Spaceflight Insider

NASA receives proposals for future New Frontiers mission

New Frontiers mission to explore the Solar System. Image Credit: NASA

New Frontiers. An artist’s concept of the Solar System. Image Credit: NASA

NASA has received and is currently reviewing 12 proposals for a future robotic Solar System exploration mission. The mission proposals, submitted to the space agency’s New Frontiers Program, will undergo technical and scientific review over the next seven months. The goal is to select a mission in about two years, with a launch in the mid-2020s.

“New Frontiers is about answering the biggest questions in our Solar System today, building on previous missions to continue to push the frontiers of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. “We’re looking forward to reviewing these exciting investigations and moving forward with our next bold mission of discovery.”

New Frontiers missions: Lunar Sample Return and Venus In-Situ Explorer

Artist’s renditions of the Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return mission (left) and the Venus In-Situ Explorer (right). (Click to enlarge) Images Credit: NASA

The selection of one or more concepts for Phase A study will be announced in November. At the conclusion of Phase A studies, one New Frontiers mission concept will be chosen to proceed into subsequent mission phases. Mission proposals are selected after a competitive peer review process.

Mission proposals for this announcement of opportunity (AO) were limited to the following six themes:

  • Comet Surface Sample Return
  • Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return
  • Ocean Worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus)
  • Saturn Probe
  • Trojan Tour and Rendezvous
  • Venus In-Situ Explorer

The selected mission would the fourth of the New Frontiers Program, the previous missions are the New Horizons mission to Pluto, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, the latter of which will rendezvous with asteroid Bennu and return a sample to Earth.

The New Frontiers Program explores the Solar System with frequent, medium-class spacecraft missions under a development cost cap of approximately $1 billion. New Frontiers missions must address NASA’s planetary science goals as described in the 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan. The New Frontiers Program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.



Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

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