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Executive Summary


We advocate for enabling rapid response strategies to reach fast, high-value science targets such as interstellar objects (ISOs), Oort Cloud Comets (OCCs), and Planetary Defense targets (Near Earth Objects, NEOs). Traditional NASA Planetary Science missions require a specific target to be named upon proposal submission, with wait times of up to 6-10 years between their initial proposal and final launch (e.g. NASA Discovery 2019 AO). In contrast,“rapid response” is a flexible strategy where a spacecraft is launched in response to the discovery of a compelling target. Rapid response strategies are required for fast targets since these objects typically have short windows of discovery before their closest approach to Earth. We advocate for specific revisions to NASA policies to enable rapid response architectures including flexible targets, launch dates, pre-planned spacecraft storage, and an expansion of the SmallSat program. Although this white paper focuses on missions toOort Cloud Comets and interstellar objects, the policy recommendations we present here would also enable missions to a broader range of targets.

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