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
Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/03/14 06:10 CDT
Continue exploring Mars and learn about asteroids in this video of class 6 of Bruce Betts' Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class.
Europa may get a mission...eventually. We give our first take on the 2015 NASA Budget request. How does Planetary Exploration fare? Which projects were cancelled? Will NASA capture an asteroid? And most importantly, what can you do about it?
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/03/04 01:08 CST
Seeing hardware that was built by human hands sitting on the surface of another planet never, ever gets old. Today, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team released two new images of Chang'e 3 and Yutu on the Moon.
Check out this unusual crater on Mars. It's not a very big one, less than 500 meters in diameter, and yet it has two rings. Most craters on Mars this size are simple bowl shapes. What's going on here?
During the third lunar day of Change'3 surface operations the lander operated normally, performing ultraviolet astronomy and imaging Earth's plasmasphere. The rover's instruments were working, but the rover did not move.
In 2016, The Planetary Society’s LightSail program will take the technology a step further.