mercredi 23 mai 2018

Bone and Cardio Studies as Cygnus Nears Station











ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

May 23, 2018

The Cygnus space freighter from Orbital ATK is closing in on the International Space Station ready to deliver 7,400 pounds of cargo Thursday morning. The Expedition 55 crew members are getting ready for Cygnus’ arrival while also helping researchers understand what living in space does to the human body.

NASA TV is set to begin its live coverage of Cygnus’ arrival at the orbital lab Thursday at 3:45 a.m. EDT. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will be inside the Cupola and command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to reach out and capture Cygnus at 5:20 a.m. Robotics engineers at Mission Control will then take over and remotely install Cygnus to the Earth-facing port of the Unity module later Thursday morning.


Image above: The ash plume from the Kilauea volcano on the big island of Hawaii was pictured May 12, 2018, from the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew started its day collecting blood and urine samples for a pair of experiments, Biochemical Profile and Repository, looking at the physiological changes taking place in astronauts. Those samples are stowed in science freezers for return to Earth so scientists can later analyze the proteins and chemicals for indicators of crew health.

Another pair of experiments taking place today is looking at bone marrow, blood cells and the cardiovascular system. The Marrow study, which looks at white and red blood cells in bone marrow, may benefit astronaut health as well as people on Earth with reduced mobility or aging conditions. The Vascular Echo experiment is observing stiffening arteries in astronauts that resembles accelerated aging.

Related links:

Orbital ATK: https://www.nasa.gov/orbital

Expedition 55: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition55/index.html

NASA TV: https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Biochemical Profile: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=980

Repository: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=954

Marrow study: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1673

Vascular Echo: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=743

Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html

International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

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

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

InSight Steers Toward Mars












NASA - InSight Mission logo.

May 23, 2018

NASA's InSight lander has made its first course correction toward Mars.

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is the first mission dedicated to exploring the deep interior of Mars.


Animation above: NASA's InSight spacecraft is currently cruising to Mars. Yesterday, it performed its first course correction guiding it to the Red Planet. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The lander is currently encapsulated in a protective aeroshell, which launched on top of an Atlas V 401 rocket on May 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California. Yesterday, the spacecraft fired its thrusters for the first time to change its flight path. This activity, called a trajectory correction maneuver, will happen a maximum of six times to guide the lander to Mars.

Every launch starts with a rocket. That's necessary to get a spacecraft out past Earth's gravity -- but rockets don't complete the journey to other planets. Before launch, every piece of hardware headed to Mars is cleaned, limiting the number of Earth microbes that might travel on the spacecraft. However, the rocket and its upper stage, called a Centaur, don’t get the same special treatment.

As a result, Mars launches involve aiming the rocket just off-target so that it flies off into space. Separately, the spacecraft performs a series of trajectory correction maneuvers guiding it to the Red Planet. This makes sure that only the clean spacecraft lands on the planet, while the upper stage does not come close.

Precise calculations are required for InSight to arrive at exactly the right spot in Mars' atmosphere at exactly the right time, resulting in a landing on Nov. 26. Every step of the way, a team of navigators estimates the position and velocity of the spacecraft. Then they design maneuvers to deliver it to an entry point at Mars. That navigation team is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the InSight mission.

"This first maneuver is the largest we'll conduct," said Fernando Abilleira of JPL, InSight's Deputy Mission Design and Navigation Manager. "The thrusters will fire for about 40 seconds to impart a velocity change of 3.8 meters per second [8.5 mph] to the spacecraft. That will put us in the right ballpark as we aim for Mars."

Especially at the beginning of that cruise, navigators rely on NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) to track the spacecraft. The DSN is a system of antennas located at three sites around the Earth. As the planet rotates, each of these sites comes into range of NASA's spacecraft, pinging them with radio signals to track their positions. The antennas also send and receive data this way.

The DSN can give very accurate measurements about spacecraft position and velocity. But predicting where InSight will be after it fires its thrusters requires lots of modeling, Abilleira said. As the cruise to Mars progresses, navigators have more information about the forces acting on a spacecraft. That lets them further refine their models. Combined with DSN tracking measurements, these models allow them to precisely drive the spacecraft to the desired entry point.

 Image of InSight spacecraft during the cruise stage. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"Navigation is all about statistics, probability and uncertainty," Abilleira said. "As we gather more information on the forces acting on the spacecraft, we can better predict how it's moving and how future maneuvers will affect its path."

Yesterday's 40-second burn relies on four of eight thrusters on the spacecraft. A separate group of four is autonomously fired on a daily basis to keep the spacecraft's solar panels trained on the Sun and its antennas pointed at Earth. While necessary to maintain orientation, these small, daily firings also introduce errors that navigators have to account for and counterbalance.

"Everyone has been working hard since launch to assess what these small forces have done to the trajectory," said Allen Halsell of JPL, InSight's navigation team chief. "People have worked lots of hours to look at that. For engineers, it's a very interesting problem, and fun to try to figure out."

When the spacecraft is just a few hours from Mars, the planet's gravitational pull, or gravity well, will begin to reel the spacecraft in. At that point, InSight's team will prepare for the next milestone after cruise: entering Mars' atmosphere, descending to the surface and sticking InSight's landing.

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver.

Find more information about InSight at: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

Follow InSight's path to Mars by visiting NASA's Eyes on the Solar System: https://go.nasa.gov/2FSWReg

Animation (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Andrew Good.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Drilling Success: Curiosity is Collecting Mars Rocks










NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) logo.

May 23, 2018


Image above: NASA's Curiosity rover successfully drilled a 2-inch-deep hole in a target called "Duluth" on May 20. It was the first rock sample captured by the drill since October 2016. This image was taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Sol 2057. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Engineers working with NASA's Curiosity Mars rover have been hard at work testing a new way for the rover to drill rocks and extract powder from them. This past weekend, that effort produced the first drilled sample on Mars in more than a year.

Curiosity tested percussive drilling this past weekend, penetrating about 2 inches (50 millimeters) into a target called "Duluth."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been testing this drilling technique since a mechanical problem took Curiosity's drill offline in December of 2016. This technique, called Feed Extended Drilling, keeps the drill's bit extended out past two stabilizer posts that were originally used to steady the drill against Martian rocks. It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home.

Artist's view of Curiosity's percussive drilling on a rock. Image Credits: NASA//JPL-Caltech

"The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet," said Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee of JPL. "Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We’re thrilled that the result was so successful."

Drilling is a vitally important part of Curiosity's capabilities to study Mars. Inside the rover are two laboratories that are able to conduct chemical and mineralogical analyses of rock and soil samples. The samples are acquired from Gale Crater, which the rover has been exploring since 2012.

Curiosity's science team has been eager to get the drill working before the rover leaves its current location near Vera Rubin Ridge. Fortunately, it was near enough to drill targets like Duluth to drive back down the ridge. Sunday's drill sample represents a quick taste of the region before Curiosity moves on.


Image above: A close-up image of a 2-inch-deep hole produced using a new drilling technique for NASA's Curiosity rover. The hole is about 0.6 inches across (1.6 centimeters). This image was taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Sol 2057. It has been white balanced and contrast enhanced. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Demonstrating that Curiosity's percussive drilling technique works is a milestone in itself. But that doesn't mean the work is over for engineers at JPL.

"We've been developing this new drilling technique for over a year, but our job isn't done once a sample has been collected on Mars," JPL's Tom Green, a systems engineer who helped develop and test Curiosity's new drilling method. "With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our testbed to iterate on the process."

There's also the next step to work on: delivering the rock sample from the drill bit to the two laboratories inside the rover. Having captured enough powder inside the drill, engineers will now use the rover's cameras to estimate how much trickles out while running the drill backwards. The drill’s percussion mechanism is also used to tap out powder.

As soon as this Friday, the Curiosity team will test a new process for delivering samples into the rover's laboratories.

For more about Curiosity, visit: https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/

And Mars, Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Andrew Good.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

First light for the storm hunter












ESA - Space Storm Hunter Mission patch.

23 May 2018

As the International Space Station flew over the Indonesian coast of Sumatra on an April night, lightning from a thunderstorm reached the upper layers of the atmosphere and its light show was captured by ESA’s latest observatory in space.

The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor, also known as the Space Storm Hunter, is completing its initial tests a month after it was installed outside Europe’s Columbus laboratory.

Eyes on the storm

The first images and data captured the strong signature of lightning with unprecedented accuracy 400 kilometres above Earth.

“We collected 100 000 measurements per second of this amazing force of nature,” explains Torsten Neubert, science team coordinator at the Technical University of Denmark, “this is a fantastic example of how powerful our photometers are”.

Elves and the power of light

The observatory points straight down at Earth so the atmosphere filters as little of the light as possible. The storm hunter’s photometers are hundreds of times more sensitive than an average camera on Earth. In the storm above Indonesia the instruments recorded a spike across three wavelengths.

“Even with the clouds partly blocking the lightning, the instruments show powerful electrical discharges high in the atmosphere. We think it shows an elve,” says Torsten.

Storm hunter infographics

Elves are the highest of all the ‘transient luminous events’ known to date. In the blink of an eye concentric rings appear as a dim, expanding glow hundreds of kilometres wide formed by electrons colliding and excited nitrogen molecules.

The images are surprisingly similar to a sequence captured by ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen from the International Space Station in 2015.

“Thanks to Andreas’s discovery we know exactly how to interpret the images,” says Torsten. The data will allow scientists to investigate the phenomenon, and distinguish between layers of lightning and other high-energy discharges.

More to come

Setting up one of the most complex facilities ever flown on Columbus is a matter of trial and error. Each element is tested, including measures to avoid sunlight burning the sensors.

The first images are from the facility's visual cameras. A second suite of instruments detects high and low energy and has not finished calibration yet.

Space Storm Hunter’s trip to space

The first images are only a taster of its capabilities. “The most exciting science is yet to come – we will soon be able to correlate these optical data with terrestrial gamma-ray measurements,” ends Torsten.

Related links:

International Space Station (ISS): http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/International_Space_Station

Experiment archive: http://eea.spaceflight.esa.int/

European space laboratory Columbus: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Columbus

International Space Station Benefits for Humanity: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/International_Space_Station_Benefits_for_Humanity

Terma (DK): http://www.terma.com/

ASIM website: http://www.asim.dk/

DTU Space: http://www.space.dtu.dk/english/Research/Projects/Project-descriptions/ASIM

Animation, Image, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/DTU Space/NASA.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Twin Spacecraft Launch to Track Earth’s Water Movement













NASA & GFZ - GRACE-FO Mission logo.

May 23, 2018


Image above: The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth's atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself. GRACE-FO is sharing its ride to orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites as part of a commercial rideshare agreement. Image Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

A joint U.S./German space mission to track the continuous movement of water and other changes in Earth’s mass on and beneath the planet’s surface successfully launched at 12:47 p.m. PDT Tuesday from the California coast.

The twin spacecraft of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO), a joint NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) mission, lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, sharing their ride into space with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites.

Ground stations have acquired signals from both GRACE-FO spacecraft. Initial telemetry shows the satellites are performing as expected. The GRACE-FO satellites are at an altitude of about 305 miles (490 kilometers), traveling about 16,800 mph (7.5 kilometers per second). They are in a near-polar orbit, circling Earth once every 90 minutes.

GRACE-FO satellites deployment

“GRACE-FO will provide unique insights into how our complex planet operates,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “Just as important, because the mission monitors many key aspects of the Earth’s water cycle, GRACE-FO data will be used throughout the world to improve people’s lives – from better predictions of drought impacts to higher quality information on use and management of water from underground aquifers.”

Over its five-year mission, GRACE-FO will monitor the movement of mass around our planet by measuring where and how the moving mass changes Earth's gravitational pull. The gravity changes cause the distance between the two satellites to vary slightly. Although the two satellites orbit 137 miles (220 kilometers) apart, advanced instruments continuously measure their separation to within the width of a human red blood cell.

GRACE-FO continues the U.S./German partnership of the original GRACE mission, which operated from 2002 through 2017. “This mission continues and advances an amazing achievement of science and technology pioneered by the United States and Germany,” said Zurbuchen.

For 15 years, GRACE’s monthly maps of regional gravity variations provided new insights into how the Earth system functions and responds to change.

Among its innovations, GRACE was the first mission to measure the amount of ice being lost from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The mission improved our understanding of the processes responsible for sea level rise and ocean circulation, provided insights into where global groundwater resources are shrinking or growing, showed where dry soils are contributing to drought, and monitored changes in the solid Earth, such as from earthquakes.


Image above: The two satellites that make up NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, launching May 19, 2018, will monitor changes in ice sheets and glaciers, underground water storage and sea level, providing a unique view of Earth’s climate that has far-reaching benefits. Image Credit: NASA.

Frank Webb, GRACE-FO project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, notes that to understand changes taking place in the climate system, scientists need data records several decades long.

"Extending the data record from GRACE will allow us to better distinguish short-term variability from longer-term trends," he said.

The GRACE-FO satellites will spend their first few days in space moving to the separation distance needed to perform their mission. When they reach this distance, the mission begins an 85-day, in-orbit checkout phase. Mission managers will evaluate the instruments and satellite systems and perform calibration and alignment procedures. Then the satellites will begin gathering and processing science data. The first science data are expected to be released in about seven months.

JPL manages the GRACE-FO mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, under the direction of the Earth Systematic Missions Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The spacecraft were built by Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany, under subcontract to JPL. GFZ contracted GRACE-FO launch services from Iridium. GFZ subcontracted mission operations to the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which operates the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany.

Related link:

GRACE: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/Grace/index.html

Related article:

GRACE-FO Twins Are Flying Free
https://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2018/05/grace-fo-twins-are-flying-free.html

For more information about GRACE-FO, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/gracefo

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Steve Cole/Sean Potter/JPL/Alan Buis/SpaceX/SciNews.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mardi 22 mai 2018

GRACE-FO Twins Are Flying Free















SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Iridium 6 / GRACE-FO Mission patch.

May 22, 2018


Image above: The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself. GRACE-FO is sharing its ride to orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites as part of a commercial rideshare agreement. Photo Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the GRACE-FO/Iridium-6 Mission from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on 22 May 2018, at 19:47 UTC (12:47 PDT).

SpaceX GRACE-FO/Iridium-6 Mission - Falcon 9 launches GRACE-FO and Iridium-6

The GRACE-FO satellites have successfully separated from the Falcon 9 rocket and are now flying independently. They will be in different orbits for the next few days that will put them into the correct configuration for science operations.

GRACE-FO satellites

The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) mission launched onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth's atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself.

Iridium NEXT communications satellite

GRACE-FO is sharing its ride to orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites as part of a commercial rideshare agreement.

Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO): https://www.nasa.gov/missions/grace-fo

Iridium NEXT: https://www.iridium.com/network/iridium-next/

SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com/

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/NASA/Tony Greicius/NASA TV/SciNews.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

OPERA presents its final results on neutrino oscillations












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

22 May 2018

The OPERA experiment, located at the Gran Sasso Laboratory of the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), was designed to conclusively prove that muon-neutrinos can convert to tau-neutrinos, through a process called neutrino oscillation, whose discovery was awarded the 2015 Nobel Physics Prize. In a paper published today in the journal Physical Review Letters, the OPERA collaboration reports the observation of a total of 10 candidate events for a muon to tau-neutrino conversion, in what are the very final results of the experiment. This demonstrates unambiguously that muon neutrinos oscillate into tau neutrinos on their way from CERN, where muon neutrinos were produced, to the Gran Sasso Laboratory 730 km away, where OPERA detected the ten tau neutrino candidates.


Image above: The OPERA experiment at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy (Image: INFN).

Today the OPERA collaboration has also made their data public through the CERN Open Data Portal. By releasing the data into the public domain, researchers outside the OPERA Collaboration have the opportunity to conduct novel research with them. The datasets provided come with rich context information to help interpret the data, also for educational use. A visualiser enables users to see the different events and download them. This is the first non-LHC data release through the CERN Open Data portal, a service launched in 2014.

There are three kinds of neutrinos in nature: electron, muon and tau neutrinos. They can be distinguished by the property that, when interacting with matter, they typically convert into the electrically charged lepton carrying their name: electron, muon and tau leptons. It is these leptons that are seen by detectors, such as the OPERA detector, unique in its capability of observing all three. Experiments carried out around the turn of the millennium showed that muon neutrinos, after travelling long distances, create fewer muons than expected, when interacting with a detector. This suggested that muon neutrinos were oscillating into other types of neutrinos. Since there was no change in the number of detected electrons, physicists suggested that muon neutrinos were primarily oscillating into tau neutrinos. This has now been unambiguously confirmed by OPERA, through the direct observation of tau neutrinos appearing hundreds of kilometres away from the muon neutrino source. The clarification of the oscillation patterns of neutrinos sheds light on some of the properties of these mysterious particles, such as their mass.

The OPERA collaboration observed the first tau-lepton event (evidence of muon-neutrino oscillation) in 2010, followed by four additional events reported between 2012 and 2015, when the discovery of tau neutrino appearance was first assessed. Thanks to a new analysis strategy applied to the full data sample collected between 2008 and 2012 – the period of neutrino production – a total of 10 candidate events have now been identified, with an extremely high level of significance.

“We have analysed everything with a completely new strategy, taking into account the peculiar features of the events,” said Giovanni De Lellis Spokesperson for the OPERA collaboration. “We also report the first direct observation of the tau neutrino lepton number, the parameter that discriminates neutrinos from their antimatter counterpart, antineutrinos. It is extremely gratifying to see today that our legacy results largely exceed the level of confidence we had envisaged in the experiment proposal.”

Beyond the contribution of the experiment to a better understanding of the way neutrinos behave, the development of new technologies is also part of the legacy of OPERA. The collaboration was the first to develop fully automated, high-speed readout technologies with sub-micrometric accuracy, which pioneered the large-scale use of the so-called nuclear emulsion films to record particle tracks. Nuclear emulsion technology finds applications in a wide range of other scientific areas from dark matter search to volcano and glacier investigation. It is also applied to optimise the hadron therapy for cancer treatment and was recently used to map out the interior of the Great Pyramid, one of the oldest and largest monuments on Earth, built during the dynasty of the pharaoh Khufu, also known as Cheops.

Note:

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

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

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related links:

Physical Review Letters: http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRevLett.120.211801

CERN Open Data Portal: http://opendata.cern.ch/docs/opera-news-first-release-2018

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit: https://home.cern/

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Achintya Rao.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch