The DownlinkMar 26, 2021

When Phobos hits your eye like a big pizza pie...

Space Snapshot

Phobos rises mount sharp

NASA's Curiosity rover recently spied the Martian moon Phobos peeking through the clouds above Mount Sharp, the region the rover is currently exploring. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/J. Roger.

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Fact Worth Sharing

Mars illustration

Phobos orbits closer to its host planet than any other moon in the solar system. It's also getting closer all the time and within 50 million years will either crash into Mars or break up and form a ring around the planet.

Mission Briefings

Global mars viking

A new study says that much of Mars’ ancient water is still locked in its rocks. Space missions to Mars have taught us the planet once had abundant water and was habitable for at least some periods. Then Mars lost its magnetic field and the Sun stripped away its atmosphere. Some of the planet’s water evaporated into space, but the new research concludes at least 30% is still locked in its rocks or otherwise hiding beneath the surface. Planetary Society board president Bethany Ehlmann is a study co-author. Pictured: A global view of Mars composed of about 100 images from NASA’s Viking orbiter. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS.


China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft has arrived at a new parking spot between the Earth and Sun. The location, known as L1, is a balance point between Earth and the Sun’s gravity where spacecraft can remain stable for long periods of time. Chang'e-5 successfully returned samples from the Moon to Earth in 2020. At L1 the spacecraft will conduct technology tests to help engineers plan future missions there.


The White House has nominated former Florida congressional representatives Bill Nelson to be NASA’s next administrator. Nelson, who flew on the Space Shuttle in 1986, chaired key space subcommittees during his terms in both the House and Senate. He was a key author of NASA’s 2010 authorization bill that created the Space Launch System.


NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter is almost ready to fly. The technology demonstration flew to Mars aboard Perseverance, which landed on 18 February. Perseverance will deploy the helicopter over a series of multiple days, after which the helicopter will attempt its first test flight as early as 8 April.

From The Planetary Society

Day of action bill crowd
Planetary Society logo bullet

Speak up for space on the Day of Action! Next Wednesday, 31 March, you can help advance space science and exploration by taking part in our Day of Action. Unlike previous years, this year’s Day of Action is entirely virtual. We’ve provided easy, impactful actions you can take from home to advocate for the future of space. Join this global effort and make sure the future of space is as bright as it should be.

Planetary Society logo bullet

NASA’s Perseverance rover has been busy since landing on Mars. On this week’s Planetary Radio, deputy project scientists Katie Stack Morgan and Ken Williford discuss the science the rover has already accomplished and take a look at what’s to come, including the launch of the Mars helicopter Ingenuity.

What's Up

Mars illustration

Picture all the rover activity on Mars as you look up at the Red Planet in the evening sky. In the predawn sky, Jupiter and Saturn shine brighter and higher in the sky every night. Learn more at

Wow of the Week

Lego shuttle

You can now build Space Shuttle Discovery out of LEGOs. The model kit, which retails for $200 USD, depicts Discovery deploying the Hubble Space Telescope. You can buy it starting on 1 April, just in time for the 40th anniversary of the first Space Shuttle launch. Image credit: LEGO.