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In 2017, the competition for New Frontiers missions for launch in 2021 begins. New Frontiers missions have a cost cap of $1 Billion, and are used for medium class missions larger than discovery, but smaller than Flagship. Keep in mind that we know little about the design of these probes themselves, so this thread is more about where you would launch a mission. Missions may use an RTG or Ion Drive. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Frontiers_program There are 6 Mission proposals being considered currently: Titan/Enceledus Mission: NASA recently sent out a call for New Frontiers proposals to study Titan and/or Enceladus. Currently, little is known about what such a mission would look like. It could do multiple flybys of Titan and Enceladus (like Europa Clipper, though radiation is not an issue at Saturn), orbit either Titan or Enceladus, or land on Titan. Pros: - Both moons could harbour life, and are considered excellent scientific destinations. - Would be great for NASA publicity- almost as much as New Horizons. - A multi-flyby probe could help replace the lost science capability once Cassini ends its mission. - A RTG-powered probe would likely be able to launch on a smaller Falcon Heavy via a Jupiter flyby, but would have a more expensive probe, while a solar-powered probe (like Juno, but at Saturn) would require a Jupiter Flyby, and a SLS- but the probe would likely be cheaper. Both assume we use a direct trajectory to the outer planets, and not something like VEEGA, which would increase the transit time A LOT. Cons: - Probably better to reserve for a Flagship mission, as it has a higher of going over-budget and being cancelled than the other missions, due to the distance to Saturn (something none of us would want). - Would either need giant Solar panels or RTGs, due to the distance to Saturn. - An SLS, though it would not be included in the project costs (launch costs are not included in Discovery, Explorer, and New Frontiers missions), but would still cost an arm and a leg. So would an RTG. And a VEEGA-like trajectory would give us less science data due to the lower lifetime from having to linger around the inner solar system. - We know nothing about this mission proposal (so DON'T blindly choose this one!) Saturn Atmospheric Entry Probe: A Galileo-style entry probe carrying a carrier/relay spacecraft, which would carry the entry probe, and send data back to Earth. It would give scientists critical data about Saturn's atmosphere, including isotopic ratios, and noble gas abundances, which they apparently really want. The entry probe would survive to at least five bar, but would continue to operate until it is crushed by the atmosphere. Pros: - Highly important science data will be collected. Cons: - Mission will likely not generate any publicity. - Mission would last for very little time despite the approx. 7 year transit time to Saturn. (4 years transit for SLS) - Faces the same power problems as the Enceladus/Titan Mission, but with the added twist of needing a high-G entry probe- something that might be too much for the limited New Frontiers budget. Venus In-Situ Explorer: Similar to a comet probe-less VEGA, or a extended VERITAS also designed to land on Venus, Venus In-Situ Explorer would send a lander, and possibly an aero-bot or another kind of probe, to study Venus's entire atmosphere, especially of trace and noble gases. It would also study the crust and lower atmosphere in detail, something impossible from orbit. It would also obtain surface samples for study. Pros: - Would retrieve very high-importance science data. - Would have less of a chance of breaking the budget due to Venus being closer. - Venus In-Situ Explorer would make a great follow-up to VEGA. - We need to study Venus more. Cons: - It would likely be a relatively short mission-perhaps 2 days in length. - Power is likely limited to how much you can carry in your batteries. Trojan Tour and Rendezvous: The Trojan Tour and Rendezvous mission would likely be similar to an extended version of the proposed LUCY, and would study a completely new kind of object- a Jupiter Trojan. It would flyby two or more Trojan asteroids, then settle in orbit around one of them. Pros: - It would provide good scientific data on a completely unknown category of asteroids- Trojan Asteroids are thought to be very different than the ones closer into the solar system. - It might provide a SLS mission for the empty SLS launch manifest. - It would study multiple objects in the Trojans, getting more science data on a variety of objects there. Cons: - If Juno https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juno_(spacecraft) is any indication, such a asteroid mission would need an SLS Block I or an RTG to reach the Jupiter Trojans, both which cost an arm and a leg. - Transit time is surprisingly 10 years, no matter if you launch on SLS or Atlas V + VEEGA. SLS would provide 6x the payload capacity, though. Comet Surface Sample Return: A Comet Surface Sample Return Mission would acquire and return to Earth a small amount of cometary material from the nucleus (by landing) of a comet in a way that preserves organic compounds in the sample. It may also get a sample from multiple locations on the comet, though obviously this increases cost. It would get important data on the condition and constituents of the early Solar System, especially water and organics. It has also been suggested such a mission land near an active cometary jet. This mission would also study the comet's structure, composition, age, texture, structure, regolith, and evolution as it passes close to the Sun. Pros: - Good Science data can be obtained from this mission. - Depending on the comet, and intercept location, can have less or greater risk of breaking the budget. - Can be a good follow-up to the Rosetta/Philae mission. - Gets cometary material not able to be obtained by the Stardust mission. Cons: - It might be better to wait until the next New Frontiers mission, where a Lunar space station, or Orion can retrieve the capsule- this will increase the sample size enormously, as it can ride on a much larger capsule, and reduce the mass of the spacecraft for moar! boosters!. A Lunar Space station would be especially advantageous, as it could be incorporated into the crew's mission without having to send a dedicated, expensive mission to retrieve it. Lunar South Pole - Aitken Basin Sample Return: A Lunar South Pole Sample Return Mission would return samples of the early Moon's deep crust(the Aitken Basin is an enormous, deep impact crater) - something the region targeted is thought to contain. It would also obtain previously unobtainable surface samples not biased by Near-side Impact basin formation at the South Pole of the Moon. Most of the science objectives, however, such as trying to understand Lunar thermal evolution, would be accomplished via the returned samples. Pros: - Good science data can be obtained from this mission. - The first lunar dust samples from the poles (and partially far side) of the Moon can finally be obtained- giving scientists an idea of what a human mission to the Moon might get at the poles/far side. - Probably less likely to break the budget. - Would test a NASA heavy lander (like Morpheus) that would help in building a manned lunar lander- it would launch on an Atlas 431. Cons: - Possibly better to wait until a Lunar Space Station (which is likely, due to the new deep space HAB work going on in NASA)+Orion can pick up the samples for Earth Return, which would increase the payload/ regolith the mission would return to Earth. An Io Orbiter and Lunar Geophysical Network are proposed for a later New Frontiers mission, and are not in this New Frontiers mission contest. Information on these can be found here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Frontiers_program#Io_Volcano_Observer So, which New Frontiers Mission would you choose for launch in 2021?