Planetary Radio • Dec 27, 2023

Looking back on 2023

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On This Episode

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Kate Howells

Public Education Specialist for The Planetary Society

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Jack Kiraly

Director of Government Relations for The Planetary Society

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Rae Paoletta

Director of Content & Engagement for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

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

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Sarah Al-Ahmed

Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society

Members of The Planetary Society staff revisit some of 2023's most exhilarating moments and groundbreaking discoveries in space this week on Planetary Radio. Kate Howells, public education specialist, announces the winners of The Planetary Society's Best of 2023 awards. Jack Kiraly, director of government relations, shares the strides made in space advocacy. Then Rae Paoletta, director of content and engagement, and Mat Kaplan, senior communications adviser and former host of Planetary Radio, return to break down their favorite space moments of the year. Stick around until the end for What's Up with Bruce Betts, the chief scientist of The Planetary Society, as he looks forward to the next year of space science and exploration.

Bennu bits in the OSIRIS-REx sample collector
Bennu bits in the OSIRIS-REx sample collector A view of the outside of the OSIRIS-REx sample collector. Sample material from asteroid Bennu can be seen on the middle right. Scientists have found evidence of both carbon and water in initial analysis of this material. The bulk of the sample is located inside.Image: NASA/Erika Blumenfeld & Joseph Aebersold
Hakuto-R sees solar eclipse from Moon
Hakuto-R sees solar eclipse from Moon The ispace Hakuto-R lunar lander captured this image of a total solar eclipse on April 20, 2023.Image: ispace
JWST captures wide-view of Uranus
JWST captures wide-view of Uranus This wide-view image of Uranus, taken by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, gives us a beautiful view of the planet and its rings, including 14 of the planet’s 27 moons: Oberon, Titania, Umbriel, Juliet, Perdita, Rosalind, Puck, Belinda, Desdemona, Cressida, Ariel, Miranda, Bianca, and Portia.Image: NASA / ESA / CSA / STScI
Dinkinesh and its moonlets
Dinkinesh and its moonlets This image shows the asteroid Dinkinesh and its satellite as seen by the Lucy Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (L’LORRI) as NASA’s Lucy Spacecraft departed the system. This image was taken at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 UTC) Nov. 1, 2023, about 6 minutes after closest approach, from a range of approximately 1,630 kilometers (1,010 miles). From this perspective, the satellite is revealed to be a contact binary, the first time a contact binary has been seen orbiting another asteroid.Image: NASA / Goddard / SwRI / Johns Hopkins APL


Sarah Al-Ahmed: We are looking back on 2023 this week on Planetary Radio. I'm Sarah Al-Ahmed of The Planetary Society with more of the human adventure across our Solar System and beyond. Space science and exploration in 2023 was an extraordinary testament to human curiosity, perseverance, and the fantastic things that we can accomplish when we work together. This week, we're revisiting some of this year's most exhilarating moments and groundbreaking discoveries. Highlights include the triumphant return of samples from asteroid Bennu, the astonishing revelations from the James Webb Space Telescope, and the dawn of a new globally collaborative era of lunar exploration. Kate Howells, our public education specialist and Canadian space advisor, will join us to announce the winners of The Planetary Society's best of 2023 awards. Jack Kiraly, our director of government relations, will share the strides that we've made together with our space advocacy. Then Rae Paoletta, our director of content and engagement, and Mat Kaplan, our senior communications advisor and former host of Planetary Radio, return to break down our favorite space moments of the year. We'll close out my last episode of my first year as host of Planetary Radio with Bruce Betts, the chief scientist of The Planetary Society. We'll look forward to what next year has in store in WhatsApp. If you love Planetary Radio, and want to stay informed about the latest space discoveries, make sure you hit that subscribe button on your favorite podcasting platform. By subscribing, you'll never miss an episode filled with new and awe-inspiring ways to know the cosmos and our place within it. Okay, let's get into it. It is now time for the winners of The Planetary Society's best of 2023 awards. Each year, we ask space fans around the world to vote on the most exciting moments, images and missions. Here's Kate Howells, our public education specialist and Canadian space advisor, with the results. Hey, Kate.

Kate Howells: Hi, Sarah. How are you doing?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Doing good. It's always a really nice time of year when we're looking forward to what's going on next year, and finally getting to look back at everything we accomplished this year. It's been a wild ride.

Kate Howells: Absolutely. Every year flies by, and it's only really when we look back at all the things that happened that year that you really remember, "Wow. Yes. There was a lot going on. It was a full year."

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's part of why I like having this best of 2023 vote or whatever we do each year. It's a really great moment to be able to just look back at the really shiny highlights from the last year.

Kate Howells: Absolutely.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Of course, this one was a little funny. We're just going to jump right into it, because the first thing that we really got people to vote on was the best Solar System image of the year. I was in this internal debate with myself between the JWST image of Uranus, which was ridiculously cool, and that up close image of IO from Juno, and then people chose something completely different.

Kate Howells: I was also surprised by the winning image, because there are some really striking photos from elsewhere in the Solar System, but the one that people liked the best was actually a much more local image. It's a picture of the earth seen from the perspective of the moon, so you can see the moon in the foreground. It's taken during a total Solar eclipse, so you can see the moon's shadow on the earth, and the distance. It was taken by the Japanese eye space Hakuro-R lunar lander, so it was before it attempted its landing. It's a really unique image, but it's not as visually striking as some of the others, but it's more intellectually interesting that you're seeing an eclipse from this very different perspective.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It really is one of those images that you look at, and it's something you can only see if you're literally on another world. That was surprising, but I wouldn't say that the most exciting moment in Planetary Science this year was something that I didn't see coming.

Kate Howells: Agreed. This one, the winner here was the OSIRIS-REx mission successfully returning a sample of the asteroid Bennu to Earth. Again, people choosing winners that relate to our planet. This is an asteroid sample coming back to earth after years long journey through space, and finally coming back to here where we can analyze those asteroid samples in earth-based labs. It is definitely a very exciting moment, and anything plummeting to earth from space is going to be exciting, so I was not too surprised that this one was chosen.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's cool too that I feel like we've all been along for the journey with the spacecraft. We've seen its little moments over the years, first launching taking its first images of Earth, and then actually reaching Bennu, and snatching a sample out of it. I know that Bruce Betts keeps telling me I need to stop anthropomorphizing robots, but I don't know. I feel like OSIRIS-REx is our buddy at this point.

Kate Howells: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's just very exciting to see what we're going to learn from this mission, now that we have the samples back home, and they're already being analyzed. We're already finding things out, but I think as with a lot of sample return missions, the best is potentially yet to come. It's great to have these samples here so that as our technology advances, we can continue re-analyzing them, and discovering new things.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We'll hear more about the results from that in a moment, but let's move on to our favorite Planetary Science mission of the last year. This one is definitely what I voted for as well.

Kate Howells: It's hard to beat the James Webb Space Telescope at this point. It is doing such cool stuff, and it's a bit of a cheat option, because it does so much more than Planetary Science, but really, even though it has astronomy and cosmology science goals, it also does do so much Planetary Science from exoplanets to studying the planets of our own Solar System, and there have been some amazing images and some really cool discoveries made already. So, no big surprise at this one. One, also very much looking forward to what it's going to do in the coming years.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: This is one of those telescopes where I wish it could just be around forever, or if we had a fleet of them, because the science coming out of this thing is ridiculous. I wish every astronomer in the world could get the telescope time that they need on this, because the results would be amazing.

Kate Howells: I'm a big fan of space telescopes, because not only do they deliver that hard science, but they also just bring these images that are so accessible. Anybody can look at one of these pictures from space, and see that it's beautiful, and that it's fascinating. I think that's just such great low hanging fruit for people to discover an interest in space. So, I'm all for more missions like this going up.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We can't get through all of the awesome things that people voted for just for this last year, but I do want to ask you about the coming year. What is the Planetary Science mission that people are most looking forward to?

Kate Howells: This is another one that is a multipurpose mission doing planetary science, but also other really cool things. It is NASA's Artemis program, so this is NASA led, but a very international program to send humans back to the moon. Why we consider it a Planetary Science mission is that lunar science is going to be conducted through this mission, through the associated mini missions that are part of the overall program. There's going to be a lot of really cool research being conducted. Ultimately, human space flight does enable a lot of planetary science, so especially when we're landing on a planetary body. The moon rocks brought back by the Apollo program are still yielding discoveries today. So, I think there's a lot to look forward to with bringing humans back to the service of the moon, and people are just excited about this program in general. I think, astronauts always capture the imagination. People from all over the world are engaged. I'm Canadian. We have a Canadian astronaut going on the Artemis II mission. That's extremely exciting, so our astronaut, Jeremy Hansen is going to be one of the astronauts that orbits the moon. This is a great mission. I'm not surprised people are excited about it, because people do always get excited about astronauts. It's great to see a human representation in space, somebody who's out there as an ambassador for the rest of us. Lots of us who are interested in planetary science and robotic exploration, we can see robots as being ambassadors for us. We can, like you said, anthropomorphize them, and see ourselves in them, but seeing yourself in an actual human explorer is much easier, so people do get excited about that. No big surprise with that one in the most exciting upcoming mission category. We'll see if it keeps winning in the coming years as it continues to be. It's an ongoing mission, but that always has more coming up, but definitely a really exciting one.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Just wait until we're getting high-res videos back from the moon surface live-streamed on the internet. I think everyone around the world is going to double down and think this is even more cool in the coming years.

Kate Howells: That's a very good point. Yes. I mean, people got so excited about the Apollo broadcast, and this is going to be a whole new era of seeing that kind of thing for yourself.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We didn't get to experience that, Kate. This is going to be our moment.

Kate Howells: No. That's true. Yes, that's very true.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It'll be so amazing. I hope we're all in the same room together watching on a screen when we get to watch them bouncing around in the moon together.

Kate Howells: I'm sure if we're not in the same room, we'll at least be chatting on Slack as we tend to do within The Planetary Society staff when big space moments happen.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Always my favorite people to talk to when something cool happens. Well, thanks for joining me, Kate.

Kate Howells: Thank you, Sarah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Happy 2024.

Kate Howells: You too.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'll leave a link to the full list of results from this year's best of 2023 awards on the webpage for this episode of Planetary Radio. You can find that at Up next, we have Jack Kiraly, our director of government relations with an update from the World of Space Advocacy. Hey, Jack.

Jack Kiraly: Hey, Sarah. How are you doing?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Doing well. It's been such a cool year, I feel like for me, I guess uniquely, I had a really cool year, because it's my first year as host of Planetary Radio, but you too had a really cool year. This was your first year working at The Planetary Society.

Jack Kiraly: It sure was. It'll be officially a year in February, but basically a full year, and a lot has happened in D.C.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We do have a new person that will be joining our crew next year, so we're looking forward to that. But in the meantime, you're still our most newish member of the crew, which is a weird thing to say considering what you pulled off this year. You just came into this job. We had our day of action. You ran that whole thing. It was mind-blowing, Jack.

Jack Kiraly: It was a labor of love for sure, and it's something I'm really passionate about. Honestly, it was a, I'll say, nostalgic, sentimental thing for me, because the Day of Action was the first thing I ever did with The Planetary Society back in 2014, back when we didn't call it the Day of Action. It was a different event entirely, but the intent was the same was dozens of people coming together, descending on Capitol Hill, and advocating for space. That's how I got my start, and so to see this come full circle almost exactly 10 years later is truly, truly heartwarming for me.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's really special. What were our biggest advocacy goals for this year?

Jack Kiraly: Wow, it's been quite a year in D.C. It seems like a lot has happened. I think the first thing that I got thrown into, and I think one of our biggest things that we were pushing this year was getting a 2029 launch date for the VERITAS Mission, which for those who don't know is the next U.S.-led orbiter of Venus, the first U.S.-led mission of this type to Venus since 1989. It had been delayed indefinitely earlier this year, and that was my first big project was working on that advocacy campaign. The response was phenomenal, and people still are talking about VERITAS. It made it into both the House and Senate budget bills, which we're still debating the 2024 budget, even though that's the calendar year starts this week, and we're already three months into the fiscal year, but VERITAS made it into both of those bills, a lot of daylight between the Democratic held Senate version of their bill and the Republican-led house version of their bill, but VERITAS makes it into both, and very strong statements on supporting that mission. So, that, I think, was a huge success for us this year. But on top of that, Mars' sample return was a big advocacy push this year. NEO Surveyor, Dragonfly were all part of our day of action, and part of what I've been talking about here in D.C. supporting a broad and balanced portfolio for planetary science.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I know I'm biased, because we're on the inside. We're a part of The Planetary Society, but just taking a step back for a second, the fact that we have such strong advocacy for these space missions, and that there are so many people willing to give their time and their love to put their voice behind space exploration really touches my heart, and makes me feel happy and safe, because knowing that missions like Mars Sample Return or VERITAS or Dragonfly, one of my favorites, could potentially not get the funding that they need makes me just feisty inside. So, I'm really happy to have someone like you at the helm to help us do this.

Jack Kiraly: I mean, this is why The Planetary Society exists in the first place is to educate the public, and engage them, and activate them to make a difference, to make their voice heard on whether it is Mars programs or Venus programs or outer planets, whatever gets us excited and astronomy. Let's not forget astrophysics and astronomy, the images that we've seen just in the last... It's only been operational for a year and a half, but the James Webb Space Telescope, and now these follow-on missions to that with the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope going in a couple of years, and the Habitable Worlds Observatory, which work just started on that this year. There's so much to be excited about, and The Planetary Society was founded to advocate for these things here in D.C. but also on Main Street all across America and around the world. So, it really is it's truly amazing what our members and supporters are able to do, and make such a gigantic impact on policy and on the way that the world thinks and looks at these missions and these efforts to better understand the cosmos and our place within it.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm hoping too that next year's total solar eclipse in the United States and Mexico and Canada are going to get even more people jazzed about space exploration, even more people wanting to throw their advocacy out there.

Jack Kiraly: Well, next year's the year of the moon, right? I mean, we're kicking the year off with the total solar eclipse. Actually, we're kicking the year off... January 8th, I think, is the date right now for it, but the first commercial Lunar Payload Services Eclipse mission is going to be launching on January 8th. It's going to be the first commercial landing on the moon. Then you have the Eclipse. Then you have Artemis II slated for November. Lunar Trailblazer is going to be in there. We have so many things to be excited about the moon, our closest planetary body right there, right? We can see it every day, and we're going to be a part of that, right? We're going to be a part of exploring that. So, next year, it's really going to kick off, and that's why it's so important for people to be space advocates so that when somebody has a question about planetary exploration, their friends will come to them and say, "Hey, I want to know more about this." "Oh, well, you got to join The Planetary Society. Oh, well, you have to join us for the day of action in Washington D.C. If you are excited about these things, become a member. Become part of our organization. Support us and support space exploration."

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm looking forward to being in the Capitol with you this next year during the day of action. It'll be my first in-person day of action, so I'm going to be right there with all of you.

Jack Kiraly: Oh, it's going to be so exciting. We had over 100 members here in D.C. in 2023. I hope to see a hundred plus in 2024. In addition to that, we're working on some stuff. You're going to want to stay tuned, so follow us on social media. Join the member community if you're not already in there, because you're going to hear some awesome stuff happening in Congress in D.C. when it comes to space policy and planetary exploration, so stay tuned.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Can't wait to share. Thanks for joining me, Jack.

Jack Kiraly: Thanks, Sarah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I often find myself in total awe when I think about the impact that space advocates have had on space exploration over the years. Your unwavering commitment to supporting the missions and scientific goals that we all cherish has genuinely made a difference. We've shaped and saved so many missions together, and trust me, we're just getting started. Thank you to everyone around the planet who advocated for space with us this year. Now, we'll look back on some of the science missions and moments from 2023 that you helped make a reality. I'm super excited to have Rae Paoletta with us. She's our outstanding director of content and engagement here at The Planetary Society. Of course, we have the one and only Mat Kaplan. After 20 fantastic years of hosting Planetary Radio, he's an absolute legend among us Space fans. Let's look back on some of the coolest things that we've learned and accomplished this year. Hey, Mat and Rae, thanks for joining me.

Mat Kaplan: What a pleasure.

Rae Paoletta: Hey. Hey, so happy to be here.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: The gang's all back together. It's nice to have you back on the show too, Mat. I am always so happy to see you.

Mat Kaplan: Thank you, Sarah. I appreciate that. It's good to be here, and good to see both of your smiling faces. We have a lot to talk about.

Rae Paoletta: We sure do.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: No, it's been such a year. The last time we were all in the same place for one of our Planetary Society adventures that wasn't just us on a retreat was all of us together in Florida. We were waiting for the Artemis I launch. That officially actually went up in November. We weren't there to see it, but I feel like this year marks this new age of lunar exploration, and it feels really exciting to me.

Mat Kaplan: I think that's a very fair statement. I mean, just look at all the activity, some of which I guess we're about to talk about, but yeah, it's a very exciting time. It's actually pretty exciting all across the Solar System.

Rae Paoletta: Also, can I just, on a separate note, put in a request for a bonus episode of Planetary Radio one day where we just talk about adventures at Artemis, because I feel like there were some fun B sides to that that were never revealed? I think it would just be a good time like Mat and I missing an exit, and to travel 50 minutes.

Mat Kaplan: How many miles out of our way did we have to go? Way too far. I was driving, folks, just so you know.

Rae Paoletta: I still think that was my fault. But anyway, I digress.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We did have some great adventures, and you got to go on that adventure with the all nominal crew too, right? So, that was a whole thing.

Rae Paoletta: I love those guys. They're the best.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: So, Artemis I finally launched. That all turned out spectacularly. We're looking forward to the next launches of the Artemis program, but we didn't just have moments for the United States going to space. We also had the fifth nation join us in space. We had India launch their Chandrayaan 3 moon mission actually landed on the moon near the South Pole. That was such a cool moment. Then shortly after that, the Japanese Space Agency's SLIM mission launched to the moon too. So, now we finally officially have five nations of the earth landed on the moon. That is such a cool moment.

Mat Kaplan: Very exciting to see this become ever more international.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We didn't just have cool moon missions launching this year. We also had a really exciting mission from the European Space Agency going out to Jupiter. Do you want to tell us about that Rae?

Rae Paoletta: Yeah. I mean, it's still moon related, but maybe other moons of other worlds. So, this year in April of 2023, we had the JUICE launch, so Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer. JUICE is a very interesting mission. It's going to explore three of Jupiter's Galilean moons. So, there's four total, but this one will just be focusing on Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Essentially, it'll be just spending some quality time with each of these worlds, and learning more about them. For example, we think there might be oceans beneath the surface of these moons, so there are some juicy details, good business there to dive into. What I do know about it so far is that JUICE will be able to use radar to give us more detail on what's going on beneath the icy crust of these moons than we've ever had really. So, I'm looking forward to seeing what it finds and how that could be potentially tied to habitability.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: What's cool about it too is that while one of the moons got left out, IO, the Juno mission is still in its extended mission at this point, getting closer and closer to that moon, taking some really cool data. I also learned earlier this year that IO might have had a potential subsurface liquid water ocean, or even on the surface that got completely blasted away by Jupiter. So, the things we're learning about these moons, absolutely wild, and I cannot wait to learn more.

Mat Kaplan: Those images coming back from Juno from that camera that almost didn't make it on the spacecraft, but was thrown in as sort of a bone to we, space geeks, out here has delivered terrific science. Most recently, those great images of IO and the surface of Jupiter, it's just more proof that you're crazy if you don't bring a camera along when you travel around the neighborhood.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Really though. I mean, we just have to advocate for every camera all the time on every mission so we can see these things.

Rae Paoletta: I was also thinking about how we're talking about the Galilean moons discovered obviously by Galileo. I think it's been 400 years give or take since that happened. It's just wild to think on the grand scale of time how much has happened from looking through a telescope to actually sending a spacecraft that's dedicated to uncovering what's going on beneath these moons. That is truly wild to think about.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I would love to just take one picture of IO, show it to Galileo, and be like, "Look, it was totally worth it."

Mat Kaplan: He'd look. He'd love it.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: 100%, but this was also the year that we finally got samples back from the OSIRIS-REx mission that went out to asteroid Bennu. You actually got to go and see that sample return, right, Rae?

Rae Paoletta: Yeah, and I have to limit myself on how much I'm going to talk about it, because there is so much to say. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. I was at the sample drop back in September in Utah actually, and it was just fantastic. None of us, I mean, the press and the folks who were there, none of us actually got to see the moment when the sample capsule dropped out of the sky, because we were so far away, and it was so teeny tiny by comparison, but we did see the helicopter return it to the army base where we were all watching and just seeing that thing fly through the air. The sample capsule was absolutely exhilarating. It was such a rush of adrenaline. There was probably at least in part due to me being up since three in the morning that day. But regardless, I will cherish that moment forever. I cannot wait to see what the sample analysis reveals. We've already learned the samples from the asteroid Bennu, for example, contain carbon and water. So, does that mean Bennu has the building blocks for life as we know it? I guess, we'll have to wait and find out.

Mat Kaplan: I bet you it does. Do you know what blew me away just a couple of days before we did this? Learning how absolutely lucky Dante Lauretta, the head of that mission and everybody, all the rest of us were, because it could have ended in the last few seconds with that mistake that was made in wiring the mechanism that fired off the [inaudible 00:24:16] shoot, so it didn't happen. Thank the gods of the Solar System that the main shoot worked, and we got that down in one piece.

Rae Paoletta: Totally. Oh my gosh.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: They also had some technical difficulties trying to unscrew the thing. Space is hard, but we're going to get those samples. I just wanted to bring up the Psyche launch. We're not going to go into super detail, but I was so looking forward to that mission launch, not just because I want to know more about this metallic asteroid called Psyche, which is just absolutely strange to think there might be a fully metallic body out there, but I was so moved, Mat, by your previous interview with Lindy Elkins-Tanton in the earlier years before I became host of Planetary Radio. Getting to talk to her during this year as she approached launch, hearing her just ecstatic feelings after she actually watched it launch was just... It was a beautiful moment, and now we get to see what actually happens. Plus, I got to talk to one of the people who models creators on that asteroid by literally firing projectiles at other meteorites. So, that was a mission that I was particularly connected to just because I got to meet so many people on the mission team.

Mat Kaplan: I was talking with the wonderful Jim Bell, our past president of The Planetary Society. He was at the office the other day. I said, "Does anybody want to guess whether we're actually... once Psyche gets there, whether we're going to see metal, or is it going to be a big... Has it collected a lot of fluff like so many other asteroids?" He says, "We don't know. That's why we have to go and look."

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It'd be funny if it was fluffy on the outside, but because of things hitting the asteroid, we actually got little bits of metal underneath. I really want to know if the edges of these craters are as jagged and knife-like as they think they might be.

Mat Kaplan: Wouldn't that be cool? God, that's going to be great. I sure hope so.

Rae Paoletta: It's like such a jiggly puff asteroid in a way. It's like it looks soft and maybe fluffy or something, but it is metal. Do not mess with it.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We'll be right back with the rest of our look back at 2023 after the short break.

Bill Nye: Greetings, Bill Nye here. What a year it's been at The Planetary Society from advocating for missions that matter, to funding new technology, to grants for Planetary research and biology and space, to sharing the wonder of space exploration with the world. You made it all happen. Many of the great scientific missions we've dreamed of are happening, and it's thanks to your support, but we can't stop now because tomorrow's discoveries must begin today. With your help, we can keep our work going strong into 2024, and continue to explore worlds, find life, and defend Earth. Plus, when you make a gift today, your gift will be matched up to $100,000 thanks to a special matching gift challenge from a generous Planetary Society member. Your year-end contribution, especially when doubled, will go far to help launch us into all the exciting opportunities tomorrow will bring. Visit Thank you.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: So, we had some great launches, some great missions going out this year, but it was also a really big year for human space flight. I know that you are all in this, Mat. So, what were some of your favorite moments in human space flight this year?

Mat Kaplan: I love this stuff, but as I read the book by the Weinersmiths, Zach and Kelly, who you talked to recently, because we're going to feature them, a conversation with them in The Planetary Society member community book club. I'm reading their book, their terrific book of City on Mars about why we should go slow maybe on putting people up there for a lot of good reasons. It still was a heck of a year for human space flight. On May 25th, there were 20 people in space simultaneously, not for long, because, how many of them, six were on Virgin Galactic's Unity space plane, and so that was a short ride. But if you look just five days later, there were 17 people in low Earth orbit, six on the Chinese Space Station, Tiangong, which I love that that translates to sky palace. I wish we had applied that to the ISS, and 11 people on the ISS. Just truly amazing, and as we talk about all of this, India is moving forward toward putting its own citizens and space on its own rockets as part of its, I'm going to mess it up, Gaganyaan Programme, which did this very successful abort test back in October, only the fourth nation ever to get this far with a human space flight program, and they're hoping 2025 to actually send one of these up with people on it. Europe is behind, I guess, because they know they can rely on other folks, but they are testing this uncrewed space plane called Space Writer. It's an acronym, but don't ask me to remember what it stands for. So, they are making progress as well with a reusable. There are disappointments though as well. Boeing Starliner, my goodness, I don't know what to say about Boeing. They've had their troubles between the 737 and Starliner. We're now looking at least at April before what was supposed to be concurrent with the SpaceX Dragon before that makes it into orbit. They're going ahead with a human space flight even though there were some minor problems still on the last uncrewed flight, which happened in this year. In the meantime, Blue Origin is gosh knows when they're going to launch their new Glenn rocket, which is supposed to be their answer at least to the SpaceX Falcon nine. It keeps getting held back largely because of the engines, the BE-4 engine, which is not by coincidence also what's holding up the ULA Vulcan rocket, because they're both going to use these BE-4 engines from Blue Origin, and both of them. We thought we would see these launch before 2023, and it's still going to be at least next year before these happen.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I did want to say though that I did get to go to the Blue Origin rocket facility in Florida when we went to go see the Artemis 1 launch, or attempt to see the Artemis 1 launch, and they are making some good progress. While we haven't seen an actual full rocket on a launchpad launching, they are machining parts. They are putting together. I got to see it on the floor, so I have hope. It just might take a little while.

Mat Kaplan: Elon Musk said an interesting thing the other day. He said, "If there was a button I could push to put Blue Origin out of business, he said, I wouldn't push it, because competition is good for us." He said, "But maybe Jeff should put a little bit more time into that part of his empire." Interesting advice from a guy who a lot of us would like to give advice to as well. Speaking of SpaceX though, I will say no more, but I will say something about Starship super heavy booster flights. It was disappointing to see how many people in the general media said that the second Starship booster test flight was not that successful. It really was.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It was.

Mat Kaplan: This is how SpaceX approaches stuff. I mean, look back to the beginnings of the development of, let's say, the Atlas Rocket by the U.S. and others, and failure after failure after failure. They're on number two, and they successfully launched both stages. They're talking now about the third flight, assuming it makes it into orbit, but they're actually going to test transfer of propellant. They're going to move around some huge amount of liquid oxygen, which is a key part of preparing the super heavy in Starship to take humans to the moon in Artemis 3. As we know, Starship, the lunar lander version of it, is going to be needed. That's what we're going to use to get human astronauts back down to the moon, and maybe not in 2030. Maybe that's going to get pushed back, but they're making, in my opinion, amazing progress with that gigantic rocket by far the biggest ever flown. I can't wait to see what happens. They may be flying that third mission early in 2024 maybe in January, although Elon was implying it might still happen this month. It doesn't look like that's going to happen, but there is so much exciting stuff happen. I got to go back to the Vulcan rocket one more time. I thought we were going to get this great Christmas present. It was going to launch on Christmas Eve with the Astrobotic Peregrine 1 lander for the moon. That's now probably not going to happen until January, but still, it's coming. Those engines there that you saw them developing, it looks like they're working out.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Unfortunate because we had such good luck launching JWST on Christmas a few years ago, so it would've been a fun moment.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I tell you though, that SpaceX Starship launch was actually everything I was hoping for. From my perspective, it was really successful, but also, I was in this fun place where I had made a bet that it was going to explode, so I was both right and wrong.

Mat Kaplan: That's right.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Because it made it all the way up there, and then one of the most spectacular explosions I've ever seen in space in my life.

Mat Kaplan: Don't you want to go to one of those launches, I mean, and just get your body shaken by those engines? What's it, 32 engines or 31? I forget.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: 36.

Mat Kaplan: It's up there.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's a lot.

Mat Kaplan: It's just got to be an absolutely overwhelming experience.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I can't even imagine. The only launch that I've ever been to is to see the DART launch, the double asteroid redirect test launch, and that was from VandenBerg's Space Force Base. I was miles away from that launch, and I could still feel it rattling my bones.

Mat Kaplan: Same with our Falcon Heavy for LightSail 2 and all the other stuff, the less significant stuff that was on that rocket. That's a big darn rocket, the Falcon Heavy, and it's dwarfed by Starship super heavy.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Have you seen a launch in person yet, Rae?

Rae Paoletta: No. My chance was when I went to see Artemis, and it didn't go off. So, this is my official ask, I guess, to go back and see a launch.

Mat Kaplan: You have my full support in that being budgeted, Rae. I think that's got to happen.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Just don't bring Bruce with you.

Rae Paoletta: Thank you, Mat.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Bring Bruce with you. It will not launch.

Mat Kaplan: Poor Bruce.

Rae Paoletta: I'll talk it up to the powers that be, Mat. I'll ask them if I can go. Thanks.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Hopefully next year. We've got a lot of cool things to look forward to. There's all kinds of cool stuff going on with human space flight, but we've also learned a bunch of really beautiful things about our Solar System this year. You already brought up what happened with the OSIRIS-REx Sample Return, Rae, but we also got to test some of the samples from asteroid Ryugu.

Mat Kaplan: Absolutely. The most exciting thing to come out of this, as far as I'm concerned, is the discovery of organics in this space rock. It just appears. It used to be NASA's motto was Follow the water. We were going to find the water around the Solar System, and boy did we find it. Sure seems like it could have been follow the organics, because it looks more and more like we are finding organics everywhere we look, just like we have found water, whether it's frozen or not. That's extremely exciting. I mean, you were already talking a little bit about this and the fact that these are the building blocks of life, and so we are taking those additional steps in the search for life, which of course has been a top priority of The Planetary Society since the creation of our organization. We'll be doing a lot with Search for Life in the coming months at The Planetary Society as well. We've got some big plans.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: How wild is that though? The first time I heard that they found organic compounds in samples off of Earth, I was completely wowed. At this point, if there aren't any organics in those samples, I'm genuinely surprised. It seems like we're finding them everywhere we go.

Mat Kaplan: Yeah. Imagine if Cassini, it was just too old technology, found those simple organics when it flew through those and solidus plumes, who knows what else it might've found if it had had the kinds of spectrometers that were now going to send out on Europa Clipper and Dragonfly. We might find some really interesting stuff.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Even with our limited ability there, we still found evidence of hydrothermal vents. We found the organic compounds. We even found some evidence of phosphorus and other things out there. So, I don't know. We really need to go back and retest these things, because from where I'm sitting, there's a pretty good chance we might find some prebiotic or even some small organisms in that moon if we look carefully enough, if we can get beneath the ice. Thankfully there's plumes. We'll find a way.

Mat Kaplan: I want to find a tuna skeleton. I want to find a tuna fossil that's been blown out of one of the plumes.

Rae Paoletta: I want to find a manta shrimp or something, a nice-

Mat Kaplan: That's okay.

Rae Paoletta: ... colorful little shrimp.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: See, I always think of the shrimp too, because I'm thinking about the hydrothermal vents we have here on earth, and all the entire biome that grew up around them, but the shrimp are the ones I always think about, because they're see-through. They don't have any pigmentation. They don't even have eyeballs, because they don't need it. It's so dark down there, and those are the creatures that I always think we're going to find in Enceladus or something, but...

Rae Paoletta: One day, we'll play this episode back when we find the mantis shrimp in the plumes, and be like, "They were right," because you know what? Shrimp are survivors. Shrimp are hardy. The tardigrades and the shrimp, that's where my bed is.

Mat Kaplan: Haven't tasted tardigrades, but shrimp also, delicious.

Rae Paoletta: Delicious.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: You've probably tasted tardigrades, and not known it.

Mat Kaplan: Oh gosh.

Rae Paoletta: That's a terrifying thought.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But totally true.

Mat Kaplan: You're probably right. Yes, it is.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I think another one of the really cool moments this year was actually with the Lucy mission. That one went off. It's on its way to the Trojan asteroid, so it is far, far from its target. We have a few more years, but we did do a test fly by of an asteroid called Dinkinesh, and that got so strange. I did not see those results coming.

Rae Paoletta: Oh my gosh. It's one of my favorite plot twists of the year, and it's really like two plot twists that happened. So, I'll back up for a second. Lucy launched in 2021, but like you said, it's on its way to investigate the mysterious Trojan asteroids, of course, and it took a little pit stop to check out a main belt asteroid named Dinkinesh, as you said, or dinky as it's being called online, which I just think is adorable. Like you're saying, space is full of surprises, and it turns out that dinky wasn't actually one asteroid. Scientists realized it was actually two asteroids, and so that obviously caused a lot of conversation to spark up online, but then there was another twist to that, and it was later revealed that dinky's moonlet actually had a satellite of its own. It was a contact binary, meaning the moon and its satellite were touching or contacting each other, but TLDR or long story short, space is super cute sometimes, and sometimes what you think as one asteroid is actually three dinkies.

Mat Kaplan: Every place we go, we get surprised. Every place we go, every mission that we go on, every time we look at something new, it's one of the great wonderful unbroken rules of space exploration.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I was talking with some people from the Lucy Mission team recently about that flyby, and I asked them what they thought was the formation history of dinky and its moonlet. They're not exactly sure yet, but what they did suggest, what Hal Levison suggested was that asteroids like this when they get spun up by radiation from the sun sometimes eject stuff out, and this might explain why the two different lobes of this moonlet are about the same size. They went off into space, and then glommed onto each other, but all of that is speculation, because we're only just beginning to understand these systems. So, I cannot wait to see more of these asteroids, and hopefully we'll get surprised again. I'm sure we will.

Rae Paoletta: Oh yeah.

Mat Kaplan: No doubt.

Rae Paoletta: It will not be boring. I can guarantee that.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, let's see. Looking at our list, I think the only thing we've got left in here is maybe Jupiter's moons.

Rae Paoletta: This is a fun one, speaking of surprises, because when I was doing the research for this, I went in here thinking that Jupiter was still on top with the number of moons in its system. Actually, I was mistaken, because it seems that it was not widely reported that Saturn is actually back to claim the throne. So, that's a fun little tidbit that I was surprised to know about 15 minutes before this.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I actually have a T-shirt with Saturn and Earth. Earth is walking the moon like a dog, and Saturn has just a bajillion moons on all these leashes looking very stressed out. That's how I think about it, but you'd think that Jupiter would have more moons

Rae Paoletta: Because of how massive it is, and just the gravitational pull for sure, but I don't know. I mean, here's the thing. I think, a little playful rivalry in space is always fun. I know that they're always neck and neck for having the highest number of moons, but I feel like I'm going to just say it. I'm team Saturn in this one, because I love Saturn's little weirdo moons. Okay? I love those little misfit buddies, and I want to see more of them. It seems that the newest batch of moons that were added to Saturn were irregular moons, so they've got funky eccentric orbits. I don't know. I just think there's something very endearing about that, and I welcome more dumpling moons as many as we can find similar to Pan.

Mat Kaplan: I'm going to stick with team Jupiter. I have been a fan forever, and I'm going to say, "Big guy, you got the mass. Come on, gather some more rocks. Get in the game."

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's collecting all of its extra friends in those Lagrange points. That's why we've got so many Trojan asteroids.

Rae Paoletta: Oh yeah. Lucy is going to be very busy.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's funny. Of the bodies in the Solar System, Rae, I feel like you have strong daftness energy, like Saturn's Moon, the one that's going through the rings just creating all those funky ripples like your daftness.

Rae Paoletta: Can I add that to my LinkedIn? I feel like that's the nicest thing anyone's ever told me.

Mat Kaplan: The propellers that Cassini saw in the rings, the so-called propellers, god, there's weird dynamic stuff going on in those rings. So yeah, I've got a nice spot in my heart for Saturn too.

Rae Paoletta: Likewise. I mean, how could you not love Jupiter? It does do a good job protecting us from all those asteroids.

Mat Kaplan: Yes, thank you.

Rae Paoletta: Shout out to Jupiter for that. That's something that we can't count out. That's a big deal. Appreciate that.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Can you imagine what life on Earth would be without Jupiter there to protect us? It's like our older brother just being like, "Nah, leave my little kid sister alone."

Mat Kaplan: Good for us. We very likely wouldn't be here talking about how much we admire Jupiter.

Rae Paoletta: Because we wouldn't be here at all.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: But that's an interesting point, right? As we're looking out to other star systems out there, and all the exoplanets we've been discovering and we're, what, 5,600 or so exoplanets we've discovered and confirmed at this point. I bet learning more about these dynamics within our own Solar System, knowing that Jupiter protects us might give us a clue when we're looking at other star systems. If there's a large planet out there with an inner terrestrial planet, maybe they'll have a higher chance of surviving just because that guy's there.

Mat Kaplan: Just kudos to all of the work being done to reveal all these worlds around the Solar System. I mean, I am ever so much older than either of you, and so I do tell that story about how when I was a kid, all the books said, "Not only are we probably unlikely to ever see another star as more than a point of light, we will probably never be able to detect whether there are planets around those other stars." So wrong, you early guys. It's just thrilling to see not just all these thousands of worlds, but that we're actually learning about the weather on some of them. Who knows, I'm still pulling for JWST to be able to maybe do a little bit more to tell us what's in some of those atmospheres and on that never ending search for organics or at least for industrial pollution.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We did though have JWST detect its first exoplanet this year. At this point, we're already up to a place where they've found potentially methane and carbon dioxide on an exoplanet out there. We're going to be talking to that team in a couple episodes, so everybody listening can look forward to that, but I can't even imagine what we're going to learn in the next year, what we're going to learn in the next decade. This is going to be a big moment for us at The Planetary Society, because next year is our 45th anniversary, so we've got a lot to celebrate.

Mat Kaplan: We do, and a lot to look forward to.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well, thanks for joining me and going back through 2023. It was a big year, and there's a lot of things we didn't get to cover. Next year's going to be just as hectic, so I'll bring you guys back on next year. We'll deconstruct it all.

Rae Paoletta: Bring on the chaos. We'd love to see it.

Mat Kaplan: New surprises. Always a pleasure, Sarah. Love to be back in front of the microphone with you.

Rae Paoletta: Thanks so much, Sarah. This is great.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Working with everyone here at The Planetary Society is such a joy. I cannot even convey it. When I tell you that my coworkers are some of the best humans I know, I'm not exaggerating. It is an absolute privilege to get to work with them. Of course, that includes the great Bruce Betts, our chief scientist here at The Planetary Society. He's been with me for every show of my first year as host of Planetary Radio. Let's check in with him for what's up. Happy almost new year, Bruce.

Bruce Betts: Happy almost new year to you as well.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I mean, I feel like my year was a little more bonkers than most other people's years. This was my first year as host of Planetary Radio, so it was a time for me. How about you?

Bruce Betts: It was. You had an exciting time. Oh, I had a good time. Mysterious leg injuries, surgeries, broken bones. It was a good year, but professionally, it was very good. So, that's good. Nothing permanent, so it's all good.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: It's all good.

Bruce Betts: Sorry, I didn't mean to whine. I had a great year. We can just go with that edit if you want.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm just saying if anybody wants to send Bruce some love, definitely send him some love.

Bruce Betts: I'm scared and warmed all at the same time.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I feel like this year was a cool moment to regroup. We had some big space launches. We saw the Psyche mission go up, some moments, OSIRIS-REx coming back down, but there are some mission that I'm really looking forward to next year. What do you think are the biggest space missions that we should all be excited about in 2024?

Bruce Betts: Well, we've got Europa Clipper launching, and that'll take years to get there, but we'll get out and explore Europa, which is super, super, duper exciting with its subsurface ocean. Then the Japanese mission, MMX, that is headed off to visit both of Mars' moons, and sample at least one of them, and return samples. We've got... I'm particularly excited at The Planetary Society, because we have a project we helped support PlanetVac from Honeybee Robotics that'll be doing one of the sampling mechanisms. It grew up and moved out of the testing phase, and has real flight and everything. Then we've got some number of new commercial, so-called clips because of the acronym missions going to the moon, and landing on the moon. So, that'll be an interesting experiment. We'll see some more places on the moon. I believe the Chinese are going back to the moon again next year as well. Human land, theoretically, I think they're still launching Artemis 2 with humans on SLS, so we'll see, but all sorts of good stuff. Of course, ongoing, I like to remind people, there's a bunch of stuff exploring the Solar System right now. There's a pile of spacecraft at Mars, a pile at the moon, a bunch coming along to Venus, some there. We got stuff going to asteroids. We've got a bunch of asteroid stuff going on, including Lucy's bopping from one asteroid to another. Lucy gave us the surprise contact binary moonlet of a month or two ago.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Dinkinesh, that was awesome.

Bruce Betts: Anyway, what about you, Sarah?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I'm excited for the European Space Agency's Hera mission to launch, because I-

Bruce Betts: Oh, thank you. I accidentally forgot that.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: No, I want to see what the DART mission really did up close and personal. I know they had to wait a little while for the debris to clear so we could really get an assessment of what happened there, but I'm really excited to see what Hera finds.

Bruce Betts: No, that's great. Those originally planned to go at the same time as DART, but it didn't work out, but fortunately they were able to get a mission approved to go later. Also, the Italian cubesat got some images of the actual impact. But as you say, there was debris everywhere, so it'll be good scientifically and excitedly to see what crater is actually left in the moonlet.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Those LICIACube shots were awesome. I mean, I didn't think I would be so excited by us blowing a new crater in a tiny asteroid somewhere but-

Bruce Betts: Dude, how could that not-

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's the first time we've attempted this.

Bruce Betts: That's super exciting.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I mean, it feels mean. Those asteroids didn't do anything to us.

Bruce Betts: Do you want to rethink that statement?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I mean, those particular asteroids-

Bruce Betts: Particular asteroids didn't do anything, but as a genre of space objects, they do some bad hoodoo, and that's part of what-

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That's true.

Bruce Betts: That was what DART was all about, was trying to start testing our mechanisms for defending Earth from dangerous asteroid impacts. So, I'm excited also from that planetary defense standpoint is something we try to do, because if we don't do it, they will keep coming.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: They'll get us.

Bruce Betts: Good stuff. What else you got?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I think the thing that... It's not a space mission, but the moment that I'm most looking forward to has got to be the total solar eclipse in April, because this is going to be my first total solar eclipse working with all of you. We're going to be at the Eclipse-O-Rama in Texas.

Bruce Betts: The what?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Eclipse-O-Rama.

Bruce Betts: There's an eclipse?

Sarah Al-Ahmed: You're such a troll.

Bruce Betts: Well, yes I am. Yes, April 8th, and Planetary Society will have Eclipse-O-Rama in Texas. Look at totality. It's groovy. My first solar eclipse was 2017.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Same.

Bruce Betts: So, it's as cool as you think it is.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I remember right after that eclipse, there was a moment we were all completely mind blown trying to think about how we were going to get to the next eclipse, which at the moment, seven years seemed forever. I remember us all making a pact. We're like, "By the next time we're under a total solar eclipse, we will have accomplished our dreams." That's a big claim, but I feel like I nailed it. I'm going to be standing under that eclipse having accomplished a lot of my space dreams.

Bruce Betts: Congratulations, Sarah.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: That might feel different. It'll hit different. Before we get into the random space fact, I just wanted to share a quick, huge thank you to one of our listeners. If you're out there right now, Bob Ware, I'm just telling you, I have the gift that you sent to our office, and I'm really appreciative. A few weeks ago, you may remember, we did a show with Simone Marchi about asteroids and cratering on metallic asteroids like Psyche. Bob wrote in with a question, which I sent to Simone. He wrote back an answer, and I fully thought that Bob was joking when he said in our member community that he was going to be sending me some chocolate, but he did in fact send chocolate. I will be sharing that with our coworkers and with Simone. So, thanks for sending that.

Bruce Betts: The perfect thank you for all asteroid work would've been a random thing to talk about today, but now you've ruined it. Mostly random space facts. I wasn't very inspired. I'm sorry. But the fact is interesting. I mentioned our little friend that we talked about earlier also ruining any randomness I had, which was Dimorphos that got slammed into by the DART probe, the moon of Didymos. Yes. So, I wondered what are the smallest and largest asteroids that we have visited with spacecraft? Dimorphos wins for smallest. There's some close competitors like the Dinky, the new moonlet, which I forgot what they actually are naming it. The contact binary is actually a little bit larger. Then we went all the way from... So, Dimorphos would fit on the field of a stadium, basically. You could stick it in the field. People could sit on the seats, and watch it, just sit there, and be an asteroid. But if you want to think about the largest asteroid, which gets into a question whether you count Ceres at all still as an asteroid or as a dwarf planet, but let's look at Vesta, either the largest or second largest. For Vesta, the equivalent of that stadium, for Dimorphos, we'd need Iceland.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Whoa.

Bruce Betts: Vesta is a little bigger than Iceland, particularly in one dimension. So, we got a stadium versus Iceland. That's what we visited, which is pretty good analysis on the upper end of the spectrum, but there are much smaller objects all the way down to the dust that hits the atmosphere, sand-size particles. There you go. There's a random thought of asteroid sizes we visited. I particularly wondered what the smallest was, and it turns out it is Dimorphos, but more to come.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: So exciting. We'll see who breaks the record.

Bruce Betts: Yeah. Well, there are missions. I know the Chinese are interested in the co-orbiting objects that co-orbit with the Earth, and those would be smaller. Lucy's visiting some small objects, but I don't think they're going to be as small as Dimorphos, unless that like Dimorphos, they find some binaries that have small moonlets.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I asked them about that, and they said, "Most likely, their main targets for the mission probably won't have such surprises," because they know a little bit more about what the shapes look like by watching the asteroids pass in front of stars, so they've got a better idea there, whereas Dinkinesh was really surprising, because it was a bonus flyby almost.

Bruce Betts: They are very late in the process. Full commitment to go to that. All right, well, we'll see. I have yet to see people go anywhere for the first time that I can recall, and not be surprised by something. Even if it's small, even the different asteroids, I'll have something weird.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Well-

Bruce Betts: That's why we think it's cool.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: Exactly. I hope your 2024 surprises you in good ways, Bruce.

Bruce Betts: I was scared. I hope it surprises you. I hope your 2024 is magnificent, wonderful, and you continue to fulfill your space dreams, and continue to play on the podcast radio show, and have fun.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: I plan for it.

Bruce Betts: Oster rancheros, and everybody, you got to look up the night sky, and think about your upcoming wonderful year and what role chips are going to play in that. Those can be British chips or American chips, either use of the word anywhere in the world. Thank you and goodnight.

Sarah Al-Ahmed: We've reached the end of this week's episode of Planetary Radio, and the end of 2023, but we'll be back next week/next year with the absolutely bonkers results from JWST about an exoplanet called K2-18B. It's got methane. It's got carbon dioxide, and I tell you, it has dimethyl sulfide on that sub Neptune. I can't think of a better way to ring in the new year than biomarkers. Before we go, I want to say a massive thank you to literally every one of you. You've made my first year as host of Planetary Radio so special. Your messages, my gosh, they've been so heartwarming and inspiring. I cherish every gift and handwritten note that you've sent to me. You all remind me daily what a wonderful community we've built together. Let's not forget all of the extraordinary moments at conventions and events that I've had bumping into fellow Planetary Radio fans. It's literally been the highlight of my year getting to meet some of you in person. This year has been a whirlwind of learning and adventure. I've grown so much not just as a host, but as a space enthusiast too. It's been an absolute blast exploring the cosmos with you all. Here's to 2024. You can help others discover the passion, beauty, and joy of space, science. And exploration by leaving a review and a rating on platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Your feedback not only brightens our day, but helps other curious minds find their place in space through Planetary Radio. You can also send us your space thoughts, questions, and poetry at our email at [email protected], or if you're a Planetary Society member, leave a comment in the Planetary Radio space and our member community app. Planetary Radio is produced by The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, and is made possible by our amazing community of space fans around the world. You can join us as we work together to shape a future in space in 2024 and beyond. Mark Hilverda and Rae Paoletta are our associate producers. Andrew Lucas is our audio editor. Josh Doyle composed our theme, which is arranged and performed by Pieter Schloser. Until next week and next year, ad astra.