Pandora mission to study stars and exoplanets continues toward flight

Thu, 13 Jan 2022 22:26:27 GMT
Space Daily

Livermore, CA (SPX) Jan 14, 2022 The Pandora mission, co-led by a national laboratory and a NASA...

The Pandora mission, co-led by a national laboratory and a NASA flight center, has passed a crucial step on its path to study stars and planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets.

After a successful concept study report and system requirements review, NASA approved the mission to continue toward flight.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are co-leading Pandora as part of NASA's new Astrophysics Pioneers program, with LLNL leading the project management and NASA GSFC leading the science.

The mission will study approximately 20 stars and exoplanets by analyzing starlight that passes through exoplanets' atmospheres, using a technique called transit spectroscopy.

Pandora will disentangle signals to understand which are from exoplanet atmospheres and which are from starspots, stellar phenomena that are similar to sunspots and can contaminate data.

Over the next 21 months, Pandora will mature its mission concept and demonstrate that its half-meter telescope is ready for flight.

The mission is leveraging LLNL's experience and capabilities in optics design, fabrication and small satellites.

"This is a huge step because, while it's a small satellite, Pandora will deliver impactful science for NASA's astrophysics program," said Ben Bahney, LLNL's program leader for Space Science and Security.

Pandora is part of NASA's Astrophysics Pioneers program, which focuses on small, low-cost, yet ambitious missions to unlock new secrets from the cosmos.

Pandora is led by Elisa Quintana, principal investigator at GSFC, and Supsinskas at LLNL. Co-investigators from NASA Ames and several universities will provide scientific contributions to the project.