Feeds

NASA eyes asteroid, Moon and Venus

Three candidates for future space mission

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA has named the three finalists for a future New Frontiers mission, with competing teams eyeing an asteroid, the Moon and Venus as possible destinations.

The agency describes its New Frontiers programme as "frequent, medium-class spacecraft missions that will conduct high-quality, focused scientific investigations designed to enhance our understanding of the solar system". The trio of contenters would "probe the atmosphere and crust of Venus; return a piece of a near-Earth asteroid for analysis; or drop a robotic lander into a basin at the Moon's south pole to return lunar rocks back to Earth for study".

Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said: "These are projects that inspire and excite young scientists, engineers and the public. These three proposals provide the best science value among eight submitted to NASA this year."

Each proposal team will now get around $3.3m to conduct a "12-month mission concept study that focuses on implementation feasibility, cost, management and technical plans". The final choice will be made in 2011, and the winner "must be ready for launch no later than 30 December 2018" at a total cost (excluding the launch vehicle) of $650m.

The three proposed missions are:

The Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer, or SAGE, mission to Venus would release a probe to descend through the planet's atmosphere. During descent, instruments would conduct extensive measurements of the atmosphere's composition and obtain meteorological data. The probe then would land on the surface of Venus, where its abrading tool would expose both a weathered and a pristine surface area to measure its composition and mineralogy. Scientists hope to understand the origin of Venus and why it is so different from Earth. Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado in Boulder, is the principal investigator.

The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, would rendezvous and orbit a primitive asteroid. After extensive measurements, instruments would collect more than two ounces of material from the asteriod's surface for return to Earth. The returned samples would help scientists better undertand [sic] and answer long-held questions about the formation of our solar system and the origin of complex molecules necessary for life. Michael Drake, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, is the principal investigator.

MoonRise: Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return Mission would place a lander in a broad basin near the moon's south pole and return approximately two pounds of lunar materials for study. This region of the lunar surface is believed to harbor rocks excavated from the moon's mantle. The samples would provide new insight into the early history of the Earth-moon system. Bradley Jolliff, of Washington University in St. Louis, is the principal investigator.

Before the eventual winner finally gets off the ground, New Frontiers' New Horizons spacecraft is scheduled to rendevous with Pluto and its moon Charon in July 2015, while its Juno mission to Jupiter is slated to blast off in August 2011. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Asteroid's SHOCK DINO MURDER SPREE just bad luck - boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.