Critical NASA Research Returns to Earth Aboard U.S. SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

SpaceX - Falcon 9/Dragon CRS-6 Mission patch.

May 21, 2015

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:42 p.m. EDT Thursday with almost 3,100 pounds of NASA cargo from the International Space Station, including research on how spaceflight and microgravity affect the aging process and bone health.

Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft able to return a significant amount of cargo to Earth. It is the U.S. company’s sixth NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station and carried more than two tons of supplies and scientific cargo when it lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 14. NASA also has contracted with American companies SpaceX and Boeing to develop their Crew Dragon and CST-100, respectively, to once again transport astronauts to and from the orbiting laboratory from the United States in 2017.

Image above: The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was released from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 7:04 a.m. EDT Thursday. The capsule then performed a series of departure burns and maneuvers to move beyond the 656-foot (200-meter) “keep out sphere” around the station and begin its return trip to Earth. Image Credits: NASA TV.

The returning Space Aging study, for example, examines the effects of spaceflight on the aging of roundworms, widely used as a model for larger organisms. By growing millimeter-long roundworms on the space station, researchers can observe physiological changes that may affect the rate at which organisms age. This can be applied to changes observed in astronauts, as well, particularly in developing countermeasures before long-duration missions.

“Spaceflight-induced health changes, such as decreases in muscle and bone mass, are a major challenge facing our astronauts,” said Julie Robinson, NASA’s chief scientist for the International Space Station Program Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We investigate solutions on the station not only to keep astronauts healthy as the agency considers longer space exploration missions but also to help those on Earth who have limited activity as a result of aging or illness.”

Space station supply ship returns to Earth
Also returned on Dragon were samples for the Osteocytes and Mechanomechano-transduction (Osteo-4) investigation. Researchers with Osteo-4 will observe the effects of microgravity on the function of osteocytes, the most common cells in bone. Understanding the effects of microgravity on osteocytes will be critical as astronauts plan for future missions that require longer exposure to microgravity, including the NASA’s journey to Mars. The results derived from this study also could have implications on Earth for patients suffering bone disorders related to disuse or immobilization, as well as metabolic diseases such as osteoporosis.

Equipment and data from the Special Purpose Inexpensive Satellite (SpinSat) investigation also made the trip back to Earth. The SpinSat study tested how a spherical satellite, measuring 22 inches in diameter, moves and positions itself in space using new thruster technology. Researchers can use high-resolution atmospheric data captured by SpinSat to determine the density of the thermosphere, one of the uppermost layers of the atmosphere. With better knowledge of the thermosphere, engineers and scientists can refine satellite and telecommunications technology.

SpaceX’s Dragon with Full Parachutes
The Dragon will be transported by ship approximately 155 miles northeast of its splashdown location to Long Beach, California where NASA cargo will be removed and returned to the agency. The spacecraft then will be prepared for its trip to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that enables us to demonstrate new technologies and make research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. It has been continuously occupied since November 2000 and, since then, has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The ISS remains the springboard to NASA’s next giant leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

Related link:

Osteocytes and Mechanomechano-transduction (Osteo-4) investigation:

For more information about the International Space Station, visit:

For more information about SpaceX’s mission to the International Space Station, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Kathryn Hambleton/JPL/Dan Huot/NASA TV/Karen Northon.

Full article

SpaceX Dragon being moved from the capture position to the International Space Station attached position. #SpaceVine

April 18, 2015.

Credit: NASA Astronaut Terry Virts’ Vine Account


Rosetta Readies To Reach Out And Touch A Distant Comet

On Nov. 12, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is expected to release a lander about 14 miles above comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Rosetta has spent the last three months since its arrival on Aug. 6 keeping pace with and remotely surveying 67P as it speeds through our solar system.

If all goes according to plan, the vehicle named Philae will touch down on 67P’s dust and ice nucleus seven hours later in one piece and start analyzing the celestial body. If it works, the Rosetta mission, dubbed “ridiculously difficult” by those in the space science community, will achieve humanity’s first controlled landing on a comet. Read more and see videos below.

Keep reading


Fleet of ships of The Outer Planets Alliance.

• Small fleet of 14 ships, all showing the recognisable orange markings of the OPA. 

• Interplanetary freighter. Works the red routes between Io and Mars.


Sketched in my Moleskine with pigment liner pens. The fleet was coloured with Copic Markers (I’m addicted to the Chrome Orange marker). The freighter was coloured in Photoshop.

December 5 Update: Watch the Orion spacecraft today, Friday December 5 at 10:30 am in the Cullman Hall of the Universe.

NASA’s new spacecraft Orion, which is designed to eventually take humans to an asteroid and Mars, will undergo its inaugural test flight on Thursday, December 4.

The un-crewed 4.5-hour flight, called Exploration Flight Test-1, is expected to begin around 7 am EDT from Cape Canaveral, Florida, if conditions are right. Orion will orbit Earth twice, covering more than 60,000 miles and reaching an altitude of 3,600 miles on the second orbit—15 times farther than the orbit of the International Space Station. The spacecraft will return through Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 20,000 miles per hour, which will generate temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit on Orion’s heat shield.

The Museum will host a viewing event for the test flight from 10:30–12 pm. Visitors to the Museum can watch along with Curator Denton Ebel as Orion re-enters Earth’s atmosphere and splashes down into the Pacific Ocean.

Learn more about the test flight and about the Museum event

Image courtesy of NASA


During our journey through The Woodlands cemetery in Philadelphia for mini-Mutter Museum display and walking tour, Melissa (lawngirl) and I also enjoyed the All Hallows’ Read book swap, where I (of course) happened upon the only space-themed book there: Don Freeman’s ‘Space Witch’ from 1959!

I didn’t want to give the whole book away with tons of pictures - which are illustrated wonderfully by the way - so I picked the best ones and below, provide you with an excerpt/summary:

It was Halloween, and Tilly Ipswitch was restless. Where on Earth was there any excitement for a self-respecting witch? She would stir something up herself! And she did - a big caldron of remarkable leftovers.

It turned out (after some abracadabra chanted over it) to be a fantastic plastic, just perfect for the space ship she planned to build. Tilly and Kit, her cat, set off to scare the wits out of the inhabitants of other planets. But what a time they had! Kit was cross because there was no milk at all in the Milky Way, and just everything went wrong.

At last the two weary, discouraged travelers came back again to their own mountain peak, where they made the biggest discovery of all: for real spine-tingling adventure, there’s no space like home!

#AllHallowsRead encourages everyone this Halloween season to share a scary book with another by reading, donating, or swapping.

Messenger’s Collision Course with Mercury 

Earlier today, the MESSENGER spacecraft that was studying Mercury ended its mission by crashing into the planet. MESSENGER’s objective was to study and understand the first planet in our Solar System. Over four years, MESSENGER exhausted all of its fuel, resulting in today’s collision.

Jonathan Corum of the New York Times published this interactive piece on the MESSENGER spacecraft. It talks about MESSENGER’s mission and what it learned about Mercury.

On Thursday, the unmanned Orion test vehicle is set to be launched into space aboard a commercial rocket. It will orbit Earth twice, traveling 3,600 miles away from the planet on its second lap. Then it will re-enter the atmosphere and splash into the Pacific Ocean.

It’s designed for deep space, but Orion’s first mission will be back to the neighborhood of the moon. The plan is to have a robot capture a small asteroid and drag it back to lunar orbit. Then Orion will carry up to four astronauts to meet it. It’s all supposed to happen in the 2020s, though some say the mission is too complicated and not much of an advance.

NASA Prepares To Test New Spacecraft (That You’ve Likely Never Heard Of)

Photo credit: Kim Shiflett/NASA