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Major Moons

We have completed reconnaissance missions to all eight of the planets, and will soon perform surveys of two dwarf planets, Ceres and Pluto. Among the most compelling targets for future flagship missions are the solar system's moons. Can we use Phobos as a base from which to tele-operate Mars missions? Is there prebiotic chemistry or even life within the buried oceans of Europa, Ganymede, or Enceladus, or in the methane-ethane rivers and lakes on Titan? What could we learn about the Kuiper belt by studying Neptune's captured moon Triton? What could human explorers do on our own Moon using technology developed over the last 40 years?

These questions drive interest in future missions among scientists, but it's an uphill battle to sell decisionmakers on the value of expensive missions to objects that are "only" moons. For us to capitalize on the successes of our reconnaissance missions, it is essential to educate the public about the reasons that other worlds' moons are so exciting, and that they are worlds every bit as worthy of study as the planets.

Recent Blog Entries about our Moon, Phobos, Europa, Ganymede, Enceladus, Titan, and Triton

Europa: How Less Can Be More

Posted by Van Kane on 2014/08/26 06:55 CDT | 6 comments

Van Kane explains three factors that make exploring Europa hard—factors that can make a mission concept that seems like less actually be more.

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Cool animations of Phobos transits from Curiosity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/08/25 04:41 CDT | 4 comments

Shooting video of a lumpy moon crossing the Sun and turning it into a giant googly eye is not a new activity for Curiosity, but I get a fresh thrill each time I see one of these sequences downlinked from the rover.

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Watch Bill Nye and Special Guests in The Lure of Europa

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2014/08/04 09:21 CDT

We've posted the full video of our Washington, D.C. event exploring the lure of Europa, the moon of Jupiter with more liquid water than the Earth.

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Landsat 8 Looks at the Supermoon

Posted by Jason Davis on 2014/07/29 04:00 CDT

Why did Landsat 8, an Earth-observing spacecraft, turn its unblinking eyes toward the July 12 supermoon?

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Chang'e 3 update: Both rover and lander still alive at the end of their eighth lunar day

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/07/21 07:26 CDT | 5 comments

Despite the fact that it hasn't moved for 6 months, the plucky Yutu rover on the Moon is still alive. Its signal is periodically detected by amateur radio astronomers, most recently on July 19. A story posted today by the Chinese state news agency offers a new hypothesis to explain the failure of the rover's mobility systems.

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Mars and Europa: Contrasts in Mission Planning

Posted by Van Kane on 2014/07/19 02:08 CDT | 30 comments

Several announcements for proposed missions to Mars and on the planning for a NASA return to Europa that highlight the contrasts in planning missions for these two high priority destinations.

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Capitol Hill Responds to the Lure of Europa

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2014/07/18 01:54 CDT | 2 comments

A standing-room only crowd learned the lure of Europa, the moon of Jupiter with more liquid water than the Earth, at a special Planetary Society event on capitol hill.

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Trundling Across the Moon

Posted by Mark Robinson on 2014/07/11 12:01 CDT | 1 comment

High resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera detail the 1973 path of the Soviet rover Lunokhod 2.

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NASA selects Planetary Society LIFE Proposal

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/06/19 06:10 CDT | 5 comments

NASA has selected a Planetary Society proposal to study accommodation of the Society’s LIFE (Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment) biomodule on NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM).

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We could find life on another planet, but do we have the will?

Posted by Bill Nye on 2014/06/19 10:46 CDT | 19 comments

Are we alone in the universe? This month’s National Geographic cover story takes a look at the question, and I weighed in on the subject.

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