NASA Pushes Back Next New Frontiers Mission by Three Years
NASA’s Planetary Science Division issued a notice to the scientific community on Aug. 24 stating it is delaying the next solicitation of proposals for its New Frontiers program, which it had expected to open in November. Citing “budget uncertainty,” the division now estimates the solicitation will open in 2026 at the earliest.
Although the division’s budget is more than double its fiscal year 2016 level, the growing cost of the flagship Mars Sample Return mission has recently been putting budgetary pressure on other missions in NASA’s science portfolio.
Now, House and Senate appropriators are proposing to cut the portfolio’s overall budget by 5% and 6%, respectively. The Biden administration sought a 6% increase, which would itself have been insufficient to keep all missions under development on track.
New Frontiers missions are the most expensive planetary science missions that NASA selects using a competitive process and proposals must be for visits to destinations recommended through the National Academies’ decadal survey process.
The community notice indicates that NASA plans to consult the Academies to determine how it should adjust the list of eligible destinations, given the length of the delay.