The DownlinkOct 15, 2021

We love Lucy

Space Snapshot

Hope Mars in Spring

Our excitement about the upcoming launch of NASA’s Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids isn’t enough to distract us from this stunning new image of Mars. The Red Planet looks iridescent in this photo from the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft, taken while Mars was at its maximum orbital distance from the Sun. The colder temperatures cause cloudier-than-normal conditions in the thin Martian atmosphere.

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Fact Worth Sharing

Jupiter illustration

The Trojan asteroids orbit the Sun in two swarms, one just ahead of Jupiter and the other just behind. Each asteroid is named after a character in Greek mythology’s depiction of the Trojan war; Greeks in one swarm, and Trojans in the other.

Mission Briefings

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Lucy launches tomorrow! NASA’s mission to the Jupiter Trojan asteroids begins its journey on Saturday, October 16, launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff is currently scheduled for 5:34 a.m. EDT (09:34 UTC), with NASA TV coverage starting at 5 a.m. You can watch it all at Pictured: An artist’s impression of Lucy at a Trojan asteroid. Image credit: NASA.


Australia has announced its first mission to the moon. According to NASA, Australian businesses and researchers will help to create a small rover that can collect lunar soil. NASA will then try to extract oxygen from that soil so the two countries can help create a more sustainable environment for future astronauts. Australia’s Prime Minister says NASA could fly the mission to the moon as early as 2026.


The James Webb Space Telescope is getting closer and closer to launch. On October 12, the JWST’s Twitter account posted two photos of an enormous boat called the MN Colibri carrying the telescope. The telescope endured a 16-day, 5,800-mile (about 9300-kilometer) journey, passing through the Panama Canal to dock at Port de Pariacabo in French Guiana. The telescope will be driven to Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou for final preparations before it launches in December.


Mars’ Jezero Crater was much more than a now-dry lake. We already knew that Jezero Crater was likely once a very old lake. But photos from Perseverance show signs of scarps, or large slopes, that may have contributed to flash flooding in the delta near the lake. This could be an area to explore further for astrobiological clues. The team’s findings have been published in the journal Science.

From The Planetary Society

Lucy mission asteroid targets
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What are the Trojan asteroids, and what do we want to know about them? The latest article from Planetary Society editor Rae Paoletta explores what we know and don’t know about this soon-to-be-explored group of asteroids. Pictured: Artist’s impressions of the seven Trojan asteroids Lucy will visit. Image credit: NASA.

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Want to know more about Lucy? Go straight to the source with this week’s Planetary Radio, featuring an exclusive conversation with Lucy’s principal investigator Hal Levison, deputy principal investigator Cathy Olkin and deputy project systems engineer Mike Sekerak. Plus, find out how Ringo Starr fits into this story.

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Join us in celebrating Earth’s cosmic companion. By far the easiest thing to enjoy in the night sky, the Moon is many people’s first introduction to the wonders of space. That’s why NASA organizes the annual International Observe the Moon Night every year on October 16. Check out the official website for observing tips, fun facts, and virtual events, and make sure you get outside and look up!

What's Up

Mercury illustration

As the sun sets, look for Venus shining brightly in the western sky. Over to the east, you’ll find bright Jupiter with Saturn to its upper right. In the predawn sky, those with clear views of the eastern horizon can spot Mercury. Learn more at

Wow of the Week

Lucy plaque

The Lucy spacecraft carries a plaque, much like forebear missions Pioneer and Voyager, as a marker of where and when it originated. The plaque includes messages from some prominent thinkers of our time and a diagram showing the positions of the planets during the month of Lucy’s launch. Image credit: NASA.

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!