The DownlinkApr 08, 2022

The value of knowledge

Space Snapshot

Mars syrtis major

If money talks, it has a lot to say about the red planet. Humanity has spent more money exploring Mars than any other world. The investment is definitely worthwhile, yielding discoveries that have dramatically expanded our understanding of our cosmic neighbor, our own planet, and our place in the cosmos. This stunning mosaic is made of 100 images acquired by NASA’s Viking orbiter in 1980, showing a hemisphere of Mars focused on the Syrtis Major region (the dark area at the right). Image credit: NASA/JPL/USGS.

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

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A 2020 study estimated that every dollar that goes into NASA’s budget adds more than eight dollars back into the U.S. economy. When we invest in knowledge and discovery, it pays off.

Mission Briefings

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Inspired by The Planetary Society’s Lightsail 2 mission, a French startup is developing its own solar sails. The Paris-based company, Gama, recently raised 2 million euros ($2.2 million USD) to begin work. In an interview, Gama’s co-founder, Andrew Nutter, said his company “tried to learn as much as possible” from LightSail 2 and hopes to improve upon it by doing away with booms for stabilization. Pictured: An artist’s impression of Gama’s solar sail at Saturn. Image credit: Gama.


They grow up so fast: Hubble has spotted a Jupiter-like baby planet forming pretty strangely. The protoplanet, called AB Aurigae b, appears to be growing in a “top-down” fashion. Whereas developing planets are expected to get larger as their core amasses different gases and materials, this world-to-be seems to be forming due to gravity breaking apart a large planetary disk.

From The Planetary Society

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It won’t cost you a dime to celebrate LightSail 2. Sailing the Light, the feature-length documentary that tells the story of our crowdfunded solar sailing mission, is now available to stream for free in its entirety. Whether you’re new to The Planetary Society or have been with us throughout the mission, we’re certain you’ll enjoy the moving story of how tens of thousands of ordinary people came together to make this groundbreaking technology demonstration possible.

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Neptune beckons, but getting there won’t be cheap. A voyage to the mysterious blue planet would need to be a Flagship class mission, NASA’s most expensive category. The upcoming Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey, which sets the priorities for the next decade of exploration, will decide whether a mission to Neptune is worth the investment. Brenda Clyde and Kirby Runyon, two leaders of the proposed Neptune Odyssey mission, join this week’s Planetary Radio to talk about why an ice giant orbiter is long overdue.

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How does Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affect the International Space Station? The Planetary Society’s senior space policy adviser Casey Dreier unpacks the potential effects that the war may have on cooperation in space, most notably on the International Space Station, in a recent interview with Cheddar News.

What's Up

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Low in the eastern pre-dawn sky you can find super-bright Venus, reddish Mars, and yellowish Saturn. If you happen to have a solar telescope, you’ll be able to see the increased number of sunspots that are occurring on our star right now. Learn more at

Help make sure NASA has the funding it needs

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The Planetary Society works year-round to advocate for a strong NASA budget, making sure the missions that explore our cosmos get the funding they need. You can do your part to help keep our advocacy program going strong. If you’re a U.S. resident, you can sign a petition telling your representatives that you want to keep our space program going strong through effective political advocacy. Next, make your donation. When you do, a generous Society member who cares about space advocacy will match your gift—up to a total of $75,000! Make a gift today and help secure the future of space exploration. Image credit: NASA.

Wow of the Week

Apollo samples for sale

If you happen to have a spare million dollars lying around, you could own a piece of the Moon. The auction house Bonhams is selling five scanning electron microscope aluminum sample stubs (pictured) topped with black carbon tape containing lunar dust from the Apollo 11 mission. These particular samples are the only lunar material from the Apollo program that is legally allowed to be sold, thanks to their unusual history of private ownership. The auction house expects the samples to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million USD. Image credit: Bonhams.

Share your artwork with us!

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!