NASA reveals 4 new discovery missions
Published: 05:54 PM, 14 February 2020
File Photo, Collected
NASA announced four new possible discovery program investigations to develop concept studies on the solar system, according to a release of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Thursday.
The space agency has given the green light to concept studies across Venus and the moons of Jupiter and Neptune for these Discovery Program investigations.
NASA’s Discovery Program invites scientists and engineers to assemble a team to design exciting planetary science missions, which will provide frequent flight opportunities for focused planetary science investigations, according to JPL.
“These selected missions have the potential to transform our understanding of some of the solar system’s most active and complex worlds,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Exploring any one of these celestial bodies will help unlock the secrets of how it, and others like it, came to be in the cosmos.”
Two of the missions selected focus on Venus. DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry and Imaging Plus) would analyze the atmosphere of Venus to see how it was formed and evolved, and whether the planet ever had an ocean. VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) would map Venus’ surface to check out its geological history.
The other two missions are looking into celestial moons. Io Volcano Observer (IVO) would explore Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io, to learn about magma oceans and tidal forces. “Io is heated by the constant crush of Jupiter’s gravity and is the most volcanically active body in the solar system,” NASA said.
Lastly, the Trident mission would explore Neptune’s ice moon Triton, to see whether something so far from the sun could be inhabited.
The four nine-month studies will be given $3 million each by NASA to develop their concepts. NASA will evaluate each, and then choose two missions in 2021.
Established in 1992, NASA’s Discovery Program has so far supported the development and implementation of over 20 missions and instruments.