The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has received and has begun reviewing 12 proposals for its future unnamed solar system exploration, the “New Frontiers” program. NASA’s New Frontiers program has already given rise to New Horizons mission to Pluto, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx: the mission to asteroid Bennu. All the proposed missions of discovery – submitted under NASA’s New Frontiers program and will be reviewed from scientific and technical points of view over the next seven months, with one or a few moving on to the next phase of the selection process. This new mission will be developed by NASA in the mid-2020s and is expected to spend up to $1 billion to make it a reality.
According to NASA’s official website, there are six specific destinations and themes that include a Comet Surface Sample Return mission, a Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return mission, exploration of Ocean Worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus), a Saturn Probe, Trojan Tour and Rendezvous and a Venus In Situ Explorer.
“New Frontiers is about answering the biggest questions in our solar system today, building on previous missions to continue to push the frontiers of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
“We’re looking forward to reviewing these exciting investigations and moving forward with our next bold mission of discovery.”
During a talk about Cassini probe (targeting Saturn and its rings), Linda Spilker, one of the project’s scientists, revealed that three of the proposals want to continue the probe’s work investigating Saturn. One of them wants to bring back gas from the planet’s (Saturn) atmosphere, while another wants to explore Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes and the third one intends to get samples from the geysers of Enceladus to analyse them, if there are amino acids present, which are a possible indicator of life.
NASA will choose one mission to be launched around 2024 and based on previous New Frontiers projects, we might be in for a lot of high-resolution images and fascinating discoveries. The three New Frontiers missions that have been launched and have met with success in gathering data from their respective targets. First, the New Horizons probe was launched in January 2006 and reached Pluto in July 2015.
Second, NASA’s Juno spacecraft launched on August 6, 2011 and reached Jupiter in July 2016 and still remains there, exploring Jupiter and has been capturing detailed images to get some information about the structure and composition of this massive planet. And third, the OSIRIS-REx was launched in September 2016 and is expected to reach the asteroid Bennu is 2018. Now Osiris-REx is on its way to rendezvous with near-Earth asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx will orbit the asteroid until March 2021 and hopefully return a sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth by 2023.
New Frontiers Program investigations must address NASA’s planetary science objectives as described in the 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan. The New Frontiers Program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center for NASA’s Planetary Science Division.
Source:- Space Daily