Asteroid and Comet Deflection

NASA Selects Two Asteroid Missions

January 6, 2017

Among the five finalists for NASA’s Discovery program, I had become attached to the Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam), whose purpose was to expand our catalog greatly, with the potential, according to mission backers, of finding ten times more NEOs than we’ve found to date. We’ll see if NEOCam has a future (I’ve just learned […]

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Hitchhiker to the Outer System?

January 4, 2017

Years ago at the Aosta conference on interstellar studies, Greg Matloff told attendees about an interesting way to travel the Solar System. If the goal is to get to Mars, for example, it turns out that there are two objects — 1999YR14 and 2007EE26 — that pass close to both Earth and Mars, each with […]

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OSIRIS-REx to Hunt for Earth ‘Trojans’

December 14, 2016

The so-called ‘trojan’ asteroids that cluster at 60° ahead and behind the planet Jupiter make up a surprisingly populous category. Consider that thus far we have found only one trojan at Earth’s Lagrangian points, while over 6000 have been discovered in Jupiter’s orbit. The total number of trojans larger than 1 km in diameter associated […]

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Thoughts on Rosetta’s End

October 3, 2016

A mission as complex as the European Space Agency’s highly successful Rosetta is a compilation of interlocking parts. I always find it fascinating to look at the instrumentation aboard. Take Alice, a UV imaging spectrograph no bigger than a shoebox. Alice weighs in at less than 4 kilograms and draws a meager 4 watts of […]

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Assessing the Asteroid Factor

September 21, 2016

I’ve always thought that the biggest driver for our next steps in space is the presence of asteroids. Asteroids affect us in two powerful ways, the first being that they are sources of potential wealth for companies like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, as commercial operations use robotics and eventually humans to extract water […]

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A Rapidly Disintegrating Comet

September 20, 2016

Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami has had a short but colorful history in our observations. First detected in 2010 by two amateur astronomers in Japan, the comet has been spinning off debris at least since 2015 and probably earlier. A large fragment, as big as Comet 332P itself, may have broken off in 2012. Still close to the […]

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Philae Lander Found as Rosetta Nears End

September 7, 2016

We’re only a month away from further excitement from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As the mission approaches its final days, the Rosetta orbiter will conclude its activities with a controlled descent to the region called Ma’at, an area of open pits on the comet’s surface that may reveal information about its interior structure. The descent, which will […]

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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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