June 24, 2008

NASA Picks Two Science Proposals to Pursue

The U.S. space agency says it has selected two science proposals to be its next Explorer Program Mission of Opportunity investigations.

One activity will study black holes and other extreme environments in the universe. The other will determine how the Earth's outer atmosphere responds to external forces.

The first National Aeronautics and Space Administration investigation will provide a U.S. science instrument to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's New exploration X-Ray Telescope, or NeXT. The telescope, currently planned for launch in 2013, will open a new observing window on X-rays and the study of astrophysical phenomena. NASA's proposed funding for the instrument and operations is $44 million.

The other investigation will fly an atmospheric remote sensing instrument package aboard a yet-to-be-determined future commercial satellite. The investigation initially will be funded at approximately $250,000 for a concept study to aid in a NASA decision on further development.

The two investigations were selected from among 17 proposals received by NASA earlier this year.

NASA's Explorer Program is designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space for heliophysics and astrophysics missions with small to mid-sized spacecraft.