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NASA to Fund Concept Devt of Comet Sample Return Mission, Saturn Moon Exploration

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NASA has chosen two proposed space exploration concepts as finalists for a robotic mission scheduled to launch in the mid-2020s.

The space agency said Thursday it will fund the concept development of the finalists, which include a comet sample return mission and a rotorcraft that would seek potential landing sites on Saturn’s moon, Titan.

NASA selected the concepts following a competitive peer review of 12 proposals submitted in April through the agency’s New Frontiers program.

The Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return mission, or CAESAR, aims to collect a sample from the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet to help define its origin and history.

CAESAR is led by Steve Squyres of Cornell University and would be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The second concept is the Dragonfly drone-like rotorcraft that would study the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of multiple sites on Saturn’s largest moon Titan.

Elizabeth Turtle of the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory will serve as lead investigator of Dragonfly and APL will provide project management for the mission.

NASA plans to fund the concept development of CAESAR and Dragonfly through the end of 2018, then select one mission in 2019 to move to the next program phases.

The winning concept will be the fourth mission under the New Frontiers program, which funds principal investigator-led planetary science explorations that cost only up to $850 million to develop.

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