NASA planning to send low cost robots to Venus and Asteroids

Asteroids and Venus has topped the list of destinations for future planetary explorations by NASA. According to an announcement made by the space agency on September 30, asteroids and Venus are part of the list of five contenders for the Discovery-class of planetary missions, a project worth $450 million.

For those who don’t know: the Discovery competition is inviting ideas for visiting any target within our Solar System besides the Earth and the Sun.

NASA has not visited Venus in the past two decades. During the upcoming mission, a Venus radar orbiter would be deployed for mapping the cloud-enshrouded terrain of the planet. In addition, there would be an atmospheric probe that would be descending directly through the misty layers.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Planetary scientist Steven Hauck of Case Western Reserve University, Ohio said that both Venus and asteroids are extremely exciting choices as they are parts of our solar system that so far have not received significant attention.

The Asteroid mission would be involving use of a telescope that will be deployed for hunting for dangerous objects near the Earth. In addition, the mission will look to send robots to Psyche, an asteroid known for housing metal in massive quantities. Then, there would be a tour of 4 Trojan asteroids that orbit close to Jupiter.

Reports suggest that each of the proposed missions will be getting a sum of $3 million from NASA for developing their ideas. By September 2016, we will see the space agency picking one (it might even be two) for eventually flying.

NASA officials are saying that they are thoroughly impressed with the quality of each of the 27 proposals submitted to the agency and added that if budget permits they will be queuing up the top two of those proposed missions for flying as the two next Discovery missions instead of one.

The months leading to this Sept 30 announcement by NASA have been really anxious for planetary scientists who submitted the proposals. They submitted the ideas in February this year.

Planetary scientist Harold Levison, a representative of the Southwest Research Institute, Colorado, said that the announcement has made the day extremely special for him. Levison, who led the team submitting the Trojan asteroid proposal, informed that he was informed about the selection when he was on his way to work.