vendredi 21 juillet 2017

Crew Conducts Research to Mitigate the Human Body’s Response to Spaceflight

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

July 21, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The crew of Expedition 52 wrapped up an intensive week of research on Friday, concentrating on studies in the field of human health and performance.

On Thursday, the crew conducted their second ultrasound for the Sprint investigation, which studies the use of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training to minimize the loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular fitness during long-duration space excursions. Using meticulous thigh and calf scans through remote guidance from the ground team, these results will help determine what changes astronauts are experiencing in microgravity and how best to manage those fluctuations for future missions.

Image above: Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer assess spaceflight-induced changes in muscle volume with the Sprint study.

Flight Engineers Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer today will gather and transfer Fluid Shifts hardware to the station’s Russian segment in preparation for Fluid Shifts Chibis (Lower Body Negative Pressure) operations that begin on Monday. Fluid Shifts investigates the causes for lasting physical changes to astronaut’s eyes—a side effect of human space exploration in a microgravity environment. It’s theorized that the headward fluid shift in space-faring explorers contributes to these changes. In response, a lower body negative pressure device is being evaluated to see if it can perhaps reverse this fluid shift. As an added bonus, what investigators glean from this study may contribute to the development of countermeasures against lasting changes in vision and prevention of eye damage.

The Expedition 52-53 crew that will lift off to the International Space Station within a week is finalizing preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy, along with astronauts Randy Bresnik and Paolo Nespoli, are slated to launch July 28 at 11:41 a.m. EDT for a six-hour journey to the orbiting laboratory. NASA TV will cover all the activities, so tune in.

Related links:



Fluid Shifts:

Expedition 52:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Catherine Williams.


Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist, week of July 17, 2017

ISS - Expedition 52 Mission patch.

July 21, 2017

(Highlights: Week of July 17, 2017) - Crew members on the International Space Station spend a lot of time studying human physiology to keep future space travelers safe on long journeys and improve life for people on Earth.

Astronauts 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. 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’s gravity. The investigation involves a series of interactive tasks on a touchscreen tablet and 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.

Image above: NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson posted this image to her Twitter account (@AstroPeggy) of her storing blood samples in the International Space Station's ultra-cold freezer for eventual return to Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA is studying how spaceflight changes the body's shape and size while in orbit. The Quantification of In-Flight Physical Changes – Anthropometry and Neutral Body Posture (Body Measures) investigation collects photos and videos as well as measurements of all body segments (i.e., chest, waist, hip, arms, legs, etc.) from astronauts before, during and after visits to the space station. Body mass is also recorded.

Long-term changes in crewmembers’ bodies could require new designs for suits, clothing, and work stations to maximize health and efficiency during future space missions. The investigation also could help scientists understand the effects of prolonged bed rest, which produces physiological changes similar to those experienced in microgravity. Results could improve the Neutral Body Posture template, based on the normal curvature of the spine, which is used in a wide range of design standards for ergonomic equipment and medical care.

Space station astronauts continued more research into bone health, completing a set of ultrasounds for the Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study (Sprint). This NASA Human Research Program study evaluates the use of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training to maintain the health of crew members -- minimizing muscle and bone loss and maintaining cardiovascular function during long-duration missions.

Image above: NASA astronaut Jack Fischer takes an ultrasound of his eyes during a routine medical check. Image Credit: NASA.

Ultrasound scans are used to evaluate spaceflight-induced changes in the muscle volume. When the study is complete, investigators expect to provide an integrated resistance and aerobic exercise training protocol capable of maintaining muscle, bone, and cardiovascular health while reducing total exercise time over the course of a long-duration spaceflight. This will provide valuable information in support of the long-term goal of protecting human fitness for even longer space exploration missions. Data gathered from the investigation also may help scientists develop treatments to aid in muscle, bone and heart health on Earth.

Space to Ground: A Giant Leap: 07/21/2017

Video above: NASA's Space to Ground is a weekly update on what is happening on the International Space Station. Social media users can post with #spacetoground to ask questions or make a comment. Video Credit: NASA.

Other investigations showing progress this week included Magnetic 3D Cell Culture for Biological Research in Microgravity (Magnetic 3D Cell Culturing), Capillary Structures for Exploration Life Support (Capillary Structures), Cardio Ox, MELFI-2, ISS-Ham Radio, Dose Tracker and Rodent Research-5.

Related links:

Fine Motor Skills:

Body Measures:


Magnetic 3D Cell Culturing:

Capillary Structures:

Cardio Ox:


ISS-Ham Radio:

Dose Tracker:

Rodent Research-5:

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.

Best regards,

Hubble’s Hunting Dog Galaxy

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 21, 2017

Tucked away in the small northern constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs) is the galaxy NGC 4242, shown here as seen by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy lies some 30 million light-years from us. At this distance from Earth, actually not all that far on a cosmic scale, NGC 4242 is visible to anyone armed with even a basic telescope, as British astronomer William Herschel found when he discovered the galaxy in 1788.

This image shows the galaxy’s bright center and the surrounding dimmer and more diffuse “fuzz.” Despite appearing to be relatively bright in this image, studies have found that NGC 4242 is actually relatively dim (it has a moderate-to-low surface brightness and low luminosity) and also supports a low rate of star formation. The galaxy also seems to have a weak bar of stars cutting through its asymmetric center, and a very faint and poorly-defined spiral structure throughout its disk. But if NGC 4242 is not all that remarkable, as with much of the Universe, it is still a beautiful and ethereal sight.

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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NASA Looks to Solar Eclipse to Help Understand Earth’s Energy System

NASA & NOAA - Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite (DSCOVR) patch.

July 21, 2017

It was midafternoon, but it was dark in an area in Boulder, Colorado on Aug. 3, 1998. A thick cloud appeared overhead and dimmed the land below for  more than 30 minutes. Well-calibrated radiometers showed that there were very low levels of light reaching the ground, sufficiently low that researchers decided to simulate this interesting event with computer models. Now in 2017, inspired by the event in Boulder, NASA scientists will explore the moon’s eclipse of the sun to learn more about Earth’s energy system.

A New View of Augusts Total Solar Eclipse

Video above: During the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse, scientists will use the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite (DSCOVR), along with measurements taken from within the moon's shadow on the ground, to test a new model of Earth's energy budget. Video Credits: NASA/Katy Mersmann.

On Aug. 21, 2017, scientists are looking to this year’s total solar eclipse passing across America to improve our modelling capabilities of Earth’s energy. Guoyong Wen, a NASA scientist working for Morgan State University in Baltimore, is leading a team to gather data from the ground and satellites before, during and after the eclipse so they can simulate this year’s eclipse using an advanced computer model, called a 3-D radiative transfer model. If successful, Wen and his team will help develop new calculations that improve our estimates of the amount of solar energy reaching the ground, and our understanding of one of the key players in regulating Earth’s energy system, clouds.

Earth’s energy system is in a constant dance to maintain a balance between incoming radiation from the sun and outgoing radiation from Earth to space, which scientists call the Earth’s energy budget. The role of clouds, both thick and thin, is important in their effect on energy balance.

Like a giant cloud, the moon during the 2017 total solar eclipse will cast a large shadow across a swath of the United States. Wen and his team already know the dimensions and light-blocking properties of the moon, but will use ground and space instruments to learn how this large shadow affects the amount of sunlight reaching Earth’s surface, especially around the edges of the shadow.

 Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite (DSCOVR): Image Credits: NASA/NOAA

“This is the first time we’re able to use measurements from the ground and from space to simulate the moon’s shadow going across the face of Earth in the United States and calculating energy reaching the Earth,” said Wen. Scientists have made extensive atmospheric measurements during eclipses before, but this is the first opportunity to collect coordinated data from the ground and from a spacecraft that observes the entire sunlit Earth during an eclipse, thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Deep Space Climate Observatory launched (DSCOVR) in February 2015.

Even though the moon blocking the sun during a solar eclipse and clouds blocking sunlight to Earth’s surface are two different phenomena, both require similar mathematical calculations to accurately understand their effects. Wen anticipates this experiment will help improve the current model calculations and our knowledge of clouds, specifically thicker, low altitude clouds that may cover about 30 percent of the planet at any given time.

In this experiment, Wen and his team will simulate the total solar eclipse in a 3-D radiative transfer model, which helps scientists understand how energy is propagated on Earth. Currently, models tend to depict clouds in one dimension. In many cases, these one dimensional calculations can create useful science models for understanding the atmosphere. Sometimes though, a three-dimensional calculation is needed to provide more accurate results. The big difference is that 3-D clouds reflect or scatter solar energy in many directions, from the top and bottom, and also out of the sides of clouds. This 3-D behavior results in different amounts of energy reaching the ground than a one-dimensional model could predict.

Animation above: DSCOVR's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) will capture images similar to this one from the Lagrange 1 point, about a million miles away from Earth. Animation Credits: NASA/Katy Mersmann.

“We’re testing the ability to do a certain kind of complex calculation, a test of a 3-D mathematical technique, to see if this is an improvement over the previous technique,” said Jay Herman, scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and co-investigator of the project. “If this is successful, then we will have a better tool to implement in climate models and can use it to answer questions and the Earth’s energy budget and climate.”

For the upcoming eclipse, Wen and his team members will be stationed in Casper, Wyoming, and Columbia, Missouri to gather information on the amount of energy being transmitted to and from Earth before, during and right after the eclipse with several ground instruments.

A ground-based, NASA-developed Pandora Spectrometer Instrument will provide information on how much of any given wavelength of light is present, and a pyranometer will measure total solar energy from all directions coming down toward the surface. Immediately before and after the eclipse scientists will measure other information such as the amount of absorbing trace gases in the atmosphere, such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and small aerosol particles to also use in the 3-D model.

Animation above: From a Million Miles: An EPIC Eclipse. This animation features shadow of the Moon on the Earth see by Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite (DSCOVR) using EPIC instrument. Animation Credit: NASA.

Meanwhile in space, NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera, or EPIC, instrument aboard the DSCOVR spacecraft, will observe the light leaving Earth and allow scientists to estimate of the amount of light reaching the earth’s surface. Additionally, NASA’s two MODIS satellite instruments, aboard the agency’s Terra and Aqua satellites, launched in 1999 and 2002, respectively, will provide observations of atmospheric and surface conditions at times before and after the eclipse. The scientists will then combine ground measurements with those observed by the spacecraft.

This experiment complements NASA’s decades-long commitment to observing and understanding contributions to Earth’s energy budget. For more than 30 years, NASA has measured and calculated the amount of solar energy hitting the top of our atmosphere, the amount of the sun’s energy reflected back to space and how much thermal energy is emitted by our planet to space. These measurements have been possible thanks to instruments and missions such as ACRIMSAT and SOLSTICE (launched in 1991), and SORCE, launched in 2003 as well as the series of CERES instruments flown aboard Terra, Aqua, and Suomi-NPP (launched in 2011).

Animation above: During the eclipse, scientists will take ground measurements in Casper, Wyoming, and Columbia, Missouri. Animation Credits: NASA/Katy Mersmann.

This fall, NASA will continue to monitor the sun-Earth relationship by launching the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor-1, or TSIS-1, to the International Space Station and the sixth Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System CERES instrument, CERES FM6, to orbit later this year. Five CERES instruments are currently on orbit aboard three satellites.

Related links:

NASA’s Total Solar Eclipse page:

Total Solar Irradiance Spectral Solar Irradiance instrument:

Information about the CERES instruments and data:



NASA & NOAA Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite (DSCOVR):

Animations (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sara Blumberg/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Kasha Patel.


jeudi 20 juillet 2017

Russian Cargo Craft Departs Space Station

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

July 20, 2017

The unpiloted Russian Progress 66 cargo craft departed the International Space Station today after a five-month stay. Loaded with trash and other items no longer needed by the Expedition 52 crew, the Progress automatically undocked from the Pirs Docking Compartment on the Earth-facing side of the Russian segment of the complex at 1:46 p.m. EDT. With its mission completed, the cargo craft, which first arrived at the complex on Feb. 24, used its engines to conduct a separation maneuver, allowing it to move to a safe distance away from the station. 

Image above: An unpiloted Russian Progress resupply ship undocks from the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

The Progress’ engines will execute a deorbit burn at 4:58 p.m. to enable it to drop out of orbit for its entry back to Earth where it will burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. 

The next Russian Progress resupply ship is scheduled to launch to the station in mid-October.

Related link:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Catherine Williams.

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From Mars Rover: Panorama Above 'Perseverance Valley'

NASA - Mars Exploration Rover B (MER-B) patch.

July 20, 2017

Panorama Above 'Perseverance Valley'. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded a panoramic view before entering the upper end of a fluid-carved valley that descends the inner slope of a large crater's rim.

The scene includes a broad notch in the crest of the crater's rim, which may have been a spillway where water or ice or wind flowed over the rim and into the crater.  Wheel tracks visible in the area of the notch were left by Opportunity as the rover studied the ground there and took images into the valley below for use in planning its route.

Image above: This mosaic scene combining five images from the navigation camera (Navcam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows a view from inside the upper end of "Perseverance Valley" on the inner slope of Endeavour Crater's western rim. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

"It is a tantalizing scene," said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis. "You can see what appear to be channels lined by boulders, and the putative spillway at the top of Perseverance Valley. We have not ruled out any of the possibilities of water, ice or wind being responsible."

Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) took the component images of the scene during a two-week driving moratorium in June 2017 while rover engineers diagnosed a temporary stall in the left-front wheel's steering actuator. The wheel was pointed outward more than 30 degrees, prompting the team to call the resulting vista Pancam's "Sprained Ankle" panorama. Both ends of the scene show portions of Endeavour Crater's western rim, extending north and south, and the center of the scene shows terrain just outside the crater.

Image above: This image from the navigation camera (Navcam) on the mast of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity provides a look back to the crest of Endeavour Crater's rim after the rover began descending "Perseverance Valley" on the rim's inner slope. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The team was able to straighten the wheel to point straight ahead, and now uses the steering capability of only the two rear wheels. The right-front wheel's steering actuator has been disabled since 2006. Opportunity has driven 27.95 miles (44.97 kilometers) since landing on Mars in 2004.

(Click on the image for enlarge)

Image above: Enhanced Color Panorama Above 'Perseverance Valley' on Mars. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

On July 7, 2017, Opportunity drove to the site within upper Perseverance Valley where it will spend about three weeks without driving while Mars passes nearly behind the sun from Earth's perspective, affecting radio communications. The rover's current location is just out of sight in the Sprained Ankle panorama, below the possible spillway. Opportunity is using Pancam to record another grand view from this location.

Mars Exploration Rover (MER). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After full communications resume in early August, the team plans to drive Opportunity farther down Perseverance Valley, seeking to learn more about the process that carved it.

For more information about Opportunity's adventures on Mars, visit:

Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/Jon Nelson/JPL/Guy Webster.


Hubble Sees Martian Moon Orbiting the Red Planet

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 20, 2017

The sharp eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured the tiny moon Phobos during its orbital trek around Mars. Because the moon is so small, it appears star-like in the Hubble pictures.

Over the course of 22 minutes, Hubble took 13 separate exposures, allowing astronomers to create a time-lapse video showing the diminutive moon's orbital path. The Hubble observations were intended to photograph Mars, and the moon's cameo appearance was a bonus.

Phobos Photobombs Hubble’s Picture of Mars

Video above: When the Hubble Space Telescope observed Mars near opposition in May, 2016, a sneaky companion photobombed the picture. Phobos, the Greek personification of fear, is one of two tiny moons orbiting Mars. In 13 exposures over 22 minutes, Hubble captured a timelapse of Phobos moving through its 7-hour 39-minute orbit. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

A football-shaped object just 16.5 miles by 13.5 miles by 11 miles, Phobos is one of the smallest moons in the solar system. It is so tiny that it would fit comfortably inside the Washington, D.C. Beltway.

The little moon completes an orbit in just 7 hours and 39 minutes, which is faster than Mars rotates. Rising in the Martian west, it runs three laps around the Red Planet in the course of one Martian day, which is about 24 hours and 40 minutes. It is the only natural satellite in the solar system that circles its planet in a time shorter than the parent planet's day.

About two weeks after the Apollo 11 manned lunar landing on July 20, 1969, NASA's Mariner 7 flew by the Red Planet and took the first crude close-up snapshot of Phobos. On July 20, 1976 NASA's Viking 1 lander touched down on the Martian surface. A year later, its parent craft, the Viking 1 orbiter, took the first detailed photograph of Phobos, revealing a gaping crater from an impact that nearly shattered the moon.

Image above: Over the course of 22 minutes, Hubble took 13 separate exposures, allowing astronomers to create a time-lapse image showing the tiny moon Phobos during its orbital trek (white dots) around Mars. This image is a composite of separate exposures acquired by NASA's Hubble WFC3/UVIS instrument. Banner Animation: The animation at the top of the page was made from these images. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI), Acknowledgment: J. Bell (ASU) and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute).

Phobos was discovered by Asaph Hall on August 17, 1877 at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., six days after he found the smaller, outer moon, named Deimos. Hall was deliberately searching for Martian moons.

Both moons are named after the sons of Ares, the Greek god of war, who was known as Mars in Roman mythology. Phobos (panic or fear) and Deimos (terror or dread) accompanied their father into battle.

Close-up photos from Mars-orbiting spacecraft reveal that Phobos is apparently being torn apart by the gravitational pull of Mars. The moon is marred by long, shallow grooves that are probably caused by tidal interactions with its parent planet. Phobos draws nearer to Mars by about 6.5 feet every hundred years. Scientists predict that within 30 to 50 million years, it either will crash into the Red Planet or be torn to pieces and scattered as a ring around Mars.

Orbiting 3,700 miles above the Martian surface, Phobos is closer to its parent planet than any other moon in the solar system. Despite its proximity, observers on Mars would see Phobos at just one-third the width of the full moon as seen from Earth. Conversely, someone standing on Phobos would see Mars dominating the horizon, enveloping a quarter of the sky.

From the surface of Mars, Phobos can be seen eclipsing the sun. However, it is so tiny that it doesn't completely cover our host star. Transits of Phobos across the sun have been photographed by several Mars-faring spacecraft.

The origin of Phobos and Deimos is still being debated. Scientists concluded that the two moons were made of the same material as asteroids. This composition and their irregular shapes led some astrophysicists to theorize that the Martian moons came from the asteroid belt.

Animation above: Phobos, the Greek personification of fear, is one of two tiny moons orbiting Mars. Animation Credit: NASA.

However, because of their stable, nearly circular orbits, other scientists doubt that the moons were born as asteroids. Such orbits are rare for captured objects, which tend to move erratically. An atmosphere could have slowed down Phobos and Deimos and settled them into their current orbits, but the Martian atmosphere is too thin to have circularized the orbits. Also, the moons are not as dense as members of the asteroid belt.

Phobos may be a pile of rubble that is held together by a thin crust. It may have formed as dust and rocks encircling Mars were drawn together by gravity. Or, it may have experienced a more violent birth, where a large body smashing into Mars flung pieces skyward, and those pieces were brought together by gravity. Perhaps an existing moon was destroyed, reduced to the rubble that would become Phobos.

Hubble took the images of Phobos orbiting the Red Planet on May 12, 2016, when Mars was 50 million miles from Earth. This was just a few days before the planet passed closer to Earth in its orbit than it had in the past 11 years.

Hubble Space Telescope. Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

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

For images and more information about Hubble, visit:

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Space Telescope Science Institute/Ann Jenkins/Ray Villard/Zolt Levay.