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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

MAVEN dodges Phobos, with (maybe) a little help from Curiosity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2017/03/06 06:00 CST | 2 comments

This week MAVEN had to execute a short rocket burn in order to prevent a future collision with Phobos. Curiosity (and other rovers) may have played a role in those trajectory predictions.

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Radar in Earth and Planetary Science: An Intro

Posted by Heather Hunter on 2017/02/24 11:14 CST | 1 comment

Heather Hunter explains how radar works and what it's used for on Earth and beyond.

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NASA's audacious Europa missions are getting closer to reality

Posted by Jason Davis on 2017/02/21 03:43 CST | 10 comments

Today, NASA announced progress on a spacecraft that would assess whether Jupiter's Moon Europa is habitable, and earlier this month, an agency-sponsored science team released a report on a separate lander mission that would directly search for signs of life.

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Did Voyager 1 capture an image of Enceladus' plumes erupting?

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2017/02/21 01:38 CST | 4 comments

Amateur image processor Ted Stryk revisited Voyager 1 data of Enceladus and came across a surprise.

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Finding spacecraft impacts on the Moon

Posted by Phil Stooke on 2017/02/20 06:00 CST | 2 comments

Over nearly 60 years of spacecraft exploration of the Moon, lots of spacecraft have crashed on the lunar surface—some accidental, some intentional. Phil Stooke hunts for their impact sites.

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Explorer of Enceladus and Titan

Posted by Van Kane on 2017/02/01 09:05 CST | 6 comments

For the third time in less than a decade, scientists have proposed a multiple-flyby mission to explore the habitability of Saturn’s ocean moons Titan and Enceladus.

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China outlines its space exploration ambitions

Posted by Andrew Jones on 2016/12/27 02:04 CST | 1 comment

China released a new white paper on its policy and activities in space, outlining ambitious deep space exploration, human spaceflight and space science projects as major priorities for the years up to 2020 and beyond.

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Planetary discovery over the past quarter century

Posted by Steven Hauck on 2016/12/20 10:01 CST

2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of what has become one of the primary venues for the publication of research in planetary science: the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. This occasion is a good opportunity to look back at what we have learned in this era of expanded exploration and to try to take a peek at the future.

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ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter takes in a rarely-imaged view of Phobos

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/12/15 04:55 CST | 2 comments

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter's science team enjoyed the opportunity in November to test out their science instruments on Mars. One of the tests involved imaging Phobos from an unusual angle.

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TeamIndus Announces Launch Contract with ISRO

Posted by Sandhya Ramesh on 2016/12/01 04:45 CST | 3 comments

TeamIndus, India’s only entry for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, just announced their launch contract with ISRO. If successful, TeamIndus would be the first private company from India to land a craft on an extraterrestrial body.

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