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Approved by Congress in 1993, the Discovery Program ushered in a new concept for low-cost science exploration within our solar system — competitively selected missions led by a principal investigator (PI) with an established cost cap and high-value, focused studies.

The New Frontiers Program, established in 2002, followed the Discovery model of competitive selection and PI-led teams but provides a method for selecting medium-class missions with specific exploration objectives determined top-priority within the planetary science community and identified in the Decadal Survey.

The NASA History Office is currently collecting oral history interviews to document the experiences of individuals who have dedicated their time and expertise to the Discovery and New Frontiers planetary exploration missions, including lessons learned, science objectives and methodologies, mission proposal processes, team dynamics, and management decisions.

The interview transcripts presented here also include some that were conducted as part of the Science Mission Directorate Oral History Project in 2017-2018, and those collected by Dr. Susan Niebur, Discovery Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters (2003-2006), as background for her publication, NASA’s Discovery Program, The First Twenty Years of Competitive Planetary Exploration.

The current project to collect Discovery and New Frontiers oral histories is ongoing, and more transcripts will be made available as they are finalized and archived.

Michael A’Hearn3/11/09Deep Impact, EPOXIPrincipal Investigator
Judith Allton8/10/17, 10/12/17GenesisSolar Wind Sample Curator
Daniel R. Andrews6/8/22, 10/4/22LCROSS/Lunar Reconnaissance OrbiterProject Manager
Ken Atkins8/10/09StardustProject Manager
Sami Asmar4/21/22GRAILProject Scientist
Shari E. Asplund6/1/22Discovery Program OfficeEducation and Public Outreach
W. Bruce Banerdt7/19/22InSightPrincipal Investigator
Kirk D. Barrow2/27/23Stardust, GenesisSafety, Mission Assurance
Peter D. Bedini7/9/2009MESSENGERProject Manager
Steven Brody6/9/22Discovery Program Office
Lunar Prospector, Genesis, Deep Impact
Program Executive
Nagin Cox7/26/22InSightProposal Manager
Lindy Elkins-Tanton5/5/23, 7/7/23PsychePrincipal Investigator
James B. Garvin2/9/22, 4/20/22NEAR-Shoemaker,
Chief Scientist, HQ & Goddard, Principal Investigator
Matthew Golombek8/9/22InSightLanding Site Lead
Paul L. Hertz3/1/22NASA Headquarters
Discovery Program Office
, Science Mission Directorate
SMD Chief Scientist
Discovery Program Scientist
Director of Astrophysics
Ed Hirst6/27/23Genesis, Stardust, JunoMission Planning, Mission Systems Engineer, Project Manager
Tom Hoffman8/1/22, 2/17/23Stardust, GRAIL, InSightFlight System Manager
Deputy Project Manager
Project Manager
Scott Hubbard8/22/17, 8/20/18, 11/13/18Lunar ProspectorMission Manager
Troy L. Hudson7/10/23InSightInstrument System Engineer
Wesley T. Huntress1/9/03NASA HeadquartersDirector, Solar System Exploration Division; Assoc. Administrator, Space Science
Donald E. Jennings6/9/17New Horizons, OSIRIS-RExCo-Investigator
David J. Lawrence1/12/24MESSENGER, Psyche, MEGANE (MMX), Dragonfly, DawnScience Lead, Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer
David H. Lehman9/7/21GRAILProject Manager
Lucy Ann McFadden6/9/17NEAR-Shoemaker
Deep Impact/EPOXI
Science Team
Michael H. New2/23/22, 4/6/22NASA Headquarters,
Discovery Program Office
Lead Program Scientist
Keith S. Noll7/27/23LucyProject Scientist
David Oh6/22/23PsycheChief Engineer
Humphrey Price4/20/22GRAILProject System Engineer
Michael P. Saunders5/11/22NASA Headquarters,
Discovery Program Office
Program Manager
S. Alan Stern4/15/08New HorizonsPrincipal Investigator
Faith Vilas3/21/22NASA Headquarters, Discovery Program ScientistPlanetary Astronomer
Richard R. Vondrak6/8/17Lunar Reconnaissance OrbiterProject Scientist
Roger C. Wiens5/2/23
GenesisLos Alamos National Laboratory Project Lead and Co-Investigator
The transcripts available on this site are created from audio-recorded oral history interviews. To preserve the integrity of the audio record, the transcripts are presented with limited revisions and thus reflect the candid conversational style of the oral history format. Brackets and ellipses indicate where the text has been annotated or edited for clarity. Any personal opinions expressed in the interviews should not be considered the official views or opinions of NASA, the NASA History Office, NASA historians, or staff members.