NASA Set to Unveil 'Jupiter Tour' Mission

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When NASA rolls out its FY 2004 budget on Monday a large new planetary exploration mission will be revealed. The Bush Adminstration has signed off on a multi-billion-dollar-class mission dubbed by some within NASA as a "Jupiter Tour' - a mission which embodies a radical departure from the past four decades of planetary exploration.

The "Jupiter Tour" would utilize a sophisticated spacecraft capable of multiple jumps from an orbit around one jovian moon to an orbit around another. Such a capability could allow close, detailed, and long-term studies to be made of some - perhaps many - of the members of Jupiter's retinue of 40 (or more) moons.

The mission is slated for the 2009/2010 time frame and is expected to last more than a decade. the "Jupiter Tour" will use an advanced nuclear-powered electric propulsion system developed under the umbrella of the newly-focused "Prometheus" program.

The cost of the program is projected to be at least $3 billion through Fiscal Year 2008.

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