Andrew Ball, Stephan Ulamec, Bernd Dachwald, Michael E. Price, Riccardo Nadalini, Benjamin Luethi, Stephen D. Wolters, Simon Sheridan, Simon F. Green, John C. Zarnecki, Paolo D’Arrigo, Karsten Seiferlin, Günter Kargl, Nils Goerke
A Small Mission for In Situ Exploration of a Primitive Binary Near-Earth Asteroid
Advances in Space Research, Vol. 43, Iss. 2, 2009, pp. 317-324
We present a concept for a challenging in situ science mission to a primitive, binary near-Earth asteroid. A sub-400-kg spacecraft would use solar electric propulsion to rendezvous with the C-class binary asteroid (175706) 1996 FG3. A campaign of remote observations of both worlds would be followed by landing on the ~1 km diameter primary to perform in situ measurements. The total available payload mass would be around 34 kg, allowing a wide range of measurement objectives to be addressed. This mission arose during 2004 from the activities of the ad-hoc Small Bodies Group of the DLR-led Planetary Lander Initiative. Although the particular mission scenario proposed here was not studied further per se, the experience was carried over to subsequent European asteroid mission studies, including first LEONARD and now the Marco Polo near-Earth asteroid sample return proposal for ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme. This paper may thus be of interest as much for insight into the life cycle of mission proposals as for the concept itself.