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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

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

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 | 3 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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Four Ideas to Bust the Floor on Outer Planet Mission Costs

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/03/26 08:25 CDT | 7 comments

The road to lower costs outer planet missions has been paved by NASA’s first two New Frontiers missions, the $700M New Horizons mission to Pluto and the $1.1B Juno mission to Jupiter. But can the cost of a mission to the outer solar system be cut to $450M, the limit for a Discovery mission?

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LPSC 2015: Aeolian Processes on Mars and Titan

Posted by Nathan Bridges on 2015/03/26 04:05 CDT

Planetary scientist Nathan Bridges reports on results from the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference about the action of wind on the surfaces of Mars and Titan.

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An internal ocean on Ganymede: Hooray for consistency with previous results!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/12 07:25 CDT | 8 comments

A newly published paper confirms a subsurface ocean at Ganymede. An ocean there was already suspected from its magnetic field and predicted by geophysics; new Hubble data confirms it, and even says it is in the same place we thought it was before. Such consistency is rare enough in planetary science to be worth celebration.

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A Sky Full of Stars

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2015/03/09 08:03 CDT | 3 comments

In pictures of the planets, the stars aren't usually visible. But when they do appear, they're spectacular.

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Mars Orbiter Mission Methane Sensor for Mars is at work

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/03/04 10:50 CST | 5 comments

After several months of near-silence, ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission has released on Facebook the first data product from its Methane Sensor For Mars. Don't get too excited about methane yet: there is no positive or negative detection. The news here is that the Methane Sensor for Mars is working, systematically gathering data. They also released several new photos of Mars.

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Mapping Europa

Posted by Björn Jónsson on 2015/02/18 01:38 CST | 2 comments

Several global maps have been made of Europa, but amateur image processor Björn Jónsson felt they could be improved—so he decided to make a new one.

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