Douglas Isbell Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1753) RELEASE: 96-191

September 20, 1996

NASA SEEKS PROPOSALS FOR FIFTH DISCOVERY MISSION The process of selecting the fifth flight in NASA's Discovery Program series of small, low-cost, highly focused planetary exploration missions has begun with the issuance of the formal Announcement of Opportunity by NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. Due for launch before the end of September 2002, the fifth Discovery mission must be developed and prepared for launch for less than $183 million (FY97 dollars), with mission operations and data analysis costs less than an additional $43 million. "We're open to proposals that address any aspect of planetary science," said Dr. Wesley Huntress, Associate Administrator for Space Science at NASA Headquarters. "We look forward to receiving a diverse group of mission concepts, in both cost and complexity." Based on past history, more than a dozen proposals from both domestic and international teams with members from industry, educational institutions, non-profit institutions, NASA centers and other government institutions can be expected, according to Ken Ledbetter, director of the Mission and Payload Development Division in the Office of Space Science. If more than one mission can be accommodated within the stated budget, NASA will consider selecting more than one, he added. Feedback from the previous round of Discovery selections has led to a more streamlined process for picking this fifth mission. First-round proposals are due by December 11. A subset of these proposals will be selected for detailed feasibility studies to run from April through August 1997, with final selection of the winning proposal tentatively scheduled for late September 1997. One NASA Discovery mission, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft, was launched in February toward its planned orbital survey of the large asteroid Eros, beginning in January 1999. The next Discovery mission, the

Mars Pathfinder, is due for launch on December 2 toward a July 1997 landing on the red planet, where it will photograph the surface, monitor the Martian climate and deploy a small surface rover. The third Discovery mission, Lunar Prospector, was selected in February 1995. Due for launch in October 1997, this small orbiter spacecraft is designed to map the chemical composition of the lunar surface and survey the Moon's global magnetic and gravity fields at a level of detail greater than that achieved by any previous mission. The fourth Discovery mission, Stardust, originated from the same group of proposals and was formally selected in November 1995. Following a February 1999 launch, Stardust is designed to gather first-time samples of interstellar dust and dust spewed from the comet Wild-2 and return them to Earth in 2006 for detailed analysis. The complete text of the latest Discovery Announcement of Opportunity is available on the Internet at the following URL: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/oss/research.htm -end-