NASA will announce today its choice for one or two of its next big robotic missions which were proposed under the agency's Discovery program that could send a spacecraft to Venus, asteroids or on a hunt for possibly dangerous cosmic objects near Earth by the early 2020s. The Discovery program, created in 1992, was responsible for launching the Messenger spacecraft to Mercury, the Kepler space telescope to search the sky for alien planets around distant stars and other missions to far-flung parts of the solar system.
NASA will announce which mission (or missions) it has chosen for full development during a press conference at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The possible missions are:
The Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy mission (VERITAS)
VERITAS would produce global, high-resolution topography and imaging of Venus' surface and produce the first maps of deformation and global surface composition. Suzanne Smrekar of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is the principal investigator. JPL would manage the project.
Psyche shown at top of page would explore the origin of planetary cores by studying the metallic asteroid Psyche. This asteroid is likely the survivor of a violent hit-and-run with another object that stripped off the outer, rocky layers of a protoplanet. Linda Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, is the principal investigator. JPL would manage the project.
Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam)
NEOCAM would discover 10 times more near-Earth objects than all NEOs discovered to date. It would also begin to characterize them. Amy Mainzer of JPL is the principal investigator, and JPL would manage the project.
The two other selections are:
Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI)
DAVINCI would study the chemical composition of Venus' atmosphere during a 63-minute descent. It would answer scientific questions that have been considered high priorities for many years, such as whether there are volcanoes active today on the surface of Venus and how the surface interacts with the atmosphere of the planet. Lori Glaze of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the principal investigator.
Lucy would perform the first reconnaissance of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, objects thought to hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system. Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado is the principal investigator.
The Daily Galaxy via jpl.nasa.gov