Asteroid Missions



Dawn will orbit the large asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. The two bodies have very different properties from each other. By observing them both with the same set of instruments, Dawn will probe the early solar system and specify the properties of each body. Dawn is scheduled to arrive at Vesta in 2011 and Ceres in 2015.

› Overview
› Dawn site



The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa has several mission goals. One is to test new technologies, including the ion engine. It is also supposed to bring back samples of an asteroid.

› Overview
› Hayabusa site

Artist's concept of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer

Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission will survey the entire sky in infrared light, revealing, among other objects, hundreds of thousands of asteroids. Some of the asteroids will be ones we already know about, and others will be new to us. And some will have orbits that pass close to Earth. Infrared observations are ideal for finding the darkest, hidden asteroids, and for estimating asteroid sizes and compositions. Knowing how big an asteroid is, and how dense, will help determine how often Earth can expect hazardous impacts. The mission's survey began in mid-January and is expected to end nine months later, when the coolant it needs to see infrared light runs out.

› Overview
› WISE site


Comet Missions

Artist concept of Epoxi spacecraft


The Epoxi mission recycles the already "in flight" Deep Impact spacecraft to investigate two distinct celestial targets of opportunity. In 2008, Epoxi observed five nearby stars with "transiting extrasolar planets," and later, on Nov. 4, 2010, the spacecraft will fly by and investigate comet Hartley 2.

› Overview
› Epoxi site

Artist concept of Stardust-NExT spacecraft


The Stardust-NExT mission recycles the already "in flight" Stardust spacecraft to flyby and investigate comet Tempel 1 in Feb. 2011. The mission will update the data gathered in 2005 on Tempel 1 by the Deep Impact mission. Prior to its tasking for Tempel 1, the Stardust spacecraft successfully flew through the cloud of dust that surrounds the nucleus of comet Wild 2 in Jan. 2004. The particles of cometary material and gathered during this flyby where then returned to Earth aboard a sample return capsule which landed in the Utah desert in January 2006.

› Overview
› Stardust-NExT site

Artist concept of Rosetta Orbiter spacecraft

Rosetta Orbiter

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft will rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. While Rosetta orbits the comet, JPL's Microwave Instrument onboard the spacecraft will study gases given off by the comet. In addition, a package of instruments will set down and study the surface of the comet.

› Overview
› Rosetta Orbiter site


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