Saturday, March 1, 2008

No Io New Frontiers Mission this time around has a press release from NASA's Science Mission Directorate on the upcoming New Frontiers AO. The article conveys a couple of points. First, it announces the eligibility requirements for New Frontiers mission PIs and the availability of pre-screening to see if an individual meets those requirements. Basically you have to have either a 4-year stint in a "mission leadership role" (think Steve Squyres) or two, 2-year stints in a "mission or instrument leadership role." I use the exact quote here because I have no idea what "leadership role" means in this context, whether you have to have been a PI or whether co-Is are eligible, or mission scientist (think Bob Pappalardo during the Cassini Extended Mission). The other news in the press release is the news that the New Frontiers 3 Announcement of Opportunity is expected by June. Maybe it will even be June of this year. I'm not holding my breath, but Alan Stern seems to have been running a tight ship thus far.

I guess the Io-related tidbit here is the news that RTGs will not be allowed on the next New Frontiers mission. So whatever new frontiers we are aiming for, it had better be closer to the Sun than Jupiter or be a short mission. This news effectively eliminates an Io Observer mission from the list of potential candidates. As others have reported, it seems likely that this AO will again restrict the submissions to a list of mission profiles, likely a South Polar-Aiken Basin lunar lander, a Venus atmospheric probe/lander, a comet sample return mission, and probably a Saturn atmospheric probe.

A little bummed by the news, but the fact that an Io mission was probably not in the cards this time around wasn't unexpected by me. Hopefully next time, though if the Jupiter System Orbiter is selected as the next flagship mission, a dedicated Io mission would likely drop in priority.

Link: NASA Offers Pre-screening of Principal Investigator Revised Requirements for New Frontiers Opportunity []


  1. what was the likelihood of a dedicated Io mission? i never heard of one, but always wondered why that destination wouldn’t be high on any list. is it just because we are following the water?

  2. A dedicated, New Frontiers-class Io mission was considered a priority for the 2015-2025 time frame in the Strategic Roadmap, IIRC. New Frontiers 3, whatever it ends up being, would probably launch in the 2014-2016 time frame so there was still a chance that it might have been included in this AO.