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

Selecting the Next Creative Idea for Exploring the Solar System

With the release of the official Announcement of Opportunity (AO) early in November, NASA has officially begun the competition to select its next low cost ($450M) Discovery program planetary mission. Because planetary scientists are free to propose missions to any destination in the solar system other than the sun and Earth, these competitions bring out the creativity in the planetary science program.

Closing out the ASRG program

Lockheed, the prime contract on the now-defunct Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator program, is closing out the project and transferring its hardware to NASA's Glenn Research Center. NASA expects to save about $55 million per year.

Continued Victories for Planetary Exploration

Pat yourself on the back. Planetary exploration will be more vibrant in 2014 thanks to you. More than fifty thousand messages were sent to Congress this year, and they listened, adding back a significant amount of money in the 2014 Omnibus spending bill.

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.

NASA Just Cancelled its Advanced Spacecraft Power Program

The Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Program (ASRG) was just cancelled by NASA. This was to be the saving grace for Plutonium-238 availability, as it was a much more efficient way to generate electricity than classic RTG systems.

Power From the Isotopes

We report on the current state of Plutonium-238 production in the United States, a crucial fuel source for planetary exploration spacecraft.

A Victory for Exploration

We celebrate success as Congress passes a bill that restores funding to NASA's Planetary Science program, allowing for more missions, begins a mission to Europa, and funds Plutonium fuel development.

URGENT: Call Appropriations Committee members to support Pu-238 production

I just got the following email from the American Geophysical Union (AGU), requesting anyone whose Congressperson sits on the Appropriations Committee to place a phone call to support the production of Plutonium-238, the isotope of plutonium that powers spacecraft that cannot run on solar power.

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