NASA has begun to evaluate proposals for future missions to Saturn, as the Cassini spacecraft performs its final approach to the planet, SpaceNews reported Wednesday.
The space agency said Thursday it expects Cassini to plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on Friday to end its 13-year mission around the planet and prevent collision with Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus.
Cassini will use eight of its 12 science instruments during the plunge to make its final scientific observations of Saturn, NASA added.
Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division, told reporters that NASA is studying proposals that were submitted to the New Frontiers competition for a new planetary science mission.
Mission categories under New Frontiers include the exploration of Enceladus, Titan or Saturn’s ocean worlds.
NASA will pick multiple proposals later this year to perform additional studies, then select one proposal in May 2019 for full development.
The winning mission will receive up to $850 million and will be launched in late 2025.