The DownlinkOct 29, 2021

Explorers beware, you’re in for a scare!

Space Snapshot

Great red spot up close

All-seeing eye? Whirlpool of blood? Gateway to hell? Or just Jupiter’s most recognizable feature? This image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft shows the storms at the center of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Taken from an altitude of 9866 kilometers, this was the closest any spacecraft had ever been to the enormous cyclone. Image credit: NASA et al.

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Fact Worth Sharing

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In space, no one can hear you scream… unless you broadcast it. Sound waves can’t travel through a vacuum, but electromagnetic radiation can. If you scream through a radio transmitter, the signal carrying the sound could carry on into the abyss forever.

Mission Briefings

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In a stunning first, astronomers might have just spotted a planet in another galaxy. A new study says the possible planet is situated in an X-ray binary system about 28 million light-years from Earth in the Whirlpool Galaxy. This potential planet, which could be roughly the size of Saturn, is in the terrifying position of orbiting a black hole or neutron star, which in turn orbits and feeds off another star. Pictured: An artist’s impression of the binary system. The black hole is seen pulling material from the blueish star it orbits. Image credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss.


Blue Origin wants to build its own space station. The aerospace company has announced its intention to create a commercial space station called Orbital Reef, which would be active by the time the International Space Station is decommissioned sometime before 2030. Blue Origin is working with Sierra Space, along with Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering and Arizona State University to develop the plans.


SpaceX is gearing up for a Halloween weekend launch. After some delay, four astronauts will be ferried up to the International Space Station in a SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule on Saturday, Oct. 30. The team will stay on board the ISS for about six months, performing various scientific experiments. NASA says it’ll have some “surprises” in store for the crew given the Halloween Eve launch, so hopefully it’s treats rather than tricks.

From The Planetary Society

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A price tag of $10.8 billion is enough to make anyone scream. But how does the frighteningly high cost of the James Webb Space Telescope actually break down? The latest article from The Planetary Society’s chief advocate Casey Dreier explains why the mission costs so much, and why it’s nothing to be afraid of. Pictured: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope hangs from the ceiling of Chamber A at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Image credit: Chris Gunn/NASA.

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Sally Ride never let anyone or anything scare her away from space. This week’s episode revisits a 2005 interview with the first American woman in space. She talks about the importance of encouraging girls and young women to study science and engineering, and about how even the worst case scenarios of human spaceflight aren’t enough to stop her and other astronauts from wanting to explore space.

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Getting a spacecraft onto the surface of Mars can be a bit of a nightmare. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, knows this all too well. When the mission arrived at the Red Planet in 2017, it attempted to drop off a lander named Schiaparelli. When the lander’s parachutes deployed too early, it crashed onto the surface and was destroyed. The orbiter itself carried on its mission despite this tragedy, and continues to teach us about the gases in the Martian atmosphere and to look for traces of compounds that could be signs of life.

What's Up

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Jupiter and Saturn make the darkness of night just a little less frightening, shining bright in the western sky. If a nightmare wakes you before dawn, look low to the eastern horizon for Mercury. Learn more at

The Best Gifts in the Universe

2020 gift social

As the seasons shift, many people’s minds turn to the upcoming gift-giving season. Coming up with gift ideas can be terrifying, but fear not! The Planetary Society puts together a gift guide every year for the space-heads in your life. This year, we want to hear your ideas for great space-themed gifts we should include in our guide. Send in your submission now to help us create the ultimate holiday wish list.

Wow of the Week

Pumpkin in space

With a haunting smile, this carved pumpkin named Patches took a trip to the stratosphere in 2013. Eugene Murray from Ireland and his young grandson Sebastian sent Patches up on an enormous helium balloon, with a camera mounted to capture the journey on video, to promote a smartphone app. Throughout the journey Patches’ fixed expression somehow manages to convey the terror that any sentient being would experience on a trip like this. If Patches could scream, we’re sure he would have. Image credit: Total Produce.

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!