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A team proposing the use of a flying rover to explore Saturn’s moon Titan, and another that wants to send a sample-collecting mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, are the finalists in NASA’s search for its next interplanetary destination, officials announced Wednesday. The competition began in earnest in late April, when 12 teams submitted proposals to fly spacecraft to a wide variety of targets in our solar system. Each finalist team will receive $4 million to firm up its concept by mid-2019, when NASA will choose one to fully develop as the fourth member of the space agency’s “New Frontiers” program. Previous New Frontiers missions include the New Horizons probe sent to Pluto, the Juno orbiter at Jupiter and the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which is now en route to collect samples from the asteroid Bennu in 2018. The fourth New Frontiers mission would launch before the end of 2025.

“This is a giant leap forward in developing our next bold mission of science discovery,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. “These are tantalizing investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today.”

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Category: Science