This week on Planetary Radio: Some of the greatest missions of planetary exploration were only possible because of an element that strikes fear in the hearts of many. A dwindling supply could have meant the end of voyages to the outer solar system and everywhere else that lacks strong, direct sunlight.
Planetary Society Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator Casey Dreier has written a terrific article in The Planetary Report about Plutonium 238, an isotope that cannot be used to create atomic weapons, but nevertheless glows white hot with radioactive decay. That heat is turned into electricity in the Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) that power spacecraft including the Voyagers, Pioneers, Cassini, Curiosity and more than twenty other American missions.
I think you'll enjoy Casey's recounting of this dramatic and still-unfolding story. He also extends an invitation to his "Cosmos With Cosmos" viewing parties and essays. Bill Nye reviews "Gravity," and Emily Lakdawalla talks about the budding space race between two Asian giants. Bruce Betts rewards us with a spooky Random Space Fact and another chance to win a Planetary Radio t-shirt in What's Up. It's an episode that will leave you glowing.