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Planetary Radio Episodes

For every week since 2002, Planetary Radio has visited with a scientist, engineer, project manager, advocate or writer who provides a unique perspective on the quest for knowledge about our solar system and beyond. We also showcase regular features that raise your space IQ while they put a smile on your face.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Countdown to Ultima: Alan Stern and New Horizons

December 26, 2018 • 42:27

The New Horizons spacecraft will reach faraway Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 in the first minutes of 2019. Will the body informally known as Ultima Thule be as mysterious and exciting as Pluto?

Earthrise! Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 8

December 19, 2018 • 50:52

This is the 50th anniversary of the most audacious space mission in history. Apollo 8 blazed a path for the first moon landing seven months later, and gave a troubled nation reason for hope and pride.

At the Space Settlement Summit With Former NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden

December 12, 2018 • 50:06

He led NASA for eight years, but not till he had flown on four Space Shuttle missions and enjoyed a long military career. Charlie Bolden talks with Mat about his time at the space agency and where we’re headed on the final frontier.

Space Policy Edition: Canada's Uncertain Future in Space (with Kate Howells)

December 07, 2018 • 67:56

Canada was the third country in history to launch a satellite into space, but now lags in its space ambitions, capability, and spending. What happened?

Last Week, Mars. This week, An Asteroid Called Bennu.

December 05, 2018 • 40:17

The InSight lander has only just arrived on Mars. Now, OSIRIS REx has reached asteroid Bennu after traveling through deep space for a year and a half.

A Great Day for Space Explorers: The Landing of InSight

November 28, 2018 • 59:36

Join 1,000 anxious yet thrilled space fans at Caltech for our live InSight landing party. You’ll meet Mat Kaplan’s onstage experts and check in with Bill Nye and Emily Lakdawalla at the Jet Propulsion Lab.

We Know Where the 2020 Rover Will Look for Martian Life

November 21, 2018 • 42:34

NASA announced on November 19th that the multi-billion dollar 2020 Mars rover will land in Jezero crater, where it will begin the search for the signature of past life.

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