The Downlink • Apr 15, 2022
This week marked the International Day of Human Spaceflight, celebrated every year to commemorate the first time a human being ever flew in space on April 12th, 1961. Since then, 584 people have orbited our planet, 12 have set foot on the Moon and many more have flown across the boundary that marks the edge of space. Pictured: NASA astronaut Dave Scott exiting the Apollo 9 Command Module in 1969, photographed by fellow astronaut Rusty Schweickart. Image credit: NASA.
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Hubble has spotted the largest comet nucleus ever seen. According to NASA, the icy core measures about 130 kilometers (80 miles) across. It belongs to the comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein), which, although very large, poses no threat to Earth. Even at its closest distance to the Sun, the space snowball will still be 1.6 billion kilometers (1 billion miles) away. Pictured: On the left is the photo of the comet taken by Hubble. On the right is a model of the coma, extrapolated from the photo. Image credit: NASA/ESA/Man-To Hui/David Jewitt /Alyssa Pagan.
Neptune seems to be experiencing some totally unexplained temperature shifts. A new study asserts that over a period of 17 years, the mysterious planet has cooled dramatically, with the exception of its south pole, which has warmed up. Ground-based telescopes indicate that Neptune’s average global temperature plummeted by 8 degrees Celsius (about 46 degrees Fahrenheit) between 2003 and 2018. However, temperatures at the gas giant’s south pole shot up by 11 degrees Celsius (roughly 52 degrees Fahrenheit) between 2018 and 2020 alone.
Scientists may have uncovered stunning new evidence of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Researchers at the Tanis dig site in North Dakota say they’ve discovered pieces of the asteroid thought to have created the Chicxulub crater underneath Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula 66 million years ago. The American paleontological site also appears to contain a well-preserved dinosaur leg among other interesting fossils.
From The Planetary Society
Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise knows just how dangerous human spaceflight can be. But that doesn’t dampen his passion for exploration. The legendary astronaut joins this week’s Planetary Radio to talk about the historic mission that almost didn’t make it home, his memories of human spaceflight missions that followed and his new book “Never Panic Early.” Pictured: Apollo 13’s damaged service module, as photographed from the lunar module after jettisoning hours before re-entry. Image credit: NASA.
Get the full scoop on the latest NASA budget request. The Planetary Society’s chief advocate and senior space policy adviser Casey Dreier gives a full analysis of NASA’s Presidential Budget Request for fiscal year 2023 in a new article and in the latest episode of Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition. Find out what’s worth celebrating, and what we’ll be advocating for.
Enceladus could possibly be home to life, but when will we find out for sure? Our latest article from Jatan Mehta unpacks the reasons why Saturn’s moon Enceladus might host alien life, and the missions that might someday travel to the icy world to search for it.
The predawn sky is abundant with planets. Jupiter joins Venus low in the east, both extremely bright. Venus is the brighter of the two. Nearby are yellowish Saturn and reddish Mars, both a bit dimmer. Learn more at planetary.org/night-sky.
Help shape the future of space policy
The Planetary Society works year-round to advocate for missions that explore our cosmos. You can do your part to help keep our advocacy program going strong. If you’re a U.S. resident, you can sign a petition telling your representatives that you want to keep our space program going strong through effective political advocacy. Wherever you live, you can make a donation, which will be matched by a generous Society member, up to a total of $75,000. Make a gift today and help secure the future of space exploration. Image credit: NASA.
Wow of the Week
Getting humans to space is a beautiful process. NASA astronaut Christina Koch captured this stunning image of the trail left by the Russian Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft as it ascended into space in 2019, carrying crew members who would join Koch aboard the International Space Station. Image credit: NASA/Christina Koch.
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