The DownlinkJan 12, 2024

Destination: Moon

Space Snapshot

Io plume junocam

NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this image of Jupiter's moon Io on Oct. 15, 2023. A volcanic plume is just visible, standing out from the darkness just below the terminator (the line dividing day and night) on the left side of the image. The plume appears to be coming from the volcano Prometheus. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.

Fact Worth Sharing

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Io is a hot destination — literally. Although the moon's average surface temperature is a frigid -130 degrees Celsius (-202 degrees Fahrenheit), its lava flows can reach temperatures up to 1,340 degrees Celsius (2,450 degrees Fahrenheit).

Mission Briefings


The Peregrine lunar lander has suffered a critical failure. The mission launched this week, aiming to make the first lunar landing by a US spacecraft in 50 years. A few hours after liftoff it suffered a critical loss of propellant owing to an anomaly in the propulsion system, according to Astrobotic, the company behind the project. The mission’s goal is now to travel as far as possible before losing power. Pictured: Astrobotic's Peregrine Moon lander in a clean room before its Jan. 8, 2024 launch. Image credit: NASA/Isaac Watson.


The next two Artemis missions have been delayed by a year. NASA announced this week that in order to address technical issues that could affect the safety of the crew, the Artemis II and III missions will be delayed. Artemis II, a crewed mission to send four astronauts around the Moon, has been pushed back from the end of 2024 to no earlier than September 2025. Artemis III, the first crewed lunar landing, is in turn delayed from late 2025 to no earlier than September 2026.


NASA is inviting the public to send their names aboard an Artemis lunar rover. The agency’s first robotic lunar rover, VIPER – short for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, will explore the lunar south pole starting in 2024. As part of the “Send Your Name with VIPER” campaign, NASA will accept names up until March 15 to be attached to the rover. Participants can also create and download a virtual boarding pass to the VIPER mission featuring their name to commemorate the experience.

From The Planetary Society

Planetary Society Members On The Hill 2023
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Space exploration is hard. That’s why we always have to keep pushing to make it happen. You can make a big difference in ensuring that space exploration missions move forward by joining The Planetary Society’s annual Day of Action, which will take place on April 29 this year. This advocacy event brings members together in Washington, D.C., to meet with their representatives in Congress to speak about the importance of investing in NASA’s exploration programs. Registration for the 2024 Day of Action is now open. Pictured: Members heading to meetings on Capitol Hill in the 2023 Day of Action. Image credit: The Planetary Society.

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Lunar Trailblazer is due to launch this year to investigate water on the Moon. Planetary Society President Bethany Ehlmann, who is the NASA mission’s principal investigator, will be speaking about the mission at Caltech in Pasadena, California, on Jan. 31 as part of their Watson Lecture Series. If you live in the area, be sure to check out the free event. If not, keep an eye on the lecture series’ YouTube channel for a recording of the event.

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JWST has a new lead in the search for life on a mysterious exoplanet. The space telescope recently detected signs of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of K2-18 b. This discovery could reshape our search for life beyond Earth and teach us more about the enigmatic class of exoplanets known as sub-Neptunes. Knicole Colón, the deputy project scientist for exoplanet science for JWST, joins this week’s Planetary Radio to fill us in on the details.

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India has been making big strides in space exploration. From its successful Chandrayaan lunar missions and Mars Orbiter Mission to its upcoming plans for human spaceflight, the Indian Space Research Organisation has been doing a lot in recent years. Gurbir Singh, author of “The Indian Space Programme: India’s Incredible Journey from the Third World towards the First,” joins the latest episode of Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition to help us understand the history and motivations behind these achievements and India’s growing ambitions in space.

What's Up

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Super-bright Venus shines in the predawn east. Look for Jupiter shining high in the sky in the early evening, brighter in the night sky than any star. The Moon is near yellowish Saturn in the evening west. Find out what the rest of January's night skies have in store.

New in the member community

The six astronauts
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The next Planetary Society book club pick is here. In January, Planetary Society members can join a live virtual book club meeting to discuss "The Six" with author Loren Grush. The renowned journalist highlights the stories of six exceptional women chosen as astronauts in 1978: Sally Ride, Judy Resnik, Anna Fisher, Kathy Sullivan, Shannon Lucid, and Rhea Seddon (pictured). The monthly book club meetings take place in our online member community. Not a member yet? Join today. Image credit: NASA.

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Check out the video from December’s book club meeting. Planetary Society members joined bestselling author Zach Weinersmith to discuss his new book, "A City on Mars: Can We Settle Space, Should We Settle Space, and Have We Really Thought This Through?" Zach and his co-author Kelly Weinersmith explore why the idea of developing space settlements might be less simple — and perhaps less wise — than you might think. You can watch the recording of the Q&A event now.

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Meet our first member of the month! In our new member highlight, we interview outstanding participants in our online member community. This month we highlight Bob Ware, a longtime Planetary Society member whose active participation helped make the member community the thriving hub of discussion, collaboration, learning, and enjoyment that it is today.

Wow of the Week

Anna moore apollo puzzle box

Getting to the Moon involves solving all kinds of complex puzzles. Designer Anna Moore reflected this challenge in a puzzle box she created, inspired by the Apollo lunar missions. “The beginning years of space travel are full of incredible invention and imagery,” says Moore on her website, “some of which served as direct inspiration for parts of the Apollo Puzzle and its accompanying materials.” The mechanical metal puzzle box includes Apollo spacecraft-inspired elements like an access hatch, control panel, reference and operations manuals, and even a depiction of the plaque left on the Moon by the Apollo missions. Image credit: Anna Moore.

Send us your artwork!

We love to feature space artwork in the Downlink. If you create any kind of space-related art, we invite you to send it to us by replying to any Downlink email or writing to [email protected]. Please let us know in your email if you’re a Planetary Society member!