The DownlinkMar 08, 2024

Science to satisfy curiosity

Special alert: The 2024 total solar eclipse is a month away!

2017 eclipse oregon ground

If you want to witness this awe-inspiring event in the company of people who share your passion for space, join The Planetary Society at our Eclipse-O-Rama 2024 event in Fredericksburg, Texas on April 8. This area has some of the best chances for clear skies anywhere in the path of totality, and we’re preparing all kinds of activities to enhance the eclipse experience over the course of this two-day camping festival. Get your tickets today! You can also enter for a chance to win a special opportunity to watch the eclipse with Bill Nye, including free tickets to Eclipse-O-Rama, VIP access to all activities, and more. Hurry though, your chance to enter ends on Sunday, March 10!

And if you’re in the United States, check out the newly launched eclipse app from The Eclipse Company in partnership with The Planetary Society, which gives eclipse viewers real-time weather updates, detailed information about local eclipse events, and a totality countdown timer.

Pictured: People witnessing the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse in Madras, Oregon. Image credit: NASA / Aubrey Gemignani.

Space Snapshot

Hi RISE spots curiosity

Curious about Curiosity’s location on Mars? This is it. On Dec. 29, 2023, NASA's Curiosity rover was climbing a ridge on Mars’ Mount Sharp when the agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of it from directly overhead. Curiosity is the black dot at the center of the image. The Gediz Vallis Ridge area is striped with alternating dark and light bands, and scientists are interested in learning how they formed. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona.

Fact Worth Sharing

Mars illustration

Since landing on Mars in 2012, NASA's Curiosity rover has climbed more than 612 meters (2,000 feet) up Mount Sharp. Each layer of the mountain formed in a different era of Mars’ ancient climate, allowing Curiosity to explore the planet's history as it climbs.

Mission Briefings

Juno europa 2022

Juno has found that Europa produces less oxygen than previously thought. The NASA spacecraft measured outgassing from the icy moon’s surface, allowing scientists to calculate that the rate of oxygen being produced at Europa is substantially less than most previous studies suggested. Still, the million kilograms (1,000 tons) of oxygen produced by the moon every 24 hours would be enough to keep a million humans breathing for an entire day. Pictured: This view of Europa is a composite image of three datasets collected by the Juno spacecraft during a 2022 flyby. Image credit: NASA et al.


China has named the spacecraft that will take taikonauts to the Moon. China's human spaceflight agency, CMSA, recently announced that the spacecraft that will take Chinese astronauts (called taikonauts) beyond low Earth orbit has been named Mengzhou, meaning "Dream Vessel." China conducted a test flight of the spacecraft in 2020, and expects its full debut flight around 2027. The lander that will carry taikonauts to the lunar surface has been named Lanyue, which means "Embracing the Moon." Both names were chosen through ​​a public contest.


NASA’s latest class of astronauts has graduated. The 10 astronaut graduates are now eligible for flight assignments, and the next round of NASA astronaut applications has officially opened. Selected for training in 2021, the astronaut graduates were chosen from a pool of more than 12,000 applicants and successfully completed more than two years of required basic training, including spacewalking, robotics, space station systems, and more.

From The Planetary Society

Perseverance selfie 2023
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Mars Sample Return is all about the science. The joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency will bring samples of rock, soil, and atmospheric gasses collected on Mars and bring them to Earth. The reason? To better understand Mars, search for signs of past or present life, and ultimately learn more about our place in space. Learn more about the science behind Mars Sample Return and why it’s worth getting those samples back to Earth. Plus, read the Scientific American op-ed by Planetary Society Chief of Space Policy Casey Dreier, in which he argues for the value of the Mars Sample Return program. Pictured: NASA's Perseverance rover with one of the sample tubes it has collected and deposited for return to Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

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The Planetary Science Caucus is back, thanks to your support. Following a two-year hiatus, the Congressional Planetary Science Caucus has officially been rechartered thanks to the leadership of The Planetary Society working in conjunction with Caucus co-chairs Representatives Don Bacon (R-Nebraska) and Judy Chu (D-California). Members of Congress are already joining the Caucus to rally in support of space science, research, and exploration.

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Eris and Makemake are hot right now. Figuratively, because the two icy dwarf planets are hot topics in the space science world due to a recent discovery revealing evidence of hydrothermal or metamorphic activity in their interiors. And literally, as those interiors might be hotter than previously thought. Chris Glein, Lead Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute who made the discovery, joins this week’s Planetary Radio to explain.

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One year and 10,000 members in, we’re celebrating our member community. Planetary Society members can enter a celebratory giveaway contest to win a signed photo of Bill Nye, a pair of Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses, and more. Not a member yet? Join today to get access to our growing online community including special events like our monthly virtual book club. You can see an example of our latest book club meeting in this video recording from the Q&A with “Moon Rush” author Leonard David.

What's Up

Jupiter illustration

Very bright Jupiter stands out in the evening eastern sky, brighter in the sky than any of the stars (except the Sun, of course). Super bright Venus is low in the predawn east, near reddish Mars. Find out what else to look for in March’s night skies.

Wow of the Week

Curiosity parachute mro

This week’s Space Snapshot isn’t the only example of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spying Curiosity from above. This image shows a photo taken by MRO of the rover dangling from its parachute about one minute prior to landing in August 2012. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona.

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!