Project Prometheus: Nuclear Propulsion to the Moons of Jupiter

Nuclear power has had a long and complex history in outer space. Starting in the 1960s, both the US and USSR deployed full-on fission reactors aboard Earth-observing satellites; more recently, high-profile probes---Cassini, Curiosity, New Horizons---have all used safer but far less powerful radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), which extract energy from the waste heat of decaying... Continue Reading →

Dawn: Exploring Vesta and Ceres

When I was young, Ceres and Pluto were the biggest blank spots on the map of the Solar System. Most of the other interesting places had been long since explored, from Mercury all the way out to the moons of Neptune, but when I opened my astronomy books to the two minor planets, I saw... Continue Reading →

Icy Mysteries of Europa

I originally had another topic planned for today---it was written and scheduled, and of course I will still upload it at some point---but then my area had a rare winter storm, blanketing everything in ice and snow, and I thought to myself that it would be appropriate to do a blog post on Europa, one... Continue Reading →

NASA’s Dragonfly: A Quadcopter on Titan

A couple posts ago, I reviewed a book about an expedition to Titan---arguably the most interesting celestial body in the Solar System---and I'd like to continue in that theme this week, turning my attention to a real, official Titan exploration project under development at NASA: the Dragonfly mission. Dragonfly will be a quadcopter aircraft sent... Continue Reading →

By Fusion Drive to Pluto

Oddball mission studies are my jam. Sometimes, they are NASA's jam, too---the agency is not afraid to occasionally explore the more speculative topics, spacecraft which rely on advanced technologies and are many decades away from ever seeing implementation. I stumbled across one such study when I was doing some reading on Pluto the other day.... Continue Reading →

The New Antarctica

Somewhere between the current human presence in the space—zilch, save for three people aboard the ISS—and the most ambitious, wide-eyed, optimistic visions for colonization—Musk's million people on Mars, Bezos' trillions throughout the solar system—there's a middle ground where we work on and explore other planets, but inhabit them only in the same sense that we... Continue Reading →

Space History: The Lunar Orbiters

Post by Nic Quattromani: The Apollo missions, as intrepid as they were, did not venture into wholly uncharted territory. By the time Neil Armstrong famously planted his boots in the lunar soil, a whole fleet of US spacecraft had already explored and mapped out the globe of the Moon in meticulous detail. There were the... Continue Reading →

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