NASA Selects Two Finalists For Its New Frontiers Mission

Posted: Dec 23 2017, 12:39pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 23 2017, 12:53pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

NASA Selects Two Finalists for its New Frontiers Mission
Credit: NASA

NASA New Frontiers mission is either flying toward Saturn's Moon Titan or exploring Comet 67P

NASA’s has just shortlisted two finalists for its next robotic space mission. As a part of next New Frontiers mission, a spacecraft would either fly to Saturn's largest moon Titan or retrieve samples from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

After further evaluation, the winner will be announced in July 2019. The selected team will receive a grant of $850 million while the mission is expected to launch in 2025.

The two finalists, called Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return (CAESAR) and Dragonfly, are selected from 12 proposols. Other destinations include a basin on the moon, the surface of Venus and the icy ocean world o f Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

“The New Frontiers program is really the premier program for our principal investigators and indeed it's one of the most difficult programs to be selected for.” Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington said in a statement.

NASA’s Final Frontiers program is designed to explore different targets in our solar system. NASA only selects about two of these medium-class missions every decade. If selected, CAESAR mission would send a spacecraft to comet 67P. The craft would collect material from the nucleus of the comet and then send it back to Earth for analysis. The comet 67P is already visited by European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft and Philae lander in recent years.

Dragonfly, the other mission, would explore landing sites on Saturn's moon Titan. Titan is known for its lakes and seas of liquid methane and is one of the prime candidates other than Earth where some sort of life might be found.

All of our current understanding about Titan is based largely on the observations of NASA’s Cassini mission. Dragonfly would study several locations on Titan's surface. It could even travel toward those places of the moon where Cassini has not reached.

The upcoming mission will be the fourth in the series of New Frontier program. The last three New Frontiers missions were the New Horizons mission to Pluto, the Juno mission to Jupiter and the OSIRIS-REx mission now en route to the asteroid Bennu.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
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