NASA wants to explore another asteroid using a new automatic probe

Space Agency NASA is considering launching robotic probes to study another large asteroid in the Solar system – Pallada. According to the portal Space.com the decision to send the apparatus to the object whose orbit is about 2.4 times farther from the Sun than Earth, can be taken by the middle of April. If the mission has received preliminary name “Athena” is approved, then it will actually be a direct continuation of the mission, spacecraft Dawn, which ended last fall. Recall that last visited the asteroid belt of the Solar system and study the dwarf planet Ceres and Vesta.

Pallas, with a diameter of 512 kilometers, is one of the largest asteroids in the Solar system, second in size only to the West. It was opened in 1802, and until the mid-19th century was considered a planet.

In April, NASA will take a positive decision regarding the financing of submitting a new research probe to the asteroid, then the actual launch of the mission could take place in August 2022. According to available preliminary data, the Agency would like to use manner for the gravitational acceleration of the spacecraft and its delivery to the objectives of the study. To speed up the probe you plan to use the gravitational field of Mars. Due to this, the probe will reach the asteroid Pallas about a year after launch.


The actual image of the asteroid Pallas, obtained using the Very large telescope (Very Large Telescope) European southern Observatory

The cost of the mission, spacecraft Dawn amounted to 467 million dollars. A new mission “Athena” previously, only an estimated 10 percent of this amount. The reason is that the goal of the probe “Athena” will be reduced only to a brief visit to the asteroid Pallas. As he neared the object, the device will carry out the detailed photographs of its surface and transfers the data to the Ground. This, in fact, and the entire mission. But, according to the developers of the mission, this will be enough to estimate the prospects of benefit for further study of this object.

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

“The asteroid belt is suitable for use in small units, as for, there are a lot of”, — quotes the words of planetary scientist from Arizona state University Joseph O’rourke portal Space.com.

“We will not be able to send to each of them the unit cost of half a billion dollars, so you should gain experience in the creation of small systems that can be flexibly used in research programmes”.

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