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What will be NASA’s next Big Solar System Mission? 12 proposals for Future unmanned Solar System Mission to be launched in mid-2020s

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Washington, May 6, 2017: A new mission to Saturn’s moons Titan or Enceladus to find signs of life beyond Earth cannot be ruled out as NASA says it is reviewing 12 proposals for future unmanned solar system mission to be launched in the mid-2020s.

The proposed missions of discovery — submitted under NASA’s New Frontiers programme – will undergo scientific and technical review over the next seven months, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday.

Selection of one or more concepts for Phase A study will be announced in November. At the conclusion of Phase A concept studies, it is planned that one New Frontiers investigation will be selected to continue into subsequent mission phases.

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Investigations for this announcement of opportunity were limited to six mission themes – comet surface sample return; lunar South Pole-Aitken basin sample return; ocean worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus); Saturn probe; Trojan tour and rendezvous; and Venus in situ explorer “New Frontiers is about answering the biggest questions in our solar system today, building on previous missions to continue to push the frontiers of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“We’re looking forward to reviewing these exciting investigations and moving forward with our next bold mission of discovery,” Zurbuchen said.

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The New Frontiers Programme conducts principal investigator (PI)-led space science investigations under a development cost cap of approximately $1 billion.

This would be the fourth mission in the New Frontiers portfolio. Its predecessors are the New Horizons mission to Pluto, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of asteroid Bennu. (IANS)

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Wintertime Ice Growth in Arctic Sea Slows Long-Term Decline: NASA

The switch will happen once the sea ice is less than 1.6 feet thick at the beginning of winter, or its concentration

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Wintertime ice growth in Arctic sea slows long-term decline: NASA. Flcikr

While sea ice in the Arctic continues to be on the decline, a new research from the US Space agency NASA suggests that it is regrowing at faster rates during the winter than it was a few decades ago.

The findings showed that since 1958, the Arctic sea ice cover has lost on average around two-thirds of its thickness and now 70 per cent of the sea ice cap is made of seasonal ice, or ice that forms and melts within a single year.

But at the same time, that sea ice is vanishing quicker than it has ever been observed in the satellite record, it is also thickening at a faster rate during winter.

This increase in growth rate might last for decades, explained the researchers, in the paper to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

However, this does not mean that the ice cover is recovering, though. Just delaying its demise.

“This increase in the amount of sea ice growing in winter doesn’t overcome the large increase in melting we’ve observed in recent decades,” said lead author Alek Petty, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

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However, this does not mean that the ice cover is recovering, though. Just delaying its demise. Flickr

“Overall, thickness is decreasing. Arctic sea ice is still very much in decline across all seasons and is projected to continue its decline over the coming decades,” she added.

To explore sea ice growth variability across the Arctic, the team used climate models and observations of sea ice thickness from the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite.

They found that in the 1980s, when Arctic sea ice was on average 6.6 feet thick in October, about 3.3 extra feet of ice would form over the winter.

This rate of growth may continue to increase, and in the coming decades, we could also have an ice pack that would on average be only around 3.3 feet thick in October, but could experience up to five feet of ice growth over the winter.

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However, by the middle of the century, the strong increases in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures will outweigh the mechanism that allows ice to regrow faster, and the Arctic sea ice cover will decline further, Petty said.

The switch will happen once the sea ice is less than 1.6 feet thick at the beginning of winter, or its concentration — the percentage of an area that is covered in sea ice — is less than 50 per cent, she noted. (IANS)