The Houston Space Health Institute’s Upcoming Mission Will Include the Launch of More Experiments into Space

Houston’s Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) will launch six more space experiments this spring. These tests will examine how space travel affects numerous human health and performance facets. The project will be undertaken jointly with MIT and CalTeach. The biomedical research will examine how space travel affects everything from memory to motion sickness. This will be done throughout the course of a 10-day stay on the International Space Station during Axiom Space’s Ax-2 mission.

Pilot John Shoffner, Commander Peggy Whitson, Mission Specialists Rayyanah Barnawi, and Ali AlQarni comprise the Ax-2 mission’s four-person crew. The team is composed of people who will be making history. This includes a private space crew’s first female commander and the first Saudi astronauts to the ISS. The TRISH Executive Director and Professor at the Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine is Dr. Dorit Donoviel. According to Dorit, the findings contribute to their understanding of how the human body and mind adapt to the challenges of space travel. He added that it would be beneficial in preparing future astronauts to stay safe and healthy during longer missions.

Researchers from TRISH, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and Baylor College of Medicine have all contributed to creating the six projects that will be carried aboard the mission. They want to evaluate a range of space-related issues. These issues include alterations to the eyes, brain, inner ears, and eyes’ reactions to motion. Other issues are the genetic consequences of space travel.

The research will also look into the sleep, personality, health history, team dynamics, immune-related symptoms, and sensorimotor skills of astronauts. The latter will investigate how space modifications affect an astronaut’s capacity to stand, balance, and exercise complete bodily control on the moon.

A portion of this data will be incorporated into TRISH’s Improving eXploration Platforms and ANalog Definition (EXPAND) program. Its database is intended to assist the program in improving human health during commercial space missions.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will be used to launch Axiom’s second all-private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Axiom also plans to construct the first commercial space station ever.

In the coming summer, TRISH is scheduled to launch nine experiments as part of SpaceX’s Polaris Dawn mission. Polaris Dawn’s study is meant to supplement those carried out on SpaceX’s Inspiration4 all-civilian orbital mission in 2021, which TRISH funded.

Estimating the Mobility of Asteroids through the Cohesive Force of Meteorite Fragments

Recently, research has been done to understand better the cohesive force of meteorite fragments and how asteroids move. Asteroids are the primary component of meteorites that fall to Earth from space. This makes this research essential for understanding the solar system’s early history. These particles provide important insights into the planetary evolutionary and eolian processes and the beginning of planetary creation.

Yuuya Nagaashi and a team of researchers created Allende and Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite fragments. They accomplished this by using the centrifugal method for this study. The fragments’ shape was then studied, and their surface structures were revealed using optical microscopy and confocal laser scanning microscopy. The asteroid particles found during space exploration were surprisingly mobile due to the weaker cohesive force than expected.

In microgravity situations, the cohesive force impacts small bodies and is critical in controlling coagulation processes. The scientists employed atomic force microscopy to highlight the small surface structures of meteorite pieces recovered from Tagish Lake samples. In addition, they used atomic force to demonstrate that the cohesive forces depended on surface characteristics at the sub-micron scale. The increase in cohesive force was seen after the samples were heated. This resulted from the water composition and surface water vapor evaporation.

Scientists have traditionally measured the cohesive force of particles on asteroid surfaces by using van der Waals forces that were proportional to particle size. The total cohesive force for every fragment was lower than anticipated. However, this revealed the particles’ mobility on a small asteroidal body. The Bond number, or the ratio of gravitational to cohesive forces, determined the points at which the particles came into contact.

Nagaashi and his team found that the pressure required to overcome the forces of gravity and adhesion was lower than they had anticipated. This was discovered after they analyzed the movement of particles in a small asteroidal body in more detail. The study’s theoretical conclusions were supported by similar mass transfer evidence on the asteroids Itokawa, Ryugu, and Bennu. The researchers also analyzed asteroids by looking at their surface appearance or topology. This is because the plastic deformation of particles can result in increased cohesive force.

To understand the mobility of asteroids better, Yuuya Nagaashi and colleagues measured the cohesive force of meteorite fragments. Scientists discovered that the asteroid particles had a significantly lower cohesive force than they estimated by several orders of magnitude. As a result, there was a significant movement of particles on the asteroid’s surface that were found during space exploration. These discoveries are essential for understanding the earliest evolution of the solar system because meteorites, which are fragments of asteroids that fall to Earth from space, provide essential details on the evolution and eolian processes that occur on planets as well as the beginning of planetary formation.

Webb Telescope Reveals Weather Conditions on a Faraway Planet with Two Suns

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has made an incredible discovery by finding swirling clouds of dust on a distant planet around two suns. Located roughly 40 light-years from Earth, the exoplanet VHS 1256 b revolves around its stars at a great distance. It’s the ideal target for fine-grained Webb observation because of these favorable circumstances. Due to the planet’s distance from its stars, its light does not mix with those of the stars. This makes it possible to see its properties with great clarity. No other telescope has ever found so many features in a single object at once making the discovery an important astronomical milestone.

In VHS 1256 b, silicate dust is present in both larger and smaller particles in the swirling clouds. Temperatures in the clouds can exceed 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is incredibly hot (830 degrees Celsius). The researchers predicted that the silicates spinning in these clouds will eventually get too heavy and pour into the planet’s atmosphere. Webb was able to identify them more easily due to several aspects. One is due to the silicate clouds’ elevated altitude in VHS 1256 b’s atmosphere and the planet’s comparatively low gravity. 

Another important factor is its young age, which causes its skies to be turbulent. VHS 1256 b is substantially more recent than Earth, which is 4.5 billion years old, being only 150 million years old. The scientists examined the exoplanet’s dynamic cloud plus weather systems. They did so by using data from two sensors onboard Webb, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph and the Mid-Infrared Instrument. The observations showed that the larger silicate grains may be more like very hot, with very little sand particles. The smaller grains may be more like tiny smoke particles in their atmosphere.

The researchers were able to see the exoplanet directly due to its orbits being so far away from its stars hence utilizing the more often utilized transit technique. Astronomers can learn about exoplanet characteristics by observing a planet transit its star, which causes the star’s light to dim. The team’s ground-breaking observational discovery of the dynamic cloud plus weather systems on the planet creates a new standard for astronomical research in the future.

The findings, which were made public on Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, mark a significant turning point in space exploration. Webb’s large number of molecules in a single spectrum allows a detailed investigation of the planet’s dynamic cloud and weather systems. 

Elon Musk’s Starlink and Other Mass Satellite Groups Face Calls for Light-Pollution Ban

Astronomers are concerned about how the rapid expansion of satellite constellations like Elon Musk’s Starlink may affect the night sky. Experts have issued a warning about the rising light pollution. Light pollution has been brought on by these constellations of low-altitude satellites in several articles published in the journal Nature Astronomy. To limit light pollution and protect our capacity to observe the skies, they have urged a ban on megaconstellations.

The night sky has seen a significant shift. The change results from the sun’s illumination of man-made satellites and related space junk. Experts say that it will become more difficult to see faint astrophysical signals when brightness rises. There is a chance that we will no longer be able to see the natural beauty of a clear night sky. Concerns about the effect on the general public include the possibility that people will have a harder time observing the Milky Way, well-known constellations, weak aurorae, and faint meteors.

According to scientists, quick action is required to control satellite constellations and lessen light pollution. They have advocated restricting the number of satellites in low orbit, which is likely already excessive. To reduce the effect on biological systems, caps should be added for nighttime artificial light.

One of the issues identified by experts is that a longer time is required to gather and combine data. Therefore, increasing the night sky brightness may result in research facilities losing efficiency and incurring a bigger cost burden. Satellite trails in astronomical photographs are also a source of concern. It has serious social repercussions when near-Earth asteroids are discovered that pose a significant risk of collision with our planet.

According to the authors of the publications, it is improbable that the sources of light pollution—whether they are low-altitude satellites, ground-based LEDs, or other lamps—will regulate themselves. As a result, scientists need to take a stand against the “big light” and implement legislation. Megaconstellations of low-altitude satellites have too many effects and risks, according to the experts. The experts argue that they should either be restricted or banned entirely.

New Discoveries Made in The Outer Solar System by New Horizons Pluto Probe

Researchers have long been fascinated by the complexity of the Earth’s core and the mysteries it hides. Recent studies indicate that the planet’s deep core is possibly more complicated than originally assumed. In addition, it may even have two layers. It was feasible to locate this deepest inner core utilizing previously undisclosed seismic waves. These seismic waves not only go through the core yet also bounce back and forth. It allows them to learn critical details about its structure along the way.

Scientists were able to establish the existence of the deepest inner core using recent earthquakes. The earthquakes had a magnitude of 6 or higher as a focal point. They were able to detect even the smallest echoes of the seismic waves. This was done by combining data from seismic stations throughout the world. 16 of the roughly 200 earthquakes that were studied produced seismic waves that were observed to repeatedly reverberate through the inner core.

The planet’s innermost core generates the magnetic field that protects Earth from charged particles emitted by the sun. In addition, it aids shield its inhabitants from harmful radiation. This is why scientists are extremely interested in knowing more about it. Understanding the variations in the magnetic field is crucial for the existence of life on the surface of the Planet.

The solid inner core and the liquid outer core are the two main parts of the Earth’s core. As iron-rich fluid moves through the outer core, some of the material cools and crystallizes, sinking to produce a solid center. As a result of this interaction, the magnetic field of the Earth is formed. The Earth’s core is a mystery that scientists have long sought to unravel in order to learn more about its history, composition, and future.

Several factors can affect the speed at which seismic waves move through the Earth. They include the types and structures of the minerals that are there, as well as the amount of liquid that is present below the surface. This reveals information about the internal composition. In contrast to the planet’s poles, seismic waves moving through the deepest strata of the Earth move a little more slowly in one direction than in others, according to research published in 2002. This suggests that there may be some oddity there, such as a unique crystal structure. The research team proposed that the hidden heart might be a fossil-like preserved fragment of the core’s early formation.

Since making that discovery, researchers have searched through seismic data to find additional lines of independent evidence that support the idea of an innermost inner core. The resonating seismic waves are described in a new report published in Nature Communications. They are the strongest evidence yet that this hidden heart exists.

The core, which is roughly 6,600 kilometers across, is crucial to the planet’s atmosphere and geology. It is clear how crucial the Earth’s magnetic field is because it has kept life on our planet for billions of years. Once the spinning dance that generates it finally slows and ceases, the magnetic field of the planet will also cease to function. This leaves Earth vulnerable to harmful radiation from the sun.

Heart Tissue On a Chip is Going Back to The International Space Station for Additional Research

A chip with heart tissue is returning to the International Space Station (ISS) for more research. Two projects by teams from Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University will be part of the payload on the SpaceX CRX-27 resupply mission to the ISS on March 14. The researchers hope to leverage microgravity’s aging effects on heart muscle cells. This will ultimately help identify new treatments for cardiovascular disease.

The Johns Hopkins scientists will reexamine how microgravity affects heart cell mitochondria. Also, they will examine whether pre-treating the cells with three different medications reduces the issues related to space travel and how inflammation affects how proteins are activated. The Stanford team will investigate if heart failure can be modeled using cardiac tissue grown in microgravity for medication testing.

Microgravity and radiation may prematurely age an astronaut’s organ systems and DNA. This is according to studies on people who spend months on the ISS. Comparing this to animal models on Earth has implications for quickly understanding how aging functions.

The Tissue Chips in Space effort was created by NCATS and the National Institutes of Health. The purpose was to make use of the unique testing environment by combining it with organ-on-a-chip technology. Cardiac tissue research is one of the nine projects financed by the program. Cell cultures of organ tissue are grown inside microfluidic chips. These are tiny plates having channels and grooves that let the cells travel across them. The chips are made to regulate the microenvironment. This allows the cells inside to continue performing the same physiological tasks as the tissues they are imitating.

The Stanford and Johns Hopkins heart chip initiatives have now launched for the second time. To ensure that the cardiac muscle cells would survive the launch and that the studies could produce results, the first flight was a proof-of-concept mission. The flight taught the scientists about effective packing and automation to make the experiments as easy to handle as feasible for astronauts. In addition, it also taught them about how microgravity affects the mitochondria and contractility of heart cells.

The studies involving heart tissue will stay on the space station for 30 days before being sent down on a different SpaceX spaceship for investigation. In order to help the majority of people on Earth, researchers are working to identify some of the molecular changes that cause the impacts of aging. This will help in creating treatments or countermeasures that would either delay or lessen those effects.

Deployment and Demonstration of Lunar Navigation Aids

The development of lunar navigation beacons by NASA is progressing significantly. These beacons will let future spacecraft localize themselves and identify position, velocity, and time with great accuracy. There is a growing human presence in the vicinity of the Moon, as activities on, near, and around its surface continue to increase. These navigational aids are crucial for allowing spacecraft and people to find their way. Similar to how the Global Positioning System (GPS) on Earth provides navigation signals, the lunar navigation beacons are made to do the same.

The S-band navigation beacon known as Lunar Node 1 (LN-1) was created for lunar uses. As a part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) effort, it was recently constructed at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). The mission is presently slated to launch in Q1 2023. The NOVA-C lunar lander, developed by Intuitive Machines, will deliver LN-1 to the Moon’s surface.

LN-1’s objective is to show navigational systems that can enable nearby surface and orbital operations around the Moon. In addition, they will promote autonomy and reduce reliance on heavily used Earth-based communication resources like NASA’s Deep Space Network. The transmission of state and timing data back to Earth will be conducted by LN-1 throughout the mission. The data will be recorded by DSN ground stations to assess performance. Several references need to be visible to users at once to give a real-time solution similar to GPS. Hardware and capabilities from LN-1 could be included in a much bigger infrastructure once this lunar communication network is established.

The LN-1’s design takes advantage of CubeSat parts and Multi-spacecraft Autonomous Positioning System (MAPS) algorithms. Through this, the design enables autonomous spacecraft positioning utilizing navigational measurements. LN-1’s radio will be utilized to perform several things. They include pseudo-noise (PN)-based, one-way, non-coherent range and Doppler tracking in addition to showcasing the MAPS algorithms. The objective is to provide alternative navigation methods and comparisons for assessing performance. The LN-1 CAD models show the LN-1 payload’s small size, and its modular construction enables it to be easily incorporated into a range of host vehicles.

Testing with the expected operational ground stations started after the LN-1 payload was finished and delivered. With these tests, the RF compatibility between the DSN and the LN-1 payload was successfully established. The demonstration confirmed that the DSN is capable of receiving S-band telecommunication signals in all intended operational modes. These modes are necessary to analyze telemetry and range data from LN-1.

Future autonomous lunar asset navigation may be made possible by this new technology and the MAPS algorithms that LN-1 has proven. Future versions of LN-1 are being developed by the MSFC team. They will provide extensive lunar surface coverage. As this is happening, NASA will be investing in communication and navigation facilities in the Moon’s orbit and nearby areas. The development of this subsequent payload will focus on three vital functions: conducting a demonstration of inter-spacecraft navigation, ensuring lunar night survival aboard the payload, and enhancing the signal’s maturity to meet the LunaNet Interoperability Standard for integration, operation, and compatibility with NASA’s planned assets.

Aurora-Palooza and Solar Storm Delay SpaceX Launch, Affect Oil Rigs in Canada

The launch of Starlink satellites by SpaceX and the operation of multiple oil rigs in Canada were both delayed and disrupted on February 27. The delay was caused by a powerful solar storm. The storm was recognized by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a severe G3 geomagnetic storm. It was brought on by two coronal mass ejections  (CMEs) and streams of fast solar wind moving in Earth’s direction. Due to the storm, aurora displays could be seen in North America and Europe.

In order to prevent future occurrences like the one in February 2022, SpaceX has been collaborating with NOAA. As a result, the company postponed the Starlink satellites launch until the storm passed. This would allow them to be launched about four and a half hours beyond the original plan. The G3 storm made GPS signals unreliable, temporarily interfering with drilling operations on several Canadian oil rigs.

The interruption of drilling operations was brought on by the storm’s interference with GPS signals. The drilling rigs depend on GPS signals for accurate navigation. The disruption was caused by geomagnetically induced currents found in the ground. This assessment was given by Tamitha Skov. Tamitha is a U.S. solar physicist and expert on space weather. As solar maximum draws closer, the probability of these interruptions happening more frequently is foreseen. As the solar cycle approaches its maximum, it is likely that auroras and disruptions will become more frequent over the next two years. These disruptions are like those experienced by SpaceX and the Canadian oil companies 

The 25th solar cycle on record is already proving to be significantly stronger than what NASA and NOAA had initially forecast. Strong G4 and G5 storms have not yet occurred during this cycle. However, some low-orbiting satellites have already started dropping in altitude as a result of the inflated atmosphere.

There are only around four G5 storms per cycle. These four G5 storms per cycle are capable of damaging power transformers and causing severe power outages. Experts are concerned about the environment’s vulnerability to a G5 storm. Their concern arises from the rapidly expanding number of operational satellites and space debris fragments. Lack of knowledge about the locations of space debris and the loss of control over operational satellites could cause collisions. These collisions would increase the amount of debris in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The recent solar storm had an impact on operations at SpaceX and an oil rig in Canada. This demonstrates the necessity of collaboration between the scientific community, governments as well as businesses. The collaboration will aim to lessen the space weather effects on Earth. After an incident in February 2022, SpaceX has paid closer attention to space weather predictions. In addition, it has been giving NOAA data from Starlink’s onboard sensors. This data aims to help them enhance their space weather forecasting models.

It is essential to keep tracking and predicting space weather events’ effects on Earth and its infrastructure. The anticipation is that these events will occur more frequently in the coming years, which is why this is happening. By doing this, we can make sure that we are equipped to reduce the risks brought on by these occurrences. Also, we can keep using space-based technology to our advantage.

Astronaut Launch to ISS By SpaceX, NASA Delayed Due to Technical Glitch

A technical issue was found in the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s ground system. Due to this, the launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 1, 2023, by SpaceX and NASA had to be delayed. With just two minutes left in the countdown, the launch was aborted. This is because there was a problem with the ignition fluid that ignites the rocket engines during takeoff.

The Crew Dragon capsule, which was mounted atop the rocket, was used to safely evacuate the astronauts who were scheduled to fly on this mission. According to NASA, the SpaceX Crew-6 mission would now launch on March 2, 2023, at 12:34 a.m. EST, barring any technical difficulties that may have stopped the Monday launch. Moreover, NASA announced that due to an unfavorable weather outlook, they would forgo a launch opportunity on Tuesday.

Since 2020, SpaceX’s scheduled astronaut flight for NASA had been postponed seven times, the latest being this one. The Crew-6 crew consists of two NASA astronauts, Stephen Bowen, and Warren Hoburg, as well as Sultan Alneyadi, from the United Arab Emirates and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. Stephen has completed three space shuttle missions. Warren is a first-time space traveler. Sultan is the second astronaut from the United Arab Emirates to reach orbit.

The team will take over running of the ISS from the SpaceX Crew-5 astronauts who got there in October 2022 once they are on board. Science experiments will be operated and the twenty-year-old station will be maintained by the four astronauts. They will do this for up to six months while they are aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS) were occupied with a different transportation problem at the time of this launch delay. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which had ferried two cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut to the space station, encountered a coolant leak in December 2022. The launch of a replacement spacecraft was carried out by the Russian space agency Roscosmos on February 23, 2023. This was after the crew’s return in the capsule was considered risky. On Saturday, February 25, 2023, it made its way to the ISS.

In a blog post, Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA, expressed pride in the teams’ commitment to keeping Crew-6 safe and noted that human spaceflight is an essentially risky activity. He added that they would launch when they are ready. In order to protect the crew’s safety and the mission’s success, the delay was implemented.

The has been delay in the launch of a SpaceX and NASA astronaut to the International Space Station due to a technical fault that demonstrates that the agencies put safety above all else. In the event that the technical issue which delayed the launch on March 1 of 2023 can be resolved, the mission is now scheduled to launch on March 2, 2023. During their six-month stay in space, the astronauts are expected to conduct significant scientific research and keep the ISS running.

NASA continues testing new engines for redesigned Artemis Moon rocket

NASA is moving on with its Artemis program, which aims to send people back to the Moon while also testing new rocket engines for the Space Launch System (SLS). At NASA’s Stennis Space Center facility based in Mississippi on February 22, engineers hot-fired tested a modified RS-25 engine. The test is a component of a certification program for Aerojet Rocketdyne. Aerojet Rocketdyne is the lead SLS engine contractor, to enable the manufacturing of new RS-25 engines.

The RS-25 engine was run at 111% power for 10 minutes. This is longer than the 500 seconds needed for it to reach space. Operators can test the boundaries of engine performance. In addition, they can offer a margin of safety for flight operations by using longer-duration hot burns. The hot fire is the most recent in a test series being conducted. These tests are meant to approve new production methods and procedures for the RS-25 engine.

The RS-25 engine is among the most advanced and tried-and-true engines in the world. NASA opted to upgrade the 16 main engines it still had after the Space Shuttle Program ended. This was meant to allow usage with the SLS rocket. In order to construct new RS-25 engines for SLS missions after Artemis IV, NASA signed a contract with Aerojet Rocketdyne in 2019. These engines will be produced using cutting-edge techniques including 3D printing to cut down on production time and costs.

In order to get performance data for the new processes, NASA started developmental testing in May 2020. Last year, NASA Stennis updated its Fred Haise Test Stand. This was in order to get ready for the new round of testing. The first test of an RS-25 engine with a new design was carried out by NASA on February 8. The next 12-test series will show that Aerojet Rocketdyne is equipped to create engines for upcoming missions.

NASA wants to establish a long-lasting presence on the Moon with its ongoing Artemis missions. In addition, NASA intends to build the skills and equipment required for trips to other deep space locations. The organization intends to build an orbiting Gateway home around the Moon to enable lunar missions and get ready for Martian missions.

An essential part of the SLS rocket, that will make it the most powerful rocket in existence, is the RS-25 engine. NASA Stennis will conduct tests on each RS-25 engine that contributes to the SLS’s propulsion. NASA, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Syncom Space Services operators work together to conduct RS-25 testing at the location.

The RS-25 engine modification represents a significant advancement for NASA’s Artemis program. The first Artemis mission is set to debut in 2024. The mission has reached a crucial turning point with the hot fire test completion. The upgraded engines will aid in supporting future Artemis missions. Also, it will enable human exploration of the Moon and beyond as NASA continues to discover the mysteries of the universe.