Q. As an alternative of sending area probes to distant planets, is it potential to land a robust digital camera or one other instrument on a comet or asteroid — and have it ship again info because it travels by way of area?
A. “It’s actually potential to land a digital camera with different devices on a comet or asteroid to take photographs of that object and its environment,” mentioned Lindley N. Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA headquarters in Washington. The truth is, this has already been accomplished.
“Nevertheless, area is a really massive place,” Mr. Johnson continued. “And even inside our photo voltaic system, the comet or asteroid would nearly by no means come shut sufficient to a planet or one other comet or asteroid to gather any photographs of any scientific worth.”
Whereas very small asteroids do come near Earth each week, he mentioned, the closest that any comet or asteroid bigger than one mile in measurement has come to Earth within the final century was nonetheless greater than 1,000,000 miles away, roughly 4 instances the space from the Earth to the Moon.
The European House Company’s Rosetta mission landed a probe, Philae, on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2015. The Close to Earth Asteroid Rendezvous — Shoemaker mission landed on the asteroid Eros again in 2001, he added.
Different missions have briefly touched down on asteroids to collect samples from them, Mr. Johnson mentioned, together with the Japanese area company’s Hayabusa 1 and 2 missions. NASA’s Osiris-Rex mission is to reach on the asteroid Bennu later this 12 months.