This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

31 January 2007

Article: "Exploding robots may scout hazardous asteroids"

This article was based on a poster session paper presented at the 209th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Seattle, Washington on 07 January 2007. I have listed the paper reference, Ball Aerospace Press Release, and highlights from the article below:

Presentation Number: 025.01
Title: Small Landing Probes for In-situ Characterization of Asteroids and Comets
Authors: Dennis Ebbets, R. Dissly, R. Reinert from Ball Aerospace & Tech. Corp..
Abstract: Future space missions to small solar system objects such as asteroids and comets may include probes that can land to enable characterization of both the surface and interior. In many cases more than one probe may be desired to sample different regions or to work together as a network of sensors. This poster describes a design concept for such a probe under study at Ball Aerospace. The probes are roughly the size of a basketball, allowing for several to be carried by a rendezvous spacecraft and deployed individually. They will survive a freefall to the surface, impacting with a velocity of several meters / second. Deployable panels on the nominally spherical body ensure self-righting to an operational orientation. Each probe accommodates a payload of several kilograms, optimized for its particular investigation. Candidates include imagers, accelerometers, X-Ray spectrometers, sample collection and examination, and possibly pyrotechnic charges for seismic excitation or cratering experiments. The probe provides a standard suite of services such as battery power, data management and communications with the rendezvous spacecraft. We are also studying options for mobility, such as “hopping”, and for anchoring to the surface of a micro-gravity body. Such a basic probe could become a low cost component of future missions that would enable a rich spectrum of in-situ investigations to a large number of target bodies.

Link: Abstract

Link: Ball Aerospace Press Release


"Exploding robots may scout hazardous asteroids"
David Shiga news service
22 January 2007

Now, a group of scientists and engineers have designed a robotic probe small and cheap enough that a fleet of them could be sent to investigate a near-Earth asteroid's composition and structure.

Dennis Ebbets of Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, US, presented the concept on 7 January at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington, US.

As many as six of the 12-kilogram probes could be loaded on a single spacecraft, which could be launched at relatively low cost to rendezvous with the asteroid.

The main spacecraft would stay a few dozen kilometres away, perhaps nudging the probes towards the asteroid using springs. Once on the surface, the protective spherical shell of each probe would open to allow the probe to scan the surface nearby.

To reduce complexity and costs, the probes lack solar panels and run on battery power, limiting their lifetime to a few days. But each probe could still cover a lot of ground in that time, as they could be fitted with small thrusters to let them hop across the surface.

Eventually the probes could detonate onboard explosives, sacrificing themselves for science one by one. Probes that had not yet detonated would listen for any seismic waves sent rippling out from the explosion, and the main spacecraft could observe the craters left behind. That would tell scientists about the asteroid's strength and internal structure.

If funding can be secured for the probes, they and the host spacecraft could be built in two or three years. The team has identified several near-Earth asteroids that would make good targets, including an asteroid a few dozen metres across called 2003 WP25, which could be reached by 2011.

Link: Article

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Any opinions expressed on the blog are solely those of the author. The site is not sponsored by, nor does it represent the opinions of, any organization, corporation, or other entity.