NASA Set to Announce Next Major Planetary Science Mission

NASA will announce  next major planetary science on June 27, 2019.
A rendering of the proposed New Frontiers Dragonfly mission to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan | Image credit: NASA

NASA advisory has revealed the agency’s plans to announce its next major planetary science mission later today. The announcement will be broadcast live on NASA Television from 20:00 UTC (16:00 EDT).

Although the advisory didn’t include any specific details, it did reveal the inclusion of the lead program scientist for NASA’s New Frontiers program, Curt Niebur. In December 2017, the agency selected two finalists for the New Frontiers mission. As such, the mission set to be announced will likely be one of those two missions.

The first of the two finalists is the Comet Astrobiology Exploration SAmple Return (CAESAR) mission, which would visit comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and return samples from its nucleus. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has previously been studied by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. CAESAR would, as a result, look to build on the data gathered during that mission.

The second of the two New Frontiers missions is the ambitious Dragonfly mission, which would visit Saturn’s largest moon, Titan to study its microbial habitability at various locations. To visit multiple locations, the multi-rotor Dragonfly vehicle would perform controlled flights and vertical takeoffs and landings between locations. Unsurprisingly, the Dragonfly mission is considered incredibly ambitious, which may hurt its chances of being selected.

The New Frontiers program was developed by NASA and granted by Congress in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Since then, a total of three New Frontiers missions have been launched (New Horizons, Juno and Osiris-Rex), all of which are currently still operational. The last New Frontiers mission, Osiris-Rex was an asteroid sample return mission launched in September 2016.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.