Planetary Radio • Jul 11, 2018

Something Old and Something New: Exciting Research on the International Space Station

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On This Episode

Greg Holt

Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Navigation Lead for NASA Johnson Space Center

Rob Thompson

Project Scientist for Cold Atom Lab (CAL)

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society

Sextants have helped sailors find their way across oceans for centuries. Now one is onboard the International Space Station so that astronauts can learn to find their way across the solar system even if other technologies fail. Reaching the ISS on the same supply mission was the Cold Atom Lab. It may achieve the lowest temperatures in the universe, helping to unlock cosmic secrets. Every naked eye planet is visible! Bruce Betts will tell you where to look in What’s Up.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst
Astronaut Alexander Gerst Astronaut Alexander Gerst using sextant in ISS cupola

This week's question:

What is the numerical value for the eccentricity of Mars' orbit? In other words, how uncircular is it?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, July 18th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What did Yuri Gagarin eat in space?


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:

Why is the near-Earth asteroid Hayabusa2 is visiting named Ryugu?


Asteroid Ryugu, which means Dragon Palace, was named after a Japanese folk tale. In it, a fisherman travels to Ryugu, a magical, underwater palace, and returns with a mysterious box, much like Hayabusa2 will return with samples collected on Ryugu after its long voyage!