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Planetary RadioAugust 5, 2016

Space Policy Edition #3: Plutonium-238, Europa via SLS, Cost of the Next Mars Rover Rises

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Special Guests
Jason Callahan
Jason Callahan

Space Policy Advisor, The Planetary Society

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Casey Dreier

Director of Space Policy, The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Planetary Radio Host and Producer

In our third episode, we debate the risks and rewards of tying the future of a Europa mission to the fate of NASA's massive Space Launch System rocket. Also, NASA just announced that the next Mars rover will cost $2.4 billion—$900 million more than initially thought. But the mission is not considered over budget. Why not? Lastly, the U.S. just generated 50 grams of Plutonium-238, the largest amount in nearly thirty years. We celebrate the successful effort to create this critically important, though highly toxic, power source for deep space spacecraft. You’ll hear the fascinating history of why existing Pu-238 sources were running out, and how NASA overcame obstacles to restart production.

Plutonium-238 Fuel Pellet

Department of Energy

Plutonium-238 Fuel Pellet
A ceramic fuel pellet of Plutonium-238 oxide glows orange from its radioactive decay. These pellets are used inside Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) to provide heat that is converted into electricity on spacecraft.

A new episode of Space Policy Edition will be posted on the first Friday of each month. Let us know what you think about our topics and our approach! Comment on this page or write to [email protected].

Additional Reading/References:

Listen more: Jupiter's moons, Mars 2020, SLS, Europa, Space Policy, Europa Clipper, Planetary Radio, Mars, Plutonium-238

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