NASA selected three finalists on Tuesday to be the agency’s next cheap, robotic exploration mission. Depending on which wins, a probe will head for Venus, the moon, or a near-Earth object no later than 2018.
The latter two missions would include the return of samples, while the Venusian lander would test the planet’s composition much like the Phoenix Lander did on Mars. The NASA anointing means that the teams proposing the excursions will have some money to make more detailed plans.
The winning mission will be the next in a series of explorations under the New Frontiers program. New Frontiers missions have to run under $650 million and be ready to launch relatively quickly. In this case, the final pick will be made in 2011 and will launch just seven years later.
While NASA personnel will be digging into the proposals to come up with the official decision, we’d like to know which proposal you like. Read up on the contenders, and vote in the poll afterwards.