With a flagship Mars rover mission launched, NASA’s planetary science division is turning its attention to a pair of asteroid missions set to launch next year.
NASA and the National Academies are set to start the next planetary science decadal survey, one that will place an increased emphasis on areas like astrobiology and planetary defense.
NASA is considering missions to Venus and two outer solar system moons as the next in its Discovery line of planetary science missions.
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.
While NASA’s overall planetary sciences program is enjoying record funding levels, the agency is grappling with cost growth in two of its largest missions.
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.
As members of Congress took credit for NASA funding levels in a fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill, the agency’s science leadership is examining how those funds will affect its programs.
NASA officials praised “historic” funding levels for its planetary science programs in the administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget request at a conference March 20, even as some scientists in attendance worried about how that budget would affect other agency programs.
The United States has begun manufacturing nuclear spacecraft fuel for the first time in a generation, but full production of the stuff is still seven years or so away.
The James Webb Space Telescope’s Nobel Prize-winning head astronomer advised planetary scientists to get started on proposals for focusing JWST’s 6.5-meter mirror on objects most closer to home than its usual cosmic quarry.
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.
Five robotic mission concepts — two for Venus, three for asteroids — will duke it out to become NASA's next Discovery-class small planetary science mission. The winner would launch in 2021.
Ohio’s U.S. Senate delegation ordered up an extensive report on the federal infrastructure required to produce both the nuclear batteries that power NASA missions to dark and distant corners of the solar system, and the plutonium isotope that fuels those batteries.
Two weeks after New Horizons’ Pluto flyby, NASA planetary science funding took center stage during a July 28 House Science Committee hearing.
A final decision on an extended mission for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, one that would take it past a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO), won’t come for more than a year, although the project will be taking steps in the coming months to prepare for such a flyby.