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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

Six wheels on soil for Yutu!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/14 03:28 CST | 9 comments

Here it is! Animated gifs, composed of screen grabs from Chinese state television, of the Yutu rover rolling on to the lunar surface. This was a replay, but it was no less thrilling for that; the actual rollout happened at 20:40 UT (12:40 PT). Six wheels on soil! Woohoo!

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Chang'e 3 has successfully landed on the Moon!

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/14 08:28 CST | 2 comments

Transmitting images all the way down, China's Chang'e 3 lander successfully arrived on the lunar surface at 13:11:18 -- half an hour before the scheduled landing time. Rover deploy is set for a few hours later.

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Europa: No Longer a "Should," But a "Must"

Posted by Casey Dreier on 2013/12/12 07:51 CST | 10 comments

We've waited long enough, Europa cries out for exploration and discovery. It's time to heed that cry.

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The Plumes of Europa

Posted by Leigh Fletcher on 2013/12/12 12:01 CST | 12 comments

2013 has been a rather exciting year for Europa scientists. Today's exciting news: the Hubble Space Telescope discovery of water vapor plumes from the south pole of this icy moon.

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Enceladus huffs and puffs: plumes vary with orbital longitude

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/11 07:22 CST | 2 comments

In which I finally get around to writing about a paper published last August: Enceladus' plumes sometimes spout more and sometimes spout less, depending on where Enceladus is in its orbit. This discovery was enabled by Cassini's longevity at Saturn, and we'll be able to follow up on it, as long as Cassini is allowed to complete its mission.

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Chang'e 3 and LADEE updates -- and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, too, for good measure

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/12/05 08:40 CST

Chang'e 3 is just about to land on the Moon, and the LADEE orbiter has begun a new science mission there, while Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is still producing amazing images.

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Somewhere Over the Bay of Rainbows

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/12/02 12:35 CST | 4 comments

Pay a visit to the Chang'e 3 lunar landing site.

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Planetary Radio: Rise of the Europa Underground?

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2013/11/26 09:39 CST | 2 comments

This week's PlanRad talks to one of the creators of a new effort to build support for the Europa Clipper, a spacecraft that would tell us far more about what's going on under that icy moon's surface.

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ARTEMIS Mission Update

Posted by Jasper S. Halekas on 2013/11/14 12:27 CST

ARTEMIS is a mission that retasked two probes from the 5-spacecraft Heliophysics constellation THEMIS to study the interaction of the Moon with the space plasma environment.

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The Strangest Place on the Moon?

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/10/21 02:00 CDT | 4 comments

A closer look at the odd lunar feature called "Ina."

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