[meteorite-list] Asteroid Sample Return Mission Proposed By Univ of Arkansas Reseacher

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:37:37 2004
Message-ID: <200012222201.OAA03222_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

University Relations
University of Arkansas

Derek Sears, professor, chemistry
Director, Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences
(501) 575-5204, dsears_at_uark.edu

Melissa Blouin, science and research communications manager
(501) 575-5555, blouin_at_uark.edu



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- In the wake of NASA's successful Near-Earth
Asteroid Rendezvous space mission, a University of Arkansas researcher
is putting together a team of scientists to take asteroid research to the
next level -- bringing asteroid samples back to Earth.

Derek Sears, professor of chemistry and director of the Arkansas-
Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, has proposed a mission
called Hera that will visit three near-Earth asteroids, obtain samples from
them and return the samples to Earth. The project is named for Hera, a
Greek goddess and mother of the three graces, joyfulness, bloom and

The Arkansas-Oklahoma center will provide the infrastructure and support
required to produce the mission.

Such a mission has only recently become possible, according to Sears. But
with the advent of new engines for driving interplanetary spacecraft, the
NEAR spacecraft completing a successful mission, and the discovery of
1,000 or more near-Earth asteroids in the past two years, the mission
has become feasible.

"We have the right engines, another space craft doing a dry run, and we
have plenty of targets," Sears said.

According to current plans, the spacecraft will feature a touch-and-go
sampler designed by Steven Gorevan and Shaheed Rafeek of Honeybee
Robotics, Inc. The sampler will hover above the asteroids and extend a
high-speed drill into the surface. The probe will capture fragments from
the drilling and store them in containers aboard the spacecraft.

The craft will also contain cameras, spectrometers and other scientific
equipment that will record information about the asteroids.

Sears and his colleagues recently gathered at the Lunar and Planetary
Institute in Houston to discuss various aspects of the mission. They
talked about the scientific case for sample return, spacecraft maneuvers
in the vicinity of small asteroids, sample collection devices and planetary
protection issues, and the implications for resource utilization, impact
hazard mitigation and human exploration and development of space.

The mission will address some of the most fundamental questions in
science as defined by NASA's Space Science Enterprise Plan in 1997.
Hera addresses seven of the 11 goals set by NASA in the plan, including:

* Information on the formation of the solar system
* Stellar evolution and the relationship between stars and planet formation
* The origin of molecules necessary for life on Earth
* The possibilities of life on other planets.
* A record of solar activity
* Prediction and possible deflection of Earth-bound objects
* A precursor to human exploration and colonization of space

Researchers at NASA's Glenn Research Center determined the mission
trajectory. Hera would launch in January 2006, reaching the first asteroid,
1999 AO10, after eight months. It would spend about 99 days at the first
two asteroids, AO10 and 2000AG6, and 205 days at the third, 1989 UQ,
returning to earth in November 2010.

The current team of researchers planning project Hera includes: Sears,
Don Brownlee of the University of Washington, Carle Pieters of Brown
University, M. Lindstrom of the University of Tennessee, D. Britt of
Johnson Space Center, B.C. Clark of Lockheed Martin Astronautics,
L. Gefert of Glenn Research Center, S. Gorevan of Honeybee Robotics
and J.C. Preble of SpaceWorks, Inc.

For more information see http://www.uark.edu/hera .
Received on Fri 22 Dec 2000 05:01:06 PM PST

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