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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

NASA Wants to Explore Europa On the Cheap

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2014/03/05 11:49 CST | 11 comments

NASA announced today that their Europa mission concept studies will be for a sub-$1 billion spacecraft, a lower level than previously imagined for a mission to this watery moon.

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Checking in on Chang'e 3 and Yutu from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter: Yep, still there!

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.

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Pretty pictures of terraced craters on Mars

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/02/27 10:16 CST | 3 comments

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?

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Sunset on Chang'e 3's third lunar day: Yutu not dead yet, but not moving either

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/02/24 12:38 CST | 4 comments

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.

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A Spin Through the Inner Solar System

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2014/02/24 09:57 CST | 1 comment

Animated maps of the planets show the spheres in motion.

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Intro Astronomy Class 3: Telescopes, the Moon

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/02/21 04:35 CST

Explore optical, radio, and space telescopes and the Moon in the video of class 3 of Bruce Betts' Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class.

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Intro Astronomy Class 1: Tour of the Solar System

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/02/11 05:53 CST | 1 comment

Take a tour of the Solar System in the video of class 1 of Bruce Betts' Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy class.

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Behind-the-scenes story of Yutu: Promoting space exploration in China

Posted by Quanzhi Ye on 2014/02/11 12:24 CST

Promoting the story of Yutu to the Chinese public through social media: a successful case of science outreach.

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Take My Free Online College Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy CSUDH Class

Posted by Bruce Betts on 2014/02/05 05:02 CST | 9 comments

Our own Dr. Bruce Betts is once again teaching his Introduction to Planetary Science and Astronomy college course online. Come join him.

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An extended mission for LADEE

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2014/02/03 09:39 CST | 2 comments

The LADEE team has managed their fuel frugally enough to permit a one-month mission extension; they now plan to impact the Moon on or around April 21, 2014.

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