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Planetary Radio Episodes

For every week since 2002, Planetary Radio has visited with a scientist, engineer, project manager, advocate or writer who provides a unique perspective on the quest for knowledge about our solar system and beyond. We also showcase regular features that raise your space IQ while they put a smile on your face.

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Reflections of Humanity in a Spacesuit for Moonwalkers

August 14, 2019 • 67:40

Host Mat Kaplan in a long and fascinating conversation with Nicholas de Monchaux, author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo. This great book is about much more than creation of the suits that allowed humans to walk and work on the Moon. Jason Davis shares pointers on looking for LightSail 2 overhead, while Bruce Betts provides a solar sail update in this week’s What’s Up. And you might win a Planetary Radio t-shirt!

Ready to Sail! LightSail 2 Deploys its Silvery Wings

July 24, 2019 • 39:28

Join us as the little cubesat successfully unfurls its solar sail! You’ll hear from members of the LightSail 2 mission team on the morning of July 23, 2019, when the critical command was sent to the spacecraft.

Apollo 11 and the Woman Who Helped Get It Home

July 17, 2019 • 55:27

Poppy Northcutt was a pioneer—the first woman to work as an engineer in Apollo Mission Control. The program she helped to create got the astronauts back to Earth. Fifty years later, she sits down with Mat Kaplan for a look back.

We’re Sending a Flying Machine to Titan

July 10, 2019 • 56:45

NASA has given the go-ahead for Dragonfly, a flying rotorcraft that will explore Saturn’s mysterious moon Titan. Mission Principal Investigator Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle helps us celebrate.

Flight by Light: A LightSail 2 Mission Preview

June 19, 2019 • 48:22

The day is almost here. With the launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket, The Planetary Society will begin its mission to prove that a tiny, orbiting spacecraft can be propelled by the light of the Sun.

A Last Visit With LightSail 2 at the Cubesat Developers Workshop

May 15, 2019 • 45:05

Mat Kaplan visits Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for a last, clean room visit with LightSail 2, the Planetary Society’s solar sailing cubesat. While there, Mat also talked to attendees at the Cubesat Developers Workshop, including the creator of the tiny “Pocket Rocket” engine for small spacecraft.

The Triumph of a Failed Moon Landing

April 17, 2019 • 38:00

The Beresheet lunar lander failed in the last few kilometers of its descent to the Moon. Two days later we learned that its team would try again.

China on the Final Frontier

March 06, 2019 • 51:32

With missions like Chang’e 4 on the far side of the Moon, China has firmly established itself as a leader in space exploration. Space journalist Andrew Jones helps us explore the nation’s ambitious near and long-term plans.

An Israeli Lander Launches Toward the Moon

February 27, 2019 • 48:02

Non-profit SpaceIL’s Beresheet is on its way to the Moon. Only China, the Soviet Union and the United States have safely landed there before. Host Mat Kaplan talks with SpaceIL Senior Systems Engineer Yoav Landsman, while MaryLiz Bender hears from a team member who attended the launch.

A Fond Farewell to Spirit and Opportunity

February 20, 2019 • 68:44

The Mars Exploration Rover mission was declared complete on February 13, 2019. On the very next day, MER Project Manager John Callas and Deputy Project Scientist Abigail Fraeman came to Planetary Society headquarters for an extended and emotional conversation with Mat Kaplan and Emily Lakdawalla.

Watching the Births of Solar Systems

February 13, 2019 • 40:34

Radio telescopes are delivering stunning images that, in some cases, current optical telescopes can’t equal. Witness the 20 beautiful protoplanetary disks imaged by the DSHARP team using the ALMA radio telescope in Chile.

Flying the Skies of Saturn’s Moon Titan

January 16, 2019 • 45:47

magine soaring over what may be the solar system’s most Earth-like world, if you ignore the chill. If funded, the nuclear electric-powered Dragonfly will do exactly this. Principal Investigator Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle shares her enthusiasm.

New Horizons Flyby: Join the Celebration!

January 09, 2019 • 62:18

Join us at the Applied Physics Lab in Maryland for the New Horizons encounter with the most distant object ever visited. You’ll meet mission leaders, friends and even a rock and roll star as we dive deep into this triumph of exploration.

A Mission to Earth: OSIRIS-REx

January 02, 2019 • 37:00

Why do so many spacecraft that are headed across our solar system turn their instruments back to Earth during flybys? OSIRIS-REx was no exception. The answers come from mission scientist Vicky Hamilton

At the Space Settlement Summit With Former NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden

December 12, 2018 • 50:06

He led NASA for eight years, but not till he had flown on four Space Shuttle missions and enjoyed a long military career. Charlie Bolden talks with Mat about his time at the space agency and where we’re headed on the final frontier.

Last Week, Mars. This week, An Asteroid Called Bennu.

December 05, 2018 • 40:17

The InSight lander has only just arrived on Mars. Now, OSIRIS REx has reached asteroid Bennu after traveling through deep space for a year and a half.

Where Do We Come From? – Exploring the Origins of Life Lab

November 07, 2018 • 38:27

They may be the most important questions in all of science: Where do we come from? Are we alone? Researchers Ralph Pudritz and Maikel Rheinstadter are working on these puzzles with their new Planetary Simulator, possibly edging toward the natural creation of self-replicating molecules.

Sailing to an Asteroid on the Light of the Sun

October 24, 2018 • 49:25

LightSail 2 is not the only solar sail in the universe. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Jet Propulsion Lab are preparing to send NEA Scout on a long, light-propelled journey to a near Earth asteroid.

Big Science, Big Rocket at the Marshall Space Flight Center

September 05, 2018 • 49:38.05

Mat Kaplan’s Huntsville, Alabama trip wraps up with a tour of the historic and history-making Marshall Space Flight Center. Join him at the control center for research underway on the International Space Station, under a tent where a critical component of the Space Launch System rocket is getting finishing touches, in a conversation about the Fermi spacecraft’s search for the universe’s biggest explosions, and with the Center’s Associate Director for Technical efforts.

Giving Mysterious Venus the Love (and Science) She Deserves

August 15, 2018 • 55:54

We have so much to learn about Venus, says JPL scientist Sue Smrekar. What we learn will help us understand our own world and Mars.

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