NASA to Reveal Finalists for Next Robotic Solar System Mission Today

NASA will announce the finalists for its next robotic mission to explore the solar system on Dec. 20, 2017.
NASA will announce the finalists for its next robotic mission to explore the solar system on Dec. 20, 2017. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA will unveil the finalists for its next robotic mission to explore the solar system today (Dec. 20) and you can follow it live online. 

"The mission, targeted to launch in the mid-2020s, would be the fourth in NASA's New Frontiers portfolio — a series of cost-capped missions led by a principal investigator," NASA officials said in a statement

 The space agency will announce the finalist concepts during a teleconference at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT). You can listen live here on, courtesy of NASA. The finalists were chosen from 12 proposals for missions aimed at exploring a wide range of targets in our solar system.

NASA gave scientists six themes to consider for their mission proposals. Those themes were: 

  • 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

Past New Frontiers missions include NASA's Juno probe now exploring Jupiter, the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return mission currently on its way to the asteroid Bennu. 

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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.