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NASA New Frontiers Program: Where Next? 2 Finalists Include 'Do Over' to Grab Comet Material

NASA New Frontiers Program: Where Next? 2 Finalists Include 'Do Over' to Grab Comet Material

NASA recruting poster detail, "We Need You." (NASA/KSC)

By    |   Thursday, 21 December 2017 08:45 AM

NASA's New Frontiers program has selected two finalists for where the space agency will go next with its wildly successful drone-like robotic spacecraft series, the space agency announced Wednesday.

One of the missions would have a spacecraft land on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, collect a sample and return it to Earth. That mission, called the Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return, or CAESAR, would be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA said in a release.

The European Space Agency landed the probe Philae on the comet in 2014, but the execution didn’t go as planned, with the probe coming to rest on its side where it could not recharge with solar panels, Space.com reported. Philae's orbiter, Rosetta, ended its mission in September 2016 when it deliberately crashed into the comet, per Space.com.

The second mission, called Dragonfly, would send a drone-like rotocraft to the Saturn moon Titan, where it would explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of dozens of sites there, according to NASA. That project would be managed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Titan is known for its dark hydrocarbon lakes believed to be a potentially microbe-friendly world. Dragonfly would visit several locations to study Titan's surface and atmosphere, the newspaper stated.

"This is a giant leap forward in developing our next bold mission of science discovery," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "These are tantalizing investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today."

The selected mission will be NASA's fourth New Frontiers mission, according to the space agency. It's New Horizon's mission gave researchers their first-ever detailed view of Pluto and is now on its way to the Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69.

The June mission to Jupiter gave mankind's first look at the north and south poles of the largest planet in the solar system, and the OSIRIS-Rex is expected to land on the asteroid Bennu next year and return a sample back to Earth in 2023.

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NASA's New Frontiers program has selected two finalists for where the space agency will go next with its wildly successful drone-like robotic spacecraft series.
nasa, new frontiers program
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2017-45-21
Thursday, 21 December 2017 08:45 AM
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