NASA Launches Super Pressure Balloon from Wanaka, New Zealand

NASA successfully launched a super pressure balloon (SPB) from Wanaka Airport, New Zealand, at 11:35 a.m. Tuesday, May 17, (7:35 p.m. EDT Monday, May 16) on a potentially record-breaking, around-the-world test flight. The purpose of the flight is to test and validate the SPB technology with the goal of long-duration flight (100+ days) at mid-latitudes. In addition, the gondola is carrying the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) gamma-ray telescope as a mission of opportunity. The science and engineering communities have previously identified long-duration balloon flights at constant altitudes as playing an important role in providing inexpensive access to the near-space environment for science and technology. The current record for a NASA super pressure balloon flight is 54 days As the balloon travels around the Earth, it may be visible from the ground, particularly at sunrise and sunset, to those who live in the southern hemisphere’s mid-latitudes, such as Argentina and South Africa. Anyone may track the progress of the flight, which includes a map showing the balloon’s real-time location.

Article Courtesy of NASA Wallops Flight Facility

The COSI balloon was designed and built here at UC Berkeley Space Science Lab under the direction of Professor Steve Boggs.

COSI is a balloon-borne soft gamma-ray (0.2-10 MeV) telescope designed to study astrophysical sources of nuclear line emission and gamma-ray polarization. NASA successfully launched this super pressure balloon (SPB) from Wanaka Airport, New Zealand, at 11:35 a.m. Tuesday, May 17, (7:35 p.m. EDT Monday, May 16) on a potentially record-breaking, around-the-world test flight.

See the video in Youtube:

Live trajectory:

A post in the NASA-Wallops-Flight-Facility webpage:

COSI official web-page:




May 11th, 2009, STS-125 Atlantis Launches for Final Hubble Servicing Mission

Launch of STS-125 for Final Hubble Servicing Mission. Photo Credit: Chris Scholz

Servicing Mission 4 (SM4), launched on May 11, 2009, was the culmination of a long effort to provide the telescope with one more servicing mission.

Originally scheduled for 2004, SM4 was postponed and then cancelled after the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Following the successful recovery of the shuttle program and a re-examination of SM4 risks, NASA approved another mission. SM4, also known as STS-125, was perhaps Hubble’s most challenging and intense servicing mission, with a multitude of tasks to be completed over the course of five spacewalks.

New Instruments

Astronauts, carried to Hubble by the Space Shuttle Atlantis, installed two new instruments on Hubble during Servicing Mission 4: Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS).

COS Lift to A-Sipe

COS – Cosmic Origins Spectrograph gets lifted into its SIPE or Scientific Instrument Protective Enclosure, which gets placed into the Orbiter Bay for delivery to the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo Courtesy of NASA

WFC3 sees three different kinds of light: near-ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared, though not simultaneously. The camera’s resolution and field of view is much greater than that of previous instruments. Astronauts removed Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) to make room for WFC3.

COS, a spectrograph that breaks light into its component colors, revealing information about the object emitting the light, sees exclusively in ultraviolet light. COS improves Hubble’s ultraviolet sensitivity at least 10 times, and up to 70 times when observing extremely faint objects.

COS took the place of the device installed in Hubble during the first servicing mission to correct Hubble’s flawed mirror, the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR). Since the first servicing mission, all of Hubble’s replacement instruments have had technology built into them to correct Hubble’s marred vision, making COSTAR no longer necessary.

The Detector and Electronics package were built by UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab and developed for and with the collaboration of CASA out of the University of Colorado Boulder for Instrument Scientist James Green. This is the seven year anniversary of the launch, the five year mission goal has been reached and extended and all instruments continue to work well and collect data for scientists.

The complete article is thanks to the

How ‘Killer Electrons’ in Space Can Wreak Havoc on Earth


We have seen the devastating effects of extreme weather patterns on Earth, from hurricanes to tornados, but what about storms in space?

If a geomagnetic storm of significant magnitude strikes, the costs to spacecraft, including vital communication satellites, could total $1 trillion and take up to a decade to recover losses.

Which is why a group of scientists, from academia and government, met in Santa Fe, New Mexico, earlier this month to compare notes and move the field of space weather research to the next level. The SHIELDS workshop, under the patronage of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, covered multiple disciplines including plasma physics, computational science, and engineering.

PCMag went along to learn more about geomagnetic storms and substorms and how data from the Van Allen Probes, which NASA launched in 2012 to send back data from the radiation belts surrounding Earth, is allowing scientists to build sophisticated modeling to see if they can predict space weather.

The complete article, courtesy of PCmag and SOPHIA STUART

Anderson Post-Doc Travel Award Donation


AndersonKinsey Anderson Post-Doc Travel Award is a program for providing travel funds for post-doctoral researchers at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley has been established in honor of Professor Kinsey Anderson.

Professor Anderson, an early director and guiding figure behind the success of the Space Sciences Laboratory is pictured here.

Please consider making a donation to the fund.

A Constant Stream of Charged Particles Impinges on Mars Atmosphere

A constant stream of charged particles impinges on Mars at roughly one million miles per hour. This solar wind is capable of picking up ions from Mars’ upper atmosphere and stripping them away from the planet out into space. MAVEN has measured this escape rate under present conditions to be about 100 grams (or ¼ lb.) per second.

Unlike Earth, which has the protection of a large, global magnetic field, Mars is directly impacted by the solar wind, although its tenuous atmosphere (< 1% of Earth’s) prevents the solar wind from impacting the planet’s surface.

The complete article courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars

MAVEN Returns First Ever Measurements of Solar Wind Erosion at Mars

Scientists have long suspected the solar wind of stripping the Martian atmosphere into space, a process that may have turned Mars from a blue world early in its history into the red planet that we see today. In 2014, NASA’s MAVEN orbiter arrived at Mars and began studying its upper atmosphere.

Now, MAVEN has returned the first-ever measurements of solar wind erosion at Mars, observing ions in the upper atmosphere as they pick up energy from the electric field of the solar wind and escape to space. 

(Video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA Goddard
NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Article courtesy of
NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars