The phrase ‘it takes a village’ has never been more appropriate than now. NASA is turning to 12 proposals for their New Frontiers robotic mission program in order to find which direction their work is going to be steered toward. The original 12 proposals were submitted back in April and after months of deliberation NASA is finally honing in on their two top choices. The two finalists that NASA has chosen include a mission designed around a flying lander sent to the surface of Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. The other mission proposal that NASA is keen on involves landing on a comet in order to bring back samples all the way from the nucleus of the projectile.
NASA has been looking for the right mission in order to put funding in place in order to get the project off of the ground. Of the 12 initial proposals, only two remains and of that two one will be chosen by 2019. The goal here is for a mission to be selected, funded and developed for launch before the end of 2025. While many folks are hearing about the New Frontiers missions for the first time, this actually isn’t a new venture. NASA has three different missions in play that came about from this selection process: the Juno Probe on Jupiter, the OSIRIS-REX asteroid mission, and the New Horizons exploration to Pluto. The two missions that have been selected will feature return trips to areas of the solar system that we have already explored. However, these new mission proposals will help to map out an additional layer of information for research purposes.
The first mission is called Dragonfly on Titan and would involve a special quadcopter sent to the surface of Jupiter’s largest and most potentially habitable home, Titan. NASA has been absolutely enthused by the idea of exploring Titan due to the chemical makeup of the giant moon. While it is very different than Earth, there is potential for life to develop upon its surface. The Dragonfly quadcopter would be the focal point of this mission, bringing back data and information that we have never had access to before.
The second mission involves a project called CAESAR which stands for Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return. This mission would involve retrieving data from the comet 67PG/Churyumov-Gerasimenko which was initially found by Russia. This mission would allow researchers to retrieve 100 grams from the nucleus of the comet for research purposes.