NASA will either sample a comet or visit Saturn's moon Titan
NASA has selected two finalists for the New Frontiers space program:
- The Dragonfly mission would send a drone-like lander to Saturn's methane-covered moon Titan, in search of complex chemicals that some scientists believe could form precursors for life.
- The CAESAR mission would go to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenkom, previously visited by the Rosetta Spacecraft and Philae Lander. The goal would be to gather a sample from the comet's surface and return it to Earth in hope of eventually mining such comets for rare minerals.
Why it matters: Both concepts will receive further design funding and one will eventually launch, possibly in the mid 2020s. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C, told Scientific American's Lee Billings, "These are tantalizing investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today."