Nasa announcement today: 'Major' new mission to explore our solar system to be revealed

Speculation mounts over agency's forthcoming revelation, with some suggesting project may be to extract samples of comet nucleus or journey to Saturn’s largest moon

NASA's moon rock lab home to geologic treasures

Nasa is set to reveal plans for a major new science mission to explore the solar system.

The announcement, scheduled for Thursday evening, will detail the space agency's next flagship research project.

While few specifics have been revealed, speculation is mounting that it may be one of two missions: either to extract samples of a comet nucleus and return them to Earth, or a journey to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

Those rumours circulated after Curt Niebur, lead scientist for the New Frontiers programme, was selected as one of the Nasa panel hosting the teleconference, which will begin at 4pm EDT (9PM BST).

In 2017 Nasa announced it had selected two concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s under the New Frontiers banner.

The first was a Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return (Caesar) mission that seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet that was explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, to determine its origin and history.

The second was Dragonfly, a drone-like aircraft that would explore the habitability of dozens of sites on Saturn’s moon Titan, described by Nasa as an "ocean world in our solar system".

Mysterious glowing light on Mars captured by Nasa's Curiosity probe

The selected mission will become the fourth in the New Frontiers portfolio, its predecessors being the New Horizons mission to Pluto and a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of the asteroid Bennu.

How to follow the announcement live

The Independent will be providing rolling updates in our own dedicated liveblog.

Nasa will also broadcast the event on its television channel, the agency's website, Facebook, YouTube, Periscope and USTREAM.

The agency will host a media teleconference at 5pm local time the same day with: Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate; Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division; Curt Niebur and the principal investigator of the selected mission.

The teleconference audio will stream live on the Nasa website.

On Monday 1 July Nasa will also host a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) about the mission announcement. Questions can be submitted to the Reddit AMA event when it begins at 3pm.

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