A Discovery program that was created in 1992 sponsors cost-capped solar system exploration missions with highly focused scientific goals. In its quest to explore Venus, near-earth objects and bizarre metal asteroids, NASA has zeroed on five key science investigations among 27 proposals through its ambitious Discovery program.
NASA announced that once selected after refinement, one or two missions can get the green signal for flying to their destinations as early as 2020. Each research team will receive $3 million to conduct concept design studies and analyses. After a detailed review and evaluation of the concept studies, the US space agency will make the final selections by September 2016 for continued development leading up to launch.
John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC, said, "The selected investigations have the potential to reveal much about the formation of our solar system and its dynamic processes. Dynamic and exciting missions like these hold promise to unravel the mysteries of our solar system and inspire future generations of explorers. It's an incredible time for science, and NASA is leading the way."
The 'Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging (DAVINCI): program' is set to study the chemical composition of Venus atmosphere during a 63-minute descent. The 'Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy mission (VERITAS)' mission will provide global, high-resolution topography and imaging of Venus' surface and produce the first maps of deformation and global surface composition. Another project named 'Psyche' will aid in exploration of the origin of planetary cores by studying the bizarre metallic asteroid 'Psyche'. 'Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam)' will discover and characterize 10 times more near-Earth objects than all missions accomplished till date. The final mission called 'Lucy' would perform the first reconnaissance of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, objects thought to hold vital clues to deciphering the history of our solar system.
This Discovery program has funded and developed 12 missions to date, including MESSENGER, Dawn, Stardust, Deep Impact, Genesis and GRAIL, and is currently completing development of InSight.