Discovery Program

NASA's Discovery Program gives scientists the opportunity to dig deep into their imaginations and find innovative ways to unlock the mysteries of the solar system. When it began in 1992, this program represented a breakthrough in the way NASA explores space. For the first time, scientists and engineers were called on to assemble teams and design exciting, focused planetary science investigations that would deepen our knowledge about the solar system. As a complement to NASA's larger “flagship” planetary science explorations, the Discovery Program goal is to achieve outstanding results by launching more smaller missions using fewer resources and shorter development times. The main objective is to enhance our understanding of the solar system by exploring the planets, their moons, and small bodies such as comets and asteroids. Discovery advocates the testing and use of new technologies and applications. Each mission works with industry to transfer technologies used in the mission, especially those that enhance science acquisition and reduce cost. All completed Discovery missions have achieved ground-breaking science, each taking a unique approach to space exploration, doing what's never been done before, and driving new technology innovations that may also improve life on Earth.

View Discovery Missions

New Frontiers Program

The New Frontiers Program represents a critical step in the advancement of solar system exploration. The missions in the program tackle specific solar system exploration goals identified as top priorities by consensus of the planetary community. The strategy is to explore the solar system with medium-class spacecraft missions that conduct high-science-return planetary investigations that add to our understanding of the solar system. Initiated in 2003, New Frontiers builds on the innovative approaches used in NASA's Discovery and Explorer Programs, but provides a mechanism for identifying and selecting missions that cannot be accomplished within the cost and time constraints of Discovery. The program contains mission cost, development time and improves performance by using new technologies. The first study to identify high priority goals, "New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy" was published in 2003. It was conducted by the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council at NASA's request. The study recommended specific spacecraft missions for the period 2003-2013. In 2008, NASA requested that a new study be initiated in response to the successful implementation of two of the recommended missions, along with important discoveries made by ground- and space-based research activities. The second study was completed in 2011, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022.

View New Frontier Missions

Solar System Exploration Program

The Solar System Exploration Program consists of Directed Missions – complete investigations that focus on prioritized planetary science objectives. NASA assigns these efforts directly to a NASA center or other implementing organization. These projects are typically led by a Project Manager.

View Solar System Exploration Missions