The Downlink • Apr 07, 2023
A mission to pull back the shroud
Venus, seen here in ultraviolet wavelengths by JAXA’s Akatsuki orbiter in 2016, is not only shrouded in a thick atmosphere; it’s also shrouded in mystery. This is because very few missions have studied it up close, particularly when it comes to its surface. NASA’s VERITAS mission would dramatically expand our understanding of our sister planet, but is facing devastating budget cuts. Read on to learn more about why this mission matters and what you can do to save it. Image credit: JAXA/ISAS/DARTS/Damia Bouic.
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Meet the Artemis II crew. This week NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced the astronauts who will fly on the Artemis II mission, which will take them around the Moon in the first crewed lunar mission since the Apollo program. The crew includes (from left to right) NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch, Reid Wiseman (seated), Victor Glover, and CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen. Image credit: NASA.
Perseverance is sampling a new area on Mars. The rover, which has been collecting samples from the Martian surface since 2020, has moved on to a new area atop the Jezero Crater delta. The first sample was taken from a rock the science team calls “Berea,” which they believe formed from rock deposits that were carried downstream to this location by an ancient river. If so, this rock could differ from those originating in the delta. Meanwhile, the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that has been accompanying Perseverance broke records this week by flying faster and higher than ever before.
NASA is moving away from naming spacecraft after people. A new policy says that missions should be named after people only when their contributions are "so extraordinary that any other form of recognition by the Agency would be considered inadequate." This decision comes in the wake of critiques about the naming of the James Webb Space Telescope.
Several JAXA missions may be facing delays due to rocket issues. The Japanese H3 rocket failed in its first launch, possibly because of issues with its upper-stage engine. Because that engine is very similar to the one used on the H2-A rocket, launches of that vehicle are also on hold. This could delay the launches of the XRISM X-ray telescope, the SLIM lunar lander, and possibly MMX, a mission to return samples from the Martian moon Phobos.
From The Planetary Society
The VERITAS mission to Venus is worth saving. NASA’s proposed VERITAS mission is crucial to our understanding of Venus, and has the potential to yield insights into Earth’s planetary future. Yet the mission to study Venus from orbit is facing budget cuts that would indefinitely delay it, despite being a top priority of the planetary science community. You can help save this mission by sharing information about why it’s important and, if you live in the United States, by sending a petition to Congress. Pictured: An example of the kind of high-resolution mapping that VERITAS could provide, compared to the surface data we have from NASA’s early 1990s Magellan mission. Image credit: Sue Smrekar.
Get ready for the Juice launch. The European Space Agency’s mission to Jupiter’s icy moons is scheduled to launch on Thursday, April 13. We’ve got your complete guide to what to expect from the launch and the mission as a whole. Plus, Planetary Society members can join our Juice launch watch party in the new rocket launch channel in our online member community.
The Hope mission has exceeded expectations, and it’s not done yet. The United Arab Emirates’ Mars orbiter has been operating for two years now, studying the Martian atmosphere and how the planet’s climate changes over time. Mohsen Al Awadhi, Director of the Space Missions Department at the UAE Space Agency, joins this week’s Planetary Radio to share insights into the mission's journey and tease the next exciting chapter: observing Mars' mysterious moon, Deimos.
Look for Venus shining very bright in the western evening sky. On April 10 and 11, Venus will be right near the Pleiades star cluster. Mercury is low in the west below Venus. Mercury reaches its highest point on April 11 and then begins to drop towards the horizon again. Higher up in the evening sky look for reddish Mars, which is growing dimmer as it moves farther away from Earth. In the pre-dawn, look for yellowish Saturn in the east. Find out what else to look for in April’s night skies.
Celebrate space on Yuri’s Night!
Taking place every year on April 12, Yuri’s Night marks the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s monumental 1961 mission that made him the first human in space. This is the world’s biggest space party, with events online and in person around the world. Find the event nearest you! Pictured: Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin at a Yuri’s Night event. Image credit: Hector Sandoval.
Wow of the Week
Saturn is doing its best impression of an evil eye in this dramatic ultraviolet image from the Hubble Space Telescope. ESA researchers are using ultraviolet light observations from Hubble as well as archival data from Cassini, the Voyager 1 and 2 probes, and the International Ultraviolet Explorer mission to study interactions between Saturn’s rings and its upper atmosphere. Image credit: ESA/Hubble/NASA/L. Ben-Jaffel.
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