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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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How to Build a Starship: The 2019 Starship Congress

September 18, 2019 • 45:15

The biannual Starship Congress attracts starry-eyed believers in humankind’s destiny among the stars. We talk with several of them about their ideas for technologies and science that may help pave the way. Science fiction author David Brin dropped by the Congress and spends a few fun and speculative minutes with us. The September Equinox edition of The Planetary Report is ready for all to read. Editor Emily Lakdawalla gives us a sneak peek. The Milky Way has at least 54 satellite galaxies? Who knew? Bruce Betts, that’s who.

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!

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!

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.

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.

The News From Saturn-With Linda Spilker

June 26, 2019 • 48:22

It has been many months since the great Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere and fiery death. Yet the mission lives on as the reams of data and images reveal much more of this beautiful world, its rings and its moons.

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?

Space Policy Edition: The Soviet Moonshot (with Asif Siddiqi)

June 07, 2019 • 2:03:54

The U.S. won the space race in July of 1969 with the success of Apollo 11. But was the Soviet Union even racing? How close were they to beating the United States to the Moon?

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.

Sharing a Passion for Mars at the Humans to Mars Summit

May 29, 2019 • 55:13

This year’s Humans to Mars Summit in Washington D.C., once again ended with a panel of Martian all-stars talking about their hopes for a future that includes the Red Planet. Planetary Radio host Mat Kaplan leads the inspiring and entertaining discussion.

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.

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