In DepthAstrophysics

Astrophysics missions vie for NASA money

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Science  18 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6352, pp. 634
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6352.634

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Summary

From exoplanet atmospheres to the dynamics of galaxies to the stretch marks left by the big bang, the three finalists in a $250 million astrophysics mission competition would tackle questions spanning all of space and time. Announced last week by NASA, the three missions—whittled down from nine proposals—will receive $2 million each to develop a more detailed concept over the coming 9 months, before NASA selects one in 2019 to be the next mid-sized Explorer. A launch would come after 2022. Explorer missions aim to answer pressing scientific questions more cheaply and quickly than NASA's multibillion-dollar flagships, such as the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, which can take decades to design and build. The missions are led by scientists, either from a NASA center or a university, and NASA has launched more than 90 of them since the 1950s.