The DownlinkJun 28, 2024

Making history, making waves, and making LEGO

Space Snapshot

Chang e 6 lander view

This was the Chang'e-6 lander’s view from where it touched down in the Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin on June 1. This week, the mission delivered samples from its landing site back to Earth, achieving the first-ever sample return from the far side of the Moon. Snapshots from the mission are among our picks for the coolest space images of the month. See the rest of our picks here. Image credit: CNSA/CLEP.

Fact Worth Sharing

Moon illustration

The Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin is the second-largest confirmed impact basin in the Solar System after the North Polar Basin on Mars. At 2,500 kilometers (1,600 miles) in diameter, it stretches nearly a quarter of the way around the Moon.

Mission Briefings

Shores of kraken mare

Waves on Titan may be strong enough to erode the coastlines of its seas. Saturn’s moon Titan is home to large seas of liquid methane and ethane. Whether those seas are calm or wavy has been the subject of some debate, but new research from MIT suggests that shorelines like the one seen in this radar image from the Cassini spacecraft are most likely shaped by waves. Further study of waves on Titan could yield insights into its climate, such as wind strength. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Italian Space Agency (ASI).


The U.S. government recently completed an asteroid impact preparedness exercise. NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of State Office of Space Affairs, recently went through a hypothetical scenario in which an asteroid was found on a collision course with Earth. This was the fifth such exercise, and the first to incorporate the results of NASA’s DART mission. NASA published a summary of takeaways from the exercise.

small bodies

Two large asteroids will safely pass Earth this week. Although both asteroids’ trajectories are known and neither poses any risk to our planet, one of them was only discovered a week ago, highlighting the need to continue improving our ability to detect potentially hazardous objects. That recently discovered asteroid, 2024 MK, will be observable around its closest approach on June 29 using a small telescope or binoculars.


A simulated Mars mission concluded this week with a virtual reality “Marswalk.” Four volunteers from around the world recently took part in a 45-day simulated Mars mission within the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The mission concluded with a virtual reality excursion onto the Martian surface.

From The Planetary Society

Titan through atmosphere
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From orbit, Titan is beautiful and intriguing. But what about from the ground? One of our latest articles explores what it might be like to stand (or fly, or swim) on Saturn’s moon Titan. From hydrocarbon seas to plastic sand dunes and chubby rain, there’s a lot about this distant world that would make for a very bizarre experience. Pictured: In this infrared image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, you can see beneath the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan to its surface features, including dark plains filled with plastic-like grains of hydrocarbon sand. Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/University of Idaho.

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An asteroid smash and an asteroid bash! This week’s Planetary Radio is all about asteroids, from the success of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission to the annual Asteroid Day events that raise awareness of asteroid science and the threat of impacts. Hear from Markus Payer, Asteroid Foundation Chair, and get an update on the results of DART with Terik Daly, a planetary scientist and the Planetary Impact Laboratory manager at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

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Shoemaker NEO Grant winners are working to prevent an unwanted asteroid smash. Every two years, The Planetary Society awards a series of grants to asteroid hunters through our Shoemaker Near-Earth Object (NEO) Grant program. Catch up on the latest from some of our recent grant recipients from around the world who are working to find, track, and characterize asteroids and keep our planet safe.

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Love art, design, and space? We want to hear from you! Submissions are still open in our call for designers for The Planetary Report, our quarterly member magazine. If you’ve got design, layout, and print experience we want to hear from you! Learn more about the request for proposals and apply today! Submissions are open until July 19.

Asteroids are out there. The time to do something about it is now.

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As we approach Asteroid Day on June 30, join our planetary defense efforts with your gift of any size. The Planetary Society is laser-focused on preventing the next big asteroid from hitting Earth. And that's why we need your support. Give now and your gift will be matched up to $25,000 by a generous member who also cares about planetary defense!

Pictured: Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft captured this image of asteroid Itokawa in 2005. Image credit: JAXA / Edited by The Planetary Society.

New in the member community

Dante lauretta asteroid hunter
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June’s book club meeting is coming up. Planetary Society members have been reading “The Asteroid Hunter,” by Dante Lauretta (principal investigator on NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission) this month. On July 1, members will get the chance to hear from the author and ask questions about the book, his work, and more in our live virtual book club meeting. Not yet a member? Join now!

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Announcing our July Book Club pick. From poet and author Christopher Cokinos, "Still As Bright: An Illuminating History of the Moon, from Antiquity to Tomorrow," examines the history of humanity's understanding of the Moon. It highlights how the Moon has fascinated witches, scientists, poets, engineers, and billionaires, and emphasizes the importance of looking closely and discovering more than we initially expect.

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Planetary People continues, this time with your host, Ambre Trujillo! Planetary People is a live Q&A series in which we explore and celebrate a guest’s career, favorite accomplishments or projects, and the factors that have driven them to make the contributions they have. This month’s Planetary Person is Ambre Trujillo, The Planetary Society’s Digital Community Manager who runs our online member community. The live Q&A with Ambre takes place today, June 28, at 9:00 p.m. ET.

What's Up

Moon illustration

In the pre-dawn, Jupiter shines bright low in the eastern skies. Mars is a little higher in the sky looking reddish, with yellowish Saturn even higher. The Moon is near Mars on July 1 and Jupiter on July 3. Find out what to look forward to in July’s night skies.

Wow of the Week

Esa space brick lego

Kids aren’t the only ones playing with LEGO these days. Engineers at the European Space Agency are actually taking inspiration from the classic toys to design habitats, launch pads, and other structures that astronauts could use on the Moon. The ESA team explored whether dust from a meteorite could be formed into something resembling a Lego brick (pictured) for different building needs. The successful test suggests that lunar regolith could be similarly shaped into bricks and used for in-situ construction on the Moon during the Artemis program. Fifteen of these space bricks will be on display at the LEGO House in Billund, Denmark, and select LEGO Stores around the world. Image credit: LEGO.

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!