NASA selects four “low budget” space missions: each worth $ 20 million

The NASA has chosen 4 small-scale and cost astrophysical missions to explore cosmic phenomena such as galactic evolution, exoplanets, high-energy neutrinos, and neutron stars.

“The principal investigators of these concept studies bring innovative and original thinking to the problem of how to do high-impact astrophysical experiments on a small budget” (a maximum of $ 20 million per mission), said Thomas H. Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Each of the proposed experiments would do something that no other NASA telescope or mission could do, fill important gaps in our understanding of the universe as a whole “it added in a statement.


ASPERA is a ‘SmallSat’ -Less than 500 kilos- that you will study the evolution of galaxies. Through observations in ultraviolet light, you will examine the hot gas in the space between the galaxies, called intergalactic medium, and the entry and exit of gas from galaxies. The intergalactic medium is an important component of the universe, but it is poorly measured; Aspera would close this gap. The principal investigator is Carlos Vargas from the University of Arizona.


PANDORA is another ‘SmallSat’ that study 20 stars and their 39 exoplanets in visible and infrared light. It aims to untangle the signals from the stars and planetary atmospheres. Understanding how changes in starlight affect exoplanet measurements is a prominent problem in the search for habitable planets beyond the solar system. The principal investigator is Elisa Quintana of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.


A third ‘SmallSat’ it will detect high-energy gamma rays from events such as the mergers of dense stellar remnants called neutron stars. This would provide valuable information on such events, which are also detected through gravitational waves by observatories on Earth. These events are where most of the heavy metals in the universe are formed, such as oro and the platinum. To date, only one such event has been observed simultaneously in gravitational waves and gamma rays; StarBurst would find up to 10 per year. The principal investigator is Daniel Kocevski of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

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It is a balloon mission designed to launch from Antarctica that will detect ultra-high energy neutrino signals, particles that contain valuable clues to higher-energy astrophysical processes, including the creation of black holes and neutron star mergers. Neutrinos travel the universe undisturbed, carrying information about events billions of light years away. PUEO would be the most sensitive study of ultra-high-energy cosmic neutrinos ever conducted. The principal investigator is Abigail Vieregg of the University of Chicago. After further definition, these four concept studies attached to the Pioneers program will undergo a concept study review before being approved for flight.

The program Pioneers Provides opportunities for early and middle career researchers to propose innovative experiments and conduct space or suborbital science investigations for the first time. The cost limit for a Pioneers mission is $ 20 million.

With information from Europa Press

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