samedi 4 juin 2022

Blue Origin NS-21


Blue Origin NS-21 Mission patch.

June 4, 2022

Blue Origin NS-21 liftoff

The New Shepard reusable launch system was launched from and landed at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas, on 4 June 2022, at 13:26 UTC (08:26 CDT).

Blue Origin NS-21: New Shepard launch and landing

For the third time, the New Shepard capsule carried six passengers to space: Evan Dick, Katya Echazarreta, Hamish Harding, Victor Correa Hespanha, Jaison Robinson, and Victor Vescovo.

Blue Origin NS-21 landing

NS-21 is the seventh mission, launch and landing, for this New Shepard launch vehicle (NS4).

Editor's note:

This article is the last concerning space tourists flight by Blue Origin, because it has no interest if it is not accompanied by a scientific experiment or a technical improvement.

Related article:

New Shepard Mission NS-21

Related link:

Blue Origin:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Blue Origin/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 3 juin 2022

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of May 30, 2022


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

Jun 3, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of May 30 that included collecting cognitive and behavioral data on crew members and evaluating changes that occur in body composition and muscle properties during spaceflight.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

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

How to behave on Mars

The Behavioral Core Measures investigation initially evaluated and verified a suite of measurements of mood, stress, sleep quality, fatigue, cognition, performance, and team functioning as a way to assess the possible adverse behavioral effects of long-duration spaceflight. The investigation currently collects some of these measurements from crew members as they conduct a robotic simulation. These data could help identify the type of tasks that a crew member might reasonably be expected to perform upon landing on the surface of Mars after months of space travel. During the week, crew members performed two sessions of 12 runs each for the investigation.

Customized nutrition

Image above: This image shows a biometric patch, one of the wearable sensors used for ESA’s NutrISS investigation, which assesses body composition and energy balance of crew members throughout their flight. These sensors connect to the EveryWear application, a unified interface for collecting and transmitting physiology-related data. Image Credit: NASA.

Long-duration spaceflight causes changes in the body, including bone and muscle loss and the onset of insulin resistance. Dietary approaches such as increased protein intake and neutral energy balance may offer a way to limit these changes. NutrISS, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), assesses an individual’s body composition and energy balance throughout spaceflight using wearable sensors and ESA’s EveryWear app. Crew members receive feedback and a list of possible food choices that take into account their nutritional needs and personal preferences, and nutrition experts and medical crews continually evaluate the effectiveness of that feedback. Results could lead to ways to improve physical health and quality of life for astronauts during and after flight and contribute to better clinical management of malnourished, obese, or immobilized patients on Earth. Crew members conducted measurements and completed questionnaires for the investigation during the week.

Image above: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti checks out a camera inside the International Space Station's "window to the world," the seven-windowed cupola. Image Credit: NASA.

Monitoring muscles

ESA’s Myotones investigation observes changes in muscle properties during long-term spaceflight. Research suggests that muscle tone and stiffness decrease during spaceflight, particularly in those muscles most important for postural support and movement such as running and walking. Inflight exercise seems to improve these muscle changes. Results from this investigation could help researchers better understand human resting muscle tone and lead to the development of better countermeasures for future space missions as well as alternative rehabilitation treatments for those experiencing the effects of aging and restricted mobility on Earth. Crew members took measurements and performed ultrasound scans of target areas during the week.

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 is not only a symptom but also a cause of aging, and that preventing such loss could be a practical anti-aging therapy.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Robert Hines works on XROOTS, which tests growing plants using hydroponic and aeroponic techniques rather than traditional growth media. These methods could enable production of crops on a larger scale for future space exploration. Animation Credit: NASA.

- XROOTS uses hydroponic (liquid-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques to grow plants without traditional growth media, which could enable production of crops on a larger scale for future space exploration.

- AstroRad Vest tests a vest designed to protect astronauts from radiation caused by unpredictable solar particle events. Designers use wearer feedback to improve the vest, which could protect crew members from possible harmful effects of radiation on future missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as lead to improved radiation protection garments 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.

- AstroPi European Challenge Mission Zero gave people 19 years of age and younger from ESA Member States, Slovenia, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, or Malta the chance to run computer programs on the space station’s two AstroPi units. The program inspires students to study scientific and technical disciplines and to appreciate and understand the benefits, challenges, and importance of space for Europe and the global economy.

The space station is a robust microgravity laboratory with a multitude of specialized research facilities and tools. Over more than two decades of continuous operation, it has supported many scientific breakthroughs from investigations spanning every major scientific discipline. The orbiting lab conveys benefits to future space exploration, advances basic and applied research on Earth, and provides a platform for a growing commercial presence in low-Earth orbit.

Space to Ground: The Study of Dust: 06/03/2022

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Behavioral Core Measures:



ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 67.

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Hubble Gazes at a Dazzling Star Cluster


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Jun 3, 2022

The muted red tones of the globular cluster Liller 1 are partially obscured in this image by a dense scattering of piercingly blue stars. In fact, it is thanks to Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) that we are able to see Liller 1 so clearly in this image, because the WFC3 is sensitive to wavelengths of light that the human eye can’t detect. Liller 1 is only 30,000 light-years from Earth – relatively neighborly in astronomical terms – but it lies within the Milky Way’s ‘bulge’, the dense and dusty region at our galaxy’s center. Because of that, Liller 1 is heavily obscured from view by interstellar dust, which scatters visible light (particularly blue light) very effectively. Fortunately, some infrared and red visible light can pass through these dusty regions. WFC3 is sensitive to both visible and near-infrared (infrared that is close to the visible) wavelengths, allowing us to see through the obscuring clouds of dust, and providing this spectacular view of Liller 1.

Liller 1 is a particularly interesting globular cluster, because unlike most of its kind, it contains a mix of very young and very old stars. Globular clusters typically house only old stars, some nearly as old as the universe itself. Liller 1 instead contains at least two distinct stellar populations with remarkably different ages: the oldest one is 12 billion years old, and the youngest component is just 1-2 billion years old. This led astronomers to conclude that this stellar system was able to form stars over an extraordinarily long period of time.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, F. Ferraro.


Progress Cargo Craft Launches on Quick Station Trip & Progress Cargo Craft Docks to Station


ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

June 3, 2022

Image above: The Progress 81 cargo craft launches on time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the space station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The uncrewed Russian Progress 81 is safely in orbit headed for the International Space Station following launch at 5:32 a.m. EDT (2:32 p.m. Baikonur time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Progress MS-20 launch

The resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned on its way to meet up with the orbiting laboratory and its Expedition 67 crew members.

Three Tons of Cargo Approaching Station Today

Image above: The Progress 76 resupply ship approaches the space station for a docking in July of 2020. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Progress will deliver almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the International Space Station.

Progress MS-20 docking

The uncrewed Russian Progress 81 launched on a Soyuz rocket at 5:32 a.m. EDT (2:32 p.m. Baikonur time) Friday, June 3, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Progress Cargo Craft Docks to Station after Two Orbits

Image above: Five spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon Freedom; the Cygnus space freighter; the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship; and the Progress 80 and 81 resupply ships. Image Credit: NASA.

An uncrewed Russian Progress 81 spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station’s Zvezda service module at 9:02 a.m. EDT, two orbits after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Progress is delivering almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the International Space Station for the Expedition 67 crew.

Related article:

NASA to Highlight Climate Research on Cargo Launch, Sets TV Coverage

Related links:

(Website unavailable since the start of the war in Ukraine)

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Rocket Lab - Celebrating 5 Years of Electron Launches!


Rocket Lab logo.

June 3, 2022

Happy 5th Birthday Electron!

May 25th 2022 marked five years since our first Electron launch in 2017 with our inaugural mission called "It's A Test". Since then, we've launched 26 Electrons and deployed 146 satellites to orbit, acquired four industry-leading companies to expand our global team, built two new launch pads in two countries, launched our in-house designed and built Photon satellites, revealed plans to develop our launch launch vehicle Neutron, and so much more. We don't plan on slowing down any time soon!

First Mission patch

Our next mission, which will see us launch a spacecraft to the Moon for NASA, is just the start of the next five years of exciting Electron missions!

CAPSTONE - Charting a New Path to the Moon

Our next mission will see us launch a spacecraft a little bit further than all other Electron missions to date...some 1.3 million km further. In June we're launching the CAPSTONE satellite to a never-before-flown orbit around the Moon, blazing a new efficient deep space route that NASA hopes to use for future human spaceflight missions

Designed and built by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, a Terran Orbital Corporation, and owned and operated by Advanced Space, the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat will be the first spacecraft to test the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon. Researchers expect this orbit to be 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 a spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. NASA has big plans for this unique type of orbit. The agency hopes to park bigger spacecraft – including the lunar-orbiting space station Gateway – in an NRHO around the Moon, providing astronauts with a base from which to descend to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program.

CAPSTONE will be launched to an initial low Earth orbit by Electron, but from there we're putting our Photon Lunar spacecraft bus to the test for the first time. Over six days, Photon Lunar will raise CAPSTONE's orbit taking it further and further Earth, before finally setting it on a ballistic lunar transfer to continue a solo flight to the Moon.

Learn More About CAPSTONE:

Animation above: The CAPSTONE mission is planned for launch no earlier than June 2022. Rocket Lab’s Photon satellite bus will deliver CAPSTONE into a trajectory toward the Moon. Animation Credits: Illustration by NASA/Daniel Rutter.

Mission To The Moon

Supporting NASA's mission to return humans to the Moon.


In June 2022 Rocket Lab will launch a CubeSat to the Moon. This historic pathfinding mission supports NASA’s Artemis program which will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.

Using our Electron rocket and new Lunar Photon upper stage, Rocket Lab will inject the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) CubeSat to a highly efficient transfer orbit to the Moon. CAPSTONE is owned and operated by Advanced Space in Westminster, Colorado, for NASA.

CAPSTONE’s primary objective is to test and verify the calculated orbital stability of a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon, the same orbit planned for Gateway. NASA’s Gateway is a small space station that will orbit around the Moon to provide astronauts with access to the lunar surface. It will feature living quarters for astronauts, a lab for science and research and ports for visiting spacecraft. CAPSTONE will also test a navigation system developed by Advanced Space that will measure its absolute position in cislunar space using interaction with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter without relying on ground stations for navigation support.

CAPSTONE is one of the first steps to learn how to operate more robust missions in this unique orbit, thus laying the groundwork for future exploration of our solar system.

We are opening access to deep space missions for small satellites.

Rocket Lab:

Images, Animation, Text, Credits: Rocket Lab/NASA:


jeudi 2 juin 2022

Crew Relaxes Day Before Three Tons of Station Cargo Arrives


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

June 2, 2022

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The Expedition 67 crew is taking a well-deserved day off following a busy few weeks of commercial crew and private astronaut missions. Meanwhile, the next cargo craft to resupply the International Space Station stands ready to launch from Kazakhstan on Friday morning.

The seven orbital residents are relaxing today following an intense period that saw three different SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicles come and go, as well as the arrival and departure of Boeing’s Starliner crew ship. Axiom Mission 1 arrived first at the station on April 9, aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour for a two-week stay. Following that, Crew-4 docked to the station inside the Dragon Freedom on April 27. On May 5, Crew-3 ended its six-month mission after undocking aboard the Dragon Endurance. Finally, the station crew welcomed NASA’s and Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 for a five-day mission when it docked on May 20.

Image above: The ISS Progress 79 resupply ship is pictured after undocking from the Zvezda service module and departing the vicinity the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

Three tons of food, fuel, and supplies are packed inside the Progress 81 cargo craft destined to replenish the station residents on Friday. The Progress is counting down to a liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:32 a.m. on Friday. After just two orbits, the space freighter will approach the Zvezda service module’s rear port for an automated docking at 9:02 a.m. The  Progress 79 cargo craft undocked from Zvezda early Wednesday ending its 214-day stay.

Commander Oleg Artemyev and Flight Engineer Denis Matveev will be on duty Friday morning monitoring the space freighter’s arrival. The duo from Roscosmos has been reviewing approach and rendezvous procedures as well as practicing manual docking techniques with Zvezda’s tele-robotically operated rendezvous unit, or TORU. NASA TV begins its live Progress 81 launch coverage at 5:15 a.m. on NASA’s app and website.

Related articles:

NASA to Provide Live Coverage of Space Station Cargo Launch, Docking

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

Related links:


Expedition 67:

Zvezda service module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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NASA Selects New Instruments for Priority Artemis Science on Moon


NASA - ARTEMIS Program logo.

June 2, 2022

Adding to the growing list of commercial deliveries slated to explore more of the Moon than ever before under Artemis, NASA has selected two new science instrument suites, including one that will study the mysterious Gruithuisen Domes for the first time.

Image above: NASA is planning to send a lander and rover to the beautiful Gruithuisen Domes, seen in this controlled mosaic, and LROC images will help guide the way. The domes are located at 36.3° N, 319.8° E. Image 55 km wide, north is up. Image Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

These payload suites mark the second selection through the agency’s Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon (PRISM) call for proposals. Both payloads will be delivered to the lunar surface on future flights through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, which is one part of the agency’s larger lunar exploration architecture planned for this decade.

“The two selected studies will address important scientific questions related to the Moon” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “The first will study geologic processes of early planetary bodies that are preserved on the Moon, by investigating a rare form of lunar volcanism. The second will study the effects of the Moon’s low gravity and radiation environment on yeast, a model organism used to understand DNA damage response and repair.”

The Lunar Vulkan Imaging and Spectroscopy Explorer (Lunar-VISE) investigation consists of a suite of five instruments, two of which will be mounted on a stationary lander and three mounted on a mobile rover to be provided as a service by the CLPS vendor.

Over the course of 10 Earth days (one lunar day), Lunar-VISE will explore the summit of one of the Gruithuisen Domes. These domes are suspected to have been formed by a sticky magma rich in silica, similar in composition to granite. On Earth, formations like these need oceans of liquid water and plate tectonics to form, but without these key ingredients on the Moon, lunar scientists have been left to wonder how these domes formed and evolved over time.

By analyzing the lunar regolith at the top of one of these domes, the data collected and returned by Lunar-VISE’s instruments will help scientists answer fundamental open questions regarding how these formations came to be. The data also will help inform future robotic and human missions to the Moon. Dr. Kerri Donaldson Hanna of the University of Central Florida will lead this payload suite.

The second selected investigation, the Lunar Explorer Instrument for space biology Applications (LEIA) science suite, is a small CubeSat-based device. LEIA will provide biological research on the Moon – which cannot be simulated or replicated with high fidelity on the Earth or International Space Station – by delivering the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to the lunar surface and studying its response to radiation and lunar gravity. S. cerevisiae is an important model of human biology, especially in the areas of genetics, cellular and molecular replication and division processes, and DNA damage response to environmental factors such as radiation. The data returned by LEIA, in conjunction with previously existing data from other biological studies, could help scientists answer a decades-old question of how partial gravity and actual deep space radiation in combination influence biological processes. Dr. Andrew Settles of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California will lead the LEIA payload suite.

With these selections in place, NASA will work with the CLPS office at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to issue task orders to deliver these payload suites to the Moon in the 2026 timeframe.

For these payload suites, the agency also has selected two project scientists to coordinate science activities for the selected instrument suites, including working with the payloads on landing site selection, developing concepts of operations, and archiving science data acquired during surface operations. Dr. John Karcz of NASA Ames Research Center in California will coordinate the Lunar-VISE investigation suite for delivery to the Gruithuisen Domes, and Dr. Cindy Young of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, will coordinate the LEIA investigation suite for delivery.

CLPS is a key part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans. The science and technology payloads sent to the Moon’s surface will help lay the foundation for human missions on and around the Moon. The agency has made seven task order awards to CLPS providers for lunar deliveries between in the early 2020s with more delivery awards expected through 2028.

For more information, visit:

Related links:

Artemis program:

Commercial Space:

Moon to Mars:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Josh Handal/Karen Fox/JSC/Nilufar Ramji.


Student-Built, Dime-Sized Instrument Is Venus-bound on NASA’s DAVINCI


NASA - DAVINCI Mission logo.

Jun 2, 2022

Venus Oxygen Fugacity (VfOx) is a small, button-sized sensor aboard NASA’s DAVINCI mission to Venus’ atmosphere that will be designed, fabricated, tested, operated, and analyzed by undergraduate and graduate students as the mission’s Student Collaboration Experiment.

Image above: DAVINCI will send a meter-diameter probe to brave the high temperatures and pressures near Venus’ surface to explore the atmosphere from above the clouds to near the surface of a terrain that may have been a past continent. During its final kilometers of free-fall descent (artist's impression shown here), the probe will capture spectacular images and chemistry measurements of the deepest atmosphere on Venus for the first time. Image Credits: NASA/GSFC/CI Labs.

Planned for launch in 2029, the DAVINCI mission (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) will send a spacecraft and a probe to Venus to investigate numerous unsolved mysteries of the planet. Prior to dropping its descent probe into the Venus atmosphere, the spacecraft will perform two flybys of the planet, taking measurements of clouds and ultraviolet absorption on the Venusian day side, and taking measurements of heat emanating from the planet’s surface on the night side. Two years after launch, the mission’s probe, called the Descent Sphere, will enter the Venus atmosphere, ingesting and analyzing atmospheric gases and collecting images as it descends to the surface of the planet at the Alpha Regio region.

VfOx will be mounted on the outside of the Descent Sphere, where it will measure the oxygen fugacity – the partial pressure of the oxygen – in the deep atmosphere beneath Venus’ clouds, including the near-surface environment.

By analyzing these ground-breaking VfOx measurements, scientists will, for the first time, seek to identify what minerals are most stable at the surface of Venus in the highlands and link the formation of rocks to their recent modification histories. VfOx will measure the amount of oxygen present near the surface of Venus as a “fingerprint” of the rock-atmosphere reactions that are going on today. The balance of how much oxygen is present in the atmosphere, compared to the amount of oxygen captured in the rocks of Venus, will provide information towards a new understanding of the surface minerals in a mountainous region of Venus (known as “tessera”) that has never been visited by a spacecraft.

Understanding how much oxygen is contained in Venus’ atmosphere will be important in preparation for characterizing Venus-like worlds beyond our solar system with the JWST and future observatories. How much oxygen Venus has in its deepest atmosphere will help scientists studying these remote worlds distinguish between oxygen produced by life, such as what happens on Earth, from oxygen produced solely by abiotic chemical planetary processes, such as what happens on Venus.

The instrument will operate similarly to the oxygen sensor in many automobile engines, which measures the amount of oxygen in the fuel system relative to other components of the fuel. Like all instruments aboard the DAVINCI Descent Sphere, VfOx must be adapted to survive Venus’ inhospitable atmosphere. Even though temperatures at the surface of the planet are hot enough to melt lead, the temperatures in internal combustion car engines are even hotter, so VfOx will operate in a comparatively cooler environment on Venus. Additionally, VfOx will be built out of ceramic, a material that is resistant to temperature changes.

Image above: These images of a prototype of the shirt-button-sized VfOx instrument show the disk of the sensor itself. It has a diameter of just under one centimeter (almost 0.4 inches) and will be located on the side of the DAVINCI Descent Sphere. Image Credit: Johns Hopkins APL.

The motivating goal for DAVINCI’s Student Collaboration Experiment is educating and training young scientists and engineers in planetary science and engineering skills and providing a real-world application for those skills. “We are trying to engage and encourage the next generation of planetary scientists and engineers,” says Dr. Noam Izenberg, principal research staff at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and student collaboration lead for VfOx on DAVINCI.

Students will build the VfOx instrument, analyze the data it returns from Venus, and participate in science activities with the DAVINCI science team. Students involved will be advised by faculty at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The excitement of being actively involved with a real space-flight mission as an undergraduate may be one of the best incentives to attract a diverse group of students to this project. “We want to attract more students from all backgrounds, including the less-advantaged and the less-represented,” says Dr. Izenberg. “There will be lots of mentors across the board – on the mission and science side, and the engineering side – where students can find not just mentors of the professions that they might be looking for, but also mentors who look like them, because the DAVINCI team itself is fairly good in its own diversity.”

Johns Hopkins will be working in collaboration with the Applied Physics Lab to plan and implement the student experiment. Johns Hopkins will also work in collaboration with the Maryland Institute College of Arts in Baltimore, which has an extreme arts institute that will be involved with an intersection between science and art. The Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute in Baltimore will help coordinate this project, and Morgan State University in Baltimore is an intended partner.  

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the principal investigator institution for DAVINCI and will perform project management and scientific leadership for the mission, as well as project systems engineering to develop the probe flight system. Goddard also leads the project science support team and provides two key instruments on the probe.

DAVINCI mission to Venus:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Bill Steigerwald/Brooke Hess.


CASC - Long March-2C launches GeeSAT-5 (01)~(09) satellites


CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

June 2, 2022

Long March-2C carrying GeeSAT-5 (01)~(09) satellites liftoff

A Long March-2C launch vehicle launched GeeSAT-5(01)~(09), the Geely Constellation Group 01 satellites (吉利星座01组卫星), nine low Earth orbit (LEO) remote sensing and communication satellites, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan Province, southwest China, on 2 June 2022, at 04:00 UTC (12:00 local time).

Long March-2C launches GeeSAT-5 (01)~(09) satellites

According to official sources, the satellites have entered the planned orbits and are “all equipped with multi-spectral remote sensing payloads, and will carry out remote sensing application verifications such as future travel, vehicle-machine/mobile phone remote sensing interaction, and marine environmental protection through on-orbit networking”.

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

Image, Video, Text, Credits: China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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Magnetic vortices explain mysterious auroral beads


ESA - Cluster Mission patch.

June 2, 2022

One solar stormy day in November 2018, 13 spacecraft including ESA’s Cluster mission were in the right place at the right time to spot a process that has never been seen in its entirety before. Their observations explain how vortices at the edge of Earth’s magnetosphere can cause auroral beads to dot the sky a hundred thousand kilometres below.

Auroral beads

This connection between auroral beads appearing on Earth’s ‘dayside’ (or Sun-facing side) and the vortices confirms a theory about how these unique auroras – known as beads because they look like a string of pearls hung across the sky – form. As some spacecraft observed the vortices themselves, others saw that a stream of charged particles used the vortices as access points to tunnel down towards Earth’s surface, causing the sky to glow.

The magnetosphere is Earth’s defence against the charged particles and radiation blasted in our direction by the Sun (also known as the solar wind). This defence takes the form of a giant magnetic bubble in the shape of a shield facing the Sun. On 6 November 2018, 12 spacecraft were all located close to the magnetopause – the thin boundary at the outer edge of the magnetosphere – on the night side of Earth, where the magnetosphere stretches out into a tail.

Cluster and XMM-Newton observe Earth's magnetosphere

Among the 12 spacecraft located close to the magnetosphere were the four that make up ESA’s Cluster mission, as well as NASA’s four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft and three Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) spacecraft, and JAXA’s Geotail. In addition, a US Defence Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellite observed the auroral beads from close to Earth’s surface.

“This discovery shows that the Cluster spacecraft are part of a ‘magnetospheric orchestra’ of missions that together enable extra science that is not possible to achieve with each mission individually,” explains Philippe Escoubet, ESA’s Cluster project scientist.

The vortices – which themselves were originally detected by Cluster – are formed when the solar wind blows past the magnetopause. Just as wind on Earth can whip up oceans and clouds, the solar wind can roll up the magnetopause into giant waves comprised of whirlpool-like vortices.

When a vortex is at the ‘goldilocks’ size – not too big, but not too small – electrons from the solar wind swirl around its centre, before entering the magnetosphere, travelling towards and reaching Earth’s upper atmosphere. There, the electrons collide with hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, causing them to glow and form an auroral bead in the sky. These round beads – one for each vortex – appear in groups that follow each other across the sky. This is in contrast to ‘normal’ aurora which are flatter, more elongated and not so well organised.

Image above: When the solar wind blows past the magnetopause, vortices can form, which sends a stream of electrons towards Earth’s surface.

“It’s great to use multi-satellite missions to make connections between dynamics at the edge of the magnetosphere and what we see in the ionosphere far below,” says Steven Petrinec, lead author of the study, which was recently published in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science. “Due to the scarcity of observations and sampling locations within the magnetosphere, it is important to take full advantage of multiple mission observations whenever possible to understand the connections between different processes within the large and complex system.”

Since Cluster launched on 16 July 2000, it has revealed a plethora of interesting details about the magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind. By making the most detailed investigation yet into how the Sun and Earth interact, Cluster is helping us prepare for the effects of sudden bursts of solar energy here on Earth.

Philippe continues: “Cluster has been operating for almost 22 years now. In the beginning, it was one of the only missions observing the magnetosphere, so we were mainly comparing the four spacecraft with each other. But nowadays we can compare their data with those from other missions, such as MMS and THEMIS.”

Artist’s impression of the four Cluster spacecraft

This research demonstrates the importance of multiple different spacecraft, each with their own complement of scientific instruments, monitoring the same events from different vantage points.

Simon Wing, a co-author of the study, notes: “This study also highlights the importance of connecting these multi-spacecraft observations with theory. In this case, using the multi-point observations at the magnetopause, the theory is able to predict the dimension of the auroral beads observed by the DMSP satellites in the upper atmosphere.”

Steven, who works on NASA’s MMS mission, adds: “Philippe and I make sure that we get Cluster and MMS working together as closely as possible. For example, Philippe always sends me information about when the two will be physically close, so we can ensure that all the spacecraft are working optimally together when they are monitoring the same region of the magnetosphere.”

Notes for editors:

‘Multi-Spacecraft Observations of Fluctuations Occurring Along the Dusk Flank Magnetopause, and Testing the Connection to an Observed Ionospheric Bead’ by Petrinec et al. (2022) is published in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences. DOI:

A previous paper by Johnson et al. (2021) presented the theory on how structures in the magnetosphere could produce auroral beads close to Earth’s surface.

Related links:

ESA’s Cluster:

NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS):

NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS):

JAXA’s Geotail:

US Defence Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP):

Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Vincent Guth/ATG medialab.


NASA’s Perseverance Studies the Wild Winds of Jezero Crater


NASA - Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission logo.

June 2, 2022

The rover’s weather sensors witnessed daily whirlwinds and more while studying the Red Planet.

Image & Animation above: NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its navigation camera to capture these dust devils swirling across Jezero Crater on July 20, 2021, the 148th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI.

During its first couple hundred days in Jezero Crater, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover saw some of the most intense dust activity ever witnessed by a mission sent to the Red Planet’s surface. Not only did the rover detect hundreds of dust-bearing whirlwinds called dust devils, Perseverance captured the first video ever recorded of wind gusts lifting a massive Martian dust cloud.

A paper recently published in Science Advances chronicles the trove of weather phenomena observed in the first 216 Martian days, or sols. The new findings enable scientists to better understand dust processes on Mars and contribute to a body of knowledge that could one day help them predict the dust storms that Mars is famous for – and that pose a threat to future robotic and human explorers.

Jezero Crater may be in one of the most active sources of dust on the planet. Manuel de la Torre Juarez.

“Every time we land in a new place on Mars, it’s an opportunity to better understand the planet’s weather,” said the paper’s lead author, Claire Newman of Aeolis Research, a research company focused on planetary atmospheres. She added there may be more exciting weather on the way: “We had a regional dust storm right on top of us in January, but we’re still in the middle of dust season, so we’re very likely to see more dust storms.”

Perseverance made these observations primarily with the rover’s cameras and a suite of sensors belonging to the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), a science instrument led by Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. MEDA includes wind sensors, light sensors that can detect whirlwinds as they scatter sunlight around the rover, and a sky-facing camera for capturing images of dust and clouds.

“Jezero Crater may be in one of the most active sources of dust on the planet,” said Manuel de la Torre Juarez, MEDA’s deputy principal investigator at JPL. “Everything new we learn about dust will be helpful for future missions.”

Frequent Whirlwinds

The study authors found that at least four whirlwinds pass Perseverance on a typical Martian day and that more than one per hour passes by during a peak hourlong period just after noon.

The rover’s cameras also documented three occasions in which wind gusts lifted large dust clouds, something the scientists call “gust-lifting events.” The biggest of these created a massive cloud covering 1.5 square miles (4 square kilometers). The paper estimated that these wind gusts may collectively lift as much or more dust as the whirlwinds that far outnumber them.

Image & Animation above: This series of images from a navigation camera aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover shows a gust of wind sweeping dust across the Martian plain beyond the rover’s tracks on June 18, 2021 (the 117th sol, or Martian day, of the mission). The dust cloud in this GIF was estimated to be 1.5 square miles (4 square kilometers) in size; it was the first such Martian wind-lifted dust cloud of this scale ever captured in images. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI.

“We think these gust-liftings are infrequent but could be responsible for a large fraction of the background dust that hovers all the time in the Martian atmosphere,” Newman said.

Why Is Jezero Different?

While wind and dust are prevalent all over Mars, what the researchers are finding seems to set Jezero apart. This greater activity may be linked to the crater being near what Newman describes as a “dust storm track” that runs north to south across the planet, often lifting dust during the dust storm season.

Newman added that the greater activity in Jezero could be due to factors such as the roughness of its surface, which can make it easier for the wind to lift dust. That could be one explanation why NASA’s InSight lander – in Elysium Planitia, about 2,145 miles (3,452 kilometers) away from Jezero Crater – is still waiting for a whirlwind to clear its dust-laden solar panels, while Perseverance has already measured nearby surface dust removal by several passing whirlwinds.

“Perseverance is nuclear-powered, but if we had solar panels instead, we probably wouldn’t have to worry about dust buildup,” Newman said. “There’s generally just more dust lifting in Jezero Crater, though average wind speeds are lower there and peak wind speeds and whirlwind activity are comparable to Elysium Planitia.”

In fact, Jezero’s dust lifting has been more intense than the team would have wanted: Sand carried in whirlwinds damaged MEDA’s two wind sensors. The team suspects the sand grains harmed the thin wiring on the wind sensors, which stick out from Perseverance’s mast. These sensors are particularly vulnerable because they must remain exposed to the wind in order to measure it correctly. Sand grains blown in the wind, and likely carried in whirlwinds, also damaged one of the Curiosity rover’s wind sensors (Curiosity’s other wind sensor was damaged by debris churned up during its landing in Gale Crater).

With Curiosity’s damage in mind, the Perseverance team provided an additional protective coating to MEDA’s wires. Yet Jezero’s weather still got the better of them. De la Torre Juarez said the team is testing software changes that should allow the wind sensors to keep working.

“We collected a lot of great science data,” de la Torre Juarez said. “The wind sensors are seriously impacted, ironically, because we got what we wanted to measure.”

More About the Mission

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.

Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more about Perseverance:

Related links:

Science Advances:

Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA):

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

Best regards,

mercredi 1 juin 2022

Station Preps for Progress and Dragon Cargo Missions


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

June 1, 2022

There are now four spacecraft parked at the International Space Station today after a Russian cargo craft undocked Wednesday morning. A fifth spaceship will arrive on Friday to replace it and replenish the Expedition 67 crew with food, fuel, and supplies.

The ISS Progress 79 resupply ship undocked from the rear port of the Zvezda service module at 4:03 a.m. EDT today completing a 214-day cargo mission at the station. The trash-filled space freighter reentered Earth’s atmosphere just over three hours later for a fiery, but safe demise over the Pacific Ocean.

Image above: The SpaceX Cargo Dragon (top) and Crew Dragon vehicles are pictured on Sept. 12, 2021, docked to the station’s Harmony module. Image Credit: NASA.

A new resupply ship, the ISS Progress 81 (81P), stands at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan counting down to a lift off at 5:32 a.m. on Friday. The 81P will dock three-and-a-half hours later to the same Zvezda port vacated by the 79P. The launch and docking activities will be broadcast live on the NASA app and on the NASA website.

Less than a week later, SpaceX will launch its 25th commercial resupply mission to the space station. The Cargo Dragon will launch atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Florida at 10:45 a.m. on June 9. It will arrive the next day at 1:30 p.m. automatically docking to the Harmony module’s forward port previously occupied by Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. NASA TV will broadcast both the Dragon’s liftoff and its arrival at the station.

Image above: The International Space Station soars above an aurora as it orbits 270 miles above the Indian Ocean north of Antarctica. Prominent station components pictured include (from left) Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter, the cupola, and the Rassvet module. Image Credit: NASA.

Meanwhile, the seven station residents orbiting Earth started their shifts today with body mass measurements. The crew mates took turns attaching themselves to a mass measurement device that applies a known force to the individual with the resulting acceleration being used to calculate body mass. The measurements are based on a formula using Newton’s Second Law of Motion (force equals mass times acceleration).

Lab maintenance took precedence today for NASA Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins as they worked throughout Wednesday on life support gear and orbital plumbing components. Lindgren and Hines also had time for blood sample collections as well as tending to the XROOTS space botany experiment.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti also worked on the space botany study as she checked and photographed the growing plants. The two-time station visitor from Italy also analyzed changes in her body composition for the NutrISS investigation then checked out a robotics control terminal.

Commander Oleg Artemyev and Flight Engineer Denis Matveev took turns today studying future planetary piloting and robotic control techniques. Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov serviced power supply systems inside the Zarya module then replaced a laptop computer battery in the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module.

Related articles:

NASA to Provide Live Coverage of Space Station Cargo Launch, Docking

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

Related links:


Expedition 67:

Zvezda service module:

Harmony module:

Mass measurement device:


Zarya module:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,