Archive for March, 2023

Image credit: NASA

If NASA’s plan stays on the rails politically and dollar-wise, the United States is slated to “re-boot” the surface of the Moon no earlier than 2025.

That Artemis III mission is intended to be the first of many human missions to the Artemis Polar Exploration Zone – the region poleward of 84° South latitude. Selecting a landing site for Artemis III in that zone is a challenging task.

Great science awaits…and one potential surprise could be detecting life on the Moon.

Shown here is a rendering of 13 candidate landing regions for NASA’s Artemis III mission. Each region is approximately 9.3 by 9.3 miles (15 by 15 kilometers). A landing site is a location within those regions with an approximate 328-foot (100-meter) radius.
Image credit: NASA

Site selection

As now planned, Artemis III will enable the following:

— Roughly six days of surface operations;

— Return of valuable non-conditioned samples similar to Apollo 17 sample collection techniques used in December 1972 – when astronauts last visited the Moon;

— Up to four walking moonwalks by crew members of variable duration focused on sample collection and instrument emplacement, with a maximum distance from the lander of 1.2 miles (2 kilometers).

Now underway is active discussion centered on Artemis site selection process and the scientific value of the 13 Artemis III landing region candidates.

Image credit: NASA/Prabal Saxena

Surface conditions

There is potential resilience of microbial life to lunar south pole surface conditions, suggests Prabal Saxena, a planetary researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Saxena notes that today’s environment of the Moon has long been viewed as extremely hostile to surface life based upon perceived surface properties.

However, that outlook did not take into account the interplay between surface topography, surface roughness and the relatively small maximum elevation angle of the Sun at high latitudes, Saxena points out.

Cosmopolitan mesophiles

“Importantly, recent research on the survivability of microbes exposed to conditions like those on parts of the lunar surface indicate surprising resilience of numerous microorganisms to such conditions,” Saxena states in work to be presented at an upcoming science workshop on the Artemis III landing sites.

In this multi-temporal illumination map of the lunar south pole, Shackleton crater (19 km diameter) is in the center, the south pole is located approximately at 9 o’clock on its rim. The map was created from images from the camera aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

“Using survivability data for relevant microbes and new, high resolution data that include previously unconsidered lunar properties from recent missions, we find that the lunar south pole may contain substantial surface niches that may be potentially habitable for a number of microorganisms,” Saxena observes, adding that these organisms can be tagged as “cosmopolitan mesophiles” and just as capable of surviving some lunar niches.

Valuable for Mars

As for the consequences for Artemis III crew exploration of the Moon, the fractional percentage of area that is potentially habitable to relevant microorganisms varies between the different Artemis III candidate sites.

That situation is currently being evaluated by Saxena and colleagues.

Image credit: NASA/MEPAG

“Both the ability to conduct astrobiological investigations and prevent or at least monitor forward contamination may make assessment of this fractional coverage an input in deciding between landing sites,” states Saxena.

Considerations for how to investigate a lunar site, if it is near to regions that may be potentially habitable niches, “should be taken into account for future site assessment and traverse planning,” Saxena concludes. “These means of planning and corresponding strategy, techniques and instrumentation that may be involved might be valuable for exploration of Mars as well.”

SpaceX Starlink satellites over Carson National Forest, New Mexico, photographed soon after launch.
Image credit: Mike Lewinsky/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Given the advancing StarLink and OneWeb satellite constellations, as well as Amazon’s projected Project Kuiper internet network — and other initiatives, particularly from China — there is escalating worry by astronomers of being “blinded by the light” from a projected 400,000 recent and planned low Earth orbit satellites.

There’s a bounce back theme from some advocates of megaconstellations: What’s the worry? After all, any instrument or eye-piece time required to scrutinize the cosmos should all be done off-Earth in the first place.

What’s more, isn’t that why the pricy Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope, and future space-based scopes, have been or will be rocketed off Earth in the first place? Get away from that soupy and fuzzy vision of the surrounding universe due to landlocked looking!

On location! James Webb Space Telescope.
Image credit: Northrop Grumman

A new tool is available to help de-fuzz astronomical imagery – but coping with satellite constellation flyovers that can foul telescopic observations appears to remain a global worry.

Photo bombing

Indeed, the cosmos would look a lot better if Earth’s atmosphere wasn’t photo bombing it all the time. Now researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and Tsinghua University in Beijing have unveiled a new strategy to improve ground-based telescope imagery.

“Before” image: A simulated image to match the parameters of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST).
Image credit: Emma Alexander/Northwestern University

“After” image: Researchers used the AI algorithm to remove the simulated atmospheric blur, revealing the true-to-life image.
Image credit: Emma Alexander/Northwestern University

The technique involves the adaption and adoption of a well-known computer-vision algorithm used for sharpening photos and, for the first time, applied it to astronomical images from ground-based telescopes.

What’s involved here is training artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm on data simulated to match the Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s imaging parameters. When that ambitious observatory opens next year, the AI tool will be instantly compatible.

Northwestern’s Emma Alexander explains that images are used for science. “By cleaning up images in the right way, we can get more accurate data. The algorithm removes the atmosphere computationally, enabling physicists to obtain better scientific measurements. At the end of the day, the images do look better as well.”

Image credit: Emma Alexander/Tianao Li

Alexander is the senior author of research just published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and an assistant professor of computer science at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. Alexander’s prime focus: low-level, physics-based, bio-inspired artificial vision.

Highly anticipated data

Alexander and Tianao Li, an undergraduate in electrical engineering at Tsinghua University and a research intern in Alexander’s lab, combined an optimization algorithm with a deep-learning network trained on astronomical images.

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory, previously referred to as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).
Credit: The LSST Corporation (LSSTC)

Among the training images, the team included simulated data that matches the Rubin Observatory’s expected imaging parameters. The resulting tool produced images with 38.6% less error compared to classic methods for removing blur and 7.4% less error compared to modern methods, according to a Northwestern University press statement.

The Rubin Observatory officially opens next year. Its telescopes will begin a decade-long deep survey across a vast portion of the night sky. Because the researchers trained the new tool on data specifically designed to simulate Rubin’s upcoming images, the university statement adds, it will be able to help analyze the survey’s highly anticipated data.

For astronomers interested in using the tool, the open-source, user-friendly code and accompanying tutorials are available online: Go to:

For more information, go to – “Galaxy Image Deconvolution for Weak Gravitational Lensing with Unrolled Plug-and-Play ADMM” – at:

Wait a Minute! Image credit: Barbara David

Image credit: NASA


NASA is set next week to unveil the Artemis II crew that will sojourn around the Moon, now eyed for November 2024. The four-person team would make the trek secure in their Orion spacecraft – the first piloted spacecraft to travel to the Moon, or beyond low Earth orbit, since Apollo 17 in December 1972.

But there appears to be a tad more look-see at the results of the uncrewed Orion on its Artemis I flight last year. Orion’s heat shield took on the 25,000 miles per hour re-entry, but NASA and contractors are wrestling with the results.

Engineers and technicians conduct inspections of the heat shield on the Artemis 1 Orion spacecraft after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on Dec. 11, 2022.
Image credit: NASA/Skip Williams

The heat shield features the same ablative material called AVCOAT used in Apollo lunar outings and return-to-Earth missions. However, the building process has changed, according to Lockheed Martin that fashioned Orion’s thermal protection system.


“Instead of having workers fill 300,000 honeycomb cells one by one with ablative material, then heat-cure the material and machine it to the proper shape, the team now manufactures AVCOAT blocks – just fewer than 200 – that are pre-machined to fit into their positions and bonded in place on the heat shield’s carbon fiber skin,” the aerospace firm’s website explains. That process is a timesaver in putting on the AVCOAT – about a quarter of the time.

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

As NASA stated, pre-Artemis 1 liftoff: “The primary goals for Artemis I are to demonstrate Orion’s systems in a spaceflight environment and ensure a safe re-entry, descent, splashdown, and recovery prior to the first flight with crew on Artemis II.”

So what’s up with the Orion heat shield and how concerned is NASA?

Heat shield hiccups

Inside Outer Space contacted the Orion program office at NASA Johnson Space Center for comment regarding the heat shield hiccups.

Completion of Avcoat block bonding on Artemis heat shield.


“During Artemis I post-flight inspection, engineers observed variations of Avcoat material across the appearance of Orion’s heat shield. Some areas of expected charred material ablated away differently than computer modeling and ground testing predicted, and there was slightly more liberation of the charred material during re-entry than anticipated,” the program office stated.

“We expect the material to ablate with the 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit the spacecraft encounters on a re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere, and to see charring of the material through a chemical reaction, but we didn’t expect the small pieces that came off, versus being ablated,” the NASA statements adds.

“We don’t know yet exactly how much was liberated, which is why we’re analyzing the data, but there was a healthy margin remaining of virgin Avcoat, and temperature data inside the cabin remained at expected levels, so if crew were on board they would not have been in danger,” explains the program office statement.

Artwork depicts Orion spacecraft plowing through Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.
Image credit: NASA

Dedicated investigation

What kind of efforts, testing, are underway to try to understand what happened?

NASA responded that there are 186 blocks of Avcoat and their team is looking at each block. “We have a dedicated investigation underway that includes planned testing, detailed analysis, extensive sampling of the heat shield, and review of data from sensors.”

Data was collected from images and videos from the Orion’s spacecraft’s re-entry. Those are being correlated with the heat shield sensors onboard Orion, “then looking at our computer models to see how we can understand what we experienced on re-entry,” the Orion program office said.

“We’ve extracted samples from the heat shield, which will be X-rayed, and we’re also getting a more precise understanding of how much Avcoat is still remaining on the heat shield—which is significant,” the NASA statement continues. “As we get all these pieces of information together, we’ll arrive at an assessment to determine what additional testing is needed in finding the root cause or to better understand the phenomenon.”

On Dec. 11, 2022, the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after a 25.5-day mission to the Moon.
Image Credit: NASA/James M. Blair

Avcoat changes?

Is it possible that changes in the Avcoat may be needed?

“It’s still too early in our testing and analysis to arrive at any potential recommendations or solutions that address additional char liberation,” NASA responded. “It’s possible the phenomenon may just [be] part of what the heat shield is, and what we would expect as we return from the Moon, but we’ll let the data inform us.”

Lastly, the NASA Orion program office stated: “We’ll continue to protect for variations that could happen during re-entry as we want to ensure we have significant margin against the various types of uncertainties that might occur as the spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere. Our teams want the confidence that we have the best heat shield possible to fly humans going forward.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3783, March 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater has just begun Sol 3784 duties.

For the robot, it has been a picture perfect Day…or to be more exact, a day perfect for taking pictures, reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, a planetary geologist at University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

“Due to some delayed downlink of images, we didn’t receive all the information we needed in time to do contact science today,” notes O’Connell-Cooper, detailing Sol 3783-3784 activities.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3783, March 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Strict timeline

“Although the data did eventually arrive, it was too late to allow us to get the arm out for contact science. Each planning day has a very strict timeline, in order to make our scheduled uplink time,” O’Connell-Cooper adds, which is Curiosity’s allotted time for using the Deep Space Network to get a team plan up to the rover.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3783, March 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Planning contact science targets takes most of the first two hours of work on any given day,” O’Connell-Cooper adds, “so the three hour delay before the data was processed would likely have resulted in us missing our uplink slot – a rare occurrence for the super efficient MSL [Mars Science Lab] team, and one we aim to avoid at all costs!”

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) photo taken on Sol 3783, March 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Imaging day

Instead, researchers decided to make it an imaging day, and lean heavily on the Mastcam and Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) teams, characterizing the area around the rover and beyond.

Mastcam was slated to take several small mosaics (e.g., 2 rows of 2 images, or 2 rows of 4 images) and ChemCam will use its Remote Micro Imager (RMI). On the far right of the robot’s workspace, Mastcam will image “Tacuiquene,” a block with nodules and laminations, “which seems to be a float from along our future drive path, so we will get a taste of what is to come,” O’Connell-Cooper points out. “There are a lot of vein features in this area, so both ChemCam and Mastcam will be looking at these.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo acquired on Sol 3783, March 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Raised veins

Close to the rover, ChemCam is using Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to analyze some of these raised veins at “Jauaperi” which will also be imaged by Mastcam.

Just above this, Mastcam was set to image the strata or layers in the target “Cauame.” Further afield, Mastcam will image a large vein feature at “Los Azulitas” and reimage the veiny target “Cano Macareo” from a slightly different, closer perspective than the previous mosaic.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3783, March 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“A small grey float “Cerra Duida” will get the most attention today – ChemCam will image this with the RMI (which gets very detailed images from a distance), take a “passive” measurement (i.e., not using the LIBS laser), and Mastcam will take a multispectral image of the target,” O’Connell-Cooper reports. “We have analyzed quite a few of these grey floats in recent weeks, and the team is interested in learning more about them.”

Curiosity Rear Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 3783, March 29, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Slow going

A recent drive by the rover was to be a relatively short one of 65 feet (20 meters or so).


“The driving in this area is slow going. Rather than regular flat bedrock, we are facing rocks sticking out from sand patches with float stones loose on the surface. Some of the bedrock slabs here also move when driven on, such as today’s Mastcam target “Nosan Mountain” – providing quite the obstacle course for the rover planners to pick through,” O’Connell-Cooper concludes.

Image credit: Moon Dialogs

A Lunar Policy Handbook outlines the current policy issues, including registration, liability, and transparency. A second part targets policy questions related to operational considerations. It follows an approach that explores the potential policy implications of specific lunar activities, such as orbital, landed, and infrastructure activities.

The Lunar Policy Handbook is a reference guidebook for government personnel and private actors in the space industry. It is designed to be a high-level guide that is useful for a broad audience of space actors, outlining policy issues and operational considerations related to lunar activities.

Surge of interest

Heloise Vertadier, a space law specialist and PhD candidate at Otago University in New Zealand, explains that in recent years there has been a surge of interest in lunar activity.

“This renewed enthusiasm for the Moon is fueled by advancements in technology, reduced launch costs, greater funding for missions, and the growing awareness of the Moon’s potential as a valuable resource for humanity’s future,” Vertadier adds.

Image credit: Moon Dialogs

As humanity continues to explore the Moon, Vertadier notes, “it is important that we do so in a responsible and sustainable manner, ensuring that we preserve this unique and valuable resource for future generations.”

Taxation systems

As noted in the handbook, disagreements over lunar policy could incentivize states to utilize their taxation systems to support their interpretation and space-faring ambitions. Additional complications may also arise if an enterprise or individual claims to be resident outside of any terrestrial jurisdiction for profits taxation or asset jurisdiction, such as over intellectual property.

Artist’s view of two Artemis astronauts at work on the lunar surface.
Image credit: NASA

“Lessons were learned regarding the resources of the high seas, and Antarctica before it was too late. The same approach should be adopted regarding taxation in the lunar context,” the handbook points out.


In the short term, the handbook adds, “it may be easy to avoid discord so long as those engaged in activities on the lunar surface are transparent with respect to their locations, allowing others to avoid them.”

However, this can set a “dangerous precedent” in and of itself and can be corrupted into quasi-territorial claims, the handbook asserts.

For access to the Lunar Policy Handbook, go to:

Russia’s “Little Cossack” is being re-routed back to Russia.
Image credit: Roscosmos

The Russian Kazachok platform was destined to land on the Red Planet as part of the ExoMars 2022 mission, shown here being shipped to Europe for final assembly and testing.
Credit: Roscosmos

Think of it as a folk dance card that had not been punched.
The Russian-provided landing system for Europe’s delayed ExoMars 2022 mission to the Red Planet is re-routed back to Russia.
That hardware, the platform and its scientific instruments are being transported back to Russia through a “mutual return plan” between Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA) – fallout from ESA rejecting the country’s participation in the project due to the Russian-backed war in Ukraine.
The Russian gear is presently at the Thales Alenia Space Italy enterprise (Turin, Italy).
Given the name Kazachok, “Little Cossack” is the Russian-provided stationary platform named after a Russian folk dance.
According to Roscosmos, the space agency and the Russian Academy of Sciences are exploring the possibility of exploring Mars, “taking into account the backlog of the ExoMars project, including the possibility of attracting foreign partners.”

ExoMars 2022 mission was a joint ESA/Roscosmos project. Shown is rover ready to depart Russia-provided landing module and science landing platform.
Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes


Image credit: James Madison University

A new website is being created to allow the public to report possible Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon skirting through the skies.

This new site is being established at the James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, permitting citizens to specify the time and location of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP) sighting, upload videos, and describe the object. Reports would go into a database to be analyzed further.

The website’s development comes under the university’s Integrated Science and Technology (ISAT) program, an effort to cut across disciplines for a senior capstone project to be undertaken by students.

Image credit: Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies

Important topic

“When the Director of National Intelligence makes a formal statement saying that these unknown objects are real, that they have been detected by the most advanced systems in the Department of Defense’s arsenal, and that they do not belong to the United States, you know that this is an important topic and that the stigma surround [ing] UFO sightings is changing,” says Chris Bachmann, professor of ISAT.

Tim Walton, associate professor of intelligence analysis at the university, adds that the recent intelligence report, among other things, concluded that some sightings were real, “exhibited technologies different from and superior to publicly acknowledged American technology, could be a potential security threat, and the sightings should be further studied.”

Walton spent 24 years as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Under the direction of Walton and Bachmann, the website is designed for cross-referencing UAP sightings with all known flight path data during the time and location of the sighting to determine if the sighting is a plane or something else.

UAP have been reported by Navy pilots unlike anything they have ever witnessed.
Image credit: Enigma Labs/Lt. Cmdr. Alex Dietrich

Civilian involvement

Walton believes civilian involvement in this project is vital to its success. “The exact numbers are unclear, but sightings by civilians are likely to be more numerous and certainly of wider scope (over land and water) than those by the Navy, he explains. “Moreover, the data collected can be dealt with without revealing any defense secrets,” according to a university statement.

“For years, the gun cameras of Navy fighter pilots flying off of aircraft carriers have picked up strange objects behaving in very unusual ways – rapidly accelerating and decelerating, appearing and disappearing, and making abrupt 90-degree turns,” Walton adds. “I served in the Navy between my undergraduate and graduate studies and later worked at the Central Intelligence Agency for 24 years, so this sort of thing catches my attention.”

Shown at Congressional hearing, Video 1 2021 flyby movie showing a purported UAP.
Credit: Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation Subcommittee/Inside Outer Space screengrab


According to the university statement, Bachmann notes that many of the civilian sightings are actually conventional aircraft. For example, atmospheric conditions can cause unusual contrails that catch the viewer’s attention; or the sun’s angle reflecting off a plane executing a turn causes a bright light that disappears without a trace. 

“But some of the civilian sightings can’t be explained as conventional aircraft – and knowing which ones remain unexplained will greatly help experts focus on which sightings merit further investigation,” Bachmann says.

Unpiloted Soyuz sendoff from the International Space Station – a compromised craft due to a coolant leak.
Image credit: NASA

An unpiloted Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft is set to return to Earth next week, a craft that was compromised due to a coolant leak late last year.

Departing the International Space Station (ISS), the spacecraft will depart the Rassvet module at 5:57 a.m. EDT, heading for an automated, parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan at 7:45 a.m. (5:45 p.m. Kazakhstan time) on Tuesday, March 28.

To replace the damaged Soyuz MS-22 – and help boost the safety of onboard ISS crews — the Soyuz MS-23 “rescue” spacecraft moored to the ISS last month. The fresh Soyuz is to be used to return cosmonauts and an astronaut later this year.

Soyuz MS-22 coolant leak image from last December.
Image credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin launched aboard the Soyuz MS-22 in September 2022. Following an external coolant leak detected on that craft last December, the replacement Soyuz MS-23 was launched to the space station on February 23 of this year.

Onboard cargo

Tucked into the returning, auto-piloted Soyuz MS-22 is over 480 pounds (218 kilograms) of cargo, including the results of scientific experiments (“Neuroimmunity”, “Biomag-M”, “Photobioreactor”, “3D-printer” and others), according to a Roscosmos Telegram posting.

Equipment for analysis or reuse, including navigation modules, lamps, television cameras, and a rechargeable battery, will descend under parachute, as will a charger and backup pumps “Orlanov-MKS”, sleeves of the suit “Orlan-MK”, gas masks, water and condensate samples.

In-orbit inspection of Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft.
Image credit: Roscosmos

“The equipment of the Soyuz MS spacecraft and the equipment of broadband communication systems, control of the onboard equipment and the onboard complex, air conditioning, regeneration of water from urine and oxygen supply are also being returned,” the posting adds.

Coolant-leak cause

Back on December 15, 2022, the external contour of the radiator of the thermal control system of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft was depressurized. Specialists later determined that the damage was purportedly caused by a micrometeoroid impact.

The vehicle’s radiator pipeline spewed its coolant out into space, compromising the overall integrity of the craft to return crew members safe and sound to Earth by keeping the interior of the Soyuz in a comfy temperature range.

Image credit: Roscosmos

Image credit: Roscosmos/RSC Energia

As for the cause of the coolant loss, studies aided by robotic arm-mounted cameras were carried out. Up-close looks found a tiny hole in the Soyuz MS-22 radiator less than 1 millimeter in size, created by an impactor careening through space at a speed of 7,000 meters per second, according to Russian space specialists.

Reentry process

In bringing back the Soyuz MS-22 descent vehicle, that process entails discarding the troubled instrument-assembly compartment of the ship – so it cannot be evaluated by hands-on experts here on Earth.

The three major components of the Soyuz are the spherical-shaped orbital module, the bell-shaped descent vehicle and the cylindrical-shaped instrument assembly module from which solar panels protrude. 

Like the orbital module, the intermediate section of the instrumentation/propulsion module separates from the Soyuz descent module after the final deorbit maneuver and “burns up” in Earth’s atmosphere upon reentry.

Image credit: NASA

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin.
Credit: Blue Origin

The Blue Origin New Shepard-23 uncrewed launch mishap back in September of last year was caused by a thermo-structural failure of the suborbital rocket’s engine nozzle.

The resulting thrust misalignment triggered the New Shepard (NS) Crew Capsule escape system, which functioned as designed throughout the flight.

In a statement released today, the private group said the Crew Capsule and all payloads onboard landed safely and will be flown again. “Blue Origin expects to return to flight soon, with a re-flight of the NS-23 payloads,” the statement adds.

New Shepard suborbital rocket and crew/payload capsule.
Image credit: Blue Origin

Technical details

As for technical details: The NS-23 mishap resulted in the loss of NS Propulsion Module Tail 3.

Capsule abort.
Image credit: Blue Origin/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“As part of the response to the Crew Capsule escape, the Propulsion Module commanded shutdown of the BE-3PM engine and followed an unpowered trajectory to impact within the defined flight safety analysis prediction, resulting in no danger to human life or property. Public safety was unaffected by the mishap, and no changes to crew safety system designs were recommended as a result of the investigation” into the mishap.

Uncrewed New Shepard capsule parachutes to Earth after booster mishap.
Image credit: Blue Origin

Aided by onboard video and telemetry, flight hardware recovered from the field, and the work of Blue Origin’s materials labs and test facilities, a mishap study group determined the direct cause of the mishap to be a structural fatigue failure of the BE-3PM engine nozzle during powered flight.

Clear evidence

“The structural fatigue was caused by operational temperatures that exceeded the expected and analyzed values of the nozzle material,” the statement explains. “Forensic evaluation of the recovered nozzle fragments also showed clear evidence of thermal damage and hot streaks resulting from increased operating temperatures. The fatigue location on the flight nozzle is aligned with a persistent hot streak identified during the investigation.”

Blue Origin is implementing corrective actions, the summary statement explains, “including design changes to the combustion chamber and operating parameters, which have reduced engine nozzle bulk and hot-streak temperatures. Additional design changes to the nozzle have improved structural performance under thermal and dynamic loads.”













For more information, go to:

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera Sol 3776 March 22, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3777 duties.

Monday’s planned drive positioned Curiosity with a new workspace to investigate, reports Scott VanBommel, a planetary scientist at Washington University.

“We have left the Marker Band,” VanBommel adds. “As a physicist and spectroscopist by training, I find myself looking more at the analytical data, in particular X-ray fluorescence data, acquired on rocks, than the rocks themselves. But there was something about the primary rock target in today’s workspace that kept my eyes glued.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera Sol 3776 March 22, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Waves and a rock

VanBommel says his attention was drawn not so much about the rock’s shape, but its texture.

“We’ve seen this before, sure, but there was a certain textural je ne sais quoi of this rock for me…not only the layers, but the ruffled edges. I couldn’t put my finger on what in everyday life it reminded me of, so, I did the only logical thing one can do in such a situation: ask my 5- and (nearly) 3-year-old nieces in Canada what the rock in tosol’s blog image reminded them of. They said waves and a rock, respectively,” VanBommel adds.

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager photo produced on Sol 3776, March 21, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager Sol 3776, March 22, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Brush off

A recent two-sol plan (Sols 3778-3779) is focused on brushing and acquiring Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) compositional analyses of this rock, specifically one spot named “Marabitana.”

Curiosity then acquired images of the brush with Mastcam before acquiring further images of Marabitana as well as “Owenteik,” “Itapaiuna,” “Uaila,” “Mocidade,” “Xeriuini,” and “Anaua,” with Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) acquiring laser analyses of Anaua as well.

In the early afternoon when the lighting was just right, Curiosity acquired several Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images of Marabitana, including one planned only one centimeter above the surface.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image acquired on Sol 3776, March 22, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



Active bombardment

The arm was then stowed, and Curiosity commenced a planned drive of roughly 49 feet (15 meters) in parallel with the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) performing active bombardment of Mars with its neutrons. At the end of the drive, the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) snapped an image beneath the rover as Curiosity concluded its sol 3778 activities, VanBommel reports.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B image taken on Sol 3776, March 21, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3776, March 22, 2023.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


The second sol of the plan contained passive analyses by DAN, automated laser targeting analyses by ChemCam, and environmental science using ChemCam, Navcam, Mastcam, and the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS).

“We shall see what Friday’s workspace has in store. I’d wager more “waves and rocks,” but I’ll defer classification to the same experts,” VanBommel concludes.