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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

LPSC 2016: Icy Satellite Science

Posted by Jessica Noviello on 2016/04/05 08:01 CDT

This year’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference devoted two oral presentation sessions to questions related to icy satellites in our solar system. Jessica Noviello reports back from the conference.

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Clouds and haze and dust, oh my!

Posted by Sarah Hörst on 2016/03/24 11:16 CDT | 3 comments

What types of aerosols do we find in the atmospheres around the Solar System, and why does what we call them—clouds vs. haze vs. dust—matter? Sarah Hörst explains.

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Pretty pictures: Cassini views of Titan's poles (with bonus Enceladus)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/02/25 02:13 CST | 4 comments

Image processing enthusiast Ian Regan produced a pretty view of Titan's lake-filled north pole, now visible to Cassini's cameras in the summer sun.

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Three Things to Look for in NASA’s Coming Budget Request

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2016/02/04 02:27 CST

The 2017 budget season is almost here. Next week, the White House will release its budget request for NASA. Here are three things I will immediately look for upon its release.

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Fun with a new data set: Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover camera data

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/01/28 07:08 CST | 26 comments

Here, for the first time in a format easily accessible to the public, are hundreds and hundreds of science-quality images from the Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover.

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China invites public on-board its robotic missions; and how to download Chang'e data

Posted by Quanzhi Ye on 2016/01/25 10:50 CST | 1 comment

China plans a busy future in robotic space exploration. Besides the scientific merit, what interests me most about the upcoming Chang'e 4 mission is their intention to get the public involved.

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Europa Budget Bulge

Posted by Van Kane on 2016/01/25 07:04 CST

Van Kane explains how the key development for NASA’s mission to Europa will be an agreement on how the agency plans to accommodate the monetary bulge that will come from funding the mission.

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Pretty pictures: Bittersweet goodies from Cassini at Titan, Enceladus, and Telesto

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/01/15 02:00 CST | 7 comments

Tomorrow, Cassini will fly by Titan, picking up a gravity assist that will tilt its orbit slightly up and out of the ring plane. That will end what has been a wonderful year of frequent encounters with Saturnian moons.

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Updates on China's lunar missions

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2016/01/14 03:39 CST | 2 comments

It's official: China plans to send a lander mission to the lunar farside. A relay satellite will launch to the Earth-Moon L2 point in June of 2018, and a lander will follow at the end of 2018. The landing site may be within the south pole-Aitken basin.

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Capturing the Rhythm of Space: Insights from 47th DPS Meeting

Posted by Deepak Dhingra on 2016/01/07 06:33 CST

The Division of Planetary Science (DPS) Meeting saw many exciting scientific discussions spanning the range of processes on different planetary bodies, as well as their replication in the laboratory and in models.

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