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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

NASA Goes First Class for Europa

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/06/10 12:07 CDT | 9 comments

Over the last several years, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Applied Physics Laboratory have rethought the entire approach to exploring Europa. NASA now has a concept that's affordable.

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Why We Don't Know When the Europa Mission Will Launch

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2015/05/27 01:32 CDT | 12 comments

NASA has been vague about when the new mission to Europa will launch. There's a reason for that, and it's not just orbital mechanics.

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Here Are the Science Instruments NASA Will Use to Explore Europa

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2015/05/26 01:01 CDT | 8 comments

NASA just announced the science instruments that will be used to understand the enigmatic ocean moon of Europa. The mission is planned to launch sometime in the early 2020s.

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Two Months from Pluto!

Posted by Paul Schenk on 2015/05/19 06:12 CDT | 5 comments

Two months. Eight and half weeks. 58 days. It's a concept almost too difficult to grasp: we are on Pluto's doorstep.

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How to Watch the Humans to Mars Summit This Week

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2015/05/05 12:36 CDT | 5 comments

Our friends at Explore Mars are live-streaming their Humans to Mars Summit this week, happening in Washington, D.C.

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A few gems from the latest Cassini image data release

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/24 06:30 CDT | 4 comments

I checked out the latest public image release from Cassini and found an awesome panorama across Saturn's rings, as well as some pretty views looking over Titan's north pole.

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The study team at JPL Will Present their Mars Program Concept at the 2015 Humans to Mars Summit

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2015/04/17 05:37 CDT

A study team at JPL will present their humans to Mars program concept at the Humans to Mars Summit and publish it as a peer-reviewed article in the New Space Journal.

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NASA's Mission to Europa May Get More Interesting Still

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/04/11 04:08 CDT | 7 comments

NASA officials have asked their European counterparts if they would like to propose contributing a small probe to NASA's Europa mission planned for the mid-2020s.

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Pretty Cassini pictures: animation of Iapetus' north pole, and other fun

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/04/03 04:35 CDT | 4 comments

Now that Cassini has returned to Saturn's equatorial plane, it has lots of opportunities to observe Saturn's moons. For about a week, Cassini has been taking regular sets of images of Iapetus, which I've assembled into an animation.

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The Lunar Chronology: What Happens When Science Does Its Thing

Posted by Stuart Robbins on 2015/04/01 09:34 CDT | 4 comments

Scientist Stuart Robbins discusses dating the lunar surface is using impact craters.

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