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Planetary Radio Show Archives: 2019

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Where Do We Come From? The Origin of Life

January 30, 2019 • 54:42

Astrobiology is the discipline that explores the origin of life in the universe, and whether life exists anywhere other than Earth. It’s an increasingly exciting field according to University of Washington Research Associate Michael Wong. Mike reviews the current thinking and provides some of the chemical basis for life as we know it, and possibly as we don’t know it.

What Will You Send to the Moon?

August 28, 2019 • 44:20

Astrobotic is one of several companies that are building small, robotic landers to take commercial payloads to the surface of the Moon. With a new contract from NASA to support his company’s work, CEO John Thornton looks forward to touching down in 2021. Senior editor Emily Lakdawalla can’t wait for the Europa Clipper to reach Europa, one of Jupiter’s ocean moons. Who doesn’t want more cow bell? Chief scientist Bruce Betts gets his share as he helps us explore the current night sky in What’s Up.

We’re Sending a Flying Machine to Titan

July 10, 2019 • 56:45

NASA has given the go-ahead for Dragonfly, a flying rotorcraft that will explore Saturn’s mysterious moon Titan. Mission Principal Investigator Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle helps us celebrate.

Watching the Births of Solar Systems

February 13, 2019 • 40:34

Radio telescopes are delivering stunning images that, in some cases, current optical telescopes can’t equal. Witness the 20 beautiful protoplanetary disks imaged by the DSHARP team using the ALMA radio telescope in Chile.

The Unexpected Space Center: Los Alamos National Laboratory

September 11, 2019 • 45:15

This US research center has been part of more than 200 space missions, but it’s not a NASA facility! The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico gave the Voyager spacecraft their power sources, is building nuclear generators for future Martians, and accidentally invented the field of High Energy Astrophysics.

The Triumph of a Failed Moon Landing

April 17, 2019 • 38:00

The Beresheet lunar lander failed in the last few kilometers of its descent to the Moon. Two days later we learned that its team would try again.

The Skies of Super-Earths and Mini-Neptunes

May 01, 2019 • 55:29

There appear to be more mini-Neptunes (also known as Super Earths) across our galaxy than any other type of planet. Hannah Wakeford wants to learn if some of them support life, and she’s doing this by exploring their skies.

The News From Saturn-With Linda Spilker

June 26, 2019 • 48:22

It has been many months since the great Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere and fiery death. Yet the mission lives on as the reams of data and images reveal much more of this beautiful world, its rings and its moons.

The DART Mission: Learning How to Swat Dangerous Asteroids

February 06, 2019 • 47:17

Why did the dinosaurs die? They didn’t have a space program! The upcoming DART mission will test our best thinking about how we may someday deflect a Near Earth Object that is speeding toward fiery Armageddon on Earth. Nancy Chabot of the JHU Applied Physics Lab is the mission’s Coordination Lead.

Talking with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

May 22, 2019 • 45:09

The former Oklahoma congressman and Navy aviator stepped into the leadership role barely a year ago. Now he wants to see humans back on the Moon by 2024 as a vital stepping stone to Mars. Join us for a wide-ranging conversation about this ambitious plan and much more.

Starchaser: Extraordinary Astronomer Jay Pasachoff

June 05, 2019 • 61:21

Jay Pasachoff visits Planetary Society headquarters for a conversation about the latest edition of his and Alex Filippenko’s monumental textbook The Cosmos.

Space Policy Edition: Why Apollo Happened (with Roger Launius)

July 05, 2019 • 2:03:54

Space historian Dr. Roger Launius joins the show to explain why Apollo happened the way it did, how a moonshot briefly became a solution to a national security problem, and why it is unlikely to happen again.

Space Policy Edition: Why Apollo Ended (with John Logsdon)

September 06, 2019 • 1:09:14

As NASA struggles to return humans to the Moon by 2024, it's worth asking: why did it stop in the first place? Space historian John Logsdon joins the show to discuss the politics behind the decision to abandon the Moon in 1972. Casey and Mat also discuss the proposal to offer a $2 billion prize for sending humans back to the Moon and establishing a base there, and why that's not good public policy.

Space Policy Edition: When a (Space) Cowboy Came to Washington

February 28, 2019 • 89:57

Historian John Logsdon discusses his new book, Ronald Reagan and the Space Frontier It explores the legacy of the 40th president’s major space policy decisions. We look at four major topics: early efforts at commercializing space, the survival crisis for planetary exploration, the Space Shuttle, and the decision to build the space station.

Space Policy Edition: The Soviet Moonshot (with Asif Siddiqi)

June 07, 2019 • 2:03:54

The U.S. won the space race in July of 1969 with the success of Apollo 11. But was the Soviet Union even racing? How close were they to beating the United States to the Moon?

Space Policy Edition: The Home Front During Apollo (with Emily Margolis)

August 02, 2019 • 83:25

Did the public support Project Apollo? Dr. Emily Margolis joins the show to explore the domestic politics and cultural impact of the space age throughout the 1960s. Despite the success of the lunar landings, there was more opposition to Apollo than we generally remember.

Space Policy Edition: T-minus Five Years and Counting

April 05, 2019

Can NASA return astronauts to the Moon by 2024? Vice President Mike Pence shocked the space community by announcing this ambitious new goal just weeks after the Trump Administration proposed a half-billion dollar cut to the space agency.

Space Policy Edition: Shutdown

January 18, 2019 • 58:54

In a government shutdown seemingly without end, we bring you two stories from individuals directly impacted by the crisis. NASA scientist and union representative Lee Stone discusses the missed paychecks, loss of science, and lasting negative consequences to the public sector scientific workforce.

Space Policy Edition: Should the U.S. be in a space race with China?

February 01, 2019 • 66:01

China's space program notched an impressive "first" last month when its Chang'e 4 spacecraft landed on the far side of the Moon. The U.S. space program, in contrast, was in the midst of an extended shutdown. Some observers expect China's growing space capability and lunar ambitions to trigger a new space race.

Space Policy Edition: Lessons From the Moonshot That Never Was (with Mark Albrecht)

May 03, 2019 • 89:20

Thirty years ago, Dr. Mark Albrecht led the National Space Council when President George H.W. Bush announced the Space Exploration Initiative, an ambitious effort to send humans to the Moon and then on to Mars.

Space Policy Edition: How a Report Can Move Mountains

November 01, 2019 • 1:30:27

How can a simple report—just words on a page—lead to creation of a spacecraft? We explore how a 2019 report on the need for a dedicated, space-based telescope to find threatening near-Earth asteroids motivated NASA to pursue that very mission.

Space Policy Edition: Happy Fiscal New Year!

October 11, 2019 • 56:35

October 1st kicked off federal fiscal year 2020—a day that should also have kicked off a new budget for NASA. But Congress has not funded the space agency yet, instead passing a temporary stopgap measure to keep the government open until November 21st. Brendan Curry, The Planetary Society's Chief of D.C. Operations, joins the show to discuss the latest political developments in Washington, good news for planetary defense, and how the funding delay could spell trouble for the space agency's 2024 lunar goal.

Space Innovations So Incredible, They Just Might Work

October 16, 2019 • 1:17:58

Mat Kaplan reports from the 2019 NIAC Symposium, a showcase of NASA-funded technologies hoping to revolutionize space exploration.

Sharing a Passion for Mars at the Humans to Mars Summit

May 29, 2019 • 55:13

This year’s Humans to Mars Summit in Washington D.C., once again ended with a panel of Martian all-stars talking about their hopes for a future that includes the Red Planet. Planetary Radio host Mat Kaplan leads the inspiring and entertaining discussion.

Reflections of Humanity in a Spacesuit for Moonwalkers

August 14, 2019 • 67:40

Host Mat Kaplan in a long and fascinating conversation with Nicholas de Monchaux, author of Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo. This great book is about much more than creation of the suits that allowed humans to walk and work on the Moon. Jason Davis shares pointers on looking for LightSail 2 overhead, while Bruce Betts provides a solar sail update in this week’s What’s Up. And you might win a Planetary Radio t-shirt!

Ready to Sail! LightSail 2 Deploys its Silvery Wings

July 24, 2019 • 39:28

Join us as the little cubesat successfully unfurls its solar sail! You’ll hear from members of the LightSail 2 mission team on the morning of July 23, 2019, when the critical command was sent to the spacecraft.

Quasars and Quanta: Exploring Einstein’s Quantum Riddle

June 12, 2019 • 58:16

Even though his own work led to it, Albert Einstein never cared for quantum mechanics concepts like entanglement, which he called “spooky action at a distance.” While there’s no doubt it is real, could something even more mysterious be hiding under it?

Planetary Radio Live with Bill Nye at Science Museum Oklahoma

August 07, 2019 • 73:30

Join Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye and host Mat Kaplan as they visit Oklahoma City’s outstanding public science museum. You’ll meet University of Oklahoma researchers who are exploring Mars and learning how solar systems form across the universe.

Planetary Radio Live Defends Planet Earth!

May 08, 2019 • 53:30

Leaders of the global effort to avoid a catastrophic Near Earth Object impact gathered at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference. On the evening of May 1st, The Planetary Society partnered in an exciting PDC public event at the University of Maryland College Park. Presentations by Society CEO Bill Nye and NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green were followed by Planetary Radio Live.

Nobel Prize Winner Michel Mayor…and More

October 09, 2019 • 47:08

Astronomer and astrophysicist Michel Mayor has just been awarded the 2019 Nobel prize for physics. Listen to Mat’s 2016 conversation with this revered scientist, the first to discover an exoplanet. The Beresheet mission’s Yoav Landsman recently visited Planetary Society HQ and spent a few minutes catching up with Mat. And Society Editorial Director Jason Davis introduces The Downlink, our weekly digest of planetary news. Bruce Betts takes us to a moon of Uranus to find the melancholy Dane.

New Horizons Flyby: Join the Celebration!

January 09, 2019 • 62:18

Join us at the Applied Physics Lab in Maryland for the New Horizons encounter with the most distant object ever visited. You’ll meet mission leaders, friends and even a rock and roll star as we dive deep into this triumph of exploration.

NASA’s Red Planet Rick and Putting Humans on Mars

August 21, 2019 • 64:20

Rick Davis is the perfect person to co-lead NASA’s Mars Human Landing Sites Study. No one is more devoted to putting human bootprints on the Red Planet. He returns to Planetary Radio for this inspiring and informative conversation about our progress. Bruce Betts leads off What’s Up with another brief LightSail 2 update. The Planetary Society’s solar sailing cubesat continues to raise its orbit.

Lucy in the Sky With Asteroids

April 24, 2019 • 47:22

A rare alignment of planets and other objects will enable the solar-powered Lucy spacecraft to examine seven asteroids, six of which are among the thousands of Trojan asteroids that orbit ahead of and behind Jupiter. The mission team, include Hal Levison, Cathy Olkin and Mike Sekerak, hope to unlock secrets of our solar system’s origin through these ancient artifacts.

LightSail Takes Flight!

July 03, 2019 • 50:29

A giant SpaceX Falcon Heavy lifted off in the early hours of June 25th. One week later, the LightSail 2 solar sail was released to begin its epic mission. You’ll join the thrilling launch, meet LightSail team members and leaders of other missions, and get a solar sail update in this very special episode.

Ice Worlds, A Moon Landing and Blasting an Asteroid

April 03, 2019 • 41:45

When will we return to Uranus and Neptune? Planetary scientist Amy Simon explains why a mission to the so-called ice giants is a high priority as she tells us about these mysterious, blue worlds.

How to Defend Your Planet

October 02, 2019 • 45:15

Planetary scientist Vishnu Reddy studies space objects ranging from satellite debris to planet-killing asteroids. He shares the status of our effort to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs in a conversation with host Mat Kaplan. Did you know fruit flies were first in space? That’s just one of the random space facts you’ll absorb in this week’s What’s Up segment with Bruce.

How to Build a Starship: The 2019 Starship Congress

September 18, 2019 • 45:15

The biannual Starship Congress attracts starry-eyed believers in humankind’s destiny among the stars. We talk with several of them about their ideas for technologies and science that may help pave the way. Science fiction author David Brin dropped by the Congress and spends a few fun and speculative minutes with us. The September Equinox edition of The Planetary Report is ready for all to read. Editor Emily Lakdawalla gives us a sneak peek. The Milky Way has at least 54 satellite galaxies? Who knew? Bruce Betts, that’s who.

How Long Was Mars Wet?

October 23, 2019 • 28:50

The way minerals form in different Earth environments may hold the answer.

Flying the Skies of Saturn’s Moon Titan

January 16, 2019 • 45:47

magine soaring over what may be the solar system’s most Earth-like world, if you ignore the chill. If funded, the nuclear electric-powered Dragonfly will do exactly this. Principal Investigator Elizabeth “Zibi” Turtle shares her enthusiasm.

Flight by Light: A LightSail 2 Mission Preview

June 19, 2019 • 48:22

The day is almost here. With the launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket, The Planetary Society will begin its mission to prove that a tiny, orbiting spacecraft can be propelled by the light of the Sun.

Finding Wonder and Meaning in a Book by Carl Sagan’s Daughter

October 30, 2019 • 50:37

Mat Kaplan talks with Sasha Sagan about For Small Creatures Such as We, and later joins Bruce Betts to offer the book in the new What’s Up space trivia contest.

Exploring Venus, Earth's Mysterious Sister Planet

November 06, 2019 • 49:53

Astrophysicist Javier Peralta, a team member on Japan's Akatsuki mission, takes us deep into Venus's thick, fast-moving clouds.

Dunes, Walnut Shells, Alien Impostors and Other Worlds: A Visit with Sarah Hörst

March 27, 2019 • 93:38

A very special, extended conversation with Johns Hopkins University planetary scientist Sarah Hörst is capped by a tour of her fascinating lab. That’s where Sarah and her team simulate decidedly un-Earthlike atmospheres and more. Emily Lakdawalla has returned from this year’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference with news from around the solar system. Caffeine! It’s on Saturn’s moon Titan AND in the espresso made on the International Space Station! More about the latter in What’s Up.

China on the Final Frontier

March 06, 2019 • 51:32

With missions like Chang’e 4 on the far side of the Moon, China has firmly established itself as a leader in space exploration. Space journalist Andrew Jones helps us explore the nation’s ambitious near and long-term plans.

Celebrating Yuri’s Night with Legendary Astronaut Story Musgrave

April 10, 2019 • 44:06

The Los Angeles celebration of Yuri’s Night came six days early this year. It attracted hundreds of space party animals, along with celebrities like Bill Nye and Story Musgrave. Host Mat Kaplan talked with both under the wing of space shuttle Endeavour.

Boosters, Breakthroughs and Budgets: Canada and the US Look Toward Space

March 13, 2019 • 35:14

The last few days have seen developments that will shape the space exploration plans of Canada and the USA. The Planetary Society’s Kate Howells is a member of Canada’s Space Advisory Board. She reviews the nation’s new space policy.

Bill Nye and Planetary Radio Live at Extreme STEAM

March 20, 2019 • 70:23

Planetary Radio Live goes on stage at the first ever Fairplex Extreme STEA2M Festival in Pomona, California. Host Mat Kaplan and Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye are joined by four young space scientists and engineers in front of hundreds of families.

Asteroid Bennu’s Visitor From Earth

January 23, 2019 • 31:32

Spacecraft OSIRIS REx is now orbiting a 260-meter asteroid named Bennu. Principal investigator Dante Lauretta returns to tell us what has already been learned, and to preview the excitement that is still to come, including the probe’s descent to the surface for collection of a pristine sample.

Apollo 11 and the Woman Who Helped Get It Home

July 17, 2019 • 55:27

Poppy Northcutt was a pioneer—the first woman to work as an engineer in Apollo Mission Control. The program she helped to create got the astronauts back to Earth. Fifty years later, she sits down with Mat Kaplan for a look back.

An Israeli Lander Launches Toward the Moon

February 27, 2019 • 48:02

Non-profit SpaceIL’s Beresheet is on its way to the Moon. Only China, the Soviet Union and the United States have safely landed there before. Host Mat Kaplan talks with SpaceIL Senior Systems Engineer Yoav Landsman, while MaryLiz Bender hears from a team member who attended the launch.

Ad Astra: The Movie!

September 25, 2019 • 45:15

Brad Pitt sets out across the solar system to save Earth in the new space epic. Host Mat Kaplan enjoys a far-reaching conversation with co-screenwriter of Ad Astra that touches on the film’s meaning, the mythic journey of its protagonist, its spectacular images, and where it strays from known science. Registration for the Planetary Society’s 2020 Day of Action in Washington DC is open! Chief Advocate Casey Dreier has the lowdown. You might win a beautiful, rotating MOVA Earth globe in this week’s What’s Up space trivia contest. Hey! That’s LightSail 2 floating above our pale blue dot.

A Mission to Earth: OSIRIS-REx

January 02, 2019 • 37:00

Why do so many spacecraft that are headed across our solar system turn their instruments back to Earth during flybys? OSIRIS-REx was no exception. The answers come from mission scientist Vicky Hamilton

A Last Visit With LightSail 2 at the Cubesat Developers Workshop

May 15, 2019 • 45:05

Mat Kaplan visits Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for a last, clean room visit with LightSail 2, the Planetary Society’s solar sailing cubesat. While there, Mat also talked to attendees at the Cubesat Developers Workshop, including the creator of the tiny “Pocket Rocket” engine for small spacecraft.

A Helicopter for Mars and a Major LightSail Announcement

July 31, 2019 • 37:40

It will be the first flying machine on another world. Mars Helicopter Project Manager MiMi Aung shares her plans. There’s big news about The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2!

A Fond Farewell to Spirit and Opportunity

February 20, 2019 • 68:44

The Mars Exploration Rover mission was declared complete on February 13, 2019. On the very next day, MER Project Manager John Callas and Deputy Project Scientist Abigail Fraeman came to Planetary Society headquarters for an extended and emotional conversation with Mat Kaplan and Emily Lakdawalla.

A Comet’s Legacy, and a Helicopter is Ready for Mars

September 04, 2019 • 61:11

First we return to JPL for an update on the Mars Helicopter that has just been attached to the belly of the 2020 Mars Rover. Then it’s across the pond for a review of the amazing science coming from the Rosetta mission that spent years exploring comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. We wrap things up with another What’s Up view across the solar system and beyond.

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