samedi 26 février 2022

The height of the ISS orbit was raised by more than 1 km


ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

Feb 26, 2022

On Saturday, February 26, 2022, the orbital altitude of the International Space Station was adjusted to form ballistic conditions before the launch of the manned Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft (March 18) and the landing of the Soyuz MS-19 descent vehicle (March 30) . According to preliminary data, after the maneuver, the average altitude of the ISS orbit increased by 1.3 km.

International Space Station (ISS)

The engines of the Progress MS-18 cargo spacecraft docked to the Zvezda service module of the ISS Russian Segment were switched on at 04:22 Moscow time. They worked for 541.4 seconds and gave an impulse of 0.8 m / s.

For the entire duration of the ISS flight, 316 corrections were made to its orbital altitude, including 167 with the help of Progress cargo spacecraft engines. The next correction of the ISS orbit is expected on March 11, 2022.

The launch of the Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft with the Expedition 67 crew, Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemiev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, is scheduled for March 18, 2022 at 18:55 Moscow time. The landing of the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft with the Expedition 66 crew, Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, as well as NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, is scheduled for March 30 at 14:26 Moscow time.

In addition to Shkaplerov, Dubrov and Vande Hei, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, as well as European Space Agency astronaut Mattias Maurer are currently working on board the ISS.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:



Progress MS-18:

Soyuz MS-19:

Soyuz MS-21:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/TsNIIMash/MCC/NASA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Head of ESA Josef Aschbacher about cooperation with Roscosmos


ESA & ROSCOSMOS - ExoMars Mission patch.

Feb 26, 2022

Director General of the European Space Agency Josef Aschbacher on cooperation with Roscosmos on the projects of the International Space Station and the joint mission ExoMars 2022:

“Despite the current conflict, cooperation in civil space remains the link between us. The European Space Agency continues to work on all of its programmes, including the ISS and the ExoMars launch campaign, to fulfill its commitments to Member States and partners. We continue to monitor the development of the situation."

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:


European Space Agency (ESA):

Image, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/ESA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 25 février 2022

Friday’s Station Research Looks at Skin Cells, Plant Genetics and Exercise


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Feb 25, 2022

Friday’s research schedule aboard the International Space Station included exploring how microgravity affects skin cells and cotton genetics. The Expedition 66 crew is also learning how to exercise more effectively in weightlessness.

Living in space has been shown to accelerate the rate of skin aging and a new study delivered aboard the Cygnus space freighter seeks to understand why and protect astronaut’s health. NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn started the experiment on Tuesday and has been servicing skin tissue samples that will grow inside the Life Science Glovebox. The samples will be stowed later in a science freezer and analyzed back on Earth to evaluate the cellular and molecular changes that take place in microgravity.

Image above: Astronaut Mark Vande Hei harvests plants and collects samples to analyze later for a space agriculture study. Image Credit: NASA.

Weightlessness also affects how plants grow and Flight Engineers Kayla Barron of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) spent Friday morning exploring genetic expression in cotton cultures. The duo worked on cotton cell samples being grown in the Plant Habitat to learn more about the process of plant regeneration possibly improving crop production on Earth.

Exercise is very important in space as the microgravity environment can lead to muscle and bone loss. Two exercise studies on the orbiting lab are investigating different ways to maximize the effectiveness of working out in microgravity. Maurer began his day pedaling on an exercise cycle wearing the EasyMotion body suit that stimulates muscles. The specialized suit may improve and lessen the duration of exercise sessions in space. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov attached sensors to himself and worked out on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill for a Russian exercise study. That investigation looks at how an exercising crew member expends energy and other physiological factors to help keep crews fit and healthy on a long duration spaceflight.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari worked throughout Friday troubleshooting components on the COLBERT treadmill located in the Tranquility module. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei performed orbital plumbing duties and took photos for the ongoing SQuARE archaeological project.

At the end of the day, all six flight engineers joined Commander Anton Shkaplerov and practiced an emergency drill. The seven-member crew located station safety gear, translated along escape paths, and coordinated communications with mission controllers for unlikely events such as an ammonia leak, depressurization, or a fire.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Skin aging:

Life Science Glovebox:

Genetic expression in cotton cultures:

Plant Habitat:


Zvezda service module:

Exercising crew member:

COLBERT treadmill:

Tranquility module:

SQuARE archaeological project:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Heidi Lavelle.

Best regards,

Webb Mirror Alignment Continues Successfully


NASA / ESA / CSA-ASC - James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) patch.

Feb 25, 2022

Webb continues on its path to becoming a focused observatory. The team has successfully worked through the second and third out of seven total phases of mirror alignment. With the completion of these phases, called Segment Alignment and Image Stacking, the team will now begin making smaller adjustments to the positions of Webb’s mirrors.

Image above: This hexagonal image array captured by the NIRCam instrument shows the progress made during the Segment Alignment phase, further aligning Webb’s 18 primary mirror segments and secondary mirror using precise movements commanded from the ground. Image Credits: NASA/STScI.

After moving what were 18 scattered dots of starlight into Webb’s signature hexagonal formation, the team refined each mirror segment’s image by making minor adjustments, while also changing the alignment of Webb’s secondary mirror. The completion of this process, known as Segment Alignment, was a key step prior to overlapping the light from all the mirrors so that they can work in unison.

Animation above: This gif shows the “before” and “after” images from Segment Alignment, when the team corrected large positioning errors of its primary mirror segments and updated the alignment of the secondary mirror. Animation Credits: NASA/STScI.

Once Segment Alignment was achieved, the focused dots reflected by each mirror were then stacked on top of each other, delivering photons of light from each segment to the same location on NIRCam’s sensor. During this process, called Image Stacking, the team activated sets of six mirrors at a time and commanded them to repoint their light to overlap, until all dots of starlight overlapped with each other.

Image above: During this phase of alignment known as Image Stacking, individual segment images are moved so they fall precisely at the center of the field to produce one unified image instead of 18. In this image, all 18 segments are on top of each other. After future alignment steps, the image will be even sharper. Image Credits: NASA/STScI.

“We still have work to do, but we are increasingly pleased with the results we’re seeing,” said Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Years of planning and testing are paying dividends, and the team could not be more excited to see what the next few weeks and months bring.”

Although Image Stacking put all the light from a star in one place on NIRCam’s detector, the mirror segments are still acting as 18 small telescopes rather than one big one. The segments now need to be lined up to each other with an accuracy smaller than the wavelength of the light.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Image Credit: CSA-ASC

The team is now starting the fourth phase of mirror alignment, known as Coarse Phasing, where NIRCam is used to capture light spectra from 20 separate pairings of mirror segments. This helps the team identify and correct vertical displacement between the mirror segments, or small differences in their heights. This will make the single dot of starlight progressively sharper and more focused in the coming weeks.

Related links:

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST):

ESA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST):

CSA-ASC's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Alise Fisher.


Astronomers Find Two Giant Black Holes Spiraling Toward a Collision


NASA - Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) logo.

Feb. 24, 2022

A supermassive black hole 9 billion light-years away appears to have a companion black hole orbiting around it. As the orbit shrinks, the pair gets closer to merging.

Image above: In this illustration, light from a smaller black hole (left) curves around a larger black hole and forms an almost-mirror image on the other side. The gravity of a black hole can warp the fabric of space itself, such that light passing close to the black hole will follow a curved path around it. Image Credits: Caltech-IPAC.

Supermassive black holes millions to billions of times the mass of our Sun lie at the heart of most galaxies, and astronomers are eager to know how these behemoths came to be. While they think most resulted from at least one merger between two smaller supermassive black holes, scientists lacked the observations that could give insight, since only one pair of supermassive black holes on the way to a merger had been found.

A new study may change that: Researchers observing a supermassive black hole report signs that it has a closely orbiting companion. The enormous duo – called a binary – circle one another about every two years.

If the team is correct, the diameter of the binary’s orbit is 10 to 100 times smaller than the only other known supermassive binary, and the pair will merge in roughly 10,000 years. That might seem like a long time, but it would take a total of about 100 million years for black holes of this size to begin orbiting one another and finally come together. So this pair is more than 99% of the way to a collision.

Joseph Lazio and Michele Vallisneri, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, provided insight into how supermassive black holes behave in a binary system and how to interpret the radio data.

Evidence that this supermassive black hole may have a companion comes from observations by radio telescopes on Earth. Black holes don’t emit light, but their gravity can gather disks of hot gas around them and eject some of that material into space. These jets can stretch for millions of light-years. A jet pointed toward Earth appears far brighter than a jet pointed away from Earth. Astronomers call supermassive black holes with jets oriented toward Earth blazars, and a blazar named PKS 2131-021 is at the heart of this recent paper.

Located about 9 billion light-years from Earth, PKS 2131-021 is one of 1,800 blazars that a group of researchers at Caltech in Pasadena has been monitoring with the Owens Valley Radio Observatory in Northern California for 13 years as part of a general study of blazar behavior. But this particular blazar exhibits a strange behavior: Its brightness shows regular ups and downs as predictably as the ticking of a clock.

Researchers now think this regular variation is the result of a second black hole tugging on the first as they orbit each other about every two years. Each of the two black holes in PKS 2131-021 is estimated to be a few hundred million times the mass of our Sun. To confirm the finding, scientists will try to detect gravitational waves – ripples in space – coming from the system. The first detection of gravitational waves from black hole binaries was announced in 2016.

To confirm that the oscillations weren’t random or the cause of a temporary effect around the black hole, the team had to look beyond the decade (2008 to 2019) of data from the Owens Valley Observatory. After learning that two other radio telescopes had also studied this system – the University of Michigan Radio Observatory (1980 to 2012) and the Haystack Observatory (1975 to 1983) – they dug into the additional data and found that it matched predictions for how the blazar’s brightness should change over time.

“This work is a testament to the importance of perseverance,” said Lazio. “It took 45 years of radio observations to produce this result. Small teams, at different observatories across the country, took data week in and week out, month in and month out, to make this possible.”

To learn more, read the news release from Caltech:

Related link:

NASA - Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Calla Cofield.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of February 21, 2022


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Feb 25, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Feb. 21 that included a study of engineered skin cells, examining cancer cells and their response to a therapeutic drug, and measuring the effects of space travel on human hearing.

Image above: The Cygnus space freighter, Northrop Grumman’s 17th commercial resupply services mission, approaches the space station’s Canadarm prior to docking. The mission delivered scientific investigations and technology demonstrations, supplies, and equipment. Image Credit: NASA.

The space station, continuously inhabited by humans for 21 years, has supported many scientific breakthroughs. A robust microgravity laboratory with dozens of research facilities and tools, the station supports investigations spanning every major scientific discipline, conveying benefits to future space exploration and advancing basic and applied research on Earth. The orbiting lab also provides a platform for a growing commercial presence in low-Earth orbit that includes research, satellite services, and in-space manufacturing.

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

Skin in the game

As people age, their skin tissue deteriorates. Microgravity causes changes in the body similar to aging, but while aging occurs over decades, these changes happen much more quickly in microgravity. The Colgate Skin Aging experiment, sponsored by the ISS U.S. National Lab, takes advantage of this accelerated aging to study cellular and molecular changes in engineered human skin cells in microgravity. Skin performs multiple functions, including protection from infection, regulation of body temperature, and sensory input and its deterioration therefore can be a potential source of other health problems. Results from this experiment could show that these engineered cells may serve as a model to rapidly assess products aimed at protecting skin from the aging process back on Earth. During the week, crew members set up hardware and inserted cell samples and growth media for the investigation.

Decoding cancer cell signals

Animation above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei conducts operations for the MicroQuin investigation, which characterizes breast and prostate cancer cells and their responses to a drug. Animation Credit: NASA.

Cancerous cells ignore signals to stop growing and dividing – or even to die. In microgravity, these signals change considerably, which can either benefit or hinder cancer growth. MicroQuin 3D Tumor, sponsored by the ISS U. S. National Lab, characterizes structure, gene expression, and cell signaling in breast and prostate cancer cells and their response to a drug developed by the company. The drug targets an intracellular protein that helps regulate cellular stress and that research indicates plays an essential role in cancer development. Cells behave differently in microgravity, forming 3D structures that more closely resemble the growth and behavior of cells inside the body. In addition, the stress of microgravity induces changes in cell signaling, which enables study of signaling pathways in ways not possible on Earth. Results could provide new insight into this protein and help advance development of drugs that are more effective, less toxic, and have better patient outcomes. Crew members retrieved media bags from cold stowage, inserted them into the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL), and injected the media into each sample well.

Not-so-silent space

Acoustic Diagnostics, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), tests the hearing of crew members before, during, and after flight to assess the possible adverse effects of noise on the space station and the microgravity environment on human hearing. It is important to detect and quantify the symptoms of mild hearing impairment as early as possible. While these effects can be temporary, they also could lead to more significant hearing impairment on future longer space missions. This project developed more advanced technology that can improve the diagnostic power and reduce the duration of tests based on otoacoustic emissions (OAE) or sounds naturally generated from within the inner ear. A portable OAE test device capable of working in noisy environmental conditions has applications in occupational health settings on the ground as well. During the week, crew members took measurements for the investigation.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- SQuARE studies objects and built spaces and how crew members use them over time. Results could contribute to better design for future spacecraft and habitats.
- Veggie PONDS uses a newly developed passive nutrient delivery system and the station’s Veggie plant growth facility to cultivate lettuce and mizuna greens. Results could improve our understanding of how plants respond to microgravity and demonstrate reliable vegetable production on orbit.

- PK-4, a collaboration between ESA and the Russian State Space Agency (Roscosmos), studies complex plasmas, low-temperature gaseous mixtures of ionized gas, neutral gas, and micron-sized particles. Understanding how plasma crystals form in microgravity could shed light on these common phenomena in space and possibly lead to new research methods, better spacecraft designs, and improvements in industries that use plasmas on Earth.

Image above: Equipment for the FLUIDICS experiment, showing one of three transparent spheres. The ESA investigation uses these spheres to measure liquid displacement in microgravity and determine better methods for managing fuel for satellites. Image Credit: CNES.

- FLUIDICS, an ESA investigation, measures liquid displacement within small, transparent spheres that serve as stand-ins for spacecraft fuel tanks. Results could provide insights into how to best measure the volume of liquid to manage fuel and improve understanding of sloshing, which could help improve guidance and movement precision of satellites, since fuel sloshing can cause a satellite to wobble.

- EarthKAM allows students to remotely control a digital camera mounted on the space station to take photographs of coastlines, mountain ranges, and other interesting features and phenomena on Earth. The EarthKAM team posts the images online, where they are available to the public and participating classrooms.

- EasyMotion from ESA tests a suit worn during pre- and postflight exercise that provides Electro-Myo-Stimulation (EMS). It could save crew time and improve outcomes of inflight exercise on future space missions and in healthy populations on Earth.

- Actiwatch is a wearable monitor that continuously collects data on a crew member’s circadian rhythms, sleep-wake patterns, and activity during flight, beginning as soon as possible after arrival aboard the station.

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

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

Space to Ground: Shipping and Receiving: 02/25/2022

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Colgate Skin Aging:

MicroQuin 3D Tumor:

Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL):

Acoustic Diagnostics:

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 66.

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 38 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

Feb 25, 2022

SpaceX Starlink 38 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 50 Starlink satellites (Starlink-38) from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on 25 February 2022, at 17:12 UTC (09:12 PST).

SpaceX Starlink 38 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 25 February 2022

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, stationed in the Pacific Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1063) previously supported three missions: Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, DART, and one Starlink mission.

Related links:



Image, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


NASA Selects Futuristic Space Technology Concepts for Early Study


NASA logo.

Feb 25, 2022

An astronaut steps into a body scanner and, hours later, walks on Mars in a custom-made spacesuit, breathing oxygen that was extracted from Mars' carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. On Venus, an inflatable bird-like drone swoops through the sky, studying the planet's atmosphere and weather patterns. Ideas like these are currently science fiction, but they could one day become reality, thanks to a new round of grants awarded by NASA.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program fosters exploration by funding early-stage studies to evaluate technologies that could support future aeronautics and space missions. A new slate of awards will provide a total of $5.1 million to 17 researchers from nine states.

"As we set our sights on ever more challenging destinations for exploration with humans and robots, innovative ideas and future thinking will be critical to helping us reach new milestones," said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. "Concepts like those being studied with this new round of NIAC funding are helping us expand the scope of the possible so we can make it reality."

BREEZE | A Revolutionary Ray-inspired Airship Concept for Aerial Venus Exploration

Video above: A look at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concept (NIAC) Bio-inspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration BREEZE. Image Credit: NASA.

The selected concepts include 12 new projects for Phase I study, as well as five Phase II awards that will allow researchers to continue their prior work on innovative concepts. The projects are still in the early stages of development and are not considered official NASA missions. Phase I fellows will each receive $175,000 for a nine-month study, and Phase II fellows will receive $600,000 each for study over a two-year period.

"NASA's mission to explore the universe requires new technologies and new ways of doing things," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. "Studying these creative ideas is the first step to turn science fiction into science fact."

The new Phase I projects include a novel design for a crewed spacecraft that provides more protection from radiation on long journeys than conventional crew modules, a concept for a completely silent electric airplane, and an idea for a spacecraft that could harness the Sun's heat to propel it out of the solar system at unprecedented speeds.

John Mather, Nobel laureate and astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, proposes a concept that could help humanity study distant, Earth-like exoplanets. A football field-size starshade in space would be aligned with ground-based telescopes, blocking out the light from distant stars and allowing astronomers to search for signs of life in the atmospheres of planets in other star systems.  

A concept proposed by Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would help scientists study a planet much closer to home: Venus. A probe would parachute into the planet's atmosphere to capture a sample of gas and clouds. The sample would be brought to Earth, where scientists could look for signs of life in Venus' atmosphere – one of the few potential places it could survive on the otherwise hot, high-pressure planet.

"As in years past, our new group of NIAC fellows showcases the creativity and vision of the space community at large," said Michael LaPointe, acting program executive for the NIAC program at NASA Headquarters.

The selected Phase II projects include a design for small climbing robots that could explore subsurface caves on Mars, a novel way of using nuclear power for spacecraft, and a concept for a swarm of 3D-printed swimming micro-robots that could explore ocean worlds like Enceladus, Europa, and Titan.

Phase II fellow Zac Manchester of Carnegie Mellon University will continue his work on a concept for artificial gravity in space using a kilometer-size rotating structure. After launching on a single rocket, the proposed structure would deploy to 150 times its original size, becoming a huge rotating habitat that would provide artificial gravity equal to Earth's gravity in some parts of the structure.

The researchers selected to receive NIAC Phase I grants in 2022, their institutions, and the titles of their proposals are:

- Darmindra Arumugam, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California: Cryospheric Rydberg Radar

- Steven Barrett, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge: Silent, Solid-State Propulsion for Advanced Air Mobility Vehicles

- Jason Benkoski, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore: Combined Heat Shield and Solar Thermal Propulsion System for an Oberth Maneuver

- Elena D’Onghia, University of Wisconsin–Madison: CREW HaT: Cosmic Radiation Extended Warding using the Halbach Torus

- Bonnie Dunbar, Texas A&M University in College Station: The Spacesuit Digital Thread: 4.0 Manufacture of Custom High Performance Spacesuits for the Exploration of Mars

- Ivan Ermanoski, Arizona State University in Tempe: Breathing Mars Air: Stationary and Portable O2 Generation

- Philip Lubin, University of California, Santa Barbara: Pi - Terminal Defense for Humanity

- John Mather, NASA Goddard: Hybrid Observatory for Earth-like Exoplanets (HOEE)

- Marcin Pilinski, University of Colorado, Boulder: In-situ Neutral-Optics Velocity Analyzer for Thermospheric Exploration (INOVATE)

- Jonathan Sauder, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California: Starburst: A Revolutionary Under-Constrained Adaptable Deployable Structure Architecture

- Sara Seager, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge: Venus Atmosphere and Cloud Particle Sample Return for Astrobiology

- Mahmooda Sultana, NASA Goddard: SCOPE: ScienceCraft for Outer Planet Exploration

The researchers selected to receive Phase II grants in 2022, their institutions, and the titles of their proposals are:

- Javid Bayandor, State University of New York at Buffalo: BREEZE: Bioinspired Ray for Extreme Environments and Zonal Exploration

- Zac Manchester, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Kilometer-Scale Space Structures from a Single Launch

- E. Joseph Nemanick, The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California: Atomic Planar Power for Lightweight Exploration (APPLE)

- Marco Pavone, Stanford University in California: ReachBot: Small Robot for Large Mobile Manipulation Tasks in Martian Cave Environments

- Ethan Schaler, NASA JPL: SWIM: Sensing with Independent Micro-swimmers

NIAC is funded by STMD, which is responsible for developing the new cross-cutting technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.

Learn more about the NIAC program at:

Image, Video, (mentioned) Text, Credits: NASA/Robert Margetta/Sarah Frazier.


jeudi 24 février 2022

Station Gears Up for Spacewalks While Conducting Cancer Research


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Feb 24, 2022

Spacewalk preparations and cancer research were among the activities scheduled aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. The Expedition 66 crew also unpacked a U.S. cargo c.raft and explored using virtual reality while exercising.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Kayla Barron began readying the U.S. Quest airlock and collecting tools ahead of a pair of spacewalks planned for mid-March. The duo also reviewed step-by-step spacewalk procedures on a computer using 3D graphics. NASA is continuing to set up the space station’s truss structure for a third set of roll out solar arrays augmenting the orbiting lab’s power system.

Image above: This mosaic depicts the International Space Station pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a fly around of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on Nov. 8, 2021. Image Credit: NASA

Chari earlier partnered with ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer investigating how living in space affects visual function. NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn assisted the duo with the research in the morning before spending the afternoon troubleshooting components on the COLBERT treadmill. Maurer ended his day wearing virtual reality goggles while pedaling on an exercise cycle to learn how to improve the work out experience in space.

A new cancer study started this week after arriving aboard the Cygnus space freighter on Monday. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei set up the Life Science Glovebox on Wednesday and began observing tumor cells shipped inside a Cygnus science freezer. On Thursday, Vande Hei continued servicing those samples to better understand the onset and progression of cancer and potentially improve treatments on Earth.

Image above: This image shows immunofluorescence of breast cancer cells treated with a MicroQuin therapeutic. Staining shows a normal nucleus (blue) and the therapeutic (green) localized to the cell’s endoplasmic reticulum (red). The drug forces the cytoskeleton (yellow) to collapse, inducing cell death. Image Credits: Scott Robinson, MicroQuin.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos was back on plasma physics research Thursday and also transferred cargo from Russia’s ISS Progress 80 cargo craft. Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov inspected Russian station modules before exploring ways to maximize space exercise. The duo rounded out the day with eye scans using the Ultrasound 2 device with remote guidance from doctors on the ground.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

U.S. Quest airlock:

Truss structure:

Visual function:

COLBERT treadmill:

Work out experience in space:

Life Science Glovebox:

Onset and progression of cancer:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Heidi Lavelle.

Best regards,

NASA Powers Up RS-25 Engine Testing for Deep Space Launches


NASA - Space Launch System (SLS) logo.

Feb 24, 2022

NASA powered up its third RS-25 engine hot fire test of the new year Feb. 24, on the Fred Haise Test Stand at Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Operators fired the engine past recent testing at the 111% power level up to 113% for a period of time. NASA is testing RS-25 engines to help power the agency's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on future deep space missions.

Initial SLS missions will send the agency’s Orion spacecraft to the Moon as part of NASA's Artemis program. Work is underway inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare the first SLS for the upcoming launch of the uncrewed Artemis I mission, which will pave the way for future flights with astronauts to explore the lunar surface and prepare for missions to Mars. Artemis missions will land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface. SLS will be the world's most powerful rocket and the only one capable of sending the Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

Four RS-25 engines, firing simultaneously, will generate a combined 2 million pounds of thrust to help power SLS's ascent. The RS-25 engines for the first four SLS flights are upgraded space shuttle main engines and have completed certification testing. RS-25 engines for subsequent missions will fire at 111% of their original power level to help launch SLS. Testing at 113% power level at Stennis demonstrates a margin of safety for operating the engine at the higher thrust. Each engine test in the current series at Stennis provides valuable operational data to NASA's lead contractor, Aerojet Rocketdyne, on new components manufactured with state-of-the-art fabrication techniques as the company begins production on new RS-25 engines.

SLS RS-25 Engine Test, 24 February 2022

The testing is part of NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne's effort to use advanced manufacturing methods, significantly reducing the cost and time needed to build new engines. For NASA's Feb. 24 test, engineers fired the RS-25 developmental engine for a full duration of about eight-and-a-half minutes (500 seconds), the same amount of time the engines must operate to help send SLS to space. SLS, Orion, commercial human landing systems, and Gateway outpost in orbit around the Moon are NASA's backbone for deep space exploration. RS-25 tests at Stennis are conducted by a combined team of NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Syncom Space Services operators. Syncom Space Services is the prime contractor for Stennis facilities and operations.

Related links:

Space Launch System (SLS):

RS-25 engine:

Orion spacecraft:

Artemis program:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Deborah Fendley/SSC/NASA TV/SciNews.


ATLAS and CMS chase the invisible with the Higgs boson


CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

Feb 24, 2022

The collaborations have set stringent new bounds on the fraction of Higgs bosons transforming into invisible particles

Image above: Candidate event displays of a Higgs boson produced by vector-boson fusion and decaying into invisible particles, as recorded by ATLAS (left) and CMS (right). The events feature pairs of jets (yellow cones) and missing energy (red or purple lines). (Image: CERN).

The Higgs boson lives for an extremely short time before it transforms, or “decays”, into other particles. It is through the detection of some of these decay products that the unique particle has first been – and continues to be – spotted in particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

But what if the Higgs boson also decayed into unexpected, new particles that were invisible to the LHC detectors, such as the particles that may constitute the dark matter permeating the universe? The ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the LHC have explored this possibility in two recent studies, setting stringent new upper bounds on the fraction of Higgs bosons decaying into invisible particles.

According to the Standard Model of particle physics, the Higgs boson decays indirectly into known invisible particles – almost massless particles called neutrinos – only 0.1% of the time. However, if dark matter is made up of particles interacting too weakly to be detected, as suspected by many physicists, the dark-matter particle could interact with the Higgs boson and, if not too massive, allow the Higgs boson to decay into it, increasing the fraction of invisible Higgs-boson decays.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Animation Credit: CERN

In their latest independent investigations, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations searched for invisible Higgs-boson decays in proton–proton collision data collected during the second run of the LHC. Both teams looked for a particular type of collision event, in which a Higgs boson is produced by a process known as vector-boson fusion and then decays into invisible particles.

These vector-boson-fusion events contain additional sprays, or “jets”, of particles emitted towards either end of the particle detectors, making this mode of Higgs-boson production easier to spot than the other modes. Together with the “missing energy” in the collision products that the invisible particles would carry away, these jets and their properties provide distinctive signatures of such invisible Higgs-boson events.

The ATLAS and CMS searches revealed no instances of these invisible Higgs-boson events that would exceed the expected number of background events mimicking the desired events. However, they showed that the Higgs boson cannot decay into invisible particles more often than a certain percentage of time: 15% for ATLAS and 18% for CMS, compared to an expected percentage, based on Standard Model computer simulations, of 10% for both ATLAS and CMS.

These bounds align well with one another and, when interpreted in the context of dark-matter models, they translate into bounds on the interaction strength of dark-matter particles with atomic nuclei that complement those obtained from non-collider experiments searching for dark matter.

With the LHC set to restart later this year and deliver more data, ATLAS and CMS will no doubt continue to chase the invisible with the Higgs boson.


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 23 Member States.

Related links:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

ATLAS experiments:

CMS experiments:

Dark matter:

Standard Model:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/By Ana Lopes.

Best regards,

The rise and fall of the riskiest asteroid in a decade


ESA - Asteroid Defense logo.

Feb 24, 2022

In brief

For a few tense days this January, a roughly 70-metre asteroid became the riskiest observed in over a decade. Despite the Moon’s attempt to scupper observations, the asteroid is now known to be entirely safe.


Initial observations of an asteroid dubbed ‘2022 AE1’ showed a potential Earth impact on 4 July 2023 – not enough time to attempt deflection and large enough to do real damage to a local area should it strike.

Worryingly, the chance of impact appeared to increase based on the first seven days of observations, followed by a dramatic week ‘in the dark’ as the full Moon outshone the potential impactor, ruling out further observations. As the Moon moved aside, the skies dimmed and ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEOCC) took another look, only to find the chance of impact was dramatically falling.

It has since been confirmed that 2022 AE1 will not impact Earth and has been removed from ESA’s risk list. So, what’s the story behind the excitement, and how can we trust this seemingly ‘meandering’ impact risk?

Never seen anything like it

“In January this year, we became aware of an asteroid with the highest ranking on the Palermo scale that we’ve seen in more than a decade, reaching -1.5” explains Marco Micheli, astronomer at ESA’s NEOCC.

“In my almost ten years at ESA I’ve never seen such a risky object. It was a thrill to track 2022 AE1 and refine its trajectory until we had enough data to say for certain, this asteroid will not strike”.

The Palermo scale is used by planetary defenders to categorise and prioritise the impact risk from near-Earth objects (NEOs) by combining the potential date of impact, the energy they would strike with and the impact probability.

Graphic above: The Torino scale is a simplified version of the Palermo scale, used as a communication tool to illustrate the impact hazard of asteroids from a combination of their probability of impact and the energy they could strike with.

There are asteroids out there that will certainly hit Earth but are so small they are almost imperceptible as they burn up in our atmosphere. Others might be giant, extinction-level event asteroids which could do immense damage but are travelling in orbits around the Sun that are entirely safe.

Values less than -2 on the Palermo Scale reflect events with no likely consequences; those between -2 and 0 indicate situations that merit careful monitoring, and positive values generally indicate situations that merit some level of concern.

Planetary defenders – always alert

On 7 January, one day after its discovery, asteroid 2022 AE1 was flagged for a potential future impact by the Asteroid Orbit Determination (AstOD) automated system that makes up part of the NEOCC’s suite of tools to assess the asteroid risk.

Every day, the system automatically calculates the orbits from asteroid observation data provided by telescopes and observatories around the world. It then computes the Palermo Scale values, immediately publishing the results on the NEOCC web portal.

Image above: Asteroid 2022 AE1 observed with the Calar Alto Schmidt telescope in Spain.

More risky cases – when asteroids are categorized as -2 or above on the Palermo Scale – are first cross-referenced with analysis from NASA JPL, to be extra certain of calculations before they’re published on the public page.

“I was surprised at first when I heard about the -1.50 rated asteroid, as it is very rare to have such high Palermo scale. Yet, I wasn’t too concerned as we get notifications like this – though at a lower level – few times per year,” explains Luca Conversi, Manager of the NEOCC.

“As it is custom in these cases, we activated our global network of telescopes to immediately get more observations and it soon seemed this asteroid was unlike any other we’d seen.”

The Sun never rises on ESA’s eyes on the sky …

On the evening of Saturday 8 January, Marco ‘the impactor killer’ Micheli got hold of the 80 cm Schmidt telescope in Calar Alto, which the Coordination Centre has nearly continuous access to (weather permitting), to get more data.

“There’s no waiting till Monday when you’re back in the Office with this job,” explains Marco, whose role is to gather enough data on asteroids in ESA’s ‘risk list’ such that they can be deemed safe, at which point they are removed.

Image above: ESA NEOCC has near-real-time access to a global network of telescopes.

“But I love it, it’s part of the challenge. What makes this ‘detective work’ so much easier is that we have a network of telescopes on every continent that we can access in near real-time. It’s actually a unique capability of ESA which means it’s always night-time somewhere in our network, necessary to make asteroid observations”.

ESA continued to monitor the asteroid, verifying results with NASA JPL which confirmed a worrying increase in the large rock’s chance of impact. Unfortunately, as the probability of impact peaked, observations became impossible.

… until the Moon gets in the way

During a tense week over 12-19 January, 2022 AE1 couldn’t be seen as the Moon outshone the dim potential impactor. On top of this, the asteroid was moving further away in its current orbit and getting fainter at the same time.

Moon seen from Space Station

“We just had to wait,” says Marco.

Another one bites the dust

As soon as the Moon was dim enough, the NEOCC team pointed the Schmidt telescope at where 2022 AE1 was expected to be. With one single observation, the risk level crashed – getting close to zero – and with that, the team moved on.

“The data was clear, confirmed the next morning by our counterparts at NASA - asteroid 2022 AE1 poses no impact risk,” explains Laura Faggioli, near-Earth object dynamicist in the NEOCC who computed the orbit of 2022 AE1 throughout the observation period.

Asteroid 2022 AE1 topped ESA's risk list before being removed entirely

“Had 2022 AE1’s path remained uncertain we would have used any means possible to keep watching it with the biggest telescopes we have. As it was removed from our risk list, we didn’t need to follow it anymore - time to move onto the next.”

Although some keen observers have continued to monitor the asteroid, confirming results from ESA, we now know that in early July 2023, asteroid 2022 AE1 will fly by Earth at a distance of about ten million kilometres (+/- one million km) – more than 20 times the distance of the Moon.

Asteroids often look risky before they’re proven safe

How asteroids go from threat to no sweat

It’s a funny thing about homing in on an asteroid and calculating its path, future position, and probability of impacting Earth – it will often appear risky during initial observations, get riskier, and then suddenly become entirely safe.

In the case of an asteroid on a definite collision course, the risk would keep growing until it reaches 100%. Fortunately, in most cases, the risk of impact ultimately flattens before rapidly getting down to zero – but why? Does this suggest our results are uncertain? Can we really be sure asteroid 2022 AE1 is safe?

2022 AE1’s most risky risk corridor

The very first observation of an asteroid is ‘just’ a single dot of light in the sky. At this point, it’s not clear what it is or where it’s going. A second observation is needed to reveal an object in motion, at least three are needed to determine an orbit – how quickly our asteroid is going and where it is headed. Further observations refine the orbit a little more, reducing uncertainties until we can be sure of where it won’t go: primarily to Earth.

As is often the case, the overlap with Earth remains even while the risk corridor gets smaller due to further observations – and so the risk appears to increase.

More often than not, as the hazard zone narrows, the small potential corridor moves off Earth and the risk suddenly drops. Even if some uncertainty remains about the path of an asteroid, we can know for sure it doesn’t pose a risk.

ESA’s Planetary Defence Office and Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre are now focussing on the next space rocks that could pose a threat, working with the international community to ensure that when an asteroid’s risk doesn’t drop, and an Earth impact looks likely, we are ready.

Related links:

ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEOCC):

ESA’s risk list:

Asteroid 2022 AE1:

ESA’s Planetary Defence Office:

Safety & Security:

Graphic, Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/NEOCC/NASA.


mercredi 23 février 2022

Crew Kicks Off Skin Aging, Cancer Research and Unloads New Cargo Craft


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Feb 23, 2022

New human research is underway aboard the International Space Station using the microgravity environment to gain unique insights into aging skin cells and cancer tumors. The Expedition 66 crew also continues to unpack cargo from a U.S. cargo craft while keeping up with eye checks to ensure the crew stays healthy in space.

Weightlessness provides scientists a unique opportunity to observe phenomena not possible in Earth’s gravity. Biology including microbes, plants, and humans, changes in response to microgravity and observations are helping NASA plan longer missions farther into space. Doctors on Earth also use the information to improve numerous treatments and conditions on the ground.

Image above: The Cygnus space freighter is pictured moments away from being captured with the Canadarm2 robotic arm above northern Iraq on Feb. 21, 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

Two new biology experiments delivered on Monday aboard the Cygnus space freighter are already being activated on the orbital lab. NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn set up the Microgravity Science Glovebox and began exploring the cellular and molecular alterations taking place in samples of skin cells. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei is observing tumor cells in the Life Science Glovebox to better understand the onset and progression of cancer. Both investigations have the potential to inform space research techniques and improve therapies on Earth.

Astronauts Raja Chari of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) worked throughout Wednesday continuing to offload the 8,300 pounds of cargo delivered Monday inside Cygnus. NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron deactivated space botany hardware then photographed cotton cell samples being harvested for the Plant Habitat-05 space agriculture study.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Working in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment, Commander Anton Shkaplerov studied plasma physics while Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov recorded his heart activity wearing a portable electrocardiogram. The duo from Roscosmos then wrapped up the day with more eye and retina checks using medical imaging gear.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Microgravity Science Glovebox:

Skin cells:

Life Science Glovebox:

Onset and progression of cancer:

Plant Habitat-05:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,