Asteroids: The new 'It mission' for space exploration

Feb 01, 2012
source: asteroidapophis.com/

The Japanese are heading back into space on a second attempt to collect samples from a nearby asteroid.

The asteroid selected, 1999 JU3 is a perfect specimen, said Humberto Campins, a University of Central Florida professor and international expert on asteroids and comets.

“Based on our analysis, it should be rich in primitive materials, specifically organic molecules and hydrated minerals from the early days of our solar system,” Campins said. “If successful it could give us clues about the birth of water and life in our world.”

Campins has been studying the 1999 JU3 for years. He published an article in 1999 in Astronomy & Astrophysics on this asteroid and its potential to hold raw materials and perhaps even evidence of water. It is believed to have come from the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter.

Finding water in asteroids and comets is a major focus of research. NASA and the European Space Agency are both planning trips to recover samples from two asteroids in the next five to seven years through the OSIRIS-REx (NASA) and Marco Polo-R (European Space Agency) missions. Campins is part of both teams.

Since the end of Space Shuttle flights in 2011, robotic missions to collect asteroid samples have become popular. NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have all announced missions that could launch as early as 2014.

The samples recovered by these missions could help explain how planets formed, provide information about the origin of organic molecules and life on Earth, and probe the physical structure of an asteroid. Knowing more about the structure of asteroids is important in developing strategies for preventing potentially threatening asteroids from striking earth.

JAXA got into the asteroid lassoing business early. In 2003 it sent off a probe to scoop up a sample from another near Earth. Although the collection mechanism did not work properly, when the probe returned to earth in 2010 and scientists cracked open the package, they were pleased to find a small amount of asteroidal dust.

Explore further: NASA team lays plans to observe new worlds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hayabusa 2 Mission approved by Japanese government

Feb 01, 2012

In 2010, the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa completed an exciting although nail-biting mission to the asteroid Itokawa, successfully returning samples to Earth after first reaching the asteroid in 2005; the ...

Thousands flock to see asteroid pod in Japan

Aug 15, 2010

Thousands of people flocked to an exhibition in Japan on Sunday to see a capsule from the Hyabusa space probe which was hoped to have brought asteroid dust to Earth.

Recommended for you

Video: A dizzying view of the Earth from space

10 hours ago

We've got vertigo watching this video, but in a good way! This is a sped-up view of Earth from the International Space Station from the Cupola, a wraparound window that is usually used for cargo ship berthings ...

NEOWISE spots a comet that looked like an asteroid

10 hours ago

Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) has been observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft just one day after passing through its closest approach to the sun. The comet ...

What the UK Space Agency can teach Australia

11 hours ago

Australia has had an active civil space program since 1947 but has much to learn if it is to capture a bigger share of growing billion dollar global space industry. ...

Discover the "X-factor" of NASA's Webb telescope

11 hours ago

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray observatory have something in common: a huge test chamber used to simulate the hazards of space and the distant glow of starlight. Viewers can learn about ...

User comments : 0