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NASA Considers Continuing VERITAS Or Pursuing New Discovery Mission

NASA is considering whether to move forward with the VERITAS Mission or requesting proposals for a future mission.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Tue Mar 21 2023Written by Zac Aubert

NASA is considering whether to move forward with the VERITAS Mission or requesting proposals for a future mission.

NASA may have to choose between restarting its Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) mission or requesting proposals for a future discovery class mission after budget pressures have left the mission indefinitely delayed.

In the fiscal year 2024 planetary science budget proposal, there is an allocation of $1.5 million for the VERITAS mission. This mission was postponed due to complications at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is responsible for leading both the VERITAS and Psyche missions. The total planetary science budget for fiscal year 2024 is $3.383 billion.

In November 2022, NASA declared a postponement of VERITAS by at least three years.

This move was in response to the discoveries made by an independent review board that looked into the issues that arose during the Psyche mission. Psyche missed its 2022 launch due to software testing delays for the asteroid mission.

While NASA has justified the delay due to broader issues, including the pandemic, supply chain challenges, and increased operations costs, scientists are criticizing the move, with some suggesting that VERITAS could be delayed indefinitely.

NASA is now seeking feedback from the community on whether to restart VERITAS or hold a competition for the next Discovery-class mission scheduled for fiscal year 2025.

The issue of budget constraints is also impacting a series of small satellite missions, including the Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx). Although NASA officials like Glaze have endorsed SIMPLEx, the proposed fiscal year 2024 budget indicates that NASA will only be seeking proposals for one SIMPLEx mission in the near future. A draft announcement of opportunity is expected to be released in fiscal year 2024, and the mission will be carried out alongside the DAVINCI Venus mission in 2030, with a cost limit of $85 million.

In 2019, NASA chose three SIMPLEx missions with a maximum cost of $55 million each. However, these missions have encountered issues or exceeded their budget limits. For instance, the Janus asteroid mission was affected by the Psyche delay and lost its ride. Glaze mentioned that the team is exploring alternate missions that the two smallsats could undertake. He also added that if they identify a promising opportunity, they can approach NASA with the proposal.