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FOXSI Mission of NASA Will View The Sun With X-Ray Vision

In addition, several other performance improvements have been made to produce more accurate, higher resolution images

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NASA to send tissue chips to space to test human health, genetic changes. Flcikr
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NASA’s Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager, or FOXSI — a sounding rocket mission — is soon set to stare directly at the Sun and search for nanoflares — miniature explosions invisible to the naked eye — using its X-ray vision, the US space agency said.

The FOXSI mission will take its third flight from the White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico, no earlier than September 7, the agency said in a statement.

Derived from the nautical term “to sound”, meaning to measure, FOXSI rockets make brief 15-minute journeys above the Earth’s atmosphere for a peek at space before falling back to the ground.

FOXSI will travel 190 miles up, above the shield of Earth’s atmosphere, to view the sun.

“FOXSI is the first instrument built specially to image high-energy X-rays from the Sun by directly focusing them,” said Lindsay Glesener, space physicist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and principal investigator for the mission.

“Other instruments have done this for other astronomical objects but FOXSI is so far the only instrument to optimise especially for the Sun,” Glesener added.

Nanoflares — small but intense eruptions — are born when magnetic field lines in the Sun’s atmosphere tangle up and stretch until they break like a rubber band. The energy they release accelerates particles to near light speed and according to some scientists, heats the solar atmosphere to its searing million-degree Fahrenheit temperature.

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FOXSI will travel 190 miles up, above the shield of Earth’s atmosphere, to view the sun. Flickr

All of this happens in colours of light so extreme that the human eye cannot see them, the scientists explained.

To focus the X-rays, the FOXSI team used extremely hard, smooth surfaces tilted to a small angle (less than half a degree) that would gently corral incoming X-ray light to a point of focus.

The third mission also includes a new telescope designed for imaging lower-energy, so-called soft X-rays as well.

“Including the soft X-ray telescope gives us more precise temperatures” allowing the team to spot nanoflare signatures that would be missed with the hard X-ray telescopes alone, said Glesener.

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In addition, several other performance improvements have been made to produce more accurate, higher resolution images.

FOXSI rockets are smaller, cheaper and faster to develop than large-scale satellite missions, sounding rockets which offer a way for scientists to test their latest ideas and instruments and achieve rapid results.

The first FOXSI flight was in 2012, during which it successfully viewed a small solar flare in progress, and its second in 2014, when it detected the best evidence at the time of X-ray emission from nanoflares. (IANS)

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The Aborted Mission To Relaunch In December: NASA

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.

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Astronaut Anne McClain, left, is seen during training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. VOA

The American astronaut who will hitch the first ride on a Russian rocket since last month’s aborted launch and dramatic emergency landing is confident that her scheduled trip in December on a rocket that she calls a “workhorse” will go smoothly.

Astronaut Anne McClain, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian astronaut, will man the Dec. 3 mission. It will be the Russian-made Soyuz-FG’s first crewed flight since Oct. 11, when U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe after the rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff.

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Specialists watch broadcasts from the Soyuz spacecraft showing astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and astronaut Anne McClain of the U.S. attending the final qualification training for their upcoming space mission in Star City near Moscow, Russia. VOA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, though the agency has announced plans for test flights carrying two astronauts on commercial rockets made by Boeing and SpaceX next April.

“I do see the incident that happened on Oct. 11 with our launch abort not as a failure but as a success,” McClain told Reuters in a telephone interview from Russia. “It actually bolsters my confidence in the rocket and in the processes that we have.

“We’re confident in the vehicle and getting back to it,” McClain said of the Soyuz rocket, which she called “the workhorse of the space program.”

After lifting off from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur last month, a damaged sensor caused one of the rocket’s three booster stages to separate improperly, falling inward on the rocket and jolting it off its ascent two miles above ground, Russian investigators announced earlier this month.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

During Assembly

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, their arms and legs flailing. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a crewed Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.

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In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has said that it could have been made deliberately by someone during manufacturing or while the craft was in space.

McClain and two other crewmates will launch from the same launchpad in Baikonur, joining the space station’s current three-person crew. (VOA)