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MaryLiz BenderDecember 16, 2018

Planetary Radio celebrates 16 years of PB&J

It’s hard to imagine my life without Planetary Radio. I first started listening to the podcast while trekking the U.S. as a touring musician. While driving from city to city, I would listen to one episode after another. The show immediately transformed me from space enthusiast to space evangelist. Eager to get personally involved in space exploration, I joined The Planetary Society as a member, signed up as a volunteer Outreach Coordinator, and began hosting space events in my community. A year later, I landed a position with The Planetary Society.

Planetary Radio host Mat Kaplan has spent sixteen years sharing the “passion, beauty, and joy” of space exploration with the world — something our CEO, Bill Nye, lovingly refers to as “The PB&J.” I remain grateful for the seemingly endless conversations I continue listening to. With over 850 episodes in the back-catalog, it felt impossible to pick out my favorites. So, with the help of Mat and the rest of the staff, we finally settled on our sixteen favorite episodes we want to share with you during this sixteenth anniversary:

1. A Conversation with Sally Ride

April 12, 2005

Twenty-two years after she became the first American woman in space, Sally Ride devoted herself to bringing the wonder of science to young people, and especially girls. In this episode from 2005, which was recorded seven years before Ride’s passing, she discusses Sally Ride Science and shares her thoughts on the Space Shuttle’s return to flight.

2. Ann Druyan on New Honors for Carl Sagan

September 22, 2008

Just after NASA’s announcement of the Carl Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowships in Exoplanet Exploration, Mat speaks with Ann Druyan, Carl’s widow and longtime collaborator. In this episode, she explains how she continues their work, and Bill Nye shares memories in his own tribute.

3. SETI Scientist Jill Tarter Continues the Search

April 3, 2012

In this episode, Mat talks with Jill Tarter, the Director of the Center for SETI Research, about SETILive, the project with more than 50,000 citizen scientists scanning for ET, as well as her enthusiasm using the Allen Telescope Array to hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence.

4. Buzz Aldrin and Other Martians

May 31, 2017

Buzz Aldrin walked with Neil Armstrong on the moon, but that may not be his greatest legacy. In this episode, Mat Kaplan talks with Buzz Aldrin and several other other space stars at the 2017 Humans To Mars Summit.

5. A Martian Birthday Party for Ray Bradbury

August 25, 2003

Mat Kaplan converses with Ray Bradbury and many of his admirers during The Planetary Society's celebration of Ray’s 83rd birthday in 2003, seven years prior to his passing. The party included a trip to Mount Wilson, high above southern California, where telescopes were trained on Mars as it passed closer to Earth than it had in more than 60,000 years.

6. A Conversation with Freeman Dyson

June 13, 2018

There’s so much more to Freeman Dyson than the Dyson Sphere. The mathematician, physicist, futurist and author is one of the greatest and most original minds of our era. He has much to say to Mat Kaplan about the future of space exploration and humanity in this thought-provoking episode.

7. A Conversation with Elon Musk

February 16, 2009

In early 2009, SpaceX had just achieved the first successful Falcon 1 test flight and received the very important CRS contract from NASA, which awarded SpaceX the responsibility of sending the resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). During these very early days of the company, Mat Kaplan meets with CEO Elon Musk to discuss the company’s achievements and Elon’s vision for the future of the company.

8. The Worlds of TRAPPIST-1

March 1, 2017

The discovery of seven, Earth-sized planets in a nearby solar system was announced in April of 2017. Astrophysicist and planetary scientist Sara Seager joins Mat Kaplan to share her excitement about this find that includes three planets in the habitable zone.

9. Amy Mainzer Is Hunting Asteroids With NEOWISE

December 31, 2013

Take a spacecraft that can no longer survey the realm of galaxies and repurpose it to discover thousands of much nearer asteroids and comets. Put it to sleep for 2.5 years, then wake it up and start discovering even more! In this show, Mat Kaplan talks with JPL’s Amy Mainzer, Principal Investigator for NEOWISE, the mission using this amazing space telescope.

10. Talking With Mary Roach, Author of Packing for Mars

August 16, 2010

The author of Stiff says life in the void is hard but worth the trouble. Mary Roach joins Mat Kaplan to talk about her hilarious and very informative book that looks at the indignities and trials of space travel.

11. A Visit With Sir Arthur C. Clarke

March 24, 2003

One of the world's most famous authors and visionaries joins Mat from his home in Sri Lanka, just five years before his passing. In this wonderful episode, he discusses his latest novel, and what to watch for on the frontiers of science.

12. New Mexico Cave Adventure With Penny Boston and the First International Planetary Caves Workshop

November 21, 2011

Come on a unique tour of Carlsbad Caverns National Park where we make two descents with our guide and renowned cave scientist, Penny Boston. Penny led the First International Planetary Caves Workshop attendees, drawing comparisons between cave geology and what may be possible on worlds throughout our solar system.

13. Celebrating Cassini… Live

September 27, 2017

More than 1,100 fans of the completed 20-year mission to Saturn join us for a live tribute. Mat Kaplan and KPCC Science Reporter Jacob Margolis welcome mission leaders and The Society’s Emily Lakdawalla to Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium stage. You’ll also hear a musical tribute to Cassini’s Grand Finale.

14. ALMA Adventure

March 19, 2013

This episode follows Mat’s journey to Chile’s Atacama Desert, home to the ALMA Observatory, the radio telescope that is humanity’s most ambitious astronomy project. Join Mat among the giant dishes at 5,000 meters or 16,500 feet above sea level.

15. Planetary Radio Live! We See Thee Rise: The Canadian Space Program

October 7, 2014

In this Planetary Radio Live! show, we celebrate Canada’s presence in space with 1,600 Canadian space enthusiasts. Mat Kaplan and Bill Nye host a lively discussion at the University of Toronto featuring Canadian space writer Elizabeth Howell, University of Western Ontario planetary scientist Gordon “Oz” Osinski, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen.

16. Planetary Radio Live!

May 3, 2010

This is the very first episode of Planetary Radio Live! Mat Kaplan hosts a live audience discussion with Jeff Richichi of SpaceX, JPL pioneer James Burke, and Bill Nye. They talk about the history of space exploration as well as the current status of their missions and efforts being made toward the future of space exploration.

Do you have a favorite Planetary Radio episode that we didn’t feature on this list? Please share it with us in the comments below. And, thank you for making Planetary Radio, along with everything we do at The Planetary Society, possible.

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MaryLiz Bender

Former Digital Content Coordinator for The Planetary Society
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