NASA mulls three mission proposals

Osiris-Rex, SAGE or MoonRise

NASA has shortlisted three proposals for its next foray to another

celestial body in our solar system.

They are to probe the atmosphere and crust of Venus; return a piece of a near-Earth asteroid for analysis; or drop a robotic lander at the moon’s south pole to collect lunar rocks for study.

NASA will select one proposal for full development after detailed studies are completed and reviewed in 2011. The selected mission must be ready for launch by the end of 2018, and the cost – excluding the launch vehicle – is limited to $650 million.

“These are projects that inspire and excite young scientists, engineers and the public,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.


“These three proposals provide the best science value among eight

submitted to NASA this year.”

The Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer, or SAGE, mission to Venus would release a probe to measure the atmosphere’s composition. The probe would then land on the surface of Venus and measure its composition and mineralogy. The aim is to understand the origin of Venus and why it’s so different from Earth. Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado is the principal investigator.

The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, would orbit a primitive asteroid, then collect more than two ounces of material from its surface for return to Earth. The samples would help scientists better understand the formation of our solar system and the origin of complex molecules necessary for life. Michael Drake, of the University of Arizona, is the principal investigator.

MoonRise: Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return Mission would place a lander near the moon’s south pole and return around two pounds of lunar materials for study. The samples would provide new insight into the early history of the Earth-moon system. Bradley Jolliff, of Washington University, is the principal investigator.

The final selection will become the third mission in the New Frontiers Program  – which is here –