samedi 16 octobre 2021

Departing Russian Trio Says Farewell to Station Crew


ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-18 Mission patch.

October 16, 2021

At 4:41 p.m. EDT, the hatch closed between the Soyuz spacecraft and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos, Russian actress Yulia Peresild, and Russian producer-director Klim Shipenko are scheduled to undock in the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft at 9:14 p.m.

Image above: (From left) Spaceflight participants Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy are pictured moments before entering the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. Image Credit: NASA TV.

NASA Television will air live coverage of the undocking beginning at 9 p.m.; the coverage will include a replay of hatch closure. Coverage of the Soyuz deorbit burn and landing begins at 11:15 p.m. Their landing in Kazakhstan is targeted for approximately 12:36 a.m. (10:36 a.m. Kazakhstan time) Sunday, October 17.

Soyuz MS-18 farewells and hatch closure

When the Soyuz undocks, Expedition 66 will formally begin aboard the station. Remaining aboard the orbiting outpost will be commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency), NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, and Mark Vande Hei, JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov.

Related links:

NASA Television:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-13 hatch opening


CMS - China Manned Space / Shenzhou-13 Mission patch.

Oct. 16, 2021

Shenzhou-13 Crew inside CSS after hatch opening

The hatch of the Shenzhou-13 (神舟十三) crew spacecraft was opened on 16 October 2021 and the second crew of three astronauts, Zhai Zhigang (commander), Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping, entered the Tianhe Core Module (天和核心舱) at 01:58 UTC (09:58 China Standard Time), for the first six-month mission on the China Space Station (中国空间站).

Shenzhou-13 hatch opening

CSS consists now of the Tianhe Core Module with the Tianzhou-2, Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-13 crew spacecraft docked.

Related article & link:

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission

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

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


Trans-Neptunian asteroid Arrocot


Moscow Planetarium logo.

Oct. 16, 2021

In January 2019, the automatic interplanetary station New Horizons, which continued to study objects in the Kuiper belt, flew past the asteroid Arrokot, also known as (486958) 2014 MU69 and Ultima Thule. The asteroid was at a distance of 6.5 billion km from Earth. Thus, the asteroid Arrokot is currently the most distant object in the solar system that has ever been visited by a spacecraft.

Asteroid 2014 MU69 was discovered with the Hubble Orbiting Telescope in 2014. This discovery partially solved the problems of the New Horizons mission, since after studying Pluto and its satellites, no objects were known to which the probe could go. At the beginning of 2015, Arrocot was the only object that the New Horizons apparatus could have guaranteed to reach (taking into account possible errors).

The first name of the asteroid is Ultima Thule, after a mythical island in northern Europe. However, in 2019, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially assigned the name of the asteroid "Arrokoth", which means "sky" in the language of the Pohatan Indians (Virginia). Arrocot is a contact deuce, about 32 × 20 km in size, reddish in color.

Most of the asteroid was named Ultima, the smaller part - Thule. Ultima has dimensions 22 × 20 × 7 km, Tula - 10 × 6x2 km. Arrocoth's center of mass is located inside the larger part of the asteroid. The interior is probably composed of a mixture of ices of various gases, water, and rock material.

All groups of scientists studying it note that the surface of the asteroid is uniformly red, very cold and covered with methanol ice, complex organic compounds, with which the red color is possibly associated. According to scientists, methanol could be formed from water and methane ices when irradiated with cosmic rays. Most likely, Arrocot was formed from two separate progenitor objects in the earliest stages of the formation of the solar system.

Source: Moscow Planetarium.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Moscow Planetarium:


Images, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/Moscow Planetarium/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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My Favorite Martian Image: the Ridges of ‘South Séítah’


NASA - Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover logo.

Oct 16, 2021

NASA’s Perseverance rover captures a geologic feature with details that offer clues to the area’s mysterious past.

(Click on the image for enlarge)

Image above: This annotated image indicates the location of several prominent geologic features visible in a mosaic composed of 84 pictures taken by the Mastcam-Z imager aboard Perseverance. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS.

Ask any space explorer, and they’ll have a favorite photograph or two from their mission. For Jorge Núñez, an astrobiologist and planetary scientist working on the science team of NASA’s Perseverance rover, one of his current favorites is a rover’s-eye panorama of the “South Séítah” region of Mars’ Jezero Crater. Exploring the geologic unit was among the major objectives of the team’s first science campaign because it may contain some of the deepest, and potentially oldest, rocks in the giant crater.

“Just like any excited tourist approaching the end of a major road trip, we stopped at a lookout to get a first view of our destination,” said Núñez, who is based at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “This panorama is spectacular because you feel like you are there. It shows not only the incredible scale of the area, but also all the exploration possibilities South Séítah has to offer. With multiple intriguing rocky outcrops and ridgelines, each one is seemingly better than the last. If it’s not a field geologist’s dream, it’s pretty close.”

Composed of 84 individual enhanced-color images that were later stitched together, the mosaic was taken on Sept. 12 (the 201st Martian day, or sol, of the mission) by the Mastcam-Z camera system as the rover was parked on an elevated overlook just outside its entry point into South Séítah. Perseverance had just completed a record 190-yard (175-meter) drive the previous sol.

The mosaic was taken at the highest magnification and stretched to allow subtle color differences in the rocks and soil to be visible to the naked eye. Left of center and halfway up the image are the gray, darker gray, and Swiss-coffee-colored rocky outcrops of the ridge nicknamed “Faillefeu” (after a medieval abbey in the French Alps). The distinctly thin, at times tilted layering evident in several of Faillefeu’s rocks would have been high on the science team’s list of things to explore, because tilted layering suggests the possibility of tectonic activity. But similar features – along with other compelling geology – were visible on another ridgeline that the mission’s science team opted to explore instead.

Perseverance Rover. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The “Martre Ridge” (named after a commune in southeastern France) is like Faillefeu except three times as big. It contains not only low-lying flat rocks near the base of the ridge, but also rocky outcrops with thin layering at the base and massive caprocks near and at the ridge’s peak. The caprocks are usually made of harder, more resistant material than those stacked below them, suggesting potential differences in how the material was deposited.

“Another cool thing about this image is that one can also see in the background, on the right, the path Perseverance took as it made its way to South Séítah,” said Núñez. “And finally, there is the peak of ‘Santa Cruz’ far in the distance. We’re currently not planning on going there; it’s too far out of our way. But it is geologically interesting, reinforcing just how much great stuff the team gets to pick and choose from here at Jezero. It also looks cool.”

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.

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

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

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NASA, ULA Launch Lucy Mission to ‘Fossils’ of Planet Formation


ULA - Atlas V / LUCY Mission poster.

Oct 16, 2021

NASA’s Lucy mission, the agency’s first to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, launched at 5:34 a.m. EDT Saturday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Image above: A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Lucy spacecraft aboard is seen in this 2 minute and 30 second exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 41, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to study Jupiter's Trojan Asteroids. Like the mission's namesake – the fossilized human ancestor, "Lucy," whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity's evolution – Lucy will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system. Image Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Over the next 12 years, Lucy will fly by one main-belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids, making it the agency’s first single spacecraft mission in history to explore so many different asteroids. Lucy will investigate these “fossils” of planetary formation up close during its journey.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying Lucy liftoff. Image Credit: ULA

“Lucy embodies NASA’s enduring quest to push out into the cosmos for the sake of exploration and science, to better understand the universe and our place within it,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “I can’t wait to see what mysteries the mission uncovers!”

About an hour after launch, Lucy separated from the second stage of the ULA Atlas V 401 rocket. Its two massive solar arrays, each nearly 24 feet (7.3 meters) wide, successfully unfurled about 30 minutes later and began charging the spacecraft’s batteries to power its subsystems.

Atlas V launches Lucy

“Today’s launch marks a genuine full-circle moment for me as Lucy was the first mission I approved in 2017, just a few months after joining NASA,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “A true mission of discovery, Lucy is rich with opportunity to learn more about these mysterious Trojan asteroids and better understand the formation and evolution of the early solar system.”

Lucy sent its first signal to Earth from its own antenna to NASA’s Deep Space Network at 6:40 a.m. The spacecraft is now traveling at roughly 67,000 mph (108,000 kph) on a trajectory that will orbit the Sun and bring it back toward Earth in October 2022 for a gravity assist.

Named for the fossilized skeleton of one of our earliest known hominin ancestors, the Lucy mission will allow scientists to explore two swarms of Trojan asteroids that share an orbit around the Sun with Jupiter. Scientific evidence indicates that Trojan asteroids are remnants of the material that formed giant planets. Studying them can reveal previously unknown information about their formation and our solar system’s evolution in the same way the fossilized skeleton of Lucy revolutionized our understanding of human evolution.

“We started working on the Lucy mission concept early in 2014, so this launch has been long in the making,” said Hal Levison, Lucy principal investigator, based out of the Boulder, Colorado, branch of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), which is headquartered in San Antonio. “It will still be several years before we get to the first Trojan asteroid, but these objects are worth the wait and all the effort because of their immense scientific value. They are like diamonds in the sky.”

NASA’s Lucy mission. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Lucy’s Trojan destinations are trapped near Jupiter’s Lagrange points – gravitationally stable locations in space associated with a planet’s orbit where smaller masses can be trapped. One swarm of Trojans is ahead of the gas giant planet, and another is behind it. The asteroids in Jupiter’s Trojan swarms are as far away from Jupiter as they are from the Sun.

The spacecraft’s first Earth gravity assist in 2022 will accelerate and direct Lucy’s trajectory beyond the orbit of Mars. The spacecraft will then swing back toward Earth for another gravity assist in 2024, which will propel Lucy toward the Donaldjohanson asteroid – located within the solar system’s main asteroid belt – in 2025.

Lucy will then journey toward its first Trojan asteroid encounter in the swarm ahead of Jupiter for a 2027 arrival. After completing its first four targeted flybys, the spacecraft will travel back to Earth for a third gravity boost in 2031, which will catapult it to the trailing swarm of Trojans for a 2033 encounter.

“Today we celebrate this incredible milestone and look forward to the new discoveries that Lucy will uncover,” said Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, Lucy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

NASA Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering, plus safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Lucy is the 13th mission in NASA’s Discovery Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Discovery Program for the agency.

For more information about NASA's Lucy mission, visit:

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/GSFC/Nancy Neal Jones/NASA TV/SciNews.


ISS briefly off-axis after Russian engine ignites


ROSCOSMOS - International Space Station (ISS) patch.

Oct. 16, 2021

The International Space Station exited its orbital axis on Friday after the engines of a Russian spacecraft ignited, before its normal orientation was restored.

Image above: This photograph from July 29, 2021 shows the Russian "Nauka" (Science) module docked next to the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft on the International Space Station (ISS). In July, the unexpected ignition of the engines of the Russian Nauka module, docked with the ISS, had moved the station 45 degrees out of position. Image Credits: ROSCOSMOS / NASA.

The International Space Station emerged from its orbital axis on Friday after the engines of a Russian spacecraft ignited, Moscow said, but said the problem had been solved and there was "no danger." Testing the Soyuz MS-18 thrusters resulted in "a temporary reorientation of the International Space Station" (ISS), Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a statement. Normal orientation "was promptly restored thanks to the action" of Russian ISS personnel, Roscosmos added. "The station and the crews on board are not in danger," the Russian agency insisted.

This is not the first time such an incident has occurred aboard the ISS, an international science laboratory that orbit the Earth. In July, the unexpected ignition of the engines of the Russian Nauka module, docked with the ISS, had moved the station 45 degrees out of position. The crew had to turn on the thrusters for the Russian segment of the station to restore it.

The Russian space industry has encountered many difficulties in recent years, ranging from failed launches to corruption scandals. But it wants to relaunch itself with ambitious projects, such as building its own space station or a lunar base with China.

The new incident comes as Roscosmos prepares to bring a Russian actress and director aboard the ISS back to Earth to shoot the first film in orbit and anticipate a US project with Tom Cruise. Actress Yulia Peressild and director Klim Chipenko, who joined the ISS on October 5, are due to return on Sunday with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky.

Related articles:

Russian module mishap destabilises International Space Station

Space Station Stable After Earlier Unplanned MLM Thruster Firing & Update OFT-2

Related links:

О ситуации на борту МКС / About the situation on board the ISS

RSC Energia:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/RSC Energia/AFP/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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How the Sun Affects Asteroids in Our Neighborhood


NASA - LUCY Mission patch.

Oct. 16, 2021

Asteroids embody the story of our solar system’s beginning. Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which orbit the Sun on the same path as the gas giant, are no exception. The Trojans are thought to be left over from the objects that eventually formed our planets, and studying them might offer clues about how the solar system came to be.

NASA’s Lucy mission. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Over the next 12 years, NASA’s Lucy mission will visit eight asteroids — including seven Trojans — to help answer big questions about planet formation and the origins of our solar system. It will take the spacecraft about three and a half years to reach its first destination. What might Lucy find?

Like all the planets, asteroids exist in the heliosphere, the vast bubble of space defined by the reaches of our Sun’s wind. Directly and indirectly, the Sun affects many aspects of existence within this pocket of the universe. Here are a few of the ways the Sun influences asteroids like the Trojans in our solar system.

Place in Space

The Sun makes up 99.8% of the solar system’s mass and exerts a strong gravitational force as a result. In the case of the Trojan asteroids that Lucy will visit, their very location in space is dictated in part by the Sun’s gravity. They are clustered at two Lagrange points. These are locations where the gravitational forces of two massive objects — in this case the Sun and Jupiter — are balanced in such a way that smaller objects like asteroids or satellites stay put relative to the larger bodies. The Trojans lead and follow Jupiter in its orbit by 60° at Lagrange points L4 and L5.

Lagrange Points: Lucy Goes to Space

Video above: This video features Lucy Principal Investigator Hal Levison, who discusses the Trojan Asteroids located at Lagrange Points and how the Lucy mission will plot its trajectory out to visit them. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/James Tralie.

Pushing Asteroids Around (with Light!)

That’s right, sunlight can move asteroids! Like Earth and many other objects in space, asteroids rotate. At any given moment, the Sun-facing side of an asteroid absorbs sunlight while the dark side sheds energy as heat. When the heat escapes, it creates an infinitesimal amount of thrust, pushing the asteroid ever so slightly off its course. Over millions of years, this force, called the Yarkovsky effect, can noticeably alter the trajectory of smaller asteroids (those less than 25 miles, or about 40 kilometers, in diameter).

Animation above: Over millions of years, the Yarkovsky effect can noticeably alter the trajectory of smaller asteroids. Animation Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Similarly, sunlight can also alter the rotation rate of small asteroids. This effect, known as YORP (named for four scientists whose work contributed to the discovery), affects asteroids in different ways depending on their size, shape, and other characteristics. Sometimes, YORP causes small bodies to spin faster until they break apart. Other times, it may cause their rotation rates to slow.

The Trojans are farther from the Sun than the near-Earth or Main Belt asteroids we’ve studied before, and it remains to be seen how the Yarkovsky effect and YORP affect them.

Shaping the Surface

Just like rocks on Earth show signs of weathering, so too do rocks in space, including asteroids. When rocks warm up during the day, they expand. As they cool down, they contract. Over time, this fluctuation causes cracks to form. The process is called thermal fracturing. The phenomenon is more intense on objects without atmospheres, such as asteroids, where temperatures vary wildly. Therefore, even though the Trojans are farther from the Sun than rocks on Earth, they’ll likely show more signs of thermal fracturing.

Animation above: Asteroids are battered by the solar wind, a steady stream of particles, magnetic fields, and radiation that flows from the Sun. Animation Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The lack of atmosphere has another implication for asteroid weathering: Asteroids are battered by the solar wind, a steady stream of particles, magnetic fields, and radiation that flows from the Sun. For the most part, Earth’s magnetic field protects us from this bombardment. Particles that do get through can excite molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in auroras. Without magnetic fields or atmospheres of their own, asteroids receive the brunt of the solar wind. When incoming particles strike an asteroid, they can kick some material off into space, changing the fundamental chemistry of what’s left behind.

Related links:

Lagrange points:

Lucy (Asteroid Mission):



Image (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lina Tran/GSFC/By Anna Blaustein.


vendredi 15 octobre 2021

Crew Work and Station Attitude Update Before Soyuz Crew Departure


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

October 15, 2021

Three Russian inhabitants of the International Space Station are preparing to depart for Earth on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the rest of the Expedition 65 crew worked on a variety of life science activities as well as important orbital plumbing duties on Friday.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 crew ship will return to Earth just after midnight Eastern time on Sunday with Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy and spaceflight participants Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko. They will undock from the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module on Saturday at 9:14 p.m. EDT. Next, they will soar through the atmosphere in the Soyuz descent module. Finally, the Soyuz parachutes will deploy above Kazakhstan bringing the trio to a safe landing at 12:36 a.m. Sunday (10:36 a.m. Kazakh time).

Image above: A aurora vividly streams over the Earth as the station orbited above the southern Indian Ocean in between Australia and Antarctica. Image Credit: NASA.

Novitskiy spent Friday wrapping up packing station hardware, science experiments and personal items inside the Soyuz vehicle. The three-time station resident from Roscosmos also tested the lower body negative pressure suit that may help him more quickly adjust to gravity after returning to Earth.

Meanwhile, science and maintenance continued as usual aboard the orbital lab. The crew members had a busy schedule on their hands today working on vein scans, orbital plumbing, and microbial analysis.

Station Commander Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) scanned the leg, neck and heart veins of Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration during the morning using an ultrasound device. Doctors on the ground assisted the duo in real time for the Vascular Aging study that is exploring why astronaut’s veins show accelerated aging characteristics after a long-term space mission.

NASA Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Mark Vande Hei worked throughout the day configuring the station’s new toilet located in the Tranquility module. Kimbrough also performed simulated robotic maneuvers for a cognition test, while Vande Hei worked on a CubeSat deployer before transferring cargo inside the Cygnus space freighter. NASA Flight Engineer Megan McArthur spent the afternoon inside the U.S. Quest airlock installing a deck panel.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov partnered together for a microbial study in the station’s Russian segment during the afternoon. The duo collected and stowed samples of microbes living on the station for further analysis.

At 5:02 a.m. EDT today, Russian flight controllers conducted a scheduled thruster firing test on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft that is scheduled to return to Earth Saturday night with three crew members aboard. The thruster firing unexpectedly continued after the end of the test window, resulting in a loss of attitude control for the International Space Station at 5:13 a.m. Within 30 minutes, flight controllers regained attitude control of the space station, which is now in a stable configuration. The crew was awake at the time of the event and was not in any danger.

Flight controllers are continuing to evaluate data on the station’s brief attitude change due to the thruster firing. NASA and Roscosmos are collaborating to understand the root cause.

Coverage of the Soyuz MS-18 crew’s farewells, undocking, and landing will air live on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app at the following times tomorrow (all EDT):

    4:15 p.m. – Farewells (at about 4:35 p.m.)
    9 p.m. – Soyuz undocking and a replay of hatch closure (undocking at 9:14 p.m.)
    11:15 p.m. – Deorbit burn (11:42 p.m.) and landing (12:36 a.m.)


Related links:

Expedition 65:

Lower body negative pressure suit:

Vascular Aging:

Tranquility module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission


CMS - China Manned Space / Shenzhou-13 Mission patch.

Oct. 15, 2021

Shenzhou-13 crew, Zhai Zhigang (commander), Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping

Astronaut Wang Yaping, along with astronauts Zhai Zhigang (commander) and Ye Guangfu, will start the Shenzhou-13 mission, the second crew of three astronauts to the China Space Station, on on 15 October 2021, at 16:23 UTC (16 October, at 00:23 China Standard Time).

Astronaut Wang Yaping talks about the Shenzhou-13 mission

The Long March-2F Y13 launch vehicle (长征二号F遥十三) launched the Shenzhou-13 (神舟十三) crew spacecraft, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, China, on 15 October 2021, at 16:23:53 UTC (16 October, at 00:23:53 China Standard Time).

Long March-2F Y13 launches Shenzhou-13

Shenzhou-13 transports the second crew of three astronauts, Zhai Zhigang (commander), Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping, to the China Space Station (中国空间站). Shenzhou-13 is scheduled to perform a fast rendezvous and docking with the Tianhe Core Module (天和核心舱).

Shenzhou-13 launch (Full HD)

The Shenzhou-13 crew spacecraft autonomously docked to the radial port of the Tianhe Core Module (天和核心舱) on 15 October 2021, at 22:56 (16 October, at 06:56 China Standard Time).

Shenzhou-13 docking

Shenzhou-13 (神舟十三) transports the second crew of three astronauts, Zhai Zhigang (commander), Ye Guangfu and Wang Yaping, for the first six-month mission on the China Space Station (中国空间站).

Shenzhou-13 docking

Related link:

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

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of October 11, 2021


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

Oct 15, 2021

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Oct. 11 that included studying cool flames, examining the aging effects of spaceflight, and understanding how microgravity impacts time perception.

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.

Image above: Satellites are prepared for deployment this past week within the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Coolest flames in space

The Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) project is a set of six independent studies of gaseous flames conducted in the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR). The researchers’ goals are to gain information that can lead to improved fuel efficiency, reduced pollutant production in practical combustion on Earth, and improved spacecraft fire prevention. One of the ACME studies currently being conducted is known as the Cool Flames Investigation with Gases. A cool flame is one that burns at about 600 degrees Celsius. A candle is about two times hotter, burning at around 1,400 degrees Celsius. The results of this investigation could lead to cleaner, more efficient internal combustion engines. This past week, a crew member was tasked with replacing a butane bottle in preparation for the experiment.

Image above: Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) inspects network connections, swaps cables, and replaces components inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

Aging in space

Emerging data point towards linkages among cardiovascular health risk, carotid artery aging, bone metabolism and blood biomarkers, insulin resistance, and radiation. Data indicate that aging-like changes are accelerated in many International Space Station crew members, particularly with respect to their arteries. As part of the Vascular Aging investigation, ultrasounds of the arteries, blood samples, oral glucose tolerance, and wearable sensors from space station crew members are analyzed.

A crew member performed a blood pressure measurement lasting 13 hours this week and gathered data with a Bio-Monitor garment while sleeping. Results could point to mechanisms for reducing this risk and may also identify and detect blood biomarkers that predict early signs of cardiovascular aging.

What time is it?

Time Perception in Microgravity, an ESA (European Space Agency) experiment, investigates crew members’ perception of time aboard the space station. Judgments of durations in seconds, minutes, hours, and days are recorded by crew members throughout their stay aboard the orbiting lab and compared with pre- and postflight baselines. It is hypothesized that time duration is underestimated by astronauts in orbit. If the hypothesis is correct, the crew members’ duration estimate should be shorter than real time. The speed at which crew members’ move may affect time perception. Crew members’ motions are slow at the beginning of the flight, and then increase in speed as the flight progresses. When in orbit, it takes about 50% more time to perform the same experimental procedures as it would on Earth. This week, a crewmember replaced the headband and garment for the Bio-Monitor Data Unit. The instrument performs on-orbit monitoring of crew member physiological parameters, with wearable sensors that only minimally interfere with crew member daily activities.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- 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.

- 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.

Image above: Principal Investigator Eve Teyssier assembles the pot of the Eklosion capsule under sterile condition. The Eklosion investigation consists of a vase that is used by a crew member to grow a Marigold flower (Tagetes patula) aboard the space station. The investigation aims to study the process of plant growth in space. Image Credit: Eklo Association.

- 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 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: Arrivals and Departures: 10/15/2021

Related links:

Expedition 65:

Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME):

Cool Flames Investigation with Gases:

Vascular Aging:

Time Perception in Microgravity:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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BepiColombo’s first tastes of Mercury science


ESA / JAXA - BepiColombo Mission patch.

Oct. 15, 2021

BepiColombo flyby Mercury

The magnetic and particle environment around Mercury was sampled by BepiColombo for the first time during the mission’s close flyby of the planet at 199 km on 1-2 October 2021, while the huge gravitational pull of the planet was felt by its accelerometers.

The magnetic and accelerometer data have been converted into sound files and presented here for the first time. They capture the ‘sound’ of the solar wind as it bombards a planet close to the Sun, the flexing of the spacecraft as it responded to the change in temperature as it flew from the night to dayside of the planet, and even the sound of a science instrument rotating to its ‘park’ position.

Unexplored territory

“It may have been a fleeting flyby, but for some of BepiColombo’s instruments, it marked the beginning of their science data collection, and a chance to really start preparing for the main mission,” says Johannes Benkhoff, ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist.  “These flybys also offer the chance to sample regions around Mercury that will not be accessible once we’re in orbit. In this case BepiColombo provided us insight into the particles present close to the planet, as well as the magnetic field boundaries as it traversed through the magnetosphere at greater distances.”

Feeling a close Mercury flyby

The PHEBUS ultraviolet spectrometer collected data for an hour around the closest approach, focusing on the elements present in the planet’s extremely low-density atmosphere, or exosphere, which is generated either from the solar wind or from the planet’s surface. Clear peaks of hydrogen and calcium were recorded after the close approach, once BepiColombo exited the shadow of Mercury.

First taste of Mercury’s exosphere

Hydrogen and calcium are just two examples of what can be found in the exosphere; once in orbit around Mercury, PHEBUS will characterise Mercury’s exosphere composition and dynamics in great detail, watching how it changes with location and time. PHEBUS is one of several spectrometers that will study Mercury from orbit to understand its surface composition, including looking for ice in permanently shadowed regions of high-latitude craters.

During the flyby, the Mercury Gamma-ray and Neutron Spectrometer (MGNS) was also operated, detecting bright fluxes of neutron and gamma rays. These emissions are known to be produced by the interaction of galactic cosmic rays with the uppermost surface layers of Mercury, and also provide information about the surface composition. A detailed analysis of the data – also from the Venus flyby – is currently in progress.

Magnetic boundaries

Sensors on the magnetometer boom – the structure seen extending from the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) in some of the MCAM images – recorded details of the solar wind and magnetic field around Mercury. During this flyby, the magnetometer team were particularly excited to collect data from so close over the planet’s southern hemisphere; so far, only Mercury’s northern hemisphere has been magnetically surveyed by NASA's Messenger mission.

“It’s like having just explored North America and seeing South America through binoculars, but unfortunately having to abort the expedition. As a researcher, you’re naturally curious and desperate to go back,” says Daniel Heyner from TU Braunschweig in Germany, who leads the MPO magnetometer researcher group. “That makes this flyby particularly interesting, as it is the first time that data from the planet’s southern hemisphere close to the surface is available – even if it is just a small sample.”

Sound of the solar wind at Mercury

The data has been converted into sound to be audible to the human ear. The resulting sonification captures the changing intensity of the magnetic field and solar wind, including the moment the spacecraft crossed the magnetosheath ­– the highly turbulent boundary region between the solar wind and the magnetosphere around the planet.

Once in Mercury orbit, complementary magnetic field measurements made by both ESA’s MPO and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (known as Mio) will lead to a detailed analysis of the planet’s magnetic field and its source, in order to better understand the origin, evolution and current state of the planet’s interior. Moreover, the two orbiters will travel through different areas of Mercury’s magnetosphere and on different timescales, measuring simultaneously how the magnetic field changes over time and in space, and its relationship to the powerful solar wind.

In the meantime, Daniel and his colleagues will start to follow up on questions such as: can the characteristics of the magnetic field from the northern hemisphere be easily transferred to the southern hemisphere? Has the magnetic field generated by the dynamo perhaps even changed in the last six years after the Messenger mission – as it continuously does on Earth? The new BepiColombo flyby data – and eventually data from its main science mission – will be compared with global magnetic field models created from the Messenger mission to create the most accurate picture yet of Mercury’s magnetic field.

Feeling the crunch

The Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) onboard the MPO recorded the accelerations measured by the spacecraft as it experienced the extreme gravitational pull of the planet during the flyby, and the response of the change in temperature as the spacecraft entered and exited the shadow of the planet. Furthermore, ISA detected the motion of the PHEBUS spectrometer as it clicked back into its ‘parking’ bracket after it completed its operations at Mercury.

This information has also been translated into an audio file.

How a spacecraft ‘feels’ a planetary flyby

“On the acceleration plots that were appearing on our screens, we could see the tidal effects of Mercury on the BepiColombo structure, the drop of the solar radiation pressure during the transit in the shadow of the planet, and the movement of the centre of mass of the spacecraft due to flexing of the large solar arrays,” says Carmelo Magnafico of the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF). “The real science begins now for us, because in the difference between those expected effects and the actually measured data stands the ISA scientific value. We are extremely happy.”

ISA will support the study of Mercury’s internal structure and test Einstein's theory of General Relativity to an unprecedented level of accuracy. It will also be central to providing accurate orbit determination of the MPO around Mercury, and of Mercury’s centre of mass as it orbits around the Sun.

The October gravity assist manoeuvre was the first at Mercury and the fourth of nine flybys overall. During its seven-year cruise to the smallest and innermost planet of the Solar System, BepiColombo makes one flyby at Earth, two at Venus and six at Mercury to help steer it on course to arrive in Mercury orbit in 2025.

Further science results from the October flyby may be reported in future scientific journals once the science teams have had time to fully analyse the data. All MCAM images are available via the Planetary Science Archive.

Related links:

MCAM images:

Planetary Science Archive:!Image%20View/MCAM=instrument


Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ESA/BepiColombo/PHEBUS, LATMOS/CNES, IKI/Roscosmos, DESP/JAXA.


jeudi 14 octobre 2021

Russian Trio Nears Departure, Rest of Crew Busy with Research, Lab Upkeep


ISS - Expedition 65 Mission patch.

Oct. 14, 2021

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

A veteran cosmonaut will soon lead two Russian spaceflight participants on a ride through Earth’s atmosphere to a parachuted landing in Kazakhstan this weekend. Meanwhile, the rest of the Expedition 65 crew stayed focused on a multitude of science, cargo, and maintenance activities throughout Thursday.

Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy will complete his third station mission when he undocks from the Nauka multipurpose laboratory on Saturday at 9:14 p.m. EDT inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship. He, with the station’s two filmmaking guests Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko riding alongside him, will touchdown on the Kazakh steppe on Sunday at 12:36 a.m. (10:36 a.m. Kazakh time).

Image above: The ten station inhabitants are gathered together in the Unity module for a meal and a portrait. In the front row (from left) are, Mark Vande Hei, Klim Shipenko, Pyotr Dubrov, and Megan McArthur. In the back row (from left) are, Akihiko Hoshide, Anton Shkaplerov, Thomas Pesquet, Yulia Peresild, Oleg Novitskiy, and Shane Kimbrough. Image Credit: NASA.

Novitskiy has been packing the Soyuz spacecraft for several days with station hardware, science samples and personal items. He has also been practicing Soyuz descent techniques and training for the departure maneuvers on a Russian computer. The three-time station resident, with assistance from cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov, has also been testing a specialized suit, the lower body negative pressure suit, that may help his body adjust quickly to Earth’s gravity after 191 days in space.

The station’s three NASA flight engineers had their hands full today with a host of research and lab upkeep activities in the orbiting lab’s U.S. segment. Megan McArthur swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack then performed simulated robotic tasks for a cognition test. Shane Kimbrough had some light plumbing duties during the morning before continuing cargo work inside the Cygnus space freighter. Mark Vande Hei, who is staying on the station for nearly a year, filmed a video about safety in space for students on Earth then worked on life support and networking gear.

Who Will Build NASA’s Next Generation of Spacesuits

The two international astronauts, Thomas Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide, spent some time in their respective modules, Europe’s Columbus laboratory and Japan’s Kibo laboratory, ensuring smooth lab operations. Pesquet, of ESA (European Space Agency), serviced a variety of science freezers inside Columbus. Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reorganized stowage space inside Kibo making room for new science gear soon to be delivered on the next SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission.

Over in the station’s Russian segment, Roscosmos Flight Engineer Anton Shkaplerov worked on an exercise study and dismantled a radiation detector. Dubrov downloaded and checked radiation data then configured radiation sensors, or dosimeters.

Related links:

Expedition 65:

lower body negative pressure suit:

Combustion Integrated Rack:

Columbus laboratory:

Kibo laboratory:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Hubble Finds Evidence of Persistent Water Vapour Atmosphere on Europa


NASA / ESA - Hubble Space Telescope (HST) patch.

Oct. 14, 2021

Hubble's View of Jupiter and Europa in August 2020

Observations by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope recently revealed water vapour in the atmosphere of Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons. A new analysis of archival images and spectra has now revealed that water vapour is also present in the atmosphere of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. The analysis found that a water vapour atmosphere is present only on one hemisphere of the moon. This result advances our understanding of the atmospheric structure of icy moons, and helps lay the groundwork for upcoming science missions which will explore Jupiter’s icy moons.

Europa — one of Jupiter’s 79 moons — is both the sixth closest moon to Jupiter and the sixth largest moon in the Solar System. It is an icy orb larger than the dwarf planet Pluto with a smooth, icy surface scarred by cracks and fissures. The surface of the moon is a bleak environment with an average temperature of −170 °C and only a tenuous atmosphere. However, astronomers suspect that Europa harbours a vast ocean underneath its icy surface, which some scientists speculate could host extraterrestrial life [1]. Now, for the first time, an astronomer has discovered evidence for persistent water vapour in the atmosphere of Europa.

Artist’s Impression of Jupiter and Europa

Using a technique that recently resulted in the discovery of water vapour in the atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, an astronomer has found evidence of water in Europa’s trailing hemisphere — the portion of the moon that is always opposite to its direction of motion [2]. The asymmetric distribution of water vapour was predicted by previous studies based on computer simulations, but had not previously been detected observationally.

“The observation of water vapour on Ganymede and on the trailing side of Europa advances our understanding of the atmospheres of icy moons,” commented Lorenz Roth of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, the author of this study. “The detection of a stable H2O abundance on Europa is surprising because the surface temperatures are so low.”

Artist’s Impression of Jupiter and Europa

To make this discovery, Roth delved into archival Hubble datasets, selecting ultraviolet observations of Europa from 1999, 2012, 2014 and 2015 while the moon was at various orbital positions. These observations were all taken with one of Hubble’s most versatile instruments — the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). These ultraviolet STIS observations allowed Roth to determine the abundance of oxygen — one of the constituents of water — in Europa’s atmosphere, and by interpreting the strength of emission at different wavelengths he was able to infer the presence of water vapour.

Previous observations of water vapour on Europa have been associated with transient plumes erupting through the ice, analogous to geysers here on Earth but more than 100 kilometres high. The phenomena seen in these plume studies were apparently transient inhomogeneities or blobs in the atmosphere. The new results, however, show similar amounts of water vapour to be present spread over a larger area in observations spanning from 1999 to 2015. This suggests the long-term presence of a water vapour atmosphere on Europa’s trailing hemisphere. Despite the presence of water vapour on Europa’s trailing hemisphere there is no indication of H2O on the leading hemisphere of Europa.

Artist’s Impression of a Water Atmosphere on Europa

Space scientists working to understand these icy moons will soon be able to benefit from a close-up view. ESA’s  JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission is being prepared for a tour of Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, Jupiter’s three largest icy moons. JUICE is the first large-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015–2025 programme and is expected to launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in 2031. The probe will carry an advanced suite of instruments — the most powerful remote sensing payload ever flown to the outer Solar System — and will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the Jovian system. Europa will also be visited by a NASA mission, Europa Clipper, which will perform a series of flybys of the moon and investigate its habitability, as well as selecting a landing site for a future mission.

“This result lays the groundwork for future science based on upcoming missions to the Jovian moons,” concluded Roth. “The more we can understand about these icy moons before spacecraft like JUICE and Europa Clipper arrive, the better use we can make of our limited observing time within the Jovian system.”

Galileo Spacecraft’s Image of Europa

This discovery and the insights from upcoming missions such as JUICE will improve our understanding of potentially habitable environments in the Solar System. Understanding the formation and evolution of Jupiter and its moons also helps astronomers gain insights into Jupiter-like exoplanets around other stars. Combined with observations from space telescopes such as the upcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, this could help astronomers determine if life could emerge in Jupiter-like exoplanetary systems elsewhere in the universe.

Image above: This photograph of the Jovian moon Europa was taken in June 1997 at a range of 776,700 miles by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. Slightly smaller than Earth's moon, Europa has a very smooth surface and the solid ice crust has the appearance of a cracked eggshell. The interior has a global ocean with more water than found on Earth. It could possibly harbor life as we know it. Hubble Space Telescope observations of Europa have revealed the presence of persistent water vapor in its very tenuous atmosphere. Hubble observations, spanning 1999 to 2015, find that water vapor is constantly being replenished throughout one hemisphere of the moon. This is a different finding from Hubble's 2013 observations that found localized water vapor from geysers venting from its subsurface ocean. This water vapor comes from a different process entirely. Sunlight causes the surface ice to sublimate, transitioning directly into gas. This color composite Galileo view combines violet, green, and infrared images. The view of the moon is shown in natural color (left) and in enhanced color designed to bring out subtle color differences in the surface (right). The bright white and bluish part of Europa's surface is composed mostly of water ice, with very few non-ice materials. Long, dark lines are fractures in the crust, some of which are more than 1,850 miles long. The Galileo mission ended on Sept. 21, 2003, when the spacecraft was intentionally commanded to dive into Jupiter's atmosphere, where it was destroyed. However, to this day scientists continue to study the data it collected. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California managed the Galileo mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. JPL is an operating division of California Institute of Technology (Caltech). This image and other images and data received from Galileo are posted on the Galileo mission home page. Background information and educational context are also available for the images. Image Credits: NASA, NASA-JPL, University of Arizona.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)


[1] Liquid water is a crucial ingredient in the complex chemistry that underpins all known forms of life. Europa’s subsurface ocean is warmed not by sunlight, but rather by the subtle flexing of the moon caused by Jupiter’s immense gravitational field. The presence of liquid water and a source of energy make Europa one of the most likely locations in the Solar System for potential habitability.

[2] Europa is tidally locked, which means that it takes the same amount of time to revolve on its own axis as it does to orbit Jupiter. This means that the same hemisphere of Europa always faces Jupiter, and that the same hemisphere of the moon is always facing away from the direction that Europa is travelling along its orbit. Earth’s Moon is also tidally locked, which is why we always see the same face of the Moon in the night sky.

More information

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

The astronomer who carried out this study was Lorenz Roth of the Royal Institute of Technology, Space and Plasma Physics, Sweden.

These results have been published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.


Space Sparks Episode 7:

Images of Hubble:

Hubblesite release:

Science paper:

Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS):


Images, Animation Credits: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M. H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team/ESA/Hubble, J. da Silva/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute/Text Credits: ESA/Hubble/Bethany Downer/KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden/Lorenz Roth.

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