суббота, 22 июня 2019 г.

It’s almost launch day! On Monday, June 24, the launch…

It’s almost launch day! On Monday, June 24, the launch window opens for the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy. Among the two dozen satellites on board are four NASA payloads whose data will help us improve satellite design and performance.

Our experts will be live talking about the launch and NASA’s missions starting this weekend.

🛰 Tune in on Sunday, June 23, at 12 p.m. EDT (9 a.m. PDT) for a live show diving into the technology behind our projects.

🚀 Watch coverage of the launch starting at 11 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. PDT) on Monday, June 24

Join us at nasa.gov/live, and get updates on the launch at blogs.nasa.gov/spacex.

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

A two-seater electric plane unveiled in Sion, Switzerland

H55 logo.

June 22, 2019

Intended for the training of pilots, the aircraft, presented by André Borschberg, should be at the disposal of the aviation schools from 2021.

An electric plane was presented Friday at Sion airport (Switzerland), after making its first successful flight. Intended for pilot training, it should be available to aviation schools by 2021.

Two-seater electric plane H55

The two-seater electric plane sits in a hangar at Sion airport. It offers a zero-emission solution, quiet and economical, said to a hundred people gathered for the occasion, André Borschberg, former CEO and pilot of Solar Impulse and co-founder and president of H55.

Manufactured by the Czech company BRM Aero, the device is equipped with an electric propulsion system consisting of a motor and batteries (in the wings) developed by H55. This spin-off of Solar Impulse develops electric motors, batteries, management and control systems and interfaces with the driver.

Three former Solar Impulse adventurers, the world’s first solar-powered flight, are at the helm of H55: pilot André Borschberg, electrical engineer Sébastien Demont and economist Gregory Blatt.

An hour and a half of endurance

The plane last week made its first flight in the skies of the city. By the end of 2020, a pilot project will be conducted with two aviation schools in Switzerland and by 2021 the Bristell Energic should be available to all interested schools, said André Borschberg.

The aircraft has an endurance of one hour and a half, for flights of 45 to 60 minutes, which corresponds to the flying schools training program. Overall, the cost of an electric-powered aircraft is lower than that of a gas-powered aircraft, taking into account the purchase price, maintenance and fuel.

Engine puncturing

For the H55 team, electric aircraft respond to a real need in a society that is increasingly sensitive to the environment and nuisances. It is attracting «considerable interest from aviation academies, airport resident associations and aeronautical authorities».

Image above: André Borschberg, co-founder and president of H55, in charge of the electric plane presented Friday in a hangar at Sion airport.

A member of the team spun the Bristell Energic engine in front of the guests gathered in the hangar: the purr contrasted sharply with the deafening takeoffs and landings heard at the airport on Friday morning.

Springboard to flying taxis

The H55 aircraft is a springboard for developing new solutions in air transport. «By flying electric planes and analyzing their performance, we are collecting essential data for the development of VTOL (note: vertical takeoff and landing aircraft) and flying taxis,» said André Borschberg.

In 2018, H55 raised five million francs to develop its electric propulsion systems. The company benefits from the support of the Confederation of Canton Valais through the foundation The Ark, the city of Sion, but also an investment fund based in Switzerland and Silicon Valley.

Related article:

A new electric plane will soon be launched in Switzerland

Related links:

BRM Aero: https://www.bristell.com/

Solar Impulse: https://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.com/search?q=solar+impulse

Images, Text, Credits: ATS/H55/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

First Signs Huntington’s disease is a devastating though…

First Signs

Huntington’s disease is a devastating though thankfully rare neurodegenerative condition in which a patient suffers progressively worsening neurological symptoms, starting in middle age, that include involuntary movements, difficulty speaking and walking, memory loss, confusion, and delusion. The disease is almost always inherited, with offspring of a sufferer having on average a 50 percent chance of developing the condition. Although the mutation responsible has been identified, there is no cure and treatments are limited to managing and alleviating symptoms. Early diagnosis is therefore critical for giving patients the best chance of receiving the correct care and having the best possible quality of life. To that end, computer scientists have developed an app (pictured) with tasks designed to evaluate the user’s motor and cognitive skills, as well as speech. The idea is that high-risk individuals could regularly test themselves and, at the earliest signs of disease, seek the clinical care they need.

Written by Ruth Williams

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2019 June 22 Ares 3 Landing Site: The Martian Revisited Image…

2019 June 22

Ares 3 Landing Site: The Martian Revisited
Image Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

Explanation: This close-up from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera shows weathered craters and windblown deposits in southern Acidalia Planitia. A striking shade of blue in standard HiRISE image colors, to the human eye the area would probably look grey or a little reddish. But human eyes have not gazed across this terrain, unless you count the eyes of NASA astronauts in the scifi novel The Martian by Andy Weir. The novel chronicles the adventures of Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded at the fictional Mars mission Ares 3 landing site corresponding to the coordinates of this cropped HiRISE frame. For scale Watney’s 6-meter-diameter habitat at the site would be about 1/10th the diameter of the large crater. Of course, the Ares 3 landing coordinates are only about 800 kilometers north of the (real life) Carl Sagan Memorial Station, the 1997 Pathfinder landing site.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190622.html

Birkrigg Prehistoric Stone Circle, nr. Ulverston, Lake District, 22.6.19.

Birkrigg Prehistoric Stone Circle, nr. Ulverston, Lake District, 22.6.19.

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Origin of life — a prebiotic route to DNA

DNA, the hereditary material, may have appeared on Earth earlier than has been assumed hitherto. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich chemists led by Oliver Trapp show that a simple reaction pathway could have given rise to DNA subunits on the early Earth.

Origin of life - a prebiotic route to DNA
How were the building-blocks of life first formed on the early Earth?
[Credit: Selvanegra/iStock/Thinkstock]

How were the building-blocks of life first formed on the early Earth? As yet, only partially satisfactory answers to this question are available. However, one thing is clear: The process of biological evolution that has given rise to the diversity of life on our planet must have been preceded by a phase of chemical evolution. During this ‘prebiotic’ stage, the first polymeric molecules capable of storing information and reproducing themselves were randomly assembled from organic precursors that were available on the early Earth. The most efficient replicators subsequently evolved into the macromolecular informational nucleic acids — DNA and RNA — that became the basis for all forms of life on our planet.

For billions of years, DNA has been the primary carrier of hereditary information in biological organisms. DNA strands are made up of four types of chemical subunits, and the genetic information it contains is encoded in the linear sequence of these ‘nucleosides’. Moreover, the four subunits comprise two complementary pairs. Interactions between two strands with complementary sequences are responsible for the formation of the famous double helix, and play a crucial role in DNA replication. RNA also has vital functions in the replication of DNA and in the translation of nucleotide sequences into proteins.

Which of these two types of nucleic acid came first? The unanimous answer to that question up to now was RNA. Plausible models that explain how RNA molecules could have been synthesized from precursor compounds in prebiotic settings were first proposed decades ago, and have since received substantial experimental support. Moreover, its conformational versatility allows RNA both to store information and to act as a catalyst. These insights have led to the idea of an ‘RNA world’ that preceded the emergence of DNA, which is now well established among specialists. How then were the first DNA subunits synthesized? The generally accepted view is that this process was catalyzed by an enzyme — a comparatively complex biomolecule whose emergence would have required millions of years of evolution.

But now a team of chemists led by LMU’s Professor Oliver Trapp has proposed a much more direct mechanism for the synthesis of DNA subunits from organic compounds that would have been present in a prebiotic environment. «The reaction pathway is relatively simple,» says Trapp, which suggests it could well have been realized in a prebiotic setting. For example, it does not require variations in reaction parameters, such as temperature. In Trapp’s experiments, the necessary ingredients are water, a mildly alkaline pH and temperatures of between 40 and 70°C. Under such conditions, adequately high reaction rates and product yields are achieved, with high selectivity and correct stereochemistry.

Each of the nucleoside subunits found in DNA is made up of a nitrogen-containing base and a sugar called deoxyribose. Up to now, it was thought that deoxynucleosides could only be synthesized under prebiotic conditions by directly coupling these two — preformed — components together. But no plausible non-enzymatic mechanism for such a step had ever been proposed. The essential feature of the new pathway, as Trapp explains, is that the sugar is not linked to the base in a single step. Instead, it is built up on the preformed base by a short sequence of reaction steps involving simple organic molecules such as acetaldehyde and glyceraldehyde. In addition, the LMU researchers have identified a second family of possible precursors of DNA in which the deoxyribose moiety is replaced by a different sugar.

According to the authors of the study, these results suggest that the earliest DNA molecules could have appeared in parallel with RNA — some 4 billion years ago. This would mean that DNA molecules emerged around 400 million years earlier than previously thought.

The study is published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Source: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen [June 18, 2019]



Dinosaur bones are home to microscopic life

Bad news, Jurassic Park fans—the odds of scientists cloning a dinosaur from ancient DNA are pretty much zero. That’s because DNA breaks down over time and isn’t stable enough to stay intact for millions of years. And while proteins, the molecules in all living things that give our bodies structure and help them operate, are more stable, even they might not be able to survive over tens or hundreds of millions of years. In a new paper published in eLife, scientists went looking for preserved collagen, the protein in bone and skin, in dinosaur fossils. They didn’t find the protein, but they did find huge colonies of modern bacteria living inside the dinosaur bones.

Dinosaur bones are home to microscopic life
Centrosaurus, the Triceratops relative whose bones contained modern microbes
[Credit: Nobu Tamura]

«This is breaking new ground—this is the first time we’ve discovered this unique microbial community in these fossil bones while they’re buried underground,» says lead author Evan Saitta, a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum. «And I would say that it’s another nail in the coffin in the idea of dinosaur proteins getting preserved intact.»

Saitta began researching organic molecules in fossils as part of his doctoral thesis at the University of Bristol. «My PhD work focused on how soft tissues fossilize and how these materials break down. Some molecules can survive in the fossil record, but I suspect proteins can’t; they’re unstable on those timescales in the conditions of fossilization,» explains Saitta.

However, some paleontologists have reported finding dinosaur bones that contain exceptionally preserved traces of the protein collagen, along with soft tissues like blood and bone cells. «There’s been an uptick in interest in these supposed dinosaur proteins,» says Saitta. So, he set out to try to independently verify the presence of collagen in dinosaur fossils.

Saitta took pains to collect dinosaur fossils under as sterile conditions as possible so that new proteins or bacteria wouldn’t be introduced to the fossils and skew the results. He took a pickaxe, saw, blowtorch, ethanol, and bleach, out to Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada.

«There’s a single layer where there’s practically more bone than rock, it’s ridiculous how concentrated the bones are,» says Saitta. A site with lots of bone was key, because a slow, meandering dig would open up the fossils to more chances to be contaminated by the surface world.

«To collect these bones in a very controlled, sterile way, you need a dig site with a ton of bone because you have to find the bone quickly, expose just enough of one end to know what it is, then aseptically collect the unexposed bit of the bone and surrounding rock all in one.» Saitta collected 75-million-year-old fossils from Centrosaurus—a smaller cousin of Triceratops—and then took the bones back to various laboratories to examine their organic composition.

Dinosaur bones are home to microscopic life
A fluorescence microscopy image showing lit-up modern microbes that took up residence
in a Centrosaurus fossil [Credit: Evan Saitta, Field Museum]

Saitta and his colleagues compared the biochemical makeup of the Centrosaurus fossils with modern chicken bones, sediment from the fossil site in Alberta, and thousands-of-years-old shark teeth that washed up on the shore of Saitta’s hometown of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

«We visited multiple labs, and the different techniques gave us consistent and easily interpretable results, suggesting that the aseptic collection was sufficient,» says Saitta. They found that the Centrosaurus fossils didn’t seem to contain the collagen proteins present in fresh bones or the much younger shark teeth. But they did find something else: «We see lots of evidence of recent microbes,» explains Saitta. «There’s clearly something organic in these bones.» And since the labwork indicates that Saitta’s anti-contamination measures worked, these organic materials must have gotten there naturally.

«We found non-radiocarbon dead organic carbon, recent amino acids, and DNA in the bone—that’s indicative that the bone is hosting a modern microbial community and providing refuge,» Saitta says. He thinks, as others have previously suggested, that the modern microbes and their secretions, called biofilm, are likely what other researchers have seen in fossils and reported as dinosaur soft tissues. «I suspect that if we began to do this kind of analysis with other specimens, it would begin to explain some of the so-called dinosaur soft tissue discoveries,» he says.

Surprisingly, the modern microbes present in the dinosaur bones aren’t quite the same run-of-the-mill bacteria living in the surrounding rock. «It’s a very unusual community,» says Saitta. «Thirty percent of the sequences are related to Euzebya, which is only reported from places like Etruscan tombs and the skin of sea cucumbers, as far as I know.»

Saitta and his colleagues aren’t sure why these particular microbes are living in the dinosaur bones, but he’s not shocked that bacteria are drawn to the fossils. «Fossil bones contain phosphorus and iron, and microbes need those as nutrients. And the bones are porous—they wick up moisture. If you were a bacterium living in the ground, you’d probably want to live in a dinosaur bone,» he says. «These bacteria are clearly having a jolly good time in these bones.»

The discovery could help further the emerging field of molecular paleontology, says Saitta. «It’s one of the new frontiers of modern paleontology. We are beginning to undertake a very different kind of fossil hunting. We’re not just looking for bones and teeth, hoping to find new species, we’re doing molecular fossil hunting—it opens up an entirely new line of evidence by which to study life in the past. Molecular fossils can tell us things we never thought we’d be able to investigate. Distinguishing what is modern from what is ancient is important.»

Source: Field Museum [June 18, 2019]



Dark centers of chromosomes reveal ancient DNA

Geneticists exploring the dark heart of the human genome have discovered big chunks of Neanderthal and other ancient DNA. The results open new ways to study both how chromosomes behave during cell division and how they have changed during human evolution.

Dark centers of chromosomes reveal ancient DNA
The central area of chromosomes, the centromere, contains DNA that has survived largely
unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years, researchers at UC Davis and the Lawrence
Berkeley Laboratory have found. Some of this DNA comes from Neanderthals or other
relatives or ancestors of humans from before modern humans migrated out of Africa
[Credit: Charles and Sasha Langley]

Centromeres sit in the middle of chromosomes, the pinched-in «waist» in the image of a chromosome from a biology textbook. The centromere anchors the fibers that pull chromosomes apart when cells divide, which means they are really important for understanding what happens when cell division goes wrong, leading to cancer or genetic defects.

But the DNA of centromeres contains lots of repeating sequences, and scientists have been unable to properly map this region.

«It’s the heart of darkness of the genome, we warn students not to go there,» said Charles Langley, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis. Langley is senior author on a paper describing the work published in the journal eLife.

Langley and colleagues Sasha Langley and Gary Karpen at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and Karen Miga at UC Santa Cruz reasoned that there could be haplotypes — groups of genes that are inherited together in human evolution — that stretch over vast portions of our genomes, and even across the centromere.

That’s because the centromere does not participate in the «crossover» process that occurs when cells divide to form sperm or eggs. During crossover, paired chromosomes line up next to each other and their limbs cross, sometimes cutting and splicing DNA between them so that genes can be shuffled. But crossovers drop to zero near centromeres. Without that shuffling in every generation, centromeres might preserve very ancient stretches of DNA intact.

The researchers looked for inherited single nucleotide polymorphisms — inherited changes in a single letter of DNA — that would allow them to map haplotypes in the centromere.

They first showed that they could identify centromeric haplotypes, or «cenhaps,» in Drosophila fruit flies.

That finding has two implications, Langley said. Firstly, if researchers can distinguish chromosomes from each other by their centromeres, they can start to carry out functional tests to see if these differences have an impact on which piece of DNA is inherited. For example, during egg formation, four chromatids are formed from two chromosomes, but only one makes it into the egg. So scientists want to know: Are certain centromere haplotypes transmitted more often? And are some haplotypes more likely to be involved in errors?

Secondly, researchers can use centromeres to look at ancestry and evolutionary descent.

Turning to human DNA, the researchers looked at centromere sequences from the 1000 Genomes Project, a public catalog of human variation. They discovered haplotypes spanning the centromeres in all the human chromosomes.

Haplotypes from half a million years ago

In the X chromosome in these genome sequences, they found several major centromeric haplotypes representing lineages stretching back a half a million years. In the genome as a whole, most of the diversity is seen among African genomes consistent with the more recent spread of humans out of the African continent. One of the oldest centromere haplotype lineages was not carried by those early emigrants.

In chromosome 11, they found highly diverged haplotypes of Neanderthal DNA in non-African genomes. These haplotypes diverged between 700,000 to a million years ago, around the time the ancestors of Neanderthals split from other human ancestors. The centromere of chromosome 12 also contains an even more ancient, archaic haplotype that appears to be derived from an unknown relative.

This Neanderthal DNA on chromosome 11 could be influencing differences in our sense of smell to this day. The cells that respond to taste and smell carry odorant receptors triggered by specific chemical signatures. Humans have about 400 different genes for odorant receptors. Thirty-four of these genes reside within the chromosome 11 centromere haplotype. The Neanderthal centromeric haplotypes and a second ancient haplotype account for about half of the variation in these odorant receptor proteins.

It’s known from work by others that genetic variation in odorant receptors can influence sense of taste and smell, but the functional effects of the variation found in this study are yet to be discovered and their impact on taste and smell analyzed.

Source: UC Davis [June 18, 2019]



New study shows how environmental disruptions affected ancient societies

LSU College of the Coast & Environment Distinguished Professor Emeritus John Day has collaborated with archeologists on a new analysis of societal development. They report that over the past 10,000 years, humanity has experienced a number of foundational transitions, or «bottlenecks.» During these periods of transition, the advance or decline of societies was related to energy availability in the form of a benign climate and other factors.

New study shows how environmental disruptions affected ancient societies
Aerial view of the eruption of the volcano Grimsvotn in the south-east of Iceland
[Credit: EPA/AdalSteinsson]

«Studying the factors that led to the advancement and contraction of past societies provides insight into how our globalized society might become more or less sustainable,» Day said.

Day’s collaborators include Joel Gunn of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, William Folan of the Universidad Autonoma de Campeche in Mexico and Matthew Moerschbaecher of the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinators Office. Gunn and Folan are Mayan archaeologists and Moerschbaecher is a graduate of LSU’s oceanography program.

With the human population having exceeded the capacity of Earth’s resources, this analysis suggests that a transition toward sustainability for the current energy-dense, globalized industrial society will be very difficult if not impossible without dramatic changes.

The authors say that these past transitions were caused by a combination of social, astronomical and biogeophysical events such as volcanic eruptions, changes in solar emissions, sea-level rise and ice volume, biogeochemical and ecological changes, and major social and technological innovations.

One example is the worldwide crisis that began in 536 AD, which was caused by three major volcanic eruptions within a decade. This event led to the destruction of half the population of Europe via the Black Death plague, starvation and wars. In China and the Mayan region, it led to crop failures, famine and plagues.

They found that when energy was abundant, societies expanded and prospered. Conversely, when energy sources declined, there was societal contraction and collapse. The previous example implies that changes are more likely to transpire due to planetary-scale disturbances and constraints, whether societal or environmental, and will likely lead to strong societal disruptions.

However, in the past, major changes sometimes moved toward a more sustainable social organization. For example, after one disruption, the Mayans switched to a more efficient use of energy and marine transportation and, at the time of European contact, they were leading a sustainable lifestyle.

The study appears in BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality.

Source: Louisiana State University [June 18, 2019]



The satellite with X-ray vision

In the early hours of October 23, 2011, ROSAT was engulfed in the waves of the Indian Ocean. This was the end of a success story that is unparalleled in German space exploration research. The satellite, developed and built by a team led by Joachim Trümper from the Garchingbased Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, not only found more than 150,000 new cosmic X-ray sources, it also revolutionized astronomy.

The satellite with X-ray vision
In a new light: The entire sky viewed through the X-ray eyes of the ROSAT satellite
[Credit: MPI for Extraterrestrial Physics]

The pile of debris came from the southwest, flew over the Gulf of Bengal and finally crashed into the sea at 450 km/h. There were no witnesses. Didn’t the most famous German research satellite deserve a more fitting finale? At least the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel took pity and tried to save what could be saved. In an article entitled «Directly in its Path» published on January 30, 2012, it reported that ROSAT fell to Earth «just barely missing the Chinese capital Beijing.» The satellite «would likely have torn deep craters into the city.» The magazine believes that the catastrophe could even have damaged German-Chinese relations. Joachim Trümper smiles broadly when confronted with this: «The likelihood of a single person being injured was roughly one in ten billion.»

When you talk to Trümper about ROSAT, you can certainly detect a hint of wistfulness. «It was our baby,» says the professor emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. The 78-year-old has dedicated more than half of his research life to the X-ray satellite. Joachim Trümper remembers the launch date on June 1, 1990 like it was yesterday, and was, of course, present at Cape Canaveral Space Center in the US. A few days before lift-off, he once again traveled in the elevator to the top of the Delta II launch system. «I took a final look at ROSAT through a window there,» says the astronomer.

While Trümper was with some of his team members in the US, those who had remained at home witnessed the launch at the Oberpfaffenhofen-based research center. The control center at the German Aerospace Center (known by its German acronym DLR, Deutsches Zentrum für Luftund Raumfahrt) is the Bavarian equivalent of America’s Houston, and was involved in manned projects such as the two space shuttle missions D1 and D2 in the 1980s and 1990s. The experts were now expected to «fly» the two-and-a-half ton ROSAT, worth several hundred million Deutsch-marks at the time, monitor its functionality, and constantly send commands and receive data via the DLR antenna in Lichtenau, near Weilheim, Germany.

Friday, June 1, 1990. In the evening, more than 500 guests have gathered at the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen. The live transmission from Cape Canaveral was broadcast on a large screen. Five minutes before the scheduled take-off, a civilian plane suddenly appeared above the campus; the countdown had to be interrupted. «That was the standard joke played by the launch team, to increase the tension,» recalls Trümper. Ten minutes later, everything was back on track. In Oberpfaffenhofen, hostesses served champagne, and the guests counted down the last seconds. As the rocket took off into a perfect blue sky 8,000 kilo-meters away, everyone shouted «Go, go, go!» and the Gilching brass band played march music.

Between the folklore in Upper Bavaria and the crash into the Indian Ocean lies not only a span of 21 years and 5 months, but also an exceptionally fruitful yield of scientific findings. X-ray astronomy is a very young discipline, as the Earth’s atmosphere allows only a fraction of the radiation through from outer space, including visible light and radio radiation. However, in order to illuminate the universe with X-ray eyes, we have to leave the Earth’s protective atmosphere behind us. American researchers thus discovered the Sun’s X-ray radiation in 1948 using a seized V2 rocket. Today, the observatories are stationed on satellites.

Visible light can easily be focused using lenses or mirrors, but this can’t be done in the case of X-ray radiation. Because of their high energy levels, photons have a «penetrating» effect similar to that of bullets. For this reason, in the early 1950s, physicist Hans Wolter developed the principle of a special telescope in which parabolic and hyperbolic mirror segments focus the incidental X-ray light at a low angle. The plan was to deploy a Wolter telescope on ROSAT.

First, however, one or two obstacles had to be overcome. As early as 1972, Joachim Trümper resolved to begin developing the re-quired instrument. Three years later, his group participated in a national invitation to tender in Germany for major scientific projects. Out of the large number of proposals submitted, three were chosen. ROSAT was among them.

In 1980, when the then German Federal Ministry of Research and Technology called for «substantial international involvement,» Trümper went looking for partners. «To avoid having the project mired in bureaucracy for years, we asked the Americans to look after the launch. And we asked the British to contribute to and operate a separate, smaller telescope for the extreme ultraviolet range.» The strategy panned out, benefiting the entire project. In 1983, following years of studies, a number of companies (Dornier, MBB and Carl Zeiss) came on board. The engineers developed X-ray cameras and built a 130-meter-long test facility known as Panter. The telescope itself had an aperture of 83 centimeters and weighed roughly one ton. It consisted of four nested mirrors made from the heat-resistant glass ceramic Zerodur. Each of the gold-coated mirrors had a unique surface accuracy: compared to an area the size of Lake Constance, irregularities would be equivalent to a wave measuring roughly one hundredth of a millimeter.

As a result, the telescope made it into the Guinness Book of Records for the smoothest surface. Then came January 28, 1986: The Challenger space shuttle exploded into a ball of fire just 73 seconds after take-off. All seven astronauts died, and America’s manned space travel program went into hiatus for two and a half years. ROSAT was actually supposed to be sent into orbit in 1987—on a space shuttle. This was no longer possible. «We now had to completely retrofit the satellite for launch with a rocket,» says Joachim Trümper.

This challenge was also met successfully. And, in the end, the technology and design were not the only record-breaking features. Even the first objective of the mission—charting the entire X-ray sky with an imaging telescope—exceeded all expectations. One of RO-SAT’s predecessors was the Uhuru satellite, launched in December 1970. With its simple instruments—collimated proportional counters—it discovered 300 new celestial objects. A decade later, the Einstein observatory, with a Wolter telescope on board, increased this number to 5,000. And then ROSAT came on the scene: within the first six months alone, the scout found more than 100,000 new X-ray sources.

ROSAT subsequently observed selected sources: objects in the solar system, stars and gas in the Milky Way, distant galaxies. This second phase was supposed to last one year—which then turned into eight. The Max Planck researchers could always be counted on for a few surprises. Their satellite delivered the first X-ray image of the moon, and discovered the emissions from the Hyakutake comet. The latter was initially a puzzle, as comets were considered to be «dirty snowballs.» But to emit X-ray light, temperatures of millions of degrees are required, or very high-energy electrons. The solution: comets don’t generate radiation themselves, but are illuminated by their interaction with the solar wind, a stream of electrically charged particles.

ROSAT delivered the first complete overview of the universe, from the tiny brown dwarfs to the red supergiants, and observed compact stellar remnants such as white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes and supernova remnants. Studies of galaxy groups and clusters provided new information about the role of dark matter in the evolution of the cosmos. Finally, ROSAT proved that active galactic nuclei and quasars on the edges of space and time contribute at least 80 percent to the background radiation in the X-ray range, thus solving a 30-year-old puzzle.

While the scout diligently collected data, its gyros, used to stabilize the satellite in space, began to fail. The researchers, especially Günther Hasinger, who would later become a Max Planck Director, and the MBB engineers, quickly adapted the navigation system and equipped ROSAT with a new, yet age-old system: it used com-passes to orient itself with the Earth’s magnetic field. The satellite now worked perfectly again. On April 25, 1998, however, the main star sensor on the X-ray telescope broke down. ROSAT had finally become too old. Despite the increasing obstacles, the observatory kept going until December 17, 1998. Contact was lost on February 12, 1999. ROSAT had done more than just fulfill its mission. A total of 4,000 scientists from 24 countries use its data.

Author: Helmut Hornung | Source: Max Planck Society [June 19, 2019]



Astronomers make first detection of polarized radio waves in gamma ray burst jets

Good fortune and cutting-edge scientific equipment have allowed scientists to observe a Gamma Ray Burst jet with a radio telescope and detect the polarisation of radio waves within it for the first time — moving us closer to an understanding of what causes the universe’s most powerful explosions.

Astronomers make first detection of polarized radio waves in gamma ray burst jets
An artist’s impression of a Gamma Ray Burst jet over time, and the small patches of magnetic fields present,
as revealed by new research [Credit: Dr Kitty Yeung]

Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) are the most energetic explosions in the universe, beaming out mighty jets which travel through space at over 99.9% the speed of light, as a star much more massive than our sun collapses at the end of its life to produce a black hole.

Studying the light from Gamma Ray Burst jets as we detect it travelling across space is our best hope of understanding how these powerful jets are formed, but scientists need to be quick to get their telescopes into position and get the best data. The detection of polarised radio waves from a burst’s jet, made possible by a new generation of advanced radio telescopes, offers new clues to this mystery.

The light from this particular event, known as GRB 190114C, which exploded with the force of millions of suns’ worth of TNT about 4.5 billion years ago, reached NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory on Jan 14, 2019.

A rapid alert from Swift allowed the research team to direct the Atacama Large Millimeter/Sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile to observe the burst just two hours after Swift discovered it. Two hours later the team was able to observe the GRB from the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) telescope when it became visible in New Mexico, USA.

Combining the measurements from these observatories allowed the research team to determine the structure of magnetic fields within the jet itself, which affects how the radio light is polarised. Theories predict different arrangements of magnetic fields within the jet depending on the fields’ origin, so capturing radio data enabled the researchers to test these theories with observations from telescopes for the first time.

The research team, from the University of Bath, Northwestern University, the Open University of Israel, Harvard University, California State University in Sacramento, the Max Planck Institute in Garching, and Liverpool John Moores University discovered that only 0.8% of the jet light was polarised, meaning that jet’s magnetic field was only ordered over relatively small patches — each less than about 1% of the diameter of the jet. Larger patches would have produced more polarised light.

These measurements suggest that magnetic fields may play a less significant structural role in GRB jets than previously thought. This helps us narrow down the possible explanations for what causes and powers these extraordinary explosions.

First author Dr Tanmoy Laskar, from the University of Bath’s Astrophysics group, said: «We want to understand why some stars produce these extraordinary jets when they die, and the mechanism by which these jets are fuelled — the fastest known outflows in the universe, moving at speeds close to that of light and shining with the incredible luminosity of over a billion suns combined.

«I was in a cab on my way to O’Hare airport in Chicago, following a visit with collaborators when the burst went off. The extreme brightness of this event and the fact that it was visible in Chile right away made it a prime target for our study, and so I immediately contacted ALMA to say we were going to observe this one, in the hope of detecting the first radio polarisation signal.

«It was fortuitous that the target was well placed in the sky for observations with both ALMA in Chile and the VLA in New Mexico. Both facilities responded quickly and the weather was excellent. We then spent two months in a painstaking process to make sure our measurement was genuine and free from instrumental effects. Everything checked out, and that was exciting.

Dr Kate Alexander, who led the VLA observations, said: «The lower frequency data from the VLA helped confirm that we were seeing the light from the jet itself, rather than from the interaction of the jet with its environment.»

Dr Laskar added: «This measurement opens a new window into GRB science and the studies of energetic astrophysical jets. We would like to understand whether the low level of polarisation measured in this event is characteristic of all GRBs, and if so, what this could tell us about the magnetic structures in GRB jets and the role of magnetic fields in powering jets throughout the universe.»

Professor Carole Mundell, Head of Astrophysics at the University of Bath, added: «The exquisite sensitivity of ALMA and rapid response of the telescopes has, for the first time, allowed us to swiftly and accurately measure the degree of polarisation of microwaves from a GRB afterglow just two hours after the blast and probe the magnetic fields that are thought to drive these powerful, ultrafast outflows.»

The research team plans to hunt for more GRBs to continue to unravel the mysteries of the biggest explosions in the universe.

The study is published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Source: University of Bath [June 19, 2019]



Melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled in recent years

A newly comprehensive study shows that melting of Himalayan glaciers caused by rising temperatures has accelerated dramatically since the start of the 21st century. The analysis, spanning 40 years of satellite observations across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, indicates that glaciers have been losing the equivalent of more than a vertical foot and half of ice each year since 2000—double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000. The study is the latest and perhaps most convincing indication that climate change is eating the Himalayas’ glaciers, potentially threatening water supplies for hundreds of millions of people downstream across much of Asia.

Melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled in recent years
Changri Nup Glacier, one of the hundreds studied by the researchers. Much of it is covered by rocky debris.
The peak of Mt. Everest is in the background at left [Credit: Joshua Maurer]

«This is the clearest picture yet of how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting over this time interval, and why,» said lead author Joshua Maurer, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. While not specifically calculated in the study, the glaciers may have lost as much as a quarter of their enormous mass over the last four decades, said Maurer. The study appears this week in the journal Science Advances.

Currently harboring some 600 billion tons of ice, the Himalayas are sometimes called the earth’s «Third Pole.» Many other recent studies have suggested that the glaciers are wasting, including one this year projecting that up to two-thirds of the current ice cover could be gone by 2100. But up to now, observations have been somewhat fragmented, zeroing in on shorter time periods, or only individual glaciers or certain regions. These studies have produced sometimes contradictory results, both regarding the degree of ice loss and the causes.

The new study synthesizes data from across the region, stretching from early satellite observations to the present. The synthesis indicates that the melting is consistent in time and space, and that rising temperatures are to blame. Temperatures vary from place to place, but from 2000 to 2016 they have averaged 1 degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than those from 1975 to 2000.

Maurer and his colleagues analyzed repeat satellite images of some 650 glaciers spanning 2,000 kilometers from west to east. Many of the 20th-century observations came from recently declassified photographic images taken by U.S. spy satellites. The researchers created an automated system to turn these into 3-D models that could show the changing elevations of glaciers over time. They then compared these images with post-2000 optical data from more sophisticated satellites, which more directly convey elevation changes.

Melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled in recent years
Artist conception of the KH-9 HEXAGON satellite
[Credit: National Reconnaissance Office]

They found that from 1975 to 2000, glaciers across the region lost an average of about 0.25 meters (10 inches) of ice each year in the face of slight warming. Following a more pronounced warming trend starting in the 1990s, starting in 2000 the loss accelerated to about half a meter (20 inches) annually. Recent yearly losses have averaged about 8 billion tons of water, or the equivalent 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools, says Maurer. Most individual glaciers are not wasting uniformly over their entire surfaces, he noted; melting has been concentrated mainly at lower elevations, where some ice surfaces are losing as much as 5 meters (16 feet) a year.

Some researchers have argued that factors other than temperature are affecting the glaciers. These include changes in precipitation, which seems to be declining in some areas (which would tend to reduce the ice), but increasing in others (which would tend to build it). Another factor: Asian nations are burning ever-greater loads of fossil fuels and biomass, sending soot into the sky. Much of it eventually lands on snowy glacier surfaces, where it absorbs solar energy and hastens melting.

Maurer agrees that both soot and precipitation are factors, but due to the region’s huge size and extreme topography, the effects are highly variable from place to place. Overall, he says, temperature is the overarching force. To confirm this, he and his colleagues compiled temperature data during the study period from ground stations and then calculated the amount of melting that observed temperature increases would be expected to produce. They then compared those figures with what actually happened. They matched. «It looks just like what we would expect if warming were the dominant driver of ice loss,» he said.

Ice loss in the Himalayas resembles the far more closely studied European Alps, where temperatures started going up somewhat earlier, in the 1980s. Glaciers there started wasting shortly after that increase, and rapid loss of ice has continued since then. The Himalayas are generally not melting as fast as the Alps, but the general progression is similar, say the researchers. The study does not include the huge adjoining ranges of high-mountain Asia such as the Pamir, Hindu Kush or Tian Shan, but other studies suggest similar melting is underway there as well.

Melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled in recent years
Oblique view of the Himalayas on the border of Sikkim, India and eastern Nepal, captured Dec. 20, 1975 by a KH-9
HEXAGON spy satellite. Such declassified images were used by researchers in a new study of Himalayan glaciers
[Credit: Joshua Maurer]

Some 800 million people depend in part on seasonal runoff from Himalayan glaciers for irrigation, hydropower and drinking water. The accelerated melting appears so far to be swelling runoff during warm seasons, but scientists project that this will taper off within decades as the glaciers lose mass. This, they say, will eventually lead to water shortages.
A separate study published this May estimates that yearly runoff is now about 1.6 times greater than if the glaciers were replenished at the same rate they were melting. As a result, in many high-mountain drainages, meltwater lakes are building rapidly behind natural dams of rocky debris; these are threatening downstream communities with potentially destructive and deadly outburst floods. Even on Mount Everest, long-lost corpses of climbers who failed to return are emerging from melting ice and snow along trails.

The study shows that «even glaciers in the highest mountains of the world are responding to global air temperature increases driven by the combustion of fossil fuels,» said Joseph Shea, a glacial geographer at the University of Northern British Columbia who was not involved in the study. «In the long term, this will lead to changes in the timing and magnitude of streamflow in a heavily populated region.»

«It shows how endangered [the Himalayas] are if climate change continues at the same pace in the coming decades,» said Etienne Berthier, a glaciologist at France’s Laboratory for Studies in Geophysics and Spatial Oceanography, who also was not involved in the study.

Source: Columbia University [June 19, 2019]



Arctic could face another scorching annus horribilis

Scientists say 2019 could be another annus horribilis for the Arctic with record temperatures already registered in Greenland—a giant melting icicle that threatens to submerge the world’s coastal areas one day.

Arctic could face another scorching annus horribilis
Sled dogs wade through standing water on the sea ice during an expedition in northwestern Greenland,
whose ice sheet may have completely melted within the next millennium if greenhouse gas emissions
continue at their current rate, a study has found [Credit: Steffen Olsen/AFP]

«It’s possible that we could break the records set in 2012 for both lowest Arctic sea ice extent … and for record high Greenland ice sheet melt,» warned Ruth Mottram, a climatologist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

«It is very much dependent on weather conditions this year.»

A striking photograph of the early ice melt taken last week by a DMI scientist in northwestern Greenland has gone viral.

While researching oceanographic moorings and a weather station, Steffen Olsen snapped a picture of his sled dogs pushing through a fjord, the sea ice submerged under several centimetres (inches) of meltwater.

Under a bright blue sky, with a snow-free mountain in the background, the dogs appear to be walking on water.

«The picture is striking … because it really visualises how the Arctic is changing,» Mottram told AFP.

Locals who accompanied Olsen’s expedition «didn’t expect the sea ice to start melting that early. They usually take that route because the ice is very thick, but they had to turn back because the water was deeper and deeper and they couldn’t» advance, she said.

On June 12, the day before the photograph was taken, the closest weather station, in Qaanaaq, registered temperatures of 17.3 degrees Celsius (63.1 Fahrenheit), just 0.3 points lower than the record set on June 30, 2012.

«There was a dry winter and then recently (there has been) warm air, clear skies and sun—all preconditions for an early melting,» Mottram explained.

As the atmosphere heats up, the phenomenon is expected to accelerate, changing the way of life for the local population—who will see shorter hunting seasons on the ice, on which they depend for their survival—as well as an altered ecosystem.

The number of polar bears in the Arctic has decreased by around 40 percent in the past decade due the shrinking ice, according to the US Geological Survey.

Narwhals—whales with a large unicorn-like tusk, found in the Arctic—are seeing their natural ice shelter from their main predator, killer whales, dwindle.

Arctic could face another scorching annus horribilis
Melting permafrost in the Arctic [Credit: Sophie Ramis/AFP]

The melting sea ice is one thing. But it is the melting of the ice sheet and glaciers that has a direct impact on rising sea levels worldwide.

Greenland’s «Summit Station», located at an altitude of 3,000 metres (9,843 feet), on April 30 recorded the warmest temperature in its history, at minus 1.2 degrees Celsius, according to DMI.

On June 17, Greenland lost 3.7 billion tonnes of ice in a single day, DMI said.

Since early June, 37 billion tonnes of ice have melted, Xavier Fettweis, a climatologist at the University of Liege, wrote on Twitter.

«It becomes more and more likely that a record of mass loss will be broken for the month of June in 2019,» he wrote.

Also worrying is how early in the year the ice is melting.

Danish meteorologists announced the ice melting season had begun at the start of May, almost a month earlier than usual.

The ice melt has only begun before early May once—in 2016—since data began being registered in 1980.

«The start of the melt season occurs on the first of three consecutive days where more than five percent of the ice sheet has melted at the surface,» said scientist Peter Langen on the site polarportal.dk, which collects data from several Danish scientific institutions in the Arctic.

Greenland’s ice melt contributes around 0.7 millimetres per year to rising sea levels, an amount that could increase further if the ice melt continues at the current rate.

Since 1972, Greenland’s melting glaciers have contributed to a 13.7 millimetre increase in sea levels.

A study published in April in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that Greenland’s ice loss since the 1980s has accelerated dramatically since the 2000s, and especially since 2010.

The ice is melting six times faster now than in the 1980s. And the forecasts are alarming.

In 2014, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted in its worst-case scenario that by the end of the 21st century, sea levels would be almost one metre higher than what they were between 1986 and 2005.

Author: Camille Bas-Wohlert | Source: AFP [June 19, 2019]



Researchers simulate the extreme pressure and heat in the Earth’s mantle

Unlike flawless gems, fibrous diamonds often contain small saline inclusions. These give hints to scientists about the conditions under which diamonds are formed deep in the Earth’s mantle. A research team has now solved the puzzle of the formation of these inclusions by simulating conditions of extreme heat and pressure in the laboratory.

Researchers simulate the extreme pressure and heat in the Earth’s mantle
Credit: Sem, Dissolve

Diamonds are crystals of carbon that form deep in the Earth’s mantle underneath the oldest continents, the cratons. They are transported to the surface of the earth in exotic magmas called kimberlites by explosive volcanic eruptions. Previous studies had always determined that diamonds include fluids containing sodium and potassium, but the origin of these fluids was unknown.

«In order for these inclusions to form, parts of the Earth’s oceanic crust and their sediment layer had to be submerged beneath the cratonic continents in what is known as a subduction zone. These zones are located at depths of over 110 kilometres at a pressure of over four gigapascals, or 40 thousand times the atmospheric pressure,» explains Michael Förster, the first author of the study that was published in the scientific journal Science Advances. The submergence of the earth’s crust has to happen quickly so that the diamond can form before the sediment starts to melt at temperatures over 800 degrees Celsius, and react with the cratonic mantle.

For the high-pressure experiment in the laboratory, scientists from Sydney, Mainz and Frankfurt stacked marine sediment and peridotite (rocks from the Earth’s mantle) in four-millimetre capsules and placed them under high pressure and extreme temperatures. At pressures of four to six gigapascals — corresponding to depths of 120 to 180 kilometres — small salt crystals formed from the reaction between the two layers. Their potassium to sodium ratio corresponded exactly to the saline fluid inclusions in diamonds. In experiments with less pressure, corresponding to depths of less than 110 kilometres, these salts were not present. Instead, potassium was absorbed from the recycled sediment by mica.

«Unlike previous models that attributed the source of the salts to seawater, the sediments represent a plausible source of potassium,» says the mineralogist Professor Horst Marschall from Goethe University. «The potassium concentration in seawater is too low to explain the saline inclusions in diamonds.» Magnesium-rich carbonates, important components of the kimberlites, also came about as a by-product of the reaction.

Source: Goethe University Frankfurt [June 19, 2019]



Ediacaran dinner party featured plenty to eat, adequate sanitation, computer model shows

Earth’s first dinner party wasn’t impressive, just a bunch of soft-bodied Ediacaran organisms sunk into sediment on the ocean floor, sharing in scraps of organic matter suspended in the water around them.

Ediacaran dinner party featured plenty to eat, adequate sanitation, computer model shows
Artistic reconstruction of a gregarious community of Ernietta
[Credit: Dave Mazierski]

But sorting out the way the 570-540-million-year-old, enigmatic creatures ate supports the argument that they behaved like more modern-looking animals and evolved into shapes that helped them feed.
Paleontologist Simon A.F. Darroch, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University, and Brandt M. Gibson, a Ph.D. student, developed a series of computational fluid dynamics simulations demonstrating that not only were some of the Ediacara biota suspension feeders, trapping nutrients in deep cavities, but that they oriented themselves within flow currents to amplify eddies as water moved around them. That meant more food being sent into each creature’s cavity.

Ediacaran dinner party featured plenty to eat, adequate sanitation, computer model shows
Well preserved Ernietta with bottom suture and individual modules visible
[Credit: Charlotte Kenchington]

«They were enhancing the amount of nutrients going from individual to individual, and they were also exporting waste down-current and away from the one making it,» Gibson said. «So it was a good dinner party in that they got to eat a lot and didn’t have to sit in their own waste.»
The team used fossil evidence gathered near Bethanie, Namibia, and plans to return to the African nation this summer to study and photograph other samples. Their recent work builds on Darroch’s findings last year that Ediacara biota were forming complex communities tens of millions of years before the Cambrian explosion.

Ediacaran dinner party featured plenty to eat, adequate sanitation, computer model shows
Artistic reconstruction of a cross section of Ernietta. Note the laminations of sediment within the cavity,
and the particles within the surrounding water that settles into the cavity
[Credit: Dave Mazierski]

Because Ediacarans fed similarly to modern sea creatures, the work helps place them on the tree of life, Darroch said.
«For hundreds of years, we’ve just stared at the fossils themselves and made judgments on what we believe they’re related to,» he said. «But Brandt is focused on these unusual bizarre shapes and morphologies and said, ‘What if these evolved as a way of dealing with life in moving fluids.’

Ediacaran dinner party featured plenty to eat, adequate sanitation, computer model shows
Turbulent energy flowlines in multi-model CFD simulation showing recirculating turbulent patterns
within and downstream of Ernietta cavities [Credit: Dave Mazierski]

One of the reasons things evolve strange shapes is to help them feed.

«They are behaving like animals, and that’s a link between them and what we recognize as animals.»

The research is published in the journal Science Advances.

Source: Vanderbilt University [June 19, 2019]



Space Station Science Highlights: Week of June 17, 2019

ISS — Expedition 59 Mission patch.

June 21, 2019

Last week, the members of Expedition 59 conducted scientific investigations that examined how the human immune system and sensory perception change in space, and tested using microgravity to manufacture optical fibers. These and other studies aboard the International Space Station also make important contributions to NASA’s Artemis human exploration program, a two-phased approach to land humans on the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustained presence there by 2028.

Image above: The Japanese Small Satellite Orbital Deployer, attached to a robotic arm outside of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory module, ejects a set of three CubeSat satellites from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Japan for technology demonstrations. The International Space Station was orbiting 256 miles above the Amazon River in Brazil at the time. Image Credit: NASA.

Here are details on some of the science work that the crew of the orbiting lab conducted during the week of June 17:

Manufacturing high quality optic fiber in space

Crew members performed preparation work so ground could initiate fiber optic print runs for the Fiber Optic Production (FOP) investigation. Operating in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG), this investigation creates optical fibers using a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium, and aluminum called ZBLAN. Studies suggest that ZBLAN optical fibers produced in microgravity should be superior to those produced on Earth. The results may help verify these studies and guide further efforts to manufacture high value optical fiber in large volume aboard the space station.

A first look at immune response to an in-space challenge

Rodent Research-12 (RR-12) examines the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune system memory. Spaceflight has a dramatic effect on immune response, but few studies have followed an actual challenge to the body’s immune system in space. By advancing development of measures to counter spaceflight’s effects on the immune system, this investigation may help to maintain crew health during future long-duration space missions. Last week, the crew discussed logistics and operations with the NASA Rodent Research and JAXA Mouse Mission teams on the ground.

Image above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain works on the Photobioreactor study on using microalgae to support hybrid life support systems in space. On future long-duration exploration missions, this approach could reduce the amount of consumables required from Earth. Image Credit: NASA.

Interpreting sensory input without gravity

The crew performed a session for the VECTION experiment. This study examines to what extent space may disrupt an astronaut’s ability to visually interpret motion, orientation, and distance. It also looks at how these perceptions may adapt in space and change again upon return to Earth. Impairments in ability to judge motion, assess orientation, and estimate distances can have serious operational consequences for astronauts. Further knowledge of these abilities in space and on Earth could significantly improve safety of crew members on future space exploration missions.

Space to Ground: Tending the Hive: 06/21/2019

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

— The Photobioreactor investigation demonstrates whether the biological processes of microalgae can serve as part of a hybrid life support system. This approach would help future long-duration exploration missions reduce supplies that must be brought from Earth: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7426

— The Capillary Structures investigation studies using structures of specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7329

Image above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch checks out hardware for Capillary Structures, an experiment studying a new method of using structures of specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures for more reliable life support systems on future space missions. Image Credit: NASA.

— STaARS BioScience-11 manufactures nanosomes, or nanoparticle delivery systems, for use in targeting chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Nanoparticles created in microgravity are much smaller, enhancing drug uptake and delivery and potentially reducing required dose per treatment and cost per dose: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7941

— Food Acceptability examines changes in the appeal of food aboard the space station during long-duration missions. “Menu fatigue” from repeatedly consuming a limited choice of foods may contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7562

Image above: Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques hydrating growth packets for the BioNutrients investigation, which demonstrates a technology using engineered microbes for on-demand production of nutrients for humans on long-duration space missions. Image Credit: NASA.

— Veg-04A focuses on how light quality and fertilizer affect growth of Mizuna mustard, a leafy green crop, along with microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and the overall behavioral health benefits of having plants and fresh food in space: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7896

— Probiotics examines the effects of beneficial bacteria or probiotics on the intestinal microbiota and immune function of crew members on long-duration space missions: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=2047

— Vascular Echo examines changes in blood vessels and the heart in space and recovery following return to Earth. Results could provide insight into developing countermeasures to help maintain crew member health on long voyages such as to the Moon or Mars: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1664

— Genes in Space-6 determines the optimal DNA repair mechanisms that cells use in the spaceflight environment. It induces DNA damage and evaluates the entire mutation and repair process in space for the first time, using the miniPCR and Biomolecule Sequencer tools aboard the space station: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7893

— Standard Measures captures a consistent and simple set of measures from crew members throughout the ISS Program in order to characterize adaptive responses to and risks of living in space: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7711

Related links:

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

Artemis: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/what-is-artemis/

Fiber Optic Production (FOP): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7630

Rodent Research-12 (RR-12): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7868

VECTION: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7484

Spot the Station: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

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), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Erling Holm/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 59/60.

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