Report from the Exploration of Near-Earth Objects Objectives Workshop - Day 2
It's day 2 at NASA's Exploration of Near Earth Objects (NEO) Objectives workshop (ExploreNOW). Yesterday afternoon, we had updates from some previous small bodies missions: NEAR, Hayabusa, Deep Impact, and Rosetta, all very cool missions. Hayabusa of course just returned with particles in its canister. Deep Impact hit a comet and its flyby spacecraft will be encountering another comet this November. Rosetta just did the flyby of the biggest asteroid we've flown by so far, Lutetia. And NEAR had a spectacular mission at NEO Eros, including the amazing landing of an orbiter on an asteroid at the end of the mission.
After those robotic updates, it was back to thinking about human NEO missions, with a focus on what the objectives would be -- from proving deep space technologies, to science, to planetary defense. There have been a number of break out sessions, splitting up into smaller groups to provide input to the process. They include policy and public involvement, precursor missions, technologies, planetary defense, and how one would conduct operations at the NEO. The breadth of topics discussed here has been impressive. After break outs yesterday and today, we have "out briefs" in the main session.
This morning I presented an invited talk on public participation in NEO Exploration. It was nice to have an opportunity to talk about the Planetary Society's 30 year experience with doing public participation in space exploration. I also discussed our lessons learned, and our thoughts for ways to effectively engage the public in future missions. A reminder that nearly all the presentations are available here.
I also discussed the Planetary Society's Human Mission to an Asteroid competition that will challenge people to design a human mission to an asteroid. We will have open and college design competition categories, and an essay competition for high school and below. We are currently assembling our advisory committee and partners and determining the details of the competition. Stay tuned in coming weeks and months for more information.
Speaking of competitions, at this meeting I ran into the Principal Investigator of the winning entry from the Planetary Society Apophis Mission Design competition, Mark Schaffer from SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. Though the content will be quite different, the human asteroid mission will follow the same type of process as the Apophis competition did, and we expect lots of spectacular entries like we got for Apophis.