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Call for Papers

We’re seeking proposals for papers to be presented at an upcoming symposium on the history of NASA’s Discovery and New Frontiers Programs this fall.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket with NASA's Lucy spacecraft atop lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

January 18–19, 2024
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC

Congress approved NASA’s Discovery Program in 1993, initiating a new era of lower cost, competed missions to explore the solar system. Like NASA’s older Explorer program of astronomy and astrophysics missions, these missions were to be developed and led by Principal Investigators. In 2002, based on the model of Discovery but recognizing a need for medium-class science missions to tackle questions identified in the Decadal Survey, NASA initiated the New Frontiers Program. Over the past 30 years, missions from these two programs have transformed our understanding of our solar system and have accomplished historic firsts. They have also redefined the role of science and scientists in the development of planetary science missions, even as this willingness to experiment with innovative management approaches created a tension with an often risk-averse NASA.

Artist’s conception of the MESSENGER spacecraft, one of the missions of the Discovery Program, orbiting the planet Mercury.
Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory

The History of the Discovery and New Frontiers Programs Symposium

The NASA History Office, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum invite proposals for papers to be presented at a two-day symposium to be held January 18–19, 2024, in Washington, D.C. We welcome diverse voices and perspectives to examine the history of the Discovery and New Frontiers Programs, their successes and failures, and their impact on knowledge and the practice of planetary science. The symposium will be a combination of panel discussions, keynote talks, and group discussion. The intention is to publish an anthology of selected papers.

Potential topics for papers include, but are not limited to the following themes:

  • Why We Explore. What do Discovery and New Frontiers missions tell us about our motivations for exploration?
  • Societal Impact. What have the results of Discovery and New Frontiers missions meant for science and society?
  • Origin and Impact. What are the benefits and challengers of the Discovery and New Frontiers models of exploration?
  • Indigenous Perspectives. What has the indigenous experience in the field been and how might further participation inspire new understandings of and approaches to solar system exploration?
  • Firsts and Milestones. What contributions have Discovery and New Frontiers missions played in defining the timeline of exploration?
  • Risk and Reward. What is the role of the Principal Investigator and what challenges do they face? 
  • Major Discoveries. How have Discovery and New Frontiers missions surprised us?
  • Technological Evolution. How have the fields of robotics and systems engineering changed in the last 30 years? How have these changes made new missions/capabilities possible?
  • Commercial and International Perspectives. What impact have commercial and international participation had on the programs?
  • The Missions of Tomorrow. What’s next for the Discovery and New Frontiers Programs?
Illustration of the Juno spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter
Illustration showing the Juno spacecraft, part of the New Frontiers Program, orbiting Jupiter.

Submission Procedures

If you wish to present a paper, please send along the title, an abstract of no more than 400 words, and a short biography or curriculum vita, including affiliation, by June 15, 2023 to Dr. Brian C. Odom, NASA’s Chief Historian. Questions about the symposium are also welcome.