Say hello to Saturn and bon voyage to Perseverance

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Mars

The last of this month’s 3 new Mars missions is safely on its way to the Red Planet after NASA’s Perseverance rover blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, yesterday atop an Atlas V rocket (pictured). Perseverance follows China’s Tianwen-1 mission—which recently took a picture of the Earth and the Moon—and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft. Learn about all 3 Mars missions here. Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Earth

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are heading home tomorrow. They are scheduled to undock from the International Space Station aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle Saturday at 3:34 p.m. PT / 7:34 p.m. ET / 23:34 UTC, with splashdown scheduled Sunday at 11:42 a.m. PT / 2:42 p.m. ET / 18:42 UTC. Watch live on planetary.org/live and read up on NASA’s commercial crew program. Correction: In last week’s Downlink we mistakenly reported that NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy had arrived at the ISS aboard the Crew Dragon vehicle. His ride into space was actually a Soyuz vehicle.

Ryugu

Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft will embark on an extended mission after it drops off samples from asteroid Ryugu at Earth this December. The Japanese space agency JAXA has 2 possible asteroid targets in mind; both are small and have fast rotation periods. A spacecraft has not yet visited this type of asteroid. Visit our Hayabusa2 page to learn more about the mission.

Jupiter

The team behind NASA’s Juno spacecraft has released more details from the spacecraft’s look at Jupiter’s moon Ganymede last year. It was the first time Ganymede’s north pole had ever been seen. The new data come from Juno’s infrared camera and reveal that the moon’s north pole ice is not crystalline like it is on Earth. This is likely caused by the intense radiation around Jupiter.

Earth

Talk about fast food: Russia’s Progress cargo ship docked with the International Space Station just a little more than 3 hours after launch last week, bringing food and other supplies to the Station. It wasn’t a perfect docking; the country’s space agency Roscosmos said that Progress had “vehicle deviations” on approach, but they were within acceptable limits.

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