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What happened on the International Space Station when Russian module's thrusters misfired? – The Washington Post

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Russian officials on Friday blamed a “software failure” for the unexpected chain of events that on Thursday sent the International Space Station into a spin and forced the postponement of Boeing’s long-awaited relaunch of its uncrewed Starliner space capsule.

The earliest time now for the relaunch, a repeat of a failed December 2019 test mission, is 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, but officials said they were still studying the impact of Thursday’s events before setting a time.

The soccer-field-sized space station had completed about one-eighth of a turn on its axis when ground controllers regained control. NASA officials said they believed the unexpected movement had not physically damaged the station.

A Russian statement quoting Vladimir Solovyov, the flight director of the space station’s Russian segment, called what took place “some modification of the orientation of the complex as a whole.” Joel Montalbano, leader of NASA’s International Space Station program, said the mishap didn’t put anyone’s life in danger.

Still, one expert not involved in the mission said what happened “wasn’t a benign event.”

“On some level, they’re in danger all the time they’re in space,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He said that a 45-degree reorientation shouldn’t be a safety issue since the space station is designed to rotate 180 degrees. But other factors could be concerning.

“It’s not the rolling around that’s the problem, it’s the speed at which you do it,” McDowell said. “And when you’re trying to compensate for thrusters on one end by applying forces at a different end, you’re putting bending forces on the joints. It wasn’t a benign event.”

NASA officials at the space station’s control center in Houston said the disruption occurred shortly after a Russian lab module, Nauka, had docked with the station early Thursday. The module unexpectedly fired its thrusters, which shifted the multi-ton station 45 degrees outside its typical orientation.

Personnel aboard the space station launched other thrusters as a counterbalance. This led to a “tug of war” between the ISS, a soccer-field-sized operation, and Nauka, a 42-foot research facility. The incident caused ground controllers to lose communication with astronauts onboard twice, once for four minutes and again for seven minutes. And the turmoil continued until Nauka used up its fuel supplies. The space station was out of position for 47 minutes, NASA said.

The Russian statement gave this account: “Due to a short-term software failure, a direct command was mistakenly implemented to turn on the module’s engines for withdrawal, which led to some modification of the orientation of the complex as a whole.”

“At the moment, the station is in its normal orientation, all the ISS and the multipurpose laboratory module systems are operating normally,” the Russian statement said Friday. “The crew is now busy balancing the pressure in the Nauka module. This is a rather lengthy procedure.”

The fallout from the thruster debacle threw Boeing’s uncrewed Starliner launch off schedule.

The uncrewed demonstration flight would mark a redo attempt by Boeing to kick-start a commercial astronaut business.

Delaying the mission gives the space station team time to “ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival,” NASA said in a statement Friday.

Starliner’s road to the ISS has been a $5 billion, multiyear journey plagued more recently by software issues, a management shuffling, a failed first launch attempt and a NASA probe. Nauka’s journey to the space station was riddled with 10 years of setbacks, including funding issues and technical problems.

If the coast is clear on Tuesday, Starliner will travel more than 200 miles and arrive at the space station within 24 hours. It will come back to Earth after a few days carrying cargo for NASA. If successful, the feat will prove to the space agency that Boeing’s spacecraft is fit to ferry astronauts back and forth.

Boeing and NASA say the capsule and its corresponding rocket “are in a safe, flight-ready configuration and do not require any near-term servicing.”

Boeing hopes to proceed with crewed missions by the end of the year.

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Dusty demise for NASA Mars lander in July; power dwindling – CGTN

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise. 

The InSight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off. 

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist. 

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago. 

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface – rovers Curiosity and Perseverance – are still going strong thanks to nuclear power. The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival. Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max. 

The InSight team had anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close. 

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters. 

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow 16 feet (5 meters) underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a couple of feet (a half-meter) because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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Blood moon, big city: Skywatcher captures total lunar eclipse over New York (photos) – Space.com

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The eclipsed moon burns red high above the bright lights of New York City in gorgeous photos captured by amateur astronomer Alexander Krivenyshev.

Krivenyshev, the president of WorldTimeZone.com, snapped images of the total lunar eclipse on Sunday night (May 15) from Guttenberg, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson River from the Big Apple. 

He persevered through cloudy conditions, Krivenyshev told Space.com via email, to get shots of the blood-red moon shining like a beacon in a light-polluted sky.

Related: Amazing photos of the Super Flower Blood Moon of 2022

A closeup of the eclipsed moon on May 15, 2022, as photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev. (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

The eclipse began at 9:32 p.m EDT on Sunday (0132 GMT on May 16) when the moon nosed into the light part of Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra, and ended five hours later. The total eclipse phase, in which the moon was completely darkened by Earth’s heavier umbral shadow, lasted 85 minutes, the longest of any lunar eclipse in 33 years.

Earth’s nearest neighbor temporarily turns a coppery red during total lunar eclipses. This “blood moon” effect is caused by Earth’s atmosphere, which bends some red light onto the lunar surface while scattering away shorter-wavelength light. (No sunlight is hitting the moon directly at this point, of course; Earth is blocking the sun from the moon’s perspective.)

Another series of shots of the total lunar eclipse over New York City, photographed by Alexander Krivenyshev on May 15, 2022.  (Image credit: Alexander Krivenyshev, WorldTimeZone.com)

Related stories:

Last weekend’s sky show was best observed from the Americas and parts of Western Europe and West Africa. It was the first total lunar eclipse of the year, but it won’t be the last; another one will occur on Nov. 8. The Nov. 8 lunar eclipse will be best observed from Australia, eastern Asia and the western United States. 

If you’re hoping to photograph the moon, or want to prepare for the next total lunar eclipse, check out our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. Our guides on how to photograph a lunar eclipse, and how to photograph the moon with a camera, also have some helpful tips to plan out your lunar photo session.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing lunar eclipse photo (or your own eclipse webcast) and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photo(s), comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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NASA's Mars InSight mission coming to an end as dust covers solar panels – CBC News

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A NASA spacecraft on Mars is headed for a dusty demise.

The Insight lander is losing power because of all the dust on its solar panels. NASA said Tuesday it will keep using the spacecraft’s seismometer to register marsquakes until the power peters out, likely in July. Then flight controllers will monitor InSight until the end of this year, before calling everything off.

“There really hasn’t been too much doom and gloom on the team. We’re really still focused on operating the spacecraft,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Bruce Banerdt, the principal scientist.

Since landing on Mars in 2018, InSight has detected more than 1,300 marsquakes; the biggest one, a magnitude 5, occurred two weeks ago.

It will be NASA’s second Mars lander lost to dust: A global dust storm took out Opportunity in 2018. In InSight’s case, it’s been a gradual gathering of dust, especially over the past year.

WATCH | NASA scientists discuss InSight’s goals on Mars: [embedded content]

Rethinking solar power

NASA’s two other functioning spacecraft on the Martian surface — rovers Curiosity and Perseverance — are still going strong thanks to nuclear power.

The space agency may rethink solar power in the future for Mars, said planetary science director Lori Glaze, or at least experiment with new panel-clearing tech or aim for the less-stormy seasons.

InSight currently is generating one-tenth of the power from the sun that it did upon arrival.

Deputy project manager Kathya Zamora Garcia said the lander initially had enough power to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes; now it’s down to 10 minutes max.

The InSight team anticipated this much dust buildup, but hoped a gust of wind or a dust devil might clean off the solar panels. That has yet to happen, despite several thousand whirlwinds coming close.

“None of them have quite hit us dead-on yet enough to blow the dust off the panels,” Banerdt told reporters.

Another science instrument, dubbed the mole, was supposed to burrow five metres underground to measure the internal temperature of Mars. But the German digger never got deeper than a half-metre because of the unexpected composition of the red dirt, and it finally was declared dead at the beginning of last year.

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