пятница, 14 июня 2019 г.

They Put a Flag on the Moon


It’s 1969 and Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong are the first humans to land on the Moon. In now iconic footage, Aldrin and Armstrong carefully assemble and maneuver an American flag to place on the lunar surface. The fabric unfurls, staying suspended without any wind to animate the stars and stripes. The flagpole sways precariously as the crew work to anchor it in the Moon’s low gravity at just 1/6th that of Earth’s.

How did this moment come about? On Flag Day, let’s dive behind-the-scenes of what led to getting the American flag on the Moon 50 years ago.


Image: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during the Apollo 11 mission.

Seeking to empower the nation, President John F. Kennedy gave us a grand charge. The human spaceflight program of the early 1960s was challenged to work on missions that sent humans to the surface of another world. Following President Kennedy’s death in 1963, President Richard Nixon stressed a more international perspective to the Apollo missions. To reconcile the need for global diplomacy with national interests, we appointed the Committee on Symbolic Activities for the First Lunar Landing.


Image: NASA Administrator Thomas Paine and President Richard Nixon are seen aboard the USS Hornet, Apollo 11’s splashdown recovery vessel.

The committee, and the U.S. at large, wanted to avoid violating the United Nations Outer Space Treaty, which prohibited any nation from taking possession of a celestial body. After some debate, they recommended that the flag only appear during the Apollo 11 spacewalk. A plaque would accompany it, explaining that the flag was meant to stand for peaceful exploration, not conquest. 


Image: The plaque reads “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all of mankind.” Under the text are signatures by President Nixon, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins.

A team of engineers at Johnson Space Center had three months to resolve several issues regarding the flag’s assembly. First, was the Moon’s lack of atmosphere. The flag, quite literally, could not fly the way it does on Earth. To address this, a horizontal crossbar was added to support the flag’s weight and give the illusion of it waving.


Image: NASA technician David L. McCraw shows the flag next to a Lunar Module mockup.

Second was the flag’s assembly, which had to be as lightweight and compact as possible so as not to take up limited storage space. The completed package, which was attached to Lunar Module’s ladder, weighed just under ten pounds. It received an outer case made of steel, aluminum, and Thermoflex insulation and blanketing to shield the flag from the 2,000 degree Fahrenheit spike from the Eagle’s descent engine.


Image: Component pieces of the flag assembly.

The last issue was mobility. Bulky spacesuits significantly restricted the astronauts’ range of motion, and suit pressurization limited how much force they could apply. To accommodate these limits, the team included telescoping components to minimize the need to reach and maneuver the poles. A red painted ring on the flagpole indicated how far into the ground it should be driven. Hinges and catches would lock into place once the pieces were fully extended.


Image: Diagram from the 1969 Apollo 11 press release illustrating astronaut spacesuit reach capabilities and ideal working height.

Fifty years after Apollo 11, the flag we planted on the lunar surface has likely faded but its presence looms large in United States history as a symbol of American progress and innovation.


Image: A close-up view of the U.S. flag deployed on the Moon at the Taurus-by the crew of Apollo 17, the most recent lunar landing mission.

The story doesn’t stop here. Anne Platoff’s article “Where No Flag Has Gone Before” sheds more light on the context and technical process of putting the United States flag on the Moon. You can also check out Johnson Space Center’s recent feature story that details its presence in later missions.

Happy Flag Day! 

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Pathway for Movement Huntington’s disease is an incurable…

Pathway for Movement

Huntington’s disease is an incurable inherited condition where brain cells progressively die. Caused by a mutation to the huntingtin gene, the disease has wide ranging behavioural and cognitive effects, including the inability to stop unwanted movements. Huntington’s motor symptoms originate in a brain area called the striatum. Now scientists have looked at how neurons in this part of the brain behave in mice genetically engineered to develop a Huntington’s-like condition. This image shows one such neuron illuminated in red. The team found that when levels of the huntingtin gene were lowered, some of the abnormal behaviours they noticed in these cells could be reversed. In future, these types of such insights into the role of the striatal pathway in Huntington’s disease could lead to gene therapies that target the striatum and help patients regain control of their movements.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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How NASA’s Spitzer Has Stayed Alive for So Long

NASA — Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

June 14, 2019

After nearly 16 years of exploring the cosmos in infrared light, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope will be switched off permanently on Jan. 30, 2020. By then, the spacecraft will have operated for more than 11 years beyond its prime mission, thanks to the Spitzer engineering team’s ability to address unique challenges as the telescope slips farther and farther from Earth.

Managed and operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Spitzer is a small but transformational observatory. It captures infrared light, which is often emitted by «warm» objects that aren’t quite hot enough to radiate visible light. Spitzer has lifted the veil on hidden objects in nearly every corner of the universe, from a new ring around Saturn to observations of some of the most distant galaxies known. It has spied stars in every stage of life, mapped our home galaxy, captured gorgeous images of nebulas and probed newly discovered planets orbiting distant stars.

Image above: This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in front of an infrared image of the Milky Way galaxy. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

But as Spitzer’s deputy mission manager, Joseph Hunt, said, «You can have a world-class spacecraft, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t get the data back home.»

Spitzer orbits the Sun on a path similar to Earth’s but moves slightly slower. Today it trails about 158 million miles (254 million kilometers) behind our planet — more than 600 times the distance between Earth and the Moon. That distance, along with the curve of Spitzer’s orbit, means that when the spacecraft points its fixed antenna at Earth to download data or receive commands, its solar panels tilt away from the Sun. During those periods, the spacecraft must rely on a combination of solar power and battery power to operate.

The angle at which the panels point away from the Sun has increased every year that the mission has been operating. These days, to communicate with Earth, Spitzer has to position its panels at a 53-degree angle away from the Sun (90 degrees would be fully facing away), even though the mission planners never intended for it to tilt more than 30 degrees from the Sun. Spitzer can communicate with Earth for about 2.5 hours before it has to turn its solar panels back toward the Sun to recharge its batteries. That communications window would grow shorter year after year if Spitzer continued operating, which means there is a limit to how long it would be possible to operate the spacecraft efficiently.

An Enduring Effort

Teaching the spacecraft to accept new conditions — such as the increasing angle of the solar panels during communications with Earth — isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. There are multiple ways these changes could trigger safety mechanisms in the spacecraft’s flight software. For instance, if the panels tilted more than 30 degrees from the Sun during the mission’s early years, the software would have hit «pause,» putting the spacecraft into «safe mode» until the mission team could figure out what was wrong. The changing angle of Spitzer to the Sun could also trigger safety mechanisms intended to prevent spacecraft parts from overheating.

Entering safe mode can be particularly hazardous for the spacecraft, both because of its growing distance from Earth (which makes communicating more difficult) and because the aging onboard systems might not restart once they shut off.

To deal with these challenges, the project engineers and scientists at JPL and Caltech have worked with the observatory engineering team at Lockheed Martin Space’s Littleton, Colorado, facility to find a path forward. (Lockheed Martin built the Spitzer spacecraft for NASA.) Bolinda Kahr, Spitzer’s mission manager, leads this multi-center team. Over the years she and her colleagues have successfully figured out how to override safety mechanisms designed for the prime mission while also making sure that such alterations don’t introduce other unwanted side effects.

But as Spitzer ages and gets farther from Earth, the challenge of keeping the spacecraft operating and the risk that it will suffer a major anomaly are only increasing.

«I can genuinely say that no one involved in the mission planning thought we’d be running in 2019,» said Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, Spitzer’s project manager. «But we have an incredibly robust spacecraft and an incredible team. And we’ve been lucky. You have to have some luck, because you can’t anticipate everything.»

Keeping Cool

Most infrared detectors have to be cooled to very low temperatures, because excess infrared light from «warm» objects — including the Sun, Earth, the spacecraft and even the instruments themselves — can overwhelm the infrared sensors. This cooling is typically done with a chemical coolant.

The Spitzer planners instead came up with a passive-cooling system that included flying the spacecraft far from Earth (a major infrared heat source). They also chose materials for the spacecraft exterior that would both reflect sunlight away before it could heat the telescope and radiate absorbed heat back into space. In this configuration, coolant is required only to lower the instrument temperatures a few degrees further. Reducing the onboard coolant supply also drastically allowed the engineers to cut the total size of the spacecraft by more than 80% and helped curtail the anticipated mission budget by more than 75%.

Spitzer Space Telescope. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL

Although Spitzer’s coolant supply ran out in 2009, rendering two of its three instruments unusable, the team was able to keep half of the remaining instrument operating. (The instrument was designed to detect four wavelengths of infrared light; in the «warm» mode, it can still detect two of them.)

Lasting more than twice as long as the primary mission, Spitzer’s extended mission has yielded some of the observatory’s most transformational results. In 2017, the telescope revealed the presence of seven rocky planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star. In many cases, Spitzer’s exoplanet observations were combined with observations by other missions, including NASA’s Kepler and Hubble space telescopes.

Spitzer’s final year and a half of science operations include a number of exoplanet-related investigations. One program will investigate 15 dwarf stars (similar to the TRAPPIST-1 star) likely to host exoplanets. An additional 650 hours are dedicated to follow-up observations of planets discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched just over a year ago.

Final Voyage

Every mission must end at some point. As the challenges associated with operating Spitzer continue to grow and as the risk of a mission-ending anomaly on the spacecraft rises, NASA has made the decision to close out the mission in a controlled manner.

«There have been times when the Spitzer mission could have ended in a way we didn’t plan for,» said Kahr. «I’m glad that in January we’ll be able to retire the spacecraft deliberately, the way we want to do it.»

While Spitzer’s mission is ending, it has helped set the stage for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2021, which will study the universe in many of the same wavelengths observed by Spitzer. Webb’s primary mirror is about 7.5 times larger than Spitzer’s mirror, meaning Webb will be able to study many of the same targets in much higher resolution and objects much farther away from Earth than what Spitzer can observe.

Thirteen science programs have already been selected for Webb’s first five months of operations, four of which build directly on Spitzer observations. Webb will greatly expand on the legacy begun by Spitzer and answer questions that Spitzer has only begun to investigate.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Space operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Related links:

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS):

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): https://www.jwst.nasa.gov/

For more information on Spitzer, visit:



Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Calla Cofield.

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Space agencies come together

ESA — European Space Agency logo & JAXA — Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency logo.

14 June 2019

On 14 June, President Hiroshi Yamakawa of JAXA was welcomed at the 282nd meeting of the ESA Council – the Agency’s governing body – held at ESA’s Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

BepiColombo approaching Mercury

For decades, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, have worked in close collaboration to better understand our Universe.

From Earth observation missions to spacecraft exploring Martian moons, Mercury or distant asteroids, ESA and JAXA continue to show how international cooperation makes space exploration more effective and ultimately more successful.

Decades of cooperation

On his first visit to ESA mission control, President Yamakawa delivered a presentation highlighting 40 years of cooperation between ESA and JAXA, most recently illustrated by the launch of BepiColombo, the joint ESA–JAXA mission currently en route to Mercury.

“We are thrilled to welcome President Yamakawa into the heart of Europe’s mission control centre,” said Rolf Densing, ESA’s Director of Operations.

“Our agencies have achieved a great deal together so far, and we are looking forward to many more shared adventures in future.”

Eyes on Earth

The European and Japanese space agencies also recognise the huge importance of space missions to deliver better understanding of our changing planet by gathering data crucial for Earth science and for tackling climate change.


The joint ESA–JAXA EarthCARE satellite will include four cutting-edge sensors, including the first Doppler radar in space, the Cloud Profiling Radar, provided by JAXA. As well as providing this critical instrument, JAXA will be responsible for a portion of the science data processing and distribution, ensuring the information can be used by scientists worldwide.

Similarly, ESA is distributing data from JAXA’s GOSAT-1 and -2 satellites across Europe, both providing critical new information on greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

A phenomenal agreement

During the ESA Council meeting in Darmstadt, ESA Director General Jan Wörner and President Yamakawa signed an agreement on XRISM – the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission – which will study extremely energetic phenomena in the Universe.

ESA and JAXA join forces to understand the hot gas plasma wind

XRISM will be launched in the early 2020s from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan, with hardware components and support for science management and planning provided by ESA. In return, ESA will be granted observation time, to be allocated to scientists affiliated to institutions in ESA Member States.

Delving into deep space

As well as XRISM, ESA and JAXA are working on a number of missions taking us from our home planet out into deep space, including the JAXA-led Martian Moons eXploration mission and the ESA-led missions JUICE, studying Jupiter’s icy moons, and SPICA, ESA’s Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics.

Io transits Jupiter

On the ground, ESA and JAXA are planning a feasibility study for a much-needed new antenna, which would increase capacity to communicate with future missions.

Deep-space communication is vital to the success of all missions. ESA ground stations supported JAXA’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, which arrived at asteroid Ryugu last year.

Protecting our planet

The two agency leaders also recognised the importance of space safety activities to protect people, the planet and global space infrastructure from hazards such as near-Earth asteroids, space weather and space debris, as well as cybersecurity threats originating on Earth.

“While competition is undeniably a driver, cooperation can be a powerful enabler. In the cooperation with JAXA, the European Space Agency demonstrates its expertise in international partnership,” concludes Jan Wörner, ESA Director General.

“Together, we travel further, explore deeper and understand the Universe and ourselves better.”

Related links:

ESA–JAXA EarthCARE: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/The_Living_Planet_Programme/Earth_Explorers/EarthCARE/ESA_s_cloud_aerosol_and_radiation_mission

JAXA’s GOSAT-1 and -2 satellites:


XRISM: http://xrism.isas.jaxa.jp/en/

JAXA-led Martian Moons eXploration: http://mmx.isas.jaxa.jp/en/

ESA’s JUICE: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ESA_s_Jupiter_mission_moves_off_the_drawing_board

ESA’s SPICA: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Engineering_Technology/CDF/M5_CDF_Studies

Space safety: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Safety/Space_Safety

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA): https://global.jaxa.jp/

European Space Agency (ESA): http://www.esa.int/ESA

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/P. Carril/ATG medialab; Mercury: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

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2019 June 14 NGC 4676: The Mighty Mice Image Credit &…

2019 June 14

NGC 4676: The Mighty Mice
Image Credit & Copyright: Bruce Waddington

Explanation: These two mighty galaxies are pulling each other apart. Known as The Mice because they have such long tails, each large spiral galaxy has actually passed through the other. Their long tails are drawn out by strong gravitational tides rather than collisions of their individual stars. Because the distances are so large, the cosmic interaction takes place in slow motion – over hundreds of millions of years. They will probably collide again and again over the next billion years until they coalesce to form a single galaxy. NGC 4676 lies about 300 million light-years away toward the constellation of Bernice’s Hair (Coma Berenices) and are likely members of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies. Not often imaged in small telescopes, this wide field of view catches the faint tidal tails several hundred thousand light-years long.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190614.html

Meteor Activity Outlook for June 15-21, 2019

Meteor and Apache Helicopter – Pōhakuloa Training Area, Hawaii – April, 22nd 2019 © US Army

During this period the moon reaches its full phase on Monday June 17th. At this time the moon is located opposite the sun and lies above the horizon all night long. As the week progresses, the waning gibbous moon will rise later in the evening with each passing night, allowing a small window of dark skies between dusk and moon rise when dark skies are available. The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 2 for those viewing from the northern hemisphere and 3 for those located south of the equator. For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 5 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 7 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S). The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity. Rates are reduced by moonlight during this period. Note that the hourly rates listed below are estimates as viewed from dark sky sites away from urban light sources. Observers viewing from urban areas will see less activity as only the brightest meteors will be visible from such locations.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning June 15/16. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period. Most star atlases (available at science stores and planetariums) will provide maps with grid lines of the celestial coordinates so that you may find out exactly where these positions are located in the sky. A planisphere or computer planetarium program is also useful in showing the sky at any time of night on any date of the year. Activity from each radiant is best seen when it is positioned highest in the sky, either due north or south along the meridian, depending on your latitude. It must be remembered that meteor activity is rarely seen at the radiant position. Rather they shoot outwards from the radiant so it is best to center your field of view so that the radiant lies at the edge and not the center. Viewing there will allow you to easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant (if it is a shower member) or in another direction if it is a sporadic. Meteor activity is not seen from radiants that are located below the horizon. The positions below are listed in a west to east manner in order of right ascension (celestial longitude). The positions listed first are located further west therefore are accessible earlier in the night while those listed further down the list rise later in the night.

Radiant Positions at 22:00 LDST

Radiant Positions at 22:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

Radiant Positions at 01:00 LDST

Radiant Positions at 1:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

Radiant Positions at 04:00 DLST

Radiant Positions at 4:00 Local Daylight Saving Time

These sources of meteoric activity are expected to be active this week.

Details on each source will continue next week when viewing conditions are more favorable.

The list below offers the information from above in tabular form. Rates and positions are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning but may be used all week long.

RA (RA in Deg.) DEC Km/Sec Local Daylight Saving Time North-South
Anthelion (ANT) 18:28 (277) -23 30 02:00 1 – 2 II
Northern June Aquilids (NZC) Jul 03 19:34 (294) -10 41 03:00 <1 – <1 IV
Southern June Aquilids (SZC) Jul 06 19:53 (298) -34 39 04:00 <1 – <1 IV
beta Equulids (BEQ Jun 15 20:08 (302) +00 33 04:00 <1 – <1 IV
phi Piscids (PPS) Jul 05 00:00 (000) +17 67 07:00 <1 – <1 IV
Daytime Arietids (ARI) Jun 08 03:24 (051) +26 41 10:00 <1 – <1 II

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Caption Spotlight (13 June 2019): Landing in Oxia PalusThis…

Caption Spotlight (13 June 2019): Landing in Oxia Palus

This image shows a cratered area to the southeast of the ExoMars 2020 Rosalind Franklin rover landing site at Oxia Palus.

Selecting and characterizing landing sites is a balance between having science targets and avoiding potential obstacles, and HiRISE is used for both purposes.

Craters like this one excavate material from within the crust, including both sedimentary and igneous rocks, and scatter this material far from the crater itself. This is one of the ways that so-called “float rocks” (rocks that are not connected to their original outcrop) can occur across a landing site: they are often ejecta from distant impacts.

Here, an ejecta blanket is visible in the rays of material surrounding this 2-kilometer diameter crater. The ExoMars rover has a suite of cameras and a close-up imager (called CLUPI) that will be used to study these float rocks. Studying such samples has been an important way of learning about the deep crust of Mars on previous missions, notably the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and now, Curiosity. 

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Isotelus Trilobite Fossil

Isotelus Trilobite Fossil

Giant Pleistocene wolf discovered in Siberian permafrost

Sensational find of head of the beast with its brain intact, preserved since prehistoric times in permafrost.

Giant Pleistocene wolf discovered in Siberian permafrost
The Pleistocene wolf’s head is 40cm long, so half of the whole body length of a modern wolf
which varies from 66 to 86cm [Credit: Albert Protopopov]

The severed head of the world’s first full-sized Pleistocene wolf was unearthed in the Abyisky district in the north of Yakutia.
Local man Pavel Efimov found it in summer 2018 on shore of the Tirekhtyakh River, tributary of Indigirka.

Giant Pleistocene wolf discovered in Siberian permafrost
The wolf, whose rich mammoth-like fur and impressive fangs are still intact, was fully grown
and aged from two to four years old when it died [Credit: Albert Protopopov]

The wolf, whose rich mammoth-like fur and impressive fangs are still intact, was fully grown and aged from two to four years old when it died.
The head was dated older than 40,000 years by Japanese scientists.

Giant Pleistocene wolf discovered in Siberian permafrost

Giant Pleistocene wolf discovered in Siberian permafrost
CT scan of the wolf’s head [Credit: Albert Protopopov,
Naoki Suzuki]

Scientists at the Swedish Museum of Natural History will examine the Pleistocene predator’s DNA.
«This is a unique discovery of the first ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf with its tissue preserved. We will be comparing it to modern-day wolves to understand how the species has evolved and to reconstruct its appearance,» said an excited Albert Protopopov, from the Republic of Sakha Academy of Sciences.

Giant Pleistocene wolf discovered in Siberian permafrost

Giant Pleistocene wolf discovered in Siberian permafrost
‘This is a unique discovery of the first ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf
with its tissue preserved’ [Credit: Naoki Suzuki]

The Pleistocene wolf’s head is 40cm long, so half of the whole body length of a modern wolf which varies from 66 to 86cm.

The astonishing discovery was announced in Tokyo, Japan, during the opening of a grandiose Woolly Mammoth exhibition organised by Yakutian and Japanese scientists.

Source: The Siberian Times [June 07, 2019]



NASA’s Cassini Reveals New Sculpting in Saturn Rings

NASA — Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

June 13, 2019

As NASA’s Cassini dove close to Saturn in its final year, the spacecraft provided intricate detail on the workings of Saturn’s complex rings, new analysis shows.

Although the mission ended in 2017, science continues to flow from the data collected. A new paper published June 13 in Science describes results from four Cassini instruments taking their closest-ever observations of the main rings.

Image above: A false-color image mosaic shows Daphnis, one of Saturn’s ring-embedded moons, and the waves it kicks up in the Keeler gap. Images collected by Cassini’s close orbits in 2017 are offering new insight into the complex workings of the rings. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Findings include fine details of features sculpted by masses embedded within the rings. Textures and patterns, from clumpy to strawlike, pop out of the images, raising questions about the interactions that shaped them. New maps reveal how colors, chemistry and temperature change across the rings.

Like a planet under construction inside a disk of protoplanetary material, tiny moons embedded in Saturn’s rings (named A through G, in order of their discovery) interact with the particles around them. In that way, the paper provides further evidence that the rings are a window into the astrophysical disk processes that shape our solar system.

Images above:  New images of Saturn’s rings show how textures differ even in close proximity of one another. The first image has been filtered so that the newly visible strawlike textures and clumps are more visible. Images Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

The observations also deepen scientists’ understanding of the complex Saturn system. Scientists conclude that at the outer edge of the main rings, a series of similar impact-generated streaks in the F ring have the same length and orientation, showing that they were likely caused by a flock of impactors that all struck the ring at the same time. This shows that the ring is shaped by streams of material that orbit Saturn itself rather than, for instance, by cometary debris (moving around the Sun) that happens to crash into the rings.

«These new details of how the moons are sculpting the rings in various ways provide a window into solar system formation, where you also have disks evolving under the influence of masses embedded within them,» said lead author and Cassini scientist Matt Tiscareno of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

Enduring Mysteries

At the same time, new puzzles have arisen and old mysteries have deepened with the latest research. The close-up ring images brought into focus three distinct textures — clumpy, smooth and streaky — and made it clear that these textures occur in belts with sharp boundaries. But why? In many places the belts aren’t connected to any ring characteristics that scientists have yet identified.

«This tells us the way the rings look is not just a function of how much material there is,» Tiscareno said. «There has to be something different about the characteristics of the particles, perhaps affecting what happens when two ring particles collide and bounce off each other. And we don’t yet know what it is.»

Image above: This false-color image to the right shows an infrared spectral map of Saturn’s A, B and C rings, captured by Cassini’s VIMS. Infrared image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/CNRS/LPG-Nantes Saturn image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/G. Ugarkovic.

The data analyzed were gathered during the Ring Grazing Orbits (December 2016 to April 2017) and the Grand Finale (April to September 2017), when Cassini flew just above Saturn’s cloud tops. As the spacecraft was running out of fuel, the mission team deliberately plunged it into the planet’s atmosphere in September 2017.

Cassini’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) uncovered another mystery. The spectrometer, which imaged the rings in visible and near-infrared light, identified unusually weak water-ice bands in the outermost part of the A ring. That was a surprise, because the area is known to be highly reflective, which usually is a sign of less-contaminated ice and thus stronger water ice bands.

The new spectral map also sheds light on the composition of the rings. And while scientists already knew that water ice is the main component, the spectral map ruled out detectable ammonia ice and methane ice as ingredients. But it also doesn’t see organic compounds — a surprise, given the organic material Cassini has discovered flowing from the D ring into Saturn’s atmosphere.

«If organics were there in large amounts — at least in the main A, B and C rings — we’d see them,» said Phil Nicholson, Cassini VIMS scientist of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. «I’m not convinced yet that they are a major component of the main rings.»

The research signals the start of the next era of Cassini science, said NASA’s Ames Research Center’s Jeff Cuzzi, who’s been studying Saturn’s rings since the 1970s and is the interdisciplinary scientist for rings on the Cassini mission.

Cassini Grand Final. Animation Credit: NASA

«We see so much more, and closer up, and we’re getting new and more interesting puzzles,» Cuzzi said. «We are just settling into the next phase, which is building new, detailed models of ring evolution — including the new revelation from Cassini data that the rings are much younger than Saturn.»

The new observations give scientists an even more intimate view of the rings than they had before, and each examination reveals new complexities, said Cassini Project Scientist Linda Spilker, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

«It’s like turning the power up one more notch on what we could see in the rings. Everyone just got a clearer view of what’s going on,» Spilker said. «Getting that extra resolution answered many questions, but so many tantalizing ones remain.»

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter. The radio antenna was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the U.S. and several European countries.

More information about Cassini can be found here: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/cassini and https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JoAnna Wendel/JPL/Gretchen McCartney/Jia-Rui Cook.

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Crew Preps for Split, Studies Space Effects on Human Body

ISS — Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 13, 2019

The Expedition 59 crew will split up later this month when three International Space Station residents return to Earth. The other three crewmembers today practiced evacuating the orbiting lab in the unlikely event of an emergency.

Station Commander Oleg Kononenko will depart home with Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques inside the Soyuz MS-11 crew ship on June 24. The trio have been living in space since Dec. 3 and will have orbited Earth for 204 days after landing in Kazakhstan. The commander spent the day Thursday collecting cargo for stowage and readying the homebound Soyuz.

Image above: The aurora australis, or “southern lights,” highlights a starry nighttime orbital pass as the International Space Station orbited 269 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia. Image Credit: NASA.

The three crewmembers that are staying behind conducted an emergency drill during the afternoon. Flight Engineers Alexey Ovchinin, Christina Koch and Nick Hague conducted an emergency simulation and rehearsed quickly entering their Soyuz lifeboat, undocking and descending to Earth.

Human research continued full speed ahead today to help doctors keep astronauts healthy in space. McClain and Hague once again collected their breath samples for the Airway Monitoring study. The experiment studies airway inflammation as crewmembers on space missions are at an increased risk of breathing free-floating dust and particles due to the microgravity environment. Results could improve the mission environment and optimize crew health for successful long-term missions. Saint-Jacques participated in ultrasound scans of his neck, gut, heart and leg throughout the day. The ground-assisted Vascular Echo scans give flight surgeons insight into an astronaut’s cardiovascular condition.

Seeing an Aurora From the Space Station

Image above: Aboard the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Christina Koch snapped this image of an aurora, saying: «Years ago at the South Pole, I looked up to the aurora for inspiration through the 6-month winter night. Now I know they’re just as awe inspiring from above. #nofilter». Image Credit: NASA.

The crew also worked on robotics power cables and the installation of a small satellite deployer. Koch installed cables in the Unity module during the morning to provide backup power for the Canadarm2 robotic arm. McClain spent the majority of her day in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module installing hardware that will soon eject a set of CubeSats outside the station for research in Earth orbit.

The two cosmonauts, Kononenko and Ovchinin, spent some time in the morning exploring ways to counteract the effects of microgravity. The duo tested a unique suit that draws body fluids towards the feet to minimize head and eye pressure.

Related links:

Expedition 59: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition59/index.html

Airway Monitoring: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1067

Vascular Echo: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1664

Unity module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/unity

Canadarm2: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/mobile-servicing-system.html

Kibo laboratory module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/japan-kibo-laboratory

Unique suit: https://blogs.nasa.gov/ISS_Science_Blog/2015/06/02/rubber-vacuum-pants-that-suck/

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

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

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

SpaceX — Radarsat Constellation Mission Success

SpaceX — Falcon 9 / RADARSAT Constellation Mission patch.

June 13, 2019

Re-used SpaceX Rocket Launches 3 RADARSAT Satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on 12 June 2019, at 14:17 UTC UTC (07:17 PDT). Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage (Block 5 B1051) landed on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4) at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Falcon 9’s first stage for this mission previously supported Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission in March 2019. The RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) consists of three identical C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Earth observation satellites.

SpaceX RCM mission: Falcon 9 launch and landing

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the RADARSAT Constellation Mission for the Canadian Space Agency and MDA.

RADARSAT Constellation

Consisting of three radar Earth observation spacecraft launching on a single rocket, the RADARSAT Constellation Mission is the next in a series of Canadian RADARSAT satellites supporting all-weather maritime surveillance, disaster management and ecosystem monitoring for the Canadian government and international users.

RADARSAT Constellation Mission: http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/satellites/radarsat/default.asp

For more information about SpaceX, visit: https://www.spacex.com/

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/SciNews/Orbiter,ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Greetings, Orbiter.chArchive link

Throwback Thursday: Apollo 11 Moon Landing Questions Answered


The Apollo 11 Moon landing was a feat for the ages. With the help of the NASA History Office, we’ve identified some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the first time humans walked on the surface of another world. Click here to check out our post from last week. 

Is it true that the Apollo guidance

computer had less

computing power than a smartphone?


Believe it or not, yes! The Apollo guidance computer not only had less computing power than a smartphone, it had less computing power than the calculator you use in your algebra class. The computer, designed by MIT, had a fixed memory of 36 kilobytes and an

erasable memory of 2 kilobytes. That’s fairly advanced for the time! 

Why did Buzz Aldrin take a picture of his bootprint?


A substantial portion of the Apollo 11 crew’s checklist was taking photographs. Taking closeup shots of the "very fine” moon dust was a critical component of mission objectives and helped scientists better understand the surface makeup of the Moon. 


Armstrong and Aldrin wore lunar overboots over their main spacesuit boots to protect them from ultraviolet radiation and hazardous rocks. To make room for the nearly 50 pounds (22 kilograms) of lunar samples, the crew left all their pairs of boots on the Moon. But don’t worry; they wouldn’t get charged an overweight baggage fee anyway. 


What were the first words spoken from the surface of the Moon?


That’s somewhat subject to interpretation. Once the Lunar Module’s footpads touched the surface, Buzz Aldrin called out “Contact Light” to Mission Control. After the engine shut down, he said “ACA out of detent,” simply meaning that the Eagle’s Attitude Control Assembly, or control stick, was moved from its center position. 

But the first words heard by the entire world after Apollo 11 touched down were delivered by Neil Armstrong: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” More than six hours later, Armstrong stepped off the Eagle’s footpad and delivered the most famous words ever spoken from the surface of another world: "That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." 

And although we have a hard time hearing it in the recording, Armstrong clarified in a post-flight interview that he actually said, “That’s one small step for a man…”

What will the first woman and the next man to go to the Moon say when they first step on its surface?

We can’t say for sure what our next moonwalkers will decide to say, but perhaps the better question is: What would be your first words if you were to land on the Moon? There’s no doubt that the astronauts of the Artemis Generation will inspire a new crop of explorers the way Apollo Generation astronauts did 50 years ago. 

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

Big brands breaking pledge to not destroy forests: report

A rainforest area the size of Spain will be destroyed by firms growing consumer staples like palm oil in the decade to 2020, industry’s self-imposed deadline to end deforestation, Greenpeace said Tuesday.

Big brands breaking pledge to not destroy forests: report
Cutting rainforests down provides a double threat to the environment: it removes a vital sink for planet-warming
gases in our atmosphere and produces more carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide used and expelled
by industrial-scale agriculture [Credit: AFP]

Some of the world’s largest consumer brands—including Nestle and Unilever—had pledged in 2010 to reach net zero deforestation within a decade through «responsible sourcing» of cattle, palm oil, soya and other commodities.

But since that pledge was signed, the pace of deforestation linked to commodities has increased «dramatically» and helped destroy at least 50 million hectares of forest, according to a new analysis carried out by Greenpeace.

«These companies are destroying our children’s future by driving us towards climate and ecological collapse,» said Anna Jones, global project lead for forests at Greenpeace UK.

«They’ve wasted a decade on half-measures and in that time, vast areas of the natural world have been destroyed.»

Since 2010, the area of Brazilian rainforest planted with soya—which is used to feed animals sold for meat—has increased by 45 percent.

In Indonesia, palm oil production is up three quarters since the start of the decade and the footprint of cocoa production in the Ivory Coast has surged 80 percent, said the charity.

Bob Watson, chair of the UN’s IPBES biodiversity panel that warned in April that one million species are threatened with extinction, said in a foreword to Tuesday’s report that the world’s agricultural system is «broken».

«If we keep producing food using current unsustainable agricultural practices, we will undermine future food production,» he said.

A double threat

The 2015 Paris agreement on climate aims to limit global temperature rises to «well below» two degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) and to 1.5C if possible.

Big brands breaking pledge to not destroy forests: report
Since 2010, the area of Brazilian rainforest planted with soya—which is used to feed animals sold
for meat—increased 45 percent [Credit: AFP]

To do so, nations must drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, yet those emissions continue to rise year-on-year.

Rainforests currently absorb up to 30 percent of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions and are vital hotspots of biodiversity, containing plants from which around a quarter of all medical drugs are made.

Cutting them down provides a double threat to the environment: it removes a vital sink for planet-warming gases in our atmosphere and produces more carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide used and expelled by industrial-scale agriculture.

The global meat industry alone is estimated to account for as much as 18 percent of all manmade emissions. Meat consumption is forecast to soar 76 percent by mid-century and emissions from livestock expected to rise in lockstep.

In addition, labyrinthine global supply chains, including processing and shipping, pump ever more greenhouse gases into the air with very little oversight from governments or monitors.

The most recent assessment by Global Forest Watch said the world lost tree cover of 24.8 million hectares in 2018—an area around the size of Britain.

Greenpeace accused firms of failing to follow through on their pledges to reduce the ruinous environmental impact their business plans were having.

«They should be in crisis talks right now, but they’re still trying to grow demand for products that will drive forest destruction even further,» said Jones.

The Consumer Goods Forum, which meets this week in Vancouver, told AFP that its members stood by their promises to work towards net zero deforestation.

«But over the last nine years we have also learned that the forces driving deforestation are more complex than almost any stakeholder realised in 2010,» it said.

Author: Patrick Galey | Source: AFP [June 11, 2019]




https://t.co/hvL60wwELQ — XissUFOtoday Space (@xufospace) August 3, 2021 Жаждущий ежик наслаждается пресной водой после нескольких дней в о...