Monday, January 18

Committed to Doing the Work

Committed to Doing the Work

The Planetary SocietyJune 5, 2020

The Downlink: Weekly resources to fuel your love of space

Space Snapshot

Committed to Doing the Work

The Planetary Society

Committed to Doing the Work

The Planetary Society aims to empower the world’s citizens to advance space science and exploration. This aspiration is only possible through equality. Because we are the largest independent space advocacy group of its kind, it’s imperative that we do our part to get things right. Read the full statement from Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye here.

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This weekly newsletter is your toolkit to learn more about space, share information with your friends and family, and take direct action to support exploration. Anyone can subscribe at to receive it as a weekly email.

Fact Worth Sharing

Earth In 1992, NASA astronaut Mae Jemison became the first black woman to fly in space. In 1996, she filed a police brutality complaint against a police officer for twisting her arm and throwing her down on the pavement while arresting her during a traffic stop. More at

Mission Briefings

Global view of Ryugu (Brabo crater perspective)

JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST

Global view of Ryugu (Brabo crater perspective)

Taken by Hayabusa2 on 30 June 2018. Brabo crater is just right of center. The first sample collection site is near the center of the visible disk.

Ryugu Ever wonder why certain asteroids like Bennu and Ryugu (pictured) have top-like shapes? The prevailing theory has been that over time, thermal heating and cooling increases the asteroids’ spin, sending more rocks towards their equators. Now, scientists behind NASA’s OSIRIS-REx and Japan’s Hayabusa2 missions have a different theory: that the asteroids got their shape right after formation, possibly from debris created by a collision between older asteroids. Image credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST. 

Earth After an initial attempt that was called off due to bad weather, SpaceX last Saturday blasted NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the first crewed commercial flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Behnken and Hurley arrived safely less than a day later, and will remain aboard for at least a month. Read our mission guide, learn about NASA’s commercial crew program, and find out how the ISS prepares us to send humans to deep space.

Solar System The first interstellar object ever detected passing through our solar system, ‘Oumuamua, may have been an iceberg made entirely out of hydrogen, scientists say in a paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal. ‘Oumuamua mysteriously accelerated as it left the solar system, but not in a way that matched our understanding of comets venting dust and gas. Models show a hydrogen iceberg fits the data, meaning ‘Oumuamua could have formed in a dense cloud of hydrogen and helium where stars are born, known as a giant molecular cloud. A well-known example of such a cloud is the Horsehead Nebula in Orion.

Earth China is planning an ambitious launch schedule to get its Tianhe space station program back on track. The country’s space agency says it will carry out 11 launches in 2 years, starting as early as 2021. Those launches will include 3 modules, 4 cargo ships, and 4 crewed visits to the station.

Mars The heat-flow probe known as the mole aboard NASA’s Mars InSight lander finally appears to be underground. The self-hammering instrument has been unsuccessfully trying to bury itself in the Martian soil since March 2019. Engineers at NASA and the German Aerospace Center used InSight’s robotic scoop to press down on the mole while it hammered, keeping it from backing out of its hole as it did on previous attempts. Learn more about InSight here.

From The Planetary Society

Every Mars Landing Attempt, Ever

Emily Lakdawalla for The Planetary Society. Base maps processed by Patrick McGovern from MOLA data.

Every Mars Landing Attempt, Ever

Mars has seen 12 landing attempts, of which 8 have led to successful surface missions. All successes were also NASA missions. NASA has had only one Mars landing failure. ESA has made 2 unsuccessful attempts. Russia has tried 3 times. Of those, one—Mars 3—may have landed successfully, but ceased communication soon after. This map shows all of those sites, plus proposed landing regions for 3 future missions, on a shaded-relief map produced using Mars Global Surveyor laser altimeter data. The map will be updated with actual landing locations in early 2021 after the 2020 launches reach Mars.

Getting to Mars is hard. This fact is made crystal clear in a new map of every landing ever attempted on the red planet, created by Planetary Society Solar System Specialist Emily Lakdawalla. You can also check out a simplified map that just shows successful landings and the sites of upcoming landings. 

What’s Up

Jupiter Jupiter and Saturn will be bright in the night sky this week, seen alongside the moon in the post-midnight hours. 

What are your top backyard astronomy tips? We’d love your help creating a guide to spotting the planets and other cool celestial objects with the naked eye, binoculars, or a telescope. Tell us your top 5 tips in this quick form. 

Wow of the Week

Liftoff of Crew Dragon Demo-2 Mission


Liftoff of Crew Dragon Demo-2 Mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on 30 May 2020. The mission, known as Demo-2, is the first human spaceflight to the International Space Station from the U.S. since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.

There are many important conversations happening right now about the role of racial inequality in space exploration. This article from the Verge highlights the dissonance between the recent celebrations of SpaceX’s successful Crew Dragon launch and the protests and outrage over the murder of George Floyd. We encourage you to share other relevant articles and discussions with us on Twitter and Facebook.  

Do you have a suggestion for the Wow of the Week? We’re looking for space-related art, music, gadgets, quotes, fashion, burning questions, brief sci-fi passages, or anything else that will make our readers go “Wow!” Send us your idea by replying to this email, and please let us know if you’re a Planetary Society member. 

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Published at Fri, 05 Jun 2020 15:27:48 +0000