Stories, updates, insights, and original analysis from The Planetary Society.

Discovery Missions for an Icy Moon with Active Plumes

In December, scientists announced the discovery of possible plumes of water being ejected from Jupiters’s moon Europa. If confirmed, Europa would be the second moon with confirmed plumes after Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Two Discovery mission proposals for Enceladus suggest the types of missions that may be proposed for Europa.

Discovery Next

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, the Discovery program is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. The creativity of the scientific community has given us a wide assortment of missions in the past and is likely to surprise and delight us again.

NASA’s New Planetary Mission Woes

NASA’s planetary science program depends on regular missions to solar system bodies to gather data. A combination of budget cuts and previous commitments to develop missions currently in the pipeline means that development of follow on missions may slow to a crawl. Van Kane looks at the current situation and NASA’s plans and then look at options the agency may consider if budgets remain tight into the next decade.

The ASRG Cancellation in Context

ASRGs could have stretched NASA's limited supply of plutonium to potentially enable missions to the perpetually-shadowed polar craters on our moon, to flyby Uranus, or to float for months on a Titan lake.

Europe Bypasses Solar System for Upcoming Science Missions

The European Space Agency has selected two astrophysics observatories as its next large science missions, overlooking every proposed planetary mission. ESA's current selection of planetary missions, however, means it will still be a major player in solar system exploration for the next two decades.

The Potential of CubeSats

Planetary spacecraft originally tended to be large missions. However, technology is shrinking, and before the decade is out, I expect that we will have at least one planetary mission based on a CubeSat.

The Mars 2020 Rover In-Depth

We now know the science goals for NASA’s next major Mars mission. The new rover will further the astrobiological search begun by the Curiosity rover and store samples for eventual return to the Earth, providing a stepping stone to the next stage of Martian exploration.

Implementing Missions Within Budget�Good News

Last decade, cost overruns on a number of planetary missions stretched NASA's budget. Recent missions have stayed within budget, but the cost of fiscal discipline may mean staying close to home.

ISIS: Blasting a Crater on Asteroid Bennu

An exciting new option to enhance NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission has been proposed by Steve Chesley at JPL. The ISIS spacecraft would impact asteroid Bennu to expose its interior structure to OSIRIS-REx.

Further Analysis of NASA's 2014 Budget Proposal

Now that groups and individuals have had time to digest the proposed 2014 NASA Planetary Science budget, they are highlighting the impacts of the proposed cuts. We are also getting the first independent reactions to the proposal to bring an asteroid to lunar orbit as a target for human exploration.

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