vendredi 4 mars 2022

Spacesuit Checks and Eye Study Wrap Up Station Work Week


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

March 4, 2022

The Expedition 66 crew is continuing its preparations for a pair of spacewalks at the International Space Station scheduled for later this month. The seven orbital residents also pursued ongoing life science while maintaining operations at the orbital lab.

Three NASA astronauts and an ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut participated in a fit check for a pair of U.S. spacesuits on Friday. Flight Engineers Raja Chari of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA started the work by readying spacesuits and tools inside the U.S. Quest airlock. In the afternoon, NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Tom Marshburn assisted the two astronauts as they verified the correct sizing of the suits ahead of a pair of spacewalks planned for March 15 and 23.

Image above: The Canadarm2 robotic arm is pictured extending from the space station as it orbited above Ireland and the United Kingdom. Image Credit: NASA.

Vande Hei and Marshburn started their day pairing up inside the Kibo laboratory module researching how microgravity affects eye structure and visual function. The experiment that takes place in Kibo’s Life Science Glovebox and examines changes in the vascular system of the retina and tissue remodeling.

NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron took a break from today’s spacewalk preparations and installed computer hardware on combustion research gear located in the Kibo module. She also helped Vande Hei and Marshburn stow science gear after they wrapped up a half-a-day of visual function research.

NASA / ISS HD Live / Aerospace

Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos kept up this week’s maintenance in the station’s Russian segment as he replaced life support gear before checking on a space biology experiment. Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov focused on support work for a variety of electronics components and computer gear throughout the day.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

U.S. Quest airlock:

Kibo laboratory module:

Eye structure and visual function:

Life Science Glovebox:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Studies ‘New’ 50-Year-Old Lunar Sample to Prep for Return to Moon


NASA - Apollo 17 Mission patch.

Mar 4, 2022

People say good things come to those who wait. NASA thinks 50 years is the right amount of time as it begins tapping into one of the last unopened, Apollo-era lunar samples to learn more about the Moon and prepare for a return to its surface.

Image Credits: NASA/James Blair

The sample is being opened at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston by the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division (ARES), which safeguards, studies, and shares NASA’s collection of extraterrestrial samples. This work is being led by the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Program (ANGSA), a science team who aim to learn more about the sample and the lunar surface in advance of the upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon’s South Pole.

Apollo 17 astronauts collecting samples. Animation Credit: NASA

“Understanding the geologic history and evolution of the Moon samples at the Apollo landing sites will help us prepare for the types of samples that may be encountered during Artemis,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Artemis aims to bring back cold and sealed samples from near the lunar South Pole. This is an exciting learning opportunity to understand the tools needed for collecting and transporting these samples, for analyzing them, and for storing them on Earth for future generations of scientists.”

Saving some for later

When Apollo astronauts returned these samples around 50 years ago, NASA had the foresight to keep some of them unopened and pristine.

Image above: Front from left, Drs. Ryan Zeigler, Rita Parai, Francesca McDonald, Chip Shearer and back left from left, Drs. Zach Sharp from University of New Mexico and Francis McCubbin, Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division (ARES) astromaterials curator look on in excitement as gas is extracted into the manifold after the inner tube was pierced. Image Credits: NASA/James Blair.

“The agency knew science and technology would evolve and allow scientists to study the material in new ways to address new questions in the future,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. “The ANGSA initiative was designed to examine these specially stored and sealed samples.”

The ANGSA 73001 sample is part of an Apollo 17 drive tube sample collected by astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt in December of 1972. The astronauts hammered a pair of connected 1.5-by-14-inch tubes into the lunar surface to collect segments of rocks and soil from a landslide deposit in the Moon’s Taurus–Littrow Valley. The astronauts then individually sealed one drive tube under vacuum on the Moon before bringing them back to Earth; only two drive tubes were vacuum sealed on the Moon in this way, and this is the first to be opened. The other half of this drive tube, 73002, was returned in a normal (unsealed) container. The sealed tube has been carefully stored in a protective outer vacuum tube and in an atmosphere-controlled environment at Johnson ever since. The unsealed segment was opened in 2019 and revealed an interesting array of grains and smaller objects, known as rocklets, that lunar geologists were eager to study.

Image above: From left, Dr. Juliane Gross, Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division (ARES) deputy Apollo curator, alongside Drs. Alex Meshik, and Olga Pravdivtseva, from Washington University in St. Louis, begin a gas extraction process using the manifold. Image Credits: NASA/James Blair.

Now, scientists are focusing attention on the sealed, lower segment of the core. The temperature at the bottom of the core was incredibly cold when it was collected, which means that volatiles (substances that evaporate at normal temperatures, like water ice and carbon dioxide) might have been present. They are particularly interested in the volatiles in these samples from the equatorial regions of the Moon, because they will allow future scientists studying the Artemis samples to better understand where and what volatiles might be present in those samples.  

The amount of gas expected to be present in this sealed Apollo sample is likely very low. If scientists can carefully extract these gases, they can be analyzed and identified using modern mass spectrometry technology. This technology, which has evolved to levels of extreme sensitivity in recent years, can precisely determine the mass of unknown molecules and use that data to precisely identify them. This not only makes for improved measurements, but also means the collected gas can be divided into smaller portions and shared with more researchers conducting different kinds of lunar science.

NASA’s Ryan Zeigler, the Apollo sample curator, is overseeing the process of extracting the gas and rock. It’s also Zeigler’s job to properly prepare, catalog, and share the sample with others for research.

“A lot of people are getting excited,” said Zeigler. “University of New Mexico’s Chip Shearer proposed the project over a decade ago, and for the past three years, we’ve had two great teams developing the unique equipment to make it possible.”

Image above: From left, Dr. Juliane Gross, Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division (ARES) deputy Apollo curator, and Dr. Francesca McDonald, from ESA, take precise measurements from the piercing device prior to using the newly developed tool. Image Credits: NASA/James Blair.

The device being used to extract and collect the gas, called a manifold, was developed by Drs. Alex Meshik, Olga Pravdivtseva, and Rita Parai from Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Francesca McDonald from the European Space Agency led a group in building the special tool to carefully pierce the container holding the lunar sample without letting any gas escape. Together, they’ve created and rigorously tested a one-of-a-kind system to collect the extremely precious material – gas and solid – that is sealed inside the containers.

On, Feb. 11, the team began the careful, months-long process to remove the sample by first opening the outer protective tube and capturing any gas inside. Zeigler and his team knew what gases should be present inside the outer container and found everything was as expected. The tube seemed to contain no lunar gas, indicating the seal on the inner sample tube was still likely intact. On Feb. 23, the team began the next step: a multi-week process of piercing the inner container and slowly gathering any lunar gases thatre hopefully still inside.

After the gas extraction process is finished, the ARES team will prepare to carefully remove the soil and rocks from their container, likely later this spring.

Learn more about how NASA studies Apollo samples and other celestial bodies at:

Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis Program (ANGSA):


Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Nilufar Ramji/JSC/Charlie Plain.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of February 28, 2022


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Mar 4, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Feb. 28 that included testing technology for processing glass fibers, examining the behavior of foams in microgravity, and characterizing biofilms in space.

Image above: The southern tip of Lake Michigan and a snow-covered Chicago, Illinois, are pictured from the International Space Station as it orbited 260 miles above. 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:

Intelligent glass optics

Uniglo tests the effects of microgravity on a module for processing various types of complex glasses. The module uses artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt processing techniques to microgravity and a special sensor to measure how microgravity affects the processing. This investigation could help establish additional manufacturing capabilities in space. In addition, it could lead to development of novel fibers for optical communication and lasers with applications in planetary and space-based defense systems as well as space-based astronomical observations. Results also could advance design of complex glasses with potential applications in communications, aerospace, remote sensing, cutting and welding, and medical diagnostics and surgery on Earth. During the week, crew members gathered hardware, reviewed procedures, and initiated the experiment.

Focusing on foam

Image above: View of the sample cell for Foam Coarsening, which studies wet and dry foams in microgravity. Foams have a wide variety of potential applications in space and on Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

During the week, crew members installed the Soft Matter Dynamics (SMD) Experiment Container into the FSL Rack for Foam Coarsening. This investigation from ESA (European Space Agency) examines bubble size and rearrangement dynamics for wet foams. Dispersions of gas into liquid matrices, wet foams break down quickly on Earth, but are more stable in microgravity, enabling study of phenomena such as coarsening and coalescence. Potential space applications for foams include fighting fire, cleaning water, and making lightweight and resistant materials. Liquid foams also have a number of applications on Earth, including for detergents, food products, medicine, oil recovery, and firefighting. A better understanding of their properties could help improve design and processing for such uses.

A fungus among us

Image above: The 24-Well plate containing seven different materials for testing as part of Space Biofilms, shown preflight. This investigation characterizes the structure and gene expression of biofilms that form in space. Biofilms can cause equipment malfunction and human illnesses, posing potential problems on future human space missions. Image Credit: Space Biofilms.

Space Biofilms characterizes the structure and gene expression of biofilms that form in space by analyzing a fungal species grown on different materials. Biofilm formation can cause equipment malfunction and human illnesses and could be a problem on future long-term human space missions. This investigation assesses the expression of genes associated with resistance to oxidative stress, acidity, and antimicrobials in the microorganisms and determines how they interact with different materials. Results could lead to improved methods and materials for controlling biofilm formation in space, helping to maintain the safety and performance of crewed spacecraft and the health and safety of crew members. This work also could help prevent the introduction of microbial life from Earth onto any planetary bodies on which humans land. Improved methods for controlling biofilm formation could help protect the health of people on the ground as well. Crew members removed samples from cold stowage and placed them into the Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG) to start the investigation.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- Colgate Skin Aging studies cellular and molecular changes in engineered human skin cells in microgravity. Results could show whether these engineered cells could provide a model for assessing products aimed at protecting skin from the aging process back on Earth.

- Acoustic Diagnostics, an investigation from ESA, 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.

- 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.
- Astrobatics demonstrates a hopping or self-toss maneuver with the Astrobee robotic vehicles, which could serve as a means of propulsion using very little propellant. Such maneuvers could be incorporated into future robotic missions and advanced terrestrial robotic applications.

- ESA’s Retinal Diagnostics tests a commercially available lens that attaches to a mobile device to capture images of astronauts’ retinas. Such a lightweight, non-invasive imaging device could provide a way to detect Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS) and help protect astronauts from its effects and also could be a useful telemedicine tool in space exploration and remote areas on Earth.

- Wireless Compose-2, an investigation from ESA, demonstrates a wireless network infrastructure for sensor monitoring and data transmission to support scientific experiments in microgravity.

- 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.

- 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.

Space to Ground: Spanning the Globe: 03/04/2022

Related links:


FSL Rack:

Foam Coarsening:

Space Biofilms:

Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG):

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 66.

Best regards,

Hubble Observes a Not-So-Close Encounter


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Mar 4, 2022

The twin galaxies NGC 4496A and NGC 4496B dominate the frame in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Both galaxies lie in the constellation Virgo, but despite appearing side-by-side in this image they are at vastly different distances from both Earth and one another. NGC 4496A is 47 million light-years from Earth while NGC 4496B is 212 million light-years away. The enormous distances between the two galaxies mean that the two are not interacting, and only appear to overlap because of a chance alignment.

Chance galactic alignments such as this provide astronomers with the opportunity to delve into the distribution of dust in these galaxies. Galactic dust – the dark tendrils threading through both NGC 4496A and NGC 4496B – adds to the beauty of astronomical images, but it also complicates astronomers’ observations. Dust in the universe tends to scatter and absorb blue light, making stars seem dimmer and redder in a process called “reddening.” Reddening due to dust is different from redshift, which is due to the expansion of space itself. By carefully measuring how dust in the foreground galaxy affects starlight from the background galaxy, astronomers can map the dust in the foreground galaxy’s spiral arms. The resulting “dust maps” help astronomers calibrate measurements of everything from cosmological distances to the types of stars populating these galaxies.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/Animation Credits: NASA/ESA/Image Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, T. Boeker, B. Holwerda, Dark Energy Survey, Department of Energy, Fermilab/Dark Energy Camera (DECam), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory/NOIRLab/National Science Foundation/Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Sloan Digital Sky Survey; Acknowledgment: R. Colombari.


Moon and Mars superoxides for oxygen farming


ESA - European Space Agency emblem.

March 4, 2022

The dusty faces of the Moon and Mars conceal unseen hazards for future explorers. Areas of highly oxidising material could be sufficiently reactive that they would produce chemical burns on astronauts’ unprotected skin or lungs. Taking inspiration from a pioneering search for Martian life, a Greek team is developing a device to detect these ‘reactive oxygen species’ – as well as harvest sufficient oxygen from them to keep astronauts breathing indefinitely.

Martian landscape

The US Viking landers that touched down on Mars in 1976 carried experiments looking for Martian life whose results are still debated more than four decades later.

Viking lander

Viking’s ‘Labeled Release’ experiment applied micro-nutrient liquid to a Martian soil sample, which released copious amounts of oxygen in response. Some authorities interpreted this result as evidence of microbial life on Mars – except that even after the sample was sterilised with 160°C heat this oxygen production continued. Meanwhile other Viking experiments found no traces of organic chemicals.

“The leading interpretation today is that the results were due to an abiotic chemical reaction,” notes Prof. Elias Chatzitheodoridis of the Geological Sciences Department of the National Technical University of Athens.

Mars Phoenix Lander

“The oxygen production was caused by a reactive oxygen species reacting with water in the nutrient liquid,” notes Prof. Christos Georgiou of the Biology Department at the University of Patras. “Such reactive species may originate from metal salts of superoxides, peroxides or perchlorates – the latter of which was indeed detected by NASA’s Mars Phoenix lander in the Martian Arctic in 2008.

“Charting such highly reactive species will be important for Martian and lunar settlers, not only because their presence will be inimical to human settlement and crop growth but also because they will erase any trace of possible Martian bio-fossils, so these areas can be ruled out of the search for life on Mars.”

Phoenix found perchlorate salts on Mars

The Biology Department of the University of Patras has already performed soil experiments on the generation of reactive oxygen species in soil samples from the arid, Mars-like Mojave and Atacama Deserts, as well as from perchlorate salts exposed to radiation.

“These reactive oxygen species are created by intense ultraviolet irradiation of the surface, especially of fractured minerals broken up by temperature extremes and micrometeorites, resulting in a surface with a lot of free chemical bonds,' explains Prof. Georgiou.

Reactive oxygen species are also found on the Moon

The combined university teams realised that the Viking liquid micro-nutrient experiment would be a workable model for a detector of these reactive oxgen species. Soil samples would be placed in a microfluidic device, producing detectable oxygen through wetting with water plus the action of catalysts.  They proposed the idea to ESA through the Open Space Innovation Platform, seeking out promising ideas for research and development.

“The exciting aspect is that this technique can be used for more than just superoxide detection,” explains ESA materials and processes engineer Malgorzata Holynska.

Oxygen farming

“The project, supported through ESA’s Technology Development Element, will include the initial design of a large scale reactor device to periodically extract oxygen from soil, what we term ‘oxygen farming’. Solar UV irradiation will then replenish their oxygen supply within a matter of hours. The estimate is that a 1.2 hectare (3 acre) area would yield enough oxygen to keep a single astronaut alive.”

“Commercially available Moon and Mars regolith, chemically altered by contact with Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere, is not suitable for testing, says Prof. Chatzitheodoridis. “Accordingly the project team is looking into creating their own simulants in controlled environments. We will additionally use lunar and Martian meteorites to test the instrument, but also plan to apply to NASA for actual lunar samples for testing.”

“The aim is that the prospecting detector should be smaller than a paperback book”, says Dr Ioannis Markopoulos, heading the 01 Mechatronics company, planning to produce a prototype detector. “It is likely that astronauts would find it useful across the entire span of any mission to the Moon and Mars.”

Reactive oxygen species detector concept

“Reactive oxygen species are produced in our own bodies, hence our bodies produce antioxidants in response,” adds Prof. Georgiou. “They can also be produced through radiation-exposed arid terrestrial soils and during mining activities. In space they will be produced by cosmic radiation interacting with metal surfaces, such as on water and food tanks, and the cabin oxygen, so such a detector will certainly be useful to monitor the spacecraft environment.”

Dr Markopoulos adds: “We certainly see the potential for a terrestrial spin-off as well; with these harmful reactive oxygen species widespread on Earth, the potential is there for a very good tool for commercialisation.”

Related links:

National Technical University of Athens:

University of Patras:

ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform:

ESA’s Technology Development Element:

01 Mechatronics:

Space Engineering & Technology:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/University of Arizona/JAXA/NHK/National Technical University of Athens/University of Patras.

Best regards,

jeudi 3 mars 2022

Russia stops space cooperation with US: 'Let them fly on brooms'



March 5, 2022

Roscosmos will also be ending cooperation with Germany.

Image above:  The Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft is rolled out onto the launchpad at Baikonour Cosmodrome ahead of the next crew launch to the ISS. Photo credits: Andrey Shelepin/GCTC/Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Dmitry Rogozin, director-general of Roscosmos, announced that Russia would be halting the delivery of rocket engines to the US, saying "let them fly into space on their brooms," according to RIA Novosti.

Russia stop to Export RD-180 Rocket Engines to U.S. Image Credit: RSC Energia

Rogozin added that Russia would be ending cooperation with the US on experiments on the ISS. He added that the priority of the country's space program would be adjusted to focus on satellites for defense interests.

Rogozin announced as well on Thursday that Roscosmos would be freezing cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in a letter to the administrator of the DLR, Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla. (German telescope aboard Spektr-RG observatory put in safe mode). The DLR announced on Thursday that it was terminating all collaboration activities with Russian institutions and would not start any new projects or initiatives with them.

Spektr-RG observatory. Image Credit: Roscosmos

"The termination of cooperation with the Russian Federation in the field of higher education, scientific research and professional training announced by the leadership of the Federal Republic of Germany, of course, causes irreparable damage to the established long-term cooperation ties and significantly slows down activities in the field of outer space exploration for peaceful purposes," wrote Rogozin.

The Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany announced last week that it would immediately freeze cooperation with Russian universities and businesses until further notice, issuing a condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Image above: Cosmonauts of the Russian space agency Roscosmos Pyotr Dubrov, Oleg Novitskiy and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei pose for a picture during a training session ahead of their expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) in Star City, Russia March 20, 2021. Image credits: Andrey Shelepin/GCTC/Russian space agency Roscosmos.

British satellite company OneWeb said on Thursday it was suspending all launches from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan after Moscow, space agency demanded guarantees that its spacecraft would not be used for military purposes.

"In light of Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we are reviewing our participation in all further projects involving Russian collaboration," the government said.

A Soyuz rocket carrying 36 OneWeb satellites had been due to launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Editor's note:

Sad to see the future of the first space agency in the world, a pioneer in all fields, being compromised by people (the leaders) who respect nothing, neither the space truce, nor human progress (nor human life in general), nor science and space exploration. Even during the cold war in the Soviet era, Roscosmos never suffered so much from such bad decisions. Certainly at that time there were no collaborations with Western countries, but the space race was good in the sense of space exploration and science. All my support and solidarity with all the peoples affected by the current wars all over the world. Roland Berga.

Related articles:

Russia halts launch of European satellites in retaliation for sanctions

ESA statement regarding cooperation with Russia following a meeting with Member States on 28 February 2022

Head of ESA Josef Aschbacher about cooperation with Roscosmos

Related links:


European Space Agency (ESA):


Deutsches Zentrum für Luft (DLR):

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA):

Images (mentioned), Text Credits: By TZVI JOFFRE, REUTERS.


Spacewalks Preps Continue, NASA Astronaut Continues Record-Breaking Mission


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

March 3, 2022

Two NASA astronauts are assembling gear today they will install on the International Space Station during an upcoming spacewalk. The rest of the Expedition 66 crew focused on life science, space physics gear, and orbital maintenance.

NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Kayla Barron began assembling modification kits today to ready the station’s truss structure for new roll-out solar arrays during the first spacewalk. The roll-out solar arrays will be delivered on an upcoming SpaceX Cargo Dragon mission and installed at a later date. The duo will set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power at 7:50 a.m. on March 15, signifying the beginning of their planned six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk. The second spacewalk on March 23 will see more roll-out solar array preparations by two yet to be named astronauts.

Image above: The waxing gibbous Moon is pictured on from the space station as it orbited above the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Canada. Image Credit: NASA.

Roll-out solar array technology will not only augment the space station’s existing solar arrays and power system, they will also be used to power the Lunar Gateway. Gateway is a space station developed by NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, ESA (European Space Agency), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency that will orbit the Moon and will serve as a hub for crew visiting the lunar surface and beyond. Gateway will enable new scientific investigations in the cis-lunar environment during crewed and uncrewed periods.

As usual, science is always ongoing aboard the space station, both remotely and with astronaut participation, as crew members explored how microgravity affects human physiology on Thursday. NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Tom Marshburn partnered together in the Kibo laboratory module to study what happens to eye structure and visual function in weightlessness. Research operations were conducted inside the Life Science Glovebox and may provide insights and inform treatments for eye conditions in space and on Earth.

Astronaut Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) collected his urine samples and stowed them in a science freezer for future analysis to understand how his body is adapting to the space environment. Maurer then moved on and replaced parts inside the Electromagnetic Levitator, a physics research facility that enables safe, high-temperature observations of the thermophysical properties of metallic alloys.

Animation Credits: ISS HD Live / Aerospace

Vande Hei reached 328 days in space today passing NASA astronaut Christina Koch’s record set back on Feb. 6, 2020. He will break NASA’s all-time single spaceflight record of 340 days on March 15 set by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly back on March 1, 2016. Vande Hei will return to Earth on March 30 having achieved a NASA record-breaking 355 days on orbit.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos was on duty on Thursday replacing life support gear in the station’s Russian segment. Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov worked on computer and video gear then checked thermal hardware in the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Lunar Gateway:

Kibo laboratory module:

Eye structure and visual function:

Life Science Glovebox:

Science freezer:

Electromagnetic Levitator:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

A View of the Red Planet (in Blue)


NASA - Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover logo.

March 3, 2022

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover snapped this view of a hill in Mars' Jezero Crater called "Santa Cruz" on April 29, 2021, the 68th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. About 20 inches (50 centimeters) across on average, the boulders in the foreground are among the type of rocks the rover team has named "Ch'al" (the Navajo term for "frog" and pronounced "chesh").

Composed of multiple images, this enhanced-color mosaic was created using the left- and right-eye views of Perseverance's Mastcam-Z camera system, merging the scene into a single, wider view. Santa Cruz hill is a possible eroded remnant of Jezero Crater's western delta. The hill is about 164 feet (50 meters) tall and was roughly 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) east of the rover when the photo was taken, viewed from "Van Zyl Overlook."

Mars Perseverance Rover. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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

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

Related link:

Perseverance Mars Rover:

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

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 39 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

March 3, 2022

SpaceX Starlink 39 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 47 Starlink satellites (Starlink-39) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on 3 March 2022, at 14:25 UTC (09:25 EST).

SpaceX Starlink 39 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 3 March 2022

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1060) previously supported ten missions: Transporter-2, GPS-III Space Vehicle 03, Turksat-5A and seven Starlink missions.

Related links:



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


mercredi 2 mars 2022

First Platforms are Retracted Ahead of Artemis I First Rollout to Launch Pad


NASA - ARTEMIS I Mission patch.

March 2, 2022

The Artemis I Moon rocket is getting closer to rolling out of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the first time.

The first two of 20 platforms surrounding the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft that allow work on the integrated system inside the building were retracted for roll out to Launch Complex 39B. Teams retracted the platforms, which move like hydraulic kitchen drawers, near the launch abort system on the Orion spacecraft in anticipation of the roll.

Image above: Teams retracted the first two of 20 platforms surrounding the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft that allow work on the integrated system in High Bay 3 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first platforms to be retracted – which move like hydraulic kitchen drawers when moved – are those located near the launch abort system on Orion in preparation for rollout to Launch Complex 39B for the Artemis I wet dress rehearsal. Photo credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett.

Teams are continuing to install instrumentation on the SLS’s twin solid rocket boosters inside the VAB. Thousands of sensors and special instruments will monitor the rocket and spacecraft as they roll out for the first time on March 17 and make the four-mile journey to Launch Complex 39B, arriving on March 18. Engineers will capture as much data as possible on the performance of all the systems that are part of the rocket, spacecraft, ground systems used for rollout, and on the pad for propellant loading and other activities. Once all the rocket and spacecraft systems are inspected, the 322-foot-tall rocket will roll to the launch pad for the wet dress rehearsal test, which is scheduled to occur approximately two weeks after it arrives to 39B.

Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft at Launch Complex 39B

The last steps remaining before rollout include inspecting each piece of the rocket and spacecraft, including physically entering different components of SLS and, step-by-step, making sure SLS and Orion are ready for the trip to the launch pad. As inspections continue, the Kennedy ground systems team is working to remove equipment and scaffolding away from the rocket and will continue retracting the platforms until the entire rocket is revealed.

Related links:

Artemis I:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Orion spacecraft:

Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB):

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC):

Image (mentioned), Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Jason Costa.

Best regards,

Advanced Physics, Human Research as Crew Readies for Pair of Spacewalks


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

March 2, 2022

The seven-member Expedition 66 crew juggled a variety of science experiments on Wednesday including space physics and human research. Four International Space Station astronauts also reviewed procedures for a pair of spacewalks set to begin in less than two weeks.

A new experiment on the space station is using artificial intelligence to help process complex glasses in microgravity. NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron began setting up hardware for the Intelligent Glass Optics investigation in the Microgravity Science Glovebox today. The advanced physics study may provide insights into manufacturing systems for Earth and space including communications, aerospace, and medical diagnostics.

Image above: Astronaut Kayla Barron poses for a portrait in front of the Advanced Plant Habitat inside the space station’s Kibo laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

Barron also joined fellow flight engineers Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn from NASA and Matthias Maurer from ESA (European Space Agency) to prepare two upcoming spacewalks to continue modifying the orbiting lab’s power system. The quartet reviewed the tools and procedures that Barron and Chari will use on March 15 when they exit the U.S. Quest airlock to ready the station for its third roll-out solar array. The second excursion will be on March 23 with two astronauts yet to be named. NASA TV will begin its live spacewalk coverage at 7:50 a.m. EST on both days.

At the beginning of the day, Chari assisted Marshburn and Maurer as they collected their blood, saliva, and urine samples. The samples were stowed in a science freezer for later analysis as part of the long-running Repository investigation. That study looks at a bank of biological specimens collected from station astronauts over the years for insights into the physiological changes occurring in humans living in space.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei worked throughout the day inside the Kibo laboratory module on payload hardware that will soon be placed outside the station in the harsh environment of space. Vande Hei is also on track to surpass two NASA single spaceflight records this month. He will pass NASA astronaut Christina Koch’s mark of 328 days on March 3, then he will break NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s record of 340 days on March 15. When Vande Hei returns to Earth on March 30, he will hold the NASA single spaceflight record having spent 355 days in space.

The orbiting lab’s two cosmonauts, Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, replaced life support components in the station’s Russian segment.

Related links:


Expedition 66:

Intelligent Glass Optics:

Microgravity Science Glovebox:

U.S. Quest airlock:


Kibo laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


“Closest black hole” system found to contain no black hole


ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

March 2, 2022

Artist’s impression of HR 6819

In 2020 a team led by European Southern Observatory (ESO) astronomers reported the closest black hole to Earth, located just 1000 light-years away in the HR 6819 system. But the results of their study were contested by other researchers, including by an international team based at KU Leuven, Belgium. In a paper published today, these two teams have united to report that there is in fact no black hole in HR 6819, which is instead a “vampire” two-star system in a rare and short-lived stage of its evolution.

The original study on HR 6819 received significant attention from both the press and scientists. Thomas Rivinius, a Chile-based ESO astronomer and lead author on that paper, was not surprised by the astronomy community’s reception to their discovery of the black hole. “Not only is it normal, but it should be that results are scrutinised,” he says, “and a result that makes the headlines even more so.”

Location of the HR 6819 in the constellation of Telescopium

Rivinius and his colleagues were convinced that the best explanation for the data they had, obtained with the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope, was that HR 6819 was a triple system, with one star orbiting a black hole every 40 days and a second star in a much wider orbit. But a study led by Julia Bodensteiner, then a PhD student at KU Leuven, Belgium, proposed a different explanation for the same data: HR 6819 could also be a system with only two stars on a 40-day orbit and no black hole at all. This alternative scenario would require one of the stars to be “stripped”, meaning that, at an earlier time, it had lost a large fraction of its mass to the other star.

“We had reached the limit of the existing data, so we had to turn to a different observational strategy to decide between the two scenarios proposed by the two teams,” says KU Leuven researcher Abigail Frost, who led the new study published today in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Wide-field view of the region of the sky where HR 6819 is located

To solve the mystery, the two teams worked together to obtain new, sharper data of HR 6819 using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). “The VLTI was the only facility that would give us the decisive data we needed to distinguish between the two explanations," says Dietrich Baade, author on both the original HR 6819 study and the new Astronomy & Astrophysics paper. Since it made no sense to ask for the same observation twice, the two teams joined forces, which allowed them to pool their resources and knowledge to find the true nature of this system.

“The scenarios we were looking for were rather clear, very different and easily distinguishable with the right instrument,” says Rivinius. “We agreed that there were two sources of light in the system, so the question was whether they orbit each other closely, as in the stripped-star scenario, or are far apart from each other, as in the black hole scenario.”

To distinguish between the two proposals, the astronomers used both the VLTI’s GRAVITY instrument and the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on ESO’s VLT.

Artist’s animation of HR 6819

“MUSE confirmed that there was no bright companion in a wider orbit, while GRAVITY’s high spatial resolution was able to resolve two bright sources separated by only one-third of the distance between the Earth and the Sun,” says Frost. “These data proved to be the final piece of the puzzle, and allowed us to conclude that HR 6819 is a binary system with no black hole.”  

“Our best interpretation so far is that we caught this binary system in a moment shortly after one of the stars had sucked the atmosphere off its companion star. This is a common phenomenon in close binary systems, sometimes referred to as “stellar vampirism” in the press,” explains Bodensteiner, now a fellow at ESO in Germany and an author on the new study. “While the donor star was stripped of some of its material, the recipient star began to spin more rapidly.”

"Catching such a post-interaction phase is extremely difficult as it is so short," adds Frost. "This makes our findings for HR 6819 very exciting, as it presents a perfect candidate to study how this vampirism affects the evolution of massive stars, and in turn the formation of their associated phenomena including gravitational waves and violent supernova explosions.”

The newly formed Leuven-ESO joint team now plans to monitor HR 6819 more closely using the VLTI’s GRAVITY instrument. The researchers will conduct a joint study of the system over time, to better understand its evolution, constrain its properties, and use that knowledge to learn more about other binary systems.

As for the search for black holes, the team remains optimistic. “Stellar-mass black holes remain very elusive owing to their nature,” says Rivinius. “But order-of-magnitude estimates suggest there are tens to hundreds of millions of black holes in the Milky Way alone,” Baade adds. It is just a matter of time until astronomers discover them.

More information:

This research was presented in the paper “HR 6819 is a binary system with no black hole: Revisiting the source with infrared interferometry and optical integral field spectroscopy” (DOI: to appear in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

It has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement number 772225: MULTIPLES; PI: Hugues Sana).

The team is composed of A. J. Frost (Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium [KU Leuven]), J. Bodensteiner (European Southern Observatory, Garching, Germany [ESO]), Th. Rivinius (European Southern Observatory, Santiago, Chile [ESO Chile]), D. Baade (ESO), A. Mérand (ESO), F. Selman (ESO Chile), M. Abdul-Masih (ESO Chile), G. Banyard (KU Leuven), E. Bordier (KU Leuven, ESO Chile), K. Dsilva (KU Leuven), C. Hawcroft (KU Leuven), L. Mahy (Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium), M. Reggiani (KU Leuven), T. Shenar (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands), M. Cabezas (Astronomical Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic [ASCR]), P. Hadrava (ASCR), M. Heida (ESO), R. Klement (The CHARA Array of Georgia State University, Mount Wilson Observatory, Mount Wilson, USA) and H. Sana (KU Leuven).

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) enables scientists worldwide to discover the secrets of the Universe for the benefit of all. We design, build and operate world-class observatories on the ground — which astronomers use to tackle exciting questions and spread the fascination of astronomy — and promote international collaboration in astronomy. Established as an intergovernmental organisation in 1962, today ESO is supported by 16 Member States (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom), along with the host state of Chile and with Australia as a Strategic Partner. ESO’s headquarters and its visitor centre and planetarium, the ESO Supernova, are located close to Munich in Germany, while the Chilean Atacama Desert, a marvellous place with unique conditions to observe the sky, hosts our telescopes. ESO operates three observing sites: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its Very Large Telescope Interferometer, as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. Also at Paranal ESO will host and operate the Cherenkov Telescope Array South, the world’s largest and most sensitive gamma-ray observatory. Together with international partners, ESO operates APEX and ALMA on Chajnantor, two facilities that observe the skies in the millimetre and submillimetre range. At Cerro Armazones, near Paranal, we are building “the world’s biggest eye on the sky” — ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope. From our offices in Santiago, Chile we support our operations in the country and engage with Chilean partners and society.


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Text, Credits: ESO/Bárbara Ferreira/Dietrich Baade/Julia Bodensteiner/Thomas Rivinius/KU Leuven/Hugues Sana/Abigail Frost/Images Credits: ESO/L. Calçada/IAU and Sky & Telescope/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin/Video Credits: ESO/L. Calçada.

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