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: Bright points in Sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior

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

Sun emits a mid-level solar flare

1 hour ago

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 9:03 a.m. EDT on April 18, 2014, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

The importance of plumes

4 hours ago

The Hubble Space Telescope is famous for finding black holes. It can pick out thousands of galaxies in a patch of sky the size of a thumbprint. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Hubble provided ...

Ceres and Vesta Converge in Virgo

7 hours ago

Don't let them pass you by. Right now and continuing through July, the biggest and brightest asteroids will be running on nearly parallel tracks in the constellation Virgo and so close together they'll easily ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.