Status: Under Study

Planned launch date: 2004

Projected Mission Summary: Two highly miniturized spacecraft would be shot to the Pluto/Charon system to conduct reconnaissance on the only major planet that hasn't yet been visted by a spacecraft. The flybys will be timed so that each probe will capture data from opposite hemispheres. Afterwards, the spacecraft will be retargeted to survey icy bodies in the Kuiper Belt. Mission planners hope call for launch when this technology is ready, with a goal of reaching Pluto around 2012 to 2016, depending on probe mass and the type of launch vehicle.

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Small-scale robotic reconaissance mission that was to perform the first flybys of Pluto, Charon, and the Kuiper Belt objects. Little is known about these distant icy worlds, and Pluto spends very little of its 250 year orbit in areas reachable by spacecraft launched from Earth. The current window ends around 2020. Unfortunately, costs on the small project have escalated, and the mission was effectively cancelled in September, 2000. It was essentially beat out for the funding by the more exciting Europa Orbiter project.

Presdient Bush's proposed 2002 budget for NASA gives no funding to the doomed project, but revives hope for a different Pluto mission. It appropriates funds for development of more advanced propulsion technologies, and hints at possibly accepting a new propsoal to send a craft to Pluto before 2020, provided a cost-effective plan is submitted.

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