samedi 25 juin 2022

Cygnus Cargo Craft Fires Engine for Limited Station Reboost


Northrop Grumman - Cygnus CRS NG-17 Mission patch.

June 25, 2022

On Saturday, June 25, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus completed its first limited reboost of the International Space Station. Cygnus’ gimbaled delta velocity engine was used to adjust the space station’s orbit through a reboost of the altitude of the space station. The maneuver lasted 5 minutes, 1 second and raised the station’s altitude 1/10 of a mile at apogee and 5/10 of a mile at perigee.

Image above: The Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman, with its prominent cymbal-shaped solar arrays, is pictured attached to the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

This Cygnus mission is the first to feature this enhanced capability as a standard service for NASA, following a test of the maneuver which was performed in 2018 during Cygnus’s ninth resupply mission. Cygnus arrived to the orbital outpost in February and is slated to depart from space station Tuesday, June 28, where it will burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere. NASA TV coverage for the unberthing will begin at 5:45 am EDT on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

Related links:


NASA app:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

vendredi 24 juin 2022

Crew Studies Aging in Space, Harvests Edible Plants Before Cygnus Reboost


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

June 24, 2022

Human research and space botany were the main research activities aboard the International Space Station today helping NASA and its international partners keep astronauts healthy on long-term missions. The seven Expedition 67 crew members also ensured the orbiting lab continues operating in tip-top shape at the end of the workweek.

NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren continued investigating why microgravity accelerates aging-like symptoms in humans. He processed blood and urine samples then stowed them in a science freezer for the Phospho-Aging study. Living in space affects molecular mechanisms that speed up the loss of bone and muscle mass. Results may inform countermeasures to keep astronauts healthier longer in space and improve the lives of aging citizens on Earth.

Image above: The sun’s rays burst above Earth’s horizon as the space station orbited 264 miles above Western Australia on the coast of Shark Bay. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins began harvesting radishes and mizuna greens growing without soil for the XROOTS space gardening study today. The experiment uses hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow edible plants so future crews can sustain themselves on longer spaceflight missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

NASA Flight Engineer Bob Hines activated the Astrobee robotic free-flyers today to test their ability to autonomously navigate and maneuver inside the Kibo laboratory module using smartphone technology. ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut spent her day servicing orbital plumbing components inside the Tranquility module.

In the station’s Russian segment, Commander Oleg Artemyev programmed a camera for an Earth observation study while Flight Engineer Denis Matveev transferred air and water from the Progress 81 cargo craft into the station. Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov closed out test operations of the European robotic arm then moved on to ventilation system work.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

On Saturday, June 25, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft will perform its first limited reboost of the International Space Station. Cygnus’ gimbaled delta velocity engine will be used to adjust the space station’s orbit through a reboost of the altitude of the space station. This Cygnus mission is the first to feature this enhanced capability as a standard service for NASA, following a test of the maneuver which was performed in 2018 during Cygnus’ ninth resupply mission. Cygnus arrived to the orbital outpost in February and is slated to depart from space station Tuesday, June 28, where it will burn up harmlessly in the Earth’s atmosphere. NASA TV coverage for the unberthing will begin at 5:45 am EDT on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

This reboost follows an initial attempted reboost on June 20 which was terminated early as a conservative measure due to system parameters that differed from Cygnus flight operations. Investigation by engineers showed that these parameters were acceptable for the reboost and the limits were adjusted for Saturday’s attempt.

Related links:


Expedition 67:




Kibo laboratory module:

Smartphone technology:

Tranquility module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Announces Launch Delay for Psyche Asteroid Mission


NASA - Psyche Asteroid Mission patch.

June 24, 2022

NASA announced Friday the Psyche asteroid mission, the agency’s first mission designed to study a metal-rich asteroid, will not make its planned 2022 launch attempt.

Image above:Illustration of Psyche Spacecraft with Five-Panel Array. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin.

Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft’s flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on Oct. 11. The mission team needs more time to ensure that the software will function properly in flight.

NASA selected Psyche in 2017 as part of the agency’s Discovery Program, a line of low-cost, competitive missions led by a single principal investigator. The agency is forming an independent assessment team to review the path forward for the project and for the Discovery Program.

“NASA takes the cost and schedule commitments of its projects and programs very seriously,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We are exploring options for the mission in the context of the Discovery Program, and a decision on the path forward will be made in the coming months.”

The independent assessment team, typically made up of experts from government, academia, and industry, will review possible options for next steps, including estimated costs. Implications for the agency’s Discovery Program and planetary science portfolio also will be considered.

The spacecraft’s guidance navigation and flight software will control the orientation of the spacecraft as it flies through space and is used to point the spacecraft’s antenna toward Earth so that the spacecraft can send data and receive commands. It also provides trajectory information to the spacecraft’s solar electric propulsion system, which begins operations 70 days after launch.

As the mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California began testing the system, a compatibility issue was discovered with the software’s testbed simulators. In May, NASA shifted the mission’s targeted launch date from Aug. 1 to no earlier than Sept. 20 to accommodate the work needed. The issue with the testbeds has been identified and corrected; however, there is not enough time to complete a full checkout of the software for a launch this year.

“Flying to a distant metal-rich asteroid, using Mars for a gravity assist on the way there, takes incredible precision. We must get it right. Hundreds of people have put remarkable effort into Psyche during this pandemic, and the work will continue as the complex flight software is thoroughly tested and assessed,” said JPL Director Laurie Leshin. “The decision to delay the launch wasn’t easy, but it is the right one.”

The mission’s 2022 launch period, which ran from Aug. 1 through Oct. 11, would have allowed the spacecraft to arrive at the asteroid Psyche in 2026. There are possible launch periods in both 2023 and 2024, but the relative orbital positions of Psyche and Earth mean the spacecraft would not arrive at the asteroid until 2029 and 2030, respectively. The exact dates of these potential launch periods are yet to be determined.

“Our amazing team has overcome almost all of the incredible challenges of building a spacecraft during COVID,” said Psyche Principal Investigator Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University (ASU), who leads the mission. “We have conquered numerous hardware and software challenges, and we’ve been stopped in the end by this one last problem. We just need a little more time and will get this one licked too. The team is ready to move forward, and I’m so grateful for their excellence.”

Total life-cycle mission costs for Psyche, including the rocket, are $985 million. Of that, $717 million has been spent to date. The estimated costs involved to support each of the full range of available mission options are currently being calculated.

Two ride-along projects were scheduled to launch on the same SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as Psyche, including NASA’s Janus mission to study twin binary asteroid systems, and the Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration to test high-data-rate laser communications that is integrated with the Psyche spacecraft. NASA is assessing options for both projects.

ASU leads the Psyche mission. JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, is responsible for the mission’s overall management; system engineering; integration and test; and mission operations. Maxar is providing the high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is managing the launch.

For more on the Psyche mission, visit:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Alana Johnson/Karen Fox.

Best regards,

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of June 20, 2022


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

June 24, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of June 20 that included examining burning and material flammability in microgravity, demonstrating a vision-based navigation system for small spacecraft, and taking photographs of Earth.

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

Answering burning questions

Image above: NASA astronaut Bob Hines replaces components inside the Combustion Integrated Rack, a platform for investigations on flames and fuel, including the SoFIE suite of solid-material combustion and fire suppression studies. Image Credit: NASA.

The Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SoFIE) hardware insert into the station’s Combustion Integration Rack (CIR) enables a wide range of solid material combustion and fire suppression studies. The hardware supports five initial investigations, including SoFIE-MIST, examining thermally-assisted burning in microgravity, and SoFIE-GEL, which determines how fuel temperature affects the flammability of a material. Results could improve understanding of how fires grow in their early stages and inform selection of materials for future space facilities, as well as provide insight into effective methods for extinguishing fires in space. Crew members prepared hardware and conducted operations for SoFIE during the week.

Navigating by sight

Image above: ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti monitors a pair of Astrobees performing autonomous maneuvers inside the International Space Station. These free-flying robots are used for a variety of studies and demonstrations, including SVGS, which demonstrates using a vision-based sensor to navigate and control a small spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA.

The Smartphone Video Guidance Sensor (SVGS) demonstrates using a vision-based sensor to navigate and control a small spacecraft. This technology, developed by NASA, computes the position of a target relative to a camera in the host platform, in this case the space station’s free-flying Astrobee robots. Small size, low power consumption, and relatively simple deployment of this technology could be advantageous for operation of small satellites and docking of crewed vehicles on human exploration missions. SVGS also has potential applications in the operation of autonomous systems on Earth, such as precision landing of drone systems. During the week, the crew conducted test operations for the investigation.

Planet photos

Image above: This image shows the island of Groix off the northwestern Atlantic coast of France as the International Space Station orbits 264 miles above the English Channel. The rivers seen are, from top left to bottom right, La Laïta, Blavet, and Scorf, including the Rivière d'Étel. Image Credit: NASA.

During the week, crew members took photographs for Crew Earth Observations (CEO) using the station’s Window Observational Research Facility (WORF). Photographs from the station’s unique point of view 250 miles above the Earth’s surface record how the planet changes over time due to human activity such as urban growth and natural events like floods. Scientists have used these images in multiple ways, including to study marine organisms, urban vegetation, algal blooms, and river sediments and to capture Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) triggered by lightning storms. CEO also makes it possible to monitor disasters and direct response on the ground. Crew members have been photographing Earth from space since the early Mercury missions beginning in 1961. The images are available to the public for educational, entertainment, or scientific pursuits.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- With the station’s Astrobees, ISAAC demonstrates using autonomous robots to track vehicle health, transfer and unpack cargo, and respond to critical faults such as leaks and fires. This technology could be used to maintain vehicles and habitats on future exploration missions to the Moon and Mars while astronauts are away for extended periods.

- The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) produces clouds of atoms that are much colder than the average temperature of deep space. Atoms at these low temperatures have almost no motion and scientists can use them to study fundamental behaviors.

- The ESA (European Space Agency) BioLab facility supports experiments on microorganisms, cells, tissue cultures, small plants, and small invertebrates, giving scientists a better understanding of the effects of microgravity and space radiation on biological organisms.

- Phospho-aging, an investigation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), examines the molecular mechanism behind aging-like symptoms such as bone loss and muscle atrophy. These changes occur more rapidly in microgravity, and this investigation could lead to countermeasures to protect astronauts on future missions and therapeutic interventions for people experiencing symptoms of aging on Earth.

- 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.

- 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.

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: Wearable Wireless: 06/24/2022

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction (SoFIE):

Combustion Integration Rack (CIR):



Smartphone Video Guidance Sensor (SVGS):


Crew Earth Observations (CEO):

Window Observational Research Facility (WORF):

ISS National Lab :

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


NASA Completes Wet Dress Rehearsal, Moves Forward Toward Launch


NASA - ARTEMIS-1 Mission patch.

June 24, 2022

NASA has analyzed the data from the wet dress rehearsal conducted Monday, June 20, and determined the testing campaign is complete. The agency will roll Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy next week to prepare the rocket and spacecraft for launch.

"During the wet dress rehearsal activities, we have incrementally added to our knowledge about how the rocket and the ground systems work together, and our teams have become proficient in launch procedures across multiple sites. We have completed the rehearsal phase, and everything we've learned will help improve our ability to lift off during the target launch window,” said Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems at NASA Headquarters. “The team is now ready to take the next step and prepare for launch.”

During Monday’s rehearsal, teams were able to validate the timelines and procedures for launch, including loading cryogenic – or supercold – propellant into the rocket’s tanks, performing the launch countdown through the handover to the automated launch sequencer, and draining the tanks. The rehearsal focused on two primary objectives and several secondary objectives to help ensure the team will be ready to launch on the Artemis I flight test.

The primary objectives were:

- Demonstrate cryogenic loading operations through all phases of propellant loading and proceed into terminal countdown, perform a recycle to T-10 minutes, a second terminal countdown, scrub, and perform propellant drain operations and safing activities.

- Demonstrate Kennedy facilities Launch Complex-39 and Launch Control Center in launch countdown configuration and demonstrate operations and connectivity required on day of launch with launch control team, support launch team, 45th Delta Space Force Eastern range, network, and design center support.

Secondary test objectives include:

- Demonstrate successful Kennedy Launch Control Center interfaces with the Marshall SLS Engineering Support Center, Delta Operations Center of the 45th Space Force, and Johnson Flight Control and Mission Evaluation Room including communications, operational television for monitoring the rocket and spacecraft, and telemetry in launch day configuration.

- Collect data on Orion, SLS and mobile launcher launch configuration loads, cryogenic induced deflection and thermal data during cryogenic load and drain, as well as imagery of vehicle performance.

- Validate the timelines/procedures for roll-out and roll-back, launch countdown, launch window including time to complete a recycle and set-up for next T-0.

- Collect data on electromagnetic interference and compatibility with vehicle and 45th Delta Space Force Eastern range systems configured for launch day during planned flight termination system testing.

- Assemble and stage Red Crew, Fire Rescue Crews, Medical and other supporting launch teams.

By reaching deep into the final phase of the countdown, known as the terminal count when many critical activities occur in rapid succession, teams exercised all the assets and capabilities of the entire system: the SLS rocket, the Orion spacecraft, and Exploration Ground Systems including at Launch Complex 39B and other supporting locations.

Despite a liquid hydrogen leak detected earlier in the day when increasing pressure to condition the engines, teams were able develop a plan to proceed into the terminal count with the expectation the countdown would stop after handover to the flight software for the automated launch sequencer. The software performs checks to confirm the engine temperatures are within acceptable range up to the point of the engine start sequence at T-9.34 seconds and operated correctly to halt the countdown at any point if temperatures fall outside that range, just as it would during an actual launch attempt.

"The team continues to impress me with their and creative thinking and resourcefulness,” said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director at Kennedy. “Our Artemis launch team has worked quickly to adapt to the dynamics of propellant loading operations. With each milestone and each test, we are another step closer to launch."

The launch director elected to do a single run through the terminal count due to the length of the day for the launch teams. With experience from loading operations and simulations, it is not necessary to perform a retest to demonstrate the ability to recycle and reset for another run through the terminal count. Additionally, as part of the normal procedures after the cut-off of the countdown, teams successfully completed a set of steps to “safe,” or stabilize and reconfigure, the rocket.

Engineers reviewed the few commands that would have been included within the remaining seconds of the countdown before the engine start sequence and determined those activities had been previously validated in other recent tests. The remaining commands were not part of the objectives, but the team has decided to incorporate additional checks earlier in the countdown as they fine-tune procedures, such as for engine purge bleed parameters and propellant feedline heaters used for conditioning the engines to a specific temperature range for launch. Performing these checkouts earlier in the countdown will provide the team with the best position to make the target launch window.

Before returning to the VAB, engineers will also add a checkout of the booster hydraulic power unit to provide additional data for the countdown schedule. The units contain hydrazine powered turbines attached to pumps that provide pressure to pivot the booster nozzles used for steering the rocket during ascent. The automated launch sequencer sends the command to start the hydraulic power unit at T-28 seconds, which would have occurred just after the point the flight software cut off the countdown at T-29 seconds.

Once inside the VAB, teams will replace a seal on the quick disconnect of the tail service mast umbilical to address a liquid hydrogen leak detected during the rehearsal. NASA plans to return SLS and Orion to the pad for launch in late August, and will set a specific target launch date after replacing hardware associated with the leak.

Artemis I will be the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket and supporting ground systems. As the first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will pave the way for long-term exploration at the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars.

Related links:


Artemis I:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Orion Spacecraft:

Moon to Mars:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Kathryn Hambleton.


This month in orbit: May’s space science


ESA - Minerva Mission patch.

June 24, 2022

Vital research into health, climate, materials and more continues with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and colleagues aboard the Space Station this month. Get up to date with what was on their schedule with May’s space science summary.

Space quartet

On 6 May 2022, ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer made his return to Earth, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico and marking the end of his Cosmic Kiss mission, although post-flight debriefings and science data collection continue.

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti’s Minerva mission continues on the International Space Station. And this month she has been working with colleagues from around the world to conduct yet more fascinating science to benefit us here on Earth. Here’s a round-up of some of this month’s highlights.

Understanding the body

Investigating the ways in which microgravity affects the health of our astronauts is a very important part of research aboard the Space Station. Not only does it allow us to safely continue a sustained human presence in space, but it also gives unique insights into health conditions – and potential treatments – back on Earth.

This month, Samantha and her colleague Kjell Lindgren of NASA both conducted measurements for the Acoustic Diagnostics experiment. This study aims to look at the impact of noise aboard the Space Station and microgravity on hearing. Using specialised equipment, researchers are able to see how otoacoustic emissions (tiny sounds from inside the ear) may change over time in noisy environments.

Astronaut hearing test - Cosmic Kiss

The team also collected data for the ongoing Muscle Tone in Space experiment, Myotones. Astronauts train on gym equipment designed for space for at least one and a half hours a day to keep their muscles in great shape, even without gravity. The Myotones investigation looks at the biochemical properties of muscle during spaceflight, and could lead to new rehabilitation techniques, both for astronauts and the rest of us down here on Earth.

Keeping an eye on Earth

Despite some minor technical issues, data collection for the Atmosphere–Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) continued throughout the month. ASIM studies severe thunderstorms and helps us understand the role they play in Earth’s atmosphere and climate. In the future, it may even help us understand more about how our atmosphere protects us from radiation, as well as make climate models more accurate.

Vegetation fighting land degradation in Mongolia (Kubuqi desert restoration project)

This month Samantha also took Cupola photos of several certificates for ESA’s own Climate Detectives. This youth project aims to stimulate curiosity about issues facing our climate in the next generation of scientists, and empower them to find solutions. She also captured photos of one such solution over China’s Kubuqi Desert on 6 June. More than 50% of the desert is now covered in vegetation following restoration efforts.

Building for the future

The team aboard the Station also ran several experiments investigating the properties of materials in microgravity this month. Firstly, the FSL Soft Matter Dynamics PASTA experiment, which looks at the behaviour of emulsions in microgravity. Emulsions are used in a wide variety of industries on Earth, including food, cosmetics and even medicines. Understanding how they form and their dynamics will allow us to develop better, greener and healthier emulsion-based products and processes.

Fluid science revamp

And it’s not just food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals that benefitted from space research this month. In May and June, astronauts also turned their attention to two studies focusing on alloys. Electro-Magnetic Levitator (EML) and Transparent Alloys experiments look at microstructure and formation of metallic alloy samples. Gathering these measurements helps us understand just what gives alloys their strength, flexibility and longevity.

Preparing to go further

The team on the International Space Station continue to build our capability to explore beyond our own planet. On 1 June, that took the form of Samantha controlling Justin, an Earth-based robot, from Earth orbit. This Surface Avatar experiment will help researchers understand how astronauts may be able to interact with robots on planets’ surfaces in future missions, and design protocols to make the process as easy as possible.

Surface Avatar

On 20 May, Samantha installed sample holders for the Matiss-3 experiment, which explores the antimicrobial properties of hydrophobic (or water repelling) surfaces in space. Because being in space lowers astronaut immune response, keeping their environment sanitary is incredibly important; this study will give us an idea of which materials can best keep pathogens at bay. It’s possible that in the future, the findings of this study may help us to create spacecrafts that are easier to keep clean, freeing up more astronaut time for vital research.

Related links:

Cosmic Kiss mission:

Minerva mission:


Atmosphere–Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM):

Climate Detectives:

PASTA experiment:

Electro-Magnetic Levitator (EML):

Transparent Alloys experiments:

Matiss-3 experiment:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/S.Cristoforetti/A. Conigli.

Best regards,

Second helpings of Mercury


ESA / JAXA - BepiColombo Mission patch.

June 24, 2022

Sunrise and shadows

The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission has made its second gravity assist of planet Mercury, capturing new close-up images as it steers closer towards Mercury orbit in 2025.

Sunrise and shadows (annotated)

The closest approach took place at 09:44 UTC (11:44 CEST) on 23 June 2022, about 200 km above the planet’s surface. Images from the spacecraft’s three monitoring cameras (MCAM), along with scientific data from a number of instruments, were collected during the encounter. The MCAM images, which provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution, were downloaded over the course of yesterday afternoon, and a selection is presented here (click images to expand captions for more details).

“We have completed our second of six Mercury flybys and will be back this time next year for our third before arriving in Mercury orbit in 2025,” says Emanuela Bordoni, ESA’s BepiColombo Deputy Spacecraft Operations Manager.

First sighting of Caloris

Because BepiColombo’s closest approach was on the planet’s nightside, the first images in which Mercury is illuminated were taken at around five minutes after close approach, at a distance of about 800 km. Images were taken for about 40 minutes after the close approach as the spacecraft moved away from the planet again.

First sighting of Caloris (annotated)

As BepiColombo flew from the nightside to dayside, the Sun seemingly rose over the cratered surface of the planet, casting shadows along the terminator – the boundary between night and day – and highlighting the topography of the terrain in dramatic fashion.

Jack Wright, a member of the MCAM team, and a research fellow based at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Madrid, helped to plan the imaging sequence for the flyby. He said: “I punched the air when the first images came down, and I only got more and more excited after that. The images show beautiful details of Mercury, including one of my favourite craters, Heaney, for which I suggested the name a few years ago.”

The search for volcanoes

Heaney is a 125 km wide crater covered in smooth volcanic plains. It hosts a rare example of a candidate volcano on Mercury, which will be an important target for BepiColombo’s high resolution imaging suite once in orbit.

The search for volcanoes (annotated)

Just a few minutes after closest approach and with the Sun shining from above, Mercury’s largest impact feature, the 1550 km-wide Caloris basin swung into view for the first time, its highly-reflective lavas on its floor making it stand out against the darker background. The volcanic lavas in and around Caloris are thought to post-date the formation of the basin itself by a hundred million years or so, and measuring and understanding the compositional differences between these is an important goal for BepiColombo.

BepiColombo’s second Mercury flyby

“Mercury flyby 1 images were good, but flyby 2 images are even better,” commented David Rothery of the Open University who leads ESA’s Mercury Surface & Composition Working Group and who is also a member of the MCAM team. “The images highlight many of the science goals that we can address when BepiColombo gets into orbit. I want to understand the volcanic and tectonic history of this amazing planet.”

BepiColombo surveys Mercury’s rich geology

BepiColombo will build on the data collected by NASA’s Messenger mission that orbited Mercury 2011-2015. BepiColombo’s two science orbiters – ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter – will operate from complementary orbits to study all aspects of mysterious Mercury from its core to surface processes, magnetic field and exosphere, to better understand the origin and evolution of a planet close to its parent star.

BepiColombo surveys Mercury’s rich geology (annotated)

Even though BepiColombo is currently in ‘stacked’ cruise configuration, meaning many instruments cannot be fully operated during the brief flybys, they can still grab insights into the magnetic, plasma and particle environment around the spacecraft, from locations not normally accessible during an orbital mission.

“Our instrument teams on both spacecraft have started receiving their science data and we’re looking forward to sharing our first insights from this flyby,” says Johannes Benkhoff, ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist. “It will be interesting to compare the data with what we collected on our first flyby, and add to this unique dataset as we build towards our main mission.”

BepiColombo first Mercury flyby

BepiColombo’s main science mission will begin in early 2026. It is making use of nine planetary flybys in total: one at Earth, two at Venus, and six at Mercury, together with the spacecraft’s solar electric propulsion system, to help steer into Mercury orbit. Its next Mercury flyby will take place on 20 June 2023.

Related link:


Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/ATG Medialab.


NASA Mars Orbiter Releasing One of Its Last Rainbow-Colored Maps


NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

June 23, 2022

The map, to be released in batches over six months, covers the vast majority of the planet, revealing dozens of minerals found on its surface.

Image above: Seen are six views of the Nili Fossae region of Mars captured by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, or CRISM, one of the instruments aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHU-APL.

Scientists are about to get a new look at Mars, thanks to a multicolored 5.6-gigapixel map. Covering 86% of the Red Planet’s surface, the map reveals the distribution of dozens of key minerals. By looking at mineral distribution, scientists can better understand Mars’ watery past and can prioritize which regions need to be studied in more depth.

The first portions of this map were released by NASA’s Planetary Data System. Over the next six months, more will be released, completing one of the most detailed surveys of the Martian surface ever made. (Read more about these map segments.)

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, has been mapping minerals on the Red Planet for 16 years, with its Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, or CRISM.

Using detectors that see visible and infrared wavelengths, the CRISM team has previously produced high-resolution mineral maps that provide a record of the formation of the Martian crust and where and how it was altered by water. These maps have been crucial to helping scientists understand how lakes, streams, and groundwater shaped the planet billions of years ago. NASA has also used CRISM’s maps to select landing sites for other spacecraft, as with Jezero Crater, where NASA’s Perseverance rover is exploring an ancient river delta.

Image above: This near-global map was captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter using its Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, or CRISM. The yellow square indicates the Nili Fossae region of Mars, which is highlighted in six views in the previous image. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHU-APL.

The first piece of this new map includes 51,000 images, each of which represents a “strip” 336 miles (540 kilometers) long by 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide that was captured as MRO passed overhead. The resolution is lower than CRISM maps made from targeted observations because the data was acquired with the instrument looking straight down, a different imaging strategy designed to cover much more of the planet.

To acquire its data, CRISM used two spectrometers, one of which was designed with three cryocoolers to keep temperatures low so that it could more clearly detect the longest wavelengths of reflected solar infrared light. Used in succession, the last of these cryocoolers completed its lifecycle in 2017, limiting the instrument’s capabilities to view visible wavelengths. So this will be CRISM’s last map covering the instrument’s full wavelength range. The instrument is now in a standby mode and may record data a few more times in the coming months before being decommissioned.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One last map will be released within the year, covering visible wavelengths and focusing only on iron-bearing minerals; this will have twice the spatial resolution of the latest map.

“The CRISM investigation has been one of the crown jewels of NASA’s MRO mission,” said Richard Zurek, the mission’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Analyses based on these final maps will provide new insights into the history of Mars for many years to come.”

MRO is led by JPL, which is a division of Caltech in Pasadena. CRISM is led by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.

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

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NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Spots Rocket Impact Site on Moon


NASA - Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) patch.

June 24, 2022

Animation above: This animated GIF confirms the location of the newly formed rocket body double crater. The before image is LRO's view from Feb. 28, 2022 (M1400727806L). The after image is from May 21, 2022 (M1407760984R). The width of the frame is 367 meters, about 401 yards. Animation Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

Astronomers discovered a rocket body heading toward a lunar collision late last year. Impact occurred March 4, with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter later spotting the resulting crater. Surprisingly the crater is actually two craters, an eastern crater (18-meter diameter, about 19.5 yards) superimposed on a western crater (16-meter diameter, about 17.5 yards).

Image above: A rocket body impacted the Moon on March 4, 2022, near Hertzsprung crater, creating a double crater roughly 28 meters wide in the longest dimension. LROC NAC M1407760984R; image enlarged 3x. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank. Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the double nature of the crater may indicate its identity.

Image above: The crater formed (5.226 degrees north, 234.486 degrees east, 1,863 meters elevation) in a complex area where the impact of ejecta from the Orientale basin event overlies the degraded northeast rim of Hertzsprung basin (536 kilometers diameter). The new crater is not visible in this view, but its location is indicated by the white arrow. LROC WAC mosaic, 110 kilometers width. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

No other rocket body impacts on the Moon created double craters. The four Apollo SIV-B craters were somewhat irregular in outline (Apollos 13, 14, 15, 17) and were substantially larger (greater than 35 meters, about 38 yards) than each of the double craters. The maximum width (29 meters, about 31.7 yards) of the double crater of the mystery rocket body was near that of the S-IVBs.

Images above: These four images show craters formed by impacts of the Apollo SIV-B stages: crater diameters range from 35 to 40 meters (38.2 to 43.7 yards) in the longest dimension. Images Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

LRO is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Launched on June 18, 2009, LRO has collected a treasure trove of data with its seven powerful instruments, making an invaluable contribution to our knowledge about the Moon. NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners to expand human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities.

Image above: Full resolution (100 cm pixels) image centered on the new rocket body impact double crater. NAC M1407760984R, image width 1,100 meters. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

Related Links:

View these images on Arizona State University's LRO Camera website:

Rocket impacts recorded by the Apollo seismic network:

Image feature: "LRO Sees Apollo 14's Rocket Booster Impact Site":

Image feature: "LRO Finds Apollo 16 Booster Rocket Impact Site":

LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/GSFC/Nancy Neal Jones/Arizona State University/By Mark Robinson.


jeudi 23 juin 2022

Aging, Heart Studies on Station Ahead of Cygnus Reboost Test


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

June 23, 2022

The seven-member Expedition 67 crew split its time with a variety of human research and lab maintenance tasks on Thursday. A U.S. resupply ship is also gearing up for a test of its ability to reboost the International Space Station this weekend before its departure next week.

NASA and its international partners continuously explore how living in space affects the human body. Numerous experiments investigate how space station crew members adapt to weightlessness during their months-long missions. Scientists on Earth gain insights into how the human physiology changes and inform ways to sustain crew health over the course of a long-term space mission.

Image above: As the Moon sets below Earth’s horizon the atmosphere refracts, or bends, its light making it appear flatter in this photograph taken from the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren explored how living in space speeds up aging-like symptoms in humans today. He collected and stowed his blood and urine samples for the Phospho-Aging study that seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the rapid loss of bone and muscle mass that takes place in microgravity. Results may inform countermeasures to keep astronauts healthier longer in space and improve the lives of aging citizens on Earth.

Astronauts Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) and Jessica Watkins of NASA worked throughout Thursday on station upkeep activities. Cristoforetti replaced centrifuge components inside the BioLab, a research facility that studies the effects of space and radiation on single celled and multi-cellular organisms. Watkins rearranged computer hardware and installed new science computer software in the Destiny laboratory module.

NASA astronaut Bob Hines, along with Lindgren, trained on a computer to remain proficient in SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle operations. Hines also joined Watkins continuing to film and narrate station operations for downlinking to train astronauts scheduled on future missions.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergey Korsakov attached sensors to themselves today monitoring their cardiac activity. Artemyev then activated Earth observation gear while Korsakov unpacked Russian cargo and worked on hatch sealing mechanisms. Flight Engineer Denis Matveev configured radiation detectors and measured the radiation environment aboard the orbiting lab.

NASA and Northrop Grumman have given the go for Cygnus to try another reboost attempt on Saturday that would lead to Cygnus potentially departing the station on Tuesday, June 28. The reboost is designed to provide Cygnus with an enhanced capability for station operations as a standard service for NASA.

Related links:

Expedition 67:



Destiny laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Searching for matter–antimatter asymmetry with the Higgs boson


CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

June 23, 2022

The ATLAS and CMS collaborations have searched for matter–antimatter asymmetry in the interaction between the Higgs boson and the tau lepton

Image above: ATLAS (left) and CMS (right) candidate events for a Higgs boson decaying into a pair of tau leptons. (Image: CERN).

Symmetries make the world go round, but so do asymmetries. A case in point is an asymmetry known as charge–parity (CP) asymmetry, which is required to explain why matter vastly outnumbers antimatter in the present-day universe even though both forms of matter should have been created in equal amounts in the Big Bang.

The Standard Model of particle physics – the theory that best describes the building blocks of matter and their interactions – includes sources of CP asymmetry, and some of these sources have been confirmed in experiments. However, these Standard Model sources collectively generate an amount of CP asymmetry that is far too small to account for the matter–antimatter imbalance in the universe, prompting physicists to look for new sources of CP asymmetry.

In two recent independent investigations, the international ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) turned to the Higgs boson that they discovered ten years ago to see if this unique particle hides a new, unknown source of CP asymmetry.

The ATLAS and CMS teams had previously searched for – and found no signs of – CP asymmetry in the interactions of the Higgs boson with other bosons as well as with the heaviest known fundamental particle, the top quark. In their latest studies, ATLAS and CMS searched for this asymmetry in the interaction between the Higgs boson and the tau lepton, a heavier version of the electron.

To search for this asymmetry, ATLAS and CMS first looked for Higgs bosons transforming, or “decaying”, into pairs of tau leptons in proton–proton collision data recorded by the experiments during the second run of the LHC (2015–2018). They then analysed this decay’s motion, or “kinematics”, which depends on an angle, called the mixing angle, that quantifies the amount of CP asymmetry in the interaction between the Higgs boson and the tau lepton.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

In the Standard Model, the mixing angle is zero and thus the interaction is CP symmetric, meaning that it remains the same under a transformation that swaps a particle with the mirror image of its antiparticle. In theories that extend the Standard Model, however, the angle may deviate from zero and the interaction may be partially or fully CP asymmetric depending on the angle; an angle of -90 or +90 degrees corresponds to a fully CP-asymmetric interaction, whereas any angle in between, except 0 degrees, corresponds to a partially CP-asymmetric interaction.

After analysing their samples of Higgs boson decays into tau leptons, the ATLAS team obtained a mixing angle of 9 ± 16 degrees and the CMS team −1 ± 19 degrees, both of which exclude a fully CP-asymmetric Higgs boson­–tau lepton interaction with a statistical significance of about three standard deviations.

The results are consistent with the Standard Model within the present measurement precision. More data will allow researchers to either confirm this conclusion or spot CP asymmetry in the Higgs boson–tau lepton interaction, which would have a profound impact on our understanding of the history of the universe.

With the third run of the LHC set to start soon, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations won’t need to wait too long before they can feed more data into their analysis kits to find out whether or not the Higgs boson hides a new source of CP asymmetry.


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

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

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

Related links:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

Standard Model:

Higgs boson:


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

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

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