Printable Version of Topic

Click here to view this topic in its original format

Unmanned _ Cometary and Asteroid Missions _ Unmanned Exploration Of Comets & Asteroids

Posted by: PhilCo126 Jan 2 2006, 07:48 PM

Trying to give an overview of missions to Asteroids & comets … huh.gif

( 2 July 1985 to comet HALLEY in 1986 and to comet Grigg-Skjellerup in 1992 )

NEAR Shoemaeker
( 17 February 1996 to asteroid 433 Eros in February 2001 )

Deep Space 1
( 15 October 1998 to comet BORELLY in September 2001 )

( 07 February 1999 to comet WILD-2 in January 2004 )

( July 2002 to comet ENCKE … mission failure )

Deep Impact
( 12 January 2005 to comet TEMPLE-1 in July 2005 )

Which missions did I forget ? rolleyes.gif
… … …

Posted by: djellison Jan 2 2006, 08:05 PM

'Five spacecraft were sent to examine Halley’s Comet at its return in 1985: two Japanese (Suisei and Sakigake), two Russian (Vegas 1 and 2) and one European (Giotto). Giotto was launched 2 July 1985 and actually passed through the comet’s head, within 335 miles of the velvet black nucleus, obtaining 2,112 close-range images of it, until the probe was jolted by hitting a rice-grain sized dust particle. It revealed that the nucleus was an irregular lumpy potato-shaped object, 9.3 miles in length, and had a rotation period of 53 hours, with a 7.3-day rotational period around this axis. Its temperature on the side nearest the Sun was 47°C.


Posted by: Phil Stooke Jan 2 2006, 08:23 PM

Galileo to Gaspra and Ida, NEAR to Mathilde, DS1 to Braille, Stardust to AnneFrank.


Posted by: tedstryk Jan 2 2006, 08:30 PM

ICE to Comet Giacobini-Zinner, 1985.

Posted by: Bob Shaw Jan 2 2006, 08:47 PM

Er... ...Hayabusa, anyone?


Bob Shaw

Posted by: Phil Stooke Jan 3 2006, 01:58 AM

D'oh is right!

Could add Cassini's distant obs of Masursky as he zipped by on his way to wherever.


Posted by: Bob Shaw Jan 3 2006, 02:05 AM

QUOTE (Phil Stooke @ Jan 3 2006, 02:58 AM)
D'oh is right!

Could add Cassini's distant obs of Masursky as he zipped by on his way to wherever.



To be honest, 'D'oh' was pretty restrained... could us folks have forgotten Hayabusa?

Bob Shaw

Posted by: ljk4-1 Jan 3 2006, 02:11 AM

Does the manned mission of Challenger 2 (which looked an awful lot like Skylab) to a giant planetoid named Orpheus that was then hit by a comet in the 1979 film Meteor count?


I suppose I could also add the Orion-type craft mission from Deep Impact, but I refuse on principle to all things decent to even mention Armageddon.

Posted by: nprev Jan 3 2006, 05:58 AM

I don't suppose you'd care to count all the missions that at least peripherally looked at Phobos & Deimos?... huh.gif

Posted by: ynyralmaen Jan 3 2006, 01:16 PM

QUOTE (PhilCo126 @ Jan 2 2006, 09:48 PM)
Trying to give an overview of missions to Asteroids & comets …  huh.gif


Which missions did I forget ?  rolleyes.gif
… … …

Well, if you include serendipitous ion tail crossings, there's also Ulysses...

It crossed Comet Hyakutakte's tail on May 1st, 1996 (~3.9 AU downtail of the nucleus!), and Comet McNaught-Hartley's tail on October 19th and 20th, 2000.

Posted by: elakdawalla Jan 3 2006, 04:16 PM

Here's my list (which is currently posted

International Cometary Explorer (ICE) [Formerly Known as International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE-3)], Comet Giacobini-Zinner flyby and distant Halley observer (NASA)
Launch: August 12, 1978. Flyby: September 11, 1985

Vega 1 and Vega 2, Comet 1P/Halley flybys (Soviet Academy of Sciences)
Launch: December 15 and 21, 1984. Flyby: March 6 and 9, 1986

Sakigake, Comet 1P/Halley flyby (Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science (ISAS))
Launch: January 8,1985. Flyby: March 11, 1986

Suisei, Comet 1P/Halley flyby (Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science (ISAS))
Launch: March 18, 1985. Flyby: March 8, 1986

Giotto, Comets 1P/Halley and 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup flyby (ESA)
Launch: July 2, 1985. Halley flyby: March 13, 1986. Grigg-Skjellerup flyby: July 10, 1992

Galileo, Flyby of asteroids 951 Gaspra and 243 Ida; Jupiter orbiter (NASA)
Launch: October 18, 1989. Gaspra flyby: October 29, 1991. Ida/Dactyl flyby: August 28, 1993. Witnessed Shoemaker-Levy crash: July 1994

Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), Asteroid 433 Eros orbiter (eventually used as a lander!) (NASA)
Launch: February 17, 1996. Eros arrival: February 14, 2000. Eros landing: February 12, 2001

Deep Space 1, Flybys of asteroid 9969 Braille and comet 19P/Borrelly (NASA)
Launch: October 24, 1998. Braille flyby: July 28, 1999. Borrelly flyby: September 22, 2001

Stardust, Flyby and coma sample return from comet P/Wild 2
Launch: February 7, 1999. Wild 2 flyby: January 2, 2004. Sample return: January 15, 2006

Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR), Failed multi-comet flyby (NASA)
Launch: July 3, 2002. Lost August 15, 2002

Deep Impact, Flyby and impact into comet 9P/Tempel 1
Launch: January 12, 2005. Tempel 1 impact and flyby: July 4, 2005

Hayabusa (MUSES-C), Orbiter and sample return from asteroid Itokawa (1998 SF36) (ISAS)
Launch: May 9, 2003. Itokawa arrival: September 2005

Rosetta, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko orbiter and lander (ESA)
Launch: March 2, 2004. Churyumov-Gerasimenko arrival: 2014

Dawn, Planned 4 Vesta and 1 Ceres orbiter (NASA)
Launch: planned for May 27, 2006 (suspended indefinitely)

Looks like my list is missing NEAR at Mathilde and Cassini at Masursky (and I've got to update the Hayabusa info on the page). I'll wait for this thread to develop a bit and then get to work smile.gif Do you all think that the Ulysses comet tail encounters "count"?


Posted by: ljk4-1 Jan 3 2006, 04:32 PM

Soviet scientists considered an option to send the VEGA probes to other
celestial objects after Venus and Halley in 1986. One prime target was the
near-Earth planetoid 2101 Adonis, which VEGA 2 could pass at a distance
of six million kilometers (3.6 million miles).

Sadly, the Soviets had to back out on the opportunity to become the first
nation to fly a spacecraft past a planetoid when it was discovered that there
was not enough maneuvering fuel in the probe to reach Adonis as planned.

VEGA 1 and 2 were quietly shut down in early 1987.

Information from:

Robertson, Donald F., "Venus - A Prime Soviet Objective" (Parts 1/2), SPACEFLIGHT, Volume 34, Numbers 5/6, British Interplanetary
Society (BIS), London, England, May/June 1992

Considering how relatively poor the images of Halley were from the VEGAs, I have to wonder how much could have been seen and learned if they did do that flyby of Adonis?

Is there anything of interest about Adonis that might warrant a future mission to that worldlet? Besides its being an NEO?

Posted by: SigurRosFan Jan 3 2006, 07:04 PM

Phil, take a look at my compilation. - All Visited Asteroids At A Glance!

Posted by: PhilCo126 Jan 3 2006, 08:43 PM

Emily & Nico
Thanks for pointing those links out !

Posted by: ynyralmaen Jan 5 2006, 09:42 AM

QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Jan 3 2006, 06:16 PM)
Here's my list (which is currently posted


  Do you all think that the Ulysses comet tail encounters "count"?


Well, they clearly weren't planned encounters, and were extremely far from the respective nuclei. However, they provided valuable information about the cometary ion composition and magnetic field structure of the distant tail. Maybe they could be added as "accidental encounter" entries, separate from the main list?


Posted by: djellison Jan 5 2006, 10:01 AM

How about 'dedicated close encounters' and 'distant encounters of opportunity'?


Posted by: ljk4-1 Jan 5 2006, 02:19 PM

Earth flew through the tail of Comet Halley in 1910. And since our planet has often been called Spaceship Earth....

Posted by: tty Jan 5 2006, 07:03 PM

QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ Jan 5 2006, 04:19 PM)
Earth flew through the tail of Comet Halley in 1910.  And since our planet has often been called Spaceship Earth....

Said spaceship has had a lot of close encounters of the violent kind with asteroids and comets, the latest in 1908.


Posted by: djellison Jan 5 2006, 07:33 PM

But the earth is hardly 'unmanned' smile.gif


Posted by: ljk4-1 Jan 5 2006, 08:19 PM

QUOTE (djellison @ Jan 5 2006, 02:33 PM)
But the earth is hardly 'unmanned' smile.gif


That should be unpersonned.


Posted by: ljk4-1 Feb 13 2006, 04:11 PM

Five years ago on February 12, 2001, the NEAR-Shoemaker probe became
not only the first one to orbit a planetoid (Eros), it also landed on the big ol'

And to think it was a Valentine's Day gift, too.

Posted by: ljk4-1 Mar 20 2006, 09:31 PM

Radioisotope Electric Propulsion: Enabling the Decadal Survey Science
Goals for Primitive Bodies

STAIF, February 12-16, 2006

Posted by: machi Oct 20 2014, 11:40 PM

I cannot found better topic than this one so I apologize for reanimation of this old topic.
Here is my collage of all cometary nuclei imaged by spacecrafts and planetary radars at 25 m/pix.
Now it's with C/2013 A1 Siding Spring.

Posted by: eoincampbell Oct 21 2014, 12:25 AM

machi, by your topic re-ignition you help to keep this wonderful resource that is UMSF concise.. yet.. wonderfully detailed...
Thanks for posting...

Posted by: Explorer1 Feb 2 2016, 09:55 PM

NEA Scout has been approved to piggyback on SLS, along with 12(!) other cubesats, four for the Moon, the rest for deep space, and three others from international partners, yet to be announced.

The target is 1991 VG, which might actually be an artificial object from the 60s or 70s...

Posted by: bobik Nov 16 2016, 07:50 AM

Day of decision is coming! "During, December 1-2, 2016, the decision will be made whether or not to fund the, a collaborative effort with the international To reinforce the importance of the AIM mission within the scientific and space communities, asteroid experts Patrick Michel, Alan Fitzsimmons and Debbie Lewis drafted a letter in support of AIM [...] published for the public to sign."

Posted by: bobik Dec 3 2016, 03:36 PM

"Insiders say [AIM] missed their target sum by perhaps a few tens of millions. “A cool project has been killed because of a lack of vision, even short term, and courage, and this is really sad,” says Patrick Michel, a planetary scientist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Nice, who leads AIM. ..."

Posted by: Explorer1 Dec 3 2016, 04:04 PM

Darn, so close! Hopefully the DART component will be approved in March. Even a clone of the Deep Impact mission is better than nothing....

Posted by: Habukaz Dec 13 2016, 08:48 AM

Wörner said a few days ago (9 Dec) that he is trying to rescue the AIM mission, though how realistic that is, I have no idea.

Woerner, on the lack of funding for the Asteroid Impact Mission: I don’t give up. I keep fighting for it because it is too important.

Woerner on AIM: ran into problems when Germany offered less than expected, then withdrew funding altogether. Still working to “rescue” it.

Posted by: Paolo Dec 13 2016, 05:42 PM

there was an article about AIM in this week's "the Space Review"

Posted by: Explorer1 Jul 2 2017, 06:59 AM

Looks like DART is still going ahead (preliminary design phase now):

I've seen no news on AIM though; no getting our hopes up?

Posted by: Paolo Jul 2 2017, 08:10 AM

last I heard, ESA was studying an AIMlight mission, costing no more than 150 million euros

Posted by: bobik Jul 2 2017, 01:58 PM

QUOTE (Explorer1 @ Jul 2 2017, 06:59 AM) *
I've seen no news on AIM though; no getting our hopes up?

"La sonde, a reconnu l'ESA qui réfléchit à envoyer une caméra qui volerait sur DART et se détacherait peu avant l'impact." It seems AIM is more or less dead, no launch in 2020. Instead, ESA is considering launching a detachable camera on DART.

Posted by: Paolo Dec 4 2017, 04:44 PM

main-belt asteroids resolved by the VLT telescope. jaw-dropping!

Posted by: Explorer1 Dec 4 2017, 06:16 PM

QUOTE (Paolo @ Dec 4 2017, 11:44 AM) *
main-belt asteroids resolved by the VLT telescope. jaw-dropping!

Wow! Probably the best views of Pallas we'll get for a while! Reminds me of the Dawn approach imagery (is that bright spot real?)

Posted by: bobik Feb 22 2018, 06:51 PM

AIM is now called

Posted by: Explorer1 Feb 23 2018, 02:39 AM

A very detailed summary, but note a slight error in the size of Didymos: 780 metres, not kilometres!

Posted by: Explorer1 Jun 29 2018, 01:28 PM

New animation of the current mission plan for Hera:

Overall similar to AIM except obviously arrival is along after the DART impact. Pity the original plan for dual operations fell through!

Posted by: Explorer1 Jan 7 2019, 02:56 PM

More info on the renamed HERA mission from ESA (includes two proposed cubesats!):

Final decision on development at the end of 2019.

Posted by: scalbers Feb 18 2019, 02:17 AM

More on the DART mission is on this NASA page - launch should be in about 2 years:,

and on this APL page with an upcoming April 2019 planning meeting:

Posted by: ynyralmaen Feb 24 2019, 11:50 AM

Comet Interceptor is a mission proposal on a shortlist of six for ESA's F-class mission call. The mission would target a dynamically new comet from the Oort Cloud, or an interstellar object. ESA is expected to select the F-class mission in July 2019. Launch would be with ESA's Ariel exoplanet observatory in 2028.

Comet Interceptor would wait at Sun-Earth L2 until a suitable target is found inbound by survey observatories such as The primary spacecraft would deploy subspacecraft for the comet encounter, providing multi-point in situ measurements of the environment near the comet, as well as different remote sensing viewpoints of the nucleus and coma.

The mission's website is here, where the team are inviting registration of support for the proposal:

The Twitter handle is

Posted by: Paolo Feb 26 2019, 06:14 AM

some amazing high-resolution images of (7) Iris taken by the VLT in this paper:

Posted by: Alan Stern Oct 3 2019, 11:16 AM

From a new mission possibility: Centaurs Rising: NASA Eyes Missions to Weird Asteroid-Comet Hybrids:

Posted by: Alan Stern Oct 6 2019, 08:41 PM

29P Fragments.....

Posted by: Explorer1 Nov 28 2019, 07:26 PM

Hera has been chosen at the most recent ESA budget meeting. There is also a call out for amateur astronomer to start characterizing possible flyby candidates:

Posted by: bobik Feb 25 2021, 09:15 AM from flight spares of Dawn's Framing Camera to a from the company The motivation for this decision is "unknown", well at least to me! huh.gif

Posted by: Tom Tamlyn Jun 20 2021, 04:51 PM

It seems as though mega-comet 2014 UN271 will be the subject of sustained study and lively discussion, even if it never becomes the object of a mission. In light of Rule 2.8 I’m parking this post here with the request that the mods consider moving it to its own thread.

T. Marshall Eubanks
Interesting discovery: 2014 UN271- a 100 km object from DECam.
Perihelion 2031 Jan 28
a = 5416.99752 +/- 228 AU
e = 0.9979808 +/- 8.56e-5
Incl. 95.53003 +/- 0.00023
Period = 398692 years!
H = 7.8
q = 10.9377353 +/- 0.000814 AU
Q = 10823.0573 +/- 459 AU

Jason Wright
No biggie, just a barely-bound dwarf planet coming within 11 au of the sun over the next 10 years…

The next decade of planetary science discoveries is going to be WILD!

Emily Lakdawalla
Oh my gosh, how fast can we build and launch something to rendezvous with this mega-comet? Size suggests probably not technically a dwarf planet but it’s a big ‘un. (About Epimetheus size.) 11 AU is near Saturn distance so still cold enough to be quite pristine.

Posted by: Explorer1 Jun 20 2021, 05:15 PM

A very nice find.
With such a high inclination, I don't think it's really within even ESA's Comet Interceptor capabilities? The perihelion is far out of the plane of the solar system (and 11 AU is quite far for a SEP mission). Perhaps the ascending and descending nodes?

Posted by: Ron Hobbs Jun 20 2021, 11:51 PM

According to the JPL Small-Body Database Browser period of this object is more than 612,000 years and the aphelion (Q) is more than 14,411 A.U. That is almost a quarter of a light-year.

This is based on the latest observation in 2018 and there is no computation of uncertainty, so the specifics are likely to change. But clearly this thing is coming from way out there.

Posted by: volcanopele Jun 21 2021, 03:20 PM

Yeah, this comet is way outside the area Comet Intercepter can target. CI requires the comet to reach a heliocentric distance of 0.8 to 1.2 AU and the encounter has to take place near the ecliptic.

I wouldn't be surprised if we'll start seeing some observations come in over the next week or so now that it's announced. If Hubble weren't out of commission right now, this is the exact sort of discovery that would be great for it to take a look at.

Posted by: bobik Jun 23 2021, 09:43 AM

Hera will have a spacecraft onboard.

Posted by: Tom Tamlyn Jun 26 2021, 06:46 PM

Incoming Visitor From the Oort Cloud Could Be Among the Largest Comets Ever Documented
The newly detected object is somewhere between 62 and 230 miles long.

The Gizmodo article linked above contains a useful summary of the discovery of and prospects for 2014 UN271, with interesting comments from several astronomers. There is also a link to several tweets from Dr. Pedro Bernardinelli @phbernardinelli, a PhD candidate in physics & astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania who led the discovery project, a search for Trans Neptunian Objects using the massive data set created by the Dark Energy Survey,

Dr. Bernardinelli's feed is currently full of additional information and links. Among other things, he explained something that had puzzled me, namely why an object so recently identified was assigned a 2014 designator. The discovery was the result of a computationally intense analysis of images acquired between 2014 and 2018 within a big data feed. There is no single "discovery image," and by convention they used the date of the earliest image. See

Posted by: bobik Jul 19 2021, 06:15 AM

Nice about JAXA's expedition to (3200) Phaethon.

Powered by Invision Power Board (
© Invision Power Services (