vendredi 29 décembre 2017

Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist, week of December 18, 2017

ISS - Expedition 54 Mission patch.

Dec. 29, 2017

(Highlights: Week of December 18, 2017) - Last week aboard the International Space Station, crew members received more than 4,800 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of the more than 250 ongoing investigations aboard the orbiting laboratory from the recent SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply. In addition to unpacking tons of new research materials, the space station also welcomed three new crew members– NASA’s Scott Tingle, Roscosmo’s Anton Shkaplerov and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The crew members explored research in the fields of microbiology, animal biology and cellular biology.

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon delivered more than 2 tons of science and supplies to the International Space Station. Here, it is seen off the coast of Indonesia ahead of docking to the orbiting laboratory. Image Credit: NASA.

Arthrospira B, an ESA investigation, is an important step in making improvements in the area of closed regenerative life support systems in space, which will help in making future human exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit a reality. This week, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei retrieved four Arthrospira experiment containers and transferred them to the Columbus module, where they were assembled and installed into the Biolab Incubator. The development of these kinds of regenerative life support systems for spaceflight could also be applied to remote locations on Earth where sustainability of materials is important.

The Cell-Science Validation investigation houses an enhanced cell culture platform that provides undisturbed culture maintenance, including feedback temperature control, medical grade gas supply, perfusion nutrient delivery and removal of waste and automated experiment manipulations. This week, Vande Hei removed the Bioculture System from the SpaceX-13 delivery vehicle and installed it into EXPRESS Rack 7. This incubator supports a wide diversity of tissue, cell, and microbiological cultures and experiment methods to meet spaceflight research experiment goals and objectives.

Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei prepared the Zebrafish experiment unit for the Zebrafish Muscle 2 investigation. Image Credit: NASA.

In microgravity conditions, the postural muscles undergo atrophy because of prominent decrease in their gravity-dependent activity. The Zebrafish Muscle 2, a JAXA investigation, studies muscle atrophy in microgravity. Following the arrival of SpaceX-13, Vande Hei and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba worked to prepare and transport the Zebrafish Experiment Units (EUs) into the Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI). The results from the next three days of Zebrafish Muscle 2 operations will help to determine whether atrophy of muscles under microgravity also occurs in zebrafish, and why that muscle atrophy occurs in microgravity.

Sarcopenia, or muscle loss or atrophy, is a current problem in the health industry on Earth and in space. The Rodent Research-6 investigation studies the efficacy of both a drug compound and a nano-channel drug delivery implant, for their use in the treatment of muscle loss in future spaceflight, and in the treatment of patients with muscle wasting diseases or conditions on Earth. Vande Hei and Acaba readied the habitats in preparation for the investigation’s arrival on Dragon. Upon arrival, health checks were completed on the rodents.

Image above: Seeds for APEX-05 investigation, planted in petri dishes, are grown within the Veggie plant growth facility. Image Credit: NASA.

The Assessing Osteoblast Response to Tetranite™ in Microgravity Conditions to Induce Osteoporosis (Synthetic Bone) investigation grows bone cells in the presence of a commercially available bone adhesive, and a new product called Tetranite™. Determining how well Tetranite™ integrates with bone cell cultures can also inform general strategies for addressing bone loss in space. Last week, Acaba completed the first microscopy of four Synthetic Bone Biocells, two of which were re-inserted into the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL) for continued incubation and growth. Results from this investigation could help to inform strategies for addressing bone loss in space.

Other work was done on these investigations: APEX-05, BRIC-LED-001, JAXA Low Temp PCG #2, Payload Card-X, STaARS BioScience-2, Cell-Free Epigenome, Lighting Effects, Marrow, Multi-Omics, Space Headaches, ACE-T-6, DOSIS-3D, MagVector, Area PADLES, BEAM, JEM Internal Ball Camera, Made in Space Fiber Optics and Personal CO2 Monitor.

Related links:

SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply:

Minus Eighty Degree Celsius Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI):

Rodent Research-6:

Tetranite™ in Microgravity Conditions to Induce Osteoporosis (Synthetic Bone):

Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL):



JAXA Low Temp PCG #2:

Lighting Effects:



Space Headaches:






JEM Internal Ball Camera:

Made in Space Fiber Optics:

Personal CO2 Monitor:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 53 & 54.


RSC ENERGIA: Angosat-1 Satellite Communications Re-Established


December 29, 2017

On December 26, 2017, at 22:00 Moscow Time, the integrated launch vehicle Zenit-3SLBF carrying Angosat spacecraft (SC) was normally launched from the launch pad of Area 45 of the Baikonur cosmodrome.

The Angosat SC was put into its target orbit on time and established communications, but after some time telemetry data stopped to come in.

LV Zenit-2SLBF with Angosat SC launched from Baikonur

RSC Energia specialists have received telemetry data from Angosat spacecraft which was launched on December 26 by an integrated launch vehicle Zenit-3SLBF from Baikonur cosmodrome.

Telemetry data have been received from the satellite, which show that all parameters of the onboard systems of the spacecraft are within nominal range.

Angosat is a spacecraft made by RSC Energia in the interests of the Republic of Angola to provide broadcast coverage in C- and Ku-bands over the territory of the Republic of Angola, as well as over the territory of the entire African continent. The Angosat project calls for constructing a communications satellite with a transponder, launching it into the geostationary orbit and building a round infrastructure for communications and TV broadcasting. Also taking part in the implementation of the project are enterprises included in the State Corporation Roscosmos.

Angosat-1 satellite

PAO RSC Energia is the leader in the rocket and space industry, and the prime contractor for manned space systems. The Corporation conducts work on the development of unmanned space and rocket systems (launch vehicles and orbital transfer vehicles), and high-technology systems for various non-space applications. Since August 2014, the Corporation is headed by Vladimir Solntsev.

ROSCOSMOS is a State Corporation established in August of 2015 in order to conduct a comprehensive reform of the rocket and space industry in Russia. State Corporation Roscosmos assures implementation of the Government policies in the field of space activities and provides for them a legal and regulatory framework, as well as places orders for the development, production and delivery of space hardware and space infrastructure facilities. The functions of the State Corporation also include development of international cooperation in space, and creating conditions for using results of space activities in social and economic development of Russia.

Related article:

Russia loses contact with Angolan satellite

More informatio about RSC ENERGIA:

Images, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/RSC Energia.


jeudi 28 décembre 2017

International Crew Researching Life Science Ahead of New Year

ISS - Expedition 54 Mission patch.

December 28, 2017

Image above: Flying over Caribbean Sea, speed: 27'608 Km/h, altitude: 405,90 Km, image capture (by Roland Berga) from International Space Station (ISS) via ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam from ISS. December 28, 2017 at 19:58 UTC.

After a Russian cargo ship departed the International Space Station Thursday, the Expedition 54 crew is wrapping up the final work week of 2017 orbiting Earth and conducting science. The six astronauts and cosmonauts will go into the last weekend of 2017 with light duty and family conferences before taking New Year’s Day off.

The Progress 67 (67P) resupply ship finished its stay six-and-a-half month at the station’s Zvezda service Thursday at 8:03 a.m. EDT. Cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov packed the 67P full of trash the closed its hatches before it automatically undocked. It will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and safely burn up over the south Pacific Ocean.

Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai took his turn on the exercise bike today for a study researching physical exertion in space. Doctors measure the astronauts breathing and other parameters during exercise to ensure they have the strength to perform strenuous activities such as spacewalks and even emergency procedures.

Image above: The Sahara Desert is pictured Dec. 24 as the space station orbited over the border of the African nations of Mali and Algeria. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA was harvesting plants for the Advanced Plants Experiment-05 (APEX) and stowing the botany samples in a science freezer for further analysis. Scientists are exploring how plants respond to microgravity and observing molecular and genetic changes.

The life science studies help mission doctors keep astronauts healthier and stronger while living in outer space. Also, NASA is planning longer human missions beyond low-Earth orbit and learning how to keep crews self-sustainable.

Finally, three U.S. astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese astronaut on the orbital laboratory will experience New Year’s Eve 16 times as they orbit Earth once every 90 minutes. That is 16 sunrise and sunsets 250 miles above Earth. The crew will take the day off, share a meal and reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead.

Russian Space Freighter Ends Stay at Station

Image above: Dec. 27, 2017: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragon space freighter, the Progress 68 resupply ship and the Soyuz MS-06 and MS-07 crew ships. Image Credit: NASA.

Filled with trash, the unpiloted ISS Progress 67 Russian cargo ship undocked from the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station at 8:03 p.m. EST. Just after 11 p.m., Russian flight controllers will send commands to fire the Progress’ engines and deorbit the space freighter, sending it to a destructive entry over the unpopulated south Pacific Ocean.

Related links:


Expedition 54:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

mercredi 27 décembre 2017

New Crew Gets Used to Space as Cargo Craft Prepares to Depart

ISS - Expedition 54 Mission patch.

Dec. 27, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

The International Space Station’s three newest crew members are beginning their second week familiarizing themselves with the orbital lab’s operations and systems. They and the other three Expedition 54 crew mates are also busy today with cargo operations, space science and station maintenance.

Also, a Russian cargo craft is departing the station tonight after a six-and-a-half month stay docked to the Zvezda service module. The Progress 67 cargo craft will undock from Zvezda tonight at 8:03 p.m. EST then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere to burn up over the south Pacific Ocean.

Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and first-time astronauts Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of JAXA are in their second week in Earth orbit and getting used to life in space. The new space residents, who arrived Dec. 19, have time set aside in their schedules to adjust to life and work in weightlessness.

Image above: Expedition 54-55 prime crew members (from left) Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Scott Tingle of NASA. Image Credit: NASA.

Two-time station resident Joe Acaba from NASA worked throughout Wednesday gathering items for stowage inside the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship. Kanai assisted Acaba with the pre-packing duties readying the cargo for return to Earth inside Dragon on Jan. 13.

Tingle strapped himself into an exercise bike this morning breathing into a tube for a study measuring physical exertion in microgravity. In this long-running experiment, doctors are researching ways to ensure astronauts stay fit and healthy in space to maintain mission success.

Related links:


Commercial Resupply:

Expedition 54:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Kwanzaa Tholus on Ceres

NASA - Dawn Mission patch.

Dec. 27, 2017

What is a tholus? A tholus is a type of small mountain. These images show such a feature on dwarf planet Ceres called Kwanzaa Tholus. Kwanzaa, meaning "first fruits" in Swahili, is an African-American festival based on ancient African harvest celebrations, and takes place each year from December 26 to January 1.

Kwanzaa Tholus measures about 22 by 12 miles (35 by 19 kilometers) and is elevated about 2 miles (3 km) above its surroundings. Because the mountain does not rise sharply above the ground, it is difficult to see in the mosaic on the left, although a small crescent-shaped shadow stands out. The image on the right, which is an elevation map of the area, shows where Kwanzaa Tholus is more prominently.

The rounded shape of Kwanzaa Tholus is typical of tholi (plural of tholus) in general, but is different than other examples found on Ceres (like Dalien Tholus) and Mars. This region is particularly rich in this type of feature: The current Ceres map shows six named tholi and montes (slightly bigger mountains) in the region (centered around 32 degrees north, 327 degrees east) and several others including Ahuna Mons farther south.

Scientists say Kwanzaa Tholus may have once been as prominent as Ahuna Mons, the tallest and most noticeable mountain on Ceres. Ahuna Mons is likely a cryovolcano, formed by the gradual accumulation of thick, slowly flowing icy materials. Because ice is not strong enough to preserve an elevated structure for extended periods, cryovolcanoes on Ceres are expected to gradually collapse over tens of millions of years. This means Kwanzaa Tholus and other tholi in that area could be degraded mountains, which also formed from cryovolcanic activity.

Dawn spacecraft Ceres flyby

Learn more about the Dawn mission:

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Yvette Smith/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Best regards,

Russia loses contact with Angolan satellite


Dec 27, 2017

Zenit-2SB lift off with Angosat-1

On December 26, 2017 at 22:00 Moscow time, Zenit-2SB launch vehicle successfully lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Zenit-2SB launch with Angosat-1

This is the second incident of this kind. By the end of November, Moscow had already lost the Meteor weather satellite. The cost of the lost satellite is around 280 million dollars.

A fault?

Russia lost contact on Wednesday with Angosat-1, Angola's first Angosat-1 satellite, launched on Tuesday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to a Russian space source, raising fears of another setback one month after the embarrassing loss of another device.

Angosat-1 satellite

"The contact has stopped temporarily, we lost the telemetry," said the source told AFP, hoping to restore contact with this satellite whose cost is estimated at $ 280 million. At the end of November, Russia had lost contact with the Meteor weather satellite launched a few hours earlier by a Soyuz rocket from the new Vostochny cosmodrome.

Angosat is a spacecraft developed by RSC Energia in the interests of the Republic of Angola. It is designed to provide broadcasting coverage in C- and Ku-bands on the territory of the Republic of Angola, as well as the entire African continent. The project is designed for satellite communications with a transponder, launching it into the geostationary orbit and building a round of infrastructure for communications and TV broadcasting.

Roscosmos Press Release:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: AFP/ROSCOSMOS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


dimanche 24 décembre 2017

With Christmas Around the Corner Crew Researching Why Cells Change in Space

ISS - Expedition 54 Mission patch.

December 24, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Six Expedition 54 crew members will spend Christmas orbiting Earth sharing a traditional meal and opening goodies delivered on recent cargo missions to the International Space Station. Veteran crew member Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos is spending his third holiday season in space.

Meanwhile, advanced space science is taking place seven days a week on the orbital lab as the astronauts explore a variety of phenomena that can only be revealed in the microgravity environment. Human research is especially important as doctors learn how to keep space travelers healthy and strong during spaceflight.

Image above: The Expedition 54 crew members (from left) are NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei, Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai. Image Credit: NASA.

The station’s newest Flight Engineers, Scott Tingle of NASA and Norishige Kanai of JAXA, collected and stored their blood samples this morning for the Cell-Free Epigenome experiment. The samples will be analyzed later on the ground for cellular changes that take place in crew members while living in space.

Astronaut Joe Acaba of NASA is testing new research hardware today for its ability to maintain cell cultures and enable cellular experiment work. Acaba swapped out gear inside the Bioculture System that is being validated as a long-term biological research facility.

Image above: Sunrise over California coast, USA, altitude: 406,78 Km / speed: 27'511 Km/h. Image captured (by Roland Berga) with EarthCam from ISS - International Space Station (via ISS HD Live application) on December 24, 2017 at 13:34 UTC. Merry Christmas from space!

Related links:

Expedition 54:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Merry Christmas!

samedi 23 décembre 2017

NASA Remembers Astronaut Bruce McCandless II

NASA logo.

Dec. 23, 2017

Former NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless II, mission specialist on the STS-41B and STS-31 missions, passed away on Dec. 21, 2017, at the age of 80.

Image above: Official Space Shuttle portrait showing Astronaut Bruce McCandless II, attired in the Shuttle Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Suit with Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) attached and American flag in background. Image Credit: NASA.

Gallery: Images of Astronaut Bruce McCandless II:
Biography: Bruce McCandless II:

McCandless is perhaps best remembered as the subject of a famous NASA photograph (below right), flying alongside the space shuttle in the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) -- the first astronaut to fly untethered from his spacecraft. His time as an astronaut encompassed much more than that mission, including serving as the Mission Control communicator for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's moonwalk on the Apollo 11 mission.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bruce's family," said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. "He will always be known for his iconic photo flying the MMU."

McCandless, a retired U. S. Navy captain, was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He was a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 14 mission and was backup pilot for the first crewed Skylab mission. He flew as a mission specialist on two space shuttle missions. On STS-41B in 1984, he performed the famous spacewalk and on STS-31 in 1990 he helped deploy the Hubble Space Telescope.

Of his famous spacewalk, he wrote in 2015: "My wife [Bernice] was at mission control, and there was quite a bit of apprehension. I wanted to say something similar to Neil [Armstrong] when he landed on the moon, so I said, 'It may have been a small step for Neil, but it’s a heck of a big leap for me.' That loosened the tension a bit."

Born June 8, 1937, in Boston, McCandless graduated from Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, Long Beach, California. He received a bachelor of science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1958, a master of science degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1965, and a masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Houston at Clear Lake City in 1987.

Image above: Astronaut Bruce McCandless II, STS-41B mission specialist, uses his hands to control his movement above the Earth - and just few meters away from the space shuttle Challenger - during the first-ever spacewalk which didn't use restrictive tethers and umbilicals. Fellow crewmembers aboard the Challenger used a 70mm camera to expose this frame through windows on the flight deck. Image Credit: NASA.

He was a co-investigator on the M-509 astronaut maneuvering unit experiment which was flown in the Skylab Program and collaborated on the development of the MMU. He was responsible for crew inputs to the development of hardware and procedures for the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS), the Hubble Space Telescope, the Solar Maximum Repair Mission, and the Space Station Program. McCandless logged more than 312 hours in space, including four hours of flight time using the MMU.

Among the awards and honors received by McCandless are the Legion of Merit (1988); Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal (1985); National Defense Service Medal; American Expeditionary Service Medal; NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1974); American Astronautical Society Victor A. Prather Award (1975 & 1985); NASA Space Flight Medal (1984); NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (1985); National Aeronautic Association Collier Trophy (1985); Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum Trophy (1985). He was awarded one patent for the design of a tool tethering system that was used during shuttle spacewalks.

Captain McCandless was the son of the late Rear Admiral (USN) and Mrs. Bruce McCandless. Admiral McCandless received the Congressional Medal of Honor for the naval battle of Guadalcanal, Dec. 12-13, 1942. He passed away in 1968. His paternal grandfather, Commodore (later Rear Admiral) Byron McCandless, USN, received the Navy Cross for World War I, and his maternal grandfather, Captain Willis Winter Bradley, USN, was the first recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War I.

Captain McCandless is survived by his wife, Ellen Shields McCandless of Conifer, Colorado; his son, Bruce McCandless III of Austin, Texas and his wife, Patricia; his daughter, Tracy McCandless, of Islamorada, Florida, and two granddaughters, Emma Rose and Carson Clare McCandless of Austin.  He is also survived by a brother, Douglas M. McCandless of Washington, D.C., and two sisters, Sue M. Woodridge of Texas, and Rosemary V. McCandless of Dallas, Texas.

Astronaut Bruce McCandless II Floats Free in Space

Video above: On Feb. 7, 1984, during the Space Shuttle Challenger’s STS-41B mission, NASA Astronaut Bruce McCandless II makes the first, untethered, free flight spacewalk in the Manned Maneuvering Unit. Video Credit: NASA.

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sarah Loff.


Arecibo Radar Returns with Asteroid Phaethon Images

Asteroid Watch logo.

December 23, 2017

Updated Version as of 11 am PST: corrections include close approach distance and size comparison to asteroid Bennu.

Image above: These radar images of near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon were generated by astronomers at the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory on Dec. 17, 2017. Observations of Phaethon were conducted at Arecibo from Dec.15 through 19, 2017. At time of closest approach on Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST, 11 p.m. UTC) the asteroid was about 6.4 million miles (10.3 million kilometers) away, or about 27 times the distance from Earth to the moon. The encounter is the closest the asteroid will come to Earth until 2093. Image Credits: Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF.

After several months of downtime since Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico, the Arecibo Observatory Planetary Radar has returned to normal operation, providing the highest-resolution images to date of near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon during its December 2017 close approach to Earth. The radar images, which are subtle at the available resolution, reveal the asteroid is spheroidal (roughly ball-shaped) and has a large concavity, or depression, at least several hundred meters in extent near its equator, and a conspicuous dark, circular feature near one of the poles. Arecibo's radar images of Phaethon have resolutions as fine as about 250 feet (75 meters) per pixel.

"These new observations of Phaethon show it may be similar in shape to asteroid Bennu, the target of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, but more than 1,000 Bennus could fit inside of Phaethon," said Patrick Taylor, a Universities Space Research Association (USRA), Columbia, Maryland, scientist and group leader for Planetary Radar at Arecibo Observatory. "The dark feature could be a crater or some other topographic depression that did not reflect the radar beam back to Earth."

Radar images obtained by Arecibo indicate Phaethon has a diameter of about 3.6 miles (6 kilometers) -- roughly 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) larger than previous estimates. Phaethon is the second largest near-Earth asteroid classified as "Potentially Hazardous." Near-Earth objects are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), based on their size and how closely they can approach Earth's orbit.

Animation above: Near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Animation Credits: Arecibo Observatory/NASA/NSF.

Tracking and characterizing PHAs is a primary mission of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Radar is a powerful technique for studying asteroid sizes, shapes, rotation, surface features and roughness, and for more precise determination of their orbital path, when they pass relatively close to Earth.

"Arecibo is an important global asset, crucial for planetary defense work because of its unique capabilities," said Joan Schmelz of USRA and deputy director of Arecibo Observatory. "We have been working diligently to get it back up and running since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico."

The Arecibo Observatory has the most powerful astronomical radar system on Earth. On Sept. 20, the telescope suffered minor structural damage when Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit the island since 1928, made landfall. Some days after the storm, the observatory resumed radio astronomy observations, while also serving as a base for relief efforts to surrounding communities. Radar observations, which require high power and diesel fuel for generators at the site, resumed operations in early December after commercial power returned to the observatory and the generators could then be used exclusively for the radar.

Asteroid 3200 Phaethon was discovered on Oct. 11, 1983, by NASA's Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), and the planetary dust that produces the annual Geminid meteor shower originates from this asteroid. Observations of Phaethon were conducted at Arecibo from Dec. 15 through 19, 2017, using the NASA-funded planetary radar system. At time of closest approach on Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST, 11 p.m. UTC) the asteroid was about 6.4 million miles (10.3 million kilometers) away, or about 27 times the distance from Earth to the moon. The encounter is the closest the asteroid will come to Earth until 2093, but it came a little closer in 1974 and about half this distance back in 1931 before its existence was known.

The Arecibo Planetary Radar Program is funded by NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program through a grant to Universities Space Research Association (USRA), from the Near-Earth Object Observations program. The Arecibo Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by SRI International, USRA, and Universidad Metropolitana.

NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office is responsible for finding, tracking and characterizing potentially hazardous asteroids and comets coming near Earth, issuing warnings about possible impacts, and assisting coordination of U.S. government response planning, should there be an actual impact threat.

More information about the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory can be found at:

More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects can be found at:

For more information about NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, visit:

For asteroid and comet news and updates, follow AsteroidWatch on Twitter:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/JPL/DC Agle/Universities Space Research Association/Suraiya Farukhi .


CASC Long March 2D lofts LKW-2

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

Dec. 23, 2017

Long March 2D launches LKW-2

The Chinese have launched the Yaogan Weixing remote sensing satellite – also known as the Land Surveying Satellite -2 (LKW-2) – via a Long March-2D (Chang Zheng-2D) on Saturday. The launch – from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) – took place at 04:14 UTC from the 603 Launch Platform at the LC43 Launch Complex.

China Launches Land Exploration Satellite

As per usual for the Chinese media, this spacecraft is once again classed as a new remote sensing bird that will be used for scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring.

As was the case in previous launches of the Yaogan Weixing series, analysts believe this class of satellites is used for military purposes.

As was the case with the former Soviet Union (and in a smaller scale with Russia) with the ‘Cosmos’ designation, the ‘Yaogan’ designation is used to hide the true military nature of the vehicles orbited.

LKW-2 satellite

The satellite is probably an electro-optical observation satellite, with the previous launch gaining the public name Land Surveying Satellite -1 (LKW-1).

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

Images, Video, Text, Credit: CASC/NASA Graham/CCTV+.


JAXA H-IIA rocket launches GCOM-C mission

JAXA - GCOM-C Mission patch.

Dec. 23, 2017

H-IIA rocket carrying GCOM-C Mission launch

Japan launched the second satellite of its Global Change Observation Mission Saturday. The GCOM-C satellite lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Centre atop an H-IIA rocket at the start of a 22-minute window that opened at 10:26:22 local time (01:26 UTC).

Saturday’s launch, also lofting the Super-Low Altitude Test Satellite (SLATS), was Japan’s seventh of the year. It came two and a half months after the rocket’s previous mission delivered the fourth QZSS navigation satellite into orbit.

Video above: JAXA H-2A Launching GCOM-C And SLATS Satellites Into Low Earth Orbit From Tanegashima Space Center. Video Credit: JAXA.

The Global Change Observation Mission (GCOM) is a project that is being undertaken by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to study long-term changes in Earth’s climate and water cycle. The project’s first satellite – Shizuku, or GCOM-W – was launched in May 2012 with an expected five-year operational lifespan, and remains in service. Shizuku is dedicated to monitoring Earth’s water cycle, while the GCOM-C satellite that is being launched on Saturday will focus on climate change. Once in orbit, the satellite will be renamed Shikisai.

GCOM-C, which is also known as GCOM-C1, is a 2,093-kilogram (4,614 lb) spacecraft that is expected to operate for at least five years. The satellite carries an imaging payload that will allow it to monitor aspects of Earth’s climate. Its images will be used to study distributions of aerosols, water vapor and clouds in the atmosphere, to monitor the color and temperature of the oceans, snow and ice cover on land and to monitor vegetation and land usage.

The Super-Low Altitude Test Satellite, or SLATS, is an approximately-400-kilogram (880 lb) miniature satellite that was deployed into a lower orbit after GCOM-C separates from the carrier rocket. SLATS, which will be renamed Tsubame – meaning Swallow – after deployment, is a technology demonstration mission that will test the use an ion engine to allow the satellite to operate in a very low orbit without re-entering the atmosphere.

For more information about the mission, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: JAXA/NASA Graham.

Best regards,

SpaceX - Iridium-4 Mission Success

SpaceX - Iridium NEXT IV Mission patch.

Dec. 23, 2017

Image above: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Image Credit: SpaceX.

The Falcon 9 mission, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 8:27 p.m. Eastern in an instantaneous launch window, was the fourth of eight missions for Iridium, carrying the McLean, Virginia-based operator’s second generation satellites, called Iridium Next.

SpaceX - Iridium-4 Webcast

In what now is considered a rarity, SpaceX opted not to recover the rocket’s first stage, instead letting the booster fall into the Pacific Ocean. SpaceX has recovered 20 out of 42 first stage Falcon 9 boosters to date, with the first success following the launch of 11 Orbcomm satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO) in December 2015. Today’s launch was SpaceX’s fifth with a previously flown Falcon 9, using a first stage that had launched the second batch of 10 Iridium Next satellites back in June.

Iridium NEXT

This was the fourth set of 10 satellites in a series of 75 total satellites that SpaceX will launch for Iridium’s next generation global satellite constellation, Iridium® NEXT.

Related links:

Iridium NEXT:


Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Iridium/ Aerospace.


vendredi 22 décembre 2017

Hubble's Holiday Nebula “Ornament”

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Dec. 22, 2017

The Hubble Space Telescope captured what looks like a colorful holiday ornament in space. It's actually an image of NGC 6326, a planetary nebula with glowing wisps of outpouring gas that are lit up by a central star nearing the end of its life.

When a star ages and the red giant phase of its life comes to an end, it starts to eject layers of gas from its surface leaving behind a hot and compact white dwarf. Sometimes this ejection results in elegantly symmetric patterns of glowing gas, but NGC 6326 is much less structured. This object is located in the constellation of Ara, the Altar, about 11,000 light-years from Earth.
Planetary nebulae are one of the main ways in which elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are dispersed into space after their creation in the hearts of stars. Eventually some of this out-flung material may form new stars and planets.

This picture was created from images taken using the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.  The vivid blue and red hues come from material including ionized oxygen and hydrogen glowing under the action of the fierce ultraviolet radiation from the still hot central star.

Hubble Space Telescope

For images and more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA/Text Credits: European Space Agency/NASA/Karl Hille.

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jeudi 21 décembre 2017

Crew Heads into Holidays with Bone and Muscle Research

ISS - Expedition 54 Mission patch.

Dec. 21, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Three veteran International Space Station crew members and three first-time astronauts will spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve orbiting Earth. They are continuing to research how living in space affects the human body and maintaining the orbital laboratory.

Veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov is spending his third holiday season in space having served on two previous Expeditions. He recently arrived Dec. 19 with NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and JAXA astronaut Norishige Kanai. Greeting the new crew were Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin and NASA astronauts Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei. Misurkin and Acaba are in the middle of their second station mission and this is Vande Hei’s first mission.

Today, the station residents explored why bone and muscle atrophy occur in space and ways to prevent that loss to keep astronauts healthy.

Image above: Expedition 54-55 Flight Engineer Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is inside the International Space Station’s seven-windowed cupola as the Earth passes 250 miles below. Image Credit: NASA.

Kanai collected and stored his breath and blood samples for the Marrow study to understand what is happening to his bone marrow and blood cells during spaceflight. Kanai later joined Acaba peering at synthetic bone cells through a microscope. The synthetic material is being incubated and then integrated with real bone cells potentially benefitting bone health on Earth and in space.

Vande Hei studied zebrafish today observing how their muscles adapt to the microgravity environment. The experiment seeks to identify chemical, protein and cellular activity taking place during muscle atrophy that may lead to new drugs and treatments.

Related links:

Marrow study:

Synthetic bone cells:

Zebrafish study:

Expedition 54:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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NASA Invests in Concept Development for Missions to Comet, Saturn Moon Titan

NASA - Marshall Space Flight Center logo.

Dec. 21, 2017

Image Credit: NASA

NASA has selected two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

The agency announced the concepts Wednesday, following an extensive and competitive peer review process. The concepts were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in April under a New Frontiers program announcement of opportunity.

“This is a giant leap forward in developing our next bold mission of science discovery,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These are tantalizing investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today.”

The finalists are:

Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return (CAESAR)

Image above: The CAESAR (Comet Astrobiology Exploration SAmple Return) mission will acquire a sample from the nucleus of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, returning it safely to Earth. Comets are made up of materials from ancient stars, interstellar clouds, and the birth of our solar system. The CAESAR sample will reveal how these materials contributed to the early Earth, including the origins of the Earth's oceans, and of life. Image Credit: NASA.

The CAESAR mission seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet that was successfully explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, to determine its origin and history. Led by Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, CAESAR would be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.


Dragonfly is a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of dozens of sites on Saturn’s moon Titan, an ocean world in our solar system. Elizabeth Turtle from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, is the lead investigator, with APL providing project management.

Image above: Dragonfly is a dual-quadcopter lander that would take advantage of the environment on Titan to fly to multiple locations, some hundreds of miles apart, to sample materials and determine surface composition to investigate Titan's organic chemistry and habitability, monitor atmospheric and surface conditions, image landforms to investigate geological processes, and perform seismic studies. Image Credit: NASA.

The CAESAR and Dragonfly missions will receive funding through the end of 2018 to further develop and mature their concepts. NASA plans to select one of these investigations in the spring of 2019 to continue on to subsequent mission phases. 

The selected mission will be the fourth in NASA’s New Frontiers portfolio, a series of principal investigator-led planetary science investigations that fall under a development cost cap of approximately $850 million. Its predecessors are the New Horizons mission to Pluto and a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of the asteroid Bennu.

NASA also announced the selection of two mission concepts that will receive technology development funds to prepare them for future mission competitions.

The concepts selected for technology development are:

Enceladus Life Signatures and Habitability (ELSAH)

The ELSAH mission concept will receive funds to develop cost-effective techniques that limit spacecraft contamination and thereby enable life detection measurements on cost-capped missions. The principal investigator is Chris McKay of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and the managing NASA center is Goddard.

Venus In situ Composition Investigations (VICI)

Led by Lori Glaze at Goddard, the VICI mission concept will further develop the Venus Element and Mineralogy Camera to operate under the harsh conditions on Venus. The instrument uses lasers on a lander to measure the mineralogy and elemental composition of rocks on the surface of Venus.

The call for concepts was limited to six mission themes: comet surface sample return, lunar south pole-Aitken Basin sample return, ocean worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus), Saturn probe, Trojan asteroid tour and rendezvous, and Venus in situ explorer.

New Frontiers Program investigations address NASA’s planetary science objectives as described in the 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan. The program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.

Related links:

2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan:

ESA's Rosetta:

New Horizons:



Read more about NASA’s New Frontiers Program and missions at:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/Laurie Cantillo/Karen Northon/Marshall Space Flight Center/Molly Porter.


Bridging the Gap: NASA Studies the Human Body in Space for One Year to Extrapolate for Missions to Mars

NASA logo.

Dec. 21, 2017

Before we can run or jump, we walk. Before sending humans to Mars, NASA must understand how the human body is affected by living and working in space. Typical missions to the International Space Station last six months. A round-trip mission to Mars could last three years.  Do the effects of being in space change over time? NASA is asking the scientific community to propose research that will help bridge the gap in our knowledge regarding long-term experiences in space.

Call for Proposals to Address Physiological and Psychological Effects of Spaceflight

NASA’s Human Research Program is now soliciting proposals for research that, when combined with ongoing NASA studies, could enable safer and more effective travel to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. NASA is seeking research proposals in seven topic areas.   Such research will help NASA establish a baseline for proposed deep space missions up to 400 days in length as well as understand, prevent, diagnose, treat, mitigate, and cure the potential health effects of prolonged spaceflight. Interested scientists and researchers will find a detailed description of the research emphases, as well as the proposal process and awards, on the NSPIRES website.

“To draw any conclusions about the cumulative effects of exposure to space, we need to observe more astronauts spending larger amounts of time in the space environment,” said John Charles, Ph.D., associate director for Exploration Research Planning of the Human Research Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  “Scientists can use the information to predict physical and behavioral health trends.”

Image above: NASA is taking the first steps on its Journey to Mars. Artist’s concept, looking toward Mars. Image Credit: NASA.

Research from the selected proposals is expected to build upon data collected during the first one-year mission when Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko spent nearly a year in space. Additional space station studies, supplemented with research conducted at analogs on Earth, will allow NASA to accumulate a more comprehensive biomedical, behavioral, and performance health dataset.  NASA plans to use the findings to support long-term missions that will reach new milestones in human achievement as astronauts forge a path to Mars. The findings may also support innovative diagnostic and behavioral approaches on Earth; for example, research in team problem-solving skills has the potential to be applied to all personnel involved in any long-duration mission (operational and mission control team members as well as spaceflight crew members) and to any team involved in critical decision-making processes.

Proposals are due January 4, 2018, and NASA expects in late summer 2018 to select 15 to 18 proposals for grants with a maximum duration of seven years.

Connecting the Dots via Multiple Studies in Multiple Missions

Soliciting research for future one-year missions lays the groundwork for exploration missions and will enable NASA to begin planning and preparation for a proposed program of multiple concurrent missions. Researchers and scientists submitting proposals should consider a robust program that could include as many as 30 astronauts: 10 to conduct shorter missions of up to two months, 10 as part of standard six-month missions, and 10 one-year missions in space. An additional 18 research subjects are proposed for Earth-based analog studies (at planned lengths of four months, eight months, and one year).

With information gained from the selected studies, NASA aims to address five hazards of human space travel: space radiation, isolation and confinement, distance from Earth, gravity fields (or lack thereof), and hostile/closed environments that pose great risks to the human mind and body in space.  Analyzing the experiences of multiple astronauts at varying durations could potentially close critical gaps in current scientific understanding.  As NASA moves into a proving ground of missions near the Moon, the agency would continue to test capabilities. NASA could then extrapolate trends from six months out to two or three years, the expected duration of a typical mission to Mars.  Ultimately, such studies could enable NASA to develop and test technologies and countermeasures to protect the health and safety of crew members making history on interplanetary expeditions.

When the day comes for humans to launch on a journey to Mars, humanity will take another giant leap.  The knowledge gained from this research could give NASA a running start.

NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) is dedicated to discovering the best methods and technologies to support safe, productive human space travel. HRP enables space exploration by reducing the risks to astronaut health and performance using ground research facilities, the International Space Station, and analog environments. This leads to the development and delivery of an exploration biomedical program focused on: informing human health, performance, and habitability standards; the development of countermeasures and risk mitigation solutions; and advanced habitability and medical support technologies. HRP supports innovative, scientific human research by funding more than 300 research grants to respected universities, hospitals, and NASA centers to over 200 researchers in more than 30 states.

Related links:

NSPIRES website:!

International Space Station (ISS):

Journey to Mars:

NASA’s Human Research Program:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA Human Research Strategic Communications/Laurie Abadie/Amanda vonDeak/Timothy Gushanas.