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A Full Moon Newsletter
A new rover lands on Mars, the Wow! Signal comes through, and time for James Webb to go to bed
It's been quite a month for space! Last week we saw the much anticipated arrival of the Mars 2020 Mission's Perseverance rover, an absolutely stunning feat. If you haven't watched the landing video from Perseverance's own camera, DROP WHAT YOU ARE DOING and click play!
There is so much to be blown away by in this video, from the crater-pocked vistas as the lander descends, to the Martian dust blowing around under the retrorockets, but I think I will never be over this image of the Sky Crane flying off into the periwinkle Martian sky:
While we call Mars the "Red Planet", and think of sunsets and sunrises as being red here on Earth, the fine Martian dust sometimes scatters sunlight to make the skies this eerie blue color— most often seen during sunrise and sunset on Mars.
What's your reaction to the Mars Perseverance landing?
Perseverance is only one of several missions to arrive at Mars this month— a week before, China's Tianwen-1 and the United Arab Emirates' Hope probe both entered Mars orbit. Both Hope and Tianwen-1 are firsts for their countries' space programs: Hope is the first Mars mission by the UAE, which only created their national space agency in 2017, which Tianwen-1 is not only an orbiter, but a lander and rover all in one. Around half of Mars missions— by any nation— end in failure, so it's very very impressive to see these new efforts succeed on the first try, and it's a reminder that space exploration truly is a global effort. At the same time, current laws in the US prevent collaboration between US and Chinese scientists, so we have relatively little insight into Tianwen-1's capabilities, which is a huge missed opportunity for the scientific community.
Wow! Signal Tonight 2/26 at 8pm CT!
Just another night in quarantine? Think again! My team at the Adler has been cooking up a new episode of the Wow! Signal, and it premieres tonight on YouTube! This episode is all about earthlings going to space, and it stars a lot of animals, a singing toilet and NASA "fecal collection bag", our incredible special guest "analog astronaut" and educator Dr. Sian Proctor, and of course, Chadler. If you tune in at 8pm CT, the cast and crew (me included!) will be in the chat to say hi and answer questions, but of course, you can catch it any time after that!
Coming soon: more queerness, less Webb
Those of you who read my last newsletter got to hear a bit about the evolving controversy over the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST— often billed as NASA's successor to the Hubble. If you didn't read my comments last time, the upshot is that JWST's namesake was complicit in the purge of queer people from the government back in the 1950s. Coming next week, three of my most treasured fellow troublemakers and myself have an article coming out on why this issue matters. While I'll be sure to send you all a link when the article is live, I want to draw your attention to recent legislation efforts around queer rights. In the news this week, you may have seen that the House passed the Equality Act, which was introduced by Rep. Cicilline (D- RI) earlier this year. Last year, Reps. Cicilline and Castro also introduced the the Lavender Offense Victim Exoneration (LOVE) Act of 2020, which would specifically address the purge of queer people from the State Department (known as the Lavender Scare) and would provide protections for queer diplomats working at home and abroad. While it's hard to be too sanguine about government (for me this is true always), particularly at a time when Q conspiracists are putting up transphobic placards in the halls of Congress, a placard isn't legislation, so the passage of the Equality Act and introduction of the LOVE Act are things I'm happy to see. Furthermore, the LOVE Act in particular recognizes that homophobia isn't something that just happened in the 50's and is over now, but rather, something that affects all of us living and working today.