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 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.
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.
In which I summarize Joe Veverka's Kuiper Prize talk at the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting: "Small is NOT Dull: Unravelling the Complexity of Surface Processes on Asteroids, Comets and Small Satellites."
Juno flies past Earth for a gravity assist at 19:22 UTC today, and the first images from the encounter are already on the ground and processed by amateurs!
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/10/03 02:17 CDT
I've been delving in to the Mars Express image archive this week, checking out its images of Phobos, and found a couple of really cool time-series of images to assemble into animations.
In 2016, The Planetary Society’s LightSail program will take the technology a step further.