vendredi 8 octobre 2021

Advanced Housekeeping Keeps Station in Tip-Top Shape


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

October 8, 2021

The Expedition 65 crew focused on a variety of advanced housekeeping activities today aboard the International Space Station. There was also time for robotics research, crew departure preparations, and filmmaking activities.

Five station astronauts had their hands full on Friday working on everything from electronics, cleaning, plumbing, and setting up temporary crew quarters. Some of the crewmates also had time to continue ongoing research, which is the main mission of the orbiting lab.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough installed computer networking gear and connected cables inside the Unity module. Over in the Tranquility module, NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Megan McArthur reorganized stowed items to make space for upcoming operations inside the NanoRacks Bishop airlock.

Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) replaced components on the water recovery system located inside the Kibo laboratory module. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide stayed busy in the Columbus laboratory module checking out science computers and then outfitting crew alternate sleep accommodations.

McArthur also turned on an Astrobee robotic free-flyer and tested its maneuvering abilities using a perching arm. Kimbrough removed a science freezer from the Cygnus space freighter and installed it in the Kibo lab. Vande Hei called down to NASA nutritionists and discussed his views about the station’s food menu.

Image above: The Soyuz MS-18 crew ship relocates from the Rassvet module to the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module on Sept. 28, 2021. Image Credit: NASA.

The station’s three cosmonauts worked on the docked Soyuz crew ships and their complement of Russian space research. Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov practiced Earth descent techniques inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship, and then tried on the lower body negative pressure suit that prevents fluids from pooling toward a crew member’s head in microgravity. Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov checked on life support and computer components inside the Soyuz MS-19.

All three cosmonauts also participated in filmmaking activities in the station’s Russian segment with spaceflight participants Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko. The two space station guests will return to Earth on Oct. 16 with Novitskiy as he leads the pair to a parachute landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship.

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Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Catherine Williams.

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Hubble Detects a Dangerous Dance


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Oct 8, 2021

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features two interacting galaxies that are so intertwined, they have a collective name – Arp 91. Their delicate galactic dance takes place more than 100 million light-years from Earth. The two galaxies comprising Arp 91 have their own names: the lower galaxy, which looks like a bright spot, is NGC 5953, and the oval-shaped galaxy to the upper right is NGC 5954. In reality, both of them are spiral galaxies, but their shapes appear very different because of their orientation with respect to Earth.

Arp 91 provides a particularly vivid example of galactic interaction. NGC 5953 is clearly tugging at NGC 5954, which looks like it is extending one spiral arm downward. The immense gravitational attraction of the two galaxies is causing them to interact. Such gravitational interactions are common and an important part of galactic evolution. Most astronomers think that collisions between spiral galaxies lead to the formation of another type of galaxy, known as elliptical galaxies. These extremely energetic and massive collisions, however, happen on timescales that dwarf a human lifetime. They take place over hundreds of millions of years, so we should not expect Arp 91 to look any different over the course of our lifetimes!

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Lynn Jenner/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Dalcanton; Acknowledgment: J. Schmidt.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of October 4, 2021


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

Oct. 8, 2021

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Oct. 4 that included launching two university-built satellites, analyzing the movement of liquid to gain insight on spacecraft’s fuel, and researching mechanisms related to aging.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

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:

Lowering the boundary to space

Image above: The developers of Maya-3 and Maya-4 are pictured. The BIRDS-2S project consists of the Maya-3 and Maya-4 CubeSats, the first Philippine university-built cube satellites. Image Credit: NASA.

STeP-UP is a project funded by the Philippine Department of Science Technology. It’s aim is to make space technology more inclusive and accessible within the country by providing local learning opportunities that include more sectors of society, STeP-UP worked with eight graduate students to create the first Philippine university-built cube satellites. The satellites, Maya-3 and Maya-4, were deployed as part of the BIRDS-2S project. They carry color red-green-blue cameras for gathering images of Earth, a relay service to the amateur radio community, a GPS to provide its in-orbit location, and a tool to measure the Earth’s magnetic field. This cross-border project provides opportunities to students from developing nations for hands-on satellite development and lays the foundation for establishing a sustainable space program in their countries.

Motion way above the ocean

Image above: ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet works with FLUIDICS hardware during the completion of experiment runs to research fluid dynamics in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

The ESA (European Space Agency) investigation, FLUIDICS, monitors the movement of liquid within a sphere in microgravity. The study of this movement gives insight into what is happening within spacecraft’s fuel tank based on the “liquid sloshing” phenomenon. By conducting this investigation on station, crew members can eliminate the effects of gravity so that they can focus solely on analyzing the liquid’s surface tension. The aim of such observations is to improve the guidance and precision of satellites, and to optimize their lifetime through greater fuel management. With a deeper comprehension of fluid movements, this experiment could provide a better understanding of how Earth’s oceans work. In turn, it could help improve climate prediction systems and optimize the use of the ocean to produce renewable energy. This week, a crewmember installed hardware for the study in the Columbus module.

Shedding some light on aging

TELLAS is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) experimental facility that studies the mechanisms related to aging within the microgravity environment. Using luminescence and an imager, crew members can make observations of tissues and genes in animals in space. The photos that are taken on orbit are then analyzed by researchers on the ground. This facility provides information that contributes to aging research, potentially improving the health and longevity of people on Earth. This week, crew members installed the Calibration Light Source hardware in preparation for research operations.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei works on the Ring Sheared Drop Investigation that uses microgravity to study proteins associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Image Credit: NASA.

- Ring Sheared Drop uses a device to create shear flow, or a difference in velocity between adjacent liquid layers. Previous research shows shear flow plays a role in the formation of protein aggregations in the brain called amyloid fibrils which may be involved in the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

- RFID Recon tests using radio frequency identification tags to identify and locate cargo on the space station using the space station’s free-flying Astrobee robots. The technology could help crew members find items more quickly and efficiently and enable more efficient packing, reducing launch mass and stowage volume.

- Cool Flames Investigation with Gases, part of the ACME series of studies, observes chemical reactions of cool flames, which burn at lower temperatures. Nearly impossible to create in Earth’s gravity, cool flames are easily created in microgravity, and studying them may improve understanding of combustion and fires on Earth.

- NICER is mounted on the exterior of the space station to study the physics of neutron stars, the glowing cinders left behind when massive stars explode as supernovas.

- 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.

- For Eklosion, a crew member grows a Marigold plant in a specially designed vase and takes photographs to document the flower’s growth each week. This ESA (European Space Agency) investigation gathers data on plant growth and the psychological benefits of tending the plant for the crew member.

- The ESA GRASP investigation examines how the central nervous system integrates information from the senses to coordinate hand movement and visual input, in part to determine whether gravity is a frame of reference for control of this movement.

- Food Acceptability looks at how the appeal of food changes during long-duration missions. Whether crew members like and actually eat foods has a direct effect on caloric intake and associated nutritional benefits.

Space to Ground: Lights, Camera, Liftoff!:10/08/2021

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

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NASA’s Juno Celebrates 10 Years With New Infrared View of Moon Ganymede


NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Oct. 8, 2021

The spacecraft used its infrared instrument during recent flybys of Jupiter’s mammoth moon to create this latest map, which comes out a decade after Juno’s launch.

Image above: This infrared view of Jupiter’s icy moon Ganymede was obtained by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft during its July 20th, 2021, flyby. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM.

The science team for NASA’s Juno spacecraft has produced a new infrared map of the mammoth Jovian moon Ganymede, combining data from three flybys, including its latest approach on July 20. These observations by the spacecraft’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument, which “sees” in infrared light not visible to the human eye, provide new information on Ganymede’s icy shell and the composition of the ocean of liquid water beneath.

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 (known collectively as the Galilean moons in honor of their discoverer, Galileo).

“Ganymede is larger than the planet Mercury, but just about everything we explore on this mission to Jupiter is on a monumental scale,” said Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The infrared and other data collected by Juno during the flyby contain fundamental clues for understanding the evolution of Jupiter’s 79 moons from the time of their formation to today.”

Image above: This annotated map of Ganymede depicts the areas of the Jovian moon’s surface that were imaged by the Juno spacecraft’s JIRAM instrument during two recent close approaches of the moon. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM/USGS.

Juno came within 31,136 miles (50,109 kilometers) of Ganymede, the solar system’s largest moon, on July 20, 2021. During earlier flybys on June 7, 2021, and Dec. 26, 2019, the solar-powered orbiter came within 650 miles (1,046 kilometers) and 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers), respectively. The three observational geometries provided an opportunity for JIRAM to see the moon’s north polar region for the first time, as well as compare the diversity in composition between the low and high latitudes.

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 auroras. Because 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.

“We found Ganymede’s high latitudes dominated by water ice, with fine grain size, which is the result of the intense bombardment of charged particles,” said Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome. “Conversely, low latitudes are shielded by the moon’s magnetic field and contain more of its original chemical composition, most notably of non-water-ice constituents such as salts and organics. It is extremely important to characterize the unique properties of these icy regions to better understand the space-weathering processes that the surface undergoes.”

Juno’s unique polar views and closeups of Ganymede build on observations by NASA’s previous explorers, among them Voyager, Galileo, New Horizons, and Cassini. Future missions with Ganymede in their travel plans include the ESA (European Space Agency) JUICE mission, which will explore the icy Galilean moons with an emphasis on Ganymede, and NASA’s Europa Clipper, which will focus on Ganymede’s neighboring ocean world Europa.

10 Years an Explorer

Juno lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Aug. 5, 2011, at 9:25 a.m. PDT (12:25 p.m. EDT). After a five-year, 1,740-million-mile (2,800-million-kilometer) journey, it arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.

“Since launch, Juno has executed over 2 million commands, orbited Jupiter 35 times, and collected about three terabits of science data,” said Project Manager Ed Hirst of JPL. “We are thrilled by our ongoing exploration of Jupiter, and there is much more to come. We have started our extended mission and look forward to 42 additional orbits to explore the Jovian system.”

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

Juno’s extended mission, which tasks the spacecraft with continuing its investigations through September 2025, includes close passes of Jupiter’s north polar cyclones, flybys of the moons Europa and Io (along with Ganymede), as well as the first exploration of the faint rings encircling the planet. It will also expand on discoveries Juno has already made about Jupiter’s interior structure, internal magnetic field, atmosphere (including polar cyclones, deep atmosphere, and aurora), and magnetosphere.

More About the Mission

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott J. 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. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

More information about Juno is available at:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Naomi Hartono/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/JPL/DC Agle/Southwest Research Institute/Deb Schmid.


jeudi 7 octobre 2021

Eye Checks, Science Work and Departure Preps Keeping Crew Busy


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

October 7, 2021

The Expedition 65 crew had a busy day on Thursday with eye checks, space science, and Soyuz crew departure preparations on the schedule. The 10 residents aboard the International Space Station also joined each other in the afternoon to review emergency procedures.

NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Shane Kimbrough swapped roles as crew medical officer today during a series of eye exams. Vande Hei kicked off the first session Thursday morning using an ultrasound device scanning the eyes of fellow astronauts Kimbrough, Flight Engineers Megan McArthur and Akihiko Hoshide, and Commander Thomas Pesquet. Kimbrough took charge in the afternoon measuring fluid pressure in his crewmates eyes then using near-infrared imaging gear to examine their retinas.

Image above: The seven-member Expedition 65 crew posed for a portrait aboard the space station on Oct. 4, 2021. Image Credit: NASA.

Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) started his day replacing electrical components inside the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, an incubator with an artificial gravity generator. Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) installed a research device that will enable the observation of fluid physics and materials science experiments at high temperatures.

Veteran cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Anton Shkaplerov checked computers and electronics gear inside the docked Soyuz MS-18 and Soyuz MS-19 crew ships. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov joined Novitskiy and Shkaplerov and also assisted the two spaceflight participants Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko with their filmmaking activities today.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Novitskiy will command the Soyuz MS-18 back to Earth in just over a week with the two filmmakers. Shkaplerov will complete his mission at the end of March next year inside the Soyuz MS-19 leading Vande Hei and Dubrov back home after their near year-long mission.

All 10 residents aboard the station joined each other for an hourlong session in the afternoon to review their roles and responsibilities in the unlikely event of an emergency on the station. They located safety gear, ensured the crew vehicles were ready for an evacuation, and practiced communication and coordination with mission control centers around the world.

Related article:

Scientific laboratory works and filming the scientific and educational project "Challenge"

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’Double’ Galaxy Mystifies Hubble Astronomers


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Oct 7, 2021

Astronomers have seen some pretty weird things scattered across our vast universe, from exploding stars to colliding galaxies. So, you'd think that when they see a strange celestial object, they would be able to identify it.

But NASA's Hubble Space Telescope uncovered what appears to be a pair of identical objects that look so weird it took astronomers several years to determine what they are.

Image above: This Hubble Space Telescope snapshot shows three magnified images of a distant galaxy embedded in a cluster of galaxies. These images are produced by a trick of nature called gravitational lensing. The galaxy cluster's immense gravity magnifies and distorts the light from the distant galaxy behind it, creating the multiple images. The galaxy cluster, catalogued as SDSS J223010.47-081017.8, is 7 billion light-years from Earth. Hubble has observed many gravitationally lensed galaxies. However, the images spotted in this Hubble snapshot are unique. Two of the magnified images, shown in the pull-out at bottom right, are exact copies of each other. The two bright ovals are the cores of the galaxy. This rare phenomenon occurs because the background galaxy straddles a ripple in the fabric of space. This “ripple” is an area of greatest magnification, caused by the gravity of dense amounts of dark matter, the unseen glue that makes up most of the universe's mass. As light from the faraway galaxy passes through the cluster along this ripple, two mirror images are produced, along with a third image that can be seen off to the side. A close-up of the third image is shown in the pull-out at top right. This image most closely resembles the remote galaxy, which is located more than 11 billion light-years away. Based on a reconstruction of this image, the researchers determined that the distant galaxy appears to an edge-on, barred spiral with ongoing, clumpy star formation. The mirror images are named “Hamilton’s Object" for the astronomer who discovered them. Image Credits: Joseph DePasquale (STScI).

"We were really stumped," said astronomer Timothy Hamilton of Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.

The oddball objects consist of a pair of galaxy bulges (the central star-filled hub of a galaxy) and at least three nearly parallel split streaks. Hamilton spotted them by accident while using Hubble to survey a collection of quasars, the blazing cores of active galaxies.

After chasing dead-end theories, soliciting help from colleagues, and doing lots of head-scratching, Hamilton and the growing team, led by Richard Griffiths of the University of Hawaii in Hilo, finally put together all of the clues to solve the mystery.

The linear objects were the stretched images of a gravitationally lensed distant galaxy, located more than 11 billion light-years away. And, they appeared to be mirror images of each other.

The team discovered that the immense gravity of an intervening, and uncatalogued, foreground cluster of galaxies was warping space, magnifying, brightening, and stretching the image of a distant galaxy behind it, a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Though Hubble surveys reveal a lot of these funhouse-mirror distortions caused by gravitational lensing, this object was uniquely perplexing.

In this case, a precise alignment between a background galaxy and a foreground galaxy cluster produces twin magnified copies of the same image of the remote galaxy. This rare phenomenon occurs because the background galaxy straddles a ripple in the fabric of space. This "ripple" is an area of greatest magnification, caused by the gravity of dense amounts of dark matter, the unseen glue that makes up most of the universe's mass. As light from the faraway galaxy passes through the cluster along this ripple, two mirror images are produced, along with a third image that can be seen off to the side.

Griffiths compares this effect to the bright wavy patterns seen on the bottom of a swimming pool. "Think of the rippled surface of a swimming pool on a sunny day, showing patterns of bright light on the bottom of the pool," he explained. "These bright patterns on the bottom are caused by a similar kind of effect as gravitational lensing. The ripples on the surface act as partial lenses and focus sunlight into bright squiggly patterns on the bottom."

In the gravitationally lensed distant galaxy, the ripple is greatly magnifying and distorting the light from the background galaxy that is passing through the cluster. The ripple acts like an imperfect curvy mirror that generates the dual copies.

Solving the Mystery

But this rare phenomenon wasn't well-known when Hamilton spotted the strange linear features in 2013.

As he looked through the quasar images, the snapshot of the mirrored images and parallel streaks stood out. Hamilton had never seen anything like it before, and neither had other team members.

"My first thought was that maybe they were interacting galaxies with tidally stretched-out arms," Hamilton said. "It didn't really fit well, but I didn't know what else to think."

So Hamilton and the team began their quest to solve the mystery of these tantalizing straight lines, later dubbed Hamilton's Object for its discoverer. They showed the strange image to colleagues at astronomy conferences, which elicited a variety of responses, from cosmic strings to planetary nebulae.

But then Griffiths, who was not a member of the original team, offered the most plausible explanation when Hamilton showed him the image at a NASA meeting in 2015. It was a magnified and distorted image caused by a lensing phenomenon similar to those seen in Hubble images of other massive galaxy clusters that are amplifying images of very distant galaxies. Griffiths confirmed this idea when he learned of a similar linear object in one of Hubble's deep-cluster surveys.

The researchers, however, still had a problem. They couldn't identify the lensing cluster. Normally, astronomers who study galaxy clusters first see the foreground cluster that's causing the lensing, and then find the magnified images of distant galaxies within the cluster. A search of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey images revealed that a galaxy cluster resided in the same area as the magnified images, but it did not show up in any catalogued survey. Nevertheless, the fact that the strange images were at the center of a cluster made it clear to Griffiths that the cluster was producing the lensed images.

The researchers' next step was in determining whether the three lensed images were at the same distance, and therefore were all the distorted portraits of the same faraway galaxy. Spectroscopic measurements with the Gemini and W. M. Keck observatories in Hawaii helped the researchers make that confirmation, showing that the lensed images were from a galaxy located more than 11 billion light-years away.

The remote galaxy, based on a reconstruction of the third lensed image, appears to be an edge-on, barred spiral with ongoing, clumpy star formation.

Around the same time as the spectroscopic observations by Griffiths and undergraduates in Hilo, a separate group of researchers in Chicago identified the cluster and measured its distance using Sloan data. The cluster resides more than 7 billion light-years away.

But, with very little information about the cluster, Griffiths' team was still struggling with how to interpret these unusual lensing shapes. "This gravitational lens is very different from most of the lenses that were studied before by Hubble, particularly in the Hubble Frontier Fields survey of clusters," Griffiths explained. "You don’t have to stare at those clusters for long to find many lenses. In this object, this is the only lens we have. And we didn't even know about the cluster at first."

Mapping the Invisible

That's when Griffiths called an expert on gravitational lensing theory, Jenny Wagner of the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Wagner had studied similar objects and, with colleague Nicolas Tessore, now at the University of Manchester in England, developed computer software for interpreting unique lenses like this one. Their software helped the team figure out how all three lensed images came to be. They concluded that the dark matter around the stretched images had to be "smoothly" distributed in space at small scales.

"It's great that we only need two mirror images in order to get the scale of how clumpy or not dark matter can be at these positions," Wagner said. "Here, we don't use any lens models. We just take the observables of the multiple images and the fact they can be transformed into one another. They can be folded into one another by our method. This already gives us an idea of how smooth the dark matter needs to be at these two positions."

This result is important, Griffiths said, because astronomers still don't know what dark matter is, nearly a century after its discovery. "We know it's some form of matter, but we have no idea what the constituent particle is. So we don't know how it behaves at all. We just know that it has mass and is subject to gravity. The significance of the limits of size on the clumping or smoothness is that it gives us some clues as to what the particle might be. The smaller the dark matter clumps, the more massive the particles must be."

The team's paper appears in the September issue of The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: 

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

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

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Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lynn Jenner/GSFC/Claire Andreoli/STSI/Ray Villard/Writer: Donna Weaver/University of Hawaii/Richard E. Griffiths/Center for Astronomy of Heidelberg University/Jenny Wagner.


Scientific laboratory works and filming the scientific and educational project "Challenge"


ROSCOSMOS - International Space Station (ISS) patch.

Oct. 7, 2021

Images below: The Russian crew of the 65th long-term expedition and filmmaker's of the movie "Challenge".

The Russian crew of the 65th long-term expedition to the International Space Station is carrying out targeted work in accordance with the flight assignment. Today, on October 7, 2021, as part of preparations for the upcoming landing, the crew of the Soyuz MS-19 manned transport vehicle is swapping the lodgements of the Soyuz MS-19 and Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft. Return to Earth is scheduled for October 17, 2021.

In addition, the crew continues to work on filming the scientific and educational project "Challenge". The health status of astronauts and space flight participants is good.

Note that the lodgement is necessary to evenly distribute the loads over the surface of the body in order to secure it when hitting the surface of the ground during landing. The insert-lodgment is made according to individual measurements for each astronaut. It is an integral part of the Kazbek-UM chair - the shock-absorbing chair of the Soyuz MS spacecraft, in which the cosmonaut (or a space flight participant) is during the flight.

Three times in the history of Russian cosmonautics, the lodgement saved the lives of people returning from near-earth orbit - in 1969 (Boris Volynov), in 1980 (Valery Kubasov and Bertalan Farkash), in 1997 (Vasily Tsibliyev, Alexander Lazutkin). The impact on the ground was so strong that the astronauts survived largely thanks to the lodgements.

Space flight participants Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko, who flew to the International Space Station as part of the Challenge scientific and educational project, will return to Earth on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft together with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who has been on the ISS since April. On October 17, Novitsky will return to Earth, while Shkaplerov and Dubrov will spend six months at the station.

According to preliminary data from the TsNIIMash Mission Control Center (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation), the undocking of the Soyuz MS-18 manned spacecraft is scheduled at 04:12 Moscow time on October 17, 2021. The descent vehicle is expected to land at 07:36 Moscow time on the same day, 147 km from the city of Zhezkazgan.

Several scenes of the first ever feature film have already been filmed on the ISS

"Challenge" is a large scientific and educational project, which in the Year of Science and Technology is being implemented by Channel One in cooperation with Roskosmos.

On Tuesday, actress Yulia Peresild, director Klim Shipenko and crew commander, Hero of Russia Anton Shkaplerov went to the ISS. The expedition will last 12 days. Despite the busy shooting schedule, the project participants find time to communicate, including with NASA astronauts. Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko visited the US segment of the ISS.

Several scenes of the first ever feature film have already been filmed on the ISS

Interview by Channel One Russia:

- Y. Peresild: Of course, it was unusual, especially the first day it was generally not clear where we were.

- K. Ernst: Tell us about the first day, Julia.

- Dmitry Rogozin: And where did you sleep? Have you already chosen the places where you will while away your stay in orbit?

- Yu. Peresild: They gave me the commander's cabin. I'm having a luxury party. I'm making up here. I have make-up all over my cabin, ours, cinematic. On my floor there are medical pads spread out. I even have a porthole in my cabin.

- K. Ernst: What is seen through the window?

- Yu. Peresild: Earth!

- K. Shipenko: Yes, the windows are beautiful, sometimes we look into them between takes.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Soyuz MS-18:

Soyuz MS-19:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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NASA’s Perseverance Sheds More Light on Jezero Crater’s Watery Past


NASA - Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover logo.

Oct 7, 2021

(Click on the images for enlarge)

Pictures from NASA’s latest six-wheeler on the Red Planet suggest the area’s history experienced significant flooding events.

Image above: The escarpment the science team refers to as “Scarp a” is seen in this image captured by Perseverance rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument on Apr. 17, 2021. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS.

A new paper from the science team of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover details how the hydrological cycle of the now-dry lake at Jezero Crater is more complicated and intriguing than originally thought. The findings are based on detailed imaging the rover provided of long, steep slopes called escarpments, or scarps in the delta, which formed from sediment accumulating at the mouth of an ancient river that long ago fed the crater’s lake.

The images reveal that billions of years ago, when Mars had an atmosphere thick enough to support water flowing across its surface, Jezero’s fan-shaped river delta experienced late-stage flooding events that carried rocks and debris into it from the highlands well outside the crater.

Image above: This image of an escarpment, or scarp – a long, steep slope – along the delta of Mars’ Jezero Crater was generated using data from the Perseverance rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument. The inset image at top is a close-up provided by the Remote Microscopic Imager, which is part of the SuperCam instrument. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/CNRS/ASU/MSSS.

Taken by the rover’s left and right Mastcam-Z cameras as well as its Remote Micro-Imager, or RMI (part of the SuperCam instrument), they also provide insight into where the rover could best hunt for rock and sediment samples, including those that may contain organic compounds and other evidence that life once existed there.

The rover team has long planned to visit the delta because of its potential for harboring signs of ancient microbial life. One of the mission’s primary goals is to collect samples that could be brought to Earth by the multi-mission Mars Sample Return effort, enabling scientists to analyze the material with powerful lab equipment too large to bring to Mars.

The paper on Perseverance’s scarp imagery – the first research to be published with data acquired after the rover’s Feb. 18 landing – was released online today in the journal Science.

Image above: This annotated image indicates the locations of NASA’s Perseverance rover (lower right), as well as the “Kodiak” butte (lower left) and several prominent steep banks known as escarpments, or scarps, along the delta of Jezero Crater. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/USGS.

Perseverance’s ‘Kodiak’ Moment

At the time the images were taken, the scarps were to the northwest of the rover and about 1.2 miles (2.2 kilometers) away. Southwest of the rover, and at about the same distance, lies another prominent rock outcrop the team calls “Kodiak.” In its ancient past, Kodiak was at the southern edge of the delta, which would have been an intact geologic structure at the time.

Prior to Perseverance’s arrival, Kodiak had been imaged only from orbit. From the surface, the rover’s Mastcam-Z and RMI images revealed for the first time the stratigraphy – the order and position of rock layers, which provides information about the relative timing of geological deposits – along Kodiak’s eastern face. The inclined and horizontal layering there is what a geologist would expect to see in a river delta on Earth.

“Never before has such well-preserved stratigraphy been visible on Mars,” said Nicolas Mangold, a Perseverance scientist from the Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique in Nantes, France, and lead author of the paper. “This is the key observation that enables us to once and for all confirm the presence of a lake and river delta at Jezero. Getting a better understanding of the hydrology months in advance of our arrival at the delta is going to pay big dividends down the road.”

While the Kodiak results are significant, it is the tale told by the images of the scarps to the northeast that came as the greatest surprise to the rover science team.

Image above: This image of “Kodiak” – one remnant of the fan-shaped deposit of sediments inside Mars’ Jezero Crater known as the delta – was taken by Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z instrument on Feb. 22, 2021. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS.

Moving Boulders

Imagery of those scarps showed layering similar to Kodiak’s on their lower halves. But farther up each of their steep walls and on top, Mastcam-Z and RMI captured stones and boulders.

“We saw distinct layers in the scarps containing boulders up to 5 feet [1.5 meters] across that we knew had no business being there,” said Mangold.

Those layers mean the slow, meandering waterway that fed the delta must have been transformed by later, fast-moving flash floods. Mangold and the science team estimate that a torrent of water needed to transport the boulders – some for tens of miles – would have to travel at speeds ranging from 4 to 20 mph (6 to 30 kph).

“These results also have an impact on the strategy for the selection of rocks for sampling,” said Sanjeev Gupta, a Perseverance scientist from Imperial College, London, and a co-author of the paper. “The finest-grained material at the bottom of the delta probably contains our best bet for finding evidence of organics and biosignatures. And the boulders at the top will enable us to sample old pieces of crustal rocks. Both are main objectives for sampling and caching rocks before Mars Sample Return.”

Image above: The annotated version of the mosaic indicates the location of four prominent escarpments, or scarps (long, steep slopes), along Jezero Crater’s river delta. The images were taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover on April 17, 2021. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS.

A Lake of Changing Depths

Early in the history of the Jezero Crater’s former lake, its levels are thought to have been high enough to crest the crater’s eastern rim, where orbital imagery shows the remains of an outflow river channel. The new paper adds to this thinking, describing the size of Jezero’s lake fluctuating greatly over time, its water level rising and falling by tens of yards before the body of water eventually disappeared altogether.

While it’s unknown if these swings in the water level resulted from flooding or more gradual environmental changes, the science team has determined that they occurred later in the Jezero delta’s history, when lake levels were at least 330 feet (100 meters) below the lake’s highest level. And the team is looking forward to making more insights in the future: The delta will be the starting point for the rover team’s upcoming second science campaign next year.

“A better understanding of Jezero’s delta is a key to understanding the change in hydrology for the area,” said Gupta, “and it could potentially provide valuable insights into why the entire planet dried out.”

More About Perseverance

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.

Mars Perseverance Rover collecting samples. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL Caltech

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more about Perseverance: and

Related links:

Mastcam-Z cameras:

SuperCam instrument:

Mars Sample Return:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/JPL/DC Agle.


mercredi 6 octobre 2021

Astronauts, Cosmonauts and Filmmakers Work Together on Station


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

October 6, 2021

Ten people are living and working aboard the International Space Station today following the arrival of three Russian crewmates on Tuesday morning. The five astronauts, three cosmonauts, and two spaceflight participants will work together on science, maintenance, and filmmaking activities until the departure of the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship on Oct. 16.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei joined new Expedition 65 Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and spent the first half of the day on communications work. The duo connected cables and configured components on a newly-installed router in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. The pair split up in the afternoon as Vande Hei worked on Cygnus space freighter cargo transfers and Pesquet inspected U.S. spacesuit gloves.

Image above: Astronaut Thomas Pesquet wears augmented reality goggles that assist crew members with science experiments and orbital maintenance tasks. Image Credit: NASA.

The other two NASA Flight Engineers, Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, assisted Vande Hei with cargo work inside Cygnus which has been attached to the Harmony module since August. McArthur also serviced a variety of hardware throughout the day including a cordless vacuum cleaner, science rack light bulbs and a carbon dioxide monitor. Kimbrough worked on, then activated and checked out the Tranquility module’s treadmill.

Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency was in the cupola during the morning photographing tiny satellites deployed outside the Kibo laboratory module. The Japanese astronaut, who swapped station command with Pesquet on Monday, also assisted McArthur with the vacuum work then moved on to ventilation work inside Tranquility.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Four-time station visitor Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos got right to work Wednesday following his three-and-half ride to the orbiting lab on Tuesday. He unpacked cargo delivered aboard the new Soyuz MS-19 crew ship and worked on video gear and a Russian science experiment with fellow cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy. Novitskiy then began collecting station hardware for return to Earth inside the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft.

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov worked on water transfers from the docked ISS Progress 78 resupply ship then moved on to hardware checks inside the Rassvet module. Dubrov also helped the new spaceflight participants, Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko, adapt to life on the station as the pair begin several days of movie filming work.

Related links:

Expedition 65:

U.S. Destiny laboratory module:

Harmony module:

Tranquility module:

Kibo laboratory module:

Rassvet module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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A Jupiter-Like Rogue Planet Wanders Alone in Space




NASA - Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (WFIRST) patch.

Oct 6, 2021

This artist's conception illustrates a Jupiter-like planet alone in the dark of space, floating freely without a parent star.  

Exoplanet hunters have found thousands of planets, most orbiting close to their host stars, but relatively few alien worlds have been detected that float freely through the galaxy as so-called rogue planets, not bound to any star. Many astronomers believe that these planets are more common than we know, but that our planet-finding techniques haven’t been up to the task of locating them.

A planet survey, called the Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA), scanned the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy from 2006 to 2007. It used a 5.9-foot (1.8-meter) telescope at Mount John University Observatory in New Zealand, and a technique called gravitational microlensing. In this method, a planet-sized body is identified indirectly as it just happens to pass in front of a more distant star, causing the star to brighten. The effect is like a cosmic funhouse mirror, or magnifying lens – light from the background star is warped and amplified, becoming brighter.

Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (WFIRST)

Using the latest technology, NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will conduct a survey to discover many more exoplanets using powerful techniques available to a wide-field telescope.

Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope:

Image, Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Text Credit: Yvette Smith.


Working Overtime: NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock Completes Mission


NASA - Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) logo.

Oct 06, 2021

Geared toward improving spacecraft navigation, the technology demonstration operated far longer than planned and broke the stability record for atomic clocks in space.

Image above: This illustration shows NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock technology demonstration and the General Atomics Orbital Test Bed spacecraft that hosts it. Spacecraft could one day depend on such instruments to navigate deep space. Image Credit: NASA.

For more than two years, NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock has been pushing the timekeeping frontiers in space. On Sept. 18, 2021, its mission came to a successful end.

The instrument is hosted on General Atomics’ Orbital Test Bed spacecraft that was launched aboard the Department of Defense Space Test Program 2 mission June 25, 2019. Its goal: to test the feasibility of using an onboard atomic clock to improve spacecraft navigation in deep space.

Currently, spacecraft rely on ground-based atomic clocks. To measure a spacecraft’s trajectory as it travels beyond the Moon, navigators use these timekeepers to precisely track when those signals are sent and received. Because navigators know that radio signals travel at the speed of light (about 186,000 miles per second, or 300,000 kilometers per second), they can use these time measurements to calculate the spacecraft’s exact distance, speed, and direction of travel.

Image above: The Deep Space Atomic Clock is about 10 inches (25 centimeters) on each side, roughly the size of a toaster. Its compact design was a key requirement, and an even smaller iteration will fly aboard NASA’s VERITAS spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

But the farther a spacecraft is from Earth, the longer it takes to send and receive signals – from several minutes to a few hours – significantly delaying these calculations. With an onboard atomic clock paired with a navigation system, the spacecraft could immediately calculate where it is and where it is going.

Built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the Deep Space Atomic Clock is an ultra-precise, mercury-ion atomic clock encased in a small box that measures about 10 inches (25 centimeters) on each side – roughly the size of a toaster. Designed to survive the rigors of launch and the cold, high-radiation environment of space without its timekeeping performance degrading, the Deep Space Atomic Clock was a technology demonstration intended to carry out technological firsts and fill critical knowledge gaps.

How NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock Could Be the Next Space GPS

Video above: Watch this video explainer to learn why accurate timekeeping in space is essential and how NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock will make future spacecraft less dependent on Earth to navigate autonomously. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After the instrument completed its one-year primary mission in Earth orbit, NASA extended the mission to collect more data because of its exceptional timekeeping stability. But before the tech demo was powered off on Sept. 18, the mission worked overtime to extract as much data as possible in its final days.

Image above: The Deep Space Atomic Clock was launched on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as part of the Department of Defense's Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky

“The Deep Space Atomic Clock mission was a resounding success, and the gem of the story here is that the technology demonstration operated well past its intended operational period,” said Todd Ely, principal investigator and project manager at JPL.

The data from the trailblazing instrument will help develop Deep Space Atomic Clock-2, a tech demo that will travel to Venus aboard NASA’s Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography & Spectroscopy (VERITAS) spacecraft when it launches by 2028. This will be the first test for an atomic clock in deep space and a monumental advancement for increased spacecraft autonomy.

Stability Is Everything

While atomic clocks are the most stable timekeepers on the planet, they still have instabilities that can cause a minuscule lag, or “offset,” in the clocks’ time versus the actual time. Left uncorrected, these offsets will add up and could lead to large errors in positioning. Fractions of a second could mean the difference between safely arriving at Mars or missing the planet altogether.

Updates can be beamed from Earth to the spacecraft to correct for these offsets. Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, for example, carry atomic clocks to help us get from point A to B. To make sure they keep the time accurately, updates need to be frequently transmitted to them from the ground. But having to send frequent updates from Earth to an atomic clock in deep space would not be practical and would defeat the purpose of equipping a spacecraft with one.

This is why an atomic clock on a spacecraft exploring deep space would need to be as stable as possible from the get-go, allowing it to be less dependent on Earth to be updated.

“The Deep Space Atomic Clock succeeded in this goal,” said JPL’s Eric Burt, an atomic clock physicist for the mission. “We have achieved a new record for long-term atomic clock stability in space – more than an order of magnitude better than GPS atomic clocks. This means that we now have the stability to allow for more autonomy in deep space missions and potentially make GPS satellites less dependent on twice-daily updates if they carried our instrument.”

Image above: Three eye-catching posters featuring the Deep Space Atomic Clock and how future versions of the tech demo may be used by spacecraft and astronauts. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

In a recent study, the Deep Space Atomic Clock team reported a deviation of less than four nanoseconds after more than 20 days of operation.

Like its predecessor, the Deep Space Atomic Clock-2 will be a tech demo, meaning that VERITAS will not depend on it to fulfill its goals. But this next iteration will be smaller, use less power, and be designed to support a multi-year mission like VERITAS.

“It is a remarkable accomplishment by the team – the technology demonstration has proven to be a robust system in orbit, and we are now looking forward to seeing an improved version go to Venus,” said Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations for NASA’s Science and Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This is what NASA does – we develop new technologies and enhance existing ones to advance human and robotic spaceflight. The Deep Space Atomic Clock truly has the potential to transform how we explore deep space.”

Jason Mitchell, the director of the Advanced Communications & Navigation Technology Division of NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) at the agency’s headquarters agreed: “The instrument’s performance was truly exceptional and a testament to the capability of the team. Going forward, not only will the Deep Space Atomic Clock enable significant, new operational capabilities for NASA's human and robotic exploration missions, it may also enable deeper exploration of the fundamental physics of relativity, much like the clocks supporting GPS have done.”

More About the Mission

The Deep Space Atomic Clock is hosted on a spacecraft provided by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems of Englewood, Colorado. It is sponsored by STMD’s Technology Demonstration Missions program located at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and SCaN within NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. JPL manages the project.

Related links:

Atomic clocks:

Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography & Spectroscopy (VERITAS):



Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Ian J. O'Neill.

Best regards,