Planetary Radio • Dec 28, 2022

Planetary Society All-Stars Review the Year in Space

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Casey Dreier

Chief of Space Policy for The Planetary Society

Rae headshot

Rae Paoletta

Director of Content & Engagement for The Planetary Society

Sarah al ahmed headshot

Sarah Al-Ahmed

Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society

It’s Mat Kaplan’s last episode as host of Planetary Radio. He has gathered several of his colleagues to celebrate an outstanding year across the Solar System and beyond. New host Sarah Al-Ahmed sticks around to join Bruce Betts and Mat for her first What’s Up appearance, including listeners’ suggestions for what Mat should take on next!

Mat Kaplan's last Planetary Radio episode as host
Mat Kaplan's last Planetary Radio episode as host Sarah Al-Ahmed and Bruce Betts join Mat Kaplan in the studio for his last Planetary Radio show as host.Image: Bruce Betts / The Planetary Society
Artemis I Orion lunar flyby
Artemis I Orion lunar flyby NASA's Artemis I Orion spacecraft flies past the Moon in this image captured by a camera at the tip of one of the spacecraft's solar arrays on Nov. 21, 2022. Orion launched atop the Space Launch System on Nov. 16 and used the lunar flyby to enter a Distant Retrograde Orbit (DRO) around the Moon. The dark, ringed area on the Moon's surface is the Mare Orientale impact basin.Image: NASA
JWST Pillars of Creation
JWST Pillars of Creation James Webb Space Telescope’s near-infrared-light view of the iconic Pillars of Creation. This region of the Eagle Nebula was made famous when the Hubble Space Telescope imaged in 1995.Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
NEO Surveyor render
NEO Surveyor render An illustration of NASA's next-generation asteroid hunter, the Near-Earth Object Surveyor (NEO Surveyor), floats against an infrared starfield observation taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) during its primary all-sky survey. The WISE starfield captured clusters of stars, clouds of gas and dust, and more than 100 asteroids seen as a series of red dots.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona
InSight's final image
InSight's final image The last image beamed home by NASA's InSight lander on the 1,436th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, it shows InSight's seismometer on the Red Planet's surface.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Infrared view of Io by Juno
Infrared view of Io by Juno In its extended mission phase NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this infrared view of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io. Juno was about 80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles) away. This infrared image was derived from data collected by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard Juno. In this image, the brighter the color the higher the temperature recorded by JIRAM.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SwRI / ASI / INAF / JIRAM
LightSail 2's Final Image
LightSail 2's Final Image This image taken by The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft on October 24, 2022 was the final image returned from the spacecraft before atmospheric reentry. It shows the central portion of South America centered approximately on Bolivia including the large, white Uyuni Salt Flats. North is approximately at top. This image has been color-adjusted and some distortion from the camera’s 180-degree fisheye lens has been removed.Image: The Planetary Society

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Trivia Contest

This Week’s Question:

What hardware did The Planetary Society fly to Mars as part of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rover missions? No need for great detail.

This Week’s Prize:

A Planetary Society Kick Asteroid r-r-r-rubber asteroid!

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, January 4 at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What observed astronomical event did Tycho Brahe write about in his book, “De Nova Stella?”


The winner will be revealed next week.

Question from the December 14, 2022 space trivia contest:

After Mat retires as the host of Planetary Radio, what job would you like him to do or can you envision him doing? Your answer can be serious or funny. Bruce and Mat will pick the winner.


Listen to the podcast to hear Bruce and Sarah’s selection of listeners’ suggestions for Mat’s next job.

Matman Planetary Radio illustration
Matman Planetary Radio illustration Planetary Radio listener Gene Lewan envisions Mat Kaplan becoming a comic book author after retiring as host of Planetary Radio and creating the Pasadena superhero Matman. Gene included this illustration featuring the hero and, if you look closely, you can also spot his colleague "The Doctor" (Bruce Betts).Image: Gene Lewan


Mat Kaplan: Planetary Society All-Stars Review the Spectacular Year In Space, on my last show as host, this week on Planetary Radio. Welcome. I'm Mat Kaplan of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. Stick around as I welcome Sarah Al-Ahmed, Bruce Betts, Casey Dreier, and Rae Paoletta for the most enjoyable look back across 2022, you'll hear in this week for annual reviews of everything. Then stay a few minutes longer, as Bruce and I welcome Sarah as his new partner for What's Up. You'll also be treated to their picks among your suggestions for what I should take on next, as I end over 20 years as the host of Planetary Radio. With apologies to Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Data. That's the headline for the story about the end of the InSight mission on Mars that leads the December 23 edition of our free weekly newsletter, the Downlink. We'll have much more to say in a few minutes about the spacecraft that has revealed the deep interior of the red planet by tracking marsquakes. You'll also read about the beginning of the United Arab Emirates Lunar Rover mission named Rashid. It is expected to reach our big natural satellite in April. As always, there's much, much more at I love this end of year tradition. We started many moons ago, but we've rarely had so much to celebrate. As you'll hear, it's also a celebration of this program's great transition. I am more confident than ever that Planetary Radio is in the best of hands with Sarah, Bruce and my other colleagues. I look forward to next week, when for the first time in 20.1 years, I won't be facing the daunting deadline for completion of another show. As I've said, you haven't heard the last of me. I so look forward to continuing my conversations with the real Guardians of the Galaxy that I've brought you every week. They're my heroes and here's the secret, you are too. Your enthusiastic loyalty has enabled and inspired me for two decades. I am grateful beyond words, though I hope to use some of my newfound time to put into words my appreciation, as I reply to more of the hundreds of wonderful messages you have sent. Thank you. Everybody, welcome to the show! It's not like it's your first time for any of you, but it sure is. I think, I mean, were we all together doing this a year ago? My memory is weak. I'm very old. Welcome, everyone.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. I was not here last year, so this is exciting.

Mat Kaplan: That of course, Sarah Al-Ahmed the incoming host. Stay tuned because it's only a week away as we publish this show, that Sarah will be taking over Planetary Radio. Casey, you are the most festive. Thank you for wearing the elf hat.

Casey Dreier: It's a Santa hat, Mat, to be accurate. Sorry.

Mat Kaplan: Come on.

Casey Dreier: With the big guy and I wore it for this radio program, so I thought it was appropriate for radio.

Mat Kaplan: And I like the red and green lights in the back there, behind you that you dialed in. Thank you very much. It really is very festive. That of course, the Senior Space Policy Advisor for The Planetary Society, Casey Dreier, also our Chief Advocate, Rae Paoletta. Now, I think I have your new title, right? Director of Content and Engagement. Welcome to you as well.

Rae Paoletta: Thank you so much, Mat. I've got my scarf on. It's-

Mat Kaplan: I love it.

Rae Paoletta: ... blowing here on the East Coast, so I'll pass that off as being festive.

Mat Kaplan: I was just going to say lovely, lovely scarf.

Rae Paoletta: Thank you, Mat.

Mat Kaplan: Bruce, no scarf, but a first generation Planetary Radio T-shirt. Thank you very much.

Bruce Betts: You're welcome, very much.

Mat Kaplan: The Chief Scientist of The Planetary Society. We have gathered as we do every year at the end of the year to talk about the year in space. The year just passed and you might even hear a little bit about the year to come. We're just going to race through topics here because there are a ton of them. It was a big year in space. To get us started, Sarah, let's talk about Artemis.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh, let's talk about Artemis because there are so many amazing things that happened this year, but that Artemis launch, we actually, everyone on this call here was there in August at Kennedy Space Center to try to see that first attempt of the launch. It didn't go off as planned obviously, it got scrubbed, but it finally did launch three months later in, November. November 16th. Were you guys all watching that live stream?

Mat Kaplan: Of course.

Casey Dreier: I think we would all be fired if we didn't.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Mandatory watching.

Bruce Betts: Oh yeah, yeah. Watched it.

Mat Kaplan: Really?

Bruce Betts: No, I actually did.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I could see you not watching it, just out of fear that it didn't actually launch or just maybe because got-

Bruce Betts: Just the assumption.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: ... scrub there's some a few times there, but it did launch.

Casey Dreier: Bruce doesn't have the best track record with causing scrubs.

Bruce Betts: No.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: He actually mentioned that when we were at KSC, we were standing there. He's like, "I'm here therefore it will not launch today."

Casey Dreier: There's a strong correlation, which I believe Bruce is the same as causation, right?

Bruce Betts: Yes. Yes. That's what science says.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: As what saying goes.

Casey Dreier: Like the saying goes.

Bruce Betts: Yeah. That's why it should never be sent to launches, although I only cause delays with that, but our missions sometimes that cause whole launches-

Casey Dreier: Catastrophic losses.

Mat Kaplan: I think Bruce does have special dispensation of for violation of causality. I think that was put in place in perpetuity about 40 years ago.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But you never know. Maybe the fact that Bruce was there to watch it be scrubbed that time was actually the reason why it launched so successfully when it finally happened.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, maybe. All right, we broke that for that perfect record.

Bruce Betts: I'm mildly horrified by this discussion.

Mat Kaplan: All right, this is really going over the top here. I just want to once again boast about the fact that I was there to read the Orion capsule, when it came back into the San Diego Naval Base. Our Naval Base San Diego is the Navy, like say on the USS Portland, which was just a spectacular experience and people can check that out on last week's Planetary Radio. And we are now looking forward to what? A couple of years?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. It's going to be two years before Artemis II goes up. We will get to hear a little bit more about that in one of my first shows. Actually my second show with Jeremy Graeber, Assistant Launch Director at Kennedy Space Center talks a little bit about what's going to be going on with Artemis II and Artemis III. They're going to be the first Artemis missions that are crude. So I'm really excited. I cannot wait to see people in with Artemis III. It's going to blow our minds.

Mat Kaplan: Casey, are we now, because this has been so successful, should we be looking forward to Artemis 45?

Casey Dreier: Yeah, basically. I mean, I can't emphasize how important the success of Artemis I was for the program. They've been working for over 10 years and all these pieces of hardware and they worked beautifully, despite the cost overruns, the critique that they get from observers, from all the delays, everything worked. And now NASA's on the cusp of locking in long-term contracts with Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop, all the providers and suppliers that build the SLS, that build Orion. Not just for a couple of SLS launches, but for dozens. So we are going to be seeing the SLS rocket and Orion and annual trips to the moon, if not more for the foreseeable future. And I should point out, that's not just my opinion, that is law. That was passed into law by Congress this year in the CHIPS and Science bill, which contained NASA authorization that mandated at minimum, one SLS launch a year for Artemis in perpetuity.

Mat Kaplan: That's okay with me. We will leave Artemis behind in this race through 2022 because there were things that were just as significant to a lot of our audience, including the amazing success of a certain space telescope. Rae, talk to us about the JWST.

Rae Paoletta: JWST has to be one of my favorite things of this year. And I know that technically it launched a year ago, almost today as we're recording this, it launched December 25th, 2021. Hard to believe that it's been such a short amount of time and yet we've gotten so many incredible results. It's really cool just to see the distant views of galaxies that it's been able to capture planets in our own solar system. I know that the deep field rightfully gets a lot of shine, but that picture of Neptune and the rings, it's like, "Come on, what's better than that?"

Sarah Al-Ahmed: And Mat just had his moment to gush about Orion, but I have to talk about James Webb Space Telescope because I got an invite to JPL to be there on the day that they revealed the first images, and I tell you, you're trying not to cry looking at those images, seeing that Carina Nebula for the first time, I'm surrounded by important NASA people and I just had to keep it together. That was difficult.

Mat Kaplan: I feel so fortunate that I got to be on the other side of the glass from that telescope, as it was going through the final steps here in Southern California before shipping off to the Cape. I'll tell you, it's one of those Grand Canyon moments. You don't realize how big the damn thing is until you're standing in front of it and it's just magnificent. After hearing all the stories, all the worries from all the scientists and engineers about, "Okay, here's the part I'm most worried won't work right, won't unfold the way it's supposed to." To see it just work... I mean what a mechanical miracle as well as observational miracle.

Bruce Betts: Yeah, it's an engineering marvel and the science potential is amazing. It's, we've only scratched the surface.

Casey Dreier: Worth every penny of its $8.8 billion, already, I would say, unquestionably and will, as Bruce pointed out, just the potential for this and what it's going to be doing. And again, just another reminder, I mean JWST succeeding and Artemis I succeeding in the same year for NASA. I'd say this puts it up as one of top two. I can think of one year of NASA as success that probably can't be top, but definitely top five, years ever for the US Space Agency with these two missions, and I should add-

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Huge.

Casey Dreier: ... also, European Space Agency too had critical contributions to both Artemis and JWST and just really shining in terms of the collaboration between NASA and ESA right now.

Mat Kaplan: And let's hope that continues as well. Rae, we're going to stick with you for one, that was a very big deal for all of us at The Planetary Society and that was nudging a space rock.

Rae Paoletta: God, I love the DART mission so much. It's really one of a kind thing. I mean, literally historically it was, right? This was the first of its kind of testing the kinetic deflection technique for asteroids. To recap here in September, the DART mission had its grand finale when it collided with Dimorphos, the asteroid moonlet. I can't believe how much it was able to change the orbit around its parent asteroid Didymos, which for some reason I can only think of Diddy Kong when I say that. I don't know why. There's a Super Smash Brothers thing somewhere in there, right?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. I always think of a Sir Didymus the little dog in the Labyrinth that rides on a bigger dog.

Mat Kaplan: Oh, now you're beyond me. Okay.

Rae Paoletta: But yeah, it was able to change the orbit from 11 hours and 55 minutes to 11 hours and 23 minutes, which is just a smashing success.

Mat Kaplan: Well done. Bruce, you're Mr. Planetary Defense around here.

Bruce Betts: That's Dr. Planetary Defense.

Mat Kaplan: Thank you so...

Casey Dreier: To you Mat, that...

Bruce Betts: Yeah, everyone else is just Bruce, the guy who plays attention to rocks, but this is a major, major accomplishment. Not only did we hit the asteroid, so it was a technology development that the so-called kinetic impact or technique, which is one of the main ones people are considering if and when, not if, when we find an asteroid headed for Earth to use and it works theoretically on kind of medium size dangerous asteroids cause catastrophe. But understanding the interaction between the spacecraft and the asteroid and so how much it changed that, how much material came out, what size crater it made, they'll be able to extract out the key things to be able to model it better in the future. So when you do have to deflect one, "Okay, well if we use this big spacecraft, this mass at this velocity, at least if it's like that asteroid, this is the kind of effect we'll have." And officially they will be able to better define the parameter beta, which canonically for some reason is what is the key parameter of the interaction in energetically between the spacecraft and the asteroid. Good times.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. I'll say. I also want to do a shout-out to the Italian Space Agency or the brilliant success of that little cubesat LICIACube that gave us that beautiful close-up, more or less close-up view of the impact by DART. It really doesn't get much better. Casey, we're going to continue in the planetary defense vein because you're going to tell us about, I mean it was a big year even right up to the last day or two as we speak per NEO Surveyor.

Casey Dreier: Yeah. The other part of planetary defense. Finding the things that could be threats in order to smash things into them. You got to know where they're coming from first before you can do this Smashy, Smashy Bet. Both parts are really critical. I keep making the comparison to COVID where you have to do testing in order to know where your breakouts are happening, and that is what NEO Surveyor. NEO Surveyors is going to help you find the threat. And then you can invest in deflection like DART, which is the equivalent of a vaccine investment that you're doing in advance, right? These things don't just pull off the shelves, you got to make them figure out how they work and you have them ready to go for when a threat happens. And we're starting to do that now, which is again, the really exciting thing we're seeing with planetary defense this year. So NEO Surveyor, after literally 15, 16 years of stalled development delays, endless study after study, despite you near universal support from members of Congress, the public and of course, members of The Planetary Society. We saw a really important movement this year, kind of a one, what is it? One step forward, two steps back situation where the program itself was authorized by Congress into law. We saw funding for NEO Surveyor, however get cut by NASA itself at their own behest due to unrelated overruns in other aspects of planetary science. Planetary society members worked really hard this year to really advocate to restore that money. And as we're recording this, we're looking at a final passage occurring tomorrow of the US budget that includes NASA funding that will restore $50 million more than what NASA had proposed, but puts it about to half of where it should have been. That's actually one of the largest increases to any science mission this year, in this budget. So we're really happy to see that. And then more critically, NASA itself reversed course fully committed now and has made a formal cost and schedule commitment to NEO Surveyor to Congress that will now launch in 2028. So this mission is functionally locked-in, in NASA history, extremely rare for any project that makes it this far in the development to be canceled. So this is about as good as it gets, barring any sort of catastrophe, let's say being crushed from above somehow in the next four years.

Bruce Betts: Crushed by an asteroid?

Casey Dreier: Yeah, right.

Bruce Betts: Sorry.

Casey Dreier: [inaudible 00:15:52] in the next four years.

Bruce Betts: I just wanted to give additional historical perspective, since I really got heavily involved in planetary defense, so 20 some years ago, this has been what people have called for and more and more planetary defense community was like, "This is what we need." And whether it was NEO Surveyor or some other permutation, but an infrared telescope placed at an orbit that would be inwards of where the Earth's orbit is. So you can see more asteroids would actually increase our discovery rate as well as simultaneously being able to characterize the asteroids tremendously. So although the ground-based has improved enormously over these same period, it's always been, "We want a mission that does this." And NEO Surveyor will finally be that mission.

Mat Kaplan: Congrats to good friend of The Planetary Society, Amy Mainzer and now at the University of Arizona and her entire team, because we also heard just in the last couple of days is as we are recording this, that the spacecraft is actually now under construction. Very, very exciting stuff. And Sarah, if you don't have Amy back on the show soon, I'm going to be very upset with you.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh, I'm really hoping. I actually met her many years ago at Griffith Observatory. She had a lot of great thing to say about the Asteroids video game, which alluded to, but yeah, she was fantastic. I'd love to have her back on.

Mat Kaplan: Can't beat black and white vector graphics, right? We can continue on with you Sarah. There's that other planet out there, the red one. It was also a pretty significant year from, in fact, if there's so much just in the last day or two that has been happening at Mars and across the solar system.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah, we're actually in a really interesting moment on Mars because there are so many missions going on concurrently and just yesterday we heard that, sadly we've reached the end of the InSight mission on Mars. That's the mission that went down to Mars and has been measuring marsquakes. So it discovered this really interesting thing earlier this year. It picked up the biggest marsquake we have ever recorded. I think it happened back in May. It's five times bigger than any other earthquake we've ever measured on Mars. So that can tell us a lot about what's going on internally. But sadly the mission solar panels got covered in dust as we expected, this wasn't something that happened on accident, but it did lead to the end of the mission. But at the very same time elsewhere on Mars, the Perseverance Rover set down its first sample of March and rock on surface. So end of one mission, beginning of another, but this is all building up to a much larger thing, just that we are going to try to bring these samples from Mars all the way back to Earth. That is amazing. And there have been a lot of changes to the way that this mission is going to happen hypothetically, because of that cute little helicopter that's just tocotoco-ing around Mars right now. The Ingenuity Mars helicopter has been such a success and has lasted so much longer than we expected that they're going to send two little Mars helicopters with the Mars sample return mission, to hopefully pick up these samples and bring them back to blast them off to Earth. So we're hoping we're going to get those samples back in 2033. And I think that too is a collaboration between NASA and also the European Space Agency. So another great example of international collaboration going on there.

Mat Kaplan: If you haven't seen it, I've mentioned this before on the show, find the renderings of these little descendants of Ingenuity and they're cute little arms. They have these cute little robotic arms that are designed to pick up the tube and bring them back to Bama, to be brought home. It's wonderful to see.

Rae Paoletta: I just want to say pour out some eggnog for InSight. Lot of good years.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Rae Paoletta: We'll miss you buddy.

Mat Kaplan: Hopefully not the last seismometer that we'll see on the surface of Mars. We need a bunch of them up there just like we have down here on Earth. Bruce?

Bruce Betts: Yeah, InSight was great, but I want to point out two things. One, you really need to stop anthropomorphizing spacecraft.

Mat Kaplan: No, why should I do that?

Bruce Betts: Because they're robotic and they're designed to stop working and everyone gets [inaudible 00:20:04].

Casey Dreier: Bruce, didn't you see Good Night Oppy? That's the opposite lesson that you take.

Bruce Betts: No, that's why I didn't watch it. I couldn't handle it emotionally.

Casey Dreier: That's why Mrs. Tidy-

Bruce Betts: But more importantly-

Casey Dreier: ... wants to put big googly eyes on all future robotic missions. That's our new policy by the way.

Rae Paoletta: Yes. Definitely.

Bruce Betts: I missed that. Oh man. Okay, we can discuss that offline. I kind of missed it. I wanted to hear from Sarah again what noise Ingenuity makes?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: What noise it makes?

Mat Kaplan: Oh yeah, what was that? Was that like pop?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Tocotoco.

Mat Kaplan: Tocotoco?

Bruce Betts: Okay, thanks.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Sound of a tiny helicopter in my brain. Is that just my onomatopoeia?

Mat Kaplan: We do our pop culture references here and this is one of my last opportunities. The birds on George of the Jungle that they used as telephones because they, I guess communicated with each other psychically went, "Pring! Tookie Tookie." And that's immediately what I thought of when you said that.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Maybe that's where I picked that up from when I was a child.

Mat Kaplan: There you go.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But I got to say, I'm really hoping that they send something like InSight back to Mars just because the little mole that was supposed to dig beneath the martian surface and get some temperature readings down there, it didn't actually do what we wanted it to because it couldn't pound itself down into that martian dirt. There was just something a little bit different about what was going on there. So I'm hoping we get a second chance at that so we can actually get that data and learn more about Mars's internal temperature.

Mat Kaplan: As sad as that was, because of course, we spent a lot of time talking about that instrument on Planetary Radio even after they had to give up on it. And this was a European instrument, I think if nothing else had demonstrated, that we still have a lot to learn.

Bruce Betts: Well also, just reiterated, and it's almost a cliché, but it's true. Space is hard. Strangely and people get used to it, but putting something on the surface of Mars not trivial and actually having things work in an environment that you've never been to. It's challenging, but the rewards are amazing.

Mat Kaplan: Sarah, we're going to stick with you. We'll skip over Third Rock and go right in to Venus and the news is not entirely good there, but there are good things ahead.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Yeah. There is some existing science going on there. We've had the Japanese Akatsuki mission going around Venus for quite a while looking for things, lightning and getting some good images there, but what's really been interesting over the last two years is the development in the story about whether or not there is evidence of potential life up in the atmosphere of Venus, maybe some microbial life.

Mat Kaplan: Penguins.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Penguins. Yeah. If anybody has been listening to the show over the last few months, Jane Greaves from Cardiff University did come on the show to talk a bit about these detections of phosphene in the atmosphere of Venus. Now, it's still debatable whether or not that, that is actually what it is, but we're hopefully going to get a lot more readings on this in the future because there's an army of Venus missions headed that direction. There's two missions, VERITAS and DAVINCI that NASA wants to send. Unfortunately the VERITAS mission has been delayed by about three years. There was a situation with the psyche mission, which necessitated a delay to this other mission. That's okay though. We'll get there eventually and get all that science. But there's also Rocket Lab's private mission that they're hoping to send to Venus that's supposed to be launching next year I think. That wants to just straight drop a probe into the atmosphere and get direct detections of things that might help us understand whether or not there is life on Venus or just understand more about the atmosphere in general. And I know too, that the Chinese Space Agency is debating whether or not to send a mission to Venus as well. So there's a lot of Venus science coming our way.

Bruce Betts: ESA, the European Space Agency also has a mission going. So it's a Venus party in the next few years.

Mat Kaplan: Casey, do you have anything to say about this idea of a private company getting into interplanetary exploration?

Casey Dreier: Obviously excited to see if it works. This also dovetails into the clips commercial lunar payload services program really ramping up next year with its first scheduled deliveries. And we're testing, I think this goes to show we're in this period of space exploration, where I keep saying we're a historical, we don't have any historical comparisons to make with what is happening now with these new entrants coming in and doing their own missions like Rocket Labs, Venus mission, and then also of course, the commercial providers at the moon. We don't know if this is going to work. It was all an experiment. It's truly exciting. The science team that they put together for the Rocket Lab mission is very high profile, very extraordinary opportunity there for them to try this out and really to trailblaze a new way of gaining data, bringing it back to the scientific community. Now, I think the really interesting perspective from this on a policy angle is, what does it mean for private companies to begin collecting data that has up till now fully been the domain of public interest, and how is that data going to be disseminated and to whom? And will it always be free, or will it be sold? This is again opening a whole new bag of worms on this that we don't really know what the outcome is going to be. That can really overturn how the scientific community has approached planetary exploration for its entire existence, which has been sold a government activity.

Mat Kaplan: Rae will move on to the rest of the solar system. It falls to you to introduce us. There's an awful lot to cover here. Take your time.

Rae Paoletta: The rest of the solar system, I'm trying to make it as fast as possible. I've got to give a shout-out to Juno, right? Juno is in the second year of its extended mission where it's taking a closer look at Jupiter's rings and many of its moons. So that's been really interesting to follow. It's sort of finished the main quest of the video game and now it's doing all the cool bonus missions and side quests, which arguably is one of the most fun parts. In 2021, we saw those great pictures from Juno's slide by of Ganymede, and this year we saw those remarkably detailed close-ups from Europa. Europa is only one fourth the diameter of Earth, but its ocean may contain twice as much water as all of Earth's ocean combined. How do you fit all the oceans in there? Where do they go?

Mat Kaplan: It would sure be a shame to not find at least one thing swimming in all that water.

Rae Paoletta: I'm hoping for space narwhals. It's happening. With all that ice, it makes so much sense. Think about it.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. And they need that, right? To stick like an ice pick. I love it. I love it. Okay.

Rae Paoletta: Yeah. I mean, what do you think all those scratchy things are on the surface? It's just the narwhal with their tusks. Think about it NASA.

Mat Kaplan: That's a paper for DPS next year.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But I'm really hoping to learn more about what's going on with these images of Jupiter's moons from Juno. Hopefully, in probably January we'll have Scott Bolton on. Didn't want to talk a little bit more about that, so I'm excited to have that conversation.

Casey Dreier: Those Io pictures were really the ones that just came down in the last few weeks are... Is Io or do people say Eo? I prefer Io.

Mat Kaplan: I say Io.

Rae Paoletta: I say Io also.

Bruce Betts: There's a long debate in the community about that and most people say Io, but some go for Eo.

Casey Dreier: Okay, I think we've reached consensus. Io it is.

Rae Paoletta: Io it is. Everyone's favorite little volcano moon. Yeah, those pictures were really incredible. I mean just to see that the constant eruptions, I feel like there's just so much. We know some about it, but it's in many ways a very untapped space. So looking forward to all the Juno data that we can get on that.

Mat Kaplan: Okay, where next?

Rae Paoletta: I guess the next thing we could talk about is OSIRIS-REx, bringing it back to Earth. As we all know, OSIRIS-REx is on its way back to Earth after sampling from the asteroid venue. It is scheduled to drop its sample on Earth in Utah's West Desert on September 24th, 2023. So that's something for us to look forward to next year. I'm really excited to see a chunk of science literally just parachute out of the sky into the desert. I don't know what I need to do to be there, but I will do everything in my power to get there.

Mat Kaplan: I was talking once to one of the scientists who worked on one of the missions that returned material from out there, and we were doing it live and all of a sudden he was in the middle of talking about something to do with the mission. This thing streaked across the sky. I mean it was literally a human, created, fireball.

Bruce Betts: Meteor.

Mat Kaplan: Thank you. And it was just spectacular. So I bet you'll have company out there when that happens.

Rae Paoletta: Mm-hmm.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's got to be spectacular, because we saw those images of what happened when the samples of asteroid Ryugu came in from the Hayubusa2 mission. Those pictures in Australia, that beautiful streak across the sky, that was mind blowing. I hope we get something like that.

Mat Kaplan: And of course of that sample return capsule is chock full of rocks. I mean, they almost couldn't close the thing because there was so much stuff in there. And that is what a bonanza that's going to be for scientists on Earth.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I was making jokes with my friends. It was like I was playing chubby bunny. Put too many marshmallows in his mouth.

Mat Kaplan: I liked it. All right, well we could keep talking about the solar system for the rest of our lives and hopefully we will, actually. But Casey, let's bring it back home because once again, my gosh, so much happening at the end of the year. Tell us what's happening with the budget outlook for NASA.

Casey Dreier: We finally have a congressional budget. Again, as we're recording this, likely to pass, doesn't mean it will, but let's assume it will because it's supposed to, unless something catastrophic happens. It's overall pretty good news. It's not what the president requested, which was an 8% increase to NASA. It was a great budget. Congress was willing to give a five and a half percent increase, which is still 1.3 billion more than what NASA got last year. However, given the consequences of inflation and the cost of labor, it's questionable, if that really translates to being able to do more, I think their buying power actually will still probably be a little less next year than it was this year, because of those problems. However, I've been doing this long enough, we've all been doing this long enough to never not appreciate a NASA budget increase. This is the 10th year in a row now, that NASA's budget has grown in absolute dollars. That has never happened before in NASA history. This winning streak that they've been gone. This growth has mainly been applied to NASA's exploration programs, Artemis, Planetary Science Missions, Mars sample return. It's the other aspects of NASA. Earth science didn't grow as much as they requested. STEM education didn't grow as much as expected, but overall things were really positive for NASA's exploration, which is really the key things that we care about here at The Planetary Society. So again, it's just very positive, I think and again, we can't overstate how important it is that we're seeing NASA's moon missions, NASA's efforts to return humans to the moon. The next Apollo fully funded. This hasn't happened in my lifetime. Mat, I think you're the only person here whose lifetime this has happened in at any point. Bruce?

Bruce Betts: Little bit when I was a repop.

Casey Dreier: This is extraordinary. So we were just talking about, we had that great article, Rae that you helped put together on our website about the 50th anniversary of Apollo 17. This is truly our generation's Apollo moment that we're going to see happen now. And the money is flowing, the hardware is being built in Congress for all the problems that is taken to get here, and all the political compromises we've made, is willing to fund it pretty aggressively. We're talking about seven and a half billion dollars for Artemis related hardware next year. That's wonderful.

Bruce Betts: Wow.

Mat Kaplan: Casey, how close does this come to the budget growth path that The Planetary Society was calling for?

Casey Dreier: We were calling for five, five over five and we're averaging at a little over 4%.

Mat Kaplan: Not bad.

Casey Dreier: So 5% per year for five years we're averaging a little about 5, 4 or so percent. So it's very, very close. And again, our whole argument was it is slow and steady, little increase after little increase, after a little increase, it builds up. It builds upon itself over time. And this is how they built up the National Institutes of Health to the behemoth that it is now. Just small little steps makes it much more palatable for Congress to do a bit at a time, year after year than to do one big jump, which is what actually they tried to do in the first year of Artemis under the Trump administration that they could not get through, even the Republican Congress for Republican presidential initiative. And so we're really seeing the benefits of that. Artemis would not be happening now, if we hadn't been having this steady growth and we wouldn't be seeing the incredible science missions that we're seeing under development now. Planetary defense missions, if we hadn't seen this growth too. No one has had to sacrifice for these advances to happen in these other programs. It's everything all at once. To paraphrase a popular movie that may have come out this year.

Mat Kaplan: Casey, we'll stick with you now. We've already touched on commercial space developments, but delve into it a little bit further for us.

Casey Dreier: Well, I mean we shouldn't take for granted that we have commercial crew delivery to the International Space Station, still happening at a regular cadence to the point where it's almost uneventful, which is probably the best you could possibly hope for with SpaceX. Still stunning to me that we haven't seen Boeing come through with Starliner this year and its first crewed launched, so they did succeed in their first uncrewed test mission. So we're about to see, I think next year that second provider come online. Again, I think we're seeing NASA's big experiment continue to happen where it's in doing a lot of investment right now, and we're waiting for the full return. Obviously, we know that commercial partnerships work well in Low-Earth Orbit. We're seeing huge growth there, huge success there. The question now, is can you extend that to the domain of the moon or even further out? That's what NASA's really investing in with Human Landing System, which is now SpaceX as the critical partner for landing on the moon, which is again, quite extraordinary. Though it did get a budget boost so that other partners could feasibly come on board with that particularly Blue Origin, which we submitted its landing proposal this year. And then the other big aspect is what's going to happen with the International Space Station? The consensus now is that it will be replaced in some form with a commercial orbiting platform, which again is an extraordinary experiment that we're going to move into here, as the US and its partners really offload that responsibility to operate a space station on a commercial basis. Will it work? We have no idea. Every analysis says it probably won't, but they're going to go make a good go of it. And in the budget this year for the first time, we got full funding for what's called Commercial LEO, which is the abstract, the funding vehicle that provides funding for commercial partners to really invest in this development. Now, I think as we saw the increasing, the consequences from the war in Ukraine on Russia's part, Russia's increasing isolation from the rest of the world and the increasing tension obviously between Russia and the US manifesting itself in some ways at the International Space Station. So that partnership remains strong. No future partnerships. Russia will not be participating in Artemis. It will be forthcoming. And so I think Congress is really waking up to the fact that commercial space stations are the only real viable pathway to having some sort of ongoing presence in Low-Earth Orbit, where NASA and its allies can send astronauts to in the future. So we really for the first time saw the political awareness snap into being there and support the request at about a quarter of a billion dollars this year.

Mat Kaplan: You reminded me of something that I'm going to throw in as a bonus question, because it is also something that just happened in the news talking about those strained relationships between Russia and the United States, and Russia and most other nations on Earth. And yet a couple of days ago, as we speak, the head of Roscosmos openly thanked NASA for helping to locate the leak that formed in the Soyuz spacecraft, which is currently docked at the space station. And I said to somebody yesterday, "You know, especially with the change in management at Roscosmos," The Russian Space Agency, "that probably had to be cleared through the top. I mean, are we seeing, it sounds like a feeler, but is this just more evidence that space does bring us together?"

Casey Dreier: The International Space Station partnership has worked as designed this year. That means even when we had the previous head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin saying some pretty extraordinary and inflammatory things, the actual function and relationship and integration never changed. This is where we always have to look at actions over rhetoric. Thankfully, now, Rogozin was either reassigned or demoted or however you want to phrase it, and we have Borisov who's a much more, I'd say tactful individual and head of Roscosmos. I think that's great that you sing the rhetoric, match the actions but at the end of the day, the International Space Station partnership was designed to not be separable, right? They're too tightly integrated. And that was the point. So even if as we are now in a period of high tension between the US and Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine, we have no matter what one area of joint interest that we share and align our values in, which is maintaining the safety of astronauts and cosmonauts in the International Space Station. And that can't just be torn us under. And I think the Russians realize that and understand that there's always going to be that point of shared value. So it's good, I'd say that it will maintain, but I think the trouble is then that the future, we're seeing this, I think realization or what I've been saying, a balkanization of approach to space exploration where we may have groups of aligned countries working together, instead of the previous post-Cold War era attitude that we all go together for the same purpose. So while the station has worked as designed, it hasn't inspired the subsequent partnerships that we would've hoped to have seen even a few years ago.

Mat Kaplan: Let's turn really inward and go to at least a quick review of some of the achievements and the impact that The Planetary Society has had, over the course of the year that is about to end. We just did a big webcast to review these that went out to our members and donors, but there's some pretty significant stuff here. Let's see, what would be the number one? I don't know. What do you think, Bruce?

Bruce Betts: I don't know.

Mat Kaplan: You? You too?

Bruce Betts: No, that's a band and a plane.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. Yeah.

Bruce Betts: How about LightSail 2?

Mat Kaplan: Oh yeah. Why don't you talk about that.

Bruce Betts: Wow. Leading questions. So it was a huge year for LightSail 2, our solar sail spacecraft. We finally reentered the Earth's atmosphere. Spacecraft burned up as we knew it would eventually as we lost the battle with atmospheric drag. And we had stayed up much longer than we expected and got a lot of information about solar sailing and achieved our main goals. Which were technologically to demonstrate, be the first to ever demonstrate with a small spacecraft, size of a loaf of bread that you could deploy it, you could shove a big old sail in it, deploy it and actually do controlled solar sailing using only the power, the pressure, the little tiny pressure of sunlight to change orbits, and we did that. And this year solar activity ramped up, which inflated the atmosphere and increased drag and pulled us down, but we're, the spacecraft's gone, but the mission's not over for us. The team is now busily analyzing, analyzing and taking the time that has spent on operations to get out more information and publications and sharing with the public and the technical community to feed forward into others pushing the envelope of solar sailing.

Mat Kaplan: And part of that legacy, a really stunning photo album of all those images that I know you are rightfully so proud of, where can we find those online? Rae? I know they're at, right?

Rae Paoletta: Oh yes, they are. You can find them all on the Bruce Murray Space Images Library.

Bruce Betts: Can also go to and find a link from there to the images.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, and read more about the mission. All right. We have not one, but a couple of grant programs that we can also be proud of this year.

Bruce Betts: I thought I was going to speak for a few more hours about LightSail.

Mat Kaplan: You could. I know, but how about we just pretend to continue recording it, but now you talk about the grant.

Bruce Betts: Oh, okay. We had two grant programs. Our two grant programs, award grants to some amazing individuals and teams. We have our ongoing Shoemaker NEO grant program, Near-Earth Object grant program that funds mostly amateurs but also professionals around the world. We were celebrating our 25th anniversary of the program that was named for Gene Shoemaker, a pioneer in planetary impact and geology and the like. And we gave out eight new awards and they were spread across a fair amount of the world. And we've actually given out now a half million dollars thanks to our members and donors to these groups to upgrade their telescopes to do important work in tracking and characterizing the Earth objects and even discovery, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere while we wait for professional surveys to get up to speed there. So we have the Shoemaker NEO grants, and there will be another call for those in a few weeks. And then we started a new grants program. STEP. STEP grants, the Science and Technology Empowered by the Public. And this is a little much broader program to try to fill our science and technology profile by casting the net wide and looking for groups that would be able to achieve things, fill niches that are not being filled otherwise and push forward science or technology like we've been doing for our whole history, but this is a new way of doing it. So we awarded two of those one to a team in UCLA doing study research and this particularly will yield a citizen science project to help their research that you'll hear about in coming weeks and months. And then a group in Belgrade, Serbia that is doing the technical term I believe is way phrase mathematical modeling in order to extract physical properties of asteroids. Hopefully, it's a kind of pioneering kind of way of doing it in a way that hasn't been done before. We're excited about both programs. We actually have a second round of STEP grants we lept in there with, and so we're actually evaluating that now and we'll have awards in a few months.

Mat Kaplan: Great stuff. We've been working on asteroid related stuff continuously, but I am so glad that we also are in the SETI game still with that grant to Jean-Luc Margot and his group at UCLA. What can I say? I love reaching out to those folks who may or may not be out there. Sarah, I have a grandson and a step granddaughter waiting for their first Planetary Academy packs.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's so exciting that we finally have this program out. I mean, I know many of us, you included, Mat, got into space when we were just children. And it was part of the plan, even early on in the founding of The Planetary Society that eventually we would find a way to reach out to children to help them get involved in space exploration and learning more about our place in space. So just a few months ago, we launched our Kickstarter for our Planetary Academy, which is our membership program for kids. And it was wildly successful. We were only trying to get maybe $50,000 to back this program and our supporters around the world gave us over a hundred thousand dollars. Ultimately at this point, we have over a thousand new kid members in our program. And this is great because it doesn't just give the kids an opportunity to learn about space, but they can all feel they're a part of this journey. Their membership in this program is helping to fund the programs that are just starting to support all these new bits of space technology and advance our exploration of space. So I know this would've meant a lot to me as a kid, and Bruce has been helping to write this program and I'm so excited for everyone to get a chance to read his work and the images we've been getting back of kids going through these magazines have made me, just fills my heart with joy. It's wonderful.

Bruce Betts: Yeah, it's a pretty gooey thing when it works out. No, it's been great. And we're trying to put out information that'll be fun as well as teach them, but get them excited about space. And right now we're targeting ages five to nine, but I think it's applicable, even broader. Maybe even you, Mat.

Mat Kaplan: Maybe.

Bruce Betts: And we're, it's just great. So I too am after all these this time, very excited that this program is crystallized and they're pretty much everyone working at The Planetary Society has been involved in creation in some aspect of this program. Jennifer Vaughn, our Chief Operating Officer managing it, Bill Nye, of course, excited about it, involved with it. And then just everyone, I'll just, shall I just list all the employees of Planetary Society?

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, it's when you also spend those extra hours talking about LightSail.

Bruce Betts: I'm going to do that alone, aren't I?

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, you are.

Bruce Betts: Okay.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But just imagine another 20 years, these kids who learned about space through this program coming up to us. I'm hoping, that someday I meet some of them. But just imagine how many little scientists are going to go out and change what we know about the universe. It's mind boggling.

Mat Kaplan: Change the world as our boss likes to say. Yes, I'm getting these. I got these subscriptions for my grandson and my step granddaughter. I'm sticking to that story. Casey, we're going to come back to you for anything that you would like to add about The Planetary Society's good work underway in Washington advocacy.

Casey Dreier: We had an extraordinary year for our advocacy program. Really happy with how it turned out, really proud of our members for stepping up. We had another virtual day of action in the spring. We had 115 members do nearly 160 meetings in congressional offices virtually. And we really hammered home our top priorities. NEOs Surveyor, which we just talked about, which got 50 million more dollars more than any other science mission increase this year in appropriations. We got a $40 million increase to planetary science in general, which was great. One of the few science divisions to see an increase from the proposal over last year. And we saw a lot of our key priorities represented in the final CHIPS and Science Act, which is authorizing a variety of NASA programs. Mars sample return stamp of approval, NEOs Surveyor stamp of approval. And really critically, something I'm personally most excited about, technosignatures. The ability to look for signs of intelligent life is now again, officially the domain of NASA and government funding that was previously banned back in the '90s. So NASA can really start investing in really exciting cutting edge opportunities to look for not just bio-signatures but technosignatures. Bruce is giving me a look.

Bruce Betts: No, I wasn't. I was giving you, to try to be encouraging. I just usually look like I was-

Casey Dreier: Did I misstate something?

Bruce Betts: ... I have resting disapproval face and usually it's a benefit. No, this is great and I'm excited and I actually was sitting here with my disapproval face thinking, "Is it appropriate to say how great Casey's done in the entire advocacy team?" Because I really, you have. It's been a very successful year and the only reason I hesitate to say that is because everyone at the planetary science has been doing great, including the other people on this call, except Mat. And...

Mat Kaplan: He's got to get these in. He's not going to have many more opportunities.

Casey Dreier: Yeah. That's true.

Mat Kaplan: It has been a wonderfully successful year in this area. And speaking of not too many more opportunities, Rae, I understand that you want to close us with one more topic?

Rae Paoletta: Yes. So this is the very meta portion, I guess, where we talk about talking about Planetary Radio while we're on Planetary Radio. So obviously Sarah will be beginning solo on the show in January. But I just wanted to take a minute to say that it has been a privilege and a pleasure to watch Mat and Sarah become this dynamic duo during the transition. Sarah and Mat share a similar sense of wonderment about space that really is just so infectious. And I know, so many Planetary Radio listeners have tuned into this show because it really highlights not just the science, but the people who make it possible. And you are both just such incredible storytellers. I'm so proud to know you both really, and my hats off to both of you. Thank you.

Mat Kaplan: Thank you very much.

Bruce Betts: I'd just like to add Ditto.

Casey Dreier: That's very eloquent, Bruce.

Bruce Betts: Thank you.

Mat Kaplan: Rae Paoletta and Casey Dreier. Rae, the Director of Content and Engagement for The Planetary Society. Casey's got a finger in the air. He's our Chief Advocate and Senior Space Policy Advisor. Casey?

Casey Dreier: Thanks for visualizing this for our listeners. Mat, I just wanted to add, I thought we would all have a chance to say something, but I wanted to add onto-

Mat Kaplan: It was a good finger. It wasn't a bad finger, but go ahead.

Casey Dreier: Probably the good ones. To echo what Rae said so eloquently and Bruce sufficiently reiterated. I'm very excited, Sarah, to see you take the reins next year and I can't wait to start listening to the show under your leadership and super excited and congratulations again. And Mat, obviously we've done the Space Policy Edition. I think I've said this before, I literally do not know what I'm going to do without you, but we will find a way. But it has been an honor to work with you on this for the last six years, particularly on that show. And of all the hosts I have come across in my travels, yours is the most, human.

Mat Kaplan: Oh. I was mentioning you Rae and you Casey, because you're going to depart now. But everybody else, I hope, who's listening, I hope you'll stick around because Bruce and Sarah and I will go into my very last segment of What's Up, the last one that I'll participate in as well. Rae and Casey, thanks so much for being part of this review of the year.

Casey Dreier: Thank you, Mat.

Rae Paoletta: Thank you. Cheers.

Bruce Betts: Stay tuned. It'll make you laugh, make you cry.

Bill Nye: Hi everybody. Bill Nye here, CEO of The Planetary Society. Everything we do from advocacy for missions that matter, to funding new technology, to grants for asteroid hunters and sharing the wonder of space exploration with the world, only happens thanks to friends like you who share our passion for space. When you invest in the Planetary Fund today, a generous member will match your donation up to $100,000. Every dollar you give will go twice as far as we explore the world of our solar system and beyond, defend Earth from the impact of an asteroid or comet, and find life beyond Earth by making the search for life a space exploration priority. With you by our side, we'll continue to advocate for missions that matter for years to come. How about powering our work in 2023? Please donate today. Visit Thank you for your generous support and Happy New Year.

Mat Kaplan: Hey, let's do this one last time. It's time for What's Up on Planetary Radio. I am joined by the Chief Scientist of The Planetary Society, Dr. Bruce Betts. May I say it again? The only other person who has been heard on every episode of Planetary Radio since we began a little over 20 years ago. Welcome.

Bruce Betts: Well, you...

Mat Kaplan: You're going to get this, hold it together. You're get through this one. You're going to make it.

Bruce Betts: Hi Mat.

Mat Kaplan: If I can, you can.

Bruce Betts: All right man. We're good. Sarah's going to help us.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, you don't want to-

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Like crying?

Mat Kaplan: You don't want to embarrass yourself in front of a new host.

Bruce Betts: Oh, I think I already have.

Mat Kaplan: Sarah. We said you'd stick around and there you are, your very first What's Up. And yet, a week from now, you will be in my chair talking to the Chief Scientist.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's true. And I hope we keep going on with this tradition. If you will continue to join me, Bruce, if I have not scared you away yet.

Bruce Betts: I would love to join. It'll be such a relief after 20 years, but I'm...

Mat Kaplan: Like I said, he's got to get him in now. I think that the dynamic is just going to be great. I just think it's going to build on what we've already had, which I know you've loved every moment of Bruce.

Bruce Betts: I have.

Mat Kaplan: See? See?

Bruce Betts: That was my gift to you.

Mat Kaplan: Then he gets honest. What's Up?

Bruce Betts: As I mentioned, I think last week, we've arranged for all the planets you can see with just your eyes to be up in the sky, although Mercury will be dropping down below the horizon as your time on Planetary Radio will be doing.

Mat Kaplan: I'll be back.

Bruce Betts: If you're picking this up right after it comes out on December 28th, Venus and Mercury are very close together, but you're going to need a really clear view to the Western horizon. If you get it, then that'll be really nice. If not, you'll still see Venus getting higher and higher. Super bright Venus over the coming weeks, over in the west after sunset. And we've also got, if you follow a line from Venus or just look for bright Jupiter up above and Saturn in between. So Jupiter's high in the sky and Saturn is looking yellowish and not as bright as the other two, but still bright in between. And follow a line from those all the way across the other side of the sky over east-ish and you'll see Mars, which is still bright but fading gradually as we grow farther apart from it, like we will be growing farther apart from you from Planetary Radio.

Mat Kaplan: Just don't go there. It's okay. You'll make it.

Bruce Betts: Okay, but I got a cool thing, like my life after you leave Planetary Radio, no offense there. This is one last time for you, man. Why am I calling you, man?

Mat Kaplan: I am one. It's okay. I qualify.

Bruce Betts: Okay. The Quadrantids, meteor shower.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: You got it.

Mat Kaplan: What perfect timing.

Bruce Betts: We finally pronounced it maybe slightly correct after 20 years. It peaks the night of January 3rd to the 4th. That's the good news. Bad news, it is a full moon. So that will wipe out a lot of the meteors. Other sort of bad news that even though this can be one of the biggest outputs, it's usually for a very brief time and it has a very sharp peak of a few hours. So best if you're going to look is the night of January 3rd, the 4th you may get 20, 25 meteors from a dark site. There are a lot more that are maybe there. Take a chance, Mat, you won't be doing anything. But I'm, move on to this week in space history. And we marked this event, so you probably remember it. Wild about Mars.

Mat Kaplan: Oh yes. Yeah. Wham.

Bruce Betts: The event marking, the landing of spirit on Mars, the Spirit Rover, and right before that, and basically almost contemporaneous Stardust flew through the coma of a comet and returned material to Earth a while later, and they're both wildly successful, and we had a big event for Wild about Mars.

Mat Kaplan: Planet Fest. Yeah, it really was a blast. One of our big parties, the Pasadena Convention Center, and you were up there on stage, I think, right? At the [inaudible 00:56:26].

Bruce Betts: I was, that was when they let me go on stage. Oh. So yeah. No, I had a lot to do with that one. It yielded a lot of good stuff just like you're being with us has yielded a lot of good stuff.

Mat Kaplan: You're going to keep asking, aren't you? No? Okay.

Bruce Betts: I may not even, I'm already tired of doing that. All right. I've got a great, we've had our guest series instead of Random Space Fact of Random Mat Kaplan Fact.

Mat Kaplan: So don't forget to add the reverb.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh yeah. Definitely have to have the reverb.

Mat Kaplan: Right.

Bruce Betts: Oh yeah. Now they're going to know that it's not just my cool reverb voice after all this time.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: His voice just does that.

Mat Kaplan: Of course, it does.

Bruce Betts: Random Mat Kaplan Fact.

Mat Kaplan: Don't forget to add the reverb.

Bruce Betts: All right. According to Mat, and I actually believe him, which is amazing on several levels. Mat made it through high school without ever using cuss words. True?

Mat Kaplan: I think essentially true. Yeah. I mean, there were temptations, but I don't know why. I just didn't think it was appropriate. I've tried to make up for it since then, except when I'm on mic.

Bruce Betts: Yes, I've heard you swear.

Mat Kaplan: I've said, gosh, darn. At least several times.

Bruce Betts: Oh, I forgot we were counting that. Yes. Yeah, that's true.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I don't think I've ever said this before, but that's really cute, Mat.

Mat Kaplan: Thank you.

Bruce Betts: And by the way, I will give up my secret of if you want to know more about Mat Kaplan, well first of all, come back next show for a real interview with Sarah. But one time before the show was big enough, I got the opportunity at the first anniversary show in November 2003, where I interviewed Mat and asked some really weird questions, and that's where I got these really weird Mat facts by re-listening to the show. You can check it out. End of November 2003. And Mat actually said in the show that he would never let me do that again. And he never did.

Mat Kaplan: I thought that was much more recent, that interview. I don't know why I remember it that way, but we'll put up a link to that on this week show page

Bruce Betts: All right. We move on to the trivia contest, which is I asked you after Mat retires as host, what job do you envision Mat doing? We got some good answers. And Sarah and I have cogitated over the matter, contemplated, and we have chosen ones to share with you and to award prizes too.

Mat Kaplan: I'm just going to back out of the way here and enjoy this. Please, go ahead.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Just envision your future, Mat, doing these things.

Bruce Betts: First of all, I just want to say I was thinking more like professional wrestler.

Mat Kaplan: I left that behind. It was too hard on the knees.

Bruce Betts: Demolition derby driver.

Mat Kaplan: Oh, I left that behind. It was too hard on the head.

Bruce Betts: Well, give the official ones and I will start out. Thank you all. Who sent us things, and as Mat always points out, we don't have time to read everyone. We appreciate all of them, from Torsten Zimmer, regular listener, regular contributor from Germany. "I think Mat should write a book about his time as Planetary Radio host. What was his best and worst experience, his favorite interviews, what are the lessons for a successor? How can science best be communicated? Either that or run Twitter."

Mat Kaplan: Boy, that's a tough one. I like both of those possible jobs. Now, wait a minute. Why would I want to run Twitter? Why would anyone in their right mind want to run Twitter?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I got to say, if you ever do write a book, please give it to me first so I can learn all of your lessons, right now.

Mat Kaplan: You are already there. You don't...

Bruce Betts: And give it to me before that, so I can redact several things.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, our second winner is Hudson Ansley from New Jersey who said, "Mat should be on the dearMoon flight. They need a good reporter."

Mat Kaplan: I'm ready.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I would love to see you up there going around the moon one way or another. dearMoon or not, you should go to the moon, Mat.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah, I bet Bruce would too.

Bruce Betts: Oh yeah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Send us all to the moon. Elon, if you're listening.

Bruce Betts: We move on to Ola Franzen. Sorry if pronunciation's incorrect, from Sweden. And I love this one because I could imagine this, and it was funny for me to imagine, "I would like Mat to narrate my daily life. That way it would sound much more interesting. Bonus, I would get to hear that wonderful voice more than just once per week." And then everyone throws in happy little messages like, "Thanks for 20 years of fantastic radio, Mat, I've listened to every episode and you'll be missed."

Mat Kaplan: You're so welcome, Ola. Thank you very much.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I was thinking, we could take every episode of Planetary Radio, run it through an AI, and then create some kind of horrible AI concoction that just spits out your voice.

Mat Kaplan: How does anybody know that's not what's already happened?

Bruce Betts: Thank you. I was trying to think of that.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, those are our winners, but we did want to have one honorable mention for our poet laureate of Planetary Radio, Dave Fairchild, who wrote this beautiful poem as always, which I got to read. It says, "Mat will not retire. He would not know what to do. He'll pass the reins, then move the chains. So here's a sneak preview. I don't know if it's NASA or if SpaceX calls him soon, but Mat will soon announce that he's the next man on the moon."

Bruce Betts: Did you notice that a lot of these are sending you away to space?

Mat Kaplan: Uh-huh. And that's okay with me. Whatever the motivation is, it's okay with me. There was one more that I just was blown away by Gene. Gene Lewan from Washington. You've got it in front of you, Sarah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Oh, I do. Gene Lewan wrote this beautiful backstory of Matman. It comes with some amazing images, which I'm hoping it's not up to me for this one, but I'm hoping you put them up on the website because they are amazing. But I will read the beginning of this, which is, "Matman, whose secret identity is Mat Kaplan, a financially comfortable American playboy philanthropist and radio personality, operates from his secret layer located deep beneath the headquarters of The Planetary Society in Pasadena. For nearly 20 years, he's been building this layer, unbeknownst to his colleagues, but one his compatriot and sidekick. The doctor." Loved the doctor who referenced. "During this time, he has trained himself physically and intellectually in crafting a space inspired persona emerging to monitor the Pasadena Streets at night." Do you have a secret alter ego, Mat?

Mat Kaplan: If I told you, you know what we'd have to do. I'd really enjoy it and I can promise you, well, I can't promise you because I'm not the one who will do it, but I bet you that our Associate Producer Mark, will be happy to put the wonderful images that Gene included with this on this week's episode page at There I am especially thrilled by seeing Bruce inserted into Nighthawks the great painting by Edward Hopper. Always one of my favorite paintings. And there is Bruce sitting at the diner counter with his compatriots.

Bruce Betts: Yeah, it's pretty cool. Of course, you in a superhero costume and the foreground is also pretty awesome. Yeah, I loved everything about this. It was hilarious, except that I was a sidekick.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: This, you don't have to wear that startlingly blue suit. You might want to get a new costume designer, Mat.

Mat Kaplan: No, I think it's perfect. Where do we go from here?

Bruce Betts: Well, usually we ask another trivia question. So I'm going to go ahead and follow the tradition. Here's a question for you. On the anniversary of Spirits Landing on Mars, what hardware did The Planetary Society fly to Mars as part of the Spirit and Opportunity missions? You don't have to give a lot of detail, but what hardware did we fly to Mars, on Mars right now? Go to contest.

Mat Kaplan: And here's pretty much what you say after that, Sarah. You have until January 11th, 2023 at 8:00 AM Pacific time, that's a Wednesday, to get us or really them the answer to this one, and I'm just going to say one more time because it's my last chance. The winner will receive a Planetary Society Kick Asteroid, say it with me now.

Bruce Betts: Rubber asteroid!

Mat Kaplan: He did really good.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Do I put the reverb up on that one?

Mat Kaplan: No. You don't even have to do it for that one. That was just perfect, man. Yes, a rubber asteroid will be yours. And with that, I think we're done. Except to say, Bruce, it has been the most wonderful career. I was editing What's Up for last week's show just a couple of days ago, and I was cracking up while I did it. It happens all the time. It has just been absolutely delightful and I'm glad that we're not really saying goodbye. Sarah, you're going to have the best time over every episode of this show yet to come, talking to this guy over on the other side of me, and you're going to have a wonderful time. I have one more thing, talk a little bit while I grab something that I forgot about.

Bruce Betts: Hey, Mat Kaplan. It's been an honor, sir, and I'm scared what he is digging for right now. Every week, it has been a consistent joy in my job, no matter what other things were going on to do this show with you. In a pain when I forgot that I hadn't prepared yet and I was talking to you in 15 minutes, which is why you got so many messages of, "Can I have another 15 minutes?" But other than that, it's been wonderful. Thank you. And I'm really looking forward to what's in the styrofoam box that...

Mat Kaplan: You saw it online.

Bruce Betts: Oh. I already know what it is. Okay.

Mat Kaplan: Now he gets it in person.

Bruce Betts: Well, that's...

Mat Kaplan: You. I don't think you've seen this.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I don't think I have seen that.

Mat Kaplan: Here we go.

Bruce Betts: Much less scary. This is the opening of the styrofoam.

Mat Kaplan: Great sound.

Bruce Betts: Ah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Make an ASMR out of that one.

Bruce Betts: Oh, it's the coffee mug with Planetary Radio logo on one side and a picture of Mat and I at the beach recording Planetary Radio, what's up? One of the weird places we recorded in the past.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's beautiful, Matt.

Mat Kaplan: I'm very happy with how it came out and I think it's very appropriate. Have fun folks.

Bruce Betts: Hey, we will. You too. And be a strange, wait, don't be a stranger.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But really Mat, please come on my show.

Bruce Betts: Wow, that didn't take long.

Mat Kaplan: Bruce, take us out.

Bruce Betts: All right. Everybody go out there looking up the night sky and think about Mat morphing into se... No, just think about Mat and his job as a professional wrestler. I don't care if it's hard on the knees or not, I want to see it.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: And hopefully his future of long walks on the beach chilling out.

Bruce Betts: Yeah, that too. Thank you and goodnight.

Mat Kaplan: Bruce Betts is for the time being, the Chief Scientist of The Planetary Society and the Program Manager for LightSail. Sarah Al-Ahmed is the host of Planetary Radio.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Thanks, Mat.

Mat Kaplan: Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California and is made possible by its beloved members. I'm proud to be one of them. The brilliantly talented space nerds, Mark Hilverda and Rae Paoletta are our Associate Producers. Josh Doyle composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Pieter Schlosser. Ad Astra.