New Frontiers

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The New Frontiers Program represents a critical step in the advancement of solar system exploration. The missions in the program will tackle specific solar system exploration goals identified as top priorities by consensus of the planetary community as reported in New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy in July 2002.
This first decadal study was conducted by the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council at NASA’s request. NASA’s goals were to:

  • examine the"big picture" of solar system exploration today - what it is, how it fits into other scientific endeavors, and why it is a compelling goal;
  • perform a broad survey of the current state of knowledge about our solar system;
  • obtain an inventory of the top-level scientific questions that should provide the focus for solar system exploration in the next decade; and
  • generate a prioritized list of the most promising avenues for flight investigations and supporting ground-based activities.

The high-priority scientific goals identified by the study related to the exploration of Venus, Jupiter, the south polar region of the Earth’s Moon including the Aitken Basin, Pluto and other Kuiper Belt objects, and comets. Learn more about the New Frontiers Program recommended mission candidates in the NRC’s report, Opening New Frontiers in Space


New Frontiers investigation proposals are solicited via the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) process. Each mission proposal is led by a principal investigator (PI) who is typically affiliated with a university or research institution. The PI selects team members from industry, small businesses, government laboratories and universities to develop the scientific objectives and instrument payload. The team brings together the skills and expertise needed to carry out a mission from concept development through data analysis. The PI is responsible for the overall success of the project by assuring that cost, schedule and performance objectives are met.

The New Frontiers Program seeks to contain total mission cost and development time and improve performance through the use of validated new technologies, efficient management, and control of design, development and operations costs while maintaining a strong commitment to flight safety. The cost for the entire mission must be less than $850 million.

NASA is committed to the principles of open competition and merit review as a key to excellence. Mission proposals in response to the AO are chosen through an extensive competitive peer review process. Proposals require careful tradeoffs between science and cost to produce investigations with the highest possible science value for the price.

Missions supporting this program: