Free Astronomy Magazine – March-April 2021 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Above: Taken from the descent stage, a snapshot of Perseverance rover from about two meters above the Martian surface. This image was sent down the coiled umbilical into Percy for later transmission before the descent stage disconnected from the rover and flew off to a safe distance. [NASA/JPL-Caltech]

The most recent issue of Free Astronomy Magazine (March-April 2021) is available for your reading and downloading pleasure at

The entire issue celebrates the successful (fortunately) landing of Perseverance by summarizing the history of all five NASA rovers (Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, "Percy") – with as much Martian eye candy as will fit into 60-ish pages.

For those who'd never heard of Jezero Crater before discussion of the descent on the live feed, I refer you to the Jan/Feb 2020 issue for a full background.

For the record – Percy’s landing on the 18th did not leave a whole lot of time to prep a full article that then needed to be translated into three other languages by the 28th. Additionally, it would have been awful (on many levels) to put together a full article on all of the exciting science and imaging to be done by Percy and Ingenuity – only to then have to scrap the whole article if the rover itself ended up as scrap on the surface (or several feet below depending on the speed of impact).

That said, the landing of Curiosity was exceptional and nine years is a long time to perfect a technique. As such, the final article only required a few changes of verb tense and the “Nixon-Apollo 11” alternate version was not necessary to have out early for its separate translation. In the words of Thomas Zurbuchen as he tore the thin stack of papers up during the first press briefing, “Here’s for the contingency plan!”

I will say, however, that the last-minute-ness of the prep may have resulted in a few glitches working their way into the final edition. People finding them means people are reading, so all the better. As expressed to our fearless leader Michele and in the words of Paul Valéry, “Aux yeux de ces amateurs d’inquiétude et de perfection, un ouvrage n’est jamais achevé, – mot qui pour eux n’a aucun sens, – mais abandonné."

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Jump to the PDF download (18.7 MB): March-April 2021

Free Astronomy Magazine – January-February 2021 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Above: The OSIRIS-REx TAGSAM on touch-down at the Nightingale sampling site on Bennu. [NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona]

The most recent issue of Free Astronomy Magazine (January-February 2021) is available for your reading and downloading pleasure at

This issue marks a bit of a change in format under the direction of our fearless leader Michele Ferrara. PDF or not, there are only so many hours and pages one can commit to all that goes into writing, editing, and formatting. This is contrast to the seemingly unlimited (+/-) number of studies getting published and discussed that an editor would really like others to see. Add in the desire to include some additional context to bridge the gap between what a reader is reading and what else you (as the writer) think is worth stressing about the broader scope of the study, and you see how daunting a task it is for a few (5?) people (total) to try to sample everything bimonthly to everyone's satisfaction.

"I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write you a short one." – Blaise Pascal (d. 1662. And, for those now asking in their noggin, “History never repeats itself, but it rhymes.” – Mark Twain, b. 1835)

After several years of feature articles surpassing the +10 page mark, the recent change now features more shorter articles covering a bit more variety but, with a 6-ish page limit, a less broad analysis and discussion for each.

This month's contribution from here (with my NASA Solar System Ambassador helmet on) is about the successful sample collection and return prep by OSIRIS-REx at Bennu. Astronomical mythology nut, I opted to wrap in a bit of the olde stories for both Osiris and Bennu before digging into the much older aspects of accretion theory and the upcoming issues of planetary defense.

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Jump to the PDF download (14.7 MB): January-February 2021