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Moon, Venus, asteroid: Candidates for NASA's next space venture

The moon (top), Venus, and asteroid.

WASHINGTON (BNS): The Moon, the Venus and an asteroid – these three celestial bodies could be the next exploration destinations for US space agency NASA.

NASA has selected the three candidates to send its mission for which feasibility studies would be taken up in 2010 at a cost of about $3.3 million for each project.

The selected project would receive $650 million, excluding the launch vehicle, NASA announced on Tuesday.

The mission is expected to be launched in 2018.

While the SAGE (Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer) will explore the atmosphere and crust of Venus, MoonRise: Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return Mission would place a lander in a broad basin near the Moon's south pole and return approximately two pounds of lunar materials for study.

For the asteroid mission, NASA plans to send the Osiris-Rex spacecraft (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer). After extensive measurements, it would collect over two ounces of material from the asteroid's surface for return to Earth.

“These are projects that inspire and excite young scientists, engineers and the public.

“These three proposals provide the best science value among eight submitted to NASA this year,” Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said.

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