The Planetary Report

June Solstice 2019

From Our Member Magazine

Your Impact: June Solstice 2019

You’re a Planetary Defender

Bringing Together the World’s Experts

PLANETARY DEFENDERS like you are helping to protect Earth from dangerous asteroids. Every 2 years, scientists, engineers, and decision makers gather together at the International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference to discuss the latest in finding, tracking, characterizing, and deflecting asteroids. Your support of The Planetary Society helped make this conference happen. This year’s conference took place 29 April to 3 May 2019 in the Washington, D.C. area. The Planetary Society was a primary sponsor of the conference, and Planetary Society chief scientist Bruce Betts served on the organizing committee and presented 2 papers. In association with the conference, The Planetary Society hosted a public event at the University of Maryland: “Bill Nye vs. the Asteroids.” It featured not only Bill Nye but also several asteroid-threat experts and NASA chief scientist Jim Green. Mat Kaplan hosted an episode of Planetary Radio Live with a panel of asteroid experts. Hear the show and See videos from the public event and conference.

Planetary Radio Live at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference
Planetary Radio Live at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference Image: Bruce Betts for The Planetary Society

Helping Observers Search the Skies

PLANETARY SOCIETY members play a direct role in planetary defense through the Shoemaker Near-Earth Object Grant program. The grant program supports highly skilled amateur astronomers from around the world who track and characterize near-Earth asteroids. Thanks to your support, over its 22-year history the program has awarded $382,000 in 56 awards to astronomers in 18 countries on 6 continents. The grants have been used to purchase more sensitive cameras, equipment to allow remote-controlled observation, and telescope improvements. At the Planetary Defense conference, The Planetary Society announced a new call for proposals. The proposal deadline is 30 July 2019. For more information, including updates on the impressive work enabled by grants to past winners, visit

Shoemaker NEO Grant Award Recipients as of June 2019
Shoemaker NEO Grant Award Recipients as of June 2019

New Planetary Mission Webpages

We're exploring more! Planetary exploration has kept a brisk pace over the past several years. To keep members up to date, we have created new webpages tracking missions, including near-Earth asteroid explorers OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa2, Israel’s Beresheet lunar lander, InSight on Mars, the International Space Station, future plans for humans in deep space, and many more. The pages provide background information and frequently updated news briefs. See them all.

You’re an Explorer

Planetary Society on the Road

We want Society members (and not-yet Society members) to have more opportunities to get together and celebrate our passion for space. Want to know what events are coming up? Check out our events page. Here are a few highlights from recent months.

Young Science Fan
Young Science Fan One of the thousands of young science fans at the Fairplex Extreme STEAM Planetary Society stage.Image: Mat Kaplan

SXSW Panel: Space Exploration For All
At this year’s South by Southwest Festival, Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye joined Richard Garriott, one of the private astronauts from Soyuz TMA-13’s mission to the International Space Station, and Molly Cain, former director of venture at U.S. Homeland Security, for a conversation about the present and future business opportunities in space. Listen to the panel.

Extreme STEA2M
The Planetary Society joined with other partners to offer STEA2M Fair: Extreme STEA2M, Extreme Fun. More than 20,000 students, teachers, and families attended a fun-filled day full of hands-on activities that included an inspiring talk by CEO Bill Nye, a live recording of Planetary Radio with Mat Kaplan, and myriad educational opportunities. Listen to the episode on Planetary Radio.

Yuri's Night is a global celebration of humanity’s past, present, and future in space. Society members all over the world attend local Yuri’s Night events in commemoration of Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering 12 April 1961 flight and the first space shuttle launch 20 years later. If you missed out this year or didn’t have one near you, know that anyone can create a Yuri’s Night event.

LightSail 2 Spacecraft Launching Soon

LightSail 2 P-POD integration
LightSail 2 P-POD integration Engineers install LightSail 2 in its P-POD. From left: Alicia Johnstone, David Pignatelli, and Stephanie Wong.Image: Bruce Betts / The Planetary Society

Citizen participation in space is about to launch to new heights. Your LightSail 2 spacecraft will be on the next flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket as early as 22 June 2019. To prepare for this milestone, the LightSail 2 team completed final testing and made some small improvements. In February, the team carried out an Operational Readiness Test (ORT) using BenchSat, the tabletop demonstrator that mimics the solar sail flight spacecraft. An ORT simulates major spacecraft events, allowing the team to practice and refine procedures. The team also tested some minor software updates and then uploaded them to the flight computer. In early May, we shipped LightSail 2 to the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, where it was reintegrated with the Georgia Tech spacecraft Prox-1. At the time of this writing, we are expecting to ship to Florida in late May to be integrated with the rocket. For the latest details, keep your eye on Go LightSail!

You’re an Advocate

Planetary Society Members at the 2019 Day of Action
Planetary Society Members at the 2019 Day of Action 100 Planetary Society members from 25 states came to Washington D.C. to advocate for space science and exploration during the 2019 Day of Action.Image: Antonio Peronace for The Planetary Society

You’re Building Support for Planetary Science

In February, The Planetary Society supported the reestablishment of the Planetary Science Congressional Caucus in the new 116th Congress with new co-chairs Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS). The caucus, which was first created in the 115th Congress, expired with last November’s election. Your chief of Washington operations, Brendan Curry, has been working to increase membership in the caucus, which now boasts 20 members. The partial government shutdown earlier in this year and the recent announcement of an amended budget for NASA in May has delayed the introduction of the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2020. The Planetary Society is keeping a close eye on these events and will work to keep our members informed. Follow the developments.

100 Members. 1 Day of Action.

In March, 100 members of The Planetary Society carried out a remarkable day of space advocacy at the U.S. Congress. They came from 25 states and the District of Columbia. Some were grade-school students. Some were retired. A few were professional scientists and engineers. They were men and women from all walks of life, but they all shared one thing: they so believed in the promise of space science and exploration that they traveled to Washington on their own dime to advocate directly to Congress. Participants attended a half-day advocacy training session before breaking into groups to visit 127 Congressional offices. The energy, passion, and enthusiasm of these dedicated members of The Planetary Society serve as an ongoing source of inspiration for Planetary Society members and staff. Learn more about the Day of Action.

Planetary Society members like you make this work possible.

Bricks Hit the Ground

THERE MAY BE more stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but the real stars in our universe are the members who have purchased a piece of rock. Another set of 61 planetary pavers has arrived, and they are now installed in the walkway into your Planetary Society headquarters. The proceeds of the brick program support the purchase of capital equipment items. Check out the inspiring and heart-warming messages written by your fellow members by heading to and tapping “Find Your Brick.”

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The Planetary Report • June Solstice

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