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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

Terra Cognita

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/07/29 01:18 CDT | 4 comments

Pushing back the frontier, and filling in the blank spaces on the map.

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Jani Radebaugh, Titan Explorer

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/07/23 03:47 CDT | 4 comments

Robotic space exploration is human exploration. Meet one of the people behind the machines.

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Pretty picture: Looking backward

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/07/23 05:03 CDT | 15 comments

Here it is: the view from Saturn of our Earthly home, one and a half billion kilometers away. We see Earth and the Moon through a thin veil of faintly blue ice crystals, the outskirts of Saturn's E ring. Earth is just a bright dot -- a bit brighter than the other stars in the image, but no brighter than any planet (like Saturn!) in our own sky.

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Earth and Moon from MESSENGER

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/07/22 05:03 CDT | 3 comments

A new picture of the Earth-Moon system from MESSENGER, taken the same day we were told to "Wave at Saturn." Updated with a neat photo taken from much closer to Earth from a similar perspective.

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Dunes on Tatooine

Posted by Ralph Lorenz on 2013/07/17 01:13 CDT

The fictional world Tatooine, scene of action in the Star Wars movies, is named after a town in Tunisia, where parts of the movies were filmed. The desert backdrops against which the movies were filmed are real terrestrial landscapes, which prove to be perhaps unexpectedly dynamic.

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Scale comparisons of the solar system's major moons

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2013/07/10 06:05 CDT | 12 comments

A few presentation slides with pretty pictures, sized to scale, of the large moons of the solar system.

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Planetary Radio: Don't Step in That Puddle!

Posted by Mat Kaplan on 2013/07/01 06:18 CDT

The Planetary Science Institute's Amanda Hendrix is the guest for our July 1 episode. She finds water in the least likely places, including Luna.

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A Little Moonlight

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/06/19 01:33 CDT | 1 comments

From far away, or from so near you could almost touch it, the moon is beautiful.

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One Ocean World Among Many

Posted by Jim Bell on 2013/06/03 03:53 CDT | 6 comments

I'm absolutely floored when I stop to think that our beautiful blue ocean is only one of perhaps a half dozen or more oceans on other worlds in our solar system, and only one of probably millions (or more) oceans on other Earth-like planets in our galaxy. Oceans abound!

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The Shores of the Kraken Sea: Great Place Names in the Solar System

Posted by Bill Dunford on 2013/05/28 08:59 CDT | 9 comments

Nothing reflects the romance of deep space exploration more than the evocative names of places on the planets and moons.

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