NASA announced June 27 it will send a spacecraft to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, to fly across its surface to study how life there, and on the early Earth, could have developed.
As NASA selects its next major planetary science mission, the agency is also funding studies of very small missions that seek to capitalize on advances in smallsat technology.
NASA has done a good job implementing the recommendations of its latest planetary science decadal survey despite past budget problems, but needs to improve some programs, a recent report concluded.
NASA has selected missions to return samples from a comet and to explore Titan with a drone as finalists for the next New Frontiers medium-class planetary science mission.
NASA released an announcement of opportunity (AO) for the agency’s next New Frontiers planetary science mission Dec. 9, kicking off a multi-year competition at least a month earlier than widely expected.
The agency has said it could select two of the five finalists for the latest of its Discovery-class planetary missions — including two Venus concepts and three asteroid concepts — next year for full-scale development.
Competition for NASA’s fourth New Frontiers class of medium-sized robotic solar-system missions won’t start for at least a month, but the agency is planning to give some would-be competitors a head start with a small round of technology development funding.
NASA's next New Frontiers competition will begin in 2016, NASA's Jim Green, director of planetary science, said Feb. 20. At stake: $1 billion in funding for a new robotic solar-system mission that would launch in 2021.