mardi 24 mai 2022

Starliner’s Hatch Closed, Preps for Wednesday Departure


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

May 24, 2022

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Image Credit: Boeing

NASA astronauts living aboard the International Space Station closed the hatch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft at 3 p.m. EDT Tuesday, May 25. The uncrewed spacecraft is scheduled to autonomously undock from the space station to begin the journey home at 2:36 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 25. NASA and Boeing are targeting 6:49 p.m. for the landing and conclusion of Orbital Flight Test-2, wrapping up a six-day mission testing the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system.

Teams are targeting White Sands Space Harbor at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico as the primary landing site, with a backup White Sands opportunity Friday, May 27. The spacecraft will return with more than 600 pounds of cargo, including Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System reusable tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members. The tanks will be refurbished on Earth and sent back to station on a future flight.

Image above: Astronauts (from left) Jessica Watkins, Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, and Samantha Cristoforetti wave following Starliner farewell remarks from NASA leadership on Tuesday. Image Credit: NASA TV.

NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website will continue provide live coverage of the upcoming return activities for OFT-2 Wednesday, Thursday, May 25, as Starliner prepares to undock and return to Earth. Return coverage on NASA TV is as follows and all times are subject to change based on mission operations (all times are Eastern):

Wednesday, May 25

2 p.m. – TV coverage begins for the 2:36 p.m. undocking. NASA will break coverage after the spacecraft exits joint operations with the space station.

5:45 p.m. – Coverage begins for 6:05 p.m. deorbit burn and 6:49 p.m. landing in the western United States.

9 p.m. – Return to Earth news conference on NASA TV from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston:

    Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
    Joel Montalbano, manager, NASA’s International Space Station Program
    Suni Williams, NASA astronaut
    Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager, Boeing

Related articles:

Station Crew Opens Boeing Starliner Hatch, Enters Spacecraft

Boeing’s Starliner Docks to Station for Cargo and Test Ops

Liftoff! Atlas V Clears the Launch Pad with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft

Related links:

NASA Television:

Expedition 67:

Commercial Crew program:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

InSight's Final Selfie


NASA - InSight Mars Lander Mission patch.

May 23, 2022

NASA's InSight Mars lander took this final selfie on April 24, 2022, the 1,211th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The lander is covered with far more dust than it was in its first selfie, taken in December 2018, not long after landing – or in its second selfie, composed of images taken in March and April 2019.

InSight's First Selfie. Image Credits:  NASA/JPL-Caltech

The arm needs to move several times in order to capture a full selfie. Because InSight's dusty solar panels are producing less power, the team will soon put the lander's robotic arm in its resting position (called the "retirement pose") for the last time in May of 2022.

JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

InSight's Final Selfie. Image Credits:  NASA/JPL-Caltech

A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain's Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

InSight Mars Lander & Mission logo. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Related article:

NASA’s InSight Still Hunting Marsquakes as Power Levels Diminish

Related links:

Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS):

Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3):

InSight Mars Lander:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Yvette Smith/JPL/Andrew Good.


NASA-Supported Solar Sail Could Take Science to New Heights


NASA - Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) logo.

May 24, 2022

As NASA's exploration continues to push boundaries, a new solar sail concept selected by the agency for development toward a demonstration mission could carry science to new destinations.

Image above: Diffractive solar sails, depicted in this conceptual illustration, could enable missions to hard-to-reach places, like orbits over the Sun’s poles. Image Credit: MacKenzi Martin.

The Diffractive Solar Sailing project was selected for Phase III study under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. Phase III aims to strategically transition NIAC concepts with the highest potential impact for NASA, other government agencies, or commercial partners.

“As we venture farther out into the cosmos than ever before, we’ll need innovative, cutting-edge technologies to drive our missions," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program helps to unlock visionary ideas – like novel solar sails – and bring them closer to reality.”

Like a sailboat using wind to cross the ocean, solar sails use the pressure exerted by sunlight to propel a craft through space. Existing reflective solar sail designs are typically very large and very thin, and they are limited by the direction of the sunlight, forcing tradeoffs between power and navigation. Diffractive lightsails would use small gratings embedded in thin films to take advantage of a property of light called diffraction, which causes light to spread out when it passes through a narrow opening. This would allow the spacecraft to make more efficient use of sunlight without sacrificing maneuverability.

“Exploring the universe means we need new instruments, new ideas, and new ways of going places," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Our goal is to invest in those technologies throughout their lifecycle to support a robust ecosystem of innovation.”

The new Phase III award will give the research team $2 million over two years to continue technology development in preparation for a potential future demonstration mission. The project is led by Amber Dubill of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

"NIAC allows us to foster some of the most creative technology concepts in aerospace," said Mike LaPointe, acting program executive for the NIAC program at NASA Headquarters. "Our goal is to change the possible, and diffractive solar sailing promises to do just that for a number of exciting new mission applications."

Transforming Future Space Technology

Video above: From deep space human exploration to advanced propulsion and robotics, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts aims to change the possible by supporting early stage space technology research that could radically change the future. Video Credit: NASA.

Diffractive lightsailing would extend solar sail capability beyond what's possible with missions in development today. The project is led by Amber Dubill of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. The feasibility of the concept was previously studied under NIAC's Phase I and Phase II awards, led by Dr. Grover Swartzlander of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, who continues as a co-investigator on the project. Les Johnson, lead for two of NASA's upcoming solar sail missions at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, also is a co-investigator. Under the earlier awards, the team designed, created, and tested different types of diffractive sail materials; conducted experiments; and designed new navigation and control schemes for a potential diffractive lightsail mission orbiting the Sun's poles.

Work under Phase III will optimize the sail material and perform ground tests in support of this conceptual solar mission. Orbits passing over the Sun's north and south poles are difficult to achieve using conventional spacecraft propulsion. Lightweight diffractive lightsails, propelled by the constant pressure of sunlight, could place a constellation of science spacecraft in orbit around the Sun's poles to advance our understanding of the Sun and improve our space weather forecasting capabilities.

"Diffractive solar sailing is a modern take on the decades old vision of lightsails. While this technology can improve a multitude of mission architectures, it is poised to highly impact the heliophysics community’s need for unique solar observation capabilities," said Dubill. "With our team’s combined expertise in optics, aerospace, traditional solar sailing, and metamaterials, we hope to allow scientists to see the Sun as never before."

NIAC supports visionary research ideas through multiple progressive phases of study. NASA announced 17 Phase I and Phase II proposal selections in February 2022. NIAC is funded by NASA's STMD, which is responsible for developing the new cross-cutting technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

For more information about NASA’s investments in space technology, visit:

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Sarah Frazier.

Best regards,

Soil, Sutures, and Climate Modeling Among Investigations Riding SpaceX CRS-25 Dragon to International Space Station


SpaceX - Dragon CRS-25 Mission patch.

May 24, 2022

SpaceX Dragon resupply ship. Animation Credit: NASA

The 25th SpaceX cargo resupply services mission (SpaceX CRS-25) carrying scientific research and technology demonstrations to the International Space Station is scheduled for launch June 7 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Experiments aboard the Dragon capsule include studies of the immune system, wound healing, soil communities, and cell-free biomarkers, along with mapping the composition of Earth’s dust and testing an alternative to concrete.

Here are more details on some of the research launching to the space station:

Mapping Earth’s dust

Image above: On Jan. 14, 2022, strong seasonal winds carried dust from northwest Africa over the Canary Islands, causing visibility to drop and air quality to decline. EMIT measures the mineral composition of dust in Earth's arid regions, creating a map that could improve understanding of how dust affects people and communities. Image Credit: NASA.

The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT), developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, employs NASA imaging spectroscopy technology to measure the mineral composition of dust in Earth's arid regions. Mineral dust blown into the air can travel significant distances and have impact Earth’s climate, weather, vegetation, and more. For example, dust containing dark minerals that absorb sunlight can warm an area, while light-colored mineral dust can cool it. Blowing dust also affects air quality, surface conditions such as rate of snow melt, and phytoplankton health in the ocean. The investigation collects images for one year to generate maps of the mineral composition in the regions on Earth that produce dust. Such mapping could advance our understanding of the effects of mineral dust on human populations now and in the future.

Speedier immune system aging

Image above: Pre-flight preparation of tissue chips for the Immunosenescence investigation, which studies the effects of microgravity on immune function to determine the mechanisms behind immune system aging. Image Credits: Sonja Schrepfer, University of California San Francisco.

Aging is associated with changes in the immune response known as immunosenescence. Microgravity causes changes in human immune cells that resemble this condition but happen faster than the actual process of aging on Earth. The Immunosenescence investigation, sponsored by ISS National Lab, uses tissue chips to study how microgravity affects immune function during flight and whether immune cells recover post-flight. Tissue chips are small devices that contain human cells in a 3D structure, allowing scientists to test how those cells respond to stresses, drugs, and genetic changes.

"Immune aging impacts tissue stem cells and their ability to repair tissues and organs,” says principal investigator Sonja Schrepfer, professor of surgery at University of California San Francisco. “Our studies aim to understand critical pathways to prevent and to reverse aging of immune cells.”

"Spaceflight conditions enable the study of immune aging that would not be feasible in the lab,” says co-investigator Tobias Deuse, professor of surgery at UCSF. This work could support development of treatments for immune system aging on Earth. The investigation also could support development of methods to protect astronauts during future long-duration spaceflight.

Sew me up, Scotty

Image above: This image shows skin samples cultured in the Suture in Space hardware prior to flight. This ESA investigation examines the behavior of sutures and wound healing in microgravity. Image Credit: University of Florence.

As we travel farther from Earth, humans need to be prepared to deal with medical emergencies, including wounds, without hospitals and other medical support. Wound healing is a complex process, and scientists are not sure why wounds often heal imperfectly or create scars. Suture In Space, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), examines the behavior of sutures and wound healing in microgravity. A better understanding of the role of mechanical forces (such as tension, stretching, and compression) in the healing of sutured wounds could help determine requirements for suturing materials and techniques suitable for future space missions to the Moon and Mars.

During preparation for the investigation, researchers developed a new technique for improving and extending the survival of tissue cultures. For future space travel, this invention could promote wound healing and regeneration processes, improving response to emergencies. On Earth, the technique could aid laboratory studies on transplants, cell regeneration, and surgical techniques and improve the ability to preserve tissues for use in emergency situations, such as for burn and vascular surgeries and tissue and organ transplants. Better preservation of manufactured tissues also could contribute to improvements in 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs.

Soil in space

Image above: Preparation of sample tubes for DynaMoS, which examines how microgravity affects metabolic interactions in communities of soil microbes. Each tube contains chitin and sterile soil inoculated with a community of microbes. Image Credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

On Earth, complex communities of microorganisms carry out key functions in soil, including cycling of carbon and other nutrients and supporting plant growth. DynaMoS examines how microgravity affects metabolic interactions in communities of soil microbes. This research focuses on microbe communities that decompose chitin, a natural carbon polymer on Earth.

“Soil microorganisms carry out beneficial functions that are essential for life on our planet,” says principal investigator Janet K. Jansson, chief scientist and laboratory fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “To harness these beneficial activities for future space missions, we need to understand more about how conditions in space, like microgravity and radiation, influence these microbes and the beneficial functions that they provide. Perhaps in the future, we will use beneficial soil microbes to enhance growth of crops on the lunar surface.”

Improved understanding of the function of soil microorganism communities also could reveal ways to optimize these communities to support agricultural production on Earth.

Genes, no cells

Image above: Selin Kocalar, the student who designed the experiment on which Genes in Space-9 is based, prepares her samples for launch. Image Credit: Genes in Space.

Cell-free technology is a platform for producing protein without specialized equipment of living cells that need to be cultured. Genes in Space-9, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, demonstrates cell-free production of protein in microgravity and evaluates two cell-free biosensors that can detect specific target molecules. This technology could provide a simple, portable, and low-cost tool for medical diagnostics, on-demand production of medicine and vaccines, and environmental monitoring on future space missions.

“Biosensors are a class of synthetic biology tools with immense potential for spaceflight applications in contaminant detection, environmental monitoring, and point-of-care diagnostics,” said Selin Kocalar, student winner of Genes in Space 2021. “This investigation seeks to validate their use aboard the space station. If it is successful, Genes in Space-9 will lay the foundation for downstream applications of biosensors for space exploration and resource-limited settings on Earth."

Genes in Space, an annual research competition, challenges students in grades 7 through 12 to design DNA experiments to be conducted on the space station. The program has launched eight investigations so far, and some have resulted in publications furthering our knowledge on genetics experiments through space-based research, including the first experiment to use CRISPR technology in microgravity in 2019.

Better concrete

Image above: Flight hardware for the Biopolymer Research for In-Situ Capabilities, an investigation of how microgravity affects the process of creating a concrete alternative made with an organic material and on-site materials such as lunar or Martian dust. Each module makes two bricks, for a total of six bricks made in space.
Image Credit: James Wall.

Biopolymer Research for In-Situ Capabilities looks at how microgravity affects the process of creating a concrete alternative made with an organic material and on-site materials such as lunar or Martian dust, known as a biopolymer soil composite (BPC). Using resources available where construction takes place makes it possible to increase the mass of the construction material and, therefore, the amount of shielding.

"Astronauts on the Moon and Mars will need habitats that provide radiation shielding, but transporting large amounts of conventional construction materials from Earth is logistically and financially infeasible,” said team member Laywood Fayne. “Our student team, led by Michael Lepech from the Blume Earthquake Engineering Center at Stanford University, is studying a way to convert regolith in these environments into a concrete-like material by mixing in water and a protein known as bovine serum albumin.”

This material hardens as the water evaporates, a process affected by gravity, explains team co-lead James Wall. “Our project consists of making six bricks in microgravity to compare to bricks made on Earth at 1 g and less than 1 g,” Wall says. “We will investigate the number and orientations of protein bridges, compressive strength, and porosity. Our conclusions could help determine how these bricks might form on the Moon and Mars.”

BPCs also could offer an environmentally friendly concrete alternative for making structures on Earth. In 2018, concrete production represented 8% of global carbon emissions. BPC material has zero carbon emissions and can be made from local, readily available resources, which also simplifies supply chains. This experiment is a part of NASA’s Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science (SPOCS) program, which provides students enrolled in institutions of higher learning the opportunity to design and build an experiment to fly to and return from the International Space Station.

Related links:

Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT):

Immunosenescence investigation:

Tissue chips:

Suture In Space:


Genes in Space-9:

Genes in Space:

CRISPR technology:

Biopolymer Research for In-Situ Capabilities:

Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science (SPOCS):


Commercial Resupply Services:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/JSC/International Space Station Program Research Office/Melissa Gaskill.


lundi 23 mai 2022

Crew Works Starliner Operations and Studies Space Biology


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

May 23, 2022

Two Expedition 67 astronauts are unloading cargo delivered inside Boeing’s Starliner crew ship and testing its systems ahead of its departure this week. Meanwhile, the other residents aboard the International Space Station are juggling advanced space research and orbital lab maintenance.

NASA Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines have been unpacking some of the 500 pounds of NASA cargo delivered aboard Starliner on Friday. The duo has also been testing the commercial crew vehicle’s communications and power systems.

Image above: The uncrewed Boeing CST-100 Starliner approaches the forward port of the International Space Station ahead of docking at 8:28 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 20 for the first time during NASA's Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2. Image Credit: NASA.

They will turn their attention on Tuesday to readying Starliner for its undocking and return to Earth on Wednesday. Lindgren and Hines will pack Starliner with 600 pounds of return cargo, close the vehicle’s hatch, and monitor its departure set for 2:36 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. It will parachute to a landing in White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico at 6:49 p.m. (4:49 p.m. Mountain Time) the same day.

Science is always underway on the orbiting lab with the crew exploring a multitude of phenomena to benefit humans living on Earth and in space. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins attached electrodes to herself and scanned her neck, chest and leg with an Ultrasound device for the Vascular Echo study. The experiment investigates how microgravity affects an astronaut’s arteries and veins with insights possibly improving cardiovascular conditions on Earth.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) worked on complex research hardware and supported a space botany experiment on Monday. Cristoforetti replaced a sensor on the Materials Science Laboratory then swapped components inside the DECLIC device that supports fluid and material physics research. She also refilled water and nutrients in the XROOTS facility that explores growing plants in space using hydroponics and aeroponics.

Over in the station’s Russian segment, Commander Oleg Artemyev checked thermal control system pipes then serviced the Elektron oxygen generator. He also joined Flight Engineer Denis Matveev and tested communication systems aboard the ISS Progress 79 cargo craft. Matveev also installed radiation detectors then unpacked cargo from the inside the ISS Progress 80 resupply ship. Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov worked on ventilation and orbital systems then set up gear for the future installation of a glovebox facility inside the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

Related article:

Coverage Set for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 Return to Earth

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Vascular Echo:

Materials Science Laboratory:



Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

President Biden: NASA to Welcome Japanese Astronaut Aboard Gateway


NASA - ARTEMIS Program logo.

May 23, 2022

President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met in Tokyo Monday where they announced progress on collaboration for human and robotic lunar missions. They confirmed their commitment to include a Japanese astronaut aboard the lunar Gateway outpost and their shared ambition to see a future Japanese astronaut land on the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

Image above: Illustration of Gateway in lunar orbit with contributions from international partners. Image Credit: NASA.

“In recent years, the alliance between Japan and the United States has grown stronger, deeper, and more capable as we work together to take on new challenges – just as important as the opportunities – of a rapidly changing world,” said President Biden. “A great example of this: We viewed Japan's lunar rover... a symbol of how our space cooperation is taking off, looking towards the Moon and to Mars. And I'm excited about the work we'll do together on the Gateway station around the Moon and look forward to the first Japanese astronaut joining us in the mission to the lunar surface under the Artemis program.”

The United States and Japan are working to formalize the Japanese astronaut’s inclusion on Gateway through an Implementing Arrangement later this year.

“Our shared ambition to see Japanese and American astronauts walk on the Moon together reflects our nations’ shared values to explore space responsibly and transparently for the benefit of humanity here on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “With this historic announcement, President Biden is once again showing nations throughout the world that America will not go alone but with like-minded partners. Under Artemis, it’s our intention to invest in and explore the cosmos with countries that promote science, economic opportunity, and a common set of shared values.”

Gateway. Animation Credit: ESA

As part of ongoing collaborations on space and Earth science missions, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida reaffirmed the United States and Japan’s continued cooperation on Earth science data sharing to improve scientific understanding of the Earth’s changing climate.

In addition, the president confirmed the United States’ intention to provide Japan with a sample from the asteroid Bennu in 2023, collected from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Japan provided the United States with an asteroid sample collected by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 asteroid sample-return mission in 2021.

JAXA also is critical partner to NASA in helping the agency achieve its goals in science and human exploration, including on the International Space Station and through the Artemis. In 2020, Japan became an original signatory of the Artemis Accords and finalized an agreement with NASA to provide several capabilities for Gateway’s I-HAB, which will provide the heart of Gateway life support capabilities and additional space where crew will live, work, and conduct research during Artemis missions. JAXA’s planned contributions include I-HAB’s environmental control and life support system, batteries, thermal control, and imagery components, which will be integrated into the module by ESA (European Space Agency) prior to launch. These capabilities are critical for sustained Gateway operations during crewed and uncrewed time periods.  

To read more about NASA’s Artemis missions, visit:

Related link:

Artemis Accords and finalized an agreement:



Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Robert Margetta/Jackie McGuinness.


Artemis I Moon Rocket to Return to Launch Pad 39B in Early June


NASA - ARTEMIS-1 Mission patch.

May 23, 2022

The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft are slated to return to launch pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in early June for the next wet dress rehearsal attempt.

Image above:  NASA's Artemis 1 moon rocket stands atop Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center on March 23. Artemis 1 is scheduled to head back to the pad in early June. Image credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky.    

Engineers successfully completed work on a number of items observed during the previous wet dress rehearsal test. This includes addressing the liquid hydrogen system leak at the tail service mast umbilical, replacing the interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) gaseous helium system check valve and support hardware, modifying the ICPS umbilical purge boots, and confirming there are no impacts to Orion as a result of storms and subsequent water intrusion at the launch pad.  The team also updated software to address issues encountered during core stage tanking of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen during previous rehearsal attempts.  

The purge boots are not flight hardware, but enclose an area around the ICPS umbilical – the connection between the mobile launcher and the upper stage – to protect it from the natural environment during propellant loading.  

Meanwhile the contractor for gaseous nitrogen has completed their repairs to the distribution system that will be used to support the Artemis testing and launch campaign. The repairs and tests ensured the system is ready to support tanking operations. During wet dress rehearsal and launch, teams use gaseous nitrogen to purge the rocket including its umbilical plates and to support other operations.     

Engineers also are completing some of the forward work originally scheduled to take place in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) after wet dress rehearsal. This includes opening the Orion crew module hatch and installing some payloads, such as hardware elements for the Callisto technology demonstration, a flight kit locker, and container assemblies for a space biology experiment.  

Following completion of a few remaining verifications, teams will retract platforms inside the VAB to prepare SLS and Orion to roll out to pad 39B. Plans call for the next wet dress rehearsal to take place about 14 days after the rocket arrives at the pad.

Related links:

Callisto technology demonstration:

Related articles:

Artemis I Mission Availability

Work Continues to Return Artemis I Moon Rocket Back to Launch Pad for Next Test

NASA’s Artemis I Moon Rocket to Depart Launch Pad 39B Today

Artemis I WDR Update: Teams Working Solution to Continue Propellant Loading Operations

Artemis I Update: Countdown is Underway for Wet Dress Rehearsal

NASA Prepares for Next Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal Attempt

Artemis I WDR Update: Go to Proceed for Tanking – Countdown Resumes

NASA ‘Go’ for Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal

Standing tall: Moon rocket milestone for Artemis

NASA Readies Rocket for Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal

Related links:

Artemis I:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Orion spacecraft:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rachel Kraft.

Best regards,

The Tianwen-1 mission, Zhurong rover switches to dormant mode


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

May 23, 2022

Zhurong rover switches to dormant mode

According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), on 20 May 2022, the Zhurong rover has been switched to dormant mode, in order to cope with a dust storm and the Martian winter.

Zhurong entered sleep mode

At the rover’s exploration area in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars, the highest temperature during the day is expected to drop below minus 20°Celsius, and the lowest temperature at night is expected to drop to minus 100°C. Zhurong is scheduled to resume normal operations in December 2022, when the dust clears and Mars enters its spring season. Tianwen-1 (天问一号) is China’s first Mars exploration mission with an orbiter, a lander and a rover named Zhurong (祝融).

Related articles:

Perseverance rover seen by Tianwen-1 orbiter

CNSA - Tianwen-1 orbiter deploys “selfie stick”

New images from Tianwen-1 and Zhurong

China’s Mars rover has amassed reams of novel geological data

Tianwen-1 orbiter enters into its science orbit

Zhurong's first weather report from Mars & Tianwen-1 orbiter delays move into science orbit

Zhurong completes its designed mission

Tianwen-1 and Zhurong – a new phase of Mars exploration

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

Tianwen-1 Mission to Mars - New images from Zhurong

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

Zhurong rover and Tianwen-1 lander on Mars

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

Zhurong is roving on Mars!

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

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

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

China succeeds in landing its rover on Mars

Related link:

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


Mysteries of the Needle's Eye, a Dwarf Spiral Galaxy


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

May 23, 2022

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows a section of the spiral galaxy nicknamed the Needle’s Eye – an appropriately diminutive name for a dwarf spiral galaxy. The Needle’s Eye, also known as NGC 247 and Caldwell 62, is located about 11 million light-years away in the Sculptor Group – the closest group of galaxies to our own (the Local Group). The galaxy was given its nickname because one end of it features a strange void of stars (not seen in this Hubble close-up).

Learn more: Hubble Images a Dwarf Spiral with Multiple Mysteries

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and H. Feng (Tsinghua University); Image processing: G. Kober (NASA Goddard/Catholic University of America)/Text Credits: NASA/Yvette Smith.


Self-cleaning spacecraft surfaces to combat microbes


ISS - International Space Station emblem.

May 23, 2022

Astronauts live and work in orbit along with teeming populations of microorganisms, which could present a serious threat to health – and even the structural integrity of spacecraft. To help combat such invisible stowaways, an ESA-led project is developing microbe-killing coatings suitable for use within spacecraft cabins.

International Space Station (ISS)

Crewmen on the International Space Station are not alone. A microbial survey of surfaces within the orbital outpost found dozens of different bacteria and fungi species, including harmful pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus – known to cause skin and respiratory infections as well as food poisoning.

These microbial populations could even make spacecraft sick, not just astronauts. Bacteria and fungi produce ‘biofilms’ – akin to the plaque on your teeth – that can in turn tarnish and eat away at metal and glass as well as plastic and rubber.

Fungal growth on ISS

This problem proved acute in the latter days of the ISS’s predecessor, the Mir space station, where microbial colonies were observed growing on parts of spacesuits, cable insulation and even the seals of windows.

“With astronauts’ immune systems suppressed by microgravity, the microbial populations of future long-duration space missions will need to be controlled rigorously,” explains ESA material engineer Malgorzata Holynska. “So ESA’s Materials' Physics and Chemistry Section is collaborating with Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, IIT, to study antimicrobial materials that could be added to internal cabin surfaces.”

Self-cleaning surface, triggered by UV light

The IIT team has begun work on titanium oxide, also known as ‘titania’, used for example in self-cleaning glass down here on Earth, as well as in hygienic surfaces. When titanium oxide is exposed to ultraviolet light, it breaks down water vapour in the air into ‘free oxygen radicals’, which eat away whatever is on the surface, including bacterial membranes.

“Bacteria gets inactivated by the oxidative stress generated by these radicals,” says Mirko Prato of IIT. “This is an advantage because all the microorganisms are affected without exception, so there is no chance that we increase bacterial resistance in the same way as some antibacterial materials.”

Astronaut in Columbus module (Matthias Maurer)

The choice of titanium oxide was guided by previous research into antimicrobial coatings for hospitals. The team are probing method to ‘dope’ the compound; tweaking its recipe to increase its sensitivity to the visible portion of the light spectrum.

“Antimicrobial coatings on Earth often make use of silver, but we want to do without it here,” adds Malgorzata. “The issue is that in the confined environment of a spacecraft, prolonged exposure to silver could have negative health effects for astronauts – we don’t want a heavy metal buildup in the onboard water, for instance, with soluble silver linked to skin and eye irritation, even changes in skin colour at very high doses.”

Microbial samples from ISS

One of the attractions of titanium oxide as an alternative is its apparent long-term stability, explains Fabio Di Fonzo of IIT: “But we will be performing artificial ageing of coatings to see how they evolves over time. And part of the project results will be to see what are the photo-degradation products going back into the cabin atmosphere once the bacteria are oxidised – obviously we don’t want end products that are more toxic than the microbes themselves.”

Testing by IIT has achieved successful titanium oxide coating of a variety of candidate surfaces: glass, silicon wafer, aluminium foil and even clean-room grade paper tissue. The coatings are put in place using various methods, including ‘physical vapor deposition’ and ‘atomic layer deposition’ – involving the gradual laying down of thin films by exposure to gaseous chemicals, techniques more traditionally employed for fabricating semiconductor devices.

French MATISS experiment

“We aim to keep this antimicrobial layer as thin as possible, so as not to alter the mechanical properties of underlying materials too much, not to stop fabrics from bending and so on,” says Mirko “We are targeting thicknesses of 50 to 100 nanometres, millionths of a millimetre.”

The PATINA project, ‘Optimization of Photo-catalytic Antibacterial coatings’ was proposed through ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform, seeking out novel ideas for space research from any source. The project also covers other antimicrobial surface treatments, including super-hydrophobic materials that repel all moisture, electro-static reaction and biocide-releasing materials.

At ESTEC, ESA Research Fellow Mengjiao Wang performed work on testing coatings, now succeeded by Research Fellow Federica Arena.

This new antimicrobial approach complements existing European research such as the French space-surface experiment MATISS and the German Touching Surfaces experiment investigating bacterial growth aboard the ISS.

Editor note:

The Russian Mir space station, at the end of its 15 year lifespan, fell victim to an acid-producing fungus. This affected the plastic, glass and titanium surfaces on board.

Related links:

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT):

French space-surface experiment MATISS:

German Touching Surfaces experiment:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/JPL/IIT/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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Swarm unveils magnetic waves deep down


ESA - SWARM Mission patch.

May 23, 2022

While volcanic eruptions and earthquakes serve as immediate reminders that Earth’s insides are anything but tranquil, there are also other, more elusive, dynamic processes happening deep down below our feet. Using information from ESA’s Swarm satellite mission, scientists have discovered a completely new type of magnetic wave that sweeps across the outermost part of Earth’s outer core every seven years. This fascinating finding, presented today at ESA’s Living Planet Symposium, opens a new window into a world we can never see.

Swarm reveals magnetic waves across Earth’s outer core

Earth’s magnetic field is like a huge bubble protecting us from the onslaught of cosmic radiation and charged particles carried by powerful winds that escape the Sun’s gravitational pull and stream across the Solar System. Without our magnetic field, life as we know it would not exist.

Understanding exactly how and where our magnetic field is generated, why it fluctuates constantly, how it interacts with solar wind and, indeed, why it is currently weakening, is not only of academic interest but also of benefit to society. For example, solar storms can damage communication networks and navigation systems and satellites, so while we can’t do anything about changes in the magnetic field, understanding this invisible force helps to be prepared.

Most of the field is generated by an ocean of superheated, swirling liquid iron that makes up Earth’s outer core 3000 km under our feet. Acting like the spinning conductor in a bicycle dynamo, it generates electrical currents and the continuously changing electromagnetic field.

Swarm constellation

ESA’s Swarm mission, which comprises three identical satellites, measures these magnetic signals that stem from Earth’s core, as well as other signals that come from the crust, oceans, ionosphere and magnetosphere.

Since the trio of Swarm satellites were launched in 2013, scientists have been analysing their data to gain new insight into many of Earth’s natural processes, from space weather to the physics and dynamics of Earth’s stormy heart.

Measuring our magnetic field from space is the only real way of probing deep down to Earth’s core. Seismology and mineral physics provide information about the material properties of the core, but they do not shed any light on the dynamo-generating motion of the liquid outer core.

But now, using data from the Swarm mission, scientists have unearthed a hidden secret.

A paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes how a team of scientists detected a new type of magnetic wave that sweeps across the ‘surface’ of Earth’s outer core – so where the core meets the mantle. This mysterious wave oscillates every seven years and propagates westward at up to 1500 kilometres a year.

Swarm reveals magnetic waves across Earth’s outer core

Nicolas Gillet, from the University Université Grenoble Alpes and lead author of the paper, said, “Geophysicists have long theorised over the existence of such waves, but they were thought to take place over much longer time scales than our research has shown.

“Measurements of the magnetic field from instruments based on the surface of Earth suggested that there was some kind of wave action, but we needed the global coverage offered by measurements from space to reveal what is actually going on.

“We combined satellite measurements from Swarm, and also from the earlier German Champ mission and Danish Ørsted mission, with a computer model of the geodynamo to explain what the ground-based data had thrown up – and this led to our discovery.”

Magnetic waves across Earth’s outer core

Owing to Earth’s rotation, these waves align in columns along the axis of rotation. The motion and magnetic field changes associated with these waves are strongest near the equatorial region of the core.

While the research exhibits magneto-Coriolis waves near seven-year period, the question of the existence of such waves that would oscillate at different periods, however, remains.

Dr Gillet added, “Magnetic waves are likely to be triggered by disturbances deep within the Earth's fluid core, possibly related to buoyancy plumes. Each wave is specified by its period and typical length-scale, and the period depends on characteristics of the forces at play. For magneto-Coriolis waves, the period is indicative of the intensity of the magnetic field within the core.

“Our research suggests that other such waves are likely to exist, probably with longer periods – but their discovery relies on more research.”

ESA’s Swarm mission scientist, Ilias Daras, noted, “This current research is certainly going to improve the scientific model of the magnetic field within Earth’s outer core. It may also give us new insight into the electrical conductivity of the lowermost part of the mantle and also of Earth’s thermal history.”

Supported by ESA’s Science for Society programme, this research was presented at ESA’s Living Planet Symposium taking place this week in Bonn, Germany. Those attending are hearing about the latest scientific findings on our planet and how observing Earth from space supports environmental research and action to combat the climate crisis. They are also hearing about novel space technologies and about the new opportunities emerging in the rapidly changing sector of Earth observation. Selected sessions are being livestreamed, see ESA’s Web TV channels:

Related links:

Observing the Earth:



National Academy of Sciences:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/Planetary Visions/ATG Medialab/Université (University) Grenoble Alpes.


samedi 21 mai 2022

Station Crew Opens Boeing Starliner Hatch, Enters Spacecraft


Boeing / NASA - Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) patch.

May 21, 2022

Astronauts living aboard the International Space Station opened the hatch for the first time to Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft at 12:04 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 21, on its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2.

Watch live coverage as astronauts welcome the next-generation spacecraft to the microgravity laboratory on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Image above: NASA astronauts Bob Hines and Kjell Lindgren greet “Rosie the Rocketeer” inside the Boeing Starliner spacecraft shortly after opening its hatch. Image Credit: NASA.

Starliner launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on a flight test to the International Space Station at 6:54 p.m. on Thursday, May 19, from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The uncrewed spacecraft successfully docked to the space station’s Harmony module at 8:28 p.m. EDT Friday, May 20.

For the flight test, Starliner is carrying about 500 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies and more than 300 pounds of Boeing cargo to the International Space Station. Following certification, NASA missions aboard Starliner will carry up to four crew members to the station, enabling the continued expansion of the crew and increasing the amount of science and research that can be performed aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Starliner hatch opening

The uncrewed flight test is designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the crew-capable system as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station.

Starliner is scheduled to depart the space station Wednesday, May 25, when it will undock and return to Earth, with a desert landing in the western U.S. The spacecraft will return with more than 600 pounds of cargo, including Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System reusable tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members. The tanks will be refurbished on Earth and sent back to station on a future flight.

Related articles:

Boeing’s Starliner Docks to Station for Cargo and Test Ops

Liftoff! Atlas V Clears the Launch Pad with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft

Related links:


Commercial Crew:

International Space Station (ISS):

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