New Frontiers 3 is the OSIRIS-Rex project which plans to send a spacecraft into orbit around the asteroid 101955 Bennu. There is a chance that this asteroid may crash into the Earth towards the end of the 22nd century. So, understandably, NASA would like to know a little more about it. The craft was launched in September 2016 and is scheduled to reach 101955 Bennu in 2020. The plan is to actually land on the asteroid to take samples from its surface. Assuming this is successfully accomplished, the spacecraft should complete its journey back to Earth by 2023.
As well as these three missions currently taking place, a fourth is at the competitive-bidding stage. NASA has proposed six different possible missions for scientific study. These include a possible Moon landing to collect research samples, a probe to visit Saturn’s atmosphere and an unmanned landing on Venus. A competition winner for one of the missions will be announced in 2019, with a projected launch to take place in 2024.
But the strongest current focus for NASA has been the mission to Pluto. And, thanks to the spectacular images beamed back to Earth by New Horizons, the project has attracted much attention from the world’s media. This is hardly surprising, given that the mysteries of Pluto have exercised the human imagination for many years.