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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

A Lander for NASA’s Europa Mission

Posted by Van Kane on 2016/01/05 07:03 CST | 9 comments

While there’s at least eight years until it launches, this has been a pivotal year for developing NASA’s Europa mission.

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Two epic photos of Earth -- but which one is truer?

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/12/29 05:19 CST | 1 comment

Two images of Earth taken from different spacecraft at the same time illustrate differences in "true" color imaging among spacecraft.

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Hayabusa2 views Earth and the Moon on approach to December 3 flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/12/01 07:26 CST | 1 comment

I just love photos of Earth from planetary missions -- especially if they manage to get Earth and Moon in the same shot, as Hayabusa2 did on November 26.

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Favorite Astro Plots #3: The rate of lunar cratering

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/11/30 07:03 CST

The third entry in my series of blog posts about Favorite Astro Plots contains one of the biggest discoveries from the Apollo program -- as well as one of the biggest questions in planetary science. The chart was nominated by planetary scientist Barbara Cohen. It has to do with the ages of surfaces on the Moon.

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Surveyor Digitization Project Hints at Long-Lost Lunar Treasures

Posted by Jason Davis on 2015/11/23 10:36 CST | 9 comments

A project to digitize more than 90,000 images taken by NASA’s five Surveyor spacecraft in the 1960s has revealed early hints of never-before-seen treasures captured by America’s first robotic lunar landers.

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Two JAXA mission updates: Akatsuki Venus orbit entry and PROCYON Earth flyby coming up!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/11/19 05:51 CST

Akatsuki is finally approaching its second attempt to enter Venus orbit, on December 7; let's all wish JAXA the best of luck! And PROCYON, whose ion engines have failed, is still an otherwise perfectly functional spacecraft that is taking photos of Earth and the Moon as it approaches for a flyby.

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A Day in the Solar System: 28 October 2015

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2015/11/09 07:44 CST | 5 comments

On October 28th, the Cassini spacecraft flew through the geyser plume of Saturn's moon Enceladus. But Cassini was not the only spacecraft operating in the solar system that day.

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New Concepts to Explore the Jovian System

Posted by Van Kane on 2015/10/28 08:04 CDT | 2 comments

Last year, NASA’s managers invited the European Space Agency to propose a small spacecraft to explore the Jovian system. Van Kane describes the recently-posted results of ESA's concept studies for two possible missions.

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Preparing for the Journey to the Moon, Mars and Beyond

Posted by Deepak Dhingra on 2015/10/21 10:03 CDT | 1 comment

Deepak Dhingra reports on a planetary analog field trip exploring a very young volcanic terrain in Idaho at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.

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Filling in the Enceladus map: Cassini's 20th flyby

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2015/10/16 06:19 CDT | 7 comments

A couple of days ago, Cassini flew past Enceladus for its 20th targeted encounter. Cassini has seen and photographed quite a lot of Enceladus before, but there's still new terrain for it to cover.

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