The DownlinkApr 30, 2021

Moon, Mars and a Meteor Shower

Space Snapshot

Earth and moon from apollo collins

This vintage space photo of the Apollo 11 lunar module ascending from the surface of the Moon in 1969 was taken by astronaut Michael Collins, who passed away this week at the age of 90. With the entire Earth in view as well as the lunar module, Collins was the only human being not in frame.

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Fact Worth Sharing

Meteors illustration

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which peaks this week, is caused by debris from Comet Halley. The same is true of the Orionids shower, which happens in October each year. Halley itself is a less frequent visitor—we won’t be seeing it again until 2061.

Mission Briefings

Perseverance from ingenuity

Ingenuity continues to soar above and beyond all expectations. On its third successful flight, NASA’s tiny Mars ‘copter flew farther and faster than it ever had on Earth or Mars. It flew 50 meters (164 feet) north and reached a top speed of 2 meters per second (6.6 feet per second). Pictured: Ingenuity snapped this photo of the Perseverance rover from the air during its third flight. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.


Also on Mars: Perseverance converted carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into oxygen. In its first run, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument on Perseverance created about five grams of breathable oxygen, which would hypothetically allow an astronaut to breathe for about 10 minutes. It’s a small—but significant—step for future human explorers on the Red Planet.


Blue Origin has filed a 175-page protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), accusing NASA of unfair treatment after the agency selected SpaceX for its multi-billion-dollar lunar contract. Blue Origin, which was previously in the running to develop a spacecraft for the Artemis program, said NASA’s decision “endangers America’s return to the moon.” Dynetics, the third main bidder for the contract, recently announced it also submitted a protest with the GAO over similar concerns.


After traveling about 1500 kilometers (900 miles), the Space Launch System (SLS) core stage has made it to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. At roughly 65 meters (212 feet), it’s the largest rocket stage ever built by NASA. All main elements of the SLS rocket that will carry out the Artemis I mission are now on site at the Kennedy Space Center.


China launched the first piece of its new space station into Earth orbit. Tianhe, which means "harmony of the heavens," is the first of three modules that will connect to form a space station set for completion next year. A crew of Chinese astronauts is expected to visit Tianhe in June.

From The Planetary Society

Sdss map universe orangepie
Planetary Society logo bullet

Have you ever seen a map of the universe? The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has made huge advances in our understanding of the cosmos, producing the most detailed three-dimensional maps of the universe ever created. Princeton University professor of astronomy Jim Gunn, who conceived and designed SDSS, joins this week’s Planetary Radio to discuss the wonder and beauty of deep space, his work with SDSS, and much more. Pictured: The SDSS map of the universe. Each dot is a galaxy. Image credit: SDSS.

Planetary Society logo bullet

Preparing for an incoming asteroid is an inherently global challenge. Luckily, there are planetary defense experts around the world who work to find solutions. On Thursday, April 29th, The Planetary Society got a progress report at our free virtual event, Earthlings vs. Asteroids: What’s the Score? If you missed it, watch the recording to learn all about humanity’s current state of preparedness to defend against the asteroid threat.

What's Up

Meteors illustration

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on May 6 and 7, with the best visibility in the southern hemisphere. People on both hemispheres can see Mars in the early evening sky near the eastern horizon. In the predawn look for bright Jupiter with Saturn nearby. Learn more at

Congrats to Our Omaze Contest Winners!

Omaze winners 2021

Last year we partnered with Omaze to give a lucky winner the chance to chat with Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye at our celebration of the Perseverance rover’s dramatic landing on Mars. Congratulations to Planetary Society members Traci and Alex who won the experience and had a fun meet-and-greet with Bill (pictured). Stay tuned for our next Omaze campaign for your chance to rub shoulders with inspiring space leaders like Bill while supporting our mission!

Wow of the Week

Earth and moon michael tamburello

Planetary Society member Nina Tamburello sent us this piece of artwork her father, Michael Tamburello, painted when he was a high school freshman in 1968. He painted what he imagined the surface of the moon might look like. One year later the Apollo 11 astronauts went there to find out for themselves and for all of humanity.