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NASA selects two new Discovery missions
Posted: Fri, Dec 21, 2001, 10:14 PM ET (0314 GMT)
Kepler spacecraft illustration (NASA/Ames) NASA announced late Friday that it has selected spacecraft to explore two large asteroids and search for extrasolar planets as the next missions in the Discovery Program of low-cost space science missions. One of the missions, Dawn, will launch in 2006 on a mission to orbit two of the largest asteroids in the solar system, Ceres and Vesta, using an ion drive similar to the one flown on Deep Space 1. The other mission, Kepler, also scheduled for launch in 2006, will survey 100,000 stars looking for faint, periodic drops in brightness caused by Earthlike planets orbiting them. The two missions were selected from 26 proposals submitted for NASA in the latest round of the Discovery Program, which supports innovative scientific spacecraft missions that can be completed for less than $300 million. Previous Discovery mission selections include NEAR, Mars Pathfinder, Lunar Prospector, Stardust, and Genesis.
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