The victor of the next New Frontiers mission competition would be selected in the spring of 2019 for a launch sometime around 2025. It would be a drone capable of flying through Titan's atmosphere, and would be used to explore the moon's habitability in dozens of places across its surface.
The most innovative #New Frontier option is called Dragonfly, which will consist of an aerial drone that will fly in the skies over Titan, a #Moon Of Saturn.
"We can evaluate how far chemistry has progressed in an environment that we know has the ingredient for life", said Elizabeth Turtle of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory who will be the lead investigator.
"Dragonfly would spend most of its time on the ground, but by being a rotorcraft, we're able to fly to multiple sites tens to hundreds of kilometers apart to be able to make these measurements in different geologic settings", she added. The mission wouldn't be limited by power or a risky environment, Turtle said.
The CAESAR mission will acquire a sample from the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, returning it safely to Earth. The program is called New Frontiers, and it involves a competition in which participants submit proposals for possible future missions that NASA could undertake. Comets are some of the most important but least understood bodies in the solar system, similar in composition to the earliest material that formed the planets. The hope is that the comet will show the presence of organic molecules that comets might have brought to our planet in the distant past and sparked life. Once there, it would collect samples from the comet's nucleus, or core, and then return them to Earth in 2034.
The sample capsule would be designed by JAXA, Japan's space agency, and would be based on its Hayabusa asteroid mission. It would be following ESA's Huygens mission, which landed in 2005 as part of Nasa's Cassini mission.
"That dramatically improves the chances for success for a very hard activity, which is grabbing a piece of a comet", he added. The OSIRIS-REx is an asteroid sample return mission conducted by NASA that helps us study space rock up-close. Opportunity continues to operate, almost 14 years after landing. NASA said in a release. For ELSAH, more work is needed to avoid contamination so the mission can better detect potential life on Saturn's icy moon.
The VICI mission concept will further develop the Venus Element and Mineralogy Camera to operate under the harsh conditions on Venus. Only one of these concepts will be selected for funding in 2019 (with a cost cap of $850 million), but I can tell you which one I'd choose, even before the detailed tradeoffs are done. "These are tremendously exciting missions". The mission would be managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center using a spacecraft build by Orbital ATK.
"This is a giant leap forward in developing our next bold mission of science discovery", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement.