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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

IceBreaker: The Search for Life on Mars

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/09/08 09:19 CDT | 3 comments

The IceBreaker mission, proposed to NASA's Discovery program for low-cost missions, would seek out life on the northern plains of Mars.

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Chang'e 5 test vehicle maps future sample return site

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/09/03 12:13 CDT | 4 comments

This summer the Chinese space agency has been making progress toward its planned 2017 launch of the Chang'e 5 robotic sample return mission, performing low-altitude imaging of the future landing site.

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CubeSats to the Moon

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2015/09/02 10:52 CDT | 1 comment

Casey interviews Dr. Craig Hardgrove about his lunar CubeSat, how it came together, and how NASA’s support for small missions are important for early career scientists like himself.

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MERLIN: The Creative Choices Behind a Proposal to Explore the Martian Moons

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/08/10 09:29 CDT | 4 comments

Van Kane presents one of the three missions from the latest round of NASA Discovery proposals with the goal of exploring Mars' moons.

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Field Report from Mars: Sol 4060 - June 26, 2015

Posted by Larry Crumpler on 2015/07/29 01:04 CDT

Larry Crumpler gives an update on the Opportunity rover's activities in Spirit of St. Louis crater.

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Looking back at Pluto

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/07/24 07:12 CDT | 17 comments

I don't think anyone was prepared for the beauty -- or the instant scientific discoveries -- in this "lookback" image of Pluto, captured by New Horizons shortly after it flew by.

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Latest New Horizons picture of Charon: oddly familiar

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/07/16 02:45 CDT | 14 comments

The New Horizons team released one more picture from Tuesday's encounter, one of three high-resolution images from a mosaic that crossed the center of Charon's disk, and it took me a while to figure out what it reminded me of.

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First look at New Horizons' Pluto and Charon images: "baffling in a very interesting and wonderful way"

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/07/15 04:42 CDT | 33 comments

Today's press briefing at the Applied Physics Laboratory in California was preceded by hours of New Horizons team members cryptically dropping hints on Twitter at astonishing details in the seven images downlinked since the flyby. The images are, in fact, astonishing, as well as beautiful, surprising, and puzzling.

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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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