NASA will pay millions to develop four concept space missions

NASA has announced four science mission proposals that were selected under its Discovery Program. The space agency will offer millions of dollars to the teams behind these missions, funds intended to go toward developing and maturing the concepts. At the end of the nine-month period each team receives, NASA will get a Concept Study Report that'll help it decide which missions get the greenlight.

The selected missions would involve studying Venus, Neptune's moon Triton, and Jupiter's moon Io; the concept missions involve the Goddard Space Flight Center, Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA says it will give $3 million to each of the proposals so that more robust work can be done on them.

The new proposed missions are called "DAVINCI+," "Io Volcano Observer," "TRIDENT," and "VERITAS." NASA stresses that none of these missions are official at this time and it only plans to choose up to two for potential future flight missions. All four missions were picked under the Discovery Program, however, because they "focus on compelling targets and science," according to the space agency.

NASA plans to evaluate all four of the Concept Study Reports that will be produced during the funded nine-month study period. Based on its evaluation, NASA will select up to two missions to undergo further development. NASA Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen explained:

These selected missions have the potential to transform our understanding of some of the solar system's most active and complex worlds. Exploring any one of these celestial bodies will help unlock the secrets of how it, and others like it, came to be in the cosmos.