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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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The Unexpected Space Center: Los Alamos National Laboratory

September 11, 2019 • 45:15

This US research center has been part of more than 200 space missions, but it’s not a NASA facility! The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico gave the Voyager spacecraft their power sources, is building nuclear generators for future Martians, and accidentally invented the field of High Energy Astrophysics.

A Comet’s Legacy, and a Helicopter is Ready for Mars

September 04, 2019 • 61:11

First we return to JPL for an update on the Mars Helicopter that has just been attached to the belly of the 2020 Mars Rover. Then it’s across the pond for a review of the amazing science coming from the Rosetta mission that spent years exploring comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We wrap things up with another What’s Up view across the solar system and beyond.

What Will You Send to the Moon?

August 28, 2019 • 44:20

Astrobotic is one of several companies that are building small, robotic landers to take commercial payloads to the surface of the Moon. With a new contract from NASA to support his company’s work, CEO John Thornton looks forward to touching down in 2021. Senior editor Emily Lakdawalla can’t wait for the Europa Clipper to reach Europa, one of Jupiter’s ocean moons. Who doesn’t want more cow bell? Chief scientist Bruce Betts gets his share as he helps us explore the current night sky in What’s Up.

NASA’s Red Planet Rick and Putting Humans on Mars

August 21, 2019 • 64:20

Rick Davis is the perfect person to co-lead NASA’s Mars Human Landing Sites Study. No one is more devoted to putting human bootprints on the Red Planet. He returns to Planetary Radio for this inspiring and informative conversation about our progress. Bruce Betts leads off What’s Up with another brief LightSail 2 update. The Planetary Society’s solar sailing cubesat continues to raise its orbit.

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!

Planetary Radio Live with Bill Nye at Science Museum Oklahoma

August 07, 2019 • 73:30

Join Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye and host Mat Kaplan as they visit Oklahoma City’s outstanding public science museum. You’ll meet University of Oklahoma researchers who are exploring Mars and learning how solar systems form across the universe.

A Helicopter for Mars and a Major LightSail Announcement

July 31, 2019 • 37:40

It will be the first flying machine on another world. Mars Helicopter Project Manager MiMi Aung shares her plans. There’s big news about The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2!

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.

Space Policy Edition: Why Apollo Happened (with Roger Launius)

July 05, 2019 • 2:03:54

Space historian Dr. Roger Launius joins the show to explain why Apollo happened the way it did, how a moonshot briefly became a solution to a national security problem, and why it is unlikely to happen again.

LightSail Takes Flight!

July 03, 2019 • 50:29

A giant SpaceX Falcon Heavy lifted off in the early hours of June 25th. One week later, the LightSail 2 solar sail was released to begin its epic mission. You’ll join the thrilling launch, meet LightSail team members and leaders of other missions, and get a solar sail update in this very special episode.

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.

Quasars and Quanta: Exploring Einstein’s Quantum Riddle

June 12, 2019 • 58:16

Even though his own work led to it, Albert Einstein never cared for quantum mechanics concepts like entanglement, which he called “spooky action at a distance.” While there’s no doubt it is real, could something even more mysterious be hiding under it?

Starchaser: Extraordinary Astronomer Jay Pasachoff

June 05, 2019 • 61:21

Jay Pasachoff visits Planetary Society headquarters for a conversation about the latest edition of his and Alex Filippenko’s monumental textbook The Cosmos.

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.

Planetary Radio Live Defends Planet Earth!

May 08, 2019 • 53:30

Leaders of the global effort to avoid a catastrophic Near Earth Object impact gathered at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference. On the evening of May 1st, The Planetary Society partnered in an exciting PDC public event at the University of Maryland College Park. Presentations by Society CEO Bill Nye and NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green were followed by Planetary Radio Live.

Space Policy Edition: Lessons From the Moonshot That Never Was (with Mark Albrecht)

May 03, 2019 • 89:20

Thirty years ago, Dr. Mark Albrecht led the National Space Council when President George H.W. Bush announced the Space Exploration Initiative, an ambitious effort to send humans to the Moon and then on to Mars.

The Skies of Super-Earths and Mini-Neptunes

May 01, 2019 • 55:29

There appear to be more mini-Neptunes (also known as Super Earths) across our galaxy than any other type of planet. Hannah Wakeford wants to learn if some of them support life, and she’s doing this by exploring their skies.

Lucy in the Sky With Asteroids

April 24, 2019 • 47:22

A rare alignment of planets and other objects will enable the solar-powered Lucy spacecraft to examine seven asteroids, six of which are among the thousands of Trojan asteroids that orbit ahead of and behind Jupiter. The mission team, include Hal Levison, Cathy Olkin and Mike Sekerak, hope to unlock secrets of our solar system’s origin through these ancient artifacts.

Ice Worlds, A Moon Landing and Blasting an Asteroid

April 03, 2019 • 41:45

When will we return to Uranus and Neptune? Planetary scientist Amy Simon explains why a mission to the so-called ice giants is a high priority as she tells us about these mysterious, blue worlds.

Bill Nye and Planetary Radio Live at Extreme STEAM

March 20, 2019 • 70:23

Planetary Radio Live goes on stage at the first ever Fairplex Extreme STEA2M Festival in Pomona, California. Host Mat Kaplan and Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye are joined by four young space scientists and engineers in front of hundreds of families.

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