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NASA's Discovery Program: Moving Toward the Edge (of the Solar System)NASA's Planetary Science , Division sponsors a competitive program of small spacecraft missions with the goal of performing focused science investigations that complement NASA's larger planetary science explorations at relatively low cost. The goal of the Discovery program is to launch many smaller missions with fast development times to increase our understanding of the solar system by exploring the planets, dwarf planets, their moons, and small bodies such as comets and asteroids. Discovery missions are solicited from the broad planetary science community approximately every 2 years. Active missions within the Discovery program include several with direct scientific or engineering connections to potential future missions to the edge of the solar system and beyond. In addition to those in the Discovery program are the missions of the New Frontiers program. The first New Frontiers mission. is the New Horizons mission to Pluto, which will explore this 38-AU distant dwarf planet and potentially some Kuiper Belt objects beyond. The Discovery program's Dawn mission, when launched in mid-2007, will use ion drive as its primary propulsion system. Ion propulsion is one of only two technologies that appear feasible for early interstellar precursor missions with practical flight times. The Kepler mission will explore the structure and diversity of extrasolar planetary systems, with an emphasis on the detection of Earth-size planets around other stars. Kepler will survey nearby solar systems searching for planets that may fall within the habitable zone,' a region surrounding a star within which liquid water may exist on a planet's surface - an essential ingredient for life as we know it. With its open and competitive approach to mission selections, the Discovery program affords scientists the opportunity to propose missions to virtually any solar system destination. With its emphasis on science and proven openness to the use of new technologies such as ion propulsion, missions flown as part of the program will test out technologies needed for future very deep-space exploration and potentially take us to these difficult and distant destinations.
Document ID
20090028789
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Johnson, Les (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Gilbert, Paul (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
July 2, 2007
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Report/Patent Number
MSFC-317
MSFC-357
Meeting Information
5th Symposium on Realistic Near-Term Advanced Scientific Space Missions(Aosta)
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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