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OAS > Spacecrafts to Asteroids and Comets - (past, in progress and future missions)

Spacecrafts to asteroids and comets

Page prepared by Francesco Manca (obs.sormano@alice.it)

Last update: September 15, 2014


 

A new tool create at JPL NASA Near Earth Object Program is available to identify future observing opportunities for those near-Earth objects that may be well-suited to future human space flight round trip rendezvous missions.
See:
Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study (NHATS)

 


PAST MISSIONS

 

 

CONTOUR , Comment: Spacecraft lost

Space Agency: NASA

 

 Contour Spacecraft

 

CONTOUR Spacecraft was launched on July 03, 2002. Primary objectives was to visit and study at least two periodic comets : 2P Encke and 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 , respectively in the years 2003 and 2006.

Events (from the CONTOUR's web site):

August 26, 2002 : .........On Aug. 15, CONTOUR's STAR 30 solid-propellant rocket motor was programmed to ignite at 4:49 a.m. EDT, giving CONTOUR enough boost to escape Earth's orbit. At that time, CONTOUR was about 140 miles above the Indian Ocean and out of radio contact with controllers. The CONTOUR mission operation team at APL expected to regain contact at approximately 5:35 a.m. EDT to confirm the burn, but NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) antennas did not acquire any signal. Since then, there has been no contact with CONTOUR.............

December 13, 2002 : Mission operators are planning their final attempts to contact NASA?s CONTOUR spacecraft on Dec. 17 and Dec. 20 ....

December 20, 2002 : Efforts to communicate with CONTOUR ended shortly after noon today without a signal from the NASA spacecraft, and mission managers say they will not try to contact the silent probe again......... (read News&Media section at CONTOUR web page)

 

(for more details see the Web site of the CONTOUR mission)

 

 


CHANG'E 2 Spacecraft

Space Agency: CNSA

 

 Chang'e 2 Spacecraft

 

Chang'e 2 (named for a Chinese legend about a young fairy who flies to the Moon) was launched on October 1, 2010 as part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program to conduct research on our Moon in preparation of a future landing of a rover. After completing this objective in June 2011, the spacecraft entered orbit around the Langragian point L2 in August 2011. In April 2012 Chang'e 2 departed L2 point to encounter the PHA asteroid (4179) Toutatis on december 13, 2012 (see also the MBPL priority list for its close encounters), but due to the high relative velocity (~11 km/s) between the spacecraft and the asteroid, only one fly-by has been possible at a close distance less than 200 Km using the probe's main stereo camera with a resolution of 10 metres.

In December 2012 Lance Benner and his staff at Goldstone Radiotelescope has obtained high resolution images of (4179) Toutatis. See also an animation using 64 radar images taken at Goldstone

December 13, 2012: the CNSA (Chinese Space Agency) has confirmed the fly-by of (4179) Toutatis has expected

(see the Web site of CHINESE SPACE AGENCY)

 

 


DEEP IMPACT

Partnership: University of Maryland , JPL , NASA , Ball Aereospace

 

 Deep Impact Spacecraft

 

DEEP IMPACT, launched on January 12, 2005 was a short mission to the comet 9P Tempel 1 as scientific target. The spacecraft reached out the comet on July 4, 2005 and released an impactor. The main goal of the mission was to observe the nucleus during the impact, collecting images and performing analysis of the internal structure.

See also the official Press RELEASE: 2005-109

Five minuts after the impact the first images from the orbiter was sent to the mission's center.

Both amateur and professional were called to observe the target 9P Tempel 1 to improve the scientific data. "The impact will not appreciably modify the comet's orbital path" said Don Yeomans, a Deep Impact mission scientist at JPL, "Comet Tempel 1 poses no threat to the Earth now or in the foreseeable future", he added.

 

(for more details see the Web site of the DEEP IMPACT mission)

 

 


DEEP SPACE 1

Space Agency: NASA

 

 Deep Space 1 Spacecraft

 

This mission was the first to test new technologies like a new propulsion system (ion drive) and an autonomous navigation through the interplanetary space. The spacecraft made a flyby with the asteroid (9969) Braille on July 28, 1999 and a close encounter with the periodic comet 19P/Borrelly on September 22, 2001 capturing many images of its nucleus from a distance of about 2.200 Km. Movies of the comet as it travels through the space are also available.

 

(for more details see the Web site of DEEP SPACE 1)

 

 


EPOXI

Partnership: University of Maryland , JPL , NASA , Ball Aereospace

 

 Deep Impact Spacecraft

 

Nov. 4, 2010: NASA's EPOXI mission successfully flew by comet Hartley 2 capturing jets in Action . Mission navigators place the spacecraft at the estimated distance close to 700 kilometers (435 miles) where the spacecraft has begun returning images .

Before the fly-by, scientists using Arecibo Planetary Radar in Puerto Rico began observations of comet Hartley 2 on Oct. 25, 2010 through Oct. 27, 2010 and twelve radar images of the nucleus of comet Hartley 2 were obtained by the giant radiotelescope.

Mission's history:

On October 30, 2006 NASA announced that it has accepted the University of Maryland proposal to send the Deep Impact spacecraft to get a close-up look at periodic Comet 85/P Boethin in December, 2008, a new mission called DIXI, which stands for Deep Impact eXtended Investigation.

In December 2007 NASA announced the retargeting of the new so called Epoxi mission for a flyby of the periodic comet 103P/Hartley 2 on November 4, 2010 using the surviving Deep Impact spacecraft and its three working instruments.

Epoxi is an acronym for two other acronyms ((Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterization (EpOCh) and Deep Impact eXtended Investigation (DIXI)). Scientists theorize comet 85P Boethin could not be found because it may have broken up into pieces too small for detection. In addition the spacecraft will study the physical properties of previously discovered extrasolar planetary systems.

Mission controllers at JPL began directing Epoxi towards Hartley 2 on November 1, 2007. The spacecraft flew within 43000 Kilometers of Earth on December 29, 2008.

DEEP IMPACT, launched on January 12, 2005 was a short mission to the comet 9P Tempel 1 as scientific target.

 

 

(for more details see the Web site of the:

DEEP IMPACT mission)

EPOXI mission at University of Maryland EPOXI site )

 


GALILEO

Space Agency: NASA

 

 Galileo Spacecraft

 

The scientific objectives of the GALILEO spacecraft were Jupiter and its moons , but on its way flew past the asteroid (951) Gaspra on October 29, 1991 obtained high resolution images. On August 28, 1993 the spacecraft had a second encounter with the asteroid (243) Ida and discovered for the first time the presence of a satellite orbiting around it, called Dactyl. Both the asteroids are in the main belt.

 

(for more details see the Web site of the GALILEO orbiter)

 

 


GIOTTO

Space Agency: ESA

 

 Giotto Spacecraft

 

The objectives of the mission were to obtain the first images of a nucleus of a comet and study the composition of the volatile components. Giotto, on March 13, 1986 approached the Halley's comet and returned both images and scientific data back to Earth. After a hibernation period, the spacecraft was retargeted for a flyby with the comet 26P Grigg- Skjellerup on July 10, 1992.

 

(for more details see the Web site of the GIOTTO mission)

 

 


MUSES-C -Hayabusa

Space Agency: ISAS/JAXA , NASA

 

 Muses-C Spacecraft

 

Scheduled for launch in December 2002 the ISAS/JAXA asteroid mission has been launched on May 09, 2003, because of a spacecraft problem.

The scientific objective of MUSES-C, renamed "Hayabusa" (falcon), is the analysis of the surface of a Near Earth Asteroid and return a sample to the Earth. The target of the mission is the numbered asteroid (25143) Itokawa (in the past also asteroids (4660) Nereus and (10302) were considered as targets). (25143) Itokawa, for its encounters with the Earth and a low MOID value is considered a PHA (Potential Hazardous Asteroid).

NASA has canceled the development of a tiny rover, JPL's contribution to the mission. The official announcement was made on November 3, 2000.

The spacecraft is arrived in the middle of September 2005, orbiting for about five months around Itokawa. November 24, 2005, news from ISAS/JAXA (Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science): Hayabusa Landed on and Took Off from Itokawa successfully....

Latest News

Hayabusa landed entered the Earth's atmosphere on June 13, 2010 and was retrieved by JAXA on June 14th, 2010 (see Jaxa Press release .

 

(for more details see the Web site of the MUSES-C mission)

 

 


NEAR Shoemaker

Space Agency: NASA

 

 NEAR-Shoemaker Spacecraft

 

The NEAR spacecraft, named NEAR Shoemaker in honour of Eugene Shoemaker the famous astronomer who died in 1997, has been the first probe orbiting around a NEA (Near Earth Asteroid), (433) Eros.

The spacecraft, during its voyage to Eros, made a flyby of main belt asteroid (253) Mathilde on June 27, 1997. After a first attempt of an orbital insertion failed owing to a problem at the propulsion system, finally on February 14, 2000 NEAR Shoemaker entered in orbit around Eros and began to map its surface.

The mission was concluded on February 12, 2001. Before exhausting the fuel supply, Navigation's Team sent operative commands to attempt a controlled descent on (433) Eros (not really a landing because no legs were originally projected). In this way NEAR Shoemaker became also the first probe to land above an asteroid.

 

(for more details see the Web site of the NEAR mission)

 

 


STARDUST

Space Agency: NASA

 

 Stardust Spacecraft

 

After the European Space Agency mission (GIOTTO) in 1986, the first one direct to a comet (Halley's comet), STARDUST which was launched in the year 1999 made a close encounter with the periodic Comet 81P Wild 2 in January 2004. The spacecraft passed through the tail collecting cometary dust using a special material called aereogel.

The capsule carryng cometary particles (the first sample return mission ) successfully touched down on January 15, 2006 at the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range.

On November 2, 2002 the spacecraft passed within about 3.300 Km of the asteroid (5535) Annefrank and images of it were taken.

 

( From NEWS RELEASE: 2004-001 (JPL) )

On January 2, 2004, Stardust flew within 240 Km of the comet 81P Wild 2, catching samples of comet particles and scoring detailed pictures of the nucleus. ( Stardust Flyby animation is available ).

(for more details see the Web site of STARDUST )

 

 


STARDUST-NExT

Space Agency: NASA

 

 Stardust Spacecraft

 

On January 15, 2006, the STARDUST spacecraft completed its mission returning from a a rendezvous with comet 81P Wild 2. The spacecraft approached Earth and jettisoned the capsule containing particles from the comet and interstellar dust. The capsule landed safely and on-target, southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah, completing the first sample return from a comet. Now this spacecraft is on a new record-setting mission: a visit to 9P Tempel 1, the comet that was the target of the DEEP IMPACT mission. The new mission has been called Stardust-NExT (New Exploration of Tempel 1) and NASA plans to revisit Tempel 1 on February 14, 2011 to finish the investigation begun in 2005 when the Deep Impact mission blasted a crater into the comet. That's because the cloud of material ejected from the crater obscured the Deep Impact spacecraft's view. Looking into the crater with Stardust-NExT will provide mankind's first view of a comet's internal structure, the spacecrafts will fly at about 200 Km of Tempel 1. In January 2009 Stardust-NExT used the Earth's gravity to change trajectory and increase speed. Stardust-NExT encountered Tempel 1 at about at the same point in the comet's orbit where Deep Impact met up with a couple of weeks after the comet's perihelion.

February 14, 2011:
The spacecraft made its closest approach to comet Tempel 1 on Monday, Feb. 14, at a distance of approximately 178 km. Stardust took 72 high-resolution images of the comet and the crater made by the Deep Impact spacecraft.

In March 2011, the spacecraft received the command for the safe-mode.

(for more details see the Web site of STARDUST-NExT )

 

 


WISE (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer)

Space Agency: NASA , JPL, UCLA

 

 WISE Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer

 

Launched in December 2009 aboard a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Airforce base, WISE satellite (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer), a NASA-funded Explorer mission has been placed in a so-called Sun-synchronous orbit or polar orbit. WISE carrying an infrared-sensitive telescope that will image the entire sky detecting new Near-Earth-Asteroids and comets in the infrared spectrum. WISE will collect data for 6 months plus additonal 3 months for an extended mission. A collaboration with amateurs and astronomers is request just to confirme new detections of minor planets.

October 4, 2010: Although WISE has 'warmed up,' NASA has decided the mission will still continue...

February 17, 2011: WISE Principal Investigator sent the last command. The Spacecraft will remain in hibernation without ground contacts awaiting possible future use.

 

(for more details see the Web site of WISE)

 

 

 

MISSIONS IN PROGRESS

 

 

CASSINI

Space Agency: ASI , ESA , NASA

 

 Cassini Spacecraft

 

The mission's objective is Saturn and the moon Titan , the most interesting among its satellites (the probe Huygens has sent the first images after the probe descended through the atmosphere of Titan on January 14, 2005 ) .

On its way the spacecraft on January 23, 2000 took images of the main belt' asteroid (2685) Masursky probably an S-type object (for more explanation about asteroid type S see the Taxonomy class).

Images of the Saturn system and the moon, Phoebe, taken from Cassini during the approach path to the orbit insertion, are now available. Phoebe is probably rich in ice and may be an object originating in the outer solar system, more related to comets and Kuiper Belt Objects than to asteroids.

 

(for more details see the Web site of the CASSINI mission).

 

 


DAWN

Space Agency: NASA , JPL

 

 Dawn Spacecraft

 

The Dawn spacecraft launched on September 27, 2007 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will visit two of the largest asteroids of our Solar System, Ceres and Vesta. Dawn will explore the different structure and composition of Ceres ( the first asteroid discovered by G. Piazzi at Palermo Observatory, Italy ) and Vesta, the two largest asteroids in the asteroid belt. The spacecraft, after a Mars gravity assist in March 2009, entered the orbit of Vesta on July 15, 2011 and after will orbit Ceres in February 2015 providing new answers about the formation and evolution of the early Solar System.

Latest News:

July 15, 2011: Dawn spacecraft has returned the first close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. On Friday, July 15, Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

January, 2012: (new images from dawn) Vesta is expected to be so cold and to receive so little sunlight that water ice could have survived there for billions of years ....

May 2012: NASA's Dawn spacecraft has made the first orbital analysis of the giant asteroid Vesta. Vesta now has been revealed as a special fossil of the early solar system and seems to be as a layered, planetary building block with an iron core ...

September 4, 2012: Dawn departed from Vesta on Sept. 4, 2012. Dawn has mapped this giant asteroid, helping scientists unlock some of the secrets of how the solar system was formed. The spacecraft is now traveling on its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres.

Here a NASA's animation using images of VESTA taken by the onboard instruments of DAWN

 

 

(for more details see the Web site of the DAWN mission)

 

 


GAIA

Space Agency: ESA

 

 Gaia Spacecraft

 

 Gaia blasted off on December 19, 2013 on a Soyuz rocket from European spaceport in Korou and it is planned to perform its operations around the Lagrangian L2 point of the Sun-Earth system. The scientific objectives of GAIA will be astrometric measurements of stars (after the success of the HIPPARCOS mission) and additional studies of our Galaxy . Very high precision astrometric measurements (and new discoveries) of asteroids are expected.

 

A the end of July 2014, GAIA began its science mission and in September 2014 GAIA discovers its first supernova (Type Ia) while scanning the sky.

(for more details see the Web site of GAIA)

 

 


NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer)

Space Agency: NASA , JPL, UCLA

 

 NEOWISE Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer

 

Launched in December 2009 aboard a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Airforce base, the satellite, a NASA-funded Explorer mission has been placed in a so-called Sun-synchronous orbit or polar orbit.

Originally called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the spacecraft was shut down in 2011 after its primary mission was completed. In September 2013, it was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) and assigned a new mission to assist NASA's efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.

On february 14, 2014 NEOWISE discovered its first such discovery since coming out of hibernation late last year Officially named C/2014 C3 (NEOWISE). the spacecraft is credited with the discovery of 21 other comets during its primary mission.

 

(for more details see the Web site of NEOWISE)

 

 

 


NEW HORIZONS (PLUTO EXPRESS)

Space Agency: NASA , JPL

 

 Horizons Pluto Express

 

 New Horizons a mission to obtain the first close look at Pluto and his Moon Charon was launched on January 19, 2006 (it will be possible to confirm the last moons discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope ). The arrival of the spacecraft to the system Pluto-Charon is expected on July 14, 2015 after a Jupiter flyby in February 2007 to increase its speed. Over a period of scientific investigations, the spacecraft will continue into the Kuiper Belt for further encounters to learn more about KBOs (Kuiper Belt Objects) , icy objects supposed to be the tank of comets orbiting inside our Solar System.

Planetary scientists have successfully usedthe Hubble Space Telescope to find suitable targets for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto.

In August, 2012 the New Horizons team announced on Twitter the observations of a distant object named VNH0004 but not yet been formally submitted to the Minor Planet Center.

(for more details see the Web site of NEW HORIZONS (PLUTO EXPRESS))

 

 


ROSETTA

Space Agency: ESA

 

 Rosetta Spacecraft

 

During its meeting on 13-14th May 2003, ESA's Science Programme Committee had established a new target ( see the ESA INFO May 28, 2003 ). Rosetta has been successfully launched on March 2nd 2004 using an Ariane-5 G+ launcher on periodic Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. lander Philae on its surface. The end of the nominal mission is expected in 2015. En route to the Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta fly-by two asteroids, (2867) Steins encountered on September 5, 2008 and (21) Lutetia on July 10, 2010 . On March 4, 2005 the spacecraft performed the Earth fly-by . Images of Rosetta sent to ESA are available at the web page prepared by Dr.Detlef Koschny (animated images of the Rosetta fly-by taken at Sormano Observatory are also available). The onboard instruments OSIRIS has used to obtained the light curve of (2867) Steins on March 11 2006, while (21) Lutetia was first imaged by Rosetta during a 36-hour observation campaign on 2 and 3 January 2007 . Scientists have been analysing the data taken by the OSIRIS camera onboard the spacecraft during the brief encounter with (21) Lutetia on July 10, 2010 at a closest distance of 3170 Km. ESA's Rosetta spacecraft has revealed asteroid Lutetia to be a primitive body of about 3.6 billion years old.

After the exit from the hibernation on Jan. 20, 2014,the spacecraft Rosetta is executing a series of 10 orbit correction manoeuvres during May-August to line itself up for arrival at comet 67P on August 5, 2014. the Philae lander will be deploy in November 2014.

A sequence of images of the comet 67P/Churyumov?Gerasimenko were taken between 27 March and 4 May 2014.

July 2014: Images taken by Rosetta's OSIRIS reveal an irregular shape of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It seems that the 67P is in two parts like as "contact binary" as suggested in the past using the radio image taken by the Arecibo radio telescope in 2008.

August 6, 2014; Rosetta has now arrived at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. New postcards from the OSIRIS team confirm it, new images taken from a distance of 130 Km shows the body section of comet 67PC-G,

Using detailed information on the shape of the nucleus,five candidate sites have been identified for the Philae lander in November. See the dedicate web page at:
Rosetta: Landing site search narrows and Multimedia Gallery - Rosetta

Sptember 15, 2014: The site J on the head of the comet 67P has been selected as the target site of the Philae lander. This region offer minimum risk to the lander compared to other candidate sites. The lander is planned to reach the surface in November 11, 2014

 

ORIGINAL MISSION:

The launch of the ESA's spacecraft was scheduled for the night of 12-13 January 2003 but the launch date has been delayed because of the Dec. 11, 2002 launch failure(Flight 157 -Ariane5) . After the conclusions of the Review Board, ArianeSpace and ESA have decided on an indefinite postponement. Another target Comet and a new mission are to be taken into account.

In the year 2011, Rosetta should have made a landing on the nucleus of the Comet 46P Wirtanen for analysis inside and outside the surface and the result should have been sent to Earth. During its way it was to encounter two asteroids (both in the main belt), (140) Siwa in the year 2006 and (4979) Otawara in 2008 (see also " Mass and density determinations of 140 Siwa and 4979 Otawara as expected from the Rosetta flybys " ).

(for more details see the Web site of the ROSETTA mission)

 

 

 

FUTURE MISSIONS

 

 

BEPICOLOMBO

Space Agency: ESA, ISAS/JAXA

 

 BepiColombo Spacecraft

 

The main goal of the spacecrafts, scheduled for launch in August 2015 is Mercury , the planet nearest to the Sun. The mission will consist of two spacecrafts that will go into orbit around the planet. ESA is building one of the main spacecraft, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the Japanese space agency ISAS/JAXA will contribute the other, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The small lander was canceled by ESA , because of financial problems of the European Space Agency.

Bepicolombo has been named in honour of Giuseppe Colombo, a mathematician at the University of Padua (also asteroid 10387 was named Bepicolombo in his honour).

The imaging camera (or a small telescope) mounting on board will be used to discover asteroids like Athen inside the Earth's orbit.

Again, there are some minor planets with interesting close encounters with Mercury in the next future, after the end of the nominal mission. Please check the minor planets designation in the PCEL (Planetary Close Encounters list), index at the Sormano Observatory main page.

 

(for more details see the Web site of the BEPICOLOMBO mission)

 

 

 

 


OSIRIS-REX

Space Agency: NASA , JPL , University of Arizona, Lockheed Martin

 

 OSIRIS-REX

 

NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016. The mission, called Origins-Spectral-Interpretation-Resource-Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth. The OSIRIS-REx team is led by by Principal Investigator Dante S. Lauretta of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Md. will manage the mission for NASA. Lockheed Martin will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx will approach the primitive, Near Earth Asteroid or NEA, designated (101955) Bennu (Bennu was an Egyptian mythological figure associated with Osiris, Atum and Ra) in October 2018. After a surface mapping of about six months, the science team then will pick a location from where the spacecraft's arm will take a sample. The arm will extend to collect material that will be stored in a capsule for return to Earth that will land at Utah's Test and Training Range in 2023. (101955) Bennu probably rich in carbon is approximately 400 mt in diameter and it is considered a PHA Potential Hazardous Asteroid (see also MBPL List and the TECA list). The mission will accurately measure the "Yarkovsky effect".

May 2012:
Scientists have measured the drift resulting from the so called Yarkosky effect, improving the orbit of (101955) Bennu using data obtained at Arecibo and Goldstone antennas.

October 2012:
Hubble and Spitzer telescopes team up to look at (101955) Bennu

 

(for more details see the Web site of OSIRIS-REX)

 

 

 


 

 

 

LAUNCHERS

 

 

LAUNCHERS

 

 launchers

 

 

Some links about launchers also used for spacecrafts included in this web page:

  • Ariane (Europe-ESA)
  • Russian rockets
  • Space Shuttle (USA)
  • Delta II (USA)
  • Atlas (USA)
  • M-V (Japan)

     

     

     

    On February 01, 2003 the Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts were lost over North central Texas during its reentry from orbit at an altitude of about 60 Km. Information about the tragedy of the STS-107 mission is available in the FINAL REPORT

    January 06, 2004: from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission web page : Space Shuttle Columbia Crew Memorialized On Mars .



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    Last modified: September 15, 2014