samedi 22 avril 2017

Cygnus Bolted to Station for Three Month Stay

Orbital ATK - CRS-7 mission patch.

April 22, 2017

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 8:39 a.m. EDT. Crew will ingress the spacecraft later today. The spacecraft will spend about three months on station before it is released in July for a destructive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, disposing of several thousand pounds of trash.

Image above: The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft approaches its 10 meter capture point where the Canadarm2 grapples resupply ship. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Using the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2, Expedition 51 Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Commander Peggy Whitson successfully captured Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft at 6:05 a.m. EDT. The space station crew and robotic ground controllers will position Cygnus for installation to the orbiting laboratory’s Earth-facing port of the Unity module.

U.S. Commercial Cargo Ship Arrives at the International Space Station

The spacecraft’s arrival brings more than 7,600 pounds of research and supplies to support Expedition 51 and 52. Some of the research on board includes:

- In microgravity, cancer cells grow in 3-D, spheroid structures that closely resemble their form in the human body, enabling better tests for drug the efficacy. The ADCs in Microgravity investigation tests drugs designed as targeted cancer therapies called antibody-drug conjugates, developed by Oncolinx.

- The Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA) investigation originally was operated successfully aboard the station in 2002. Updated software, data acquisition, high definition video and communication interfaces will help advance understanding of the processes involved in semiconductor crystal growth. Investigations such as the CLYC Crystal Growth experiment will be conducted in the SUBSA Furnace and inserts. High-quality crystals are essential to a variety of applications, and a microgravity environment can produce better quality crystals.

- The Thermal Protection Material Flight Test and Reentry Data Collection (RED-Data2) investigation studies a new type of recording device that rides alongside a spacecraft as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere, recording data about the extreme conditions it encounters. Scientists, so far, have been unable to monitor those conditions on a large scale, and a better understanding could lead to more accurate spacecraft breakup predictions, better spacecraft designs, and materials capable of better resisting the extreme heat and pressure during the return to Earth.

Image above: Four spacecraft are parked at the station including the Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply ship, the Progress 66 cargo craft and the Soyuz MS-03 and MS-04 crew vehicles. Image Credit: NASA.

Prior to re-entry in late July, the Cygnus spacecraft will also host the third Spacecraft Fire Experiment, or SAFFIRE, to study how fire burns in microgravity. Data from these experiments will help inform the development of future crew spacecraft.

Related links:

ADCs in Microgravity:

Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA):

CLYC Crystal Growth:

Reentry Data Collection (RED-Data2):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

For more information about Orbital ATK, visit:

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

Best regards,

vendredi 21 avril 2017

Crew Welcomes New Members and Waits for Cargo Mission

ISS - Expedition 51 Mission patch.

April 21, 2017

The Expedition 51 crew is waiting for a space delivery mission after welcoming two new crewmates Thursday. Two astronauts are training for a resupply ship’s arrival as two other crew members are getting used to their new home in space.

The Cygnus cargo craft will arrive at the International Space Station early Saturday after a four-day trip to deliver new science experiments and crew supplies. Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet with assistance from Commander Peggy Whitson will maneuver the Canadarm2 to reach out and capture Cygnus after its final approach. Finally, ground controllers will give the crew a break and remotely control the 57.7 foot robotic arm and install Cygnus to the Harmony module.

Image above: There are three spaceships docked at the International Space Station including two Soyuz crew ships and one Progress cargo ship. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA astronaut Jack Fischer is adapting to living in weightlessness for the first time, while his crewmate cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin is beginning his fifth mission in space. The pair joined Expedition 51 Thursday morning just six-hours, 10-minutes after blasting off from Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-04 spaceship. They will stay in space until September before returning back to Earth with record-setting astronaut Whitson.

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

New Look at 2004's Martian Hole-in-One Site

NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

April 21, 2017

The bright landing platform left behind by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2004 is visible inside Eagle Crater, where "Opportunity Lander" is indicated in this annotated, April 8, 2017, image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.

A new observation from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captures the landing platform that the rover Opportunity left behind in Eagle Crater more than 13 years and 27 miles (or 44 kilometers) ago.

A series of bounces and tumbles after initial touchdown plunked the airbag-cushioned lander into the crater, a mere 72 feet (22 meters) across, on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time (Jan. 24, PST).

The scene includes Eagle Crater and Opportunity's nearby parachute and backshell, from the April 10, 2017, observation by MRO's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

This is the first color view from HiRISE of the Eagle Crater scene. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began orbiting Mars more than two years after Opportunity's landing. One of the first images from HiRISE in 2006 showed Opportunity at the rim of a much larger crater, Victoria, nearly 4 miles (about 6 kilometers) south of the landing site. The camera also recorded a monochrome view of Eagle Crater that year.

Eagle Crater is at the upper right of the new image. The lander platform's job was finished once the rover rolled off it. The parachute and backshell are at the lower left.

The smattering of small craters on a broad plain is a reminder of the amazement expressed in 2004 about Opportunity achieving a "hole-in-one" landing. When the lander's petals opened and Opportunity sent home its first look at its surroundings, it provided the first-ever close-by view of sedimentary rocks on Mars, in Eagle's rim.

 Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover B landing platform

After leaving the lander and exploring Eagle Crater, the rover recorded a look-back view before departing the scene. Opportunity remains active more than 13 years later.

HiRISE, the most powerful telescope ever sent to Mars, is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the MRO Project and Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the orbiter and collaborates with JPL to operate it. JPL built the rover. For additional information about MRO visit:

Images from HiRISE:

Images, Text, Credit: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech.


Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist, week of April 10, 2017

ISS - Expedition 51 Mission patch.

April 21, 2017

(Highlights: Week of April 10, 2017) - Three crew members returned to Earth as NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson prepared for another round of a groundbreaking study on the International Space Station.

Whitson completed setup and updated the software for the Biomolecule Sequencer, a device that allows crew members to sequence DNA for various experiments in space. DNA sequencing is typically difficult and time-consuming and requires bulky and expensive equipment. This investigation tests a miniature sequencer in space to diagnose infectious diseases, identify microbes, and better understand the genetic changes experienced by astronauts while in space.

Image above: NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough is flanked by his fellow space station crew mates – Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko, left, and Sergey Ryzhikov– shortly before closing the hatch on their Soyuz capsule and returning to Earth from the space station on April 10. Image Credit: NASA.

Thanks to the sequencer samples with a short life-span would not need to be frozen and returned to a lab on Earth for analysis. Those samples can be examined on the station immediately after being collected, transmitting the data back to the ground, saving valuable research time. The real-time collection of genomic data will greatly improve scientific research in orbit. The small size of the Biomolecule Sequencer, approximately the size of a deck of playing cards, could also help doctors save lives in remote countries with minimal resources.

Whitson also installed a new hard drive into the locker for the re-flight of the Device for the study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC HTI-R) investigation. DECLIC HTI-R is an experiment that studies water near its critical point -- the point beyond which water loses its distinction between liquid and vapor and begins to behave as a dense gas. Salt tends to precipitate out from water at temperatures and pressures beyond this critical point. Understanding this behavior will assist designers in building extended-life, low-maintenance water oxidation reactors resistant to salt deposits and corrosion, providing a more environmentally friendly waste management system and reducing operating costs of power plants on Earth that use water for its working or coolant fluid. DECLIC is an investigation developed by the French Space Agency in Toulouse.

Image above: European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet performs maintenance on a science investigation on the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

Whitson and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet completed a session for the Effects of Long-Duration Microgravity on Fine Motor Skills (Fine Motor Skills) investigation. Fine motor skills are crucial for successfully interacting with touch-based technologies, repairing sensitive equipment and a variety of other tasks. For NASA's Fine Motor Skills investigation, crew members perform a series of interactive tasks on a touchscreen tablet. The investigation is the first fine motor skills study to measure long-term microgravity exposure, different phases of microgravity adaptation, and sensorimotor recovery after returning to Earth gravity. The simple tasks developed for this investigation may have wide-reaching benefits for elderly patients, people with motor disorders or patients with brain injuries on Earth undergoing rehabilitation for conditions that impair fine motor control.

ScienceCasts: Using a Tablet Computer in Space

Video above: The Fine Motor Skills experiment on the station is looking at how long-duration microgravity effects fine motor task performance. Image Credit: NASA.

Other human research investigations conducted this week include Biochemical Profile, Lighting Effects and Dose Tracker.

Progress was made on other investigations, outreach activities, and facilities this week, including Rodent Research 4, Veg-03, NREP Inserts, ISS Ham Radio, EXPRESS Rack, FIR, Microgravity Science Glovebox, MSL Batch 2b, JAXA ELF, Manufacturing Device, and Group Combustion.

Related links:

Biomolecule Sequencer:

Tests a miniature sequencer in space:

Device for the study of Critical Liquids and Crystallization (DECLIC HTI-R):

Fine Motor Skills:

Biochemical Profile:

Lighting Effects:

Dose Tracker:

Rodent Research 4:


ISS Ham Radio:

Microgravity Science Glovebox:

MSL Batch 2b:


Group Combustion:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 51 & 52.


When Swarm met Steve

ESA - SWARM Mission logo.

21 April 2017

Thanks to social media and the power of citizen scientists chasing the northern lights, a new feature was discovered recently. Nobody knew what this strange ribbon of purple light was, so … it was called Steve.

ESA’s Swarm magnetic field mission has now also met Steve and is helping to understand the nature of this new-found feature.

Speaking at the recent Swarm science meeting in Canada, Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary explained how this new finding couldn’t have happened 20 years ago when he started to study the aurora.

 Meet Steve

While the shimmering, eerie, light display of auroras might be beautiful and captivating, they are also a visual reminder that Earth is connected electrically to the Sun. A better understanding of the aurora helps to understand more about the relationship between Earth’s magnetic field and the charged atomic particles streaming from the Sun as the solar wind.

“In 1997 we had just one all-sky imager in North America to observe the aurora borealis from the ground,” said Prof. Donovan.

“Back then we would be lucky if we got one photograph a night of the aurora taken from the ground that coincides with an observation from a satellite. Now we have many more all-sky imagers and satellite missions like Swarm so we get more than 100 a night.”

And now, social media and citizen scientists also have an increasingly important role.

All-sky imagers and satellites

For instance, the Aurorasaurus website makes it possible for a large number of people to communicate about the aurora borealis. It connects citizen scientists to scientists and trawls Twitter feeds for instances of the word ‘aurora’. In doing so, it does an excellent job of forecasting where the aurora oval will be.

At a recent talk, Prof. Donovan met members of another social media group on Facebook: the Alberta Aurora Chasers. The group attracts members of the general public who are interested in the night sky and includes some talented photographers.

Looking at their photographs, Prof. Donovan came across something he hadn’t seen before. The group called this strange purple streak of light in the night sky captured in their photographs a ‘proton arc’ but for a number of reasons, including the fact that proton aurora are never visible, he knew this had to be something else.

However, nobody knew what it actually was so they decided to put a name to this mystery feature: they called it Steve.

While the Aurora Chasers combed through their photos and kept an eye out for the next appearances of Steve, Prof. Donovan and colleagues turned to data from the Swarm mission and his network of all-sky cameras.

Aurora borealis

Soon he was able to match a ground sighting of Steve to an overpass of one of the three Swarm satellites.

Prof. Donovan said, “As the satellite flew straight though Steve, data from the electric field instrument showed very clear changes.

“The temperature 300 km above Earth’s surface jumped by 3000°C and the data revealed a 25 km-wide ribbon of gas flowing westwards at about 6 km/s compared to a speed of about 10 m/s either side of the ribbon.

“It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn’t noticed it before. It’s thanks to ground-based observations, satellites, today’s explosion of access to data and an army of citizen scientists joining forces to document it.


“Swarm allows us to measure it and I’m sure will continue to help resolve some unanswered questions.”

ESA’s Swarm mission scientist, Roger Haagmans, added, “It is amazing how a beautiful natural phenomenon, seen by observant citizens, can trigger scientists’ curiosity.

“The ground network and the electric and magnetic field measurements made by Swarm are great tools that can be used to better understand Steve. This is a nice example of society for science.”

Related links:

Swarm technical info & data:


University of Calgary–Physics and Astronomy:

University of Calgary–Faculty of Science:

DTU Space:


Seven things to know about Steve:

Alberta Aurora Chasers on Facebook:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/Dave Markel Photography/Sherwin Calaluan/AOES Medialab/University of Calgary.

Best regards,

NASA Image Shows Earth Between the Rings of Saturn

NASA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

April 21, 2017

Image above: NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this view of planet Earth as a point of light between the icy rings of Saturn on April 12, 2017. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

A new image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows planet Earth as a point of light between the icy rings of Saturn.

The spacecraft captured the view on April 12, 2017, at 10:41 p.m. PDT (1:41 a.m. EDT on April 13). Cassini was 870 million miles (1.4 billion kilometers) away from Earth when the image was taken. Although far too small to be visible in the image, the part of Earth facing Cassini at the time was the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Image above: This cropped, zoomed-in version of the image makes it easier to see Earth's moon -- a smaller, fainter dot to the left of our planet's bright dot. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Earth's moon is also visible nearby in a cropped, zoomed-in version of the image.

Cassini spacecraft animation

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

More information about the Cassini mission:

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Preston Dyches/ESA.


Successful launch of China's first space cargo ship to supply Tiangong-2 space lab

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

April 21, 2017

Image above: The Tianzhou 1 cargo craft launched aboard a Long March 7 rocket Thursday. Image Credit: Xinhua.

A Long March 7 rocket lifted off Thursday with Tianzhou 1, an unpiloted refueling freighter heading for China’s Tiangong 2 mini-space station to conduct several months of robotic demonstrations, practicing for the assembly and maintenance of a future permanently-staffed orbital research complex.

The 174-foot-tall (53-meter) kerosene-fueled launcher blasted off from the Wenchang space center, a tropical facility on Hainan Island at China’s southern frontier, at 1141:35 GMT (7:41:35 a.m. EDT; 7:41:35 p.m. Beijing time), shortly after sunset at launch site.

Chinese Long March 7 with Tianzhou-1 launch

Lighting up the evening sky with an brilliant orange glow for a crowd of tourists, foreign dignitaries and media representatives, the Long March 7 soared through scattered clouds atop 1.6 million pounds of thrust and headed southeast to line up with the orbital path of China’s Tiangong 2 space lab, where the cargo craft will dock some time Saturday.

The Long March 7 rocket had a one-minute launch opportunity Thursday timed for roughly the moment the orbital track of Tiangong 2 passed over the Wenchang launch base, which China began constructing in 2009 and inaugurated with two successful rocket flights last year.

According to the official CCTV+ television network, ground crews loaded about 45,000 gallons, or 170 cubic meters, of rocket-grade kerosene fuel into the Long March 7 rocket in the hours before Thursday’s launch. Cryogenic liquid oxygen was pumped aboard the launcher after the kerosene.

Image above: Artist’s concept of the Tianzhou 1 and Tiangong 2 spacecraft docking in orbit. Image Credit: CCTV+.

The Tianzhou 1 spacecraft fastened atop the Long March 7 rocket for Thursday’s launch carried several tons of fuel and new automatic docking equipment to test how China plans to resupply its planned space station, which could begin assembly in orbit as soon as next year with the launch of a massive core section.

At least two more modules will be added to create a 60-metric ton space station by 2022 capable of hosting three astronauts for stays of up to six months.

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

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: CASC/Spaceflight Now/Stephen Clark.