Category: solar system

On Dec 5. 2019, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying a Dragon cargo capsule filled with dozens of scientific experiments. Those experiments look at everything from malting barley in microgravity to the spread of fire.

Not only are the experiments helping us better understand life in space, they also are giving us a better picture of our planet and benefiting humanity back on Earth. 

📸 A Better Picture of Earth 🌏

Every material on the Earth’s surface – soil, rocks, vegetation, snow, ice and human-made objects – reflects a unique spectrum of light. The Hyperspectral Imager Suite (HISUI) takes advantage of this to identify specific materials in an image. It could be useful for tasks such as resource exploration and applications in agriculture, forestry and other environmental areas.

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🌱 Malting Barley in Microgravity 🌱

Many studies of plants in space focus on how they grow in microgravity. The Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity experiment is looking at a different aspect of plants in space: the malting process. Malting converts starches from grain into various sugars that can be used for brewing, distilling and food production. The study compares malt produced in space and on the ground for genetic and structural changes, and aims to identify ways to adapt it for nutritional use on spaceflights.

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🛰️ A First for Mexico 🛰️

AztechSat-1, the first satellite built by students in Mexico for launch from the space station, is smaller than a shoebox but represents a big step for its builders. Students from a multidisciplinary team at Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla in Puebla, Mexico, built the CubeSat. This investigation demonstrates communication within a satellite network in low-Earth orbit. Such communication could reduce the need for ground stations, lowering the cost and increasing the number of data downloads possible for satellite applications.

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🚀 Checking for Leaks 🚀

Nobody wants a spacecraft to spring a leak – but if it happens, the best thing you can do is locate and fix it, fast. That’s why we launched the first Robotic External Leak Locator (RELLin 2015. Operators can use RELL to quickly detect leaks outside of station and help engineers formulate a plan to resolve an issue. On this latest commercial resupply mission, we launched the Robotic Tool Stowage (RiTS), a docking station that allows the RELL units to be stored on the outside of space station, making it quicker and simpler to deploy the instruments.

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🔥 The Spread of Fire 🔥

Understanding how fire spreads in space is crucial for the safety of future astronauts and for controlling fire here on Earth. The Confined Combustion investigation examines the behavior of flame as it spreads in differently-shaped spaces in microgravity. Studying flames in microgravity gives researchers a chance to look at the underlying physics and basic principles of combustion by removing gravity from the equation.

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💪 Staying Strong 💪

Here on Earth you might be told to drink milk to grow up with strong bones, but in space, you need a bit more than that. Astronauts in space have to exercise for hours a day to prevent substantial bone and muscle loss. A new experiment, Rodent Research-19, is seeing if there is another way to prevent the loss by targeting signaling pathways in your body at the molecular level. The results could also support treatments for a wide range of conditions that cause muscle and bone loss back here on Earth.

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Want to learn about more investigations heading to the space station (or even ones currently under way)? Make sure to follow @ISS_Research on Twitter and Space Station Research and Technology News on Facebook. 

If you want to see the International Space Station with your own eyes, check out Spot the Station to see it pass over your town.

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

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In August 2018, our Parker Solar Probe mission launched to space, soon becoming the closest-ever spacecraft from the Sun. Now, scientists have announced their first discoveries from this exploration of our star!

The Sun may look calm to us here on Earth, but it’s an active star, unleashing powerful bursts of light, deluges of particles moving near the speed of light and billion-ton clouds of magnetized material. All of this activity can affect our technology here on Earth and in space.

Parker Solar Probe’s main science goals are to understand the physics that drive this activity — and its up-close look has given us a brand-new perspective. Here are a few highlights from what we’ve learned so far.

1. Surprising events in the solar wind

The Sun releases a continual outflow of magnetized material called the solar wind, which shapes space weather near Earth. Observed near Earth, the solar wind is a relatively uniform flow of plasma, with occasional turbulent tumbles. Closer to the solar wind’s source, Parker Solar Probe saw a much different picture: a complicated, active system. 

One type of event in particular drew the eye of the science teams: flips in the direction of the magnetic field, which flows out from the Sun, embedded in the solar wind. These reversals — dubbed “switchbacks” — last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes as they flow over Parker Solar Probe. During a switchback, the magnetic field whips back on itself until it is pointed almost directly back at the Sun.

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The exact source of the switchbacks isn’t yet understood, but Parker Solar Probe’s measurements have allowed scientists to narrow down the possibilities — and observations from the mission’s 21 remaining solar flybys should help scientists better understand these events. 

2. Seeing tiny particle events

The Sun can accelerate tiny electrons and ions into storms of energetic particles that rocket through the solar system at nearly the speed of light. These particles carry a lot of energy, so they can damage spacecraft electronics and even endanger astronauts, especially those in deep space, outside the protection of Earth’s magnetic field — and the short warning time for such particles makes them difficult to avoid.

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Energetic particles from the Sun impact a detector on ESA & NASA’s SOHO satellite.

Parker Solar Probe’s energetic particle instruments have measured several never-before-seen events so small that all trace of them is lost before they reach Earth. These instruments have also measured a rare type of particle burst with a particularly high number of heavier elements — suggesting that both types of events may be more common than scientists previously thought.

3. Rotation of the solar wind

Near Earth, we see the solar wind flowing almost straight out from the Sun in all directions. But the Sun rotates as it releases the solar wind, and before it breaks free, the wind spins along in sync with the Sun’s surface. For the first time, Parker was able to observe the solar wind while it was still rotating – starting more than 20 million miles from the Sun.

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The strength of the circulation was stronger than many scientists had predicted, but it also transitioned more quickly than predicted to an outward flow, which helps mask the effects of that fast rotation from the vantage point where we usually see them from, near Earth, about 93 million miles away. Understanding this transition point in the solar wind is key to helping us understand how the Sun sheds energy, with implications for the lifecycles of stars and the formation of protoplanetary disks.

4. Hints of a dust-free zone

Parker also saw the first direct evidence of dust starting to thin out near the Sun – an effect that has been theorized for nearly a century, but has been impossible to measure until now. Space is awash in dust, the cosmic crumbs of collisions that formed planets, asteroids, comets and other celestial bodies billions of years ago. Scientists have long suspected that, close to the Sun, this dust would be heated to high temperatures by powerful sunlight, turning it into a gas and creating a dust-free region around the Sun.

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For the first time, Parker’s imagers saw the cosmic dust begin to thin out a little over 7 million miles from the Sun. This decrease in dust continues steadily to the current limits of Parker Solar Probe’s instruments, measurements at a little over 4 million miles from the Sun. At that rate of thinning, scientists expect to see a truly dust-free zone starting a little more than 2-3 million miles from the Sun — meaning the spacecraft could observe the dust-free zone as early as 2020, when its sixth flyby of the Sun will carry it closer to our star than ever before.

These are just a few of Parker Solar Probe’s first discoveries, and there’s plenty more science to come throughout the mission! For the latest on our Sun, follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook.

If you need to fix something on Earth, you could go to a store, buy the tools you need, and get started. In space, it’s not that easy.

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Aside from the obvious challenges associated with space (like it being cold and there being no gravity), developing the right tools requires a great deal of creativity because every task is different, especially when the tools need to be designed from scratch. From the time an engineer dreams up the right tools to the time they are used in space, it can be quite a process.

On Nov. 15, astronauts Luca Parmitano and Drew Morgan began a series of spacewalks to repair an instrument called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-2) on the exterior of the International Space Station. The first of four spacewalk focused on using specialized tools to remove shields and covers, to gain access to the heart of AMS to perform the repairs, and install a new cooling system.

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The debris shield that covered Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer floats away toward Earth as astronaut Drew Morgan successfully releases it.

Once repaired, AMS will continue to help us understand more about the formation of the universe and search for evidence of dark matter and antimatter.

These spacewalks, or extravehicular activities (EVAs), are the most complex of their kind since the servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. AMS is particularly challenging to repair not only because of the instrument’s complexity and sensitivity, but also because it was never designed to be fixed. Because of this design, it does not have the kinds of interfaces that make spacewalks easier, or the ability to be operated on with traditional multi-purpose tools. These operations are so complex, their design and planning has taken four years. Let’s take a look at how we got ready to repair AMS.

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Thinking Outside of the (Tool) Box

When designing the tools, our engineers need to keep in mind various complications that would not come into play when fixing something on Earth. For example, if you put a screw down while you’re on Earth, gravity will keep it there — in space, you have to consistently make sure each part is secure or it will float away. You also have to add a pressurized space suit with limited dexterity to the equation, which further complicates the tool design.

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In addition to regular space complications, the AMS instrument itself presents many challenges — with over 300,000 data channels, it was considered too complex to service and therefore was not designed to one day be repaired or updated if needed. Additionally, astronauts have never before cut and reconnected micro-fluid lines (4 millimeters wide, less than the width of the average pencil) during a spacewalk, which is necessary to repair AMS, so our engineers had to develop the tools for this big first. 

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With all of this necessary out-of-the-box thinking, who better to go to for help than the teams that worked on the most well-known repair missions — the Hubble servicing missions and the space station tool teams? Building on the legacy of these missions, some of our same engineers that developed tools for the Hubble servicing missions and space station maintenance got to work designing the necessary tools for the AMS repair, some reworked from Hubble, and some from scratch. In total, the teams from Goddard Space Flight Center’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division, Johnson Space Center, and AMS Project Office developed 21 tools for the mission.

Designing and Building

Like many great inventions, it all starts with a sketch. Engineers figure out what steps need to be taken to accomplish the task, and imagine the necessary tools to get the job done.

From there, engineers develop a computer-aided design (CAD) model, and get to building a prototype. Tools will then undergo multiple iterations and testing with the AMS repair team and astronauts to get the design just right, until eventually, they are finalized, ready to undergo vibration and thermal vacuum testing to make sure they can withstand the harsh conditions of launch and use in the space environment. 

Hex Head Capture Tool Progression:

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Hex Head Capture Tool Used in Space: 

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Practice Makes Perfect

One of the reasons the AMS spacewalks have been four years in the making is because the complexity of the repairs required the astronauts to take extra time to practice. Over many months, astronauts tasked with performing the spacewalks practiced the AMS repair procedures in numerous ways to make sure they were ready for action. They practiced in:  

Virtual reality simulations:

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The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory:

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The Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS):

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Astronauts use this testing to develop and practice procedures in space-like conditions, but also to figure out what works and doesn’t work, and what changes need to be made. A great example is a part of the repair that involves cutting and reconnecting fluid lines. When astronauts practiced cutting the fluid lines during testing here on Earth, they found it was difficult to identify which was the right one to cut based on sight alone. 

The tubes on the AMS essentially look the same.

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After discussing the concern with the team monitoring the EVAs, the engineers once again got to work to fix the problem.

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And thus, the Tube Cutting Guide tool was born! Necessity is the mother of invention and the team could not have anticipated the astronauts would need such a tool until they actually began practicing. The Tube Cutting Guide provides alignment guides, fiducials and visual access to enable astronauts to differentiate between the tubes. After each of eight tubes is cut, a newly designed protective numbered cap is installed to cover the sharp tubing.

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Off to Space

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With the tools and repair procedures tested and ready to go, they launched to the International Space Station earlier this year. Now they’re in the middle of the main event – Luca and Drew completed the first spacewalk last Friday, taking things apart to access the interior of the AMS instrument. Currently, there are three other spacewalks scheduled over the course of a month. The next spacewalk will happen on Nov. 22 and will put the Tube Cutting Guide to use when astronauts reconnect the tubes to a new cooling system.

With the ingenuity of our tool designers and engineers, and our astronauts’ vigorous practice, AMS will be in good hands.

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Check out the full video for the first spacewalk. Below you can check out each of the Goddard tools above in action in space!

Debris Shield Worksite:
2:29:16 – Debris Shield Handling Aid
2:35:25 – Hex Head Capture Tool (first)
2:53:31 – #10 Allen Bit
2:54:59 – Capture Cages
3:16:35 – #10 Allen Bit (diagonal side)
3:20:58 – Socket Head Capture Tool
3:33:35 – Hex Head Capture Tool (last)
3:39:35 – Fastener Capture Block
3:40:55 – Debris Shield removal
3:46:46 – Debris Shield jettison

Vertical Support Beam (VSB) Worksite:
5:15:27 – VSB Cover Handling Aid
5:18:05 – #10 Allen Bit
5:24:34 – Socket Head Capture Tool
5:41:54 – VSB Cover breaking
5:45:22 – VSB Cover jettison
5:58:20 – Top Spacer Tool & M4 Allen Bit
6:08:25 – Top Spacer removal
7:42:05 – Astronaut shoutout to the tools team

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Not all galaxies are lonely. Some have galaxy squads. ⁣

NGC 1706, captured in this image by our Hubble Space Telescope, belongs to something known as a galaxy group, which is just as the name suggests — a group of up to 50 galaxies which are gravitationally bound and relatively close to each other. ⁣

Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, has its own squad — known as the Local Group, which also contains the Andromeda galaxy, the Large and Small Magellanic clouds and the Triangulum galaxy.

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

We’ve made some amazingly advanced software for our space missions, from launching rockets to the International Space Station to landing rovers on Mars. But a lot of that software can be applied to other situations here on the ground. We’ve got hundreds of downloadable programs in the NASA Software Catalog available for public use—and they’re all free.

We’ve rounded up five interesting software programs to get your search started.

1. Take a walk on Mars from your living room

Want to walk around Mars from the comfort of your living room? OnSight can help with that. Our engineers and scientists created this mixed reality software to immerse themselves in a visualization of the terrain around the Curiosity rover, so users feel like they are really walking on the Red Planet. The software can be adapted to visualize other locations, which means it could also help us explore places on Earth, like caves and lava fields. No wonder it was awarded NASA’s 2018 Software of the Year

2. Enhancing images from space and the doctor’s office

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It’s hard to take a perfect picture from space. That’s why our scientists created the Hierarchical Image Segmentation software program – to help us enhance and analyze images taken of Earth from space by the Landsat and Terra missions. But, that isn’t all it can do. Doctors have used the software to analyze medical images, such as X-rays, ultrasounds and mammography images, to reveal important details previously unseen by the human eye.

3. Video game tech helps our engineers build spaceflight hardware

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Installing sensitive spaceflight hardware is hardly a time for fun and games. Except when it comes to the Distributed Observer Network, or DON 3.1. This software combines innovative NASA tools with commercial video game technology to train our employees for stressful tasks – like maneuvering important, delicate tools through tight spots when building instruments or spacecraft. DON can be used in many other industries, particularly for overcoming the challenges that face virtual teams collaborating on complex problems.

4. Software helps protect Earth from space junk

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Those of us on the ground may imagine space as a peaceful place to float among the stars, but in reality, Earth’s atmosphere is filled with junk. This space debris can cause damage to spacecraft and satellites, including the International Space Station. That’s where the Orbital Debris Engineering Model software program comes in. Thanks to this NASA software, we can study the risks of debris impact to help us protect our orbiting equipment and – more importantly – our planet. Communication companies could use this software to prevent debris damage when launching satellites, saving them a lot of time and money.

5. From exploration missions to your office, this software keeps projects on track

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Do you manage complex projects at work? There are a lot of steps and moving pieces in play when it comes to getting a spacecraft from the launchpad into space. Used during the space shuttle missions, the Schedule Test and Assessment Tool 5.0 add-on works with Microsoft Project to automate project data to help us stay on track. It’s one of the more popular programs in our software catalog because it provides quick, clear assessment info that can help with decision making.

These are just a few examples of the software NASA has free and available for the public. To browse the new 2019-2020 catalog online, visit www.software.nasa.gov.

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

In a dark conference room, a pumpkin gently landed on the Moon, its retrorockets smoldering, while across the room, a flying saucer pumpkin hovered above Area 51 as a pumpkin alien wreaked havoc.

Suffice to say that when the scientists and engineers at our Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, compete in a pumpkin-carving contest, the solar system’s the limit. Now in its ninth year, the contest gives teams only one hour to carve (off the clock, on their lunch break), though they can prepare non-pumpkin materials — like backgrounds, sound effects and motorized parts — ahead of time. 

Enjoy! 

Looking for more pumpkin fun? Check out the full gallery, here

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A quiet, starry night sky might not seem like a very spooky spectacle, but space can be a creepy place! Monsters lurk in the shadowy depths of the universe, sometimes hidden in plain sight. Many of them are invisible to our eyes, so we have to use special telescopes to see them. Read on to discover some of these strange cosmic beasts, but beware — sometimes fact is scarier than fiction.

Monster Black Holes ⚫

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You know those nightmares where no matter how fast you try to run you never seem to get anywhere? Black holes are a sinister possible version of that dream — especially because they’re real! If you get too close to a black hole, there is no possibility of escape.

Just last year our Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope traced an otherworldly ghost particle back to one of these monster black holes, providing additional insight into the many signals we’re picking up from some of the most feared creatures in the cosmic deep.

But it gets worse. Our Hubble Space Telescope revealed that these things are hidden in the hearts of nearly every galaxy in the universe. That means supermassive black holes lurk in the shadows of the night sky in every direction you look!

A Hazy Specter 👻

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This fiendish specter lives in the center of the Milky Way, haunting our galaxy’s supermassive black hole. But it’s not as scary as it looks! Our SOFIA observatory captured streamlines tracing a magnetic field that appears to be luring most of the material quietly into orbit around the black hole. In other galaxies, magnetic fields seem to be feeding material into hungry black holes — beware! Magnetic fields might be the answer to why some black holes are starving while others are feasting.

Bats in the Belfry 🦇

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The universe has bats in the attic! Hubble spotted the shadow of a giant cosmic bat in the Serpens Nebula. Newborn stars like the one at the center of the bat, called HBC 672, are surrounded by disks of material, which are hard to study directly. The shadows they cast, like the bat, can clue scientists in on things like the disk’s size and density. Our solar system formed from the same type of disk of material, but we can only see the end result of planet building here — we want to learn more about the process!

Jack-o-lantern Sun 🎃

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A jack-o-lantern in space?! Our Solar Dynamics Observatory watches the Sun at all times, keeping a close eye on space weather. In October 2014, the observatory captured a chilling image of the Sun with a Halloweenish face!

Skull Comet 💀

On Halloween a few years ago, an eerie-looking object known as 2015 TB145 sped across the night sky. Scientists observing it with our Infrared Telescope Facility determined that it was most likely a dead comet. It’s important to study objects like comets and asteroids because they’re dangerous if they cross Earth’s path — just ask the dinosaurs!

Halloween Treat 🍬

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Trick-or-treat! Add a piece of glowing cosmic candy to your Halloween haul, courtesy of Hubble! This image shows the Saturn Nebula, formed from the outer layers ejected by a dying star, destined to be recycled into later generations of stars and planets. Our Sun will experience a similar fate in around five billion years.

Witch’s Broom Nebula 🧹

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Massive stars are in for a more fiery fate, as the Witch’s Broom Nebula shows. Hubble’s close-up look reveals wisps of gas — shrapnel leftover from a supernova explosion. Astronomers believe that a couple of supernovae occur each century in galaxies like our own Milky Way.

Zombie Stars 🧟

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Supernovae usually herald the death of a star, but on a few occasions astronomers have found “zombie stars” left behind after unusually weak supernovae. Our Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has even spotted a mysterious glow of high-energy X-rays that could be the “howls” of dead stars as they feed on their neighbors.

Intergalactic Ghost Towns 🏚️

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The universe is brimming with galaxies, but it’s also speckled with some enormous empty pockets of space, too. These giant ghost towns, called voids, may be some of the largest things in the cosmos, and since the universe is expanding, galaxies are racing even farther away from each other all the time! Be grateful for your place in space — the shadowy patches of the universe are dreadful lonely scenes.

Mysterious Invisible Force 🕵️‍♀️

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Some forces are a lot spookier than floorboards creaking or a door slamming shut unexpectedly when you’re home alone. Dark energy is a mysterious antigravity pressure that our Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is going to help us understand. All we know so far is that it’s present everywhere in the cosmos (even in the room with you as you read this) and it controls the fate of the universe, but WFIRST will study hundreds of millions of galaxies to figure out just what dark energy is up to.

Want to learn some fun ways to celebrate Halloween in (NASA) style? Check out this link!

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O_o  When we peer deep into space, we don’t expect to find something staring back at us…

This galactic ghoul, captured by our Hubble Space Telescope, is actually a titanic head-on collision between two galaxies. Each “eye” is the bright core of a galaxy, one of which slammed into another. The outline of the face is a ring of young blue stars. Other clumps of new stars form a nose and mouth.

Although galaxy collisions are common most of them are not head-on smashups like this Arp-Madore system. Get spooked & find out what lies inside this ghostly apparition, here

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Observing Earth from space can alter an astronauts’ cosmic perspective, a mental shift known as the “Overview Effect.” First coined by space writer Frank White in 1987, the Overview Effect is described as a feeling of awe for our home planet and a sense of responsibility for taking care of it.

See Earth from the vantage point of our astronauts in these perspective-changing views:

Floating Free in Space

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Astronaut Bruce McCandless II used his hands to control his movement above the Earth during the first-ever spacewalk that didn’t use restrictive tethers and umbilicals. Fellow crew members aboard the space shuttle Challenger captured this image on Feb. 7, 1984, through windows on the flight deck.

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

Earth Reflections

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Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson looks through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station (ISS). A blue and white part of Earth and the blackness of space are visible through the windows. The image was a self-portrait using natural light.

In a preflight interview for Expedition 23/24, Dyson said: “hands down, the best part about it is being able to look at that view every day and during the time frame we’ll be up there, hopefully, we’ll have a big bay window and much more opportunity to observe this beautiful planet.”

Taking in the View

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As astronaut Nick Hague prepared to conclude his six-month stay aboard the ISS, he shared this photo saying: “Today is my last Monday living on this orbiting laboratory and I’m soaking up my final views. The @Space_Station is truly an engineering marvel. #MondayMotivation." 

He and Expedition 60 and Soyuz commander Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos​ completed a 203-day mission, spanning 3,248 orbits of Earth, and a journey of 80.8 million miles.

Earthrise

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On Dec. 24, 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders became the first humans to witness the Earth rising above the Moon’s surface. 

 Anders, photographing the Moon from the right-side window, caught sight of the view, and exclaimed: “Oh my God, look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth comin’ up. Wow, is that pretty!”

The Blue Marble

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Besides Earthrise, the Blue Marble is probably the most famous image of Earth that NASA has produced. Taken by the Apollo 17 crew on their way to the Moon in 1972, the Blue Marble and other NASA imagery of Earth has been credited by some with helping to fuel the environmental movement.

For more information on the Overview Effect, check out this episode of Houston We Have a Podcast

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Space is a global frontier. That’s why we partner with nations all around the world to further the advancement of science and to push the boundaries of human exploration. With international collaboration, we have sent space telescopes to observe distant galaxies, established a sustainable, orbiting laboratory 254 miles above our planet’s surface and more! As we look forward to the next giant leaps in space exploration with our Artemis lunar exploration program, we will continue to go forth with international partnerships!

Teamwork makes the dream work. Here are a few of our notable collaborations:

Artemis Program

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Our Artemis lunar exploration program will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. Using innovative technologies and international partnerships, we will explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and establish sustainable missions by 2028.

During these missions, the Orion spacecraft will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. The European Service Module, provided by the European Space Agency, will serve as the spacecraft’s powerhouse and supply it with electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air and water in space.

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The Gateway, a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon, will be a home base for astronauts to maintain frequent and sustainable crewed missions to the lunar surface. With the help of a coalition of nations, this new spaceship will be assembled in space and built within the next decade.

Gateway already has far-reaching international support, with 14 space agencies agreeing on its importance in expanding humanity’s presence on the Moon, Mars and deeper into the solar system.

International Space Station

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The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the most ambitious international collaborations ever attempted. Launched in 1998 and involving the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and the participating countries of the European Space Agency — the ISS has been the epitome of global cooperation for the benefit of humankind. The largest space station ever constructed, the orbital laboratory continues to bring together international flight crews, globally distributed launches, operations, training, engineering and the world’s scientific research community.

Hubble Space Telescope 

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The Hubble Space Telescope, one of our greatest windows into worlds light-years away, was built with contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA).

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ESA provided the original Faint Object Camera and solar panels, and continues to provide science operations support for the telescope. 

Deep Space Network

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The Deep Space Network (DSN) is an international array of giant radio antennas that span the world, with stations in the United States, Australia and Spain. The three facilities are equidistant approximately one-third of the way around the world from one another – to permit constant communication with spacecraft as our planet rotates. The network supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and a few that orbit Earth. It also provides radar and radio astronomy observations that improve our understanding of the solar system and the larger universe!

Mars Missions 

Information gathered today by robots on Mars will help get humans to the Red Planet in the not-too-distant future. Many of our Martian rovers – both past, present and future – are the products of a coalition of science teams distributed around the globe. Here are a few notable ones:

Curiosity Mars Rover 

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  • France: ChemCam, the rover’s laser instrument that can analyze rocks from more than 20 feet away
  • Russia: DAN, which looks for subsurface water and water locked in minerals
  • Spain: REMS, the rover’s weather station

InSight Mars Lander

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  • France with contributions from Switzerland: SEIS, the first seismometer on the surface of another planet
  • Germany: HP3, the heatflow probe that will help us understand the interior structure of Mars
  • Spain: APSS, the lander’s weather station

Mars 2020 Rover

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  • Norway: RIMFAX, a ground-penetrating radar
  • France: SuperCam, the laser instrument for remote science
  • Spain: MEDA, the rover’s weather station

Space-Analog Astronaut Training

We partner with space agencies around the globe on space-analog missions. Analog missions are field tests in locations that have physical similarities to the extreme space environments. They take astronauts to space-like environments to prepare as international teams for near-term and future exploration to asteroids, Mars and the Moon.

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The European Space Agency hosts the Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills (CAVES) mission. The two week training prepares multicultural teams of astronauts to work safely and effectively in an environment where safety is critical. The mission is designed to foster skills such as communication, problem solving, decision-making and team dynamics.

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We host our own analog mission, underwater! The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project sends international teams of astronauts, engineers and scientists to live in the world’s only undersea research station, Aquarius, for up to three weeks. Here, “aquanauts” as we call them, simulate living on a spacecraft and test spacewalk techniques for future space missions in hostile environments.

International Astronautical Congress 

So, whether we’re collaborating as a science team around the globe, or shoulder-to-shoulder on a spacewalk, we are committed to working together with international partners for the benefit of all humanity! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how the global space industry works together, check out our coverage of the 70th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) happening this week in Washington, D.C. IAC is a yearly gathering in which all space players meet to talk about the advancements and progress in exploration.

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