Ep. 707: What Goes Into Sample Return Missions for the Moon and Mars?

Ep. 707: What Goes Into Sample Return Missions for the Moon and Mars?

We’ve sent robots to other worlds, but the amount of science we can deploy to another planet can’t compare with the vast science labs we have on Earth. That’s why more and more missions are for a sample return, bringing pieces of alien worlds back to Earth, were we study them with proper equipment.

Ep. 706: China’s Space Program

Ep. 706: China’s Space Program

We’re so familiar with NASA’s exploration efforts in space, but you might be surprised to learn that China launches almost as many rockets as the US. They’ve got their own space exploration program that could soon bring humans to the surface of the Moon. Let’s give a brief overview of China’s space exploration plans.

Ep. 705: Water Worlds – Looking for Life Beyond Earth

Ep. 705: Water Worlds – Looking for Life Beyond Earth

Wherever we find liquid water on Earth, we find life, so it makes sense to search for water across the Universe, and hopefully we can find evidence of life. But what about worlds which are completely covered in water, oceans hundreds of kilometers deep. Can there be too much water?

Ep. 704: NASA’s Juno Releases New Images

Ep. 704: NASA’s Juno Releases New Images

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has completed dozens of flybys of Jupiter, seeing the planet from many angles and delivering some of the most beautiful images we’ve ever seen of the Jovian world. Now it’s focusing in on Io, sending home images of the tiny volcanic world from just 1,500 km away. And the best is yet to come.

Ep. 700: Things We Got Wrong

Ep. 700: Things We Got Wrong

Astronomers talk about all the amazing discoveries they’re making but sometimes, it turns out, they were wrong. After decades and centuries of discoveries, how have they changed their minds?

Ep. 694 – Mission Roll Call Part 3: Sun, Mercury, and Venus

Ep. 694 – Mission Roll Call Part 3: Sun, Mercury, and Venus

Our journey through space missions continues. Now we move away from the Earth to the rest of the solar system. What’s out there orbiting, roving and flying on other worlds and in interplanetary space. Today we look inward and we’ll talk about the missions studying the Sun, Mercury and Venus.

Ep. 693 – Mission Roll Call Part 2: Looking Outward from Earth

Ep. 693 – Mission Roll Call Part 2: Looking Outward from Earth

Last week, we brought you up to speed on the spacecraft which are helping to study Earth from above. Many of our missions are in Earth orbit but looking outward to study the Universe. Today, we’ll talk about the missions close to home, helping us understand our place in the cosmos.

Ep. 692 – Mission Roll Call Part 1: Orbiting Earth

Ep. 692 – Mission Roll Call Part 1: Orbiting Earth

It’s time for another series. This time we’re going to look at the missions that are currently in place across the Solar System. Today we’ll start with the key missions here on Earth, studying the planet from above and looking out into the Universe.

Ep. 691: Jupiter’s Changing Red Spot

Ep. 691: Jupiter’s Changing Red Spot

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is one of its most iconic features, first seen hundreds of years ago. Although it’s certainly long-lasting, it’s been changing in size over the last few decades, shrinking and changing in color. Is it fading away? And what can the changes tell us about storms on giant planets?

Ep. 690: Climate on Mars – From Ice Caps to Dust Storms

Ep. 690: Climate on Mars – From Ice Caps to Dust Storms

We’ve looked at Earth’s changing climate, now let’s see what it’s like for another world: Mars. Much looks familiar, but some of it is totally alien, from ice caps of frozen carbon dioxide to planetary dust storms that can obscure the entire world from view.

Ep. 688: What’s Next? Looking Ahead to Season 17

Ep. 688: What’s Next? Looking Ahead to Season 17

Once again, we’ve reached the end of a season here on Astronomy Cast, and it’s time for the summer hiatus. But the Universe never takes a break. What can we expect to happen over the summer while we’re catching up on our reading, building our gardens and planning for Season 17

Ep. 687: Prepping for the Moon

Ep. 687: Prepping for the Moon

We’re going back to the Moon. In the next few years humans will set foot on the Moon again, ideally this time to stay. But this will be different than the Apollo era, going to the scientifically fascinating, and difficult southern pole of the Moon. What needs to be done to prepare the way back to the Moon?

Ep. 686: Ice in the Shadows

Ep. 686: Ice in the Shadows

The permanently shadowed craters on the Moon are the focus of so much research. That’s because they seem to contain vast reserves of water ice. Water we could use for oxygen, propellant and so much more, but also, to help us understand where the Earth’s water came from.

Ep. 685: Manufacturing in Space

Ep. 685: Manufacturing in Space

Launching satellites from Earth is counter-productive. You’ve got to make a satellite that can handle Earth gravity, then the brutal flight to space, then deployment in orbit. What if you could build your spacecraft in space?

Ep. 684 – Too Big, Too Soon: Massive Early Galaxies Defy Expectations

Ep. 684 – Too Big, Too Soon: Massive Early Galaxies Defy Expectations

One of JWST’s top jobs is to peer deeper into the Universe than ever before, watching as the first galaxies came together. Surprisingly, astronomers found galaxies that seemed much more mature than expected, much earlier than it was believed possible. What’s going on and what does it mean for cosmology?

Ep. 683: Cosmic Dawn

Ep. 683: Cosmic Dawn

After the cosmic microwave background radiation was released, the Universe returned to darkness, cloaked in this clouds of primordial hydrogen and helium. Gravity pulled these vast clouds into the first stars, and then the first galaxies. This is Cosmic Dawn, and JWST will help us probe this mysterious time.

Ep. 682: Ultra-Diffuse Galaxies and Dark Matter

Ep. 682: Ultra-Diffuse Galaxies and Dark Matter

Astronomers first noticed the strange behaviors of rotating galaxies almost 100 years ago, suggesting there’s an invisible dark matter hold them together with gravity. Or maybe we just don’t understand how gravity works at the largest scales. Observations are much better now, and astronomers have found examples of galaxies that almost entirely made of dark matter. Does this tell us anything?

Ep. 681: Kilonovae

Ep. 681: Kilonovae

In 2017, astronomers detected the gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation from colliding neutron stars. This had been long theorized as one of the causes of a certain type of gamma-ray burst. By studying the event and its afterglow, astronomers have learned a tremendous amount about the formation of the heaviest elements in the Universe.

Ep. 680: Rogue Black Holes

Ep. 680: Rogue Black Holes

Last week we talked about rogue stars. This week we’re going to take things up a notch and talk about an even more extreme event. Rogue black holes. Astronomers recently discovered a supermassive black hole on an escape trajectory, leaving newly forming stars in its wake. It’s wonderful, terrible, nightmare fuel.

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