The Downlink • Feb 26, 2021
A Perseverance extravaganza!
This astonishing photo was taken by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover as it completed the final stage of its entry, descent, and landing sequence. A camera on the rover looked up at the thruster-powered jetpack as it was being lowered onto the surface of Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Andy Saunders.
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You can now experience the drama of a Mars landing like never before. NASA’s Perseverance rover recorded a treasure trove of sounds and images during its successful descent to Mars last week. We’ve collected all the big moments in one place. Read more about how the mission will search for signs of past life and collect samples for future return to Earth. Pictured: The rover descends on cables towards the surface of Mars in this image captured by its thruster-powered skycrane. Image credit: NASA/JPL
A Cygnus cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station carrying supplies and science. The vehicle is named after Katherine Johnson, one of NASA’s “Hidden Figures” who made key contributions to the early U.S. space program. Learn how the space station helps prepare astronauts for deep space exploration.
NASA’s DART mission has been delayed to a launch window that spans from November 2021 to February 2022. The spacecraft, which was originally scheduled to launch in July, is the first planetary defense mission to test a method of deflecting an asteroid on course to hit Earth. NASA says the delays are partially related to COVID-19 and that DART will still arrive at its target asteroid in September 2022.
From The Planetary Society
Planetary Radio brings you the excitement and drama of the Perseverance landing. In this week’s episode, we’ve collected the most thrilling moments from the landing and the revelations that followed, including the first sounds recorded on the Red Planet. Plus, listen to the winning poems from the What’s Up Mars poetry contest. Pictured: NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of the Perseverance rover descending under parachute to Jezero crater on Mars. It spotted the landing from 700 kilometers (435 miles) away in Mars orbit. Image credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona
Thanks to the support of our members, The Planetary Society is celebrating major milestones in our efforts to explore Mars. After 25 years of advocating for a Mars microphone, we are delighted to hear the first sounds recorded from another world. And as Mastcam-Z gets ready to image Mars, it will calibrate its camera using a target designed with the help of The Planetary Society that includes a motto, graphics, and a sundial. Learn more about The Planetary Society’s contributions to Mars exploration over the years in this short video.
The future of exploration needs you—join our virtual Day of Action! This annual event brings together Planetary Society members to meet with their representatives in Congress and advocate in support of space science and exploration. This year’s Day of Action on 31 March 2021 will be entirely virtual. Never before has it been this easy for you to speak directly to Congress—the most effective way to influence congressional thinking on issues like space. Learn more about this unique and impactful event, and register here to participate.
Mars is still the only planet you’ll spot in the evening sky, nearby the constellation Orion and the reddish star Aldebaran. But now you’ll also find Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn low to the horizon in the predawn sky. Jupiter and Mercury are very close together and lower to the horizon than yellowish Saturn. Learn more at planetary.org/night-sky.
Commemorating the new era of Mars exploration
This has been an exciting month for Mars exploration, with 3 new missions arriving to study the Red Planet. You can commemorate this awesome moment in space history with Planetfest ’21 gear including a sticker, t-shirt, and poster (pictured). Every purchase supports our work to make missions like this happen.
Wow of the Week
Perseverance’s parachute contained a hidden message. Mission engineers needed the parachute’s fabric to have an asymmetrical pattern so they could determine its orientation during descent. Puzzle-loving systems engineer Ian Clark saw this as an opportunity. He used a binary code to spell out 'Dare Mighty Things' in the orange and white strips of the parachute, along with the GPS coordinates for the mission's headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Within hours of seeing the descent footage members of the public had cracked the code. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/The Associated Press.
Do you have a suggestion for the Wow of the Week? We’re looking for space-related art, music, gadgets, quotes, fashion, burning questions, brief sci-fi passages, or anything else that will make our readers go “Wow!” Send us your idea by replying to any Downlink email or writing to [email protected], and please let us know if you’re a Planetary Society member.