vendredi 6 janvier 2023

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of January 2, 2023


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Jan 6, 2023

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Jan. 2 that included testing on-demand production of nutrients, studying microgravity’s effect on a person’s grip, and monitoring microbes in the station’s plant growth habitat.

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

Nutrition in space

Image above: NASA astronaut Nicole Mann holds yogurt bags for BioNutrients-2, an investigation testing a system to produce specific quantities of key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage. The ability to produce these nutrients in space could help maintain crew health on future long-duration missions. Image Credit: NASA.

Supplying adequate nutrition is one challenge in maintaining crew health on future long-duration space missions to the Moon and Mars, since many vitamins in foods and supplements degrade over time. Producing nutrients during flight could help address this problem and reduce launch mass and volume as well. BioNutrients-2 tests a system to produce specific quantities of key nutrients from yogurt, a fermented milk product known as kefir, and a yeast-based beverage. Results also may provide insight into on-demand production of other biomolecules such as therapeutics and support development of microorganisms that can be revived after long periods of inactivity for a range of applications. On .Earth, the ability to produce vitamins and other biomolecules on demand could help support human health in remote areas and those with limited supply of critical compounds that have a short shelf-life. During the week, crew members hydrated and activated samples for the investigation.

Grip this

Animation above: NASA astronaut Josh Cassada conducts a session for GRIP, an ESA investigation that studies how long-duration spaceflight affects a person’s ability to regulate the force of their grip and trajectory of upper limbs when manipulating objects. Animation Credit: NASA

GRIP, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), studies how long-duration spaceflight affects a person’s ability to regulate the force of their grip and trajectory of upper limbs when manipulating objects. These functions developed in Earth’s gravity and can be affected by microgravity. Results could help identify potential hazards for astronauts as they move between gravitational environments and contribute to the design of interfaces for equipment used in these challenging conditions. The research also could provide a better understanding of how the human nervous system controls movement on the ground. During the week, crew members performed seated and supine sessions for the investigation.

Nutritious and safe

The Veggie Monitoring investigation collects microbial samples from the surface of the station’s Veggie plant production system. Samples are returned to Earth for culturing and identification of microbes. Since the Veggie system is open to the cabin environment, to protect the crew and plants from contamination, it is critical to identify which microbes are present and how they may affect the system. This monitoring also produces data useful for evaluating current spacecraft environmental microbial limits. In addition, analyzing the production of safe, nutritious food in the challenging conditions in space could contribute to improved food production in harsh and remote environments on Earth. Crew members performed sample analysis operations for the investigation during the week.

Image above: The snow-capped peaks of active volcano Mauna Loa, bottom, and dormant volcano Mauna Kea, top, on the island of Hawaii are pictured from the International Space Station as it orbits 258 miles above the Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- Particle Vibration, an investigation from ESA, examines the mechanisms of self-organization of particles in fluids. Results could improve our understanding of fluids with dispersed solid particles, which are used in cooling systems for heat exchangers and solar energy collectors in space and in nuclear reactors and electronics on Earth.

- Plant Habitat-03 assesses whether epigenetic adaptations in one generation of plants grown in space can transfer to the next generation. Results could provide insight into how to grow repeated generations of crops to provide food and other services on future space missions.

- Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM) demonstrates an instrument to measure and quantify the concentration of small and large particles in spacecraft air. Air quality is important for keeping astronauts healthy and comfortable, but currently there are no measurement capabilities to ensure that maximum allowable particulate concentrations are met.

- 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.

- Veg-05 uses the station’s Veggie facility to grow dwarf tomatoes and examine the effect of light quality and fertilizer on fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and overall behavioral health benefits. Growing plants to provide fresh food and enhance the overall living experience for crew members supports future long-duration missions.

Space to Ground: New Year, New Food: 01/06/2023

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:



Veggie Monitoring:


ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 68.

Best regards,

Heat Shield Inspections Underway on Artemis I Orion Spacecraft


NASA - ARTEMIS 1 Mission patch.

Jan 6, 2023

Inside the Multi-Payload Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers and technicians conduct inspections of the heat shield on the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission. Orion returned to Kennedy on Dec. 30, 2022, after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11, following a 1.4-million-mile mission beyond the Moon and back.

In this photo, technicians underneath the crew module closely examine the heat shield, which endured temperatures near 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit during reentry through Earth’s atmosphere. The heat shield will be removed from the spacecraft and taken to another facility for further detailed inspections.

Teams also are inspecting the windows of the capsule along with the thermal protection on the back shell panels that cover the spacecraft to protect it from the harsh conditions both in space and during the high-speed, high-heat reentry.

On top of the capsule is the deflated crew module uprighting system, which is a group of five air bags that position the capsule right side up after splashdown and were deflated prior to transport back to Kennedy. While still in the transfer aisle of the facility, engineers are in the process of removing external avionics boxes. Technicians will take air samples within the capsule ahead of repositioning it into a service stand that will allow access to the interior. Upon opening the hatch, technicians will remove the internal avionics boxes and payloads. After conducting detailed inspections and testing, the avionics boxes will be reused for the Artemis II mission.

De-servicing will continue in the coming months with the removal of the hazardous commodities that remain on board. Once complete, the spacecraft will journey to NASA Glenn’s Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility for abort-level acoustic vibration and other environmental testing.

Related article:

Artemis I Orion Spacecraft Returns to Kennedy Space Center

Related links:

Artemis Program:

Artemis I:

Orion Spacecraft:

Photo Credits: NASA/Skip Williams/Text Credits: NASA/Danielle Sempsrott.


Crew Packs Dragon, Conducts Life Sustaining Research at End of Week


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Jan 6, 2023

The Expedition 68 crew will go into the weekend packing a U.S. resupply ship before it departs the International Space Station on Monday. In the meantime, the seven orbital residents concluded the work week researching a variety of space phenomena, maintaining advanced science hardware, and wrapping up three days of eye exams.

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft will complete a 43-day mission at the orbital lab when it undocks from the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 5:05 p.m. EST on Monday. NASA astronauts Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann, and Frank Rubio will join astronaut Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and spend Saturday and Sunday loading Dragon with critical research samples from completed station experiments for analysis on Earth after it splashes down off the coast of Florida. NASA TV will begin live coverage of Dragon’s undocking and departure at 4:45 p.m. on NASA’s website and the agency’s app.

Image above: (Nov. 27, 2022) --- The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, loaded with over 7,700 pounds of science, supplies, and cargo, approaches the International Space Station while orbiting 259 miles above the African continent. Image Credit: NASA.

However, the station’s four astronauts spent Friday servicing advanced research gear and conducting microgravity experiments. Three NASA astronauts also concluded several days of vision tests as Mann scanned the retinas of Cassada and Rubio using standard medical imaging hardware found in an optometrist’s office.

Wakata began his day taking photos of a set of nanosatellites as they were deployed outside the Kibo laboratory module into Earth orbit. The CubeSats will demonstrate a variety of technologies such as communications, propulsion systems, and Earth observations. He also assisted Rubio connecting communications gear and patching cables inside the Columbus laboratory module.

Image above: Astronaut Koichi Wakata is pictured inside the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock where external payloads are placed into the outer space environment. Image Credit: NASA.

Mann researched ways to generate nutrients on demand by manipulating genetically engineered microbes. Cassada tended to tomatoes growing for a space botany study. Both experiments are informing ways NASA and its international partners can sustain crews on missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos worked on several science projects at the end of the week as he tested a 3-D printer, explored futuristic spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques, and studied ways international crews and mission controllers can communicate better. Flight Engineers Dmitri Petelin and Anna Kikina took turns attaching sensors to themselves measuring their heart activity then downloading the data to researchers on Earth for a long-running cardiac study.

Related article & link:

NASA to Provide Live Coverage of SpaceX Cargo Craft Station Departure


Related links:

Expedition 68:

Harmony module:

Kibo laboratory module:


Propulsion systems:

Earth observations:

Columbus laboratory module:

Generate nutrients on demand:

Space botany study:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Strong Solar Flare Erupts from Sun


NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

Jan 6, 2023

The Sun emitted a strong solar flare, peaking at 7:57 p.m. EDT on Jan. 5, 2023. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured an image of the event.

Animation above: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare – as seen in the bright flash on the left picture– on Jan. 5, 2023. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares and which is colorized in AIA 171 orange. Animation Credits: NASA/SDO.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of energy. Flares and solar eruptions can impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts.

This flare is classified as an X1.2 flare.  X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength.

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

To see how such space weather may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. NASA works as a research arm of the nation’s space weather effort. NASA observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, and to the particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.

Related links:

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO):

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center:

Space weather:

Animation (mentioned), Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Denise Hill.


Scientific Samples, Hardware Return from the Space Station for More Study


SpaceX - Dragon CRS-26 Mission patch.

Jan 6,2023

A radiation protection vest, olive oil, and sutured tissues are among the scientific samples returning from the International Space Station on the 26th SpaceX commercial resupply services mission for NASA. The Dragon spacecraft, which arrived at the station Nov. 27, is scheduled to undock on January 9, with splashdown several hours later off the coast of Florida.

The cargo returns to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where scientists can make additional observations and analyses of their experiments before the effects of gravity fully kick back in. Many also conduct more in-depth analysis later in their home labs.

Read more about some of the equipment and samples making the journey back to Earth:

This vest is the best

Image above: The AstroRad vest floats in the International Space Station cupola. The garment could provide a way to mitigate radiation threats to crew members on missions to the Moon and Mars. Image Credit: NASA.

A special vest designed to protect astronauts from high doses of radiation caused by unpredictable solar particle events (SPEs) is returning to Earth after months of testing in space. Crew members wore the Astrorad vest while performing daily tasks and provided feedback about how easy it is to put on, how it fits and feels, and the range of motion possible while wearing it. The vest’s developers plan to analyze that feedback and improve design of the garment, which could provide personal radiation protection for astronauts on the Artemis missions and future travel to Mars. Radiation exposure can cause cancers and other short- and long-term adverse health effects, and using a shielding garment allows protection of specific sensitive organs and tissues. The investigation also could support improvements to radiation protection garments on Earth.

A tasty test

Image above: Image of olive oil samples ready for launch for EVOO in Space, an ESA investigation that studies the effects of space exposure on extra virgin olive oil, which could provide nutritional benefits for astronauts on future space missions. Image Credit: Stefano Polato.

EVOO in Space, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), studies the effects of exposure to the space environment on extra virgin olive oil. Researchers examined the characteristics of veiled and filtered extra virgin olive oils before flight. Space-flown samples are returning to Earth for additional analysis of those properties and comparison with controls kept on the ground. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and provided the oil retains its properties when stored in a spacecraft, could be beneficial for the health of astronauts on long-term space missions. This investigation also could improve the understanding of olive oil shelf life and support development of oils with improved features for extreme environments on Earth.

Air, water, plants

Image above: Red and green tomatoes grow in an XROOTS growth chamber. Researchers tested hydroponic and aeroponic methods as alternatives to traditional growth media for producing plants in space. Image Credit: NASA.

XROOTS uses hydroponic (water-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques to grow plants without soil or other growth media. Researchers collected video and still images to evaluate growth chambers through the plant life cycle from seed germination through maturity. The plant chambers are returning to Earth for additional analysis. Current space-based plant systems, which are small and use particulate media to deliver water and nutrients, do not scale well in space and can have containment, maintenance, and sanitation issues. These new techniques could provide a way to produce crops on a larger scale for future space missions. The investigation’s system components also could enhance plant cultivation and improve food security for people on Earth.

Better bioprospecting

Image above: Science chambers for Rhodium Microgravity Bioprospecting-1 prior to launch. This investigation explored methods for identifying valuable substances in microbes. Image Credit: NASA.

Bioprospecting is the process of identifying plants and animals that may contain substances with potential for use as drugs, biochemicals, and other commercially valuable materials. Previous studies found that the unique stressors of space can cause genetic and physiological changes that could result in microbes yielding such materials. Rhodium Microgravity Bioprospecting-1 studies a way to search for these microbes. Results could expedite the discovery of substances in plants and animals that could have a variety of uses on Earth, including in medicine and industry. The science chambers and temperature logger from the investigation are returning to Earth for further examination.

Space stitches

Image above: Samples and hardware for ESA’s Suture in Space investigation, which examined sutures and wound healing in microgravity. Image Credit: University of Florence.

As missions travel farther from Earth, crew members need to be prepared to deal with medical emergencies, including wounds, without direct medical support. Wound healing is a complex process, and scientists are not sure why wounds often heal imperfectly or create scars. Suture in Space, an ESA investigation, examined the behavior of sutures and wound healing in microgravity, including the role of mechanical stress. Crew members monitored tissue samples with sutured wounds and measured their tensile strength. The samples were placed into cold stowage for return to Earth, where researchers can more closely examine suture structure, blood vessel function in the sutured tissues, stiffness and strength of the tissue, and other characteristics. A technique for keeping tissue biopsies alive longer, developed for the investigation, could aid future studies on transplants, cell regeneration, and surgical techniques on Earth and in space.

Live coverage of the departure begins at 4:45 pm ET on Jan. 9, 2023 on NASA Television, the agency’s website:

Related links:


EVOO in Space:


Rhodium Microgravity Bioprospecting-1:

Suture in Space:

SpaceX Dragon CRS-26:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/JSC/International Space Station Program Research Office/Melissa Gaskill.


jeudi 5 janvier 2023

Research Informing Deep Space Missions as Dragon Nears Departure


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Jan 5, 2023

Space science and spacesuits dominated the Expedition 68 crew’s work day aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. The orbital lab will also see the departure of a U.S. cargo ship early next week.

Sustaining crews farther away from Earth is a key objective as NASA and its international partners plan human missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The BioNutrients-2 investigation taking place on the station seeks to provide nutrients in flight for astronauts to reduce reliance on visiting cargo missions. Food stowed for long periods of time also tends to lose its nutritional value. NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Nicole Mann took turns today servicing and photographing genetically engineered yeast samples incubated in the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory for the study that could provide adequate nutrition on demand quickly using a minimal amount of equipment.

Image above: The Waxing Gibbous Moon is pictured from the space station as it orbited above the southern Indian Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

Mann also partnered with Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) resizing a pair of spacesuits, also known as Extravehicular Mobility Units, or EMUs. Mann also installed lithium-ion batteries in the EMUs that power the spacesuit life support systems. The suits are being readied for an upcoming spacewalk planned to continue upgrading the station’s power generation system.

Wakata earlier joined NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada and continued packing the soon-to-depart SpaceX Dragon resupply ship. Dragon will complete a 43-day cargo mission and undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on Monday at 5:05 p.m. EST. It will splashdown off the coast of Florida packed with station hardware for inspection and finalized science experiments for analysis.

SpaceX Dragon cargo departure from International Space Station (ISS)

The orbiting lab’s three cosmonauts focused on their complement of microgravity research on Thursday benefiting humans on and off the Earth and providing insights on deep space exploration. Commander Sergey Prokopyev analyzed his blood samples using chromatography, a process for separating components of a mixture, then he studied how stress during a spaceflight may affect a cosmonaut’s immune system.

Roscosmos Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin, wearing sensors, used a computer to explore how future crews may handle piloting spaceships or robots on planetary missions. Flight Engineer Anna Kikina pointed a camera outside a station window and photographed wildfires in South America. She then turned her attention to researching ways to improve communications between international crews and mission controllers from around the world.

Related links:

Expedition 68:


Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory:

Harmony module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Stellantis makes the leap into aeronautics: it will make electric planes together with Archer


Stellantis logo.

Jan 5, 2023

Stellantis and Archer Aviation have agreed to join forces to build the Midnight electric aircraft, an eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft), one of Archer's flagships. Through a statement, the firm led by Carlos Tavares has explained that it will work with Archer to build the airline's manufacturing facilities in Covington (Georgia, USA), where they will begin manufacturing the Midnight in 2024. The goal is that Stellantis mass-produces the aircraft as its exclusive manufacturer and the automobile group will invest 150 million dollars (141.2 million euros at current exchange rates).

Image above: Image of one of the Midnight aircraft, to be built by Archer and Stellantis in Georgia, USA. Image Credit: Archer Aviation.

The Midnight model has a payload of more than 453 kilograms that allows it to carry four passengers and a pilot. Plus, with a range of 100 miles, it's ideal for consecutive short trips of about 20 miles, with a charging time of about 10 minutes in between.

"This unique association in the urban air mobility industry will take advantage of the respective strengths and competencies of each company to bring the Midnight aircraft to the market," they explained from Stellantis.

Midnight Production eVTOL Aircraft Unveil

While Archer will bring its team of eVTOL, electric powertrain and certification experts to the project, Stellantis will contribute advanced manufacturing technology and expertise, experienced personnel and capital. “This combination is intended to enable rapid scale-up of aircraft production to meet Archer's commercialization plans, while allowing Archer to strengthen its path to commercialization,” both companies have noted.

Social capital

As a sign of its commitment, Stellantis will provide that $150 million in equity capital for Archer to withdraw at its discretion in 2023 and 2024, subject to the achievement of certain business milestones that Archer expects to occur in 2023.

Stellantis also intends to increase its stake in the company through future purchases of Archer shares on the open market. These actions, along with the other elements of this expanded partnership, will allow Stellantis to become a key long-term investor in Archer.

“We have been working closely with Archer for the past two years, and I am continually impressed by his ingenuity and unwavering commitment to delivery,” said Tavares.

Related links:


Archer Aviation:

Image, Video, Text, Credits: Proporcionado por Sport/Stellantis/Archer Aviation/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


A step towards solar fuels out of thin air


EPFL - École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne logo.

Jan 5, 2023

EPFL chemical engineers have invented a solar-powered artificial leaf, built on a novel electrode which is transparent and porous, capable of harvesting water from the air for conversion into hydrogen fuel. The semiconductor-based technology is scalable and easy to prepare.

A step towards solar fuels out of thin air

A device that can harvest water from the air and provide hydrogen fuel—entirely powered by solar energy—has been a dream for researchers for decades. Now, EPFL chemical engineer Kevin Sivula and his team have made a significant step towards bringing this vision closer to reality. They have developed an ingenious yet simple system that combines semiconductor-based technology with novel electrodes that have two key characteristics: they are porous, to maximize contact with water in the air; and transparent, to maximize sunlight exposure of the semiconductor coating. When the device is simply exposed to sunlight, it takes water from the air and produces hydrogen gas. The results are published on 4 January 2023 in Advanced Materials.

What’s new? It’s their novel gas diffusion electrodes, which are transparent, porous and conductive, enabling this solar-powered technology for turning water – in its gas state from the air – into hydrogen fuel.

“To realize a sustainable society, we need ways to store renewable energy as chemicals that can be used as fuels and feedstocks in industry. Solar energy is the most abundant form of renewable energy, and we are striving to develop economically-competitive ways to produce solar fuels,” says Sivula of EPFL’s Laboratory for Molecular Engineering of Optoelectronic Nanomaterials and principal investigator of the study.

Inspiration from a plant’s leaf

In their research for renewable fossil-free fuels, the EPFL engineers in collaboration with Toyota Motor Europe, took inspiration from the way plants are able to convert sunlight into chemical energy using carbon dioxide from the air. A plant essentially harvests carbon dioxide and water from its environment, and with the extra boost of energy from sunlight, can transform these molecules into sugars and starches, a process known as photosynthesis. The sunlight’s energy is stored in the form of chemical bonds inside of the sugars and starches.

The transparent gas diffusion electrodes developed by Sivula and his team, when coated with a light harvesting semiconductor material, indeed act like an artificial leaf, harvesting water from the air and sunlight to produce hydrogen gas. The sunlight’s energy is stored in the form of hydrogen bonds.

Instead of building electrodes with traditional layers that are opaque to sunlight, their substrate is actually a 3-dimensional mesh of felted glass fibers.

Marina Caretti, lead author of the work, says, "Developing our prototype device was challenging since transparent gas-diffusion electrodes have not been previously demonstrated, and we had to develop new procedures for each step. However, since each step is relatively simple and scalable, I think that our approach will open new horizons for a wide range of applications starting from gas diffusion substrates for solar-driven hydrogen production.”

From liquid water to humidity in the air

Sivula and other research groups have previously shown that it is possible to perform artificial photosynthesis by generating hydrogen fuel from liquid water and sunlight using a device called a photoelectrochemical (PEC) cell. A PEC cell is generally known as a device that uses incident light to stimulate a photosensitive material, like a semiconductor, immersed in liquid solution to cause a chemical reaction. But for practical purposes, this process has its disadvantages e.g. it is complicated to make large-area PEC devices that use liquid.

Sivula wanted to show that the PEC technology can be adapted for harvesting humidity from the air instead, leading to the development of their new gas diffusion electrode. Electrochemical cells (e.g. fuel cells) have already been shown to work with gases instead of liquids, but the gas diffusion electrodes used previously are opaque and incompatible with the solar-powered PEC technology.

Now, the researchers are focusing their efforts into optimizing the system. What is the ideal fiber size? The ideal pore size? The ideal semiconductors and membrane materials? These are questions that are being pursued in the EU Project “Sun-to-X”, which is dedicated to advance this technology, and develop new ways to convert hydrogen into liquid fuels.

Making transparent, gas-diffusion electrodes

In order to make transparent gas diffusion electrodes, the researchers start with a type of glass wool, which is essentially quartz (also known as silicon oxide) fibers and process it into felt wafers by fusing the fibers together at high temperature. Next, the wafer is coated with a transparent thin film of fluorine-doped tin oxide, known for its excellent conductivity, robustness and ease to scale-up. These first steps result in a transparent, porous, and conducting wafer, essential for maximizing contact with the water molecules in the air and letting photons through. The wafer is then coated again, this time with a thin-film of sunlight-absorbing semiconductor materials. This second thin coating still lets light through, but appears opaque due to the large surface area of the porous substrate. As is, this coated wafer can already produce hydrogen fuel once exposed to sunlight.

The scientists went on to build a small chamber containing the coated wafer, as well as a membrane for separating the produced hydrogen gas for measurement. When their chamber is exposed to sunlight under humid conditions, hydrogen gas is produced, achieving what the scientists set out to do, showing that the concept of a transparent gas- diffusion electrode for solar-powered hydrogen gas production can be achieved.

While the scientists did not formally study the solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency in their demonstration, they acknowledge that it is modest for this prototype, and currently less than can be achieved in liquid-based PEC cells. Based on the materials used, the maximum theoretical solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of the coated wafer is 12%, whereas liquid cells have been demonstrated up to 19% efficient.

Author: Hillary Sanctuary

Source: EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland)

Related links:

Thin-film of sunlight-absorbing semiconductor materials:

Original article on EPFL website:

All Credits (Images, Video): Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

Best regards,

mercredi 4 janvier 2023

Alone with space


EVA (Extra Vehicular Activities) Systems patch.

Jan 4, 2023

On March 18, 1965, Alexei Leonov was the first person to go into outer space. He retired from the ship by five meters, using only a five-meter safety rope for movement. If the cable had failed, there would have been a serious problem. There were no other options to return the astronaut to the spaceship.

Cosmonaut in a "horseshoe"

A risky experiment with access to open space showed that it is possible to stay there, but for a long stay overboard, it is necessary to create a special installation that would also be a lifeboat. The designers of plant No. 918 in Tomilin near Moscow (now the Zvezda Research and Production Enterprise) took up its development and created a device for moving and maneuvering an astronaut (UPMK).

Museum NPP "Zvezda" The device for moving and maneuvering the cosmonaut

Made in the shape of a horseshoe, UPMK seemed to hug the astronaut in the space suit. In front and behind were brake and accelerating blocks with 42 solid-fuel engines each. They were supposed to provide movement in a straight line. And changes in orientation in space, in other words, turns, in six degrees of freedom were provided by 14 compressed air nozzles.

It was assumed that with the help of the device, the cosmonaut could not only fly around his ship, but also approach the enemy spacecraft in order to conduct its examination, or, in professional terms, an inspection. It was possible to return "home" without the use of engines - by means of a winch and a super-strong cable.

This project was not destined to come true. For various reasons, it was not possible to test the device in flight.

Edward White's rocket pistol

The world's first apparatus for moving a person in outer space, tested outside the Earth, was a manual maneuvering device (HHMU, Hand-Helded Maneuvering Unit), created under the Gemini program. It ran on compressed oxygen.

Edward White with pistol-type transfer rig

Astronaut Edward White in 1965 tested the device in flight on the Gemini 5 spacecraft. In shape, it resembled a pistol, which you had to keep in your hand all the time. This turned out to be a serious shortcoming of the system, as it significantly limited the astronaut's performance in open space. In addition, the accuracy of movement was determined "by eye". In general, this project was also closed.

The backpack did not live up to expectations

The failure did not stop the Americans, and they created an AMU (Astronaut Maneuvering Unit) installation of a "knapsack" type. The fuel for its engines was 90 percent hydrogen peroxide. The mass of the AMU with the astronaut was about 185kg. Since the Gemini ship was very cramped, the installation was fixed on the outside of the ship's aggregate compartment. To use it, the astronaut, dressed in a spacesuit, had to depressurize the cabin and move along the handrails to the place where the apparatus was attached. After that, it was possible to separate from the ship and maneuver.

Astronaut Maneuvering Unit Backpack

The system was tested in June 1966 during the Gemini 9 flight. Having done all the preliminary procedures, astronaut Eugene Cernan went outside. He was connected to the ship by a safety cable, the length of which reached 43 meters. With great difficulty, he reached the "knapsack" and climbed into it. However, the grueling operation exhausted him. He sweated, the condensate got into his eyes and settled on the glass of the helmet. Eugene stopped seeing anything around. In addition, it turned out that his hands do not reach the control joystick.

As a result, Cernan completed his mission ahead of schedule, got rid of the installation and returned to the spaceship.

Three more devices were not in demand

During the flight of the Skylab orbital station in 1973, the Americans developed and tested three more installations for the flight of an astronaut in outer space. All tests were carried out inside the station, where the volume, unlike the ship, was sufficient.

Astronaut Gerald Carr testing ASMUs inside Skylab Station

The first ASMU was an improved version of the "knapsack" that Eugene Cernan did not submit to on the Gemini 9. The second pistol type HHMU is a modernized analogue of the same jet handle that was tested on the Gemini-5. The third FCMU installation involved the use of pedals connected by a stand to a seat resembling a bicycle saddle.

The astronauts liked the first two samples, while the third turned out to be unsuitable. However, experiments with personal vehicles after these tests subsided again.

Flying shuttle seat

In the early 1980s, the Space Shuttle manned transport system began to operate in the United States, which provided that astronauts would spend a lot of time in outer space. For this program, they developed a "space chair" MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit, "Manned Maneuvering Unit"). Its 24 engines ran on compressed nitrogen.

Bruce McCandless in free flight in the MMU seat

Astronaut Bruce McCandless became the first tester: in February 1984, for the first time in the world, he retired from a spacecraft (Challenger shuttle) without a safety rope at a distance of 97.5 meters.

Later, the astronauts used this “chair” twice more in outer space. With its help, in April 1984, the SMM satellite was repaired directly in orbit, and in November of the same year, the WestarVI and PalapaВ2 satellites, which had not been able to fly away six months earlier, were caught and placed in the Challenger cargo compartment to return to Earth. from low orbit to geostationary orbit due to a malfunction of the upper stage.

It would seem that success opened bright prospects for the invention. But in January 1986, the unexpected happened: as a result of the explosion of the Challenger's fuel tank, it collapsed on launch and seven astronauts died. After this tragic event, the American leadership changed the focus in its space program, especially where it was about the safety of the astronaut. The concept of using the MMU was abandoned.

Soviet response

In the Soviet Union, after Alexei Leonov's spacewalk, it was decided that all work outside the spacecraft would be carried out without separation from the ship's hull. The astronauts had to insure themselves with halyards with carbines.

For the Energia-Buran program, a lot of curious equipment was created, including a completely autonomous version of the Orlan-DMA spacesuit, which worked without being “fastened” with a halyard to the ship’s power supply and communication systems. As with the shuttles, Russian designers assumed that cosmonauts would often be in outer space.

Alexander Serebrov (in a space suit) and Alexander Viktorenko master the "space chair" in training

Unlike the American "armchair" MMU, which ran on nitrogen, the Soviet cosmonaut vehicle (SPK) used compressed air stored in 20-liter cylinders at a pressure of 350 atmospheres, and had two modes. The first - economical - for work near the station. The second - forced - for quick jerks in case of saving a partner.

Tests of the SPK-21KS in open space were carried out in 1990 by cosmonauts Alexander Serebrov and Alexander Viktorenko during an expedition to the Mir orbital complex. On February 1, Serebrov entrenched himself in the SEC, located in the airlock compartment of the Kvant-2 module, then went outside and began to gradually move away from the complex at a distance of up to 33 meters. During the "walk" Serebrov, as expected, was fastened to the station with a safety line with a winch, which allowed him to return to the module in case of failure of the SEC.

On February 5, Alexander Viktorenko continued testing, maneuvering and moving away from Mir by 45 meters.

However, for a number of reasons (including the closure of the Energia-Buran program), the developed tool was not used in the future, and the cosmonauts still continue to work in outer space, insuring themselves with two halyards with carbines.

For security

In Russian times, the NPP "Zvezda" developed a cosmonaut rescue unit (USK) of a knapsack type. It did not serve for maneuvering, had a small supply of fuel and was a means of returning to the station an accidentally unhooked cosmonaut.

Russian safe in the Zvezda Museum

In 2001-2002, Zvezda completed testing and produced three flight models for transportation to the ISS. Delivery was planned to be carried out by one of the shuttles. But after the Columbia disaster in January 2003, shuttle flights were suspended for two years. It fell to the Russian Progress ships to supply the station with cargo. Since there were no other possibilities, every gram sent into space was considered “under a magnifying glass”. The Russian “satchel” was not listed as a priority cargo, and therefore its mission never took place.

One of the USK copies took its place in the museum of the enterprise.

A similar self-rescue unit is also in NASA's arsenal on the ISS. True, according to some experts, it is not easy to work with it: an astronaut in a bulky spacesuit who accidentally broke away from the station and is in a state of stress will have to stabilize, orient his body in space and return “to base” using only a one-handed control panel.

Automatic "safer"

Taking into account the accumulated experience, the specialists of NPP Zvezda began developing a more advanced model several years ago, where all operations for the return of a cosmonaut who has “torn off” from the station will be performed automatically.

American SAFER on an EMU suit

“This device is guaranteed to return the cosmonaut if he retired to a dangerous distance during a spacewalk,” Sergey Pozdnyakov, general director and chief designer of NPP Zvezda, described the novelty. - I pressed the button - and the rescue device returns the astronaut to the station. In this case, seconds count.

The head of the enterprise clarified that there is an idea to integrate the rescue system directly into the Orlan spacesuit, which is used to work in outer space. “He has a tough cuirass that allows him to do this,” Sergey Pozdnyakov is sure.

The trajectory of the return to the station will be provided by radio beacons, and the movement impulse will be set by 16 micromotors operating on compressed air. As it became known to the editors, a prototype of the Russian "seifer" has long been tested on a special stand on an air cushion, the rationality of this concept has been evaluated. All you need is the means to make it.

A satellite from Samara will save the astronaut

A completely different principle for rescuing an astronaut was recently proposed by the designers of the Samara National Research University named after S. P. Korolev. According to their idea, the robotic nanosatellite complex, which can be placed on the outer surface of the Russian orbital station being created, should save the cosmonauts. The complex includes a nanosatellite with a maneuvering unit, a device for its separation from the station, an electromechanical winch with a roll of a heavy-duty cable, a high-precision launch tracking device and an automated control system.

Samara engineers with a prototype nanosatellite rescuer

“Flying up to an astronaut in distress, the nanosatellite will automatically or with the help of the astronaut himself dock with the spacesuit docking device. At the same time, the maneuvering unit compensates for the rotation of the astronaut, after which the winch will turn on, winding the cable, and the astronaut will be delivered to the station, ”said Professor Igor Belokonov, head of the interuniversity department of space research at Samara University.

It is expected that in the near future Samara University will send a proposal to Roscosmos to include this development in the structure of the Russian orbital station.

Author: Igor Marinin

Translation: Roland Berga

The article was published in the Russian Space magazine.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Images, Text (mentioned), Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA/ Aerospace.


Humans, Tomatoes, Tiny Satellites Top Station Research Schedule


ISS - Expedition 68 Mission patch.

Jan 4, 2023

Human research, space botany, and tiny satellites filled the research schedule aboard the International Space Station on Wednesday. The seven Expedition 68 crew members also split their day on maintaining lab systems and packing a U.S. cargo craft for departure.

It was the second day of operations for the GRIP study as NASA Flight Engineer Josh Cassada explored how dexterous manipulation is affected by living and working in weightlessness. He was seated once again inside the Columbus laboratory module performing computerized scientific tasks with a controller device. Researchers will use the data to help design intelligent spacecraft interfaces enabling human missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Image above: Astronauts (from left) Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata, and Frank Rubio share a meal on Christmas Eve inside the space station’s Unity module. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA Flight Engineer Frank Rubio watered and photographed tomatoes growing for the Veg-05 space agriculture experiment. The main purpose of the botany investigation is to create a continuous fresh food production system to sustain astronauts traveling far beyond low-Earth orbit and decrease reliance on visiting cargo missions.

Science also takes place outside the orbiting lab with experiments attached to external platforms or small research satellites deployed from the station into Earth orbit. Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spent the day installing a set of CubeSats into the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock. The nanosatellites will be staged outside in space then deployed into orbit on Friday to demonstrate a variety of technologies such as communications, propulsion systems, and Earth observations.

NASA Flight Engineer Nicole Mann partnered with Rubio during the afternoon continuing to load the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship with cargo ahead of its return to Earth next week. The duo, along with Cassada and Wakata, will accelerate its cargo activities going into the weekend finally loading sensitive research samples for analysis on Earth into Dragon before it undocks on Monday at 5:05 p.m. EST.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

All four astronauts also had time set aside on Wednesday for vision tests using a standard eye chart commonly seen in an optometrist’s office. Doctors on Earth monitored the tests real-time checking the crew’s visual acuity, visual field, and contrast sensitivity.

Working in the Zvezda service module, cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin checked out the audio system’s low frequency and very high frequency receivers. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Anna Kikina cleaned the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module’s ventilation system in the morning then studied futuristic planetary and robotic piloting techniques during the afternoon.

Related links:

Expedition 68:

GRIP study:

Columbus laboratory module:


Kibo laboratory module:


Propulsion systems:

Earth observations:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Hubble Finds That Ghost Light Among Galaxies Stretches Far Back In Time


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

Jan 4, 2023

In giant clusters of hundreds or thousands of galaxies, innumerable stars wander among the galaxies like lost souls, emitting a ghostly haze of light. These stars are not gravitationally tied to any one galaxy in a cluster.

The nagging question for astronomers has been: how did the stars get so scattered throughout the cluster in the first place? Several competing theories include the possibility that the stars were stripped out of a cluster's galaxies, or they were tossed around after mergers of galaxies, or they were present early in a cluster's formative years many billions of years ago.

A recent infrared survey from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which looked for this so-called "intracluster light," sheds new light on the mystery. The new Hubble observations suggest that these stars have been wandering around for billions of years, and are not a product of more recent dynamical activity inside a galaxy cluster that would strip them out of normal galaxies.

Image above: These are Hubble Space Telescope images of two massive clusters of galaxies named MOO J1014+0038 (left panel) and SPT-CL J2106-5844 (right panel). The artificially added blue color is translated from Hubble data that captured a phenomenon called intracluster light. This extremely faint glow traces a smooth distribution of light from wandering stars scattered across the cluster. Billions of years ago the stars were shed from their parent galaxies and now drift through intergalactic space. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, James Jee (Yonsei University); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI).

The survey included 10 galaxy clusters as far away as nearly 10 billion light-years. These measurements must be made from space because the faint intracluster light is 10,000 times dimmer than the night sky as seen from the ground.

The survey reveals that the fraction of the intracluster light relative to the total light in the cluster remains constant, looking over billions of years back into time. "This means that these stars were already homeless in the early stages of the cluster's formation," said James Jee of Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. His results are being published in the January 5 issue of Nature magazine.

Stars can be scattered outside of their galactic birthplace when a galaxy moves through gaseous material in the space between galaxies, as it orbits the center of the cluster. In the process, drag pushes gas and dust out of the galaxy. However, based on the new Hubble survey, Jee rules out this mechanism as the primary cause for the intracluster star production. That's because the intracluster light fraction would increase over time to the present if stripping is the main player. But that is not the case in the new Hubble data, which show a constant fraction over billions of years.

"We don't exactly know what made them homeless. Current theories cannot explain our results, but somehow they were produced in large quantities in the early universe," said Jee. "In their early formative years, galaxies might have been pretty small and they bled stars pretty easily because of a weaker gravitational grasp."

Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

"If we figure out the origin of intracluster stars, it will help us understand the assembly history of an entire galaxy cluster, and they can serve as visible tracers of dark matter enveloping the cluster," said Hyungjin Joo of Yonsei University, the first author of the paper. Dark matter is the invisible scaffolding of the universe, which holds galaxies, and clusters of galaxies, together.

If the wandering stars were produced through a comparatively recent pinball game among galaxies, they would not have enough time to scatter throughout the entire gravitational field of the cluster and therefore would not trace the distribution of the cluster's dark matter. But if the stars were born in the cluster's early years, they will have fully dispersed throughout the cluster. This would allow astronomers to use the wayward stars to map out the dark matter distribution across the cluster.

This technique is new and complementary to the traditional method of dark matter mapping by measuring how the entire cluster warps light from background objects due to a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.

Intracluster light was first detected in the Coma cluster of galaxies in 1951 by Fritz Zwicky, who reported that one of his most interesting discoveries was observing luminous, faint intergalactic matter in the cluster. Because the Coma cluster, containing at least 1,000 galaxies, is one of the nearest clusters to Earth (330 million light-years), Zwicky was able to detect the ghost light even with a modest 18-inch telescope.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's near-infrared capability and sensitivity will greatly extend the search for intracluster stars deeper into the universe, and therefore should help solve the mystery.

For high-resolution images see: Ghost Light Galaxy Clusters:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble and Webb science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.

Related links:


Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/STScI/Ray Villard/Yonsei University, Seoul/James Jee.