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

Imaging and imagination in space

Learn about The Planetary Society’s vision for the next decade of exploration and get up to speed on space news.

LightSail Launch Event

LightSail 2’s launch window opens on June 22, and we are finalizing plans for our launch viewing celebrations. Once we have finished coordinating the details with the Air Force’s STP-2 mission team and the Kennedy Space Center, we will share them with all of our members and backers so that you can join us in person or remotely via the internet.

NEA Scout unfurls solar sail for full-scale test

The next time its solar sail is deployed, NEA Scout will be out near the Moon.

NASA, international partners consider solar sail for Deep Space Gateway

A Canadian Space Agency proposal would install a solar sail on the outside of the Deep Space Gateway, a miniature space station in lunar orbit.

SLS CubeSats to Set Sail for Deep Space

When SLS launches Orion to the moon in 2018, a fleet of deep space CubeSats will come along for the ride, including a solar sailing spacecraft similar to LightSail.

Can nuclear waste help humanity reach for the stars?

With the shortage of plutonium-238 to power space missions, Europe has decided to focus on an accessible alternative material that could power future spacecraft: americium-241.

Planetary CubeSats Begin to Come of Age

Van Kane rounds up some recent planetary mission concepts based on CubeSat technology.

LightSail update: Launch dates

I’m excited to report some big news on The Planetary Society’s LightSail project: actual launch dates on actual launch vehicles!

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.

Mars Needs Plutonium! (And so do Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Points Beyond)

Society Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator Casey Dreier visits Planetary Radio with the tale of an element that is essential to exploration of deep space.

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.

Plutonium-238 is Crucial for Space Exploration – and it's Running Out

Plutonium-238 provides electricity to deep space missions, but NASA only has a little bit left. A new article in Wired highlights the disastrous consequences of no plutonium for use in space, something the Planetary Society is currently fighting for in Washington, D.C.

Say "hi!" to asteroid -- actually, asteroids -- (285263) 1998 QE2

A large asteroid is passing reasonably close to Earth in a few hours, and astronomers at the great radio telescopes at Goldstone and Arecibo are zapping it. The latest discovery: QE2, like many asteroids, is a binary.

LightSail presented at Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium

Chris Biddy from Stellar Exploration Inc. presented information about our LightSail project at the 2012 Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium.

Visiting a Solar Sail in the OC

The city of Tustin is about an hour's drive from Planetary Society HQ in Pasadena. That's when the freeway gods are kind, which they never are. The trip I made there yesterday was well worth the trouble.

Goldstone: Desert outpost performs radio imaging of close-passing asteroid 2005 YU55

Anticipating the close flyby of asteroid 2005 YU55 yesterday, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory invited media to tour Goldstone, one of three facilities that make up NASA's Deep Space Network. I've always wanted to see these massive radio dishes up close, so I jumped at the chance!

A new trick for IKAROS: Spinning the other way

JAXA's solar sail demonstration craft IKAROS is still puttering along, 17 months after it launched, and its controllers back on Earth keep coming up with new things to try with it. I'm pretty amazed by the most recent trick: reversing its spin direction. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is, especially for IKAROS.

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