Low-cost Moon mission picked for Discovery funding


  • Julie Wakefield


A $59-million Moon mission known as Lunar Prospector won the first round of NASA's highly coveted Discovery Program competition, NASA officials announced last week. Three other semi-finalists—missions to study Venus, the Sun, and cometary and interstellar dust—were selected from the original field of 28 contenders to enter another round of competition for a second flight opportunity to be announced sometime this fall.

Although the planetary science community is generally excited that the program is forging ahead, some concern exists about the overall direction of the program, the implications for planetary science, and the message that NASA's choice sends to the community.