samedi 29 octobre 2022

CASC - Long March-2D launches Shiyan-20C


CASC - CZ-2D Y72 / Long March-2D / Shiyan-20C patch.

Oct 29, 2022

Long March-2D carrying Shiyan-20C liftoff

A Long March-2D launch vehicle launched the Shiyan-20C satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, China, on 29 October 2022, at 01:01 UTC (09:01 local time).

Long March-2D launches Shiyan-20C

According to official sources, Shiyan-20C (试验二十号C) was placed into the desired orbit and “will be mainly used for in-orbit verification of new technologies such as space environment monitoring”.

Shiyan (satellite). Image Credit: Wikipedia

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

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


vendredi 28 octobre 2022

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of October 24, 2022


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Oct 28, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Oct. 24 that included studying how the body’s adaptation to spaceflight affects blood pressure regulation, testing a technology to locate and identify cargo, and evaluating fluid behavior in space.

Image above: Lake Nasser, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, in southern Egypt as seen from the International Space Station as it orbits 262 miles above. Image Credit: NASA.

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

Regulating blood pressure in space

Image above: NASA astronaut Josh Cassada stows biological specimens inside the International Space Station’s science freezer. Image Credit: NASA.

Astronauts experience changes in their cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal systems during spaceflight. These changes represent a challenge for future long-duration missions, particularly those that involve activities in different levels of gravity such as landing on Mars or the Moon. An investigation from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), CARDIOBREATH, studies the combined effects of cardiovascular and respiratory adaptations on blood pressure regulation during spaceflight. Results could provide a better understanding of the mechanisms behind these changes and support development of ways to assess their effects on blood pressure during and after long-duration missions. Spaceflight-induced changes in the body parallel many associated with aging, and this research may contribute to better health care and improved quality of life for the elderly on Earth. During the week, crew members conducted respiratory measurements for the investigation.

A serious game of tag

Image above: Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) works in the U.S. Quest airlock on electronics components. Image Credit: NASA.

RFID Recon uses a radio frequency identification (RFID) reader and antennas attached to a free-flying Astrobee robot to identify and locate tagged cargo on the space station. Similar to barcodes, RFID tags are electronic, do not require a line of sight, and can operate through wireless communication. Results could help crew members find items quickly and efficiently. In low-Earth orbit, relaunching lost assets is an option, but on deep space missions it is impractical or impossible. More efficient retrieval of assets also allows for more efficient packing, reducing launch mass and volume. This technology could even enable robots to prepare mission destinations in advance of human arrival. On Earth, RFID has been used primarily for supply chain logistics at the box and pallet level, but more precise item tracking and localization could help automate warehouse operations, shipping and receiving, manufacturing, health care, and other operations. Crew members installed an RFID recon reader on an Astrobee and gathered RFID data for cargo moving during the week.

Liquid behavior

Image above: Hardware set-up for the ESA FLUIDICS investigation, which evaluates sloshing, turbulence, and other behaviors of liquid in a sphere in microgravity and could support improvements in fuel management of satellites. Image Credit: NASA.

FLUIDICS, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), evaluates sloshing, turbulence, and other behaviors of liquid in a sphere in microgravity. These observations provide a good model for what happens in a spacecraft’s fuel tank. Results could provide insight into measuring liquid volume, supporting improvements of the guidance and precision of satellites and their fuel management, which can expand lifespan. This investigation also may help provide a better understanding of Earth’s oceans, including the phenomenon of "rogue waves,” contributing to improved climate prediction systems and optimizing the use of ocean-based renewable energy. Crew members performed runs of the experiment during the week.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- Repository is a storage bank that maintains biological specimens used for scientific research on human physiological changes and adaptation to microgravity, including longitudinal studies spanning many missions. Space biomedical research often leads to medical advances that benefit people on Earth as well.

- Food Physiology characterizes the effects of an enhanced spaceflight diet on immune function, the gut microbiome, and nutritional status indicators. Diet can be easily and meaningfully altered on Earth or during flight, and documenting the effects of dietary improvements on human physiology could provide guidance for using diet to enhance adaptation to spaceflight.

- 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. These techniques could enable production of crops on a larger scale for future space exploration and enhance cultivation of plants in terrestrial settings such as greenhouses.

- PK-4, a collaboration between ESA and State Space Corporation ROSCOSMOS, studies complex plasmas, low-temperature mixtures of ionized gas, neutral gas, and micron-sized particles. Understanding how plasma crystals form in microgravity could shed light on plasma phenomena in space and lead to new research methods and improved spacecraft designs and improvements in industries that use plasmas on Earth.

- 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.

- ISS Ham Radio sessions engage students, teachers, parents, and other members of the community in direct communication with astronauts via ground-based amateur radio units. This experience helps inspire interest in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Space to Ground: Taking Stock: 10/28/2022

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 68:


RFID Recon:



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 68.

Best regards,

NASA Continues Psyche Asteroid Mission


NASA - Psyche Asteroid Mission patch.

Oct 28, 2022

NASA announced Friday the agency decided its Psyche mission will go forward, targeting a launch period opening on Oct. 10, 2023.

Image above: This illustration, updated as of June 2020, depicts NASA's Psyche spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU.

Earlier this year, Psyche missed its planned 2022 launch period as a result of mission development problems, leading to an internal review of whether the mission would be able to overcome these issues to successfully launch in 2023.

This continuation/termination review was informed by a project-proposed mission replan and a separate independent review, commissioned in June by NASA and the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, that investigated causes for the delay.

“I appreciate the hard work of the independent review board and the JPL-led team toward mission success,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The lessons learned from Psyche will be implemented across our entire mission portfolio. I am excited about the science insights Psyche will provide during its lifetime and its promise to contribute to our understanding of our own planet’s core.”

The independent review board is still finalizing its report, which, along with NASA’s response, will be shared publicly once complete.

The mission team continues to complete testing of the spacecraft’s flight software in preparation for the 2023 launch date. The new flight profile is similar to the one originally planned for August 2022, using a Mars gravity assist in 2026 to send the spacecraft on its way to the asteroid Psyche. With an October 2023 launch date, the Psyche spacecraft will arrive at the asteroid in August 2029.

“I’m extremely proud of the Psyche team,” said JPL Director Laurie Leshin. “During this review, they have demonstrated significant progress already made toward the future launch date. I am confident in the plan moving forward and excited by the unique and important science this mission will return.”

NASA selected Psyche in 2017 to investigate a previously unexplored metal-rich asteroid of the same name. It is part of the agency’s Discovery Program, a line of low-cost, competitive missions led by a single principal investigator.

NASA continues to assess options for its Janus mission exploring twin binary asteroid systems, which was originally scheduled to launch on the same SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as Psyche. NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications technology demonstration, testing high-data-rate laser communications, is integrated into the Psyche spacecraft and will continue as planned on the new launch date.

Arizona State University 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 Technologies in Palo Alto, California, 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. Psyche is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Related article:

NASA Announces Launch Delay for Psyche Asteroid Mission

For more information about the Psyche mission, visit:

Related links:

NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications:

Discovery Program:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tricia Talbert/Erin Morton/Karen Fox.

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 65 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

Oct 28, 2022

Falcon 9 carrying Starlink 65 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle launched 53 Starlink satellites (Starlink-65 / Starlink 4-31) to low-Earth orbit, from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on 28 October 2022, at 01:14 UTC (27 October, at 18:14 local time).

SpaceX Starlink 65 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 28 October 2022

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship,  stationed in the Pacific Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1063) previously supported seven missions: Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, DART, and five Starlink missions.

Related links:



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


Scientists choose first Mars samples worthy of return to Earth


NASA / ESA - Mars Sample Return (MSR) patch.

Oct. 28, 2022

Image above: This illustration shows a concept for multiple robots that would team up to ferry to Earth samples of rock and soil collected from the Martian surface by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The first samples to be taken from Mars and sent to Earth will be sourced from Jezero Crater, where the Perseverance rover has been exploring the crater floor and nearby ancient delta.  The location of an initial cache of samples, called Three Forks, is flat and free of obstacles – an ideal spot for a Mars Sample Return landing and pickup operations.

Perseverance rover looks back on its way to delta

The Mars Sample Return campaign is made of several missions to return the first scientifically selected samples from the surface of another planet. The first step of the campaign is already in progress – since Perseverance landed at Jezero Crater in 2021, the rover has explored over 13  kilometers and collected 14 samples with rock cores and martian air.

The plan is to drop 10 sample tubes at Three Forks.

“Never before have a scientifically-curated collection of samples from another planet been collected and placed for return to Earth,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science.

A road trip to Three Forks on Mars

“NASA and ESA have reviewed the proposed site and the Mars samples that will be deployed for this cache as soon as next month. When that first tube is positioned on the surface, it will be a historic moment in space exploration,” adds Thomas.

Both agencies approved plans to start establishing a sample depot on the surface of Mars and complete the operation by beginning of 2023.

“Choosing the first depot on Mars makes this exploration campaign very real and tangible. Now we have a place to revisit with samples waiting for us there,” says David Parker, ESA’s director of Human and Robotic Exploration.

“That we can implement this plan early in the mission is a testament to the skill of the international team of engineers and scientists working for the Mars Sample Return campaign,” he adds.

New plans for the future

Europe is exploring Mars hand-in-hand with NASA. The next steps to return Mars samples to Earth in 2033 were agreed in July after a review of the campaign by an independent board.

On 19 October, the space agencies endorsed the plan to deposit the first cache of samples on the surface.

A reconfiguration of the campaign includes now two sample recovery helicopters instead of an additional rover. A recent assessment of Perseverance’s reliability and life expectancy increased confidence that the rover will be able to deliver samples to NASA’s Sample Retrieval Lander in 2030.

A European robotic arm for Mars

Until the first depot will be established, Perseverance is collecting two samples from each Mars rock – one to be left on the surface as part of a sample depot, and a second one that is held within the belly of the rover to be directly transferred to the Sample Retrieval lander.

ESA will give robotic assistance with the Sample Transfer Arm. The 2.5 m robotic arm will pick up the tubes filled with precious material from Mars and transfer them to a rocket for a launch into martian orbit.

Perseverance's selfie with helicopter

In case Perseverance is not able to bring the sample tubes to ESA’s robotic arm in 2030, two small helicopters deployed by the lander will fetch them.

“The first depot of Mars samples can be considered as a major risk mitigation step for the Mars Sample Return campaign,” points out David.

How to Bring Mars Sample Tubes Safely to Earth (Mars News Report)

The European Earth Return Orbiter will then be the first interplanetary spacecraft to capture samples in orbit and make a return trip between Earth and Mars.

Earth Return Orbiter infographic

Martian diversity

European scientists are part of an international team giving advice on what samples to choose for return and the best analysis methods to use once they land on Earth.

The science community concluded that the igneous rocks and sedimentary rcoks found so far provide a scientifically-compelling case for samples to be returned.

Mars sample collection map 1-14

Scientists are very excited about the diversity of the sample collection and the complexity of the individual samples. “Bringing these samples to our labs would allow us to achieve breakthrough science and understand the specific Jezero area,” says Gerhard Kminek, Mars Sample Return lead scientist for ESA

“We could also learn more about the environmental conditions on Mars at a time when life emerged on Earth, and maybe on the Red Planet,” adds Gerhard.

The job of Perseverance rover is far from done after its first sample cache. Next, Perseverance will head up to the top of the delta to collect many more Mars rock and dust samples as it ascends the delta in the coming year.

Jezero Crater's Delta

The Mars Sample Return campaign will revolutionise our understanding of Mars by returning samples for study by the best science teams using the most sophisticated instruments around the world.

This strategic partnership with NASA will be the first to return samples from another planet. The samples to be returned are thought to be the best opportunity to reveal the early evolution of Mars, including the potential for life.

Related links:

Mars Sample Return (MSR):

Sample Transfer Arm (STA):

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/K. Lochtenberg/NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/University of Arizona/USGS/Leonardo/Maxon/GMV/OHB Italia/ SAB Aerospace s.r.o.


Crew Works Biology, Botany, and Physics after Cargo Ship’s Arrival


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

October 28, 2022

Life science, space gardening, and physics filled the Expedition 68 crew’s research schedule at the end of the week aboard the International Space Station. Meanwhile, three tons of new cargo are being unpacked after its arrival overnight.

A host of biomedical studies have been underway this week on the orbiting lab as scientists on the ground explore what happens to the human body when living in weightlessness. Insights help astronauts stay fit and healthy beyond Earth’s gravity and provide an array of solutions and innovations improving life for those back on Earth.

Image above: The ISS Progress 82 cargo craft, packed with three tons of food, fuel, and supplies, is pictured shortly after docking to the space station’s Poisk module. Image Credit: NASA TV.

NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada took charge of eye scans on Friday imaging the retinas of crewmates Nicole Mann of NASA and Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Mann then assumed control of the medical imaging hardware and scanned the eyes of NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio. The ocular examinations let doctors understand how microgravity affects the eye and provide countermeasures to protect a crew member’s sight.

Cassada and Mann started Friday morning collecting their blood samples and spinning them in a centrifuge before stowing the blood tubes in a science freezer. Researchers analyze the samples taken before, during, and after a space flight and compare them to samples from other astronauts adding to knowledge of the changes a crew member’s body goes through on and off the Earth.

Progress MS-21 docking

Growing vegetables on spaceships and space habitats using soilless methods is a top research priority since cargo missions delivering food to the crews will be less feasible beyond low-Earth orbit. Rubio contributed to that research during the morning nourishing and tending to vegetables growing using hydroponic and aeroponic techniques for the XROOTS station botany study. Space agriculture is key to an astronaut’s health if crews are to sustain themselves farther away from Earth.

Space physics is also important as scientists and engineers observe what happens to a variety of materials exposed to ultra-high temperatures with implications for the development and manufacturing of new and advanced materials. The Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) in the Kibo laboratory module is a research device allowing safe thermophysical research in microgravity. Wakata opened up the ELF today servicing samples inside the device that uses lasers to heat specimens above 2,000 degrees Celsius to obtain data on a material’s density, surface tension, and viscosity.

Space Freighter with Three Tons of Cargo Docks to Station

Image above: The ISS Progress 82 cargo craft approaches the space station nearing the Poisk module for a docking two days after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA TV.

An uncrewed Roscosmos Progress 82 spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station’s space-facing side of the Poisk module at 10:49 p.m. EDT today. Progress delivered almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies to the International Space Station for the Expedition 68 crew.

The three cosmonauts aboard the station shifted their sleep schedules today following Thursday night’s arrival of the ISS Progress 82 resupply ship. Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin were on duty when the Progress 82 with its three tons of food, fuel, and supplies docked to the Poisk module at 10:49 p.m. EDT on Thursday. The duo conducted standard leak checks and pressure equalization before opening the hatch to Progress and unpacking the new cargo. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina was also working overnight checking robotics components and maintaining lab systems.

Related links:

Expedition 68:


Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF):

Kibo laboratory module:

Poisk module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/NASA TV/SciNews.

Best regards,

Haunting Portrait: Webb Reveals Dust and Structure in Pillars of Creation


NASA / ESA / CSA-ASC - James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) patch.

Oct. 28, 2022

Pillars of Creation (MIRI Image)

This is not an ethereal landscape of time-forgotten tombs. Nor are these soot-tinged fingers reaching out. These pillars, flush with gas and dust, ‘enshroud’ stars that are slowly forming over many millennia. The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope has snapped this eerie, extremely dusty view of the Pillars of Creation in mid-infrared light — showing us a new view of a familiar landscape.

Pillars of Creation (MIRI Image - Annotated)

Why does mid-infrared light evoke such a sombre, chilling mood in Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) image? Interstellar dust cloaks the scene. And while mid-infrared light specialises in detailing where dust is, the stars aren’t bright enough at these wavelengths to appear. Instead, these looming, leaden-hued pillars of gas and dust gleam at their edges, hinting at the activity within.

Webb’s Instruments Showcase the Pillars of Creation (MIRI)

Webb’s Instruments Showcase the Pillars of Creation (NIRCam)

Thousands and thousands of stars have formed in this region. This is made plain when examining Webb’s recent Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) image of this object. In MIRI’s view, the majority of the stars are missing. Why? Many newly formed stars are no longer surrounded by enough dust to be detected in mid-infrared light. So MIRI is only able to see those young stars that have not yet cast off their dusty ‘cloaks’. These are the crimson orbs toward the fringes of the pillars. In contrast, the blue stars that dot the scene are ageing, which means they have shed most of their layers of gas and dust.

Pan of the Webb’s Portrait of the Pillars of Creation (MIRI)

Mid-infrared light excels at revealing gas and dust in extreme detail. This is also unmistakable throughout the background. The densest areas of dust are the darkest shades of grey. The red region toward the top, which forms an uncanny V, like an owl with outstretched wings, is where the dust is diffuse and cooler. Notice that no background galaxies make an appearance — the interstellar medium in the densest part of the Milky Way’s disc is too swollen with gas and dust to allow their distant light to penetrate.

Hubble and Webb Showcase the Pillars of Creation

How vast is this landscape? Trace the topmost pillar, landing on the bright red star jutting out of its lower edge like a broomstick. This star and its dusty shroud are larger than the size of our entire Solar System.

Webb’s Instruments Showcase the Pillars of Creation

This scene was first imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, and again in 2014, but many other world-class observatories have also stared deeply at this region, such as ESA's Herschel Telescope. Each advanced instrument offers researchers tantalising new details about this region, which is practically overflowing with stars. With every observation, astronomers gain new information, and through their ongoing research build a deeper understanding of this star-forming region. Each newly imaged wavelength of light and each new instrument delivers ever more precise information about the gas, dust and stars, which informs researchers’ models of how stars form. As a result of the new MIRI image, astronomers now have data in mid-infrared light at higher resolution than ever before, and will analyse its far more precise dust measurements to create a more complete three-dimensional landscape of this distant region.

The Pillars of Creation lie within the vast Eagle Nebula, which is 6500 light-years away.

More information

Webb is the largest, most powerful telescope ever launched into space. Under an international collaboration agreement, ESA provided the telescope’s launch service, using the Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Working with partners, ESA was responsible for the development and qualification of Ariane 5 adaptations for the Webb mission and for the procurement of the launch service by Arianespace. ESA also provided the workhorse spectrograph NIRSpec and 50% of the mid-infrared instrument MIRI, which was designed and built by a consortium of nationally funded European Institutes (The MIRI European Consortium) in partnership with JPL and the University of Arizona.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

 Webb is an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Related article:

Webb Takes a Stunning, Star-Filled Portrait of the Pillars of Creation


Webb’s NIRCam Image of the Pillars of Creation:

Webb’s MIRI Instrument:

Collection of Webb’s First Images:

Explore All of Webb’s Images:

ESA Webb Seeing Farther Interactive Brochure:

Release on ESA website:

Release on STScI website:

Images, Animation Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, J. DePasquale (STScI), A. Pagan (STScI)/NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; J. DePasquale (STScI), A. Pagan (STScI),  A. Koekemoer (STScI)/Videos Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, J. DePasquale (STScI), A. Pagan (STScI), N. Bartmann (ESA/Webb)/A. Koekemoer (STScI)/Musics: Stellardrone – Twilight/Mylonite - Breath of my Soul/Text Credits: ESA/Webb/Bethany Downer/Ninja Menning.


A close encounter with a mysterious moon


ESA - Mars Express patch.

Oct. 28, 2022

In brief

In 1877, the American astronomer Asaph Hall discovered two small moons circling the planet Mars, later named Phobos and Deimos after the Greek for ‘fear’ and ‘panic’.

Mars Express HRSC image of Phobos, taken on 7 March 2010

But it was excitement, rather than fear and panic, that characterised the close encounter with Phobos made by ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft in the run up to Halloween this year. The recent flyby of the larger martian moon offered the perfect opportunity to test one of the 19-year-old spacecraft’s latest upgrades.


The MARSIS instrument on Mars Express was originally designed to study the internal structure of Mars. As a result, it was designed for use at the typical distance between the spacecraft and the planet’s surface – more than 250 km.

But it recently received a major software upgrade that allows it to be used at much closer distances and which could help to shed light on the mysterious origin of the moon Phobos.

“During this flyby, we used MARSIS to study Phobos from as close as 83 km,” says Andrea Cicchetti from the MARSIS team at INAF. “Getting closer allows us to study its structure in more detail and identify important features we would never have been able to see from further away. In future, we are confident we could use MARSIS from closer than 40 km. The orbit of Mars Express has been fine-tuned to get us as close to Phobos as possible during a handful of flybys between 2023 and 2025, which will give us great opportunities to try.”

“We didn’t know if this was possible,” says Simon Wood, Mars Express flight controller at ESA’s ESOC operations centre, who oversaw the upload of the new software to the ESA spacecraft. “The team tested a few different variations of the software, with the final, successful tweaks uploaded to the spacecraft just hours before the flyby.”

Image above: The MARSIS instrument on ESA's Mars Express spacecraft uses its recently upgraded software to peer beneath the surface of the martian moon Phobos.

Mysterious origins

MARSIS, famous for its role in the discovery of signs of liquid water on the Red Planet, sends low-frequency radio waves towards Mars or Phobos, using its 40-metre long antenna.

Most of these waves are reflected from the body’s surface, but some travel through and are reflected at boundaries between layers of different materials below the surface.

By examining the reflected signals, scientists can map the structure below the surface and study properties such as the thickness and composition of the material.

For Mars, this could reveal different layers of ice, soil, rock or water. But the internal structure of Phobos is more of a mystery, and the upgrade to MARSIS could offer important insight.

Artist’s impression of water under the martian surface

“Whether Mars’ two small moons are captured asteroids or made of material ripped from Mars during a collision is an open question,” says ESA Mars Express scientist Colin Wilson. “Their appearance suggests they were asteroids, but the way they orbit Mars arguably suggests otherwise.”

“We are still at an early stage in our analysis,” says Andrea. “But we have already seen possible signs of previously unknown features below the moon’s surface. We are excited to see the role that MARSIS might play in finally solving the mystery surrounding Phobos’ origin.”

What does this image show?

The top-right image shows the ‘radargram’ acquired by MARSIS during the flyby of Phobos on 23 September 2022. A radargram reveals the ‘echoes’ created when the radio signal emitted by MARSIS bounces off something and returns to the instrument. The brighter the signal, the more powerful the echo.

The continuous bright line shows the echo from the moon’s surface. The lower reflections are either ‘clutter’ caused by features on the moon’s surface, or, more interestingly, signs of possible structural features below the surface (e).

“Section A—C was recorded using an older configuration of the MARSIS software,” says Carlo Nenna, MARSIS on-board software engineer at Enginium, who is implementing the upgrade. “The new configuration was prepared during the ‘technical gap’ and successfully used for the very first time from D—F.”

The left and bottom-right images show the path of the observation across the surface of Phobos.

MARSIS is operated by the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF), Italy, and funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

Future Phobos exploration

ESA and its Member States are participating in the upcoming Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission to land on Phobos and return a sample of its surface materials to Earth. The MMX mission, led by the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), is scheduled to launch in 2024 and return its samples to Earth in 2029. Instruments on board Mars Express have been vital for the detailed study of Phobos necessary to prepare for the MMX mission.

Related links:

ESA’s Mars Express:

Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF):

ESOC operations centre:

Italian Space Agency (ASI):

Martian Moons eXploration (MMX):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum), CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/INAF - Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica/Medialab.

Best regards,

jeudi 27 octobre 2022

Space Delivery Arriving Tonight as Crew Scans Eyes and Veins


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

October 27, 2022

A Roscosmos space freighter is due to arrive at the International Space Station tonight and replenish the Expedition 68 crew. While they wait for the space delivery, the orbital residents stayed busy throughout Thursday working on more eye and vein scans, a plant habitat, and a spacesuit.

At 10:49 p.m. EDT tonight, two cosmonauts will be on duty when the ISS Progress 82 resupply ship docks to the orbiting lab’s Poisk module. Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin will be inside the Zvezda service module monitoring the Progress 82’s rendezvous and docking. A few hours after the vehicle arrives and the pressure equalizes with the station, the duo will open the hatches and begin offloading about three tons of food, fuel, and supplies.

Image above: The trash-filled ISS Progress 80 cargo craft departs the space station on Oct. 23, 2022, to make way for the arrival of the ISS Progress 82 resupply ship. Image Credit: NASA.

Prokopyev and Petelin called down to mission controllers during Thursday morning to discuss and prepare for the automated approach of the Progress cargo ship. The duo will be at the controls of the telerobotically operated rendezvous unit, or TORU, inside Zvezda ready to take manual control of the approaching spacecraft on Thursday night if necessary. The two cosmonauts along with Flight Engineer Anna Kikina are sleep-shifting today to get ready for the cargo mission’s nighttime arrival.

Advanced microgravity science is continuing at full pace aboard the space station as the astronauts researched how their bodies adapt to microgravity. Scientists on the ground use the observations to help crews stay healthy and fit during long-term space missions, as well as adapt quicker when returning to Earth’s gravity environment.

Eye and vein scans were back on the orbital research schedule on Thursday morning as NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio powered on the Ultrasound 2 scanner for the ongoing biomedical research. He took charge as crew medical officer and first scanned the eyes of NASA Flight Engineer Nicole Mann during the 15-minute session. Next, Rubio spent an hour imaging Mann’s neck, shoulder, and leg veins, with the ultrasound device to help doctors understand how the human body adapts to living and working in space.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada serviced the Plant Habitat located in a science rack installed inside the Kibo laboratory module. He replaced carbon dioxide bottles and checked connections on the automated space botany research facility. Packed with sensors and components that control temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide levels and light intensity, the Plant Habitat enables plant growth experiments for up to four-and-a-half months at a time.

Astronaut Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spent his day inside the Quest airlock working on spacesuit maintenance with assistance from Rubio. The duo cleaned the spacesuit’s cooling loops and reconfigured the suit’s components in anticipation of upcoming spacewalks.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

Poisk module:

Zvezda service module:

Ultrasound 2:

Plant Habitat:

Kibo laboratory module:

Quest airlock:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


NASA’s InSight Lander Detects Stunning Meteoroid Impact on Mars


NASA - InSight Mars Lander patch.

Oct 27, 2022

The agency’s lander felt the ground shake during the impact while cameras aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted the yawning new crater from space.

Image above: Boulder-size blocks of water ice can be seen around the rim of an impact crater on Mars, as viewed by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE camera) aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The crater was formed Dec. 24, 2021, by a meteoroid strike in the Amazonis Planitia region. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

NASA’s InSight lander recorded a magnitude 4 marsquake last Dec. 24, but scientists learned only later the cause of that quake: a meteoroid strike estimated to be one of the biggest seen on Mars since NASA began exploring the cosmos. What’s more, the meteoroid excavated boulder-size chunks of ice buried closer to the Martian equator than ever found before – a discovery with implications for NASA’s future plans to send astronauts to the Red Planet.

Scientists determined the quake resulted from a meteoroid impact when they looked at before-and-after images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and spotted a new, yawning crater. Offering a rare opportunity to see how a large impact shook the ground on Mars, the event and its effects are detailed in two papers published Thursday, Oct. 27, in the journal Science.

Image above: The impact crater, formed Dec. 24, 2021, by a meteoroid strike in the Amazonis Planitia region of Mars, is about 490 feet (150 meters) across, as seen in this annotated image taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE camera) aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

The meteoroid is estimated to have spanned 16 to 39 feet (5 to 12 meters) – small enough that it would have burned up in Earth’s atmosphere, but not in Mars’ thin atmosphere, which is just 1% as dense as our planet’s. The impact, in a region called Amazonis Planitia, blasted a crater roughly 492 feet (150 meters) across and 70 feet (21 meters) deep. Some of the ejecta thrown by the impact flew as far as 23 miles (37 kilometers) away.

With images and seismic data documenting the event, this is believed to be one of the largest craters ever witnessed forming any place in the solar system. Many larger craters exist on the Red Planet, but they are significantly older and predate any Mars mission.

“It’s unprecedented to find a fresh impact of this size,” said Ingrid Daubar of Brown University, who leads InSight’s Impact Science Working Group. “It’s an exciting moment in geologic history, and we got to witness it.”

InSight has seen its power drastically decline in recent months due to dust settling on its solar panels. The spacecraft now is expected to shut down within the next six weeks, bringing the mission’s science to an end.

Image above: This meteoroid impact crater on Mars was discovered using the black-and-white Context Camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Context Camera took these before-and-after images of the impact, which occurred on Dec. 24, 2021, in a region of Mars called Amazonis Planitia. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

InSight is studying the planet’s crust, mantle, and core. Seismic waves are key to the mission and have revealed the size, depth, and composition of Mars’ inner layers. Since landing in November 2018, InSight has detected 1,318 marsquakes, including several caused by smaller meteoroid impacts.

But the quake resulting from last December’s impact was the first observed to have surface waves – a kind of seismic wave that ripples along the top of a planet’s crust. The second of the two Science papers related to the big impact describes how scientists use these waves to study the structure of Mars’ crust.

NASA’s InSight Records the Sound of a Martian Impact

Video above: This video includes a seismogram and sonification of the signals recorded by NASA’s InSight Mars lander, which detected a giant meteoroid strike on Dec. 24, 2021, the 1,094th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CNES/Imperial College London.

Crater Hunters

In late 2021, InSight scientists reported to the rest of the team they had detected a major marsquake on Dec. 24. The crater was first spotted on Feb. 11, 2022, by scientists working at Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS), which built and operates two cameras aboard MRO. The Context Camera (CTX) provides black-and-white, medium-resolution images, while the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) produces daily maps of the entire planet, allowing scientists to track large-scale weather changes like the recent regional dust storm that further diminished InSight’s solar power.

The impact’s blast zone was visible in MARCI data that allowed the team to pin down a 24-hour period within which the impact occurred. These observations correlated with the seismic epicenter, conclusively demonstrating that a meteoroid impact caused the large Dec. 24 marsquake.

“The image of the impact was unlike any I had seen before, with the massive crater, the exposed ice, and the dramatic blast zone preserved in the Martian dust,” said Liliya Posiolova, who leads the Orbital Science and Operations Group at MSSS. “I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like to witness the impact, the atmospheric blast, and debris ejected miles downrange.”

Establishing the rate at which craters appear on Mars is critical for refining the planet’s geologic timeline. On older surfaces, such as those of Mars and our Moon, there are more craters than on Earth; on our planet, the processes of erosion and plate tectonics erase older features from the surface.

New craters also expose materials below the surface. In this case, large chunks of ice scattered by the impact were viewed by MRO’s High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) color camera.

Subsurface ice will be a vital resource for astronauts, who could use it for a variety of needs, including drinking water, agriculture, and rocket propellant. Buried ice has never been spotted this close to the Martian equator, which, as the warmest part of Mars, is an appealing location for astronauts.

Flyover of Mars Impact Using HiRISE Data (Animation)

Video above: This animation depicts a flyover of a meteoroid impact crater on Mars that’s surrounded by boulder-size chunks of ice. The animation was created using data from the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

More About the Missions

JPL manages InSight and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, InSight spacecraft (including its cruise stage and lander), and supports spacecraft operations for both missions.

Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego built and operates the Context Camera and MARCI camera. University of Arizona built and operates the HiRISE camera.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors, and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) supplied a passive laser retroreflector.

Related links:

Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS):

Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3):

InSight Mars Lander:

Images (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Karen Fox/Erin Morton/JPL/Andrew Good.

Best regards,

History of the ESA logo


ESA - European Space Agency emblem.

Oct. 27, 2022

It is said that each image has its own story. And this is also the case with the ESA logo, whose simplicity is sometimes deceptive. Its story begins with the creation of ESA, and its design has evolved to reflect an ever-changing world and the development of the agency.

ESA Logo

The history of the ESA logo begins in 1975, at a key moment in space history which sees the European Space Research Council (ESRO) and the European Council for the construction of rocket launchers (CECLES, or ELDO in English) merge to become the European Space Agency (ESA). Its first chief executive, Roy Gibson, wanted to create a strong identity for the new space agency and emphasize how it had succeeded in bringing the European space sector together. It was in this spirit that he asserted the agency name "ESA" and that a graphic element, the circular crest, was created to complement it. Together, they will form the first ESA logo.

The team responsible for creating the logo wanted it to represent the goals and values ​​of the newly created ESA, so every detail was considered. The circular shield represents our planet, Earth, and the “e” on the surface of this globe symbolizes “Europe”, as the letter “e” is common to all the languages ​​of the ESA Member States.

Bulletin 1 cover

The “e” also represents Europe, at the center of space activities. A small white dot represents a satellite, while a number of curved lines suggest the orbits of a space vehicle or parallels (lines of latitude used on navigational charts).

But what was not expected was that many people were going to see in these curved lines of the disc a fingerprint. This added an appealing human facet, especially when ESA became more involved in manned spaceflight. The idea was therefore retained, becoming part of the history of the circular crest, which has often been nicknamed “fingerprint”.

With its many symbolic meanings, the logo was also very practical for an international organization. As a graphic element, the impact of the ESA circular crest went beyond the borders of different languages. Initially used on official documents, business cards and stationery, the ESA logo later became the star of the cover of the first edition of the ESA Bulletin, the agency's internal magazine.

Then, in 1977, the circular crest and the ESA name were combined and the first graphic charters on the visual identity of ESA were published. This was then the start of a branding that would see some changes take place – although the original logo concept would remain at the heart of ESA's visual identity.

Over the following decades, the ESA logo faced a new world, which saw the proliferation of television channels as well as the appearance of the Internet, smartphones and social networks. The logo fingerprint was hard to see on screens due to the scratches flickering, similar to an optical illusion. To solve this problem, the lines were reduced, then completely removed when the ESA launched its internet portal.

Shaun the Sheep in parabolic flight training

Now let's move on to the current situation. We live in an age of information overload, with multiple channels clamoring for attention, so increasing visibility is essential.

ESA's visual identity needed a stronger and more consistent application to ensure immediate recognition. This is why we now only have one logo, suitable for all uses, and one guide for users in order to reach our large audience more easily.

Playmobil astronaut training team

Modern ESA logo reduces visual noise; it has been redesigned as part of ESA's visual identity that tells our story and expresses ESA's aspirations and values ​​wherever it is seen.

Today, you can find the ESA logo all over the place, on social media, on iconic space vehicles and even on ESA-inspired children's toys. From its humble beginnings on letterhead, the ESA logo has become the centerpiece of a globally respected brand.

- Visit our Brand Center to learn more about our visual identity:

- Discover the exceptional partners who work with us:

- Would you like to use the ESA logo or our visual identity?:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Aardman/geobra Brandstätter Stiftung & Co. KG (Germany)/Translation: Aerospace/Roland Berga.