Space Mission: IBEX is Not Communicating with NASA

Image (Credit): Artist’s rendering of NASA’s IBEX spacecraft. (NASA)

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) is having some problems. On February 18, the IBEX flight computer reset itself and placed the spacecraft into contingency mode. This is not good for it ongoing mission to map the boundary of our solar system. The spacecraft’s system should do a full reset again in a few days, so NASA may get a break and be able to communicate with IBEX again shortly.

The IBEX spacecraft was launched back in October 2018 as the first spacecraft specifically designed to collect data across the entire sky about the heliosphere and its boundary. The mission has already been very instructive, as NASA explains:

Scientists have used this [IBEX] data to make the first maps of our heliosphere boundary. Our heliosphere boundary does not emit light that we can detect, which means it would be impossible to image using conventional telescopes. Instead of collecting light, like other telescopes do, IBEX collects particles coming from the boundary so that we can learn about the processes occurring there. The boundary of the Solar System protects us from harmful cosmic rays. Without it, four times more cosmic rays would enter our Solar System and potentially damage our ozone layer and DNA. It is important to study this region to know how it works.

Image (Credit): Artist’s rending of our solar system’s heliosphere. (NASA/IBEX/Adler Planetarium)

Update: As of March 2, the IBEX spacecraft is fully functional again. You can read more about it here.

Traffic Delays: SpaceX Aborts Crewed Mission to ISS

Image (Credit):The SpaceX rocket with the Crew-6 mission at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (SpaceX)

Today’s SpaceX launch of a four-man crew to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed. Just three minutes before the planned launch of the Crew-6 mission, designed to carry astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg, cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, and Emerati astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, SpaceX experienced  a problem with the engine igniter fluid.

The next window for the launch is this Thursday in the hopes that better weather will be available (compared to tomorrow’s weather).

The four crew members’ photos are provided below. Below you can also find a profile on each crew member:

Credit: SpaceX

Continued Traffic to the International Space Station

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Image (Credit): Soyuz M-23 capsule approaching the ISS. (NASA)

Yesterday, Russia’s M-23 capsule has safely arrived at the International Space Station (ISS). It was carrying supplies but no crew. Now the M-22 crew has a safe way to return to Earth when the are ready.

And tomorrow, SpaceX is preparing to launch a new crew to the ISS:

SpaceX and NASA are targeting no earlier than Monday, February 27 for Falcon 9’s launch of Dragon’s sixth operational human spaceflight mission (Crew-6) to the International Space Station from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The instantaneous launch window is at 1:45 a.m. ET (6:45 UTC), with a backup opportunity available on Tuesday, February 28 at 1:22 a.m. ET (6:22 UTC).

Things are starting to return to normal up there. Boring is welcome at this point.

Image (Credit): SpaceX Crew 6 mission on the launchpad. (SpaceX)

Massive Galaxies Stump Astronomers

Image (Credit): JWST images of six candidate massive galaxies 500-800 million years after the Big Bang. (NASA)

I was reading the recent news that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) astonished astronomers again. We continue to get big benefits from this relatively new distant telescope.

The latest news involves massive compact galaxies that should not be there if our theories about galaxy formation are valid. The researchers behind this latest finding state the six observed galaxies were from a period about 600 million years after the Big Bang.

Lead researcher Ivo Labbe of Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology said in a statement:

The revelation that massive galaxy formation began extremely early in the history of the universe upends what many of us had thought was settled science…It turns out we found something so unexpected it actually creates problems for science. It calls the whole picture of early galaxy formation into question.

The more we look the more we learn, and the more theories we can toss out the window.

You can read more about this finding in the study published in the journal Nature.

The Rescue Mission to the ISS has Started

Image (Credit): Launch of Russia’s Soyuz M-23 mission to the ISS. (NASA)

Yesterday, Russia launched the uncrewed Soyuz M-23 mission from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (it was actually “today” in Russian time). The spacecraft will replace the damaged M-22 capsule attached to the International Space Station (ISS).  As a result, the earlier M-22 crew of Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin, and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, will return in this replacement capsule.

NASA noted that the M-22 capsule will be studied by the Russian upon its return in March:

The damaged Soyuz MS-22 is scheduled to undock from the station in late March and return to Earth for an uncrewed parachute-assisted landing in Kazakhstan, and post-flight analysis by Roscosmos.

Given recent leaks on two Russian spacecraft, let’s hope the M-23 mission goes without a hitch. Fingers crossed.

SpaceX will also be shipping a new crew up to the ISS next week, so the space traffic continues even with these hiccups.