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    • By NASA
      The distorted spiral galaxy at center, the Penguin, and the compact elliptical at left, the Egg, are locked in an active embrace. This near- and mid-infrared image combines data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) and MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), and marks the telescope’s second year of science. Webb’s view shows that their interaction is marked by a glow of scattered stars represented in blue. Known jointly as Arp 142, the galaxies made their first pass by one another between 25 and 75 million years ago, causing “fireworks,” or new star formation, in the Penguin. The galaxies are approximately the same mass, which is why one hasn’t consumed the other.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI To celebrate the second science anniversary of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the team has released a near- and mid-infrared image on July 12, 2024, of two interacting galaxies: The Penguin and the Egg.
      Webb specializes in capturing infrared light – which is beyond what our own eyes can see – allowing us to view and study these two galaxies, collectively known as Arp 142. Their ongoing interaction was set in motion between 25 and 75 million years ago, when the Penguin (individually cataloged as NGC 2936) and the Egg (NGC 2937) completed their first pass. They will go on to shimmy and sway, completing several additional loops before merging into a single galaxy hundreds of millions of years from now.
      Learn more about the Penguin and the Egg.
      Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI
      Text Credit: NASA Webb Mission Team
      View the full article
    • By Space Force
      The portrait unveiling marks one of many historic firsts for a military service that was established less than five years prior, Dec. 20, 2019.

      View the full article
    • By NASA
      A few days before they left Skylab on Feb. 8, 1974, the final crew to occupy the station raised its altitude, hoping to keep it in orbit until a future space shuttle could revisit it. But higher than predicted solar activity caused the Earth’s atmosphere to expand, increasing drag on the large vehicle, causing its orbit to decay faster than expected. In 1978, controllers reactivated the station and changed its attitude, hoping to keep it in orbit as long as possible by reducing atmospheric drag. In the meantime, delays in the space shuttle’s development eventually made it impossible for a shuttle to revisit Skylab before it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere. On July 11, 1979, Skylab reentered, with debris landing over the Indian Ocean and Australia. Lessons learned from deorbiting large spacecraft like Skylab and others will inform the eventual deorbiting of the International Space Station.

      Left: Skylab as it appeared to the final crew upon its departure. Middle: Illustration of a proposed Skylab boost mission by the space shuttle. Right: A more whimsical depiction of the Skylab reboost by the space shuttle, as drawn by a cartoonist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
      When the Skylab 4 astronauts departed the station on Feb. 8, 1974, they left it in a 269-by-283-mile orbit. Just one day after the crew left the station, operators in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston ran a few final systems checks, oriented Skylab in a gravity-gradient attitude – meaning the heavier workshop faced the Earth – vented its atmosphere, and turned off its power. In this attitude, and based on predictions of the Sun’s activity in the upcoming solar cycle that would increase atmospheric drag and reduce Skylab’s altitude, scientists estimated that the station would remain in orbit until March 1983. However, the solar cycle intensified into the second most active one in a century and atmospheric perturbations shifted Skylab out of the gravity-gradient attitude, increasing its drag. By 1977, revised estimates projected Skylab’s reentry occurring as early as mid-1979. Although the space shuttle had yet to fly, NASA devised a plan for astronauts on one of its early missions to attach a rocket stage to Skylab and use it to either boost the station into a higher storage orbit or deorbit it in a controlled fashion into the Pacific Ocean. At 169,000 pounds, Skylab represented the heaviest spacecraft to reenter up to that time, and engineers believed that some of its components would survive the entry. Keeping the debris away from populated areas remained a priority.

      Left: Plot of Skylab’s altitude from launch until reentry. Right: Illustration of the five ground stations used during the reactivation and tracking of Skylab.
      To ensure that Skylab stayed aloft long enough for this shuttle mission to reach it, NASA needed to reactivate it. Because Skylab had no ability to reboost itself, its rate of decay could only be slightly controlled by changing the station’s attitude. Between March and June 1978, using the limited communications afforded by five ground stations, a small team of controllers methodically reactivated Skylab after a more than four-year passive period. Remarkably, the station’s systems, including its all-important batteries, had survived the intervening period in good condition. When controllers fully reactivated Skylab on June 11, 1978, its altitude had decreased to 250 miles, and to prolong its life NASA decided to keep the station activated to control its attitude. Using its Thruster Attitude Control System, operators commanded Skylab into an End On Velocity Vector (EOVV) minimum drag attitude, with its forward end pointing in the direction of flight. Skylab remained in the EOVV attitude until Jan. 25, 1979, and engineers estimated that this extended the station’s orbital life by 3.5 months. By late 1978, with slips in the shuttle schedule, saving Skylab seemed no longer feasible. In a Dec. 19, 1978, press conference, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Transportation Systems John F. Yardley announced the cancellation of the shuttle reboost mission and the end of efforts to control Skylab’s attitude. Yardley emphasized the low likelihood of an uncontrolled Skylab reentry resulting in debris hitting populated areas, citing the example of the spent second stage of the Saturn V rocket that launched Skylab. That empty stage, larger in size although at 83,000 pounds less massive than Skylab, reentered out of control on Jan. 11, 1975, falling harmlessly into the Atlantic Ocean, about 1,000 miles west of Gibraltar.

      Left: Illustration of Skylab in the End On Velocity Vector minimum drag attitude. Middle: Cartoon of “Skylab is falling” fever. Image credit: courtesy Chicago Tribune. Right: Ground track of Skylab’s final orbit and the debris footprint in the Indian Ocean and Australia.
      On Jan. 25, 1979, controllers maneuvered Skylab from EOVV to solar inertial attitude, the orientation it maintained during its operational life, to ensure its solar arrays remained pointed at the Sun to keep the station’s batteries charged. Studies indicated that as Skylab descended below 161 miles, aerodynamic torques would make it difficult to maintain the solar inertial attitude. On June 20, with Skylab at 163 miles, controllers commanded it into a high-drag Torque Equilibrium Attitude (TEA). This gave controllers the ability to select the best orbit to execute the final reentry, one that overflew mostly water to minimize any potential harm to people and property. Orbit 34,981 on July 11 met those criteria. On that orbit, after Skylab passed over North America, it flew southeast over the Atlantic Ocean, round the southern tip of Africa, then northeast across the Indian Ocean before passing over the next major landmass, mainly sparsely populated areas of Australia. On the planned day of reentry, controllers commanded Skylab into a slow tumble at an altitude of 93 miles to better aim the entry point to the east of the southern tip of Africa, causing the breakup over the Indian Ocean. After this point, the ground no longer controlled the station. With a debris footprint possibly 3,500 miles long, some debris landing in Australia remained a possibility.

      Left: Skylab’s entry path over Western Australia, showing sites that recovered debris from the station. Middle and right: The museum in Esperance, Western Australia, displays an oxygen tank and a titanium tank from Skylab. Image credits: courtesy Ben Cooper.

      Left: Operators in Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston during the Skylab reentry. Right: Managers and flight controllers monitor Skylab’s reentry.
      Tracking at the Bermuda station indicated Skylab’s large solar array still attached to the workshop. Controllers at Ascension Island in the South Atlantic made contact with Skylab as it flew 66 miles overhead, its large solar array beginning to detach from the workshop, itself already heating from the reentry. Once the disintegrating station passed out of range of Ascension, it continued its reentry unmonitored. Skylab finally broke apart at an altitude of 10 miles, slightly lower than expected, moving the impact footprint further east than planned. Pieces of Skylab falling on Western Australia created sonic booms heard by the inhabitants of the few towns in the Outback. The actual documented debris footprint stretched 2,450 miles. A museum in Esperance houses some of the recovered debris. Skylab Flight Director Charles S. Harlan said in a news conference after the event, “The surprise is over. No more suspense. Skylab is on the planet Earth.”

      Left: The Salyut 7-Kosmos 1686 complex photographed by the last departing crew. Middle: Reentry trajectory of the Salyut 7-Kosmos 1686 complex. Image credit: courtesy H. Klinkrad. Right: A piece of Salyut 7 recovered in Argentina. Image credit: courtesy Carlos Zelayeta.
      In contrast to the partially controlled Skylab entry, the Salyut 7-Kosmos 1686 complex made an uncontrolled reentry over Argentina on Feb. 7, 1991. At 88,491 pounds, the complex had about half the mass of Skylab. Although controllers had sent all previous Salyut stations on controlled reentries into the Pacific Ocean, they lost communications with Salyut 7 more than two years before its reentry. A crew last occupied the Salyut 7-Kosmos 1686 complex in June 1986. In August 1986, engines on the Kosmos 1686 module raised the complex’s orbit by 84 miles to 295 miles, with an anticipated reentry in 1994. Like Skylab, controllers considered a possible retrieval of Salyut 7 by a Buran space shuttle before that program’s cancellation. The last communications with Salyut 7 occurred in December 1989. Again, like Skylab, higher than anticipated solar activity in the late 1980s accelerated its descent. The station initially entered a gravity gradient attitude with the heavier Kosmos 1686 facing the Earth, but that attitude degraded significantly as the station encountered denser atmosphere in January 1991. And although said to be uncontrollable, apparently on Feb. 5, ground teams commanded it into a head on attitude to reduce drag and direct entry to an orbit that overflew less populated areas. Fuel depletion did not allow completion of the maneuver and atmospheric drag torqued the vehicle away from this attitude. Although planned for reentry over the south Pacific Ocean, Salyut 7 overshot the target and came down over Argentina, with a few fragments recovered.

      Left: The Mir complex in 1998. Middle: The March 2001 reentry of Mir photographed from Fiji. Right: The reentry trajectory of Mir in March 2001.
      Lessons learned from the earlier reentries of large space stations led controllers to devise a three-stage process to deorbit the Mir space station in a controlled fashion into the Pacific Ocean in March 2001. In the first stage, controllers allowed orbital drag to bring the 285,940-pound station, at the time the heaviest object to reenter, down to an average altitude of 140 miles. For the second stage, on March 23, the docked Progress M1-5 fired its engines twice to lower Mir’s orbit to 103 by 137 miles. Two orbits later, the Progress fired its engines for 22 minutes to bring Mir out of orbit. It burned up on reentry over the South Pacific Ocean, with observers in Nadi, Fiji, watching its final moments.

      The International Space Station, the largest spacecraft in orbit.
      In anticipation of the eventual controlled disposal of the International Space Station, on June 26, 2024, NASA selected SpaceX to develop and deliver the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle. The vehicle will safely deorbit the space station, the largest and, at over 900,000 pounds, by far the heaviest spacecraft in orbit, after the end of its operational life, currently expected in 2030. Past experiences can provide useful lessons learned.
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    • By NASA
      Cosmic Road Trip: four distinct composite images from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the James Webb Space Telescope, presented in a two-by-two grid, Rho Ophiuchi at lower right, the heart of the Orion Nebula at upper right, the galaxy NGC 3627 at lower left and the galaxy cluster MACS J0416.X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical/Infrared: (Hubble) NASA/ESA/STScI; IR: (JWST) NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI It’s time to take a cosmic road trip using light as the highway and visit four stunning destinations across space. The vehicles for this space get-away are NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and James Webb Space Telescope.
      The first stop on this tour is the closest, Rho Ophiuchi, at a distance of about 390 light-years from Earth. Rho Ophiuchi is a cloud complex filled with gas and stars of different sizes and ages. Being one of the closest star-forming regions, Rho Ophiuchi is a great place for astronomers to study stars. In this image, X-rays from Chandra are purple revealing infant stars that violently flare and produce X-rays. Infrared data from Webb are red, yellow, cyan, light blue and darker blue and provide views of the spectacular regions of gas and dust.
      X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/C. Canizares; IR: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/K. Pontoppidan; Image Processing: NASA/ESA/STScI/Alyssa Pagan, NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Frattare and J. Major The next destination is the Orion Nebula. Still located in the Milky Way galaxy, this region is a little bit farther from our home planet at about 1,500 light-years away. If you look just below the middle of the three stars that make up the “belt” in the constellation of Orion, you may be able to see this nebula through a small telescope. With Chandra and Webb, however, we get to see so much more. Chandra reveals young stars that glow brightly in X-rays, colored in red, green, and blue, while Webb shows the gas and dust in darker red that will help build the next generation of stars here.
      X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/E.Fei It’s time to leave our galaxy and visit another. Like the Milky Way, NGC 3627 is a spiral galaxy that we see at a slight angle. NGC 3627 is known as a “barred” spiral galaxy because of the rectangular shape of its central region. From our vantage point, we can also see two distinct spiral arms that appear as arcs. X-rays from Chandra in purple show evidence for a supermassive black hole in its center while Webb finds the dust, gas, and stars throughout the galaxy in red, green, and blue. This image also contains optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope in red, green, and blue.
      Spiral galaxy NGC 3627.X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/ESO/STScI, ESO/WFI; Infrared: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/JWST; Image Processing:/NASA/CXC/SAO/J. Major Our final landing place on this trip is the farthest and the biggest. MACS J0416 is a galaxy cluster, which are among the largest objects in the Universe held together by gravity. Galaxy clusters like this can contain hundreds or even thousands of individual galaxies all immersed in massive amounts of superheated gas that Chandra can detect. In this view, Chandra’s X-rays in purple show this reservoir of hot gas while Hubble and Webb pick up the individual galaxies in red, green, and blue.
      ACS J0416 galaxy cluster.X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/G. Ogrean et al.; Optical/Infrared: (Hubble) NASA/ESA/STScI; IR: (JWST) NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/Jose M. Diego (IFCA), Jordan C. J. D’Silva (UWA), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Jake Summers (ASU), Rogier Windhorst (ASU), Haojing Yan (University of Missouri) NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science from Cambridge Massachusetts and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.
      Read more from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
      For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:
      https://www.nasa.gov/mission/chandra-x-ray-observatory/
      Visual Description:
      This release features four distinct composite images from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the James Webb Space Telescope, presented in a two-by-two grid.
      At our lower right is Rho Ophiuchi, a cloud complex filled with gas, and dotted with stars. The murky green and gold cloud resembles a ghostly head in profile, swooping down from the upper left, trailing tendrils of hair. Cutting across the bottom edge and lower righthand corner of the image is a long, narrow, brick red cloud which resembles the ember of a stick pulled from a fire. Several large white stars dot the image. Many are surrounded by glowing neon purple rings, and gleam with diffraction spikes.
      At our upper right of the grid is a peek into the heart of the Orion Nebula, which blankets the entire image. Here, the young star nursery resembles a dense, stringy, dusty rose cloud, peppered with thousands of glowing golden, white, and blue stars. Layers of cloud around the edges of the image, and a concentration of bright stars at its distant core, help convey the depth of the nebula.
      In the lower left of the two-by-two grid is a hazy image of a spiral galaxy known as NGC 3627. Here, the galaxy appears pitched at an oblique angle, tilted from our upper left down to our lower right. Much of its face is angled toward us, making its spiral arms, composed of red and purple dots, easily identifiable. Several bright white dots ringed with neon purple speckle the galaxy. At the galaxy’s core, where the spiral arms converge, a large white and purple glow identified by Chandra provides evidence of a supermassive black hole.
      At the upper left of the grid is an image of the distant galaxy cluster known as MACS J0416. Here, the blackness of space is packed with glowing dots and tiny shapes, in whites, purples, oranges, golds, and reds, each a distinct galaxy. Upon close inspection (and with a great deal of zooming in!) the spiraling arms of some of the seemingly tiny galaxies are revealed in this highly detailed image. Gently arched across the middle of the frame is a soft band of purple; a reservoir of superheated gas detected by Chandra.
      News Media Contact
      Megan Watzke
      Chandra X-ray Center
      Cambridge, Mass.
      617-496-7998
      Lane Figueroa
      Marshall Space Flight Center
      Huntsville, Ala.
      256-544-0034
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      When the first humans travel to the Red Planet, they will need to know how to repair and maintain equipment, grow their own food, and stay healthy, all while contending with Earth-to-Mars communication delays. They must also find ways to build comradery and have fun. 

      The first all-volunteer CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) crew accomplished all of that and more during their 378-day analog mission on the surface of Mars.  

      Living in the isolated Mars Dune Alpha, a 3D-printed, 1,700-square-foot habitat, crew members Kelly Haston, Ross Brockwell, Nathan Jones, and Anca Selariu faced the rigors of a simulated Mars expedition, enduring stressors akin to those of a real mission to the Red Planet. They also celebrated holidays and birthdays, gave each other haircuts, and found moments of levity in isolation. Their journey will help scientists understand the challenges of deep space missions and offer invaluable insights into the resilience of the human spirit. 
      NASA’s CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) crew member Kelly Haston greets Deputy Director of Flight Operations Kjell Lindgren and Johnson Space Center Deputy Director Stephen Koerner at the habitat’s door. NASA/Josh Valcarcel As the crew concluded their journey on July 6, NASA astronaut and Deputy Director of Flight Operations Kjell Lindgren opened the habitat door and welcomed them home. 

      “The crew and their families have committed a year of their lives in service to NASA, the country, and humanity’s exploration of space. Thank you to for committing yourselves to research that will enable our future exploration of space,” he said. “Your fingerprints are going to be an indelible part of those first footprints on Mars.” 

      The CHAPEA crew brought their diverse backgrounds and experiences to the mission, collaborating with NASA’s scientists and engineers to collect data that will provide insight into maintaining crew health and performance for future missions to Mars. 
      PHOTO DATE: July 06, 2024 LOCATION: Bldg. 220 – CHAPEA Habitat SUBJECT: ASA Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA) Mars Analog Mission 1 Egress Event with crew Anca Selariu, Nathan Jones, Kelly Haston, Ross Brockwell. PHOTOGRAPHER: NASA/Josh ValcarcelNASA/Josh Valcarcel Kelly Haston: Mission Commander and Pioneering Scientist 

      Haston, the mission commander, is a research scientist who builds human disease models. She has spearheaded innovative stem cell-based projects, deriving multiple cell types for work in infertility, liver disease, and neurodegeneration. Her role was pivotal in maintaining crew morale and ensuring the success of daily operations. 
      She highlighted the importance of teamwork and adaptability in a mission with such high stakes.
      “We had to rely on each other and our training to navigate the challenges we faced,” she said. “Every day brought new obstacles, but also new opportunities for growth and learning.” 

      Nathan Jones: Medical Officer and Expert Communicator 

      Jones, the crew medical officer, used his emergency and international medicine experience to tackle the unique challenges of the Mars mission. His expertise in problem-solving and effective communication in a time-sensitive and resource-limited environment was essential due to the approximately one-hour transmission delay. “Even something as simple as when to communicate is important,” said Jones. The crew had to consider what observations were essential to report to each other or Mission Control to avoid overburdening the team or unnecessarily using the limited bandwidth to Earth. 

      “Everything we do in CHAPEA is touched by the heroes working on the ground at NASA,” he said. “We couldn’t ask for a better experience or better people to work with.” 

      The experience evolved into a journey of personal growth for Jones. “I am constantly looking forward, planning for the future,” he said. “I learned to take time to enjoy the current season and be patient for the coming ones.” 
      He also discovered a new hobby: art. “I have even surprised myself with how well some of my sketches have turned out,” he said. 

      Anca Selariu: Microbiologist and Innovative Thinker 

      Anca Selariu brought expertise as a microbiologist in the U.S. Navy, with a background in viral vaccine discovery, prion transmission, gene therapy development, and infectious disease research management. 

      Selariu expressed that she owes much to the Navy, including her involvement in CHAPEA, as it helped shape her both personally and professionally. “I hope to bring back a fresh perspective, along with a strong inclination to think differently about a problem, and test which questions are worth asking before we set out answering them,” she said.  

      Reflecting on the mission, Selariu said, “Every day seemed to be a new revelation about something; about Earth, about art, about humans, about cultures, about the history of life in the universe – what little we know of it.” 
      She added, “As much as I appreciate having information at my fingertips, I will miss the luxury of being unplugged in a world that now validates humans by their digital presence.”  

      Ross Brockwell: Structural Engineer and Problem Solver 

      Brockwell, the mission’s flight engineer, focused on infrastructure, building design, and organizational leadership. His structural engineering background influenced his approach to problem solving in the CHAPEA habitat. 
      “An engineering perspective leads you to build an understanding of how things will react and interact, anticipate possible failure points, and ensure redundancy and contingency planning,” he said. 

      That mindset helped the crew develop creative solutions to mission challenges, such as using a 3D printer to design part adapters and tools and find ways to connect as a team. “Several things we wanted to do for fun required innovation, one being developing a bracket so we could safely and securely mount our mini-basketball hoop,” he said. 
      He advises Artemis Generation members interested in contributing to future analog missions to think about systems engineering theory and learn to develop and integrate whole systems while solving individual challenges.  

      Brockwell believes the most important attributes for a CHAPEA crew member are imagination and a strong sense of wonder. “Of course, one needs to have patience, self-control, emotional regulation, and a sense of humor,” he said. “I would also add perspective, which means understanding the importance of exploration missions on behalf of humankind and appreciating being part of something greater than oneself.” 
      The CHAPEA crew is “back on Earth” after their 378-day mission inside the simulated Martian habitat. NASA /Josh Valcarcel A Vision for the Future 
      As the first CHAPEA mission concludes, the data collected and experiences shared by the crew will pave the way for future explorations, bringing humanity one step closer to setting foot on Mars.  
      “One of the biggest things I have learned on this long-duration mission is that we should never underestimate the effects of small gains over time,” said Jones. “Be willing to do the hard things now and it may make all the difference for the future.” 
      Selariu emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in upcoming space missions. “What everyone at CHAPEA seems to have in common is passion for space and drive to pursue it no matter the challenges, inconvenience, and personal sacrifices.” 
      Brockwell looks forward to missions to the Red Planet becoming a reality. “It still fills me with awe and excitement to think that one day there will be people on the surface of other worlds, overcoming immense challenges and expanding the existence and awareness of life from Earth.” 
      View the full article
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