NASA has selected four proposed Discovery-class interplanetary missions to receive $3 million to flesh out their concepts, with the aim of choosing one or two of them next year for further funding.
Two of the proposed missions focus on Venus: DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus), which would send an spherical probe through Venus’ atmosphere to study the cloud-covered planet’s atmosphere all the way down to the surface; and VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy), which would map Venus with synthetic radar and an infrared imager.
The other two are Io Volcano Observer, which would observe Io, Jupiter’s volcanically active moon, during a series of close flybys; and Trident, which would gather images and data during a flyby of Triton, a moon of Neptune that may have an ocean beneath its icy surface.
NASA’s Discovery Program typically covers interplanetary missions with a total cost of less than $300 million. Examples of Discovery-class missions include the Kepler space telescope, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars InSight lander. Two Discovery missions targeting asteroids, Lucy and Psyche, are currently under development for launch in 2021 and 2023.