The U.S. space agency NASA has selected five spaceflight missions from 27 proposals it had received through its ambitious Discovery program. All the five selected investigations will be refined over the next 12 months. Then, next September, NASA will choose one or two of them for flying to their destinations as early as 2020, the space agency said.
NASA’s final selections would cost $500 million each
The Discovery program sponsors frequent solar system exploration missions with highly focused scientific objectives. The five projects selected for refinement include exploration of Venus, bizarre metal asteroids, and near-Earth objects. NASA said each investigation team would receive $3 million for further analysis and creation of concept designs.
After a detailed evaluation and review of the five concept studies, NASA scientists and engineers will select one or two projects by Sept. 2016. These final selections will be developed further, leading up to launch. Each selected mission is estimated to cost $500 million, excluding the cost of launch vehicle and post-launch operations, said NASA.
The projects may reveal the history of solar system
John Grunsfeld of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said the selected projects have the potential to shed light on the formation of our solar system and its dynamic processes. The Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI) project aims to analyze Venus’ atmospheric chemical composition during a 63-minute descent.
The Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) will discover and characterize ten times more near-Earth objects than all missions have discovered till date. The Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy mission (VERITAS) will produce high-resolution topography and imaging of Venus’ surface.
Another project called Psyche aims to discover the planetary cores of a bizarre metallic asteroid called Psyche, which is located between Mars and Jupiter. The fifth project called Lucy would conduct the first reconnaissance of Trojan asteroids in Jupiter’s orbit. These asteroids are believed to hold vital clues about the history of our solar system.