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Nuclear-powered Discovery Mission?
post Jan 8 2008, 09:12 PM
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Emily's blog entry from today seems not to have been mentioned here yet: Maybe, possibly, a nuclear-powered Discovery mission

This would be absolutely huge, if it pans out. From the blog:

Alan explained to me that the Stirling generator is almost ready for prime time. They have years of simulated time running the generator, and next month, they're going to fire up a flight model and run it for a year. Once it's run for a year without incident, he told me, he'd be quite comfortable seeing it on a Discovery mission, though not on an outer planets flagship mission. He said he wouldn't risk putting a never-flown power supply on the flagship mission, not without seeing it run successfully on a cheaper mission first.

You might wonder what principal investigator would be willing to take on this risk, but Alan told me there's a lot of appetite out there for a nuclear-powered Discovery mission because of all the possibilities it opens up. He said that Jim Green (director of the Planetary Science Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate) put out a call for mission concept proposals, asking the science community what they'd do if the next Discovery mission was nuclear-equipped. He said they got more than forty proposals, of which they plan to select ten and fund them for a yearlong study. The proposals included all kinds of stuff previously inconceivable for Discovery: go look for ice at the lunar poles with a rover; go rendezvous with a Centaur, one of the small bodies like Chiron or Pholus that orbits in the outer solar system and may be an interloper from the Kuiper belt; send a probe into Saturn's atmosphere; go land on Mercury.

Huge, huge news.

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post Oct 4 2009, 09:57 PM
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Not sure where to put this - hope here's OK.

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