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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

New Findings are Conclusive: Europa is crying out for exploration

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2016/09/26 01:36 CDT | 16 comments

New scientific findings add to the evidence that Europa is spouting its liquid ocean into space. NASA has a mission to Europa in the works, but it wouldn't launch for at least a decade. Congress can make it faster, but it all depends on whether they can pass a budget this year.

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Some beautiful new (old) views of Neptune and Triton

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/09/20 02:40 CDT | 4 comments

Beautiful new amateur work with 27-year-old Voyager data.

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Cassini's camera views of Titan's polar lakes in summer, processed into pseudocolor

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/09/12 01:50 CDT | 1 comment

Titan's north polar lakes are well-lit by summer sun in these recent Cassini images. Image processing enthusiast Ian Regan shares his recipe for processing the longer-wavelength Titan images into visually pleasing "pseudocolor."

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Juno's instruments return riches from first perijove

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/09/02 02:30 CDT | 3 comments

On August 27, Juno soared across Jupiter's cloud tops from pole to pole, with all instruments operating. NASA posted some terrific first results from several of the instruments today. And the JunoCam team released all 28 raw images taken during the close encounter.

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Will Juno’s Instruments Observe the Moons of Jupiter?

Posted by Candice Hansen on 2016/08/30 10:38 CDT | 2 comments

It is not easy to observe Jupiter’s moons as more than points of light with Juno, because Juno will never get very close to any of the moons, but as its orbit shifts there will be opportunities to collect data on some of the moons.

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Yutu is NOT dead (probably)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/08/10 07:48 CDT | 2 comments

Despite what you may have read on other websites last week, China's Yutu lunar rover is probably still functional on the surface of the Moon.

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Juno has arrived!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/07/05 01:14 CDT | 7 comments

For a second time, NASA has placed a spacecraft into orbit at Jupiter. The spacecraft operated exactly according to plan, and Juno successfully entered orbit today, July 5, 2016, UTC

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A peek at the JunoCam approach movie

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/07/04 09:36 CDT | 2 comments

We're now just about 12 hours away from Juno's Jupiter orbit insertion. As anticipation ramps up, NASA has released this sneak peek at JunoCam's approach movie, made of views of Jupiter and its largest moons shot during the final approach, up until about five days ago.

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Plans for China's farside Chang'e 4 lander science mission taking shape

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/06/22 12:09 CDT | 3 comments

The future Chang'e 4 lunar farside landing mission is rapidly taking shape. Now the mission's team is coming to a consensus on the landing location, as well as on the mission's instrument package.

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Lunar Farside Landing Plans

Posted by Phil Stooke on 2016/05/27 06:48 CDT | 1 comment

Phil Stooke describes a research trip to the Regional Planetary Image Facility at the USGS in Flagstaff, where he discovered Jack Schmitt's proposed plans for a farside landing site for Apollo 17.

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