Erica Hupp/Dwayne Brown
Oct. 30, 2006
NASA Announces Discovery Program Selections
NASA Monday selected concept studies for missions that would return a
sample of an enigmatic asteroid, probe the chemistry of Venus'
atmosphere and reveal the interior structure and history of the Earth's
Also selected for further study are three missions of opportunity that
would make new use of two NASA spacecraft that have completed their
"The science community astounded us with the creativity of their
proposals," said NASA's Science Mission Directorate Associate
Administrator Mary Cleave. "We look forward to the new knowledge of our
solar system that these concepts may provide."
Three missions were selected for concept studies:
-- The Origins Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and
Security (OSIRIS) mission would survey an asteroid and provide the first
return of asteroid surface material samples to Earth. Michael Drake of
the University of Arizona, Tucson, is OSIRIS's principal investigator.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., would manage the
-- The Vesper mission is a Venus chemistry and dynamics orbiter that
would advance our knowledge of the planet's atmospheric composition and
dynamics. Gordon Chin of Goddard is Vesper's principal investigator.
Goddard would manage the project.
-- The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission would
use high-quality gravity field mapping of the moon to determine the
moon's interior structure. Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Cambridge, Mass., is GRAIL's principal investigator. NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., would manage the project.
The three missions of opportunity selected for concept studies are:
-- The Deep Impact eXtended Investigation of Comets (DIXI) mission would
use the existing Deep Impact spacecraft for an extended flyby mission to
a second comet to take pictures of its nucleus to increase our
understanding of the diversity of comets. Michael A'Hearn of the
University of Maryland, College Park, Md., is DIXI's principal investigator.
-- The Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh)
mission would use the high-resolution camera on the Deep Impact
spacecraft to search for the first Earth-sized planets detected around
other stars. L. Drake Deming of Goddard is EPOCh's principal investigator.
-- The Stardust NExT mission would use the existing Stardust spacecraft
to flyby comet Tempel 1 and observe changes since the Deep Impact
mission visited it in 2005. In 2005, Tempel 1 has made its closest
approach to the sun, possibly changing the surface of the comet. Joseph
Veverka of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., is NExT's principal
These proposals were among approximately two dozen submitted in response
to NASA's Discovery Program 2006 Announcement of Opportunity in April.
The announcement solicited two types of investigations: complete
missions to design, build and fly new spacecraft to accomplish specific
planetary science objectives; and missions of opportunity that propose
scientific uses for existing spacecraft or build instrumentation for
spacecraft of other space agencies.
NASA may select one or more investigations to continue into a
development effort after detailed review of the concept studies.
Decisions about which mission concepts will proceed to development are
expected next year.
New missions will receive $1.2 million to conduct concept studies. If
selected for continuation beyond the concept phase, each project must
complete its mission, including archiving and analyzing data, for less
than $425 million.
Missions of opportunities will receive $250,000 to conduct concept
studies. If selected for continuation, each mission of opportunity must
complete its project, including data archive and analysis, for less than
For more information about the Discovery Program, visit:
For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:
- end -
Last Updated: October 30, 2006