Asteroid Surface Exploration

Exploring the Unknown Surfaces of Asteroids, Material Composition and Geological Features

Major scientific goals for the study of planetesimals are to decipher geological processes in Small Solar System Body (SSSBs) not determinable from investigation via in situ experimentation on an asteroid's surface, and to understand how planetesimals contribute to the formation of planets. Ground based observations are not sufficient to examine SSSBs, as they are only able to measure what is on the surface of the body; however, in situ analysis allows for further, close up investigation as to the surface characteristics and the inner composure of the body. To this end, the Asteroid Mobile Imager and Geologic Observer (AMIGO) an autonomous semi-inflatable robot will operate in a swarm to efficiently characterize the surface of an asteroid. The stowed package is 10×10×10 cm (equivalent to a 1U CubeSat) that deploys an inflatable sphere of ~1m in diameter. Three mobility modes are identified and designed: ballistic hopping, rotation during hops, and up-righting maneuvers. Ballistic hops provide the AMIGO robot the ability to explore a larger portion of the asteroid’s surface to sample a larger area than a stationary lander.