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Sailing to an Asteroid on the Light of the Sun

LightSail 2 is not the only solar sail in the universe. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the Jet Propulsion Lab are preparing to send NEA Scout on a long, light-propelled journey to a near Earth asteroid.

SpaceX Builds a Big Falcon Rocket

A mostly SpaceX episode as the ambitious company provides updated details regarding its huge new rocket and introduces its first astronauts. Mat Kaplan shares more from the company’s headquarters, while Planetary Society Digital Editor explains and explores the BFR.

Pluto Occults! Join Us on the Mountain

Pluto passed in front of a star on the evening of August 14. Mat Kaplan joined pro and amateur astronomers on a mountain to observe this rare event. It may reveal more about the dwarf planet’s tenuous atmosphere and other properties.

Hayabusa2 Reaches a Dark Diamond in Space

Japan’s Hayabusa2 is just 6 kilometers from asteroid Ryugu as it prepares to snatch samples of the space rock for return to Earth. ISAS/JAXA Director General and former Hayabusa Mission Project Manager Hitoshi Kuninaka joins us for a conversation about the spacecraft and what’s ahead.

An African Observatory Hunts Killer Asteroids

One of the Planetary Society’s 2018 Shoemaker Near-Earth Object grants has gone to astronomers searching the sky from a mountaintop in the North African nation of Morocco.

Dwarf Planet Ceres Thrills as a Dying Visitor Closes In

Ceres is the queen of the asteroid belt. Her first Earthly visitor is nearing its last days in spectacular style. Dawn Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman returns with stunning images taken from just 35 kilometers or 22 miles above the dwarf planet, and a preview of the spacecraft’s last days.

It’s Asteroid Week with NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer

The dinosaurs regret their lack of a space program. 200 million years later, humans are gearing up to defend themselves from a species-ending rock.

Chasing New Horizons to Pluto with Alan Stern and David Grinspoon

The New Horizons mission was a triumph, revealing Pluto as an utterly unique and beautiful world. But the mission first had to survive challenge after challenge, fighting to be developed, meeting a nearly impossible launch deadline, and then narrowly avoiding disaster when it was barely a week from its destination.

Amateur Astronomers Work To Save Earth From Asteroids!

Seven astronomers have been selected to receive Shoemaker NEO (Near Earth Object) grants from the Planetary Society. They and their observatories span the planet. We’ll meet an American and an Australian. Society Chief Scientist Bruce Betts provides an overview of the grant program and later returns for this week’s edition of What’s Up. The Planetary Society’s Kate Howells reports on the outlook for space funding in Canada’s newly-released federal budget. She and Society CEO Bill Nye also met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

A Visitor From the Stars: ‘Oumuamua

The first confirmed interstellar visitor to our solar system is a needle-shaped asteroid given the Hawaiian name ‘Oumuamua. Karen Meech leads the team that is learning as much about it as possible before it leaves our neighborhood, never to return.

Pamela Gay and the Image Detective

Astronomer Pamela Gay tells us how anyone can work with images of Earth taken by astronauts, turning them into terrific scientific resources.

Dawn: Ten Years of Exploration

Dawn Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman helps us salute the ion-engine powered spacecraft that first orbited asteroid Vesta in the main asteroid belt and then moved to dwarf planet Ceres, revealing two fascinating worlds.

A Cosmic Voyage with Astronomer Sandra Faber

Veteran astronomer and cosmologist Sandra Faber has just been awarded the Gruber Prize for Cosmology, honoring more than forty years of pioneering work. She talks with Mat Kaplan on this week’s show.

Happy Asteroid Day!

Asteroid Day, June 30th, marks the anniversary of the great Tunguska impact that leveled a Siberian forest. It reminds us that a Near Earth Object can destroy a city or even a civilization. Former Minor Planet Center Director Tim Spahr reviews our efforts to find and understand these bodies.

NASA Leaders on Getting Humans to Mars

The human journey to the Red Planet is long and hard, but Mat’s conversation with three NASA Associate Administrators at the Humans to Mars Summit was filled with cautious optimism.

Aerospace Corporation President and CEO Steve Isakowitz

The Aerospace Corporation has been innovating since 1960. Now it’s headed by a former leader of “New Space” company Virgin Galactic. President and CEO Steve Isakowitz talks about the evolving culture of the space industry.

Hope for Pluto—Should We Re-Redefine Planets?

Planetary geologist Kirby Runyon is lead author of an abstract that proposes a new, geophysical definition of what a planet is.

Planetary Radio Live: Near Earth Objects—The Killer Asteroid Threat

Leaders of the quest to find, understand and protect ourselves from the asteroids and comets called Near Earth Objects gathered with host Mat Kaplan for a live conversation about this existential threat from space.

Ben Miller Says The Aliens are Coming!

We are joined by British physicist turned comedian and actor Ben Miller, author of The Aliens are Coming! The Extraordinary Science Behind our Search for Life in the Universe.

Art That Captures the Beauty and Science of Space

Marilynn Flynn, Simon Kregar and Rick Sternbach are masters of space art. They talk about how their work furthers science and captures the imagination.

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