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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

Europe Will Select Its Next Major Science Mission in November

Posted by Van Kane on 2013/09/25 01:22 CDT | 2 comments

The European Space Agency will announce two major science missions this November, one of which is likely to be devoted to solar system exploration.

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More fancy Phobos and Deimos photography by Curiosity

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/09/24 10:19 CDT

Curiosity looked up after dark and captured more cool photos of Mars' moons. They include Phobos and Deimos passing in the night, and Phobos entering Mars' shadow.

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Go LADEE!

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2013/09/10 10:41 CDT

Listen to or watch the recording of our live celebration for LADEE as the spacecraft blasted off for the moon.

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Watch LADEE Launch to the Moon with The Planetary Society

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2013/09/06 08:45 CDT

Starting at 7:30pm PDT/10:30pm EDT, we will webcast a special event around the launch of NASA's next lunar spacecraft. Watch our special coverage with lunar scientists and live video from the launch site, as well as NASA TV footage of the launch itself.

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NASA's Europa Mission Concept Rejects ASRGs -- May Use Solar Panels at Jupiter Instead

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2013/09/05 06:41 CDT | 6 comments

The Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG) is no longer an option for powering a potential Europa mission. The ASRG uses Plutonium-238 to generate electricity, but is far more efficient than past RTGs.

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China Goes to the Moon and Beyond?

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2013/08/27 01:06 CDT

Planetary Radio guest Leonard David has been writing about space exploration for more than five decades. He has collected analysis from around the world about China's big plans for space exploration.

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The Walls of the Pit

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/08/26 04:37 CDT | 4 comments

A deep lunar crater exposes some of the Moon's secrets.

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Probing Titan's Atmosphere

Posted by Sarah Hörst on 2013/08/26 03:14 CDT | 11 comments

By now I hope that everyone has seen some of the spectacular images of the Saturn system (and especially Titan!) from the Cassini-Huygens mission. However, the measurements that often make my heart race are taken by instruments that reveal Titan in ways that our eyes cannot see.

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A special Phobos eclipse

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/08/20 07:37 CDT | 4 comments

Those sneaky scientists on Curiosity managed to catch a Phobos transit of the Sun with one set of cameras, and to watch its shadow darkening the surface with another. COOL!

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Movie of Phobos and Deimos from Curiosity: super cool and scientifically useful

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/08/16 05:01 CDT | 5 comments

Yesterday, the Curiosity mission released the video whose potential I got so excited about a couple of weeks ago: the view, from Curiosity, of Phobos transiting Deimos in the Martian sky. In this post, Mark Lemmon answers a bunch of my questions about why they photograph Phobos and Deimos from rovers.

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