The DownlinkMay 21, 2021

A Super Blood Moon Is Nicer Than It Sounds

Space Snapshot

Lunar eclipse blood moon

The Moon is one planetary body whose full glory can be appreciated with the unaided eye or backyard telescopes. This photo shows the Moon during a total lunar eclipse, also known as a blood Moon. During a total lunar eclipse, some sunlight still reaches the Moon after bouncing through the edges of Earth’s atmosphere. Our atmosphere scatters blue light, giving the light that reaches the Moon a distinctly red hue. Image credit: NASA.

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Fact Worth Sharing

Moon illustration

The Moon’s orbit isn't perfectly round. It comes closer to the Earth at some points, which can make it look as much as 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter to us. When a full Moon happens during this closest approach, we call it a supermoon.

Mission Briefings

First images zhurong rover bw

China’s Zhurong rover made a historic landing on Mars. On May 17, Zhurong touched down on Utopia Planitia, marking the first time a country besides the United States has successfully deployed a rover on the Red Planet. Zhurong, which is part of the Tianwen-1 mission, will study Mars’ topography and search for water ice beneath its surface. Pictured: One of the first two images sent back from the rover, showing its landing platform and the Martian surface beyond. See the other image here. Image credit: CNSA/PEC.


Blue Origin is auctioning off a seat on its New Shepard capsule’s first tourist trip. As of Wednesday, May 19, the highest bid had blown past $2 million. Bidding will conclude in a live auction on June 12; money raised will go to Blue Origin’s STEM education foundation. New Shepherd’s first tourist flight is scheduled for July 20.


Want to go to space but can’t afford a ticket on New Shepard? Reality TV might be your shot. Discovery has ordered a new show for 2022 called “Who Wants to Be an Astronaut?” in which space enthusiasts will compete for a spot on a private mission to the International Space Station.


South Korea may be teaming up with NASA on its Artemis program. Early reports indicate U.S. and South Korean government officials have been discussing a partnership to return astronauts to the Moon. The agreement has not yet been confirmed by South Korean president Moon Jae-in or U.S. president Joe Biden, but more information is expected to be released soon.

From The Planetary Society

Attaching mars helicopter
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It takes a lot of ingenuity to make a Mars helicopter. MiMi Aung helms the phenomenally talented team behind the aptly named Ingenuity spacecraft whose mission has been spectacularly successful. She joins this week’s Planetary Radio to talk about the epic challenges involved in this groundbreaking mission. Pictured: An engineer attaches Ingenuity to the belly of the Perseverance rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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Do you want to change the future of space exploration? Check out our newest grant program: Science and Technology Empowered by the Public (STEP). STEP grants are competitively awarded through an open, international process. If you or your organization have an innovative idea related to exploring other worlds, finding life, or defending Earth from dangerous asteroids, submit a pre-proposal by May 26, 2021.

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How about saving the world? Take direct action today to support the hunt for dangerous asteroids by donating to our Shoemaker NEO Grant program. With your help, we can defend our planet from the hazards of the cosmos. U.S. residents can also petition Congress and the White House to support NASA’s planetary defense efforts. If you live elsewhere, we encourage you to find the contact information for your government representative(s) and tell them about the importance of planetary defense and the steps that need to be taken by all nations of the world.

What's Up

Moon illustration

On May 26, some parts of the world will be able to see a total lunar eclipse. Everywhere else, you’ll still get to see a beautiful supermoon. Just after sunset look for Venus, Mars, and Mercury low to the western horizon. In the predawn, look for Jupiter and Saturn in the east. Learn more at

Join us at the Mars Innovation Forum

Mars innovation forum

Explore Mars, Inc. is pleased to announce the first Mars Innovation Forum, taking place May 25-27, 2021. This virtual conference will examine the many innovations that are required for an achievable and sustainable human presence on Mars and how these technologies and capabilities will benefit life on Earth. Planetary Society members can use the promo code PlanetarySocietyMars at registration for 10% off the ticket price.

Wow of the Week

Moonset squish

This series of images of the Moon taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station shows a mind-bending (and light-bending) atmospheric effect. These images were taken as the Moon “set,” approaching the Earth’s horizon from the vantage point of the ISS. As the Moon nears the Earth its light passes through more and more of the Earth’s atmosphere. This causes the light to bend, and because this happens more for the side of the Moon closer to the Earth’s horizon, it makes the Moon appear vertically squashed. Image credit: NASA.