By Jeff Todd

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Dr. Dan Scheeres was in Japan waiting for an important announcement that took an extra day to come. He found out his plan to study binary asteroids was allowed to proceed by NASA.

(credit: CBS)

“We want to send two small spacecraft so we can also see what the temperature of the surface is,” Scheeres, a professor at University of Colorado Boulder said.

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Dan Scheeres (credit: CBS)

The Janus Mission is a partnership with Lockheed Martin. The plan is to send two suitcase-sized instruments into orbit and monitor two very different binary asteroids. The binary asteroid is a larger asteroid and a smaller orbiting asteroid.

“We’re going to see this type of asteroid at a level of detail that we’ve never seen before,” Scheeres said.

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(credit: CBS)

“These two asteroids have completely different mineralogy. One is a very primitive body, the other is a very rocky body. These two asteroids are in completely different states. Not only do we get unprecedented information on binary asteroids, but we also get to compare and contrast these two very different systems.”

An infrared and visible imager will send pictures and data back to earth.

(credit: NASA)

“We can actually start to understand how strong this thing is. Some theories say they’re like dust bunnies, barely held together,” Scheeres said.

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The research could be used for space mining and even human and earth protection as scientists find out more about the composition of asteroids.

Jeff Todd