BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) — The University of Colorado Boulder and Lockheed Martin just got approval from NASA to lead a new space mission to capture the first-ever closeup look at a mysterious class of solar system objects: binary asteroids. Binary asteroids are pairs of asteroids that orbit around each other in space.

Artist’s depiction of the twin Janus spacecraft. (credit: Lockheed Martin)

CU Boulder and Lockheed Martin plan to launch two small spacecraft in 2022 — each one about the size of a carry-on suitcase. The spacecraft, which weigh about 80 pounds each, will travel farther than any small satellite to date.

The mission may help to usher in a new era of space exploration, according to Lockheed Martin’s Janus Project Manager Josh Wood.

“Their observations could open up a new window into how these diverse bodies evolve and even burst apart over time,” said Daniel Scheeres, the principle investigator for Janus.

Lockheed Martin will manage, build and operate the spacecraft. CU Boulder will do the scientific analysis of images and data for the mission.

“The Colorado-centric development for this mission, combining the space talent of both CU Boulder and Lockheed Martin, is a testament to the skills available in the state,” said Lockheed Martin’s Janus Project Manager Josh Wood.

 

 

 

Anica Padilla

Comments
  1. “The University of Colorado Boulder and Lockheed Martin just got approval from NASA to lead a new space mission to capture the first-ever closeup look at a mysterious class of solar system objects: binary asteroids” — which?

    “The spacecraft, which weigh about 80 pounds each, will travel farther than any small satellite to date.” — where?

    The asteroids in question are designated 1996 FG3 and 1991 VH; both are Apollo asteroids, which cross the orbit of Earth and are thus potentially hazardous. Binary asteroids are thought to arise when solar radiation (by means of the Yarkovsky–O’Keefe–Radzievskii–Paddack effect) spins up asteroids consisting of rubble piles so fast that they fly apart. Such asteroids may be problematic to divert (should they be on a collision course with Earth) because they are just conglomerations of debris loosely bound by gravity. The Janus mission will use a gravitational slingshot past Earth in order to gain sufficient energy to reach these asteroids.

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