Washington U. in running for big NASA project

ST. LOUIS (AP) - NASA's next big space mission could be to Venus, to an asteroid or back to the moon. If it goes to the moon, St. Louis researchers will play a key role.

NASA has announced three finalists for the New Frontiers program. 1 of them, called "MoonRise," would use an unmanned, robotically controlled lander to collect lunar rocks for further analysis. That project would be led by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis.

Also under consideration are a mission to Venus to probe the planet's atmosphere, led by the University of Colorado; and a University of Arizona project to return a piece of a near-Earth asteroid for analysis.

A winner for the project that could cost up to $650 million will be announced by the middle of next year.

On the Net:

NASA's New Frontiers program, http://newfrontiers.nasa.gov

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