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
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.
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.
Learn all about a sustainable, affordable path to get humans to the Red Planet—a path that goes through Mars orbit and Phobos.
There will be a spectacular total lunar eclipse on the night of Sept. 27-28, 2015, a newly dubbed Mega Hemorrhaging Eclipse. Here is info on what lunar eclipses are and how to observe the eclipse.
There are no spacecraft at Uranus or Neptune, and there haven't been for 30 and 25 years, respectively. So we depend on Earth-based astronomers to monitor them, including Damian Peach.
Impress your friends and wow your colleagues by learning all about Mars's moons.
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.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.