vendredi 6 mai 2022

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of May 2, 2022


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

May 6, 2022

Image above: NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins floats in the space station’s cupola, a direct nadir viewing window from which Earth and celestial objects are visible. Crew members often spend free time here taking in the spectacular views. Image Credit: NASA.

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of May 2 that included demonstrating autonomous robotic technology, testing liquid- and air-based systems for growing plants, and examining the effects of microgravity on grip strength and upper limb movement. The SpaceX Crew-3 mission, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, splashed down on Friday, ending their nearly six-month mission.

Here are details on some of these investigations aboard the microgravity lab:

Robotic caretakers

Image above: NASA astronauts Kayla Barron (left) and Jessica Watkins (right) and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti (top) work checking out systems inside the International Space Station's Kibo laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

During human exploration in deep space, infrastructure such as Gateway may be without crew for extended periods. ISAAC demonstrates technology for using autonomous robots to track the health of this infrastructure, provide maintenance, and respond to critical faults such as leaks and fires when crew members are away. The technology also could enable robotic transfer and unpacking of cargo in preparation of the arrival of crew members. The investigation uses the Astrobee robots already aboard the space station. This technology also could provide autonomous caretaking of industrial or research facilities on Earth where continuous human presence is costly or dangerous, such as polar bases and oceanic research vessels. ISAAC is led by the NASA Ames Research Center Intelligent Robotics Group in collaboration with the Johnson Space Center Robotic Systems Technology Branch. During the week, crew members activated Astrobee robots for the demonstration.

New ways to grow

Image above: NASA astronaut Raja Chari works on the XROOTS investigation, which tests techniques to grow plants without soil or other traditional growth media. Image Credit: NASA.

XROOTS uses hydroponic (liquid-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques to grow plants without soil or other traditional growth media. Current space-based plant systems are small, and their water and nutrient delivery systems do not scale well for longer spaceflight due to issues such as mass, containment, maintenance, and sanitation. Hydroponic and aeroponic techniques could enable production of crops on a larger scale for future space exploration. Growth system components developed for this investigation also could enhance cultivation of plants in terrestrial settings such as greenhouses, contributing to better food security for people on Earth. Crew members conducted checks of the investigation facility and installed plants during the week.

Manipulation in microgravity

Animation above: NASA astronaut Robert Hines conducts a seated session for the ESA GRIP investigation, which studies how long-duration spaceflight affects grip force and arm movements when a person manipulates objects. Animation Credit: NASA.

GRIP, an investigation from ESA, studies the effects of long-duration spaceflight on a person’s ability to regulate the force of their grip and trajectories of upper limbs while manipulating objects. Changes in these functions, which developed in Earth’s gravity, have been observed during short-term exposure to microgravity. Results of this investigation could identify potential hazards for astronauts as they move between gravitational environments and contribute to the design and control of equipment and systems used on future exploration missions. This experiment also could contribute to a better understanding of how the human nervous system controls movement on the ground. During the week, crew members performed seated and supine sessions for the investigation.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- Phospho-aging, an investigation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), examines the molecular mechanism behind aging-like symptoms, such as bone and muscle loss, that can occur more rapidly in microgravity. Results could provide evidence that bone loss experienced on Earth actually is a cause and not only a symptom of aging and preventing such loss could be a practical anti-aging therapy contributing to longer healthy life spans in humans.

- DOSIS-3D, an investigation from ESA, measures the radiation doses at specific locations inside the space station to create a three-dimensional map of the levels and distribution of radiation throughout the orbiting lab. Results could help scientists make recommendations for how to protect crews on future missions.

- The ESA NutrISS investigation assesses changes in an individual’s body composition and energy balance throughout spaceflight. Results could provide insight into what causes these changes and lead to ways to improve physical health and quality of life for astronauts during and after their flight.
- Transparent Alloys - METCOMP, an investigation from ESA, studies the formation of layered structures during solidification of an alloy (a mixture of different metals) using specific organic materials that solidify like a metal yet remain transparent. Alloys are used in a wide variety of applications from smartphones to aircraft, and lighter, stronger versions could benefit consumers and industry.

- Wireless Compose-2, an investigation from ESA, demonstrates a wireless network infrastructure for sensor monitoring and data transmission to support scientific experiments in microgravity. Results could contribute to development of new technologies for monitoring the health of astronauts and people on the ground and hardware that provides more precise control of free-flying robots.

- Rhodium Crystal Preservation studies the use of crystal formation to preserve biological material for research. These crystal matrices do not require special conditions and could provide a way to maintain biological materials for research on future space missions.

- Actiwatch is a wearable monitor that continuously collects data on a crew member’s circadian rhythms, sleep-wake patterns, and activity during flight.

Space to Ground: Place of No Return: 05/06/2022

Related links:

Expedition 67:






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 67.


Global Citizen Science Project Finds Over 1700 Asteroid Trails in Hubble Images


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

May 6, 2022

Asteroid Trails Mosaic

Combining artificial intelligence with many keen human eyes, astronomers have found 1701 new asteroid trails in archival data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, consisting of more than 37 000 images that span two decades. The project reflects both Hubble’s value to scientists as an asteroid hunter and how the public can effectively contribute to citizen science initiatives.

On International Asteroid Day in June 2019 an international group of astronomers launched the Hubble Asteroid Hunter, a citizen science project to identify asteroids in archival Hubble data. The initiative was developed by researchers and engineers at the European Science and Technology Centre (ESTEC) and the European Space Astronomy Centre’s Science Data Centre (ESDC), in collaboration with the Zooniverse platform, the world’s largest and most popular citizen science platform, and Google.

Abell 370 Parallel Field with Asteroids

The astronomers collectively identified more than 37 000 composite images taken between April 2002 and March 2021 with Hubble’s ACS and WFC3 instruments. With a typical observation time of 30 minutes, asteroid trails appear as curved lines or streaks in these images. Over 11 400 members of the public classified and analysed these images. More than 1000 trails were identified, providing a training set for an automated algorithm based on artificial intelligence. The combination of citizen science and AI resulted in a final dataset containing 1701 trails in 1316 Hubble images. Project participants also tagged various other astronomical objects, such as gravitational lenses, galaxies and nebulae. Volunteers discussed their findings and sought assistance from scientists and other participants via the project’s forum.

Roughly one third of the asteroid trails seen could be identified and attributed to known asteroids in the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre, the largest database of Solar System objects. This left 1031 unidentified trails that are faint and likely to be smaller asteroids than those detected in ground-based surveys. The vast majority of these asteroids are expected to be located in the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter, where asteroids of such small size are as yet poorly studied. These trails could give the astronomers insightful clues about the conditions in the early Solar System when the planets were forming.

Broken Asteroid Trail in NGC 4548

The project highlights Hubble’s potential to image faint, previously unknown asteroids and represents a new approach to finding asteroids in astronomical archives spanning decades, which may be effectively applied to other datasets. In addition to illustrating Hubble’s value as an asteroid hunter, it also reinforced the public’s interest in contributing towards scientific endeavours and the value of citizen science efforts.

Next, the project will explore the 1031 streaks of previously unknown asteroids to characterise their orbits and study their properties, such as their sizes and rotation periods. As most of these asteroid streaks were captured by Hubble many years ago, it is not possible to follow them up now to determine their orbits [1]. However, using Hubble, astronomers can use the parallax effect to determine the distance to the unknown asteroids and put constraints on their orbits. As Hubble moves around the Earth, it changes its point of view while observing the asteroid which also moves on its own orbit. By knowing the position of Hubble during the observation and measuring the curvature of the streaks, scientists can determine the distances to the asteroids and estimate the shapes of their orbits. Some of the longer Hubble observations facilitate the measurement of a light curve [2] for the asteroids, from which the team can measure their rotation periods and infer their shapes.

Asteroid in the Crab Nebula (M1)


[1] Compared to the bright stars and Solar System planets which Hubble regularly tracks, most of the asteroids are very faint and move very quickly, making them difficult to spot. As they will have drifted a very long way since first being seen, the likelihood that predictions of their orbits will be exact enough to capture the object in Hubble’s precise field of view is too slim.

[2] A light curve is a plot of the amount of light seen from an object over a period of time. As the amount of light rises and falls, it traces out a curve, which tells astronomers when and by how much the object’s brightness changes. This can tell them about some of the object’s properties. In this case, as the small, irregularly-shaped asteroids rotate and tumble in space, they expose larger or smaller surfaces to the Sun, and the amount of light reflected towards us changes.

More information:

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

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of S. Kruk (European Space Agency and ​​Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik), P. G. Martín (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), M. Popescu ( Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy), B. Merín (European Space Agency), M. Mahlke (Université Côte d’Azur, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur), B. Carry (Université Côte d’Azur, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur), R. Thomson (Google Cloud), S. Karadağ (Google), J. Durán (RHEA for European Space Agency), E. Racero (SERCO for European Space Agency), F. Giordano (SERCO for European Space Agency), D. Baines (Quasar Science Resources for European Space Agency), G. de Marchi (European Space Agency), and R. Laureijs (European Space Agency).


Images of Hubble:

Science paper:

ESA Hubblesite:

Related links:

Minor Planet Centre:

European Science and Technology Centre (ESTEC):

European Space Astronomy Centre’s Science Data Centre (ESDC):

Zooniverse platform:

Hubble Asteroid Hunter:

Images, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, S. Kruk (ESA/ESTEC), Hubble Asteroid Hunter citizen science team, M. Zamani (ESA/Hubble)/NASA, ESA, and B. Sunnquist and J. Mack (STScI)/Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz (STScI) and the HFF Team/R. Evans and K. Stapelfeldt (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and NASA/ESA/ESA/Hubble, M. Thévenot (@AstroMelina)/Text Credits: ESA/Hubble/Bethany Downer.

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 44 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

May 6, 2022

SpaceX Starlink 44 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink-44) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on 6 May 2022, at 09:42 UTC (05:42 EDT).

SpaceX Starlink 44 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 6 May 2022

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “A Shortfall of Gravitas” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1058) previously supported eleven missions: Crew Demo-2, ANASIS-II, CRS-21, Transporter-1, Transporter-3 and six Starlink missions.

Related links:



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


Science at Sunrise: Solving the Mystery of Frost Hiding on Mars


NASA - 2001 Mars Odyssey Mission patch.

May 6, 2022

A new study using data from NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter may explain why Martian frost can be invisible to the naked eye and why dust avalanches appear on some slopes.

Image above: Martian surface frost, made up largely of carbon dioxide, appears blueish-white in these images from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera aboard NASA’s 2001 Odyssey orbiter. THEMIS takes images in both visible light perceptible to the human eye and heat-sensitive infrared. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU.

Scientists were baffled last year when studying images of the Martian surface taken at dawn by NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. When they looked at the surface using visible light – the kind that the human eye perceives – they could see ghostly, blue-white morning frost illuminated by the rising Sun. But using the orbiter’s heat-sensitive camera, the frost appeared more widely, including in areas where none was visible.

The scientists knew they were looking at frost that forms overnight and is made mostly of carbon dioxide – essentially, dry ice, which often appears as frost on the Red Planet rather than as water ice. But why was this dry ice frost visible in some places and not others?

In a paper published last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, these scientists proposed a surprising answer that may also explain how dust avalanches, which are reshaping the planet, are triggered after sunrise.

Image above: These dark streaks, also known as “slope streaks,” resulted from dust avalanches on Mars. The HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured them on Dec. 26, 2017. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona.

From Frost to Vapor

Launched in 2001, Odyssey is NASA’s longest-lived Mars mission and carries the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), an infrared, or temperature-sensitive, camera that provides a one-of-a-kind view of the Martian surface. Odyssey’s current orbit provides a unique look at the planet at 7 a.m. local Mars time.

“Odyssey’s morning orbit produces spectacular pictures,” said Sylvain Piqueux of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, who led the paper. “We can see the long shadows of sunrise as they stretch across the surface.”

Because Mars has so little atmosphere (just 1% the density of Earth’s), the Sun quickly warms frost that builds up overnight. Instead of melting, dry ice vaporizes into the atmosphere within minutes.

Lucas Lange, a JPL intern working with Piqueux, first noticed the cold-temperature signature of frost in many places where it couldn’t be seen on the surface. These temperatures were appearing just tens of microns underground – less than the width of a human hair “below” the surface.

“Our first thought was ice could be buried there,” Lange said. “Dry ice is plentiful near Mars’ poles, but we were looking closer to the equator of the planet, where it’s generally too warm for dry ice frost to form.”

In their paper, the authors propose they were seeing “dirty frost” – dry ice frost mixed with fine grains of dust that obscured it in visible light but not in infrared images.

Thawing Frost and Avalanches

The phenomenon led the scientists to suspect dirty frost might also explain some of the dark streaks that can stretch 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) or more down Martian slopes. They knew the streaks resulted from, essentially, dust avalanches that slowly reshape mountainsides across the planet. Scientists think these dust avalanches probably look something like a ground-hugging river of dust releasing a trail of fluffy material behind. As the dust travels downhill over several hours, it exposes streaks of darker material underneath.

Image above: These dark streaks, also known as “slope streaks,” resulted from dust avalanches in an area of Mars called Acheron Fossae. The HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured them on Dec. 3, 2006. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona.

These dark streaks are not the same as a better-documented variety called recurring slope lineae, which recur in the same places, season after season, for weeks (instead of hours) at a time. Once thought to result from briny water slowly seeping from mountainsides, recurring slope lineae are now generally believed to result from flows of dry sand or dust.

Mapping the slopes streaks for their recent study, the authors found they tend to appear in places with morning frost. The researchers propose the streaks resulted from the vaporizing frost creating just enough pressure to loosen the dust grains, causing an avalanche.

The hypotheses are further evidence of just how surprising the Red Planet can be.

“Every time we send a mission to Mars, we discover exotic new processes,” said Chris Edwards, a paper co-author at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. “We don’t have anything exactly like a slope streak on Earth. You have to think beyond your experiences on Earth to understand Mars.”

More About the Mission

2001 Mars Odyssey. Animation Credit: NASA

JPL manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) was developed by Arizona State University. The THEMIS investigation is led by Dr. Philip Christensen at ASU. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver is the prime contractor for the Odyssey project and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

For more information:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/JPL/Andrew Good.

Best regards,

From Weather Forecasting to Climate Change, NASA’s AIRS Builds a Legacy


NASA - Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) patch.

May 6, 2022

Weather Forecasting to Climate Change. Image Credits: NASA/JPL

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder helps researchers predict weather, analyze air pollution, monitor volcanoes, and track a changing climate. And there’s more.

Heat Wave Measurements

Video above: NASA’s AIRS instrument tracked a record-breaking heat wave as it intensified in the Pacific Northwest last June. AIRS remains a vital resource for weather forecasting, and 20 years after launch it has also become a resource for understanding the role of climate change in weather events like this. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

On April 13, a blizzard dropped 4 feet of snow on Minot, North Dakota, as a drought-fueled wildfire burned in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and severe storms spawned eight tornadoes in Kentucky. NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) helped weather forecasters predict these events, as it’s been doing since it was launched in 2002. But now AIRS also helps researchers calculate the role climate change plays in these extreme weather events. It has become indispensable in other ways that couldn’t be foreseen when the weather instrument launched aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite in May 2002.

“Understanding what happened in the first couple of decades of the 21st century is critical to understanding climate change, and there’s no better record than AIRS to study that,” said Joao Teixeira, AIRS science team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “I see us as guardians of this precious dataset that will be our legacy for future generations.”

AIRS measures infrared – heat – radiation from the air below the satellite to create three-dimensional maps of atmospheric temperature and water vapor, the main ingredients for any kind of weather. The instrument proved to be an almost immediate success: Within three years after AIRS’ launch, assessments of forecasts made by professional meteorologists showed that incorporating AIRS data in weather forecasting models produced a significant increase in accuracy.

AIRS: NASA Advances Our Understanding of Earth’s Climate

Video above: Launched in 2002 aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, AIRS creates 3D maps of air and surface temperature, water vapor, and cloud properties. Its data forms a “fingerprint” of the state of the atmosphere for a given time and place, contributing to climate data for future generations. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Looking Beyond Weather

The AIRS instrument is a spectrometer that breaks radiation into wavelengths, just as a prism does. But where earlier spectrometers in space had 15 or 20 detectors that each observed broad bands of infrared wavelengths, AIRS has 2,378 detectors that each senses a specific wavelength, and every detector makes close to 3 million measurements a day. This enormous advance in data quality and quantity not only succeeded in improving weather forecasting, but inspired a new generation of similar spaceborne instruments from space agencies around the world.

In 2002, getting this technology ready to launch required an innovative design and skillful construction to accommodate the thousands of detectors. The instrument’s creators eventually arranged the detectors in 17 long lines, each of them two detectors wide (for redundancy in case one failed) by about 150 detectors long, and packaged them onto a single focal plane assembly. “When I first saw it, I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” said Tom Pagano, AIRS’ project manager at JPL. “It was a major engineering achievement for the time.” Other advances, like the development of a frictionless cryocooler to cool AIRS’ detectors, led to an instrument that has lasted an extremely long time and is extraordinarily stable.

EOS Aqua satellite. Image Credit: NASA

“Due to the amazing engineering, the data we have now is almost the same quality as it was 20 years ago, when the instrument was new,” Teixeira said.

Stability is essential for scientists to pinpoint the small but persistent signals of climate change from out of the noise of year-to-year variations in weather. As the global temperature creeps upward toward 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial times, AIRS’ two decades of consistent and multifaceted measurements provide a satellite record of global warming that is second to none. There are other satellite records of individual greenhouse gases or of surface temperature, for example, but no other global data record matches the time span and wide range of wavelengths in the AIRS dataset.

Legacy Building

When AIRS launched, the mission team aspired to collect data for 15 years, said Pagano. “We put an unimaginable amount of effort into making an instrument that wouldn’t fail in orbit. It was the philosophy of how we built these instruments on the Aqua satellite.”

And as the data has kept coming, researchers have found more and more uses for it. Researchers recently used AIRS data to detect atmospheric waves from the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano. Earlier this year, researchers also used AIRS data to quantify the link between humidity and influenza outbreaks. In addition, AIRS data is used to track clouds, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and other gases and pollutants whose spectral signatures fall within the range of infrared wavelengths AIRS detects.

The AIRS team and other researchers are still looking into even more applications of the dataset. “There’s more to mine from this instrument,” Pagano said. “It has such rich information content.”

Related links:

NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS):



Images (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Naomi Hartono/JPL/Jane J. Lee/Andrew Wang/Written by Carol Rasmussen.


NASA, ESA Astronauts Safely Return to Earth


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-3 Mission patch.

May 6, 2022

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts aboard the Dragon Endurance spacecraft safely splashed down Friday in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida, completing the agency’s third long-duration commercial crew mission to the International Space Station. The international crew of four spent 177 days in orbit.

Image above: From left to right, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthais Maurer, NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron, are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft onboard the SpaceX Shannon recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Tampa, Florida, Friday, May 6, 2022. Maurer, Marshburn, Chari, and Barron are returning after 177 days in space as part of Expeditions 66 and 67 aboard the International Space Station. Image Credits: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani.

NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and Tom Marshburn, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown at 12:43 a.m. EDT. Teams aboard SpaceX recovery vessels recovered the spacecraft and astronauts. After returning to shore, the astronauts will fly back to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Crew-3 splashdown

“NASA’s partnership with SpaceX has again empowered us to deliver a crew safely to the space station and back, enabling groundbreaking science that will help our astronauts travel farther out into the cosmos than ever before. This mission is just one more example that we are truly in the golden era of commercial spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Kayla, Raja, Tom, and Matthias, thank you for your service and welcome home!”

The Crew-3 mission launched Nov. 10 on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Nearly 24-hours after liftoff, Nov. 11, Endurance docked to the Harmony module’s forward space station port. The astronauts undocked from the same port at 1:05 a.m. May 5, to begin the trip home.

Barron, Chari, Marshburn, and Maurer traveled 75,060,792 miles during their mission, spent 175 days aboard the space station, and completed 2,832 orbits around Earth. Marshburn has logged 339 days in space over his three flights. The Crew-3 mission was the first spaceflight for Barron, Chari, and Maurer.

Crew-3 splashdown | Cosmic Kiss

Throughout their mission, the Crew-3 astronauts contributed to a host of science and maintenance activities and technology demonstrations. In addition, they conducted three spacewalks to perform station maintenance and upgrades outside the space station. This brought the total number of spacewalks for Marshburn to five, while Chari and Barron have each completed two, and Maurer one.

Crew-3 built on previous work investigating how fibers grow in microgravity, used hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants without soil or other growth material, captured imagery of their retinas as part of an investigation that could detect eye changes of astronauts in space automatically in the future, and performed a demonstration of technology that provides measurements of biological indicators related to disease and infection, among many other scientific investigations. The astronauts took hundreds of photos of Earth as part of the Crew Earth Observation investigation, one of the longest-running investigations aboard the space station, which helps track natural disasters and changes to our home planet.

Crew-3 splashdown

Endurance will return to Florida for inspection and processing at SpaceX’s Dragon Lair, where teams will examine the spacecraft’s data and performance throughout the flight.

The Crew-3 flight is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its return to Earth follows on the heels of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 launch, which docked to the station April 27, beginning another science expedition.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This already has provided additional research time and has increased the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s microgravity testbed for exploration, including helping NASA prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Related articles:

Welcome home Matthias - Crew-3 splashes down

Crew-3: Dragon Undocks from the International Space Station

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at:

Related links:

Commercial Space:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Animation, Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Joshua Finch/JSC/Dan Huot/Sandra Jones/Kennedy Space Center/Kathleen Ellis/European Space Agency (ESA).

Best regards,

CASC - Long March-2D launches eight satellites


CASC - CZ-2D Y79 Mission patch.

May 6, 2022

Long March-2D liftoff eight satellites

A Long March-2D launch vehicle launched eight satellites from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Shanxi Province, northern China, on 5 May 2022, at 02:38 UTC (10:38 local time).

Long March-2D launches eight satellites

Jilin-1 Kuanfu-01C (吉林一号 宽幅01C) is an Earth-observation satellite designed and manufactured by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd. (CGSTL, 长光卫星技术有限公司), used to obtain “panchromatic and multispectral images with large width and high-resolution and provide the remote sensing services for smart city construction, territorial and mineral resources exploration”.

Jilin-1 Kuanfu-01C

The seven Jilin-1 Gaofen 03D27-33 (吉林一号高分03D27-33星) satellites are high-resolution remote sensing satellites that will provide “high-resolution remote sensing information and images for valuable customers”.

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)/SciNews/Gunter's Space Page/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


jeudi 5 mai 2022

Crew-3: Dragon Undocks from the International Space Station


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-3 Mission patch.

May 5, 2022

Image above: The Dragon Endurance spacecraft is shown after the hatch closed between it and the International Space Station in preparation for undocking and return to Earth of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission. Image Credit: NASA TV.

SpaceX Crew-3 hatch closure

The SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft with NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and Tom Marshburn, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer inside undocked from the forward port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 1:20 a.m. EDT to complete a nearly six-month science mission.

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon Endurance spacecraft is seen just after undocking from the forward port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 1:20 a.m. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The return timeline with approximate times (all times Eastern):

Thursday, May 5

11:48 p.m.    Trunk jettison

11:53 p.m.    Deorbit burn


12:04 p.m.    Nosecone closed

12:43 a.m.    Dragon splashdown

NASA will continue to provide live coverage until Endurance splashes down off the coast of Florida and the Crew-3 astronauts are recovered off the coast of Florida.

SpaceX Crew-3 undocking and departure

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission launched Nov. 10 on a Falcon 9 rocket from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked to the space station Nov. 11.

Related links:

NASA Television:

Commercial Crew:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


'Spot the difference' to help reveal Rosetta image secrets


ESA - Rosetta Mission patch.

May 5, 2022

Today, ESA and the Zooniverse launch Rosetta Zoo, a citizen science project that invites volunteers to engage in a cosmic game of 'spot the difference'. By browsing through pictures collected by ESA's Rosetta mission, you can help scientists figure out how a comet's surface evolves as it swings around the Sun.

Rosetta Zoo comparison image

Rosetta spent over two years orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko between 2014 and 2016. The spacecraft studied the comet up close, collecting unprecedented data to unlock some of the most intriguing mysteries surrounding the formation and evolution of our Solar System. Partway through Rosetta's studies, the comet approached the Sun – a moment known as 'perihelion'. Following its closest approach of about 186 million km from our star, the comet then moved away again. This meant that its surface was illuminated in different ways during the course of Rosetta’s mission.

Rosetta images of Comet 67P as it approaches perihelion

Rosetta witnessed many landscape changes on Comet 67P: from the impressive fall of cliffs and the formation of pits, to evolving dust patterns and rolling boulders. Scientists are interested in using these changes to investigate the detailed mechanism through which a comet sheds its outer layers, as sunlight heats the ice and dust surrounding the nucleus.

The sheer number of surface changes, however, makes charting them a highly complex task. So scientists are looking for your help.

Vast amounts of data need a vast number of eyes

"The Rosetta archive, which is openly accessible to scientists and the public, contains a vast amount of data collected by this extraordinary mission that have only been partially explored," says Bruno Merín, head of ESA's ESAC Science Data Centre near Madrid, Spain.

"In the past few years, astrophotographers and space enthusiasts have spontaneously identified changes and signs of activity in Rosetta's images. Except for a few cases, though, it has not been possible to link any of these events to surface changes, mostly due to the lack of human eyes sifting through the whole dataset. We definitely need more eyes!"

This is why ESA partnered with the Zooniverse, the world's largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. The new Rosetta Zoo project presents a particular set of data: pairs of images collected by Rosetta's OSIRIS camera showing Comet 67P's surface before and after perihelion.

Volunteers are invited to view images of roughly the same region side by side and identify a variety of changes, from large-scale dust transport to comet chunks that moved or even vanished. Sometimes this may require zooming in or out a few times, or rotating the images to spot changes on different scales, getting up close and personal with the iconic comet.

Image above: Movement of a 30-metre-wide boulder over a distance of around 140 metres. Image Credit: From El-Maarry et al. (2017).

"Given the complexity of the imagery, the human eye is much better at detecting small changes between images than automated algorithms are," explains Sandor Kruk, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics near Munich, Germany, who first conceived and initiated the project during his ESA research fellowship a couple of years ago.

"The OSIRIS images have been publicly available in the archives for some time, but many images have not been analysed yet for changes in the surface of the comet. That is why we decided to set up this citizen science project and ask volunteers to inspect Rosetta images of 67P. Given the excitement Rosetta generated during its mission, we hope this project will be joined by many members of the public to help scientists analyse the data it generated."

Your responses will improve our understanding of the Solar System

Thanks to the visual inspection of many volunteers, the project will produce maps of changes and active areas on the comet's surface, with labels for each type of change. Scientists will then be able to associate the activity of the comet with modifications on its surface, developing new models to link the physics of comet activity to observed changes such as lifted boulders or collapsed cliffs.

2014 vs. 2016

By digging through Rosetta's images and playing a cosmic game of 'spot the difference', you will help us reach new heights in our understanding of comets and the Solar System as a whole. But the benefits go both ways: we hope that by opening up this data to the public, we are improving the openness of our work, increasing citizen engagement in scientific research, and building stronger connections between science and society.

Anybody can use Rosetta Zoo online for free, without needing to sign up, install an app or programme, or have any previous scientific experience. Spot the differences between as many or as few image pairs as you have time for – whether that’s five minutes whilst waiting for the bus, or regular evenings of cometary exploration.

Rosetta and the Philae lander with Comet 67P

"What does a primitive comet look like? No one knows, but with the help of volunteers we can characterise how comets evolve now and understand the physics driving those changes: then we will be able to rewind the movie of cometary evolution all the way back to the origin of the Solar System," comments planetary scientist Jean-Baptiste Vincent from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, Germany.

Related links:

ESA's Rosetta mission:

Rosetta's OSIRIS camera:


Rosetta Zoo:

ESAC Science Data Centre:

ESA research fellowship:

Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics:

DLR Institute of Planetary Research:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: ESA/ATG medialab; Comet image: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam/Zooniverse/ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

Best regards,

mercredi 4 mai 2022

The Station Changes Command as Crew-3 Prepares to Depart


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

May 4, 2022

NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn handed over command of the International Space Station to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev in a traditional Change of Command ceremony which began at 2:35 p.m. EDT today. Artemyev, a veteran of three spaceflights to the space station, will lead the Expedition 67 crew until the end of summer.

Marshburn and his Crew-3 crewmates Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer have been living aboard the orbital lab since November 11, 2021, and are set to depart tonight. Hatch closure is set for 11:20 p.m. EDT, with undocking following at 1:05 a.m. EDT. The commercial crew quartet is due to splashdown off the coast of Florida  at 12:43 a.m. EDT on Friday, May 6. Watch live on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the app.

Image above: NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn handed over command of the International Space Station to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev in a traditional Change of Command ceremony today ahead of Crew-3’s departure tonight. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The Crew-3 astronauts worked on final Dragon cargo operations and configuring Dragon for departure, final egress, and hatch closure, as well as transferring emergency hardware from Dragon to the space station prior to departure. The Endurance crew closed out research operations which included transferring and packing frozen samples and ice bricks from the Minus Eighty (Degrees Celsius) Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) into coldbags in preparation for the return to Earth. MELFI provides the space station storage and fast-freezing of life science and biological samples. The Crew-3 astronauts also removed and stowed their Actiwatches, small, lightweight, wrist-worn devices that simultaneously detect body movement and light intensity. They are used to evaluate sleep-wake adaptation and circadian cycle and determine if space travel has an impact on the sleep-wake patterns of crewmembers.

Image above: The four commercial crew astronauts representing NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission are pictured in their Dragon spacesuits for a fit check aboard the International Space Station's Harmony module on April 21. From left, are ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, and NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari, and Kayla Barron. Image Credit: NASA.

The station’s four newest astronauts, Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti, had a light duty day performing some life science, lab maintenance, and inventory tasks. The foursome and their three Russian crewmates are due to have an off-duty day following the departure of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission.

In the station’s Russian segment, Artemyev and Flight Engineers Sergey Korsakov and Denis Matveev performed monthly maintenance checks on laptops and video equipment, as well as physical training, and a robotic piloting experiment.

Related article:

As Station Crew Readies to Return to Earth, NASA Sets TV Coverage

Related links:


Expedition 67:

Minus Eighty (Degrees Celsius):

Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI):


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

CAPSTONE Charts a New Path for NASA's Moon-Orbiting Space Station


NASA - CAPSTONE Mission patch.

May 4, 2022

It will have equilibrium. Poise. Balance. This pathfinding CubeSat will practically be able to kick back and rest in a gravitational sweet spot in space – where the pull of gravity from Earth and the Moon interact to allow for a nearly-stable orbit – allowing physics to do most of the work of keeping it in orbit around the Moon.

CAPSTONE's unique near rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon. Video Credit: Advanced Space

Sounds like a heavenly work-life balance, right? Funnily enough – the orbit is formally known in orbital mechanics as a "near rectilinear halo orbit" (NRHO). Which means, if you were able to trace the shape of the orbit, it would look like an elongated oval with sides so long they're nearly straight.

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat owned and operated by Advanced Space in Westminster, Colorado, will be the first spacecraft to test this orbit. Researchers want to show the orbit requires less fuel and allows constant direct communications contact with Earth as the spacecraft passes by the Moon.

Artist's concept of CAPSTONE. Image Credit: NASA

And NASA has big plans for this unique type of orbit. Engineers expect it will allow them to park bigger spacecraft – including the lunar-orbiting space station Gateway – in orbit around the Moon for about 15 years.

About six days after launch, CAPSTONE will deploy from the Rocket Lab Photon spacecraft bus and begin its four-month transfer to its NRHO, firing its thrusters to power its journey. After a couple of additional "clean-up" maneuvers, and a critical maneuver that will insert the spacecraft into the NRHO, the spacecraft will occasionally and sparingly fire its thrusters to stay on course, allowing NASA to understand the orbit dynamics for at least six months.

"CAPSTONE will be precisely controlled and maintained and will benefit tremendously from the nearly-stable physics of its near rectilinear halo orbit," said Elwood Agasid, deputy program manager of Small Spacecraft Technology at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "The burns will be timed to give the spacecraft an extra boost as it naturally builds momentum – this requires a lot less fuel than a more circular orbit would require."

If viewed from Earth, CAPSTONE's orbit would repeatedly trace a consistent oval around the Moon as the spacecraft moves from the lunar North Pole to the lunar South Pole. It will take nearly a week to complete a full lunar orbit. While it's over the South Pole, the spacecraft will be traveling at its slowest and farthest away from the lunar surface – approximately 47,000 miles (76,000 kilometers) above the Moon. Then, as it builds momentum, the spacecraft will travel at its fastest and closest height above the Moon and cross over the North Pole, at only approximately 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers) high.

"This orbit has an added bonus of allowing Gateway to have optimal communications with future Artemis missions operating on the lunar surface as well as back to Earth," said Agasid. "This could unlock new opportunities for future lunar science and exploration efforts."

Learn more:


For researchers:

Ballistic Lunar Transfers to Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit

CAPSTONE is commercially owned and operated by Advanced Space in Westminster, Colorado. It represents an innovative collaboration between NASA and industry to provide rapid results and feedback to inform future exploration and science missions. 

NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) funds the demonstration mission. The program is based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. The development of CAPSTONE’s navigation technology is supported by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program, also within STMD. The Artemis Campaign Development Division within NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate funds the launch and supports mission operations. The Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida manages the launch.

Related links:


Ames Research Center:

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


New NASA Black Hole Sonifications with a Remix


NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

May 4, 2022

Data Sonification: Black Hole at the Center of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster (X-ray)

Since 2003, the black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster has been associated with sound. This is because astronomers discovered that pressure waves sent out by the black hole caused ripples in the cluster’s hot gas that could be translated into a note – one that humans cannot hear some 57 octaves below middle C. Now a new sonification brings more notes to this black hole sound machine. This new sonification – that is, the translation of astronomical data into sound – is being released for NASA’s Black Hole Week this year.

In some ways, this sonification is unlike any other done before (1, 2, 3, 4) because it revisits the actual sound waves discovered in data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The popular misconception that there is no sound in space originates with the fact that most of space is essentially a vacuum, providing no medium for sound waves to propagate through. A galaxy cluster, on the other hand, has copious amounts of gas that envelop the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within it, providing a medium for the sound waves to travel.

In this new sonification of Perseus, the sound waves astronomers previously identified were extracted and made audible for the first time. The sound waves were extracted in radial directions, that is, outwards from the center. The signals were then resynthesized into the range of human hearing by scaling them upward by 57 and 58 octaves above their true pitch. Another way to put this is that they are being heard 144 quadrillion and 288 quadrillion times higher than their original frequency. (A quadrillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000.) The radar-like scan around the image allows you to hear waves emitted in different directions. In the visual image of these data, blue and purple both show X-ray data captured by Chandra.

Data Sonification: Black Hole at the Center of Galaxy M87 (Multiwavelength)

In addition to the Perseus galaxy cluster, a new sonification of another famous black hole is being released. Studied by scientists for decades, the black hole in Messier 87, or M87, gained celebrity status in science after the first release from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project in 2019. This new sonification does not feature the EHT data, but rather looks at data from other telescopes that observed M87 on much wider scales at roughly the same time. The image in visual form contains three panels that are, from top to bottom, X-rays from Chandra, optical light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and radio waves from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile. The brightest region on the left of the image is where the black hole is found, and the structure to the upper right is a jet produced by the black hole. The jet is produced by material falling onto the black hole. The sonification scans across the three-tiered image from left to right, with each wavelength mapped to a different range of audible tones. Radio waves are mapped to the lowest tones, optical data to medium tones, and X-rays detected by Chandra to the highest tones. The brightest part of the image corresponds to the loudest portion of the sonification, which is where astronomers find the 6.5-billion solar mass black hole that EHT imaged.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

More sonifications of astronomical data, as well as additional information on the process, can be found at the “A Universe of Sound” website:

These sonifications were led by the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) and included as part of NASA's Universe of Learning (UoL) program with additional support from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope/Goddard Space Flight Center. The collaboration was driven by visualization scientist Kimberly Arcand (CXC), astrophysicist Matt Russo, and musician Andrew Santaguida (both of the SYSTEMS Sound project). NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-ray Center controls science from Cambridge Massachusetts and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts. NASA's Universe of Learning materials are based upon work supported by NASA under cooperative agreement award number NNX16AC65A to the Space Telescope Science Institute, working in partnership with Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Read more from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory:

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

Videos (mentioned), Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Lee Mohon/Chandra X-ray Center/Megan Watzke/Marshall Space Flight Center/Molly Porter.

Best regards,