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NASA just announced the five finalists for the next Discovery missions. It looks like we’ll be sending probes to Venus, studying asteroids, or both!
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*Intro plays*

We here at SciShow Space spend a lot of time telling you about astronomers and astronauts have done and are doing right now, but today, we want to share news about what space scientists want to discover in the future.

Last week NASA announced the five finalists for what might eventually be their next missions into space. These missions are all part of NASA's Discovery Program, which aims to launch low-cost, high-impact missions every few years. 

The five mission teams that have been chosen are each getting three million dollars to develop their ideas and, in September 2016, NASA will choose one or maybe two to launch sometime before 2021. Two of those proposals involve a trip to Venus, while the other three have to do with asteroids, including one that's made of metal.

NASA hasn't been to Venus since the Magellan probe stopped by in  '94 and we have a left to learn about our next-door neighbor, so the VERITAS probe would spend three Venus years in orbit there, or a little less than two Earth years, mapping the planet using radar. Using a camera wouldn't really work since Venus is covered in thin clouds. The new map would be much more detailed than the one Magellan made and would hopefully tell us whether Venus has active volcanoes, which scientists have been debating for a while.

The other Venus mission called DAVINCI would give an even closer view of the planet by dropping a metal sensor-filled ball through its atmosphere. The ball would have 63 minutes before it hit the ground and it would use that time to take measurements and send them back to Earth. We'd also get the first picture of Venus' surface since the 1970s. Researchers specifically want to check out weird ridges on the planet's surface known as tesserae, which seem to have formed from the very oldest pieces of the planet's crust.

The asteroid missions meanwhile are a little more varied. One of them, called Psyche, is a probe that would visit an unusual asteroid called Psyche. Most asteroids are made of rock, and some have metal in them too, metal that some companies plan to mine someday. But based on its density and how reflective it is, Psyche is almost entirely metal and probably also magnetic. It's possible that this thing might be the core of an asteroid that lost most of its rock in a collision with something else, but we probably won't know for sure until we get there. It's nothing like anything we've explored before, so this mission has a lot of potential to serve up some awesome science.

But another proposed asteroid probe, Lucy, would visit four different asteroids. One from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and three of the so-called Trojan asteroids, which hang out around Jupiter's orbit. Scientists think that the Trojan asteroids originally came from the Kuiper Belt, the band of space beyond Neptune where there are lots of icy objects that are probably left over from the formation of the solar system so studying them would be a good way to learn more about how our solar system developed without having to go all the way out to Kuiper country.

Finally, the fifth mission called NEOCam would do a lot without having to go too far. Objects hitting Earth have caused major extinctions in the past, so it's not really surprising that people are worried about another one, including the U.S. government, which has told NASA that by 2020, it has to find 90% of all near-Earth objects that are more than 140 meters across. But searching for these objects is hard to do from Earth, where the brightness of the Sun blocks a lot of them out, so the NEOCam mission would plant a space telescope at Earth's L1 point. The spot between the Earth and the Sun where their gravitational pulls balance out. From there, it would be able to detect around a million more asteroids, including almost all of the ones that could threaten the Earth and and also some that are less than 140 meters across. It would also study those asteroids to help figure out how they formed and, hopefully, new interesting targets for future space missions.

It's very frustrating to me that we can't just do all five of these things. None of them are particularly expensive, but we have to pick, so out of all of these possible missions, which one do you want NASA to pick: a return to Venus, a trip to a weird, magnetic asteroid, or a telescope for finding space rocks that wanna punch Earth in the face? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for watching this episode of SciShow Space News and thank you especially to this month's President of Space, the newly-engaged Ry Prindle, who says give more than you take and, for Nerdfighters who want to know, Elana and Ry are keeping each other for time and all eternity. If you would like to be SciShow's President of Space, you can go to to learn how and don't forget to go to and subscribe.