Category: mission

Exploring an Asteroid Without Leaving Earth

This 45 day mission – which began May 5, 2018 and ends today, June 18 – will help our researchers learn how isolation and close quarters affect individual and group behavior. This study at our Johnson Space Center prepares us for long duration space missions, like a trip to an asteroid or even to Mars.

The Human Research Exploration Analog (HERA) that the crew members will be living in is one compact, science-making house. But unlike in a normal house, these inhabitants won’t go outside for 45 days. Their communication with the rest of planet Earth will also be very limited, and they won’t have any access to internet. So no checking social media, kids!

The only people they will talk with regularly are mission control and each other.

The HERA XVII crew is made up of 2 men and 2 women, selected from the Johnson Space Center Test Subject Screening (TSS) pool. The crew member selection process is based on a number of criteria, including criteria similar to what is used for astronaut selection. The four would-be astronauts are:

  • William Daniels
  • Chiemi Heil
  • Eleanor Morgan
  • Michael Pecaut

What will they be doing?

The crew are going on a simulated journey to an asteroid, a 715-day journey that we compress into 45 days. They will fly their simulated exploration vehicle around the asteroid once they arrive, conducting several site surveys before 2 of the crew members will participate in a series of virtual reality spacewalks.

They will also be participating in a suite of research investigations and will also engage in a wide range of operational and science activities, such as growing and analyzing plants and brine shrimp, maintaining and “operating” an important life support system, exercising on a stationary bicycle or using free weights, and sharpening their skills with a robotic arm simulation.

During the whole mission, they will consume food produced by the Johnson Space Center Food Lab – the same food that the astronauts enjoy on the International Space Station – which means that it needs to be rehydrated or warmed in a warming oven.

This simulation means that even when communicating with mission control, there will be a delay on all communications ranging from 1 to 5 minutes each way.

A few other details:

  • The crew follows a timeline that is similar to one used for the space station crew.
  • They work 16 hours a day, Monday through Friday. This includes time for daily planning, conferences, meals and exercise.
  • Mission: May 5 – June 18, 2018

But beware! While we do all we can to avoid crises during missions, crews need to be able to respond in the event of an emergency. The HERA crew will conduct a couple of emergency scenario simulations, including one that will require them to respond to a decrease in cabin pressure, potentially finding and repairing a leak in their spacecraft.

Throughout the mission, researchers will gather information about living in confinement, teamwork, team cohesion, mood, performance and overall well-being. The crew members will be tracked by numerous devices that each capture different types of data.

Learn more about the HERA mission HERE.

Explore the HERA habitat via 360-degree videos HERE.

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

With unearthly jet-streams, many massive swirl…

With unearthly jet-streams, many massive swirling cyclones and winds running deep into its atmosphere — new data from our Juno Mission to Jupiter unveils discoveries and clues about the gas-giant planet. 

This composite image, derived from data collected by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard our Juno spacecraft, shows the central cyclone at the planet’s north pole and the eight cyclones that encircle it.

However, as tightly spaced as the cyclones are, they have remained distinct, with individual morphologies over the seven months of observations. The question is, why do they not merge? We are beginning to realize that not all gas giants are created equal.

Read more about these discoveries HERE

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

Exploring an Asteroid Without Leaving Earth

This 45 day mission – which begins Feb. 1, 2018 – will help our researchers learn how isolation and close quarters affect individual and group behavior. This study at our Johnson Space Center prepares us for long duration space missions, like a trip to an asteroid or even to Mars.

image

The Human Research Exploration Analog (HERA) that the crew members will be living in is one compact, science-making house. But unlike in a normal house, these inhabitants won’t go outside for 45 days. Their communication with the rest of planet Earth will also be very limited, and they won’t have any access to internet. So no checking social media, kids!

The only people they will talk with regularly are mission control and each other.

image

The HERA XVI crew is made up of 2 men and 2 women, selected from the Johnson Space Center Test Subject Screening (TSS) pool. The crew member selection process is based on a number of criteria, including criteria similar to what is used for astronaut selection. The four would-be astronauts are:

  • Kent Kalogera
  • Jennifer Yen
  • Erin Hayward
  • Gregory Sachs

What will they be doing?

The crew are going on a simulated journey to an asteroid, a 715-day journey that we compress into 45 days. They will fly their simulated exploration vehicle around the asteroid once they arrive, conducting several site surveys before 2 of the crew members will participate in a series of virtual reality spacewalks.

image

They will also be participating in a suite of research investigations and will also engage in a wide range of operational and science activities, such as growing and analyzing plants and brine shrimp, maintaining and “operating” an important life support system, exercising on a stationary bicycle or using free weights, and sharpening their skills with a robotic arm simulation. 

image

During the whole mission, they will consume food produced by the Johnson Space Center Food Lab – the same food that the astronauts enjoy on the International Space Station – which means that it needs to be rehydrated or warmed in a warming oven.

This simulation means that even when communicating with mission control, there will be a delay on all communications ranging from 1 to 5 minutes each way.

A few other details:

  • The crew follows a timeline that is similar to one used for the space station crew.
  • They work 16 hours a day, Monday through Friday. This includes time for daily planning, conferences, meals and exercise.
  • Mission: February 1, 2018 – March 19, 2018
image

But beware! While we do all we can to avoid crises during missions, crews need to be able to respond in the event of an emergency. The HERA crew will conduct a couple of emergency scenario simulations, including one that will require them to respond to a decrease in cabin pressure, potentially finding and repairing a leak in their spacecraft.

Throughout the mission, researchers will gather information about living in confinement, teamwork, team cohesion, mood, performance and overall well-being. The crew members will be tracked by numerous devices that each capture different types of data.

Learn more about the HERA mission HERE

Explore the HERA habitat via 360-degree videos HERE.

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

10 Things to Know About Explorer 1, America’s …

Sixty years ago, the hopes of Cold War America soared into the night sky as a rocket lofted skyward above Cape Canaveral, a soon-to-be-famous barrier island off the Florida coast.

1. The Original Science Robot

image

Sixty years ago this week, the United States sent its first satellite into space on Jan. 31, 1958. The spacecraft, small enough to be held triumphantly overhead, orbited Earth from as far as 1,594 miles (2,565 km) above and made the first scientific discovery in space. It was called, appropriately, Explorer 1.

2. Why It’s Important

image

The world had changed three months before Explorer 1’s launch, when the Soviet Union lofted Sputnik into orbit on Oct. 4, 1957. That satellite was followed a month later by a second Sputnik spacecraft. All of the missions were inspired when an international council of scientists called for satellites to be placed in Earth orbit in the pursuit of science. The Space Age was on.

3. It…Wasn’t Easy

image

When Explorer 1 launched, we (NASA) didn’t yet exist. It was a project of the U.S. Army and was built by Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. After the Sputnik launch, the Army, Navy and Air Force were tasked by President Eisenhower with getting a satellite into orbit within 90 days. The Navy’s Vanguard Rocket, the first choice, exploded on the launch pad Dec. 6, 1957.

4. The People Behind Explorer 1

image

University of Iowa physicist James Van Allen, whose proposal was chosen for the Vanguard satellite, had made sure his scientific instrument—a cosmic ray detector—would fit either launch vehicle. Wernher von Braun, working with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Alabama, directed the design of the Redstone Jupiter-C launch rocket, while JPL Director William Pickering oversaw the design of Explorer 1 and other upper stages of the rocket. JPL was also responsible for sending and receiving communications from the spacecraft.

5. All About the Science

image

Explorer 1’s science payload took up 37.25 inches (95 cm) of the satellite’s total 80.75 inches (2.05 meters). The main instruments were a cosmic-ray detector; internal, external and nose-cone temperature sensors; a micrometeorite impact microphone; a ring of micrometeorite erosion gauges; and two transmitters. There were two antennas in the body of the satellite and its four flexible whips formed a turnstile antenna that extended with the rotation of the satellite. Electrical power was provided by batteries that made up 40 percent of the total payload weight.

6. At the Center of a Space Doughnut

image

The first scientific discovery in space came from Explorer 1. Earth is surrounded by radiation belts of electrons and charged particles, some of them moving at nearly the speed of light, about 186,000 miles (299,000 km) per second. The two belts are shaped like giant doughnuts with Earth at the center. Data from Explorer 1 and Explorer 3 (launched March 26, 1958) led to the discovery of the inner radiation belt, while Pioneer 3 (Dec. 6, 1958) and Explorer IV (July 26, 1958) provided additional data, leading to the discovery of the outer radiation belt. The radiation belts can be hazardous for spacecraft, but they also protect the planet from harmful particles and energy from the Sun.

7. 58,376 Orbits

image

Explorer 1’s last transmission was received May 21, 1958. The spacecraft re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and burned up on March 31, 1970, after 58,376 orbits. From 1958 on, more than 100 spacecraft would fall under the Explorer designation.

8. Find Out More!

image

Want to know more about Explorer 1? Check out the website and download the poster celebrating 60 years of space science. go.nasa.gov/Explorer1

9. Hold the Spacecraft In Your Hands

image

Create your own iconic Explorer 1 photo (or re-create the original), with our Spacecraft 3D app. Follow @NASAEarth this week to see how we #ExploreAsOne. https://go.nasa.gov/2BmSCWi

10. What’s Next?

image

All of our missions can trace a lineage to Explorer 1. This year alone, we’re going to expand the study of our home planet from space with the launch of two new satellite missions (GRACE-FO and ICESat-2); we’re going back to Mars with InSight; and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will search for planets outside our solar system by monitoring 200,000 bright, nearby stars. Meanwhile, the Parker Solar Probe will build on the work of James Van Allen when it flies closer to the Sun than any mission before.

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

Get Ready to Watch Us Go for GOLD

The boundary where Earth’s atmosphere gives way to outer space is a complex place: Atmospheric waves driven by weather on Earth compete with electric and magnetic fields that push charged particles, all while our signals and satellites whiz by.

image

On Jan. 25, we’re launching the GOLD instrument (short for Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk) to get an exciting new birds-eye view of this region, Earth’s interface to space.

image

High above the ozone layer, the Sun’s intense radiation cooks some of the particles in the upper atmosphere into an electrically charged soup, where negatively charged electrons and positively charged ions flow freely. This is the ionosphere. The ionosphere is co-mingled with the highest reaches of our planet’s neutral upper atmosphere, called the thermosphere.

Spanning from just a few dozen to several hundred miles above Earth’s surface, the ionosphere is increasingly part of the human domain. Not only do our satellites, including the International Space Station, fly through this region, but so do the signals that are part of our communications and navigation systems, including GPS. Changes in this region can interfere with satellites and signals alike.  

image

Conditions in the upper atmosphere are difficult to predict, though. Intense weather, like hurricanes, can cause atmospheric waves to propagate all the way up to this region, creating winds that change its very makeup.

image

Because it’s made up of electrically charged particles, the upper atmosphere also responds to space weather. Space weather – which is usually driven by activity on the Sun – often results in electric and magnetic fields that push and pull on the ionosphere’s charged particles, changing the region’s makeup. On top of that, space weather can also mean incoming showers of high-energy particles that can affect satellites or endanger astronauts, and, in extreme cases, even cause power outages on Earth.

image

That’s where GOLD comes in. GOLD takes advantage of its host satellite’s geostationary orbit over the Western Hemisphere to maintain a constant view of the upper atmosphere, day and night. By scanning across, GOLD builds up a complete picture of Earth’s disk every half hour.

image

GOLD is an imaging spectrograph, a type of instrument that breaks light down into its component wavelengths. Studying light in this way lets scientists track the movement and temperatures of different chemical species and build up a picture of how the upper atmosphere changes over time. Capturing these measurements several times a day means that, for the first time, scientists will be able to record the short-term changes in the region – our first look at its day-to-day ‘weather.’

image

GOLD is our first-ever mission to fly as a hosted payload on a commercial satellite. A hosted payload flies aboard an otherwise unrelated satellite, hitching a ride to space. GOLD studies the upper atmosphere, while its host satellite supports commercial communications.

Later this year, we’re launching another mission to study the ionosphere: ICON, short for Ionospheric Connection Explorer. Like GOLD, ICON studies Earth’s interface to space, but with a few important distinctions. ICON employs a suite of different instruments to study the ionosphere both remotely and in situ. The direct in situ measurements are possible because ICON flies in low-Earth orbit, giving us a detailed view to complement GOLD’s global perspective of the regions that both missions study.  

image

How to watch the launch on Jan. 25

Arianespace, a commerical aerospace company, is launching GOLD’s host commercial communications satellite, SES-14, for SES from Kourou, French Guiana.

Watch liftoff live on NASA Television nasa.gov/live
Launch Coverage starts at 5 p.m. EST 
(2 p.m. PST, 7 p.m. Kourou local time)

We’ll be streaming the launch live on NASA TV! You can also follow along on Twitter (@NASA and @NASASun), Facebook (NASA and NASA Sun Science), Instagram, and on our Snapchat (NASA). 

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

Going for GOLD

On Jan. 25, we’re going for GOLD!

We’re launching an instrument called Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, GOLD for short. It’s a new mission that will study a complicated — and not yet fully understood — region of near-Earth space, called the ionosphere.

image

Space is not completely empty: It’s teeming with fast-moving energized particles and electric and magnetic fields that guide their motion. At the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, these particles and fields — the ionosphere — co-exist with the upper reaches of the neutral atmosphere.

image

That makes this a complicated place. Big events in the lower atmosphere, like hurricanes or tsunamis, can create waves that travel all the way up to that interface to space, changing the wind patterns and causing disruptions.

image

It’s also affected by space weather. The Sun is a dynamic star, and it releases spurts of energized particles and blasts of solar material carrying electric and magnetic fields that travel out through the solar system. Depending on their direction, these bursts have the potential to disrupt space near Earth.

image

This combination of factors makes it hard to predict changes in the ionosphere — and that can have a big impact. Communications signals, like radio waves and signals that make our GPS systems work, travel through this region, and sudden changes can distort them or even cut them off completely.

image

Low-Earth orbiting satellites — including the International Space Station — also fly through the ionosphere, so understanding how it fluctuates is important for protecting these satellites and astronauts.  

image

GOLD is a spectrograph, an instrument that breaks light down into its component wavelengths, measuring their intensities. Breaking light up like this helps scientists see the behavior of individual chemical elements — for instance, separating the amount of oxygen versus nitrogen. GOLD sees in far ultraviolet light, a type of light that’s invisible to our eyes.

image

GOLD is a hosted payload. The instrument is hitching a ride aboard SES-14, a commercial communications satellite built by Airbus for SES Government Solutions, which owns and operates the satellite.

Also launching this year is the Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, which will also study the ionosphere and neutral upper atmosphere. But while GOLD will fly in geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles above the Western Hemisphere, ICON will fly just 350 miles above Earth, able to gather close up images of this region.

image

Together, these missions give us an unprecedented look at the ionosphere and upper atmosphere, helping us understand the very nature of how our planet interacts with space.

To learn more about this region of space and the GOLD mission, visit: nasa.gov/gold.

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

Finalists for a Future Mission to Explore the …

We’ve selected two finalists for a robotic mission that is planned to launch in the mid-2020s! Following a competitive peer review process, these two concepts were chosen from 12 proposals that were submitted in April under a New Frontiers program announcement opportunity.

What are they?

In no particular order…

CAESAR

image

CAESAR, or the Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return mission seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – the comet that was successfully explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft – to determine its origin and history.

image

This mission would acquire a sample from the nucleus of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko and return it safely to Earth. 

image

Comets are made up of materials from ancient stars, interstellar clouds and the birth of our solar system, so the CAESAR sample could reveal how these materials contributed to the early Earth, including the origins of the Earth’s oceans, and of life.

Dragonfly

A drone-like rotorcraft would be sent to explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of dozens of sites on Saturn’s moon Titan – one of the so-called ocean worlds in our solar system.

image

Unique among these Ocean Worlds, Titan has a surface rich in organic compounds and diverse environments, including those where carbon and nitrogen have interacted with water and energy.

image

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

What’s Next?

The CAESAR and Dragonfly missions will receive funding through the end of 2018 to further develop and mature the concepts. It is planned that from these, one investigation will be chosen in the spring of 2019 to continue into subsequent mission phases.

image

That mission would be the fourth mission in the New Frontiers portfolio, which conducts principal investigator (PI)-led planetary science missions under a development cost cap of approximately $850 million. Its predecessors are the New Horizons mission to Pluto and a Kuiper Belt object, the Juno mission to Jupiter and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of the asteroid Bennu. 

Key Technologies

We also announced that two mission concepts were chosen to receive technology development funds to prepare them for future mission opportunities.

image

The Enceladus Life Signatures and Habitability (ELSAH) mission concept will receive funds to enable life detection measurements by developing cost-effective techniques to limit spacecraft contamination on cost-capped missions.

image

The Venus In situ Composition Investigations (VICI) mission concept will further develop the VEMCam instrument to operate under harsh conditions on Venus. The instrument uses lasers on a lander to measure the mineralogy and elemental composition of rocks on the surface of Venus.

The call for these mission concepts occurred in April and was limited to six mission themes: comet surface sample return, lunar south pole-Aitken Basin sample return, ocean worlds, Saturn probe, Trojan asteroid tour and rendezvous and Venus insitu explorer.

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

Five Famous Pulsars from the Past 50 Years

Early astronomers faced an obstacle: their technology. These great minds only had access to telescopes that revealed celestial bodies shining in visible light. Later, with the development of new detectors, scientists opened their eyes to other types of light like radio waves and X-rays. They realized cosmic objects look very different when viewed in these additional wavelengths. Pulsars — rapidly spinning stellar corpses that appear to pulse at us — are a perfect example.

image

The first pulsar was observed 50 years ago on August 6, 1967, using radio waves, but since then we have studied them in nearly all wavelengths of light, including X-rays and gamma rays.

Typical Pulsar

Most pulsars form when a star — between 8 and 20 times the mass of our sun — runs out of fuel and its core collapses into a super dense and compact object: a neutron star

image

These neutron stars are about the size of a city and can rotate slowly or quite quickly, spinning anywhere from once every few hours to hundreds of times per second. As they whirl, they emit beams of light that appear to blink at us from space.

First Pulsar

One day five decades ago, a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, England, named Jocelyn Bell was poring over the data from her radio telescope – 120 meters of paper recordings.

image

Image Credit: Sumit Sijher

She noticed some unusual markings, which she called “scruff,” indicating a mysterious object (simulated above) that flashed without fail every 1.33730 seconds. This was the very first pulsar discovered, known today as PSR B1919+21.

Best Known Pulsar

Before long, we realized pulsars were far more complicated than first meets the eye — they produce many kinds of light, not only radio waves. Take our galaxy’s Crab Nebula, just 6,500 light years away and somewhat of a local celebrity. It formed after a supernova explosion, which crushed the parent star’s core into a neutron star. 

image

The resulting pulsar, nestled inside the nebula that resulted from the supernova explosion, is among the most well-studied objects in our cosmos. It’s pictured above in X-ray light, but it shines across almost the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays.

Brightest Gamma-ray Pulsar

Speaking of gamma rays, in 2015 our Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope discovered the first pulsar beyond our own galaxy capable of producing such high-energy emissions. 

image

Located in the Tarantula Nebula 163,000 light-years away, PSR J0540-6919 gleams nearly 20 times brighter in gamma-rays than the pulsar embedded in the Crab Nebula.

Dual Personality Pulsar

No two pulsars are exactly alike, and in 2013 an especially fast-spinning one had an identity crisis. A fleet of orbiting X-ray telescopes, including our Swift and Chandra observatories, caught IGR J18245-2452 as it alternated between generating X-rays and radio waves. 

image

Scientists suspect these radical changes could be due to the rise and fall of gas streaming onto the pulsar from its companion star.

Transformer Pulsar

This just goes to show that pulsars are easily influenced by their surroundings. That same year, our Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope uncovered another pulsar, PSR J1023+0038, in the act of a major transformation — also under the influence of its nearby companion star. 

image

The radio beacon disappeared and the pulsar brightened fivefold in gamma rays, as if someone had flipped a switch to increase the energy of the system. 

NICER Mission

Our Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) mission, launched this past June, will study pulsars like those above using X-ray measurements.

image

With NICER’s help, scientists will be able to gaze even deeper into the cores of these dense and mysterious entities.

For more information about NICER, visit https://www.nasa.gov/nicer

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

Expedition 52 Begins Aboard Space Station

When humans launch to the International Space Station, they are members of expeditions. An expedition is long duration stay on the space station. The first expedition started when the crew docked to the station on Nov. 2, 2000.

Expedition 52 began in June 2017 aboard the orbiting laboratory and will end in September 2017. 

image

FUN FACT: Each Expedition begins with the undocking of the spacecraft carrying the departing crew from the previous Expedition. So Expedition 52 began with the undocking of the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft that brought Expedition 51 crew members Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet back to Earth, leaving NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer and Roscosmos cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin aboard the station to await the arrival of the rest of the Expedition 52 crew in July.

image

This expedition includes dozens of out of this world science investigations and a crew that takes #SquadGoals to a whole new level. 

image

Take a look below to get to know the crew members and some of the science that will occur during the space station’s 52nd expedition.

Crew

Fyodor Yurchikhin (Roscosmos) – Commander

Born: Batumi, Adjar ASSR, Georgian SSR
Interests: collecting stamps and space logos, sports, history of cosmonautics and reading
Spaceflights: STS-112, Exps. 15, 24/25, 36/37, 51
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2o9PO9F 

image

Jack Fischer (NASA) – Flight Engineer

Born:  Louisville, Colorado.
Interests: spending time with my family, flying, camping, traveling and construction
Spaceflights: Expedition 51
Twitter: @Astro2Fish
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2o9FY7o

image

Peggy Whitson (NASA) – Flight Engineer

Born: Mount Ayr, Iowa
Interests: weightlifting, biking, basketball and water skiing
Spaceflights: STS-111, STS – 113, Exps. 5, 16, 50, 51, 52
Twitter: @AstroPeggy
Bio:  https://go.nasa.gov/2rpL58x

image

Randolph Bresnik (NASA) – Flight Engineer

Born: Fort Knox, Kentucky
Interests: travel, music, photography, weight training, sports, scuba diving, motorcycling, and flying warbirds
Spaceflights: STS-129 and STS-135
Twitter: @AstroKomrade
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2rq5Ssm

image

Sergey Ryazanskiy (Roscosmos) – Flight Engineer

Born: Moscow, Soviet Union
Interests: Numismatics, playing the guitar, tourism, sport games
Spaceflights: Exps. 37/38
Twitter: @Ryazanskiy_ISS
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2rpXfOK

Paolo Nespoli (ESA) – Flight Engineer

Born: Milan, Italy
Interests: scuba diving, piloting aircraft, assembling computer hardware, electronic equipment and computer software
Spaceflights: STS-120, Exps. 26/27
Bio: https://go.nasa.gov/2rq0tlk

What will the crew be doing during Expedition 52?

image

In addition to one tentatively planned spacewalk, crew members will conduct scientific investigations that will demonstrate more efficient solar arrays, study the physics of neutron stars, study a new drug to fight osteoporosis and study the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity on the heart.

image

Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA)

Solar panels are an efficient way to generate power, but they can be delicate and large when used to power a spacecraft or satellites. They are often tightly stowed for launch and then must be unfolded when the spacecraft reaches orbit.

image

The Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), is a solar panel concept that is lighter and stores more compactly for launch than the rigid solar panels currently in use. ROSA has solar cells on a flexible blanket and a framework that rolls out like a tape measure.  

Neutron Star Interior Composition Explored (NICER)

Neutron stars, the glowing cinders left behind when massive stars explode as supernovas, are the densest objects in the universe, and contain exotic states of matter that are impossible to replicate in any ground lab.

image

The Neutron Star Interior Composition Explored (NICER) payload, affixed to the exterior of the space station, studies the physics of these stars, providing new insight into their nature and behavior.

Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for Osteoporosis (Rodent Research-5)

When people and animals spend extended periods of time in space, they experience bone density loss. The Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for osteoporosis (Rodent Research-5) investigation tests a new drug that can both rebuild bone and block further bone loss, improving health for crew members.

image

Fruit Fly Lab-02

Exposure to reduced gravity environments can result in cardiovascular changes such as fluid shifts, changes in total blood volume, heartbeat and heart rhythm irregularities, and diminished aerobic capacity. The Fruit Fly Lab-02 study will use the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) to better understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity on the heart.

image

Watch their progress HERE!

Expedition 52 Mission Patch 

Our planet is shown surrounded by an imaginary constellation shaped like a house, depicting the theme of the patch: “The Earth is our home.” It is our precious cradle, to be preserved for all future generations. The house of stars just touches the Moon, acknowledging the first steps we have already taken there, while Mars is not far away, just beyond the International Space Station, symbolized by the Roman numeral “LII,” signifying the expedition number. 

image

The planets Saturn and Jupiter, seen orbiting farther away, symbolize humanity’s exploration of deeper space, which will begin soon. A small Sputnik is seen circling the Earth on the same orbit with the space station, bridging the beginning of our cosmic quest till now: Expedition 52 will launch in 2017, sixty years after that first satellite. Two groups of crew names signify the pair of Soyuz vehicles that will launch the astronauts of Expedition 52 to the Station. 

Click here for more details about the expedition and follow @ISS_Research on Twitter to stay up to date on the science happening aboard YOUR orbiting laboratory!

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

Diving into New Magnetic Territory with the MMS Mission

Our Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, or MMS, is on a journey to study a new region of space.  

image

On May 4, 2017, after three months of precisely coordinated maneuvers, MMS reached its new orbit to begin studying the magnetic environment on the ever-rotating nighttime side of Earth.

image

The space around Earth is not as empty as it looks. It’s packed with high energy electrons and ions that zoom along magnetic field lines and surf along waves created by electric and magnetic fields.  

image

MMS studies how these particles move in order to understand a process known as magnetic reconnection, which occurs when magnetic fields explosively collide and re-align.

image

After launch, MMS started exploring the magnetic environment on the side of Earth closest to the sun. Now, MMS has been boosted into a new orbit that tops out twice as high as before, at over 98,000 miles above Earth’s surface.

The new orbit will allow the spacecraft to study magnetic reconnection on the night side of Earth, where the process is thought to cause the northern and southern lights and energize particles that fill the radiation belts, a doughnut-shaped region of trapped particles surrounding Earth.  

image

MMS uses four separate but identical spacecraft, which fly in a tight pyramid formation known as a tetrahedron. This allows MMS to map the magnetic environment in three dimensions.

image

MMS made many discoveries during its first two years in space, and its new orbit will open the door to even more. The information scientists get from MMS will help us better understand our space environment, which helps in planning future missions to explore even further beyond our planet. Learn more about MMS at nasa.gov/mms.

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