Research

NASA wants to explore another asteroid using a new automatic probe

NASA Aerospace Agency reviewsthe ability to launch an automatic probe to explore another large asteroid of the solar system - Pallas. According to the portal Space.com, the decision to send the vehicle to an object whose orbit runs approximately 2.4 times as far from the Sun as the Earth can be made by mid-April. If the mission, which was tentatively named Athena, is approved, then it will actually be a direct continuation of the mission of the Dawn spacecraft, which ended last fall. Recall that the latter visited the asteroid belt of the solar system and studied the dwarf planets Ceres and Vesta.

Pallas, having a diameter of 512 kilometers,is one of the largest asteroids in the solar system, and is only smaller than Vesta. It was discovered in 1802 and was considered a planet until the middle of the 19th century.

If NASA makes a positive decision in Aprilregarding funding to send a new research probe to an asteroid, the actual launch of this mission could take place in August 2022. According to the available preliminary data, the agency would like to use the gravitational manners to accelerate the spacecraft and its fast delivery to the research goal. To speed up the probe, it is planned to use the gravitational field of Mars. Due to this, the probe will be able to reach the asteroid Pallas about a year after launch.


The actual image of the asteroid Pallas obtained with the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory

The cost of the mission of the spacecraft Dawnamounted to 467 million dollars. The new Athena mission is tentatively estimated at only 10 percent of this amount. This is explained by the fact that the task of the Athena probe will be reduced only to a brief visit to the asteroid Pallas. Approaching the object, the device will take a detailed photograph of its surface and transmit the data to Earth. On this, in fact, the whole mission. But, according to the developers of the mission, this will be quite enough to assess the prospects for the benefits of further research of this object.

The mass of the probe, which is proposed to send to Pallada, will be about 180 kg.

"The asteroid belt is the best place touse of small vehicles, since there are a lot of objects for research there, ”the portal Space.com quotes the words of a planetologist from the University of Arizona, Joseph O’Rourke.

"We will not be able to send to each of them the apparatusworth half a billion dollars, so you should gain experience in creating small systems that can be flexibly used in research programs. ”

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