vendredi 16 juillet 2021

Nanoparticles and Robotics Research Amid Maintenance Today


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

July 16, 2021

The Expedition 65 crew members focused their Friday space research activities on nanoparticles and free-flying robotics. Their International Space Station maintenance activities included updating science communications hardware and replacing life support components.

State-of-the-art space manufacturing techniques being studied on the orbital lab have the potential to improve building technologies on Earth. The new InSPACE-4 study, delivered last moth onboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship, seeks to harness nanoparticles and fabricate new and advanced materials. NASA Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Mark Vande Hei were conducting more runs of the space physics experiment, that has been ongoing for several days, inside the Microgravity Science Glovebox today.

Image above: Expedition 65 astronauts (from left) Akihiko Hoshide and Shane Kimbrough talked to elementary school students from New York City on June 9. Image Credit: NASA.

An AstroBee robotic free-flyer was powered up in the Kibo laboratory module Friday morning to demonstrate complex maneuvers in the orbital lab while using less propulsion. Commander Akihiko Hoshide configured the toaster-sized device Friday morning and ground scientists uplinked software commands to control the AstroBee. The Astrobatics robotic mobility study has implications for future space missions and technologies on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough spent the day installing new communications gear inside the Human Research Facility-2 (HRF-2) rack. Located in the Europe’s Columbus laboratory module, the HRF-2 enables studies of the physiological, behavioral and chemical changes that take place in the human body while living in space.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) joined Vande Hei and continued replacing aging components inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module’s carbon dioxide removal assembly. Pesquet later swapped a laptop computer battery and Vande Hei reviewed procedures to support next week’s port relocation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spaceship.

In the station’s Russian segment, first-time space flyer Pyotr Dubrov serviced communications hardware while veteran cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy swapped out a variety of electronics gear.

Related links:

Expedition 65:


Microgravity Science Glovebox:


Kibo laboratory module:


Human Research Facility-2 (HRF-2):

Columbus laboratory module:

U.S. Destiny laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Galactic fireworks: new ESO images reveal stunning features of nearby galaxies


ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

July 16, 2021

Five galaxies as seen with MUSE on ESO’s VLT at several wavelengths of light

A team of astronomers has released new observations of nearby galaxies that resemble colourful cosmic fireworks. The images, obtained with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), show different components of the galaxies in distinct colours, allowing astronomers to pinpoint the locations of young stars and the gas they warm up around them. By combining these new observations with data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner, the team is helping shed new light on what triggers gas to form stars.

NGC 4303 as seen with MUSE on ESO’s VLT at several wavelengths of light

Astronomers know that stars are born in clouds of gas, but what sets off star formation, and how galaxies as a whole play into it, remains a mystery. To understand this process, a team of researchers has observed various nearby galaxies with powerful telescopes on the ground and in space, scanning the different galactic regions involved in stellar births.

NGC 4254 as seen with MUSE on ESO’s VLT at several wavelengths of light

“For the first time we are resolving individual units of star formation over a wide range of locations and environments in a sample that well represents the different types of galaxies,” says Eric Emsellem, an astronomer at ESO in Germany and lead of the VLT-based observations conducted as part of the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) project. “We can directly observe the gas that gives birth to stars, we see the young stars themselves, and we witness their evolution through various phases.”

NGC 3627 as seen with MUSE on ESO’s VLT at several wavelengths of light

Emsellem, who is also affiliated with the University of Lyon, France, and his team have now released their latest set of galactic scans, taken with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on ESO’s VLT in the Atacama Desert in Chile. They used MUSE to trace newborn stars and the warm gas around them, which is illuminated and heated up by the stars and acts as a smoking gun of ongoing star formation.

NGC 1087 as seen with MUSE on ESO’s VLT at several wavelengths of light

The new MUSE images are now being combined with observations of the same galaxies taken with ALMA and released earlier this year. ALMA, which is also located in Chile, is especially well suited to mapping cold gas clouds — the parts of galaxies that provide the raw material out of which stars form.

NGC 1300 as seen with MUSE on ESO’s VLT at several wavelengths of light

By combining MUSE and ALMA images astronomers can examine the galactic regions where star formation is happening, compared to where it is expected to happen, so as to better understand what triggers, boosts or holds back the birth of new stars. The resulting images are stunning, offering a spectacularly colourful insight into stellar nurseries in our neighbouring galaxies.

NGC 4303 as seen with the VLT and ALMA at several wavelengths of light

“There are many mysteries we want to unravel,” says Kathryn Kreckel from the University of Heidelberg in Germany and PHANGS team member. “Are stars more often born in specific regions of their host galaxies — and, if so, why? And after stars are born how does their evolution influence the formation of new generations of stars?”

NGC 4254 as seen with the VLT and ALMA at several wavelengths of light

Astronomers will now be able to answer these questions thanks to the wealth of MUSE and ALMA data the PHANGS team have obtained. MUSE collects spectra — the “bar codes” astronomers scan to unveil the properties and nature of cosmic objects — at every single location within its field of view, thus providing much richer information than traditional instruments. For the PHANGS project, MUSE observed 30 000 nebulae of warm gas and collected about 15 million spectra of different galactic regions. The ALMA observations, on the other hand, allowed astronomers to map around 100 000 cold-gas regions across 90 nearby galaxies, producing an unprecedentedly sharp atlas of stellar nurseries in the close Universe.

NGC 3627 as seen with the VLT and ALMA at several wavelengths of light

In addition to ALMA and MUSE, the PHANGS project also features observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The various observatories were selected to allow the team to scan our galactic neighbours at different wavelengths (visible, near-infrared and radio), with each wavelength range unveiling distinct parts of the observed galaxies. “Their combination allows us to probe the various stages of stellar birth — from the formation of the stellar nurseries to the onset of star formation itself and the final destruction of the nurseries by the newly born stars — in more detail than is possible with individual observations,” says PHANGS team member Francesco Belfiore from INAF-Arcetri in Florence, Italy. "PHANGS is the first time we have been able to assemble such a complete view, taking images sharp enough to see the individual clouds, stars, and nebulae that signify forming stars."

NGC 1087 as seen with the VLT and ALMA at several wavelengths of light

The work carried out by the PHANGS project will be further honed by upcoming telescopes and instruments, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The data obtained in this way will lay further groundwork for observations with ESO’s future Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which will start operating later this decade and will enable an even more detailed look at the structures of stellar nurseries.

NGC 1300 as seen with the VLT and ALMA at several wavelengths of light

“As amazing as PHANGS is, the resolution of the maps that we produce is just sufficient to identify and separate individual star-forming clouds, but not good enough to see what’s happening inside them in detail,” pointed out Eva Schinnerer, a research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and principal investigator of the PHANGS project, under which the new observations were conducted. “New observational efforts by our team and others are pushing the boundary in this direction, so we have decades of exciting discoveries ahead of us.”

Multiple views of the galaxy NGC 4303 as seen with the VLT and ALMA (with annotations)

Multiple views of the galaxy NGC 4254 as seen with the VLT and ALMA

Multiple views of the galaxy NGC 3627 as seen with the VLT and ALMA

Multiple views of the galaxy NGC 1087 as seen with the VLT and ALMA

Multiple views of the galaxy NGC 1300 as seen with the VLT and ALMA

Multiple views of the galaxy NGC 4303 as seen with the VLT and ALMA

More information

The international PHANGS team is composed of over 90 scientists ranging from Master students to retirees working at 30 institutions across four continents. The MUSE data reduction working group within PHANGS is being led by Eric Emsellem (European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany and Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon, Université de Lyon, ENS de Lyon, Saint-Genis Laval, France) and includes Francesco Belfiore (INAF Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Florence, Italy), Guillermo Blanc (Carnegie Observatories, Pasadena, US), Enrico Congiu (Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile and Las Campanas Observatory, Carnegie Institution for Science, Atacama Region, Chile), Brent Groves (The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia), I-Ting Ho (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany [MPIA]), Kathryn Kreckel (Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany), Rebecca McElroy (Sydney Institute for Astronomy, Sydney, Australia), Ismael Pessa (MPIA), Patricia Sanchez-Blazquez (Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain), Francesco Santoro (MPIA), Fabian Scheuermann (Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany) and Eva Schinnerer (MPIA).

Go to the ESO public image archive to see a sample of PHANGS images:

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”.


Cosmic fireworks reveal newborn stars (ESOcast Light 239):

PHANGS website:

MUSE instrument:

Photos of the VLT:

Photos of ALMA:

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For scientists: got a story? Pitch your research:

Images Credits: ESO/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/PHANGS/Videos: Credit: ESO/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/PHANGS/Text: ESO/Bárbara Ferreira/Eric Emsellem/INAF Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri/Francesco Belfiore/Max Planck Institute for Astronomy/Eva Schinnerer/Astronomisches Recheninstitut, Zentrum für Astronomie, Universität Heidelberg/Kathryn Kreckel.

Best regards,

Celebrating John Glenn's 100th Birthday


NASA logo.

July 16, 2021

John Glenn changed the history of spaceflight for the U.S., becoming the first American to orbit the planet. Others of our country's astronauts had been to space but Glenn was the first to actually orbit the planet we call home.

He also changed the language, adding a Yiddish term – glitch – to our lexicon. He wasn't by training a wordsmith like Shakespeare or a musician (who often change the way in which language is used through song) but change it he did.

According to the Smithsonian's Air & Space Magazine: "Chutzpah. Kibitz. Klutz. Maven. Schmooze. Tush. These are words derived from Yiddish that have worked their way into the American idiom. Most were introduced through entertainment—radio, television, literature—by descendants of Yiddish-speaking immigrants who found no English words adequate to describe what they were trying to express. One word derived from Yiddish, glitch, was also introduced in radio, and found its way to the world of electrical engineering and, from there, to the hallowed halls of 1960s NASA, and thence, everywhere."

In this image taken in November 1961, Glenn – wearing an iconic silver pressure suit – is being prepared to enter the altitude chamber for simulation training. In a scant three months he was make his historic flight.

John Glenn was born on July 18, 1921. As we remember him on what would have been his 100th birthday, remember he was an amazing pilot and popularizer of new terms of expression.

Learn more about John Glenn:

NASA Salutes John Glenn:

John Glenn: A Tribute to an American Legend:

Image, Text Credits: NASA/Yvette Smith.


NASA’s Juno Tunes Into Jovian Radio Triggered by Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon Io


NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Jul 16, 2021

The Juno Waves instrument “listened” to the radio emissions from Jupiter’s immense magnetic field to find their precise locations.

Image above: This processed image of Io by New Horizons shows the 290-kilometer-high (180-mile-high) plume of the volcano Tvashtar near Io’s north pole. Also visible is the Prometheus volcano’s much smaller plume in the 9 o’clock direction. The top of the Masubi volcano’s plume appears as an irregular bright patch near the bottom. Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

By listening to the rain of electrons flowing onto Jupiter from its intensely volcanic moon Io, researchers using NASA’s Juno spacecraft have found what triggers the powerful radio emissions within the monster planet’s gigantic magnetic field. The new result sheds light on the behavior of the enormous magnetic fields generated by gas-giant planets like Jupiter.

Jupiter has the largest, most powerful magnetic field of all the planets in our solar system, with a strength at its source about 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s. It is buffeted by the solar wind, a stream of electrically charged particles and magnetic fields constantly blowing from the Sun. Depending on how hard the solar wind blows, Jupiter’s magnetic field can extend outward as much as two million miles (3.2 million kilometers) toward the Sun and stretch more than 600 million miles (over 965 million kilometers) away from the Sun, as far as Saturn's orbit.

Image above: The multicolored lines in this conceptual image represent the magnetic field lines that link Io’s orbit with Jupiter’s atmosphere. Radio waves emerge from the source and propagate along the walls of a hollow cone (gray area). Juno, its orbit represented by the white line crossing the cone, receives the signal when Jupiter’s rotation sweeps that cone over the spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/GSFC/Jay Friedlander.

Jupiter has several large moons that orbit within its massive magnetic field, with Io being the closest. Io is caught in a gravitational tug-of-war between Jupiter and the neighboring two of these other large moons, which generates internal heat that powers hundreds of volcanic eruptions across its surface.

These volcanoes collectively release one ton of material (gases and particles) per second into space near Jupiter. Some of this material splits up into electrically charged ions and electrons and is rapidly captured by Jupiter’s magnetic field. As Jupiter’s magnetic field sweeps past Io, electrons from the moon are accelerated along the magnetic field toward Jupiter’s poles. Along their way, these electrons generate “decameter” radio waves (so-called decametric radio emissions, or DAM). The Juno Waves instrument can “listen” to this radio emission that the raining electrons generate.

NASA’s Juno Tunes into Jovian Radio

Video above: Juno tunes into one of its favorite radio stations. Hear the decametric radio emissions triggered by the interaction of Io with Jupiter’s magnetic field. The Waves instrument on Juno detects radio signals whenever Juno’s trajectory crosses into the beam which is a cone-shaped pattern. This beam pattern is similar to a flashlight that is only emitting a ring of light rather than a full beam. Juno scientists then translate the radio emission detected to a frequency within the audible range of the human ear. Image Credits: University of Iowa/SwRI/NASA.

The researchers used the Juno Waves data to identify the precise locations within Jupiter’s vast magnetic field where these radio emissions originated. These locations are where conditions are just right to generate the radio waves; they have the right magnetic field strength and the right density of electrons (not too much and not too little), according to the team.

“The radio emission is likely constant, but Juno has to be in the right spot to listen,” said Yasmina Martos of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Maryland, College Park.

JUNO Orbiting Jupiter. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The radio waves emerge from the source along the walls of a hollow cone aligned with and controlled by the strength and shape of the magnetic field of Jupiter. Juno receives the signal only when Jupiter’s rotation sweeps that cone over the spacecraft, in the same way a lighthouse beacon shines briefly upon a ship at sea. Martos is lead author of a paper about this research published in June 2020 in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets.

Data from Juno allowed the team to calculate that the energy of the electrons generating the radio waves was far higher than previously estimated, as much as 23 times greater. Also, the electrons do not necessarily need to come from a volcanic moon. For example, they could be in the planet’s magnetic field (magnetosphere) or come from the Sun as part of the solar wind, according to the team.

More about this project and the Juno Mission

The research was funded by the Juno Project under NASA Grants NNM06AAa75c and 699041X to the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, and NASA Grant NNN12AA01C to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California. The team is composed of researchers from NASA Goddard, the National Institute of Technology (KOSEN) in Tokyo, Japan; Niihama College in Niihama, Ehime, Japan, the University of Iowa, Iowa City; and the Technical University of Denmark in Kongens Lyngby, Denmark. NASA JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott J. Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute. 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. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

Related articles:

Ride With Juno As It Flies Past the Solar System’s Biggest Moon and Jupiter

JUNO - Celebrating 5 Years at Jupiter

More information about Juno is available at:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/GSFC/Bill Steigerwald/JPL/DC Agle/Southwest Research Institute/Deb Schmid.

Best regards,

Trailblazing Astronaut Doug Hurley Retires from NASA


NASA logo.

July 16, 2021

NASA astronaut and former U.S. Marine Col. Doug Hurley is retiring from NASA after 21 years of service. His last day with the agency is July 16.

“Doug Hurley is an exceptional astronaut whose leadership and expertise have been invaluable to NASA’s space program,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “His impact on the agency transcends his impressive work in spaceflight, inspiring us to take on bold endeavors. I extend my deepest gratitude to Doug and wish him success in his next adventure.”

NASA astronaut Doug Hurley. Image Credit: SpaceX

Hurley’s career highlights include 93 days in space on missions that include the final space shuttle flight and the first crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Hurley was spacecraft commander on the first crewed flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon, which launched May 30, 2020, and safely returned to Earth Aug. 2, 2020. The flight was the fifth time in history that NASA astronauts have flown on a new U.S. spacecraft and marked a new era of human spaceflight, enabling crewed launches to the International Space Station from American soil on commercially built and owned spacecraft. As a space station crew member for 62 days, he and crewmate Bob Behnken contributed more than 100 hours supporting the orbiting laboratory’s scientific investigations.

“Doug Hurley is a national hero,” said Reid Weisman, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “He is a pioneer in human spaceflight who inspires the next generation. Doug made significant impacts everywhere he served at NASA. Our very best wishes for him, his family, and his future pursuits. We thank Doug for his service.”

Hurley joined NASA at Johnson in August 2000 as an astronaut candidate. On his first spaceflight, in 2009, Hurley was pilot for the STS-127 flight of space shuttle Endeavour, helping deliver and install the final two components of the International Space Station’s Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo, and its Exposed Facility and Experiment Logistics Module. He flew again in 2011, as the pilot for STS‐135, which was the 33rd flight of space shuttle Atlantis, the 37th shuttle mission to the space station, and the 135th and final mission of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

“Doug brought experience and leadership vital to our continued success in human spaceflight. He shared his critical learning from his missions during many years in human spaceflight to a new team,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Headquarters. “Many of us know and love him as one of the dads on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight – it’s personal to fly a member of our NASA family, and important for the team working these missions always to keep in mind he and his family is in our hands.”

Through a variety of roles, Hurley also supported NASA astronauts on Earth. Following the completion of two years of training and evaluation, he was assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office, which included lead astronaut support personnel at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, for space shuttle missions STS‐107 and STS‐121. He was shuttle landing and rollout instructor, served on the Columbia Reconstruction Team at Kennedy, and worked in the Astronaut Office’s Exploration Branch in support of the Orion Program. He also was NASA’s director of operations in Russia, based at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, and assistant director for the Commercial Crew Program for the Flight Operations Directorate.

“For 21 years, I’ve had the incredible honor of participating in the American space program and working alongside the extremely dedicated people of NASA. To have had a place in the assembly of the International Space Station, and the Space Shuttle Program including flying on its final mission, STS-135, has been a tremendous privilege,” said Hurley. “To then have had the opportunity to be at the forefront of the Commercial Crew Program, specifically working with SpaceX, on to commanding the first flight of Crew Dragon, and finally, as a perfect end to my flying career, serving onboard the space station as a resident crew member. On personal level, there were many significant life moments, too, at NASA that have had their forever impact on me. The loss of my colleagues on space shuttle Columbia. And meeting my wife here and starting our family. It is truly humbling when reflecting back on it all.”

Hurley was born in Endicott, New York, but considers Apalachin, New York, his hometown. He graduated from Owego Free Academy, in Owego, New York, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Tulane University in New Orleans.

Doug Hurley:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Stephanie Schierholz/JSC/Courtney Beasley.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of July 12, 2021


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

July 16, 2021

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of July 12 that included studies of growing pepper plants, how changes in human perceptions in microgravity can affect performance, and testing improved coatings to protect spacecraft from the harsh environment of space.

The space station has been continuously inhabited by humans for 20 years, supporting many scientific breakthroughs. The orbiting lab provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space, experience that supports Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.

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

Pick a pepper

Image above: NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough installs pepper seeds for the Plant Habitat-04 experiment into the Advanced Plant Habitat. The seeds grow for several months, then astronauts harvest peppers to examine whether microgravity affects growth, flavor, or texture. Image Credit: NASA.

Plant Habitat-04 uses the Advanced Plant Habitat to grow New Mexico Hatch Green Chili peppers in space for the first time. An excellent source of Vitamin C, peppers are harder to grow in space than many other potential crops because they take a long time to germinate, grow, and develop fruit. The investigation includes microbial analysis to improve understanding of plant-microbe interactions in space and assessment of flavor and texture. Researchers spent two years evaluating more than two dozen pepper varieties from around the world before selecting Española Improved peppers. These peppers have a Scoville heat rating of 2000-4000 (less than half that of a jalapeno), but their spiciness could change in microgravity. Nutritional analysis will include measuring the amount of capsaicin, the chemical responsible for spiciness in peppers. Plant Habitat-04 could contribute to future production of crops in space and demonstrate the feasibility of adapting peppers for indoor agricultural environments. Crew members installed plant stands to initiate an experiment run and injected water into the distribution reservoir during the week.

Movement, distance, and time in microgravity

Microgravity changes the ability of crew members to control the movement and position of their bodies, evaluate distances between their bodies and other objects, and assess the passing of time. These changes can make certain tasks much more challenging and, long-term, have a big effect on mission success. During the week, crew members conducted sessions for two ongoing investigations that examine these issues.

An investigation from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), VECTION looks at changes in an astronaut’s ability to judge body motion and orientation and estimate distances. Results could help address issues these changes create for astronauts. Data collection at multiple time points during flight and after return to Earth allows researchers to investigate how astronauts adapt to and recover from these effects.

Image above: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide is pictured wearing a virtual reality headset for Time Perception, a study exploring how astronauts perceive space and time and the possible effects on navigation and fine motor coordination. Image Credit: NASA.

Time Perception, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), examines subjective changes in time perception that occur during and after long-duration exposure to microgravity. Astronauts need to accurately assess the passing of time in order to perform fine motor skills and control vehicles and other complex systems at a high level of cognitive function. Addressing changes in these abilities could help protect crew safety and mission success. This experiment uses a protocol developed for an Earth-based study of elderly people and patients with Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury, and temporal lobe lesions. That study demonstrated a clear relationship between cognitive deficits and impaired time perception.

Giving spacecraft a better coat of paint

Image above: The colored strips visible in this image are coatings undergoing testing as part of the STP- H5 ICE investigation. Such coatings protect spacecraft from extreme temperatures, radiation, and contamination, and the investigation could contribute to improved materials. Image Credit: NASA.

In space, harsh radiation and extreme temperatures corrode the paint and coatings that protect the outside of spacecraft. This corrosion could potentially damage a spacecraft’s hull and pose a risk to crew members. STP-H5 ICE exposes new coatings to space for two years to determine their stability in that environment. Optical coatings protect spacecraft against extreme temperatures, radiation, and contamination and are used for special markings that robotic and human navigators rely on to capture or repair spacecraft. Results could contribute to improvements in these coatings. During the week, crew members captured images of the test strips for analysis.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- ACME is a set of six independent studies of gaseous flames intended to advance fuel efficiency and reduce pollutant production on Earth and improve spacecraft fire prevention. Currently, Cool Flames Investigation with Gases observes the chemical reactions of cool diffusion flames.

- Sally Ride EarthKAM allows students to control a digital camera on the space station and take photographs of features and phenomena on Earth. The EarthKAM team posts the students’ images online for the public and participating classrooms to view.

- Astrobatics tests using robotic manipulators or “arms” to perform hopping or self-toss maneuvers for forward movement, reducing the use of propellants or fuel. The investigation demonstrates these maneuvers using the station’s Astrobee free-flying robots.

- ROAM uses the Astrobee robots for tests to support possible use of robotic craft to rendezvous with debris in space. Space debris includes satellites that could be repaired or taken out of orbit, but many are tumbling, which makes rendezvous and docking challenging.

- SoundSee uses the Astrobee robots for testing a way to monitor the space station’s acoustic environment for anomalies in the sounds made by equipment such as life support infrastructure and exercise machines. This could enable autonomous monitoring of the functioning of such equipment.

- InSPACE-4 studies using magnetic fields to assemble tiny structures from colloids, or particles suspended in a liquid. Results could provide insight into how to harness nanoparticles to fabricate and manufacture new materials.

- Oral Biofilms in Space studies how gravity affects the structure, composition, and activity of oral bacteria in the presence of common oral care agents. Findings could support development of novel treatments to fight oral diseases such as caries, gingivitis, and periodontitis.

- Food Physiology examines the effects of an enhanced spaceflight diet on immune function, the gut microbiome, and nutritional status indicators, with the aim of documenting how dietary improvements may enhance adaptation to spaceflight.

- ISS Ham Radio provides students, teachers, parents, and others the opportunity to communicate with astronauts using ham radio units. Before a scheduled call, students learn about the station, radio waves, and other topics, and prepare a list of questions on topics they have researched.

Space to Ground: Water Bears in Space: 07/16/2021

Related links:

Expedition 65:

Plant Habitat-04:

Advanced Plant Habitat:


Time Perception:


ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 65.


Rescuing Integral: No thrust? No problem


ESA - Integral Mission patch.

July 16, 2021

A year ago tomorrow, a failure on the Integral spacecraft meant it fired its thrusters for likely the last time. In the days since, the spacecraft in Earth orbit has continued to shed light on the violent gamma ray Universe, and it should soon be working even more efficiently than before, as mission control teams implement an ingenious new way to control the 18-year-old spacecraft.


Mission Control, we have a problem

In summer 2020, while the Integral Flight Control Team in Germany were getting used to a very different working environment – learning to fly their mission from home while dealing with the uncertainty the Covid-19 pandemic created – the spacecraft decided to throw another spanner into the works.

One day, Integral went into “Safe Mode” – when instruments are turned off and a spacecraft runs just its most basic functions, while facing the Sun to ensure it receives full power – alerting its control team to a problem. Under safe mode control, Integral seemed to go into an eclipse, a normal period of darkness as Earth gets between the spacecraft and the Sun. However, no eclipses were scheduled.

INTEGRAL: Fifteen years in orbit

“The satellite had suddenly rotated away from the Sun, which was a very unexpected and strange event. We’d never seen anything like this before”, explains Richard Southworth, Operations Manager for the mission.

“It soon became clear we had a major problem. There was a general problem with Integral’s propulsion system. As we couldn’t trust its thrusters any more, we had to exit Safe Mode quickly, take over control of the spacecraft using its reaction wheels and then figure out what to do.”

Why thrusters matter to a sensitive mission

As Integral is already in orbit, why do we still need its thrusters? To get rid of excess 'angular momentum'.

Integral often points at a single source, for example a distant black hole, for many hours. During this time it is subject to external forces that cause it to rotate, in particular radiation pressure from the Sun acting on the spacecraft’s huge 18 metre solar arrays.

A 'spitting' black hole

To counteract this solar force and keep the spacecraft pointing at its target, the team uses “reaction wheels’’ – wheels that store energy as they spin, and can be used to subtly control the direction a spacecraft points in without the need of thrusters. These wheels “absorb” the extra energy from the Sun, keeping Integral in position and ensuring it remains the most sensitive gamma ray observatory ever flown.

Over a couple of days, excess energy builds up in the reaction wheels in the form of “angular momentum” – the rotational equivalent of a force going in a straight line, for example the energy stored as you spin in a swivel chair.

Every two to three days, the reaction wheels reach a maximum speed at which point they can't absorb any more momentum. The control team then performs a “momentum dump”, getting rid of excess angular momentum by decelerating the flywheels. In order to prevent the satellite rotating in the opposite direction as the wheels slow down, Integral’s thrusters are (normally) fired, stopping it going into a spin.

Inventing the “Z-flip”

After days worrying over the fate of the mission, two team members came up with an idea.

“I didn’t believe it was possible at first. We checked with our flight dynamics colleagues and the theory indicated it would work. After doing a simulation, we tested it on the spacecraft. It worked,” says Richard with relief.

By using a specially designed sequence of manoeuvres, the control team realised they could redistribute the angular momentum stored onboard the satellite using two different reaction wheels spinning in opposing directions, causing the spacecraft to flip.

Image above: Richard Southworth is Operations Manager for the mission, and wasn't sure the "z-flip" method would work.

“So at this point we knew we could control the build up of energy absorbed from the Sun, and christened this new manoeuvre the “z-flip”. As far as I'm aware, this has never been done before. It was a great achievement, but could we continue to do science?”.

After long and intensive discussions with colleagues at the Science Operations Centre in ESAC, Madrid, the team of scientific mission planners came up with a sequence of objects for Integral to observe that would fit within its new range of motion. The mission was fortunately back to (somewhat more limited) science operations.


Gradually, the two teams experimented on more and more tricky sequences of observations, trying out different combinations of spinning wheels and flipping the spacecraft round various new angles. With dedicated teamwork between the control team and science operations team and many others, Integral’s scientific efficiency was restored by September 2020.

One of ESA’s oldest, bulkiest missions gets nimbler

For most space observatories, observation schedules are planned well in advance. However every now and then something unexpected happens in the sky such as supernovae explosion or gravitational waves, and they need to respond quickly to take a look at what’s happened. This is particularly true for Integral, as gamma ray events tend to be short lived.

“In the past when we had a propulsion system we would replan, calculate a new manoeuvre to the new object of interest, offload momentum and then prepare our new sequence of manoeuvres. Our z-flip technique is unfortunately much slower,” explains Richard.

An artist's impression of the mechanisms in an interacting binary system

However, the control team has developed an update to Integral’s onboard software that should make angular momentum less of an issue when pointing – slewing – the spacecraft.

“We are very happy that thanks to this genius ‘z-flip’ strategy Integral can continue keeping an eye on the high-energy sky without problem”, says Erik Kuulkers, Integral Project Scientist.

“And we now look forward to discoveries enabled by the new slewing mode, which means this 18 year old spacecraft should become even faster at responding to and observing sudden energetic events across the Universe than when it was launched almost two decades ago.”


Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/Illustration by D. Ducros/J. Mai/

Best regards,

ERS: 30 years of outstanding achievements


ESA - ERS-1 Mission logo.

July 16, 2021

ESA’s first Earth observation mission dedicated to understanding our planet, the European Remote Sensing satellite (ERS-1), was launched into orbit on 17 July 1991 – almost 30 years ago today. At the time of its launch, the ERS satellite was one of the most sophisticated spacecraft ever developed and launched by Europe, paving the way for satellite technology in the areas of atmosphere, land, ocean and ice monitoring. Today, we look back at some of the mission’s key accomplishments.

ERS-1 over the coast of The Netherlands

The first satellite, ERS-1, was lofted into orbit by an Ariane-4 launcher in July 1991, and carried the hopes of Europe’s scientific community with it. The satellite carried a comprehensive payload including an imaging synthetic aperture radar (SAR), a radar altimeter (RA) and other powerful instruments to measure ocean surface temperature and winds at sea.

ERS-1 was then joined by ERS-2 in 1995 which carried an additional sensor for atmospheric ozone research – the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment (GOME). Shortly after the launch of ERS-2, ESA decided to link the two satellites in the first ‘tandem’ mission which lasted for nine months. During this time the increased frequency and level of data available to scientists offered a unique opportunity to observe changes over a very short space of time, as ERS-2's track over the Earth's surface coincided exactly with that of ERS-1 24 hours earlier.

The high-resolution images acquired along the same ground track by both satellites were used to generate digital elevation models and observe changes in the land surface over short periods of time. Both satellites exceeded their design lifetime by far, together delivering a 20-year stream of continuous data of Earth’s land surfaces, oceans and polar caps.

ERS-2 satellite and applications

These pioneering missions have provided the basis for the routine remote sensing we have come to rely upon today to unravel the complexities of the way Earth works. The success of the ERS missions has helped Europe to gain clear leadership in several critical technologies and in the scientific use of Earth observation.

Mirko Albani, Heritage Missions Manager at ESA, affirms, “The ERS programme has provided a stream of data which has changed our view of the world in which we live. It has provided us with new insights on our planet, the chemistry of our atmosphere, the behaviour of our oceans, and the effects of mankind’s activity on our environment – creating new opportunities for scientific research and applications.”

During their lifetime, ERS data supported over 5000 projects producing some 4000 scientific publications. Archived data still to this day provide us with a wealth of information and are maintained accessible and continuously improved in the frame of the Heritage Space Programme to build long-term data series with successor missions including Envisat, ESA's family of Earth Explorers and the Copernicus Sentinels.

Celebrating 30 years of ERS

Mapping land

The ERS satellites’ comprehensive payload included a synthetic aperture radar to reveal Earth’s surface in new detail. SAR data are used for many applications such as agricultural and forest monitoring, flood mapping and geological exploration. Taking these data a step further, SAR interferometric measurements provide insight into displacement of the ground, making important contributions to our understanding of earthquakes and land subsidence.

Monitoring oceans

One of the most important objectives of the ERS missions was to deliver data for ocean research. The onboard radiometer provided information to map global sea-surface temperature very precisely. This led to novel observations of the El Niňo and consequently helped scientists to understand more about this phenomenon and its links to global warming.

Sea-surface temperature from ERS

In addition, the radar altimeter provided new information on sea-level change. The ERS mission also demonstrated their potential to provide data to detect oil spills and vessels at sea, monitor sea-ice, forecast wind, waves and regional ocean currents, as well as map the sea floor.

Tracking ice

Orbiting close to the poles, the ERS satellites captured one of Earth’s most rapidly changing features: ice cover. Data from the ERS altimeters revealed how the height of the huge ice sheets covering Antarctica and Greenland are changing, as ice is lost to the ocean.

Complementary radar imagery has been able to show exactly how fast the glaciers are advancing. The satellites also showed how the extent of sea-ice in the Arctic Ocean varies seasonally and the general trend towards diminishing ice cover.

Sensing the atmosphere

ERS-2 carried Europe’s first instrument to study atmospheric ozone, which led to a breakthrough in our understanding of the formation of holes in the ozone layer at high latitudes. In addition to yielding insight into the depletion of stratospheric ozone over Antarctica, the GOME provided a wealth of information on atmospheric gases such as nitrogen dioxide.

Ozone hole over Antarctica

The excellence of this long-serving sensor lives on its successors – Sciamachy on Envisat and GOME-2 on MetOp.

ERS-1 first image: solving the mystery

ERS satellite:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/DLR.


jeudi 15 juillet 2021

Crew Using Virtual, Augmented Reality for Science and Maintenance


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

July 15, 2021

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Science and maintenance using virtual and augmented reality tools were prominent aboard the International Space Station today. The Expedition 65 crew also made sure life support components remain in tip-top shape aboard the orbiting lab.

The universe’s coldest temperatures can be found inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module’s Cold Atom Lab (CAL). NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur replaced components inside the CAL today to improve the operation quality of the device that researches fundamental and quantum physics at extremely low temperatures. She wore the Sidekick headset and used augmented reality to assist her with the complex maintenance work.

Image above: Flight Engineer Megan McArthur tests augmented reality while wearing the Sidekick headset. Commander Akihiko Hoshide wears virtual reality goggles for a time perception study. Image Credit: NASA.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide switched between a pair of different experiments on Thursday, one looking at space manufacturing and the other exploring astronaut adaptation in space. He conducted runs for the InSPACE-4 physics study that seeks to harness nanoparticles and fabricate new and advanced materials. In between that research, he wore virtual reality goggles and clicked a trackball for the Vection study observing how astronauts visually interpret motion, orientation and distance in microgravity.

Life support maintenance is critical on spacecraft so that crew members always have a safe breathing environment. Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough, Mark Vande Hei and Thomas Pesquet partnered together replacing components inside the station’s Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly and inspecting the Avionics Air Assembly.

Image above: The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour is pictured during its approach to the International Space Station April 24, 2021, less than one day after launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Image Credit: NASA.

The four SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts on the space station will relocate their Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft Wednesday, July 21. The relocation will free up Harmony’s forward port for the docking of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, scheduled for launch Friday, July 30. Live coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

In the station’s Russian segment, veteran cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy explored how microgravity affects genetics then studied space photography techniques. First-time space flyer Pyotr Dubrov replaced components inside Russian Orlan spacesuits.

Related article:

NASA TV to Air Crew Dragon Port Relocation on Space Station

Related links:

Expedition 65:

U.S. Destiny laboratory module:

Cold Atom Lab (CAL):




SpaceX Crew-2:

NASA Television:


Space photography techniques:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Tianwen-1 Mission to Mars - Close-Up of Zhurong’s Parachute


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

July 15, 2021

Close-Up of Zhurong’s Parachute

The Tianwen-1 mission’s lander and the Zhurong rover successfully landed on the southern part of Utopia Planitia, Mars, on 14 May 2021, at 23:18 UTC (15 May, 07:18 China Standard Time). On 12 July 2021, Zhurong approached the parachute and the backshell that were jettisoned during the landing process.

Close-Up of Zhurong’s Parachute

The close-up image was taken using the Navigation and Terrain Camera(NaTeCam) from a distance of about 30 metres away from the backshell and 350 metres away from the landing site. The Tianwen-1 mission’s parachute is 34 metres long, has an area of 200 square metres when fully stretched, and can reduce the speed of the landing from Mach 2 to 95 metres per second.

Related articles:

Tianwen-1 Mission to Mars - New images from Zhurong

Zhurong landing on Mars & Sounds of Zhurong’s descend onto Mars

Zhurong rover and Tianwen-1 lander on Mars

Tianwen-1 Lander and Zhurong Rover seen by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Zhurong is roving on Mars!

Why the China Mars rover’s landing site has geologists excited & Zhurong’s first images from Mars

Tianwen-1 orbiter relays Zhurong rover’s data and images

Zhurong landed on Mars! The Tianwen-1 rover is on Utopia Planitia (Videos)

China succeeds in landing its rover on Mars

Related link:

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

Image, Video, Text, Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

New Maps Help Developers Plan Lunar Road Trip for VIPER’s Artemis Mission


NASA - VIPER Rover logo.

July 15, 2021

As any seasoned road-tripper knows, to get the most out of an adventure, a good map helps. It’s no different for NASA’s first lunar robotic rover planned for delivery to the Moon in late 2023 to search for ice and other resources on and below the lunar surface. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is part of the agency’s Artemis program. Without a Moon travel guide, VIPER’s mission planners are creating new high resolution, digital elevation maps of the lunar surface.

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. Image Credit: NASA

When equipped with these maps, the rover will be in a better position to safely and efficiently traverse the Moon while looking for resources at the lunar South Pole. Ice is a resource of particular scientific interest as it may have applications if found in space and converted to other resources to further our exploration into the solar system such as oxygen and rocket fuel.

At about three-foot (one-meter) scale, these maps provide a 3D model of large swaths of the terrain at the lunar South Pole and show the ever-changing lighting and temperature conditions caused by long shadows that sweep across the landscape.

Besides preventing the rover from tipping down the edges of steep-sided craters, this up-close view of the Moon’s surface provides mission planners vital information to ensure the rover’s solar-powered batteries stay charged and guide the rover toward safe spots to hibernate during communication blackouts with mission operations on Earth.

"We are sending VIPER to one of the Moon’s most dynamic environments, and the rover needs to be able to take what the Moon gives," said Anthony Colaprete, VIPER’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. "That’s why we are creating these unique maps – at human scale – to help us carefully plan routes for the rover while operating safely and collecting the best science possible."

Image above: A spectacular oblique view of the rim of Shackleton Crater near the South Pole of the Moon. The crater is about 13 miles (21 kilometers) in diameter. While no location on the Moon stays continuously illuminated, three points on the rim remain collectively sunlit for more than 90 percent of the year. These points are surrounded by topographic depressions that never receive sunlight, creating cold traps that can capture ices. The narrow angle camera aboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter took this photo on Aug. 1, 2006. Image Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

Already, the maps are revealing new features of scientific interest on the Moon’s surface, including numerous "mini cold traps" – which are shadowed pockets on the lunar surface 6 to 16 feet (2 to 5 meters) across – that could be cold enough for ice to potentially collect. These micro cold traps offer areas to explore in addition to the much deeper and older craters that are a focus of the VIPER mission.

"We used to think of water ice collecting only in deep, dark craters on the Moon," said Colaprete. "But we now believe that even small, shadowed craters can be cold enough to retain water molecules. These small cold traps are much more common than their larger counterparts, so understanding how they may store water is important to answering the broader question of how water behaves on the Moon."

To create the elevation maps, a team at Ames is using NASA’s open source Stereo Pipeline software tool as well as the processing power of Ames’ Pleiades supercomputer to layer thousands of satellite images taken by cameras aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Engineers are pairing these powerful tools and expertise with a photo processing capability called photoclinometry. This technique, also known as "shape from shading," combines the known angles of sunlight with the greyscale levels of many two-dimensional images to infer the three-dimensional shapes of the lunar surface. The resulting model of the lunar terrain allows engineers to calculate how light and shadows play across the surface at any time in the past or future. For example, using the model they can predict the lighting at the time and place the rover will land, and plan the rover’s movements to keep it in sunlight and avoid the shadows.

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). Animation Credit: NASA 

With the lighting conditions known, the team can create detailed temperature maps across the varied terrain, at the surface, and up to a little more than 8 feet (2.5 meters) below. Temperatures can swing widely between 400 degrees below zero and 170 degrees Fahrenheit, making the Moon’s surface a checkerboard of potentially promising and very unlikely locations to detect ice. Equipped with these new maps, the team can pick spots where ice could be and send VIPER to sample and verify whether ice appears, and if so, how stable it is in various lunar conditions.

"These high-resolution maps have entirely changed our thinking," said Kimberly Ennico Smith, a deputy project scientist for VIPER at Ames. "We’re beginning to see how extremely varied the soil conditions on the Moon are, even within areas we once thought as fairly uniform. This will allow us to pinpoint the rover’s drill sites much more carefully and lead us to collect even better science data."   

The VIPER team members responsible for keeping the rover humming along have a keen interest in seeing what the rover will face day-to-day – or rather minute-to-minute.

"Shadows move around the South Pole of the Moon at about the same speed the rover drives," said Mark Shirley, mission operations planning lead at Ames. "We have to plan ahead to avoid VIPER being overtaken by darkness – there’s not much room for error."

Related articles:

NASA Rover to Search for Water, Other Resources on Moon

NASA Selects Astrobotic to Fly Water-Hunting Rover to the Moon

Related links:

NASA VIPER Moon rover:

Artemis program:

Pleiades supercomputer:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rachel Hoover.