That’s a mare

That’s a mare

Learn how our members and community are changing the worlds.

Our citizen-funded spacecraft successfully demonstrated solar sailing for CubeSats.

Arriving soon: the United States’ first asteroid sample return mission.

Membership programs for explorers of all ages.

Get updates and weekly tools to learn, share, and advocate for space exploration.

Volunteer as a space advocate.

Accelerate progress in our three core enterprises — Explore Worlds, Find Life, and Defend Earth. You can support the entire fund, or designate a core enterprise of your choice.

Know the cosmos and our place within it.

Empowering the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration.

The Downlink • Jul 21, 2023

That’s a mare

JWST recently captured this striking view of Saturn in the near-infrared. The ice and rock in the rings shine brighter than the gasses in the planet’s body. Faint differences in brightness can give scientists insights into processes taking place in both structures. On the left, you can also see Saturn's moons Dione, Enceladus, and Tethys. Image credit: NASA et al.

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.

Although Saturn is the second-most massive planet in the Solar System, it’s the least dense of all the planets. Saturn’s average density is lower than that of water — in a hypothetical situation involving a truly enormous pool, Saturn could actually float.

NASA has announced a new project to investigate volcanic terrain on the Moon. Artemis’ cadence of robotic lunar missions will include a new scientific payload called DIMPLE — Dating an Irregular Mare Patch with a Lunar Explorer — to study the Ina Irregular Mare Patch, an area of hilly terrain (pictured) created by volcanic activity on the near side of the Moon. Image credit: NASA LRO.

China’s plans for a Moon landing are coming together. The China Manned Space Agency recently announced a more formalized set of plans to land a pair of astronauts on the surface of the Moon before the end of the decade. The mission would involve separately launching a crewed spacecraft and lander segments, which would rendezvous and dock in lunar orbit before landing on the lunar surface. The agency is also calling for proposals for science payloads to travel on the lunar lander.

The director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is retiring. Jody Singer announced her retirement this week after more than 38 years of service. Singer was Marshall’s first female center director, among many firsts in her career.

The gullies of Mars are more complex than they may appear. Although the formations look similar to water-carved channels on Earth, their formation is more complex. Caltech's Jay Dickson joins this week’s Planetary Radio to discuss how the red planet’s changing axial tilt and Martian climate change affect these structures and more. Pictured: Martian gullies imaged by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

Mars Sample Return is complex too — and in danger of being canceled. The U.S. Senate has warned that if NASA’s Mars Sample Return campaign can’t stay on budget, it may be canceled altogether. The Senate committee responsible for funding NASA said that if the agency can’t come up with a plan in six months that would contain the Mars Sample Return project to a lifetime cost of $5.3 billion, its remaining funding would be carved up and allocated to other programs, primarily Artemis. Planetary Society Chief of Space Policy Casey Dreier explains the situation in more depth.

Venus will be dropping below the western horizon over the next few weeks, so catch it while you can, looking bright in the west after sunset. Mars shines more dimly above Venus. Saturn rises in the middle of the night in the east, looking yellowish. Jupiter comes up a couple of hours later, shining alongside Saturn until dawn. Learn more about what the rest of July’s night skies have in store.

We often use this section to share space artwork, but this week we’re swapping in a recent JWST image that looks as though it was created using the brushstrokes of a master artist. The JWST team shared this image on the one-year anniversary of the space telescope’s first science image releases. It shows the closest star-forming region to Earth (390 light-years away), known as the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. Image credit: NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/Klaus Pontoppidan (STScI).

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!

Read more: Planetary Radio, The Downlink, Worlds, The Earth-Moon system, Earth's night sky, The Mars system, Mars, The Saturn system, Saturn, Planetary Society, Member community, Space policy, Space topics, Non-U.S. space, China space, Human spaceflight, USA human spaceflight, Artemis, Space missions, Lunar missions, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars missions, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Sample Return, Astronomy and astrophysics missions, James Webb Space Telescope

You are here: Home > The Downlink

Faraway spacecraft, distant objects, the lunar farside, and a pretty out-there art project.

From searching for life to training for spaceflight, water is an essential part of space exploration.

An unusual lunar feature, Saturn’s shining rings, and Mars’ complex gullies.

When you become a member, you join our mission to increase discoveries in our solar system and beyond, elevate the search for life outside our planet, and decrease the risk of Earth being hit by an asteroid.

Your role in space exploration starts now.

Sign up for updates, weekly tools, and exclusive opportunities to support space exploration.

You may opt out any time. View our Privacy Policy.

Empowering the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration.

Account CenterContact UsPrivacy Policy

Give with confidence. The Planetary Society is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

© 2023 The Planetary Society. All rights reserved.
Cookie Declaration

For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are instructions on how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.