Planetary Radio • Aug 05, 2016

Space Policy Edition #3: Plutonium-238, Europa via SLS, Cost of the Next Mars Rover Rises

On This Episode

Jason callahan

Jason Callahan

Former Space Policy Advisor for The Planetary Society

Casey dreier tps mars

Casey Dreier

Chief Advocate & Senior Space Policy Adviser for The Planetary Society

Kaplan mat headshot 0114a print

Mat Kaplan

Planetary Radio Host and Producer for The Planetary Society

In our third episode, we debate the risks and rewards of tying the future of a Europa mission to the fate of NASA's massive Space Launch System rocket. Also, NASA just announced that the next Mars rover will cost $2.4 billion—$900 million more than initially thought. But the mission is not considered over budget. Why not? Lastly, the U.S. just generated 50 grams of Plutonium-238, the largest amount in nearly thirty years. We celebrate the successful effort to create this critically important, though highly toxic, power source for deep space spacecraft. You’ll hear the fascinating history of why existing Pu-238 sources were running out, and how NASA overcame obstacles to restart production.

Plutonium-238 Fuel Pellet
Plutonium-238 Fuel Pellet A ceramic fuel pellet of Plutonium-238 oxide glows orange from its radioactive decay. These pellets are used inside Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) to provide heat that is converted into electricity on spacecraft. Department of Energy

A new episode of Space Policy Edition will be posted on the first Friday of each month. Let us know what you think about our topics and our approach! Comment on this page or write to planetaryradio@planetary.org.

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