The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced today that it has awarded two contracts to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) and one to the University of Calgary for concepts studies for Canada’s participation in NASA’s New Frontiers program. Each of the contracts is valued at $500,000.
NASA’s New Frontiers is a program to explore the solar system with frequent, medium-class spacecraft missions that conduct high-quality, focused scientific investigations designed to enhance the understanding of the solar system. The three finalists were submitted to NASA on July 31, 2009, in response to the New Frontiers Program 2009 Announcement of Opportunity. NASA will select a winning proposal from the three candidates in mid-2011 one of which will be selected by NASA for launch in the 2016-18 timeframe.
The three funded concept studies are:
– SAGE (Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer): MDA will develop a conceptual design for a robotic arm on a probe that would sample the rocks and atmosphere of Venus. Scientists hope to understand the origin of Venus and why it is so different from Earth. Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, is the principal investigator for the proposed mission. If SAGE is selected by NASA, the mission would include researchers from the University of British Columbia.
– MoonRise (Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return Mission): MDA will develop a conceptual design for a 2.4-metre robotic arm for this lander that would probe the largest impact basin on the Moon and return samples to Earth for study. This region of the Moon’s far side is believed to harbour rocks excavated from the Moon’s deep crust, and could provide new insights into the early bombardment history of the inner solar system and the formation of planetary crusts. Bradley Jolliff of Washington University in St. Louis is the US principal investigator, with the Canadian science team led by Gordon Osinski of The University of Western Ontario.
– OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer): OSIRIS-REx would collect samples from a primitive asteroid for return to Earth to help scientists better understand the formation of our solar system and the origin of complex molecules necessary for life. The University of Calgary will work with MDA on a concept for a science lidar instrument for the spacecraft (based in part on the Canadian-built laser on the Phoenix Mars Lander mission). Michael Drake, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, is the principal investigator. The Canadian science team is led by Alan Hildebrand from the University of Calgary, with support from York University and the Universities of Winnipeg, Toronto and British Columbia.