo will splashdown on Aug. 2 ending NASA’s first crewed mission aboard a commercial spacecraft.

Behnken and Hurley packed clothing, personal items and other gear today inside the Crew Dragon. The two astronauts also tried on a specialized suit to help their bodies adapt to the conditions of Earth’s gravity upon their return.

EarthCam view from ISS. Animation Credit: ISS HD Live Now

Five spaceships are parked at the station after Thursday’s arrival of Russia’s Progress 76 (76P) resupply ship less than three-and-half hours after launch. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin has begun unpacking some of the nearly three tons of cargo delivered aboard the 76P. Fellow Roscosmos cosmonaut Ivan Vagner assisted with the cargo transfers and updated the station’s inventory management system.

Related article:

Resupply Ship Docks to Station After Two Orbits

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

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Hubble Snaps Ghostly Galaxy

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 24, 2020

A notable feature of most spiral galaxies is the multitude of arching spiral arms that seemingly spin out from the galaxy’s center. In this image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the stunning silvery-blue spiral arms of the galaxy NGC 4848 are observed in immense detail. Not only do we see the inner section of the spiral arms containing hundreds of thousands of young, bright, blue stars, but Hubble has also captured the extremely faint, wispy tails of the outer spiral arms. Myriad more distant and delightfully diverse galaxies appear in the background.

This wispy barred spiral galaxy was first discovered in 1865 by the German astronomer Heinrich Louis d’Arrest. In his career, Heinrich also notably discovered the asteroid 76 Freia and many other galaxies, and he also contributed to the discovery of Neptune.

If you are situated in the Northern Hemisphere with a large telescope, you might just be able to observe the ghost-like appearance of this faint galaxy within the faint constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair).

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

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Text Credits: ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA/Rob Garner/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Gregg.

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of July 20, 2020

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

July 24, 2020

The week of July 20, research conducted by crew members aboard the International Space Station included studies on how microgravity affects the behavior of fluids and gene expression in mice. SpaceX Crew Dragon Commercial Crew Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley also began to pack for their return to Earth and splashdown scheduled for Aug. 2.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

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. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, once again launching astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil, increases the crew time available for science on the orbiting lab.

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

Microfluidics in microgravity

Capillary Driven Microfluidics examines capillary flows in small devices in microgravity. Capillary forces, the interaction of a liquid with the solid sides of a narrow tube that serves to draw the fluid up the tube, act even in the absence of gravity. Better methods for controlling fluids could lead to development of improved medical diagnostic tools. For example, some devices require separation of blood cells and plasma, which have different densities; microgravity improves the efficiency of this separation. During the week, the crew completed runs for the investigation.

Wrapping up analysis of gene expression changes

Animation above: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy works on reconfiguring the Cell Biology Experiment Facility-L (CBEF-L) to close out the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) MHU-5 investigation into how microgravity affects gene expression in mice. Animation Credit: NASA.

During the week, crew members configured the Cell Biology Experiment Facility-Left (CBEF-L) to close out the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Mouse Habitat Unit -5 (MHU-5) investigation. CBEF-L is an incubator with artificial gravity generators used for various life sciences studies. MHU-5 examined the effects of partial gravity on mice using JAXA-developed mouse habitat cage units installed in the incubator. Stress caused by partial gravity may alter gene expression in cells of the body, and MHU-5 analyzes such alterations and their possible effects on germ cells, which carry genetic information and expression to subsequent generations.

Searching for dark matter

Some investigations aboard the space station operate mostly autonomously, requiring little or no involvement by the crew. One of the automated investigations collecting data during this week is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-02 (AMS-02). Scientists theorize that stars, planets, and the molecules they contain represent less than five percent of the mass-energy content of the universe. The rest is dark energy and dark matter, which cannot be directly detected. AMS-02 looks for evidence of these substances by recording cosmic rays, highly energetic particles that bombard Earth from space.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

Image above: An image of Angola, Africa, taken as part of the July 2020 EarthKAM mission. Students on Earth control this special digital camera on the space station to take and examine photographs of Earth’s features. Image Credit: NASA.

- Sally Ride Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle Schools (EarthKAM) allows students to control a special digital camera and take photographs of Earth’s features so they can examine them from the perspective of space.

- Astrobee tests three self-contained, free-flying robots designed to assist astronauts with routine chores, give ground controllers additional eyes and ears, and perform crew monitoring, sampling, and logistics management.

- The Integrated Impact of Diet on Human Immune Response, the Gut Microbiota, and Nutritional Status During Adaptation to Spaceflight (Food Physiology) investigation documents the effects of dietary improvements on immune function and the gut microbiome and the ability of those improvements to support adaptation to spaceflight.

Image above: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and Chris Cassidy (left to right) prepare the Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS) for installation. The new docking station stores instruments on the exterior of the space station so crew members do not have to move hardware through the airlock, allowing for quicker and simpler instrument deployment. The RiTS can store two Robotic External Leak Locators (RELLs). These tools detect leaks outside of the station, a capability applicable to any human habitation in space, including Gateway and, eventually, habitats on the Moon and Mars. Image Credit: NASA.

- The Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS) docking station installed during this week’s spacewalk stores two Robotic External Leak Locators (RELLs), tools that detect leaks outside the space station. Keeping tools on the exterior of the station means crew members do not have to move them through the airlock when needed, allowing for quicker and simpler deployment.

Space to Ground: Same Day Delivery: 07/24/2020

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Commercial Crew Program:

Capillary Driven Microfluidics:




ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 63.

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jeudi 23 juillet 2020

Hubble Sees Summertime on Saturn

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 23, 2020

Saturn is truly the lord of the rings in this latest snapshot from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, taken on July 4, 2020, when the opulent giant world was 839 million miles from Earth. This new Saturn image was taken during summer in the planet's northern hemisphere.

Image above: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of Saturn on July 4, 2020. Two of Saturn's icy moons are clearly visible in this exposure: Mimas at right, and Enceladus at bottom. This image is taken as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project. OPAL is helping scientists understand the atmospheric dynamics and evolution of our solar system's gas giant planets. In Saturn's case, astronomers continue tracking shifting weather patterns and storms. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), and the OPAL Team.

Hubble found a number of small atmospheric storms. These are transient features that appear to come and go with each yearly Hubble observation. The banding in the northern hemisphere remains pronounced as seen in Hubble's 2019 observations, with several bands slightly changing color from year to year. The ringed planet's atmosphere is mostly hydrogen and helium with traces of ammonia, methane, water vapor, and hydrocarbons that give it a yellowish-brown color.

Hubble photographed a slight reddish haze over the northern hemisphere in this color composite. This may be due to heating from increased sunlight, which could either change the atmospheric circulation or perhaps remove ices from aerosols in the atmosphere. Another theory is that the increased sunlight in the summer months is changing the amounts of photochemical haze produced. "It's amazing that even over a few years, we're seeing seasonal changes on Saturn," said lead investigator Amy Simon of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Conversely, the just-now-visible south pole has a blue hue, reflecting changes in Saturn's winter hemisphere.

Hubble's sharp view resolves the finely etched concentric ring structure. The rings are mostly made of pieces of ice, with sizes ranging from tiny grains to giant boulders. Just how and when the rings formed remains one of our solar system's biggest mysteries. Conventional wisdom is that they are as old as the planet, over 4 billion years. But because the rings are so bright – like freshly fallen snow – a competing theory is that they may have formed during the age of the dinosaurs. Many astronomers agree that there is no satisfactory theory that explains how rings could have formed within just the past few hundred million years. "However, NASA's Cassini spacecraft measurements of tiny grains raining into Saturn's atmosphere suggest the rings can only last for 300 million more years, which is one of the arguments for a young age of the ring system," said team member Michael Wong of the University of California, Berkeley.

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

Two of Saturn's icy moons are clearly visible in this exposure: Mimas at right, and Enceladus at bottom.

This image is taken as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project. OPAL is helping scientists understand the atmospheric dynamics and evolution of our solar system's gas giant planets. In Saturn's case, astronomers continue tracking shifting weather patterns and storms.

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) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/GSFC/Amy Simon/Claire Andreoli/UC Berkeley, Berkeley/Michael H. Wong/Space Telescope Science Institute/Ray Villard.


Resupply Ship Docks to Station After Two Orbits

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

July 23, 2020

Progress MS-15 docking

An uncrewed Russian Progress 76 spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment on the station’s Russian segment at 1:45 p.m. EDT, a little more than three hours after lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:26 a.m. (7:26 p.m. Baikonur time). At the time of docking, the spacecraft were traveling about 250 miles over [LOCATION].

The cargo spacecraft is delivering almost three tons of food, fuel, and supplies to the Expedition 63 crew members who are living and working in space to advance scientific knowledge, demonstrate new technologies, and make research breakthroughs not possible on Earth.

Image above: July 23, 2020: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the HTV-9 resupply ship from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and Russia’s Progress 75 and 76 resupply ships and Soyuz MS-16 crew ship. Image Credit: NASA.

Progress 76 will remain docked at the station for more than four months, departing in December for its deorbit into Earth’s atmosphere.

Related article:

Russian Cargo Ship Blasts Off on Express Delivery

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

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Russian Cargo Ship Blasts Off on Express Delivery

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

July 23, 2020

Image above: Russia’s Progress 76 cargo rocket blasts off on time from Kazakhstan. Image Credit: Roscosmos.

The uncrewed Russian Progress 76 carrying about three tons of supplies to the International Space Station launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 10:26 a.m. (7:26 p.m. Baikonur time).

Progress MS-15 launch (On-board camera view)

The resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned and will circle the planet two times on its way to meet up with the orbiting laboratory and its Expedition 63 crew members.

Live coverage on NASA TV will resume at 1 p.m. for the Progress spacecraft’s rendezvous and docking. The spacecraft is expected to automatically link up to the Pirs docking compartment on the station’s Russian segment at 1:47 p.m.

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Mapping the Oaxaca earthquake from space

ESA - Sentinel-1 Mission logo.

July 23, 2020

On the morning of 23 June 2020, a strong earthquake struck the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The 7.4- magnitude earthquake prompted evacuations in the region, triggered a tsunami warning and damaged thousands of houses. Satellite radar data, from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, are being used to analyse the effects of the earthquake on land.

Oaxaca interferogram

Mexico is one of the world’s most seismically active regions, sitting on top of three of Earth’s largest tectonic plates – the North American, Cocos and Pacific. Near Mexico’s southern region, the North American plate collides with the Cocos plate, which is forced underground in a subduction zone. This geological process is associated with many of the damaging earthquakes on the Pacific coast of Mexico – including the most recent on 23 June.

The earthquake reported in the Oaxaca region occurred at 10:29 local time – with its epicentre located around 12 km southwest of Santa María Zapotitlán. Several powerful aftershocks were registered the same day, with five more recorded in the following 24 hours.

While there is currently no way to predict when earthquakes will occur, radar imagery from satellites allow for the effects of earthquakes to be observed. Since its launch, the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission has proven a magnificent system to measure the surface deformation caused by tectonics, volcanic eruptions and land subsidence.

Oaxaca interferogram

In the figures on the left, data from the Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B satellite, acquired shortly before and after the earthquake, have been combined to measure the coseismic surface displacement, or changes on the ground, that occurred between the two acquisition dates. This leads to the colourful interference (or fringe) pattern known as an ‘interferogram’, which enables scientists to quantify the surface displacement.

Ramón Torres, Copernicus Sentinel-1 Project Manager, explains, “The interferogram represents surface displacement in the radar line of sight, i.e. half of the radar wavelength. The distance between the interference cycle, from yellow to yellow, corresponds to 28 mm deformation in the radar line of sight. For example, a blue-green-red colour cycle represents a relative movement towards the radar, while a red-green-blue colour cycle means a deformation away from the radar.”


“The fringes can be unwrapped to allow the conversion into metres. The result, referred to as the surface displacement map, shows the relative deformation caused by the earthquake.”

In the Oaxaca images, ground deformation of up to 0.45 m was observed in the coastal city of La Crucecita – where the epicentre was located.

With its 250 km-wide swath over land surfaces, the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission gives scientists a broad view of the displacement, allowing them to examine the ground displacement and further develop the scientific knowledge of quakes.

Surface deformation

By benefitting from the availability of both Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B imagery, scientists are able to quantify the ground movement in both vertical and east-west directions by combing the radar scans obtained as the satellites flew both south to north and north to south.

While current radar missions are limited in measuring the east-west component of surface displacement, the proposed Earth Explorer candidate mission, Harmony, will augment the capabilities by adding additional ‘lines of sight’ to the Sentinel-1 mission.

In areas where the displacement is predominantly in the north-south direction, Harmony will have the ability to systematically and accurately measure an additional dimension of displacement. This will help resolve ambiguities in the underlying geophysical processes that lead to earthquakes, landslides and volcanism.

Looking to the future, the upcoming six high-priority candidate missions will expand the current capabilities of the Sentinel missions, one of them being the L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar, ROSE-L, mission, which will also augment the current capabilities of Sentinel-1. The mission will allow scientists to further improve the mapping of earthquakes over the next decade.

Ramón Torres says, “The Sentinel-1 services are very well guaranteed for decades to come. The upcoming Sentinel-1C and Sentinel-1D are in the process of being completed, and the design of the next generation of satellites will begin later this year.”

Related links:



Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.


NASA Juno Takes First Images of Jovian Moon Ganymede's North Pole

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

July 23, 2020

Infrared images from Juno provide the first glimpse of Ganymede's icy north pole. 

Image above: These images the JIRAM instrument aboard NASA's Juno spacecraft took on Dec. 26, 2019, provide the first infrared mapping of Ganymede's northern frontier. Frozen water molecules detected at both poles have no appreciable order to their arrangement and a different infrared signature than ice at the equator. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM.

On its way inbound for a Dec. 26, 2019, flyby of Jupiter, NASA's Juno spacecraft flew in the proximity of the north pole of the ninth-largest object in the solar system, the moon Ganymede. The infrared imagery collected by the spacecraft's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument provides the first infrared mapping of the massive moon's northern frontier.

The only moon in the solar system that is larger than the planet Mercury, Ganymede consists primarily of water ice. Its composition contains fundamental clues for understanding the evolution of the 79 Jovian moons from the time of their formation to today.

Ganymede is also the only moon in the solar system with its own magnetic field. On Earth, the magnetic field provides a pathway for plasma (charged particles from the Sun) to enter our atmosphere and create aurora. As Ganymede has no atmosphere to impede their progress, the surface at its poles is constantly being bombarded by plasma from Jupiter's gigantic magnetosphere. The bombardment has a dramatic effect on Ganymede's ice.

"The JIRAM data show the ice at and surrounding Ganymede's north pole has been modified by the precipitation of plasma," said Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome. "It is a phenomenon that we have been able to learn about for the first time with Juno because we are able to see the north pole in its entirety."

Image above: The north pole of Ganymede can be seen in center of this annotated image taken by the JIRAM infrared imager aboard NASA's Juno spacecraft on Dec. 26, 2019. The thick line is 0-degrees longitude. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM.

The ice near both poles of the moon is amorphous. This is because charged particles follow the moon's magnetic field lines to the poles, where they impact, wreaking havoc on the ice there, preventing it from having an ordered (or crystalline) structure. In fact, frozen water molecules detected at both poles have no appreciable order to their arrangement, and the amorphous ice has a different infrared signature than the crystalline ice found at Ganymede's equator.

"These data are another example of the great science Juno is capable of when observing the moons of Jupiter," said Giuseppe Sindoni, program manager of the JIRAM instrument for the Italian Space Agency.

JIRAM was designed to capture the infrared light emerging from deep inside Jupiter, probing the weather layer down to 30 to 45 miles (50 to 70 kilometers) below Jupiter's cloud tops. But the instrument can also be used to study the moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto (also known collectively as the Galilean moons for their discoverer, Galileo).

Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Animation Credit: NASA

Knowing the top of Ganymede would be within view of Juno on Dec. 26 flyby of Jupiter, the mission team programmed the spacecraft to turn so instruments like JIRAM could see Ganymede's surface. At the time surrounding its closest approach of Ganymede - at about 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) - JIRAM collected 300 infrared images of the surface, with a spatial resolution of 14 miles (23 kilometers) per pixel.

The secrets of Jupiter's largest moon revealed by Juno and JIRAM will benefit the next mission to the icy world. The ESA (European Space Agency) JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission is scheduled to begin a 3 1/2-year exploration of Jupiter's giant magnetosphere, turbulent atmosphere, and its icy moons Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa beginning in 2030. NASA is providing an Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument, along with also subsystems and components for two additional instruments: the Particle Environment Package and the Radar for Icy Moon Exploration experiment.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Italian Space Agency (ASI) contributed the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

More information about Juno is available at:

More information on Jupiter is at:

The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Alana Johnson/Grey Hautaluoma/INAF - National Institute for Astrophysics/Marco Galliani/Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio/Deb Schmid/JPL/DC Agle.


SolarStratos resumed test flights in Payerne (Switzerland)

SolarStratos logo.

July 23, 2020

Flanked by new wings, the SolarStratos solar plane was able to resume its test flights this Thursday in Payerne, after a two-year hiatus.

SolarStratos test flights have resumed in Payerne (VD) after a two-year hiatus. The solar plane now has new wings. In 2018, the left wing broke during a stress test, causing the project to be significantly delayed.

SolarStratos took off at 6:50 am Thursday morning

SolarStratos took off at 6:50 am Thursday morning. The aircraft reached an altitude of 800 meters. It rounded the Payerne aerodrome before touching down gently 20 minutes later. "Everything went perfectly," SolarStratos said in a statement.

The changes made in recent months have paid off, according to the team that has formed around Raphaël Domjan, the initiator of the project. The aircraft is now more stable and reliable than during the first test flights.

SolarStratos: an electric plane in space

The device was first presented in December 2016. Its goal: to successfully fly up to the stratosphere cleanly, using solar energy. The incident in July 2018, and the design of new wings, caused a delay, further exacerbated by the Covdi-19 health crisis.

SolarStratos is a unique and sensitive experimental aircraft, recalls the press release. Future flights will be with a single pilot, then duplicate flights will be planned, as the aircraft gradually gains altitude.

Related articles:

SolarStratos achieves its first flight

Swiss adventurer unveils incredible stratospheric solar plane

Stratospheric flight with a solar plane

For more information about SolarStratos, visit:

Images, Text, Credits:ATS/SolarStratos/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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China in turn (after UAE) begins its journey to Mars

CNSA - Tianwen-1 (天問-1) Mission to Mars logo.

July 23, 2020

Long March-5 Y4 launches Tianwen-1

The Tianwen-1 Mars mission was launched by a Long March-5 launch vehicle (Long March-5 Y4) from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, Hainan Province, on 23 July 2020, at 04:41 UTC (12:41 local time).

Long March-5 Y4 launches Tianwen-1

Tianwen-1 is China’s first Mars exploration mission and includes an orbiter, a lander and a rover.

Tianwen-1 Mars Rover and Lander

A Chinese Long March 5 rocket launches the Tianwen 1 mission to attempt China’s first landing on Mars. The robotic mission includes an orbiter and a mobile rover to explore the surface of Mars.

Tianwen-1 (天問-1) Mars lander. Image Credit: CNSA

Called "Tianwen" ("Questions in heaven"), the Chinese mission has three objectives: to place a probe in Martian orbit, to make it land on the red planet, then to remote-control a robot on the surface to conduct analyzes.

Related articles:

Hope Mars Mission on way to Mars

China to launch probe to Mars in July

Tianwen-1 will be China’s first Mars mission

China unveils rover that it will send to Mars

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

For more information about China National Space Administration (CNSA), visit:

Image (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: SciNews/CCTV/CASC/CNSA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


mercredi 22 juillet 2020

Crew Awaits Cargo, Works Science and Departure Following Spacewalk

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

July 22, 2020

The Expedition 63 crew is turning its attention to Thursday’s express cargo delivery mission following a successful spacewalk on Tuesday.

Russia’s Progress 76 (76P) rocket stands at its launch pad in Kazakhstan packed with nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies to replenish the International Space Station. The 76P will blast off at 10:26 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and dock to the station’s Pirs docking compartment at 1:47 p.m. NASA TV is broadcasting the launch starting at 10 a.m. and returns at 1 p.m. to cover the 76P’s approach and rendezvous.

NASA Television:

Progress MS-15 ready for launch

NASA Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Bob Behnken took it easy Wednesday morning after a five-hour and 29-minute spacewalk on Tuesday. The duo then participated in standard health checks before a series of two-hour cycling and jogging workout sessions. The astronauts, who now have 10 spacewalks each, finished the day servicing U.S. spacesuits and cleaning up the Quest airlock.

Cassidy also managed to juggle a pair of science experiments as he stowed student-controlled Earth observation gear then collected samples for a food physiology study. Behnken joined his fellow SpaceX Crew Dragon crewmate Doug Hurley and began packing for their return to Earth and splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 2.

Image above: Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy conducts a spacewalk to set up the Tranquility module for the future installation of a NanoRacks airlock. Image Credit: NASA.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are ready and will be on duty Thursday afternoon monitoring the arrival of the 76P. However, the duo spent Wednesday on a variety of Russian science and maintenance tasks. Ivanishin checked air flow sensors and cleaned vents and fans. Ivanishin worked on specialized Earth observation gear throughout the day before downloading radiation readings.

Related links:

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Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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First Ever Image of a Multi-Planet System around a Sun-like Star Captured by ESO Telescope

ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

22 July 2020

 First ever image of a multi-planet system around a Sun-like star

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) has taken the first ever image of a young, Sun-like star accompanied by two giant exoplanets. Images of systems with multiple exoplanets are extremely rare, and — until now — astronomers had never directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the Sun. The observations can help astronomers understand how planets formed and evolved around our own Sun.

Just a few weeks ago, ESO revealed a planetary system being born in a new, stunning VLT image. Now, the same telescope, using the same instrument, has taken the first direct image of a planetary system around a star like our Sun, located about 300 light-years away and known as TYC 8998-760-1.

Image above: First ever image of a multi-planet system around a Sun-like star (uncropped, with annotations).

“This discovery is a snapshot of an environment that is very similar to our Solar System, but at a much earlier stage of its evolution,” says Alexander Bohn, a PhD student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who led the new research published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“Even though astronomers have indirectly detected thousands of planets in our galaxy, only a tiny fraction of these exoplanets have been directly imaged,” says co-author Matthew Kenworthy, Associate Professor at Leiden University, adding that “direct observations are important in the search for environments that can support life.” The direct imaging of two or more exoplanets around the same star is even more rare; only two such systems have been directly observed so far, both around stars markedly different from our Sun. The new ESO’s VLT image is the first direct image of more than one exoplanet around a Sun-like star. ESO’s VLT was also the first telescope to directly image an exoplanet, back in 2004, when it captured a speck of light around a brown dwarf, a type of ‘failed’ star.

Image above: First ever image of a multi-planet system around a Sun-like star (uncropped, without annotations).

“Our team has now been able to take the first image of two gas giant companions that are orbiting a young, solar analogue,” says Maddalena Reggiani, a postdoctoral researcher from KU Leuven, Belgium, who also participated in the study. The two planets can be seen in the new image as two bright points of light distant from their parent star, which is located in the upper left of the frame (click on the image to view the full frame). By taking different images at different times, the team were able to distinguish these planets from the background stars.

The two gas giants orbit their host star at distances of 160 and about 320 times the Earth-Sun distance. This places these planets much further away from their star than Jupiter or Saturn, also two gas giants, are from the Sun; they lie at only 5 and 10 times the Earth-Sun distance, respectively. The team also found the two exoplanets are much heavier than the ones in our Solar System, the inner planet having 14 times Jupiter’s mass and the outer one six times.

Location of TYC 8998-760-1 in the constellation of Musca

Bohn’s team imaged this system during their search for young, giant planets around stars like our Sun but far younger. The star TYC 8998-760-1 is just 17 million years old and located in the Southern constellation of Musca (The Fly). Bohn describes it as a “very young version of our own Sun.”

These images were possible thanks to the high performance of the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s VLT in the Chilean Atacama desert. SPHERE blocks the bright light from the star using a device called coronagraph, allowing the much fainter planets to be seen. While older planets, such as those in our Solar System, are too cool to be found with this technique, young planets are hotter, and so glow brighter in infrared light. By taking several images over the past year, as well as using older data going back to 2017, the research team have confirmed that the two planets are part of the star’s system.

View of the orbit of two exoplanets around TYC 8998-760-1

Further observations of this system, including with the future ESO Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), will enable astronomers to test whether these planets formed at their current location distant from the star or migrated from elsewhere. ESO’s ELT will also help probe the interaction between two young planets in the same system. Bohn concludes: “The possibility that future instruments, such as those available on the ELT, will be able to detect even lower-mass planets around this star marks an important milestone in understanding multi-planet systems, with potential implications for the history of our own Solar System.”

A ‘fly to’ TYC 8998-760-1

More information:

This research was presented in the paper “Two Directly Imaged, Wide-orbit Giant Planets around the Young, Solar Analog TYC 8998-760-1” to appear in The Astrophysical Journal Letters (

The team is composed of Alexander J. Bohn (Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, The Netherlands), Matthew A. Kenworthy (Leiden Observatory), Christian Ginski (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Leiden Observatory), Steven Rieder (University of Exeter, Physics Department, UK), Eric E. Mamajek (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA and Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Rochester, USA), Tiffany Meshkat (IPAC, California Institute of Technology, USA), Mark J. Pecaut (Rockhurst University, Department of Physics, USA), Maddalena Reggiani (Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium), Jozua de Boer (Leiden Observatory), Christoph U. Keller (Leiden Observatory), Frans Snik (Leiden Observatory) and John Southworth (Keele University, UK).

For external comment on the paper, please contact ESO Astronomer Carlo Manara (, who did not participate in the study.

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It has 16 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and with Australia as a Strategic Partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. Also at Paranal ESO will host and operate the Cherenkov Telescope Array South, the world’s largest and most sensitive gamma-ray observatory. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.


ESOcast 226 Light: First Image of a Multi-Planet System Around a Sun-like Star

Research paper:

Photos of the VLT:

For scientists: got a story? Pitch your research:

ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT):

SPHERE instrument:

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/Bárbara Ferreira/Carlo Manara (astronomer who did not participate in the study; contact for external comment)/Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven/Maddalena Reggiani/Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden/Matthew Kenworthy/Alexander Bohn/Videos: ESO/L.Calçada/

Best regards,

Fruit Punch and Foam Could Help Us Learn to Manage Liquids in Space

ISS - International Space Station logo.

July 22, 2020

When NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley squeezed a bag of fruit punch aboard the International Space Station last month, he did not get a refreshing drink. Instead, the red fluid that emerged from his drink bag wound down a clear tube and soaked into a block of white foam.

While it might not look like much, this simple experiment is providing researchers with better information about managing liquids in microgravity.

Image above: NASA astronaut Jack Fischer performs the setup of hardware for the Capillary Structures for Exploration Life Support (Capillary Structures) two sorbent demonstrations. The Capillary Structures investigation studies a new method using structures of specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures. Image Credit: NASA.

Hurley conducted his foam infill demonstration as a part of the Capillary Structures for Exploration Life Support (Capillary Structures) investigation, which studies the use of different structures and containers to manage fluids and gases. The experiment may provide researchers with a better understanding of capillary forces, the small pushes and pulls that move liquid through a narrow tube.

Capillary systems can be simpler to use than current water-purification and air-cleaning systems because they rely on specific geometric shapes and fluid dynamics rather than complex pumps and machinery to move and store liquid. Similar technology also could be used in water recovery systems, desalination plants, and other facilities on Earth.

Image above: A close-up view of the Capillary Flow Experiments-2 Vane Gap-1 (CFE-2 VG1) vessel mounted on the Maintenance Work Area. The test fluid (silicone oil with red dye) can be seen in the test chamber. Image Credit: NASA.

“Because the forces of surface tension are so small, there is almost no way to study capillary forces on the ground at the scales that we can in low gravity,” says Mark Weislogel, the experiment’s principal investigator and professor of mechanical engineering at Portland State University in Oregon.

In a microgravity environment, these tiny forces can be more easily observed. That is why Weislogel has led studies of capillary flow aboard station since the early expeditions.

“We started this long line of capillary experiments that have been going to space since about 15 years ago,” says Weislogel. “They are all small scale fluid experiments that have taught us a lot about managing fluids in space without any moving parts or electricity.”

Image above: Principal investigator Mark Weislogel and graduate student researcher Rihana Mungin work in the NASA-PSU Telescience Support Lab in Portland, Oregon. On screen, NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley conducts a foam demonstration aboard the space station. Image Credit: Mark Weislogel.

Hurley’s contributions are the latest in a line of astronaut involvement with capillary investigations during the nearly 20 years humans have lived continuously aboard the orbiting laboratory.

“The astronauts are everything to us,” says Weislogel. “We build experiments that are pretty wide open in what is possible. They have been able to take the hardware and do way more with it than we had originally planned.”

Hurley and fellow Commercial Crew Program astronaut Robert Behnken launched to the space station in May aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, increasing the crew time available for science on the orbiting lab.

Fruit Punch and Foam: Managing Liquids in Space

Under Weislogel’s guidance, Hurley conducted an engineering demonstration that could inform the creation of better water purification systems for space missions. It used fruit punch, which has physical properties similar to urine, to study the fluid’s behaviors and interaction with the foam. The foam could potentially be compressed, expanded, and then thrown away when it is filled with solid wastes like crystals.

Rihana Mungin, a student investigator on the study, says Hurley’s efforts, combined with the work of the scientists on the ground, are helping the research team understand several facets of capillary systems. These aspects include how well the foam holds liquid in microgravity, how effectively it bounces back when agitated or shaken, how the liquid spreads and absorbs into the foam keeping the air passageways open, the resilience of the equipment, and more.

“It is creating this video database of what happens in all these different situations with the liquid, allowing us to push the boundaries further,” says Mungin.

The team now is analyzing footage taken during Hurley’s demonstration to better understand potential future uses of foam for fluid management.

“This is a simple piece of technology that I think will really push innovation,” says Mungin.

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Commercial Crew Program:

Capillary Structures:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/International Space Station Program Research Office/Erin Winick.


mardi 21 juillet 2020

Behnken and Cassidy Conclude Ten Spacewalks Each

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch / EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

July 21, 2020

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Chris Cassidy concluded their spacewalk at 12:41 p.m. EDT, after five hours and 29 minutes. The two NASA astronauts completed a number of tasks designed to upgrade International Space Station systems.

They began by installing a protective storage unit that includes two Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL) units the Canadian Space Agency’s Dextre robot can use to detect leaks of ammonia, which is used to operate the station’s cooling system.

Image above: NASA spacewalkers (from left) Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy set up the outside of the Tranquility module for the future installation of the NanoRacks airlock. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Behnken and Cassidy then removed two lifting fixtures at the base of station solar arrays on the near port truss, or backbone, of the station. The “H-fixtures” were used for ground processing of the solar arrays prior to their launch.

They then completed tasks to prepare the outside of the Tranquility module for the arrival later this year of the Nanoracks commercial airlock on a SpaceX cargo delivery mission. After its installation, the airlock will enable be used to deploy commercial and government-sponsored experiments into space.

They also routed ethernet cables and removed a lens filter cover from an external camera.

Down To Earth - The Overview Effect

Video above: In “Down to Earth - The Overview Effect” NASA astronauts discuss a shift in worldview from their time living and working in space. The phenomenon is described in space philosopher Frank White's book, The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution. Video Credits: NASA Johnson.

This was the 10th spacewalk for each astronaut, tying them with Michael Lopez-Alegria and Peggy Whitson as the only other U.S. astronauts to complete 10 spacewalks. Behnken has now spent a total of 61 hours and 10 minutes spacewalking, which makes him the U.S. astronaut with the third most total time spacewalking, behind Lopez-Alegria and Andrew Feustel, and the fourth most overall. Cassidy now has spent a total of 54 hours and 51 minutes spacewalking and is ninth on the worldwide list for total time spacewalking.

Space station crew members have conducted 231 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 60 days, 12 hours, and 3 minutes working outside the station.

Related article:

NASA’s 'Robot Hotel' Gets Its Occupants

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Commercial Crew Program:

Robotic External Leak Locator (RELL):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,