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
A few days ago, I wrote a post about the basins of the Moon -- a result of a trip down a rabbit hole of book research. Here's the next step in that journey: the Geologic Time Scales of Earth and the Moon.
The European Space Agency will announce two major science missions this November, one of which is likely to be devoted to solar system exploration.
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.
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.
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.
In 2016, The Planetary Society’s LightSail program will take the technology a step further.