1st October 2015
NASA selects five candidate missions for early 2020s unmanned exploration
As part of its Discovery Program, NASA has selected five unmanned mission concepts that will be refined over the next year, with one or two being chosen for launch in the early 2020s. The submitted proposals would study Venus, near-Earth objects and a variety of asteroids.
Created in 1992, the Discovery Program specialises in low-cost, unmanned exploration missions with highly focused scientific goals. The program has funded and developed 12 missions to date – including MESSENGER, Dawn, Stardust, Deep Impact, Genesis and GRAIL, and is currently completing development of InSight.
For this latest mission selection, each of the investigation teams will receive $3 million to perform concept design studies and analyses. Following a detailed review and evaluation, NASA will make the final choices by September 2016 for continued development leading up to launch. Any selected mission will cost approximately $500 million, not including launch vehicle funding or post-launch operations.
"The selected investigations have the potential to reveal much about the formation of our solar system and its dynamic processes,” said John Grunsfeld – astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Dynamic and exciting missions like these hold promise to unravel the mysteries of our solar system and inspire future generations of explorers. It’s an incredible time for science, and NASA is leading the way.”
Proposals for spaceflight concepts were requested back in November 2014. A panel of scientists and engineers reviewed 27 submissions and this week narrowed it down to the remaining five candidates: