The DownlinkMar 12, 2021

Making our mark on other worlds

Space Snapshot

Perseverance tracks and scour

NASA's Perseverance rover has begun making its mark on the Red Planet. Taken on 5 March 2021, this color-calibrated image shows tracks from the rover's first drive on Mars, as well as a lighter-colored area in the background where the ground was scoured by the mission's descent stage rockets. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

You love space, now take action

This weekly newsletter is your toolkit to learn more about space, share information with your friends and family, and take direct action to support exploration. Anyone can subscribe at to receive it as a weekly email.

Fact Worth Sharing

Moon illustration

Footprints and rover tracks left on the Moon during the Apollo program decades ago are still there and will likely remain for millions of years. On Mars it’s a different story: wind storms can erase rover tracks within just a year.

Mission Briefings

Hubble drifts away

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope experienced a software glitch that kicked it into safe mode. The 30-year-old telescope (pictured) appears healthy and engineers are working on a plan to return it to normal operations. Hubble is expected to continue observing and complement discoveries made by its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which launches later this year. Image credit: NASA.

small bodies

Scientists found carbon—an organic compound necessary for life as we know it—in a comet. The discovery was made using NASA’s flying SOFIA observatory. A key question in understanding the history of our solar system is how Earth got its water and organics; our planet likely lost those materials after being internally heated during formation. One possible source is asteroids and comets that formed farther away from the Sun and then collided with Earth long ago.


NASA awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman to help develop the rocket system that will blast samples of Mars off the surface. NASA’s Perseverance rover will collect the samples; it’s up to future missions by NASA and the European Space Agency to retrieve them and bring them back to Earth.


NASA’s InSight spacecraft is preparing to bury the tether leading to its seismometer. Burying the tether will insulate it from Mars’ drastic temperature shifts and help scientists get clearer readings of Marsquakes that will help reveal the planet’s interior.

From The Planetary Society

Hayabusa2 target marker

The names Planetary Society members sent to asteroid Ryugu and back via Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft survived their journey. Hayabusa2 mission officials successfully extracted and accessed the names, which were stored on two MicroSD memory cards—the same type commonly used in cameras and other small electronic devices. The Planetary Society helped Japan’s space agency collect the names in 2013 as part of our Messages from Earth program. The names were also etched into a set of baseball-sized target markers that were dropped on Ryugu to help the spacecraft navigate. Pictured: Hayabusa2 snapped this picture while ascending from its sample grab. The yellow arrow points to one of the target markers it dropped. Image credit: JAXA et al.

What's Up

Mars illustration

Mars and the star Aldebaran are like twins in the evening sky, both shining bright and reddish near the constellation Orion. You’ll see Mars in between Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster. In the pre-dawn, Jupiter and Saturn are low to the horizon in the east. Learn more at

Take Action With Us!

Day of action text

Make your mark on the future of space by joining our virtual Day of Action on 31 March 2021. If you live in the U.S., we'll connect you directly with your representatives in Congress to advocate for the future of space science, exploration, and planetary defense. If you live elsewhere, you can still take action. Pledge to join this global effort and we'll follow up with resources to help you stand up for space wherever you live.

Wow of the Week

Mars 2568 lawson

Artist and Planetary Society member Laura J. Lawson makes paintings about landscapes in space using reference imagery from maps made by the United States Geological Survey for NASA. This piece, called Mars 2568, is made with acrylic ink and acrylic paint on polypropylene. "Using the maps as a reference point, I draw out key geologic features first, and then paint over them with acrylic ink," says Lawson. "I like to color outside the lines, so to speak, to imagine the ways these landscapes have changed since the days of Viking and Mariner. I'm so excited to see what kind of art will come from the images of Perseverance." You can find more of her space-inspired artwork at

Do you have a suggestion for the Wow of the Week? We’re looking for space-related art, music, gadgets, quotes, fashion, burning questions, brief sci-fi passages, or anything else that will make our readers go “Wow!” Send us your idea by replying to any Downlink email or writing to [email protected], and please let us know if you’re a Planetary Society member.