Category Archives: Space Systems

Bion M1 returns safely but many test animals did not survive the flight

The Russian Bion M1, launched on April 19, 2013 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and returned on May 19th. The  biology mission appears to have been a mixed success:

More background info about the project:

Project Morpheus tests – May.16.13

The Project Morpheus team at NASA JSC was out testing their new lander on a tether Thursday. See the postings at Morpheus Lander (MorpheusLander) on Twitter as in these two examples:

  1. Thanks for watching! Not tomorrow, but NEXT WEEK for sure! Soon we should have a live video feed to the world as well!

  2. At 3ft in the air, I just had another successful test fire! I’m feeling good… now I get to do some RCS tests before we wrap for the day!


Mars colony basics + 3-D printing a Moon base

A look at some of the ideas discussed at the recent Human to Mars Summit on how to create sustainable Mars colonies: How to build a Mars colony that lasts – forever – New Scientist


One technology that looks very important for making things, both small and large, in space colonies, wherever they might be, is 3-D printing: 3-D Printing Could Build Moon Base In-Situ – Aviation Week

Kepler space telescope loses reaction wheel – exoplanet searching crippled

With the loss of another reaction wheel, he Kepler space telescope has lost the ability to maintain the stable orientation needed for observing stars to detect transits of exoplanets: Kepler Mission Manager Update – NASA.

The managers of the project, however, insist that the mission is not finished and they will still be able to do some interesting science with the spacecraft. There is also a lot of data left to analyze.

Nevertheless, for small planets with orbit periods like the earth or Mars, the longer the observation time the better. A earth sized planet only decreases the star’s light by about 0.01% when it transits across the face of the planet. So the more transits, the better. At least three transits are needed for confirmation of an exoplanet. Kepler began observations in 2009 so there would have been 3-4 transits at an earth size orbit but only 1-2 for a Mars orbit.

There was a NASA briefing this afternoon on the situation and some notes were posted at


Alan Boyle : “[Principle Investigator William Borucki] bristles at suggestion that @NASAKepler‘s planet-hunting mission is over. “Reasonable possibility” of resuming data collection.”

Jeff Foust: “Bill Borucki: well on our way to determining “eta Earth”, fraction of stars with Earth-sized planets in hab zones. (key goal of mission)”

Jeff Foust: “Borucki: we’ll declare the mission over when there’s no possibility of getting critically important science.”

The Skylab legacy

Skylab, the first US space station, was launched 40 years ago from yesterday. Here’s a NASA video about the project:

Skylab’s May 14, 1973 launch into low-Earth orbit was the nation’s first foray into significant scientific research in microgravity. The three Skylab crews proved humans could live and work effectively for long durations in space. This NASA video recounts the history of the program and showcases Skylab’s legacy as a major stepping stone to the successful construction and operation of the International Space Station and future long-duration human missions to asteroids, Mars and other destinations.