Illustration of the solar system by NASA Photograph:( Others )
'Exploring any one of these celestial bodies will help unlock the secrets of how they, and other bodies like them became a part of the cosmos,' said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
NASA is going to fund four concept studies for potential robotic missions to Venus, Jupiter’s moon Io and Neptune’s moon Triton under its Discovery Program to investigate how the cosmos came into existence.
These three cosmic objects are among the four finalists for NASA's next round of Discovery missions.
The space agency chose the four mission concepts as semi-finalists from more than a dozen proposals submitted by US scientists last year.
The Discovery Program develops relatively low-cost robotic-exploration efforts to develop concept studies for possible new missions.
According to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, "these selected missions have the potential to transform our understanding of some of the solar system's most active and complex worlds".
"Exploring any one of these celestial bodies will help unlock the secrets of how they, and other bodies like them became a part of the cosmos," he added.
The teams behind the four mission concepts will each receive $3 million to continue maturing their ideas over the next nine months and submit reports to NASA.
These reports will be evaluated by agency officials.
Out of these four, only two will be selected for continued development toward flight.
Previously, two of the Discovery missions called Lucy and Psyche were selected for launch in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
NASA plans to select up to two of the final four proposals in 2021 to proceed into full development for a pair of launch opportunities in 2025 or 2026 and 2028 or 2029.