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.
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.
Casey Dreier tells the winding tale of Plutonium 238, the radioactive isotope that is vital for exploration of the solar system. The US came dangerously close to exhausting its supply. Even with production restarted, there are major challenges facing explorers.