vendredi 9 septembre 2022

Human Research, Space Botany Wrap Up Crew Workweek


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

September 9, 2022

The Expedition 67 crew wrapped up its workweek today with a host of advanced space science work while also beginning preparations for next month’s crew departure activities on the International Space Station.

Friday’s research topics looked at human cognition and perception, space botany, and Earth observations. The microgravity investigations take place inside and outside the orbital lab helping scientists and engineers develop solutions benefitting the Earth and space economies.

Image above: Mediterranean Cities Light Up the Night - This nighttime photograph from the International Space Station (ISS) as it orbited 261 miles above Earth looks across the Mediterranean Sea from north Africa to southern Europe. The city lights of Algiers, Algeria to Tunis, Tunisia highlight Africa's northern coast from the bottom center toward the upper right. From far left, the lights of city-state Monaco to Naples, Italy define the shores of southern Europe. The French island of Corsica and the Italian island of Sardinia are also pictured. The ISS circles the Earth every 90 minutes, traveling at about 17,500 miles (28,000 km) per hour. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineers Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins were back in the Columbus laboratory module on Friday morning exploring how cognition and perception is affected when living in space long-term. The duo took turns lying horizontally inside Columbus while gripping and maneuvering a specialized device in response to pre-programmed stimuli. Observations may provide insights helping astronauts adapt to the differing gravitational environments of deep space travel, planets, moons, and asteroids.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from ESA (European Space Agency) nourished and checked on vegetables growing for the non-soil XROOTS space agricultural study. The experiment explores hydroponic and aeroponic methods as a way to grow larger scale crops during missions beyond low-Earth. NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren removed a small satellite deployer from inside the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock in the morning after it completed its latest CubeSat deployment mission.

Lindgren and Hines also joined each other on Friday afternoon and practiced on a computer the procedures they would use to return to Earth inside the Crew Dragon Freedom spaceship. Freedom Commander Lindgren and Pilot Hines, along with Dragon Mission Specialists Watkins and Cristoforetti, are targeting undocking from the space station next month and ending their mission which began on April 27.

Image above: Astronauts (from left) Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and Kjell Lindgren talked to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday when she visited the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Lindgren, Hines and Watkins received a call from Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday morning when she visited the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). The Vice President is in Houston with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson for a meeting of the National Space Council and a tour of JSC’s facilities.

Roscosmos Commander Oleg Artemyev and Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov partnered together in the afternoon for an Earth observation study in the station’s Russian segment. The duo filmed their activities for educational purposes as they photographed landmark’s on the ground using powerful cameras and ultrasonic techniques. Artemyev had earlier checked seat components inside the Soyuz MS-21 crew ship while Korsakov trained to operate the European robotic arm. Flight Engineer Denis Matveev spent his day on Russian life support maintenance and payload operations.

Related links:

Expedition 67:

Columbus laboratory module:


Kibo laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Repair Work Underway, Preparations Continue for Next Launch Opportunity


NASA - ARTEMIS 1 Mission patch.

Sept. 9, 2022

Engineers are making progress repairing the area where a liquid hydrogen leak was detected during the Artemis I launch attempt Sept. 3, and NASA is preserving options for the next launch opportunity as early as Friday, Sept. 23.

Technicians constructed a tent-like enclosure around the work area to protect the hardware and teams from weather and other environmental conditions at Launch Pad 39B. They have disconnected the ground- and rocket-side plates on the interface, called a quick disconnect, for the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line, performed initial inspections, and began replacing two seals – one surrounding the 8-inch line used to fill and drain liquid hydrogen from the core stage, and another surrounding the 4-inch bleed line used to redirect some of the propellant during tanking operations. The SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft are in good condition while remaining at the launch pad.

Image above: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is seen at Launch Pad 39B Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as teams work to replace the seal on an interface, called the quick disconnect, between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line on the mobile launcher and the rocket.  Photo Credits: NASA/Chad Siwik.

Once the work is complete, engineers will reconnect the plates and perform initial tests to evaluate the new seals. Teams will check the new seals under cryogenic, or supercold, conditions no earlier than Sept. 17 in which the rocket’s core stage and interim cryogenic propulsion stage will be loaded with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to validate the repair under the conditions it would experience on launch day. Engineers are in the process of developing a full plan for the checkouts.

NASA has submitted a request to the Eastern Range for an extension of the current testing requirement for the flight termination system. NASA is respecting the range’s processes for review of the request, and the agency continues to provide detailed information to support a range decision.  

In the meantime, NASA is instructing the Artemis team to move forward with all preparations required for testing, followed by launch, including preparations to ensure adequate supplies of propellants and gases used in tanking operations, as well as flight operations planning for the mission. NASA has requested the following launch opportunities:

- Sept 23: Two-hour launch window opens at 6:47 a.m. EDT; landing on Oct. 18
- Sept. 27: 70-minute launch window opens at 11:37 a.m.; landing on Nov. 5

NASA’s teams internally are preparing to support additional dates in the event flexibility is required. The agency will evaluate and adjust launch opportunities and alternate dates based on progress at the pad and to align with other planned activities, including DART’s planned impact with an asteroid, the west coast launch of a government payload, and the launch of Crew-5 to the International Space Station.

Listen to a replay of today’s media teleconference on the status of the Artemis I mission ( Artemis I is an uncrewed flight test to provide a foundation for human exploration in deep space and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.

Artemis I Mission Availability

Related articles:

ARTEMIS 1 - Teams Continue to Review Options for Next Attempt, Prepare to Replace Seal

NASA to Stand Down on Artemis I Launch Attempts in Early September, Reviewing Options

Artemis I Launch Attempt Scrubbed (Again)

Second try for the Artemis I Moon flight

Engineers Assess Data After Scrub, Mission Managers to Meet Tuesday Afternoon

ARTEMIS 1 - Launch Attempt Scrubbed

Related links:

Artemis I:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Orion spacecraft:

European Service Module (ESM):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Chang’e-5 mission - Changesite-(Y) - new mineral discovered on the Moon

CLEP - China Lunar Exploration Program logo.

Sep 9, 2022

Changesite-(Y) - new mineral discovered on the Moon

The Changesite-(Y) mineral (嫦娥石): according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), scientists at the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology (BRIUG) have discovered a previously unknown mineral in the soil sample collected by the Chang’e-5 mission near Mons Rümker, in the Oceanus Procellarum region of the Moon.

Changesite-(Y) - new mineral discovered on the Moon

Related link:

For more information about China National Space Administration (CNSA), visit:

Image, Video, Text, Credits: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of September 5, 2022


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

Sep 9, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Sept. 5 that included studying microgravity’s effect on the human grip, evaluating the behavior of liquids in a sphere, and launching small satellites carrying scientific investigations and technology demonstrations.

Image above: This image of clouds along the Amazon River as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean was taken as the International Space Station orbited 258 miles above Brazil. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Grip this

An investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), GRIP studies the effects of spaceflight on a person’s ability to regulate the force of their grip and trajectory of upper limbs when manipulating objects. These abilities are adapted to Earth’s gravity and microgravity provides a unique environment to examine them and better understand how the human nervous system controls movement. Results could help to identify potential hazards for astronauts as they move between gravitational environments and contribute to better design of touch-based controls for systems used on future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. During the week, crew members performed seated and supine sessions for the investigation.

Looking at liquid behavior

Image above: The ESA FLUIDICS investigation uses transparent spheres like this one to observe behavior of liquid in a sphere, including sloshing and wave turbulence. Image Credit: NASA.

Observing liquid behavior inside a sphere in microgravity provides a good model for what happens in a spacecraft’s fuel tank. FLUIDICS, an investigation from ESA, evaluates the behavior of liquid in a sphere, including sloshing and wave turbulence. Results could provide insight into measuring the volume of the liquid, which may help improve the guidance and precision of satellites and optimize their lifespan through better fuel management. This investigation also may help provide a better understanding of Earth’s oceans, including the phenomenon of "rogue waves,” and contribute to improving climate prediction systems and optimizing the use of ocean-based renewable energy. Crew members performed several runs of the experiment during the week.

Small satellites, big results

The space station’s Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer provides a low-cost platform for launching these small satellites into space. CubeSats enable a variety of scientific investigations and technology demonstrations and provide students with opportunities for hands-on experience. During the week, crew members set up to launch five CubeSats.

Animation above: The space station’s Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer launches several of the small satellites, which carry scientific investigations and technology demonstrations. Animation Credit: NASA.

CapSat1 demonstrates a capacitor-based electrical power system for CubeSats, which currently use primarily lithium-ion polymer batteries. Capacitors have been shown to be safer, more cost- and volume-efficient, and more temperature-durable. The project, developed by The Weiss School in Florida, also provides hands-on engineering experience to middle and high school students.

Drag De-orbit Device (D3) tests a device with controllable drag surfaces to adjust a satellite’s rate of orbital decay and an algorithm for controlling these surfaces to reach a targeted re-entry point. This technology could provide a quicker way to deorbit spacecraft, helping to reduce the risk to other spacecraft and the ground.

Click A demonstrates laser pointing technology for communications between small spacecraft and for determining relative position of groups of small spacecraft. These groups, called constellations or swarms, could carry sensors for a variety of scientific investigations.

JagSat tests an instrument to measure electron density in the upper layer of Earth’s ionosphere. The instrument can be re-configured from the ground, providing flexibility for scientific experiments in space. It also enables study of irregularities in the upper atmosphere that can interfere with radio signals and hamper operations on Earth that rely on such signals.

BeaverCube uses multiple cameras to photograph Earth’s oceans and detect the temperature of cloud tops and the ocean surface. These data may improve understanding of the concentration of phytoplankton, microscopic marine algae that play a significant role in generating atmospheric oxygen and in Earth’s climate and weather systems.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- RFID Smart Sensor builds on radio frequency identification (RFID) inventory management technology used on the space station. Results could increase the accuracy of RFID inventory and location estimates, reducing crew time spent on manual inventories and searching for items and freeing up more time for scientific investigations and other activities.

- Ring Sheared Drop examines formation of amyloid fibrils, which create a waxy plaque in the brain and may be involved in development of some neurological diseases. Investigation results may contribute to a better understanding of these diseases and development of potential treatments.

- Standard Measures collects a set of core measurements, including data on behavioral health and performance, cellular profiles and immunology, the microbiome, biochemistry markers, sensorimotor changes, and cardiovascular health. These data help researchers characterize adaptive responses to living and working in space and monitor the effectiveness of countermeasures.

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

Space to Ground: For the Progress of All: 09/09/2022

The space station, a robust microgravity laboratory with a multitude of specialized research facilities and tools, has supported many scientific breakthroughs from investigations spanning every major scientific discipline. The ISS Benefits for Humanity 2022 publication details the expanding universe of results realized from more than 20 years of experiments conducted on the station.

Related links:

Expedition 67:



Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer:


Drag De-orbit Device (D3):

Click A:



ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Spiralling Stars Provide a Window into the Early Universe


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

Sept. 9, 2022

NGC 346

Astronomers have been bemused to find young stars spiralling into the centre of a massive cluster of stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. The outer arm of the spiral in this huge, oddly shaped stellar nursery — called NGC 346 — may be feeding star formation in a river-like motion of gas and stars. This is an efficient way to fuel star birth, researchers say.

The Small Magellanic Cloud has a simpler chemical composition than the Milky Way, making it similar to the galaxies found in the younger Universe, when heavier elements were more scarce. Because of this, the stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud burn hotter and so run out of their fuel faster than in our Milky Way. Though a proxy for the early universe, at 200 000 light-years away the Small Magellanic Cloud is also one of our closest galactic neighbours.

Spiralling Stars in NGC 346

Learning how stars form in the Small Magellanic Cloud offers a new twist on how a firestorm of star birth may have occurred early in the history of the Universe, when it was undergoing a 'baby boom' about two to three billion years after the Big Bang (the Universe is now 13.8 billion years old).

The new results show that the process of star formation there is similar to that in our own Milky Way.

Only 150 light-years in diameter, NGC 346 boasts the mass of 50 000 Suns. Its intriguing shape and rapid star formation rate have puzzled astronomers. It took the combined power of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to unravel the behaviour of this mysterious-looking stellar nesting ground.

“Stars are the machines that sculpt the Universe. We would not have life without stars, and yet we don’t fully understand how they form,” explained study leader Elena Sabbi of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “We have several models that make predictions, and some of these predictions are contradictory. We want to determine what is regulating the process of star formation, because these are the laws that we need to also understand what we see in the early Universe.”

Researchers determined the motion of the stars in NGC 346 in two different ways. Using Hubble, Sabbi and her team measured the changes in the stars’ positions over 11 years. The stars in this region are moving at an average velocity of 3200 kilometres per hour, which means that in 11 years they move 320 million kilometres. This is about twice the distance between Earth and the Sun.

Pan of NGC 346

But this cluster is relatively far away, inside a neighbouring galaxy. This means the observed motion is very small and therefore difficult to measure. These extraordinarily precise observations were possible only because of Hubble’s exquisite resolution and high sensitivity. Also, Hubble’s three-decade-long history of observations provides a baseline for astronomers to follow minute celestial motions over time.

The second team, led by Peter Zeidler of AURA/STScI for the European Space Agency, used the ground-based VLT’s Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument to measure radial velocity, which determines whether an object is approaching or receding from an observer.

“What was really amazing is that we used two completely different methods with different facilities and basically we came to the same conclusion independently,” said Zeidler. “With Hubble, you can see the stars, but with MUSE we can also see the gas motion in the third dimension, and it confirms the theory that everything is spiralling inwards.”

But why a spiral?

“A spiral is really the good, natural way to feed star formation from the outside towards the centre of the cluster,” explained Zeidler. “It’s the most efficient way that stars and gas fuelling more star formation can move towards the centre.”

Half of the Hubble data for this study of NGC 346 is archival. The first observations were taken 11 years ago. They were recently repeated to trace the motion of the stars over time. Given the telescope’s longevity, the Hubble data archive now contains more than 32 years of astronomical data, powering unprecedented, long-term studies.

“The Hubble archive is really a gold mine,” said Sabbi. “There are so many interesting star-forming regions that Hubble has observed over the years. Given that Hubble is performing so well, we can actually repeat these observations. This can really advance our understanding of star formation.”

Observations with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope should be able to resolve lower-mass stars in the cluster, giving a more holistic view of the region. Over Webb’s lifespan, astronomers will be able to repeat this experiment and measure the motion of the low-mass stars. They will then be able to compare the high-mass stars and the low-mass stars to finally learn the full extent of the dynamics of this nursery.

More information

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

The teams’ findings appear on 8 September in the Astrophysical Journal:

The international team of astronomers in Sabbi’'s study consists of E. Sabbi (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), P. Zeidler (AURA/STScI for the European Space Agency, Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), R.P. van der Marel (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), A. Nota (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), J. Anderson (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), J.S. Gallagher (Department of Astronomy, University of Wisconsin–Madison, USA), D.J. Lennon (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain; Department of Astrophysics, University of La Laguna, Spain), L.J. Smith (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), and M. Gennaro (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA).

The international team of astronomers in Zeidler’s study consists of P. Zeidler (AURA/STScI for the European Space Agency, Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), E. Sabbi (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), and A. Nota (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA).


Images of Hubble:
Hubblesite release:

Science paper (E. Sabbi et al.):

Science paper (P. Zeidler et al.):

ESA's Hubblesite:

Images Credits: NASA, ESA, A. James (STScI)/Video Credits: NASA, ESA, N. Bartmann/Music: Breath of my Soul/Text Credits: ESA/Hubble/Bethany Downer/AURA/STScI for ESA, Peter Zeidler/STScI, Elena Sabbi.

Best regards,

NASA’s AIRS Instrument Records Typhoon Hinnamnor Before Landfall


NASA - AIRS Mission patch.

Sept. 9, 2022

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder aboard the Aqua satellite captured the outer bands of the powerful tropical cyclone as the storm approached the Korean Peninsula.

Image above: NASA’s AIRS instrument imaged Typhoon Hinnamnor on the afternoon of Sept. 5, shortly before the storm made landfall in South Korea on Sept. 6. This image captured Hinnamnor – the first super typhoon of the Western Pacific season – as it spiraled northward through the East China Sea. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard the Aqua satellite captured imagery of Typhoon Hinnamnor in the West Pacific Ocean just before 2 p.m. local time on Sept. 5. Typhoon Hinnamnor was one of the strongest in South Korea’s recorded history, dropping some 40 inches (102 centimeters) of rain and unleashing record winds.

In an infrared image from AIRS, the typhoon can be seen moving northward over the Korean Peninsula, with the coast of China to the west and the southernmost Japanese islands to the east. The large purple area of the image indicates very cold clouds at about minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 67 degrees Celsius), carried high into the atmosphere by deep thunderstorms. These storm clouds are associated with heavy rainfall. The image’s extensive areas of red beyond the storm indicate temperatures of around 80 F (26 C), typical of Earth’s daytime surface during late summer. These areas are mostly cloud-free, with the clear air caused by air motion outward from the cold clouds in the storm center then downward in the surrounding areas.

U.S. Hurricane Hunter planes don’t monitor the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, so AIRS and other satellite instruments are essential for tracking typhoons as they grow. AIRS, launched in 2002, was the first instrument to reveal the 3D distribution of rain within tropical storms like Hinnamnor. These 3D images have made a major contribution to knowledge of how hurricanes and typhoons develop, improving forecasts and saving lives.

One of six instruments aboard Aqua, AIRS provides data that is improving weather forecasts and advancing our understanding of Earth’s climate. AIRS, along with its partner microwave instrument the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit, AMSU-A, was a generational advancement in atmospheric sounding systems at its launch and has provided two decades of high-quality atmospheric observations. These instruments are part of NASA’s larger Earth observing fleet, which works to measure components of the global water and energy cycles, climate variation and trends, and the response of the climate system to increased greenhouse gases.

EOS Aqua satellite. Image Credit: NASA

AIRS, in conjunction with AMSU-A, senses infrared and microwave radiation emitted from Earth to provide a 3D look at the planet’s weather and climate, making observations down to Earth’s surface. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, 3D map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations, and many other atmospheric phenomena. AIRS is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, a division of Caltech.

More information about Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) can be found at:

Aqua satellite:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Jane J. Lee/Andrew Wang.


jeudi 8 septembre 2022

Crew Studies Adapting to Microgravity, Scans Retinas


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

September 8, 2022

More human research, including how astronauts move around in microgravity as well as the effect of weightlessness on vision, packed the science program aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. The seven-member Expedition 67 crew also continued its ongoing focus on life support, orbital plumbing, and electronics systems maintenance.

The lack of an up and down reference while living in microgravity affects how astronauts manipulate and grip objects. Researchers want to get a closer understanding of that behavior to keep astronauts safe in the differing gravitational environments of deep space travel, planets, moons, and asteroids. NASA Flight Engineers Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins took turns seated inside the Columbus laboratory module on Thursday for the long-running GRIP experiment. The duo gripped and maneuvered a specialized device in response to pre-programmed stimuli so scientists can gain insights into a crew member’s cognition and perception during spaceflight.

Image above: The sun’s glint beams across the English Channel and the North Sea in between England and the northern European coast as the station orbited 263 miles above. Image Credits: Thomas Pesquet/ESA.

Hines would go on to orbital plumbing duties filling water containers in the Unity module. Watkins wrapped up her day installing radio frequency identification (RFID) readers inside Unity. The installation work is part of the RFID Smart Sensing study that seeks to improve inventory accuracy and item location on the station.

ESA (European Space Agency) Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti checked radiation detection hardware and collected microbe samples from the area around the Veggie space botany facility for analysis. NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren stowed biology research hardware and then tested the station’s new toilet system located in the Tranquility module.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Eye checks were back on the schedule on Thursday for Commander Oleg Artemyev and Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov. The duo took turns scanning each other’s retinas using medical imaging hardware with real-time support from doctors on the ground. The eye exams help researchers understand how weightlessness affects vision and the shape of the eye. Flight Engineer Denis Matveev spent his day servicing Russian life support gear and stowing hardware for disposal inside the ISS Progress 80 resupply ship docked to the Poisk module.

Related links:

Expedition 67:

GRIP experiment:

Unity module:

RFID Smart Sensing:


Tranquility module:

Poisk module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


NASA Manages Astronaut Health with Effective Diagnostics Research


ISS - Exploration Medical Capability (ExMC) patch.

Sep 8, 2022

As NASA prepares to send astronauts further into space for longer durations, managing and maintaining their health is a top priority. Researchers and engineers are currently testing a suite of medical diagnostic devices aboard the International Space Station that will help astronauts evaluate their physical condition.

In a recent technology demonstration mission, experts from NASA’s Human Research Program’s Exploration Medical Capability (ExMC) team successfully tested the Reusable Handheld Electrolyte and Laboratory Technology for Humans (rHEALTH) ONE biomedical analyzer, a portable device that uses laser technology to diagnose illness or injury.

Launched to the station in February, rHEALTH is a miniature flow cytometer that can detect cells and other biomarkers to assess biological changes. It was put through a series of tests on the space station over two days by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency).

Image above: ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti operates the rHEALTH analyzer on the International Space Station in May 2022. Image Credit: NASA.

The ExMC research group, which is working to provide medical tools and capabilities for astronauts to use in exploration spaceflight, adapted the rHEALTH analyzer for use in microgravity.

There are a variety of medical conditions that can affect astronauts who live for prolonged periods in space including blood clots, kidney stones, radiation exposure and a range of other illnesses and injuries. But access to traditional medical diagnostics and treatments when working on the Moon or even Mars would not be available.

“Astronauts could use rHEALTH to perform a full self-diagnosis without technical training,” said Eugene Chan, inventor of the unit. “They only need a drop of blood, saliva, or urine to put into the reader and within minutes they have the results of a range of crucial health indicators.”

The device offers a two-pronged approach-- a sensor is affixed to the chest and streams real-time vital signs to the astronauts and NASA’s medical team on Earth.  Additionally, the astronaut collects a single biological sample (e.g., blood, salvia, etc.) on a nanostrip and inserts it into the device. Once inside the rHEALTH reader, microfluidic technology performs dilution, mixing, and complete sample prep.

The sample is then exposed to two lasers that read and analyze it, collecting over 100 million raw data points for particles the size of cells.  Thousands of tests are recorded, referenced to calibrators, and then finally communicated to the astronaut and physicians on the ground within minutes. This type of demo using small samples is the first of its kind in orbit, allowing astronauts the potential to get much more biomedical information, faster.

Before the launch to the station, the rHEALTH analyzer was modified to function in microgravity. While gravity pulls water to the bottom of containers and air rises to the top, the two float freely together in space. Engineers had to adapt all the external connections to seal the water in and create air/water separation techniques to keep air bubbles out. The rHEALTH unit pushes water with air pressure to flow a sample through the device. Engineers had to design a container that could be squeezed easily and made an assembly with soft medical balloons that looks just like a pair of lungs.

“NASA has made a concerted effort to sponsor and test medical technologies over the past decades to advance human health and performance in space. rHEALTH is a great example of this partnership between NASA and industry to bring the best technologies to flight,” said Gail Perusek, project manager for ExMC and co-investigator for rHEALTH at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.   “Each of these successful tests on the space station help us get closer to designing and building a complete integrated medical architecture to accompany our explorers into deep space.”

The ExMC's mission includes advancing medical system design for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and promoting human health and performance in space in collaboration with other scientists. These scientists evaluate various commercially available medical technologies developed on the ground to test them aboard the space station for potential use in future exploration space missions.

Related links:

Exploration Medical Capability (ExMC):

NASA’s Glenn Research Center:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kelly Sands/Glenn Research Center/Nancy Smith Kilkenny.

Best regards,

ARTEMIS 1 - Teams Continue to Review Options for Next Attempt, Prepare to Replace Seal


NASA - ARTEMIS 1 Mission patch.

Sept. 8, 2022

After standing down on the Artemis I launch attempt Saturday, Sept. 3 due to a hydrogen leak, teams have decided to replace the seal on an interface, called the quick disconnect, between the liquid hydrogen fuel feed line on the mobile launcher and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket while at the launch pad.

Image above: NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop a mobile launcher at Launch Pad 39B during preparations for launch, Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Performing the work at the pad requires technicians to set up an enclosure around the work area to protect the hardware from the weather and other environmental conditions, but enables engineers to test the repair under cryogenic, or supercold, conditions. Performing the work at the pad also allows teams to gather as much data as possible to understand the cause of the issue. Teams may return the rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to perform additional work that does not require use of the cryogenic facilities available only at the pad.

To meet the current requirement by the Eastern Range for the certification on the flight termination system, NASA would need to roll the rocket and spacecraft back to the VAB before the next launch attempt to reset the system’s batteries.

Additionally, teams will also check plate coverings on other umbilical interfaces to ensure there are no leaks present at those locations. With seven main umbilical lines, each line may have multiple connection points.

Artemis I Mission Availability

Related articles:

NASA to Stand Down on Artemis I Launch Attempts in Early September, Reviewing Options

Artemis I Launch Attempt Scrubbed (Again)

Second try for the Artemis I Moon flight

Engineers Assess Data After Scrub, Mission Managers to Meet Tuesday Afternoon

ARTEMIS 1 - Launch Attempt Scrubbed

Related links:

Artemis I:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Orion spacecraft:

European Service Module (ESM):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Kathryn Hambleton.


mercredi 7 septembre 2022

Space Agriculture and Eye Checks Promoting Healthy Crews


ISS - Expedition 67 Mission patch.

September 7, 2022

Space botany and eye checks were at the top of the research schedule aboard the International Space Station on Wednesday. Life support system upgrades also continued during the middle of the week for the Expedition 67 crew members.

Understanding how plants and humans are affected by long-term exposure to microgravity is key to prolonging mission success beyond low Earth orbit and to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. NASA and its international partners are learning how crews can sustain themselves independently of ground support for longer periods of time.

Image above: The International Space Station flies into an orbital sunrise 261 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of northwestern Spain. Image Credit: NASA.

Growing vegetables on space missions is critical so astronauts can feed themselves without the support of cargo missions regularly launching from Earth to replenish crews. The XROOTS space agriculture study does not use soil and is exploring growing radishes and mizuna greens on the station using hydroponic and aeroponic methods. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren recirculated fluids for the botany experiment and checked the condition of the growing plants. The study takes place inside the Columbus laboratory module and may inform ways to grow crops on larger scales during missions farther away from Earth.

Lindgren later assisted his fellow astronauts Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins of NASA, including Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency), as they wrapped up two days of life support system upgrades. The quartet moved the oxygen generation system (OGS) rack from the Tranquility module to the U.S. Destiny laboratory module, then moved the Life Support Rack (LSR) from the Harmony module to Tranquility. The foursome finished rack power and data cable connections as well as fluid umbilical installations. The LSR is demonstrating capturing carbon dioxide from the cabin air and recovering 50% of its oxygen for crew use. New sensors are also being tested to detect hydrogen and protect the OGS rack.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

The orbiting lab’s three cosmonauts from Roscosmos began and ended their day with eye checks. Commander Oleg Artemyev and Flight Engineers Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov took turns in the morning scanning each other’s eyes using the Ultrasound 2 device, part of the station’s Human Research Facility-1. In the afternoon, Korsakov took charge as Crew Medical Officer and used medical imaging gear to picture Matveev’s retinas. The eye exams help doctors understand how weightlessness affects vision and the shape of the eye. The trio then spent the rest of the day stowing spacewalk tools, working on life support and electrical systems, and analyzing the Zvezda service module’s atmosphere.

Related links:

Expedition 67:


Columbus laboratory module:

Tranquility module:

U.S. Destiny laboratory module:

Harmony module:

Detection of hydrogen in OGS rack:

Ultrasound 2:

Human Research Facility-1:

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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DART Sets Sights on Asteroid Target


NASA - Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) logo.

Sep 7, 2022

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft recently got its first look at Didymos, the double-asteroid system that includes its target, Dimorphos. On Sept. 26, DART will intentionally crash into Dimorphos, the asteroid moonlet of Didymos. While the asteroid poses no threat to Earth, this is the world’s first test of the kinetic impact technique, using a spacecraft to deflect an asteroid for planetary defense.

Image above: This image of the light from asteroid Didymos and its orbiting moonlet Dimorphos is a composite of 243 images taken by the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO) on July 27, 2022. Image Credits: NASA JPL DART Navigation Team.

This image of the light from asteroid Didymos and its orbiting moonlet Dimorphos is a composite of 243 images taken by the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO) on July 27, 2022.

From this distance—about 20 million miles away from DART—the Didymos system is still very faint, and navigation camera experts were uncertain whether DRACO would be able to spot the asteroid yet. But once the 243 images DRACO took during this observation sequence were combined, the team was able to enhance it to reveal Didymos and pinpoint its location.

“This first set of images is being used as a test to prove our imaging techniques,” said Elena Adams, the DART mission systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “The quality of the image is similar to what we could obtain from ground-based telescopes, but it is important to show that DRACO is working properly and can see its target to make any adjustments needed before we begin using the images to guide the spacecraft into the asteroid autonomously.”

Although the team has already conducted a number of navigation simulations using non-DRACO images of Didymos, DART will ultimately depend on its ability to see and process images of Didymos and Dimorphos, once it too can be seen, to guide the spacecraft toward the asteroid, especially in the final four hours before impact. At that point, DART will need to self-navigate to impact successfully with Dimorphos without any human intervention.

“Seeing the DRACO images of Didymos for the first time, we can iron out the best settings for DRACO and fine-tune the software,” said Julie Bellerose, the DART navigation lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “In September, we’ll refine where DART is aiming by getting a more precise determination of Didymos’ location.”

Using observations taken every five hours, the DART team will execute three trajectory correction maneuvers over the next three weeks, each of which will further reduce the margin of error for the spacecraft’s required trajectory to impact. After the final maneuver on Sept. 25, approximately 24 hours before impact, the navigation team will know the position of the target Dimorphos within 2 kilometers. From there, DART will be on its own to autonomously guide itself to its collision with the asteroid moonlet.

NASA's DART Confirmed on Target To Impact Asteroid Dimorphos. Animation Credit: NASA

DRACO has subsequently observed Didymos during planned observations on Aug. 12, Aug. 13 and Aug. 22.

Johns Hopkins APL manages the DART mission for NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office as a project of the agency's Planetary Missions Program Office. DART is the world's first planetary defense test mission, intentionally executing a kinetic impact into Dimorphos to slightly change its motion in space. While the asteroid does not pose any threat to Earth, the DART mission will demonstrate that a spacecraft can autonomously navigate to a kinetic impact on a relatively small asteroid and prove this is a viable technique to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth if one is ever discovered. DART will reach its target on Sept. 26, 2022.

For more information about the DART mission, visit:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Bill Keeter/Josh Handal/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Justyna Surowiec.


New plasma tech for oxygen, fuel and fertiliser from Mars' atmosphere


ESA - ExoMars Mission logo.

Sept. 7, 2022

Using novel plasma reactors, researchers have shown that it is possible to extract key ingredients from Mars' carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere to provide future astronauts with oxygen, fuel and fertiliser. This technological leap could make it viable for humans to live on Mars.

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter analyses the martian atmosphere

What's new?

Oxygen and nitrogen oxides are two of the most important substances for survival on Mars – oxygen for breathing and refuelling rockets for a return journey, and nitrogen oxides to fertilise crops. Unfortunately there is very little of either in the martian atmosphere.

This new process uses plasma to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen more efficiently than ever before. It also, for the first time, enables nitrogen to react with oxygen to produce nitrogen oxides.

Comparing the atmospheres of Mars and Earth

The research was carried out independently by the University of Antwerp and a group led by the University of Lisbon, who both published their results in August. The teams were funded by the Discovery element of ESA's Basic Activities, having submitted their ideas through ESA's Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP) last year.

How it works

The teams behind the research recreated the Martian atmosphere (96% carbon dioxide, 2% molecular nitrogen and 2% argon) in a homemade plasma reactor. Whilst the University of Antwerp applied microwaves to the gas, the University of Lisbon group used alternatives like radio waves and direct current – both teams were aiming to excite the gas into a plasma state.

Experimental set up at the University of Antwerp

"The plasma is generated by introducing electrical energy into a reactor," says Annemie Bogaerts, who co-authored the University of Antwerp research. "In practice, it comes down to creating small lightning bolts in our reactor. These lightning bolts first split the gas molecules, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen, into highly reactive species, after which these species collide with each other again and form new products."

Carbon dioxide plasma used in the study led by the University of Lisbon

Both teams of researchers successfully created oxygen and carbon monoxide, and the University of Antwerp could combine the generated oxygen with nitrogen compounds. The University of Lisbon group focused on extracting oxygen from the plasma for propulsion or life support.

Recreating Mars-like conditions, the University of Antwerp reactor used an energy input of 1 kWh, the same as that used in the 'Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment (MOXIE)', currently on board NASA's Perseverance rover. In 2021, MOXIE used solar power and a technique called electrolysis to extract ten minutes worth of breathable oxygen on Mars.

Illustration of the experimental set up from the University of Lisbon

Record oxygen production efficiency

The speed at which the University of Antwerp got the conversion processes to take place was really impressive. The reactor could convert carbon dioxide to oxygen at 47 g per hour – or 1.1 kg per day, about 30 times quicker than currently achieved with MOXIE. To put this into perspective, an average human consumes around a kilogram of oxygen per day.

"The real benefit of the plasma technology is how quickly it works and how it produces a lot more product compared to the MOXIE system," explains ESA scientist Aidan Cowley, who oversaw the University of Antwerp research.

A photo from inside the plasma chamber of the University of Antwerp’s experiment

Speed is not the only benefit of the plasma conversion technique. It uses just 10% of the energy of the MOXIE electrolysis experiment and can be started up almost instantaneously, making it compatible with fluctuating solar energy on Mars.

"Plasma conversion of Mars' atmosphere offers an interesting alternative to electrolysis, as conditions on the Red Planet are naturally well suited to it – considering, for example, the atmospheric composition and low pressure," adds ESA engineer Brigitte Lamaze, who oversaw the University of Lisbon research. "This makes it a strategic asset for ESA, and interesting to explore to facilitate our survival in space."

First production of nitrogen oxides

"The creation of nitrogen oxides from a simulated martian atmosphere is a world first in these two projects," explains Leopold Summerer, head of ESA’s Advanced Concepts and Studies Office. “It demonstrates how the funding of exploratory, blue skies research by ESA Discovery can innovate completely new processes, as well as accelerate existing ones.”

For the very first time, researchers demonstrated the possibility of ‘fixing’ molecular nitrogen (N2) into compounds containing nitrogen and oxygen that form the basis of artificial fertiliser. Fixation is any process that causes relatively unreactive N2 to combine chemically with other elements to form more reactive nitrogen compounds.

Soil-based Martian farms will require nitrogen-based fertiliser. In particular, they are likely to benefit from solid forms of fertiliser that could be created by combining nitrogen oxides with astronaut urine to form urea nitrate. Interestingly, urea nitrate is also a powerful explosive which could be used for excavation and seismology studies.

Why it matters

Any long-term human mission to Mars will require breathable air for the crew, fuel for the return trip, and fertiliser to grow food. Taking these from Earth would cost in the realm of a hundred thousand euros per kilogram. Developing the tools to produce them on location is far more efficient. This concept of 'living off the land' is known as in situ resource utilisation (ISRU), and it is something that ESA is investing a lot of time and effort in.

In situ resource utilisation on the Moon

It is also possible that the technology could be applied to tackle environmental challenges on Earth: "The efficiency that you need to make it profitable is more challenging I would say on Earth than on Mars," says Vasco Guerra, who led the University of Lisbon research, referring to the favourable pressure and temperature conditions on Mars. "But the technology can be applied and have an impact much before sending a machine to Mars […] on the research that’s being done on Earth to tackle climate change."

On Earth, current methods of fixing nitrogen to produce nitrogen fertiliser are very energy intensive, accounting for around 2% of the world’s energy consumption and emitting more than 300 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Replacing these methods with plasma technology could significantly reduce the environmental impact.

Humans may one day be living and working on Mars

What's next?

"Based on the results of these studies, we will see how we could bring forward the technology," concludes Aidan. "We would need to develop and miniaturise it, but it could be a very interesting European technology to take on board future missions to Mars."


University of Lisbon: 'Plasmas for in situ resource utilization on Mars: Fuels, life support, and agriculture' by V. Guerra et al. (2022) is published in Journal of Applied Physics. DOI:

University of Antwerp: 'Producing oxygen and fertilizer with the Martian atmosphere by using microwave plasma' by S. Kelly et al. (2022) is published in Chem. DOI:


Images, Text, Credits: ESA/ATG medialab/Sean Kelly/Olivier Guaitella/University of Lisbon.

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