Human Asteroid Mission Design Competition

Lutetia at Closest approach seen from ESA's Rosetta mission
15 June 2011

Background

Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) are asteroids whose orbits are in close proximity with the Earth. NEAs can range up to approximately 32 kilometers. There are growing interests and support for a potential human asteroid mission in the future, as this will provide the next logical phase after the Earth-Moon system. In the next 15 years, more than half a million NEAs are expected to be discovered. Approximately 15% of these NEAs will be easier to reach in comparison to the Moon. Not only will this be a huge milestone in human exploration, the amount of valuable resources on these asteroids is simply astounding. These resources can be used to establish a ground station and used as sources of energy. There are currently few studies on human asteroid missions, so this competition will provide the process to explore innovative ideas and to help bridge the gap for future asteroid explorations.

Research Objectives

Typical orbits for inner solar system asteroids
Typical orbits for inner solar system asteroids

This competition is intended to inspire novel ideas, to promote technical and scientific research in the NEA field, and to help build a better understanding of space exploration. There are many areas of research relevant to a human asteroid mission. The competition will be on mission designs near or on the asteroid. However, we do wish to focus on more specific aspects of the mission. For an example, what is the best method to anchor the spacecraft on an asteroid of 1km in diameter? Currently, the research details of the competition have not been set, but the competition committee will announce the detailed scope once we have them. The successful teams are encouraged (required?) to submit their work through a conference paper or journal.

For further information please contact:

Andrés Gálvez
General Studies Programme
Tel: +33 1 5369 7623
Email: andres.galvez @ esa.int

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