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February 11, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-1727) RELEASE: 93-027
NASA SELECTS 11 DISCOVERY MISSION CONCEPTS FOR STUDY NASA today announced the selection of 11 new science mission concepts in the Discovery Program which have been identified for further study during this fiscal year. The mission candidates were selected from 73 concepts discussed at the Discovery Mission Workshop held at the San Juan Capistrano Research Institute in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., last Nov. 16-20. The potential projects were those considered to have the highest scientific value as well as a reasonable chance of meeting strict budgetary guidelines. Discovery missions are designed to proceed from development to flight in less than 3 years, combining well-defined objectives, proven instruments and flight systems, costs limited to no more than $150 million and acceptance of a greater level of risk. "These missions represent a bold new way of doing business at NASA," said NASA Administrator Dan Goldin. "By accepting a greater level of risk, we can deliver high-return missions that are cost-effective, quicker from concept to launch, and responsive to the present budget climate. They promise to revolutionize the way we carry out planetary science in the next century." "The Discovery Program is probably the most exciting new initiative in planetary exploration," said Dr. Wesley T. Huntress, Jr., Director of NASA's Solar System Exploration Division. "We now will be able to more effectively take advantage of emerging technology and quickly - and relatively cheaply undertake more new missions of discovery than at anytime since the beginning of the space age. Also, because of the shorter time frames and lower costs, these missions will allow greater participation from the academic and aerospace communities," Huntress said. - more - 2 -
The 11 mission concepts to be studied are: � Mercury Polar Flyby has an objective to study the polar caps and complete the photographic reconnaissance of the planet. Principal Investigator: Paul D. Spudis, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston. � Hermes Global Orbiter to Mercury involves remote sensing of the planet's surface, atmosphere and magnetosphere. Principal Investigator: Robert Nelson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. � Venus Multiprobe Mission involves placement of 14 small entry probes over one hemisphere of Venus to measure winds, temperature and pressure. Principal Investigator: Richard Goody, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. � Venus Composition Probe enters Venus' atmosphere in daylight to measure atmospheric structure and composition on a parachute descent. Principal Investigator: Larry W. Esposito, University of Colorado, Boulder. � Cometary Coma Chemical Composition aims to rendezvous with a cometary nucleus at or near perihelion and conduct 100 days of scientific operations. Principal Investigator: Glenn C. Carle, NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. � Mars Upper Atmosphere Dynamics, Energetics and Evolution Mission will study Mars' upper atmosphere and ionosphere. Principal Investigator: Timothy Killeen, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. � Comet Nucleus Tour involves study of three comets during a 5-year mission, focusing on structure and composition of the nucleus. Principal Investigator: Joseph Veverka, Cornell University, Ithica, N.Y. � Small Missions to Asteroids and Comets involves four separate spacecraft launches to study distinctly different types of comets and asteroids. Principal Investigator: Michael Belton, National Optical Astronomy Observatories, Tuscon, Ariz. � Near Earth Asteroid Returned Sample will acquire samples from six sites on a near-Earth asteroid and return them to Earth for study. Principal Investigator: Eugene Shoemaker, U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz. � Earth Orbital Ultraviolet Jovian Observer will study the Jovian system from Earth orbit with a spectroscopic imaging telescope. Principal Investigator: Paul Feldman, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. � Solar Wind Sample Return mission aims at collecting and returning solar wind material to Earth for analysis. Principal Investigator: Don Burnett, Calif. Institute of Technology, Pasadena. In addition, three concepts also were targeted for further consideration this fiscal year. They are: � Mainbelt Asteroid Rendezvous Explorer would rendezvous and orbit the mainbelt asteroids Iris or Vesta. Principal Investigator: Joseph Veverka, Cornell University, Ithica, N.Y. � Comet Nucleus Penetrator would rendezvous with a comet and deploy a penetrator into its nucleus. Principal Investigator: William V. Boynton, University of Arizona, Tuscon.
- more - 3 � Mars Polar Pathfinder involves a lander which will carry out subsurface exploration of the northern Martian polar cap by radar and a probe to measure ice quantities and temperature. Principal Investigator: David A. Paige, University of Calif. at Los Angeles. "It was a difficult task narrowing the list down," said Dr. Richard Vorder Bruegge, a member of the Discovery Advanced Study Review Group which made the selections. A formal competition to make final selections of the missions to be conducted will be announced possibly next year. "The formal selection process will be open to all interested parties. Anyone will be able to submit a proposal for a Discovery mission in the formal competition," said Vorder Bruegge. "These proposals will have to be more extensive than the studies and include science rationale, spacecraft design, observations, data systems -- a start-to-finish proposal for a new mission." The 11 mission concepts selected follow the first two Discovery missions selected for Phase A studies last year. They are the Mars Environmental Survey (MESUR) Pathfinder, planned for launch in 1996, and the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), planned for a 1998 launch. Phase A studies of the MESUR Pathfinder mission was awarded to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (JPL). The Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. (APL), has been awarded Phase A studies of the NEAR mission. MESUR Pathfinder is envisioned as a technical demonstration and validation flight for the MESUR program, scheduled to begin in 1999. The MESUR program calls for building a network of about 16 small automated surface stations widely scattered around Mars to study the planet's internal structure, meteorology and local surface properties. NEAR would spend up to a year station-keeping with a near-Earth asteroid. The NEAR spacecraft, probably carrying only three instruments, would assess the asteroid's mass, size, density and spin rate, map its surface topography and composition, determine its internal properties and study its interaction with the interplanetary environment. "The study of planets provides other planetary examples against which to compare our own Earth, in order to understand better how planet Earth works and how it behaves," said Huntress. "The study of the solar system, and the planetary bodies within it, also will help us to understand how our solar system formed, how other solar systems might form around other stars, and therefore lead us to answer whether or not there are other Earths and other life in the universe. - more -
- 4 "To understand the uniqueness of the Earth, we need to understand the other rocky planets in the solar system -- Mercury, Venus and Mars. To find clues to the origin and evolution of the solar system we need to examine and return samples from the oldest and most primitive objects in the solar system -- comets and asteroids," Huntress said. The Discovery Program is managed by the Solar System Exploration Division of the Office of Space Science and Applications, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. - end EDITOR'S NOTE: The Discovery Program Workshop Summary report, containing a list of the 73 mission concepts presented at the Discovery Mission Workshop at La Jolla, Calif., is available by calling the NASA Headquarters Newsroom at 202/358-1600.
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