DiscoverPlanetary Radio: Space Exploration, Astronomy and Science
Planetary Radio: Space Exploration, Astronomy and Science
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Planetary Radio: Space Exploration, Astronomy and Science

Author: The Planetary Society

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Planetary Radio brings you the human adventure across our solar system and beyond. We visit each week with the scientists, engineers, leaders, advocates and astronauts who are taking us across the final frontier. Regular features raise your space IQ while they put a smile on your face. Join host Mat Kaplan and Planetary Society colleagues including Bill Nye the Science Guy, Bruce Betts, and Emily Lakdawalla as they dive deep into the latest space news. The monthly Space Policy Edition takes you inside the DC beltway where the future of the US space program hangs in the balance. Visit for the space trivia contest, an episode guide, and much more.

948 Episodes
It has been 5 years since the New Horizons probe revealed beautiful, surprising Pluto, and 18 months since it showed us the odd little body now known as Arrokoth. Principal Investigator Alan Stern shares the latest science, and tells us what the spacecraft is up to now as it races toward the edge of our solar system. Have you seen the new comet? Bruce Betts tells you where and how to look in this week’s What’s Up. Learn more at
Dr. Bhavya Lal joins the show to discuss the size of the space economy, where it's going, and how the term itself can mean many different things to many different people. In a world filled with breathless claims about trillion-dollar economies, we dive down into the fundamental assumptions about space commerce, its potential for growth, and the pitfalls of motivated thinking in the hyper-optimistic space community. Learn more about this month’s topics through links on the show page.
Mastcam-Z is the main camera system that will soon leave for Mars as part of the Perseverance rover. Mastcam-Z Principal Investigator Jim Bell is back to tell us about what the most powerful set of eyes to reach the surface of the Red Planet may show us. Planetary Society Solar System Specialist Emily Lakdawalla explores four sample return missions headed out across our solar system. The Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek computing device, anchors this week’s What’s Up segment with Bruce Betts. And someone will win one of Jim Bell’s books in the new space trivia contest. Learn more at
Low Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, even Neptune and the edge of the solar system--China’s ambitious plans for space exploration and development are laid out by Planetary Society contributing editor and Chinese space program expert Andrew Jones. Jason Davis provides a brief overview of what’s in the June Solstice edition of The Planetary Report, now available for free. And it’s time to give away ice cream on What’s Up! Learn more at
The LightSail 2 team and 50,000 supporters around the world will celebrate the little spacecraft’s first anniversary on orbit in a few days. Planetary Society Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Vaughn remembers the long road to this accomplishment. LightSail Program Manager Bruce Betts and LightSail Project Manager Dave Spencer tell us what we’ve learned over the last year and look to the future of solar sailing. Dave also reveals his exciting new job at the Jet Propulsion Lab. Learn more at
Staying Alive in Space

Staying Alive in Space


Keeping humans alive and well in space is hard enough. How will this be accomplished on a 3-year journey to Mars and back? Paragon President and CEO Grant Anderson shares the great progress we’ve made and the remaining challenges. Astronauts headed for the Red Planet may not need ice cream to stay alive, but will life be worth living without it? You may win a pint of Ben & Jerry’s moooony new flavor and a Netflix Space Force spoon to eat it with in this week’s space trivia contest. Learn more at
SpaceX's Crew Dragon safely carried 2 astronauts to the ISS, nearly a decade after NASA made a huge bet on commercial partnerships to solve a problem of access to the space station. Casey and Mat explore how NASA gained the political will to fundamentally re-imagine its relationship with the private sector. Will it spur a new market for sending humans into space? Chief of D.C. Operations Brendan Curry offers an update on Congress and the outlook for NASA's major programs in a period of unrest and uncertainty. Learn more about this month’s topics through links at
This episode opens with a special message about The Planetary Society’s response to recent news, followed by a period of silence that marks the unjust loss of George Floyd and other black men and women. In our regular coverage, we celebrate the successful launch and arrival of the Crew Dragon spacecraft at the International Space Station. Then it’s off to Mars with planetary scientist Edgard Rivera-Valentin. Learn more at
Former astronaut and NASA Associate Administrator John Grunsfeld is often called the Hubble Repairman. He made three space shuttle trips to the space telescope to repair and upgrade it. Now he looks back over three decades of science, beautiful images, and inspiration delivered by the HST. Rubber asteroids are back, and you might win one in the new What’s Up space trivia contest. Great links, including to Mat Kaplan’s live interview with John Grunsfeld, are at
Engineer and former astronaut Garrett Reisman spent four months on the International Space Station before moving to SpaceX. Ten years of work at the company are about to climax when a Crew Dragon capsule carries astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS. Garrett shares his excitement and inside knowledge about the mission and the groundbreaking spacecraft. We’ve also got headlines from The Downlink, and a night sky update as part of this week’s What’s Up. Great links, including the Crew Dragon ISS manual approach simulation app, are at
Jet Propulsion Lab astrobiologist Kevin Hand has just written Alien Oceans: The Search for Life in the Depths of Space. Kevin and Mat explore these seas and whether they may have nurtured organisms with no connection to life on Earth. You may win a copy of Kevin’s excellent book in this week’s What’s Up space trivia contest with Bruce Betts. Take an even deeper dive at
Lori Garver may have been the strongest advocate of commercial space development in her days at NASA. Now one of that program’s greatest goals is about to achieved with the flight of American astronauts to the International Space Station in a Crew Dragon spaceship. The Planetary Society’s Jason Davis previews what to expect from the SpaceX Demo-2 mission. Also, headlines from The Downlink, and Venus shining bright in What’s Up with Bruce Betts. Learn more about Lori Garver and the Crew Dragon mission at
Are we morally obligated to pursue space exploration? What ethical considerations should we consider when creating space policy? Philosopher James Schwartz joins the show to address these questions and talk about his new book, The Value of Science in Space Exploration. Learn more about this month’s topics through links on the show page.
Mat Kaplan recently hosted the first of a series of Explore Mars live and interactive events. NASA astrobiologist Penelope Boston and NASA Chief Scientist James Green joined him for a thrilling conversation about the search for life on the Red Planet, and what may happen if or when we find it. The comet may be a bust, but Bruce Betts tells us there’s still plenty to see in the current night sky. Mat and Bruce also talk about the first ever What’s Up Live! See the live Mars discussion and explore our other topics at
“The object of THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY shall be the encouragement and promotion of Astronomy, Solar-System Sciences, Geophysics and closely related branches of science.” That’s what you’ll find on the website of the RAS. Its mission has changed little in the two centuries since it was founded by some of Britain’s leading scientific minds. Don’t miss the UK Poet Laureate’s poem in honor of the RAS at the end of this week’s episode.  We also offer a tribute to the late Margaret Burbidge, one of the 20th century’s greatest astronomers. Learn and explore more at
We talk with NASA’s leader about how the agency is meeting the challenge of the pandemic. He looks forward to the future with confidence as he offers updates on projects including the Perseverance Mars rover, the Artemis Moon program, and the effort to send U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station on U.S. commercial crew vehicles. Planetary Society Chief Advocate Casey Dreier marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13 and introduces us to his remarkable new planetary exploration budget dataset. What’s Up also celebrate the “successful failure” of Apollo 13 as Bruce Betts tours the night sky and presents a new space trivia contest. Learn and explore more at
How could a lowly slime mold help researchers understand the distribution of dark matter and galaxies across the cosmos? Joseph Burchett and Oskar Elek of the University of California Santa Cruz will tell us about their team’s groundbreaking work. Bruce Betts and Mat Kaplan announce the first live and interactive What's Up segment is coming on April 23rd. The guys provide their usual assortment of space oddities in this week’s regular segment. Learn and explore more at
The coronavirus pandemic reminds us that everything we do in space depends on what we do here on Earth. The impacts on space exploration are being felt already, with more challenges yet to come. The policy team at The Planetary Society, including CEO Bill Nye, recently provided a members-only live briefing to share our analysis of the impacts and to take questions about our work and the future. We share excerpts from that briefing with you on this month's episode. Learn more about this month’s topics through links on the show page.
Our survey of the solar system in anticipation of the next planetary science decadal survey continues with Mars, the big outer planets, and the smaller bodies that share the neighborhood. Three more great scientists share their looks ahead. Staying responsibly stuck at home is easier when you can look up at a gorgeous night sky. Bruce Betts is here to help with another fun edition of What’s Up and a Random Space Fact or two. Learn and explore more at
Preparations at NASA are underway for creation of the next planetary science decadal survey, a roadmap intended to guide exploration of our solar neighborhood from 2023 to 2032. Six scientists, each considering a different world or class of objects, will share their thoughts and hopes. The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla offers fun and fascinating science education suggestions for housebound families. Some lucky (?) listener will be getting a special message from Bruce and Mat if he or she wins the new What’s Up space trivia contest. Learn and explore more at
Comments (14)

Steve Davies

Congrats to Lightsail2 and Planetary Society!

Jun 17th

Marin Toader

Just started about a year ago to listen during my commute. Convenient way to get updated with space related news. Matt is doing great job at keeping it fun and diverse and the rest of the team is just awesome. Excellent job!

Feb 18th

Tom Veatch

Every episode has something interesting to learn. I have been listening for.over 10 years. It is highly recommended.

Jan 6th

Gully Foyle

nice show Matt as ever, but your first guest needed to use a higher quality microphone.

Dec 28th


I swear to our Lord and Savior you dragged that light sail on us the past 3 years and i am out.

Aug 2nd
Reply (1)


good lord enough about the light sail.. lol

Jul 24th
Reply (1)

Chad Becker

Bill Nye is sure taking advantage of Friedman being gone. Nye doesn't have much for credibility. From what I've read he's a dressed up third grade science teacher, not a scientist at all. Has he written any papers? Done any field revolutionizing work? Nope. Ask deGrasse Tyson what he thinks of Bill Nye. lmao

May 20th
Reply (1)

Chad Becker

Bill Nye is an actor not a scientist. a propagandist describes him better.

Mar 21st
Reply (1)

Rich Johanboeke

Great study.

Oct 17th

Michelle Terrazas Salazar

This is a very informative podcast, thank you and keep up the good work!!

Jun 19th
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