Planetary Radio • Aug 15, 2018

Giving Mysterious Venus the Love (and Science) She Deserves

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On This Episode

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Sue Smrekar

Principal Scientist for Jet Propulsion Lab

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Nicola Fox

Associate Administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate for NASA

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Betsy Congdon

Lead Thermal Engineer on the Parker Solar Probe's Heat Shield for Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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MaryLiz Bender

Cosmic Perspective

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Mat Kaplan

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

We have so much to learn about Venus, says JPL scientist Sue Smrekar. What we learn will help us understand our own world and Mars. Sue joins us this week to make a great case for a new Venus orbiter. The Parker Solar Probe has begun its exciting journey to “touch the Sun.” Our MaryLiz Bender talks with mission leaders before and after the launch. Bruce Betts and Mat Kaplan have two great space trivia contests to wrap up right after they take us on another What’s Up tour of the solar system and back through the history of space exploration.

Two views of Venus
Two views of Venus Venus as it rougly appears to the human eye, from Mariner 10 images (left), compared with a global radar map of the surface from Magellan (right).Image: Mattias Malmer / NASA / JPL
Arachnoids Fracture patterns associated with arachnoids, one of the many indications of the relationship between volcanism and faulting on the surface of Venus.Image: NASA / JPL
Delta IV Heavy Parker Solar Probe launch
Delta IV Heavy Parker Solar Probe launch The United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket launched the Parker Solar Probe into space on August 12, 2018 at 3:31 a.m. EDT (0731 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.Image: Ryan Chylinski
Members of the Parker Solar Probe team
Members of the Parker Solar Probe team Members of the Parker Solar Probe team pose for a picture just after their successful launch on August 12, 2018 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.Image: Ryan Chylinski

This week's question:

How many Venus flybys will be required for the Parker Solar Probe to adjust its orbit around the Sun?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, August 22nd at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

Who is the singer/songwriter who referred to an experience watching the Perseid meteor shower as “I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky.”


The answer will be revealed next week.

Answer to the July 25 space trivia contest question:

The next time Mars will be closer to Earth than the just-completed 2018 approach will be September 11, 2035.

Answer to the August 1 space trivia contest question:

The most abundant chemical element in the universe, by far, is hydrogen.