Astronaut Journal Entry – Week 12

Currently, six humans are living and working on the International Space Station, which orbits 250 miles above our planet at 17,500mph. Below you will find a real journal entry, written in space, by NASA astronaut Scott Tingle.

To read more entires from this series, visit our Space Blogs on Tumblr.


Wow, time has gone by extremely fast. The mid-deployment phase will be short-lived for me this time, as the new crew (Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, and Oleg Artemyev) will arrive on March 23rd, and then we have at least one spacewalk on the 29th, followed by a planned SpaceX Dragon cargo craft arrival on the 4th of April. It’s a little strange being up here with only two other crewmates. We are still very busy, but the overall work effort is half of what it was just a week ago. My crewmate, Nemo (Norishige Kanai), and I are trying to use the time to prepare for the upcoming very busy schedule, and we have been having some great success getting a ton of details taken care of.  


Yesterday I had a funny event, though. I was controlling a robot named “Justin” who was located in Munich. The research and demonstration events were so interesting and fun that I offered them my lunch hour to do an additional protocol and have a longer debrief session. The ground team responded happily and accepted the offer – any extra time with crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS) is valuable to our programs. Halfway through the event, the team needed a few minutes to shut down and restart the robot, and I surmised that since I was skipping my break, this would be a good time to use the toilet. And I did, use the toilet. And literally 3 minutes later I returned, waited another 2 minutes for the robot systems to connect, and we began another great session controlling Justin from ISS with no loss to science. 

Later that same day, I was approached by the ground team in Houston (not the test team I was working with in Munich) and queried if something was wrong, and why did I have to take a toilet break while we were executing valuable science? They were concerned that I might have a medical issue, as taking a break in the middle of some very valuable science is not normal for us to do while on ISS. It’s nice to know that we have literally hundreds of highly-trained professionals looking out for us.

Find more ‘Captain’s Log’ entries HERE.

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GRACE-FO Twins Are Flying Free

SpaceX – Falcon 9 / Iridium 6 / GRACE-FO Mission patch.

May 22, 2018

Image above: The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself. GRACE-FO is sharing its ride to orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites as part of a commercial rideshare agreement. Photo Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the GRACE-FO/Iridium-6 Mission from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on 22 May 2018, at 19:47 UTC (12:47 PDT).

SpaceX GRACE-FO/Iridium-6 Mission – Falcon 9 launches GRACE-FO and Iridium-6

The GRACE-FO satellites have successfully separated from the Falcon 9 rocket and are now flying independently. They will be in different orbits for the next few days that will put them into the correct configuration for science operations.

GRACE-FO satellites

The NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) mission launched onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The mission will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself.

Iridium NEXT communications satellite

GRACE-FO is sharing its ride to orbit with five Iridium NEXT communications satellites as part of a commercial rideshare agreement.

Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO):

Iridium NEXT:


Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/NASA/Tony Greicius/NASA TV/SciNews.

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OPERA presents its final results on neutrino oscillations

CERN – European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

22 May 2018

The OPERA experiment, located at the Gran Sasso Laboratory of the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), was designed to conclusively prove that muon-neutrinos can convert to tau-neutrinos, through a process called neutrino oscillation, whose discovery was awarded the 2015 Nobel Physics Prize. In a paper published today in the journal Physical Review Letters, the OPERA collaboration reports the observation of a total of 10 candidate events for a muon to tau-neutrino conversion, in what are the very final results of the experiment. This demonstrates unambiguously that muon neutrinos oscillate into tau neutrinos on their way from CERN, where muon neutrinos were produced, to the Gran Sasso Laboratory 730 km away, where OPERA detected the ten tau neutrino candidates.

Image above: The OPERA experiment at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy (Image: INFN).

Today the OPERA collaboration has also made their data public through the CERN Open Data Portal. By releasing the data into the public domain, researchers outside the OPERA Collaboration have the opportunity to conduct novel research with them. The datasets provided come with rich context information to help interpret the data, also for educational use. A visualiser enables users to see the different events and download them. This is the first non-LHC data release through the CERN Open Data portal, a service launched in 2014.

There are three kinds of neutrinos in nature: electron, muon and tau neutrinos. They can be distinguished by the property that, when interacting with matter, they typically convert into the electrically charged lepton carrying their name: electron, muon and tau leptons. It is these leptons that are seen by detectors, such as the OPERA detector, unique in its capability of observing all three. Experiments carried out around the turn of the millennium showed that muon neutrinos, after travelling long distances, create fewer muons than expected, when interacting with a detector. This suggested that muon neutrinos were oscillating into other types of neutrinos. Since there was no change in the number of detected electrons, physicists suggested that muon neutrinos were primarily oscillating into tau neutrinos. This has now been unambiguously confirmed by OPERA, through the direct observation of tau neutrinos appearing hundreds of kilometres away from the muon neutrino source. The clarification of the oscillation patterns of neutrinos sheds light on some of the properties of these mysterious particles, such as their mass.

The OPERA collaboration observed the first tau-lepton event (evidence of muon-neutrino oscillation) in 2010, followed by four additional events reported between 2012 and 2015, when the discovery of tau neutrino appearance was first assessed. Thanks to a new analysis strategy applied to the full data sample collected between 2008 and 2012 – the period of neutrino production – a total of 10 candidate events have now been identified, with an extremely high level of significance.

“We have analysed everything with a completely new strategy, taking into account the peculiar features of the events,” said Giovanni De Lellis Spokesperson for the OPERA collaboration. “We also report the first direct observation of the tau neutrino lepton number, the parameter that discriminates neutrinos from their antimatter counterpart, antineutrinos. It is extremely gratifying to see today that our legacy results largely exceed the level of confidence we had envisaged in the experiment proposal.”

Beyond the contribution of the experiment to a better understanding of the way neutrinos behave, the development of new technologies is also part of the legacy of OPERA. The collaboration was the first to develop fully automated, high-speed readout technologies with sub-micrometric accuracy, which pioneered the large-scale use of the so-called nuclear emulsion films to record particle tracks. Nuclear emulsion technology finds applications in a wide range of other scientific areas from dark matter search to volcano and glacier investigation. It is also applied to optimise the hadron therapy for cancer treatment and was recently used to map out the interior of the Great Pyramid, one of the oldest and largest monuments on Earth, built during the dynasty of the pharaoh Khufu, also known as Cheops.


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related links:

Physical Review Letters:

CERN Open Data Portal:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Achintya Rao.

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