In Brief

NASA Mulls 12 Ideas for Future Solar System Mission

NASA is reviewing 12 proposals for its next robotic mission to explore the solar system under the agency's New Frontiers Program.
NASA is reviewing 12 proposals for its next robotic mission to explore the solar system under the agency's New Frontiers Program. (Image credit: NASA)

When it comes to picking the next mission to explore the solar system, NASA certainly has options. The space agency is reviewing a dozen ideas for a robotic solar system probe that will launch sometime in the mid-2020s. 

The 12 mission proposals are part of NASA's New Frontiers program, which aims to send ambitious missions to explore the solar system with a cost of no more than $1 billion. Past New Frontiers missions include the New Horizons probe that flew by Pluto in 2015, the ongoing Juno mission at Jupiter and the OSIRIS-REx mission, which will visit the asteroid Bennu and return samples to Earth.

"New Frontiers is about answering the biggest questions in our solar system today, building on previous missions to continue to push the frontiers of exploration," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science missions, said in a statement. "We're looking forward to reviewing these exciting investigations and moving forward with our next bold mission of discovery." [These Are All the Probes Exploring the Solar System]

NASA did not list the details of the 12 candidate New Frontiers mission proposals, but officials said each was submitted under one of six different themes. Those themes are:

  • Comet Surface Sample Return
  • Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return
  • Ocean Worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus)
  • Saturn Probe
  • Trojan Tour and Rendezvous
  • Venus In Situ Explorer 

NASA will announce the selection of one or more concepts for a Phase A study in November, agency officials wrote in the statement. Once the Phase A study round is complete, NASA officials plan to select a final New Frontiers proposal to advance into "subsequent mission phases," NASA officials said. "Mission proposals are selected following an extensive competitive peer review process."

You can learn more about NASA's New Frontiers Program at its website here.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.