Asteroid and Comet Deflection

Getting Ready for OSIRIS-REx

August 18, 2016

Back in the 1930s, the German astronomer Karl Reinmuth discovered a near-Earth asteroid now called 1862 Apollo, which gave its name to the Apollo asteroids, all of them Earth-crossing and of high interest to those looking to plan asteroid missions. The number of known Apollo asteroids totals close to 7000. The one that gains our […]

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A Near-Term Commercial Asteroid Mining Mission

August 17, 2016

Most readers will recall the Spacecoach, developed by Brian McConnell and Alex Tolley and widely discussed in these pages. A workhorse spacecraft designed to shuttle crew and cargo between Earth and nearby planets, the Spacecoach was presented as a way to open up regular commercial use of the Solar System, on the pattern of the […]

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Tracking the Chelyabinsk Impactor

February 18, 2016

Yesterday’s post on the distribution of asteroid populations inevitably had me thinking about the Chelyabinsk event on February 15, 2013, and about the concurrent flyby of the asteroid (367943) Duende, which took place on the same day. A scant sixteen hours after the explosion of the Chelyabinsk bolide and the fall of five tons of […]

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A New Look at Asteroid Distribution

February 17, 2016

We know that understanding Near-Earth Objects is vital not only for assessing future asteroid surveys and spacecraft missions, but also for tracking potential impactors on Earth. Projects like the Catalina Sky Survey and its now defunct southern hemisphere counterpart, the Siding Spring Survey, are all about asteroid and comet discovery, with a more specific goal […]

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Looking Ahead to OSIRIS-REx

December 29, 2015

Back when I was in grade school, we put in several months studying ancient Egyptian culture. I can remember becoming fascinated with the pyramid builders and wanting to immerse myself in the world that produced them. But I don’t think I ever reached the multidisciplinary level of a third-grader named Michael Puzio, who named the […]

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‘Centaurs’ as Potential Impactors

December 28, 2015

An asteroid shaped something like a sweet potato swept by the Earth on December 24, though at a sufficient distance (28 times further away than the Moon) to pose no hazard to our planet. 2003 SD220 was making the first of five predicted encounters within the next twelve years, and the measurements made by the […]

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An Asteroid Deflection Investigation

October 1, 2015

Yesterday’s post on what we’re learning about Rosetta’s comet (67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko) briefly touched on the issue of changing the orbit of such bodies for use in resource extraction. Moving the comet Grigg-Skjellerup is part of the plot of Neal Stephenson’s novel Seveneves, where the idea is to support a growing human population in space with the […]

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OSIRIS REx: Asteroid Sample Return

August 25, 2015

Just over a year from now, we’ll be anticipating the launch of the OSIRIS-REx mission, scheduled to rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018. This will be the first American mission to sample an asteroid, and it’s interesting to note that the materials scientists hope to return will constitute the largest sample from space since […]

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Comet Impacts: Triggers for Life?

August 24, 2015

With Rosetta’s continuing mission at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, now post-perihelion but continuing to gather data, comets and their role in the history of the Solar System stay very much on my mind. Their role as delivery mechanisms for volatiles to an infant Earth is widely investigated, as is the idea that comet impacts may be linked […]

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An Internal Source for Earth’s Water?

December 23, 2014

The last time we caught up with Wendy Panero’s work, the Ohio State scientist was investigating, with grad student Cayman Unterborn, a possible way to widen the habitable zone. Slow radioactive decay in elements like potassium, uranium and thorium helps to heat planets from within and is perhaps a factor in plate tectonics. In 2012, […]

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