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NASA Picks Four Concept Studies for ‘Pioneers’ Astrophysics Research Program

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NASA has unveiled four astrophysics research proposals for the agency’s Pioneers program that will receive funding to support agency efforts to explore topic areas such as exoplanets, galaxy evolution, neutron star merging and high-energy neutrinos.

NASA said Thursday the proposals are subject to a concept study review ahead of flight approval. Pioneers has a funding cap of $20 million and allows participants to use of government-developed telescopes as well as off-the-shelf space vehicles.

Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division at NASA, said the agency received more than 20 proposals from NASA centers, research laboratories and universities for the program.

“The principal investigators of these concept studies bring innovative, out-of-the-box thinking to the problem of how to do high-impact astrophysics experiments on a small budget,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

The selected proposals include the Aspera mission, which will use a small satellite to study galaxy evolution, and the Pandora smallsat mission to observe 20 stars and their corresponding 39 exoplanets.

Other missions include the StarBurst and PUEO efforts which will respectively use a smallsat and a balloon to detect high-energy gamma rays and neutrino signals to study neutron star mergers.

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