Dr. Joshua Emery

December 20, 2006

"Investigation of Suitable Targets for Space Missions to Near-Earth Objects"

JPL 1276028

The Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are small bodies of the Solar System which periodically approach or intersect the Earth's orbit. The NEO population is supposed to be continuously replenished by asteroids and comets and is believed to be one of the principal sources of meteorites found on the Earth. As a consequence, the study of the physical properties of NEOs is interesting for scientic goals, to investigate the nature of the whole population of small bodies of the Solar System. It also provides essential information for technological purposes, considering the potential hazard that these objects constitute to our planet and the development of suitable mitigation strategies both on Earth and from space.  In the last years, scientic and technological goals have pushed space agencies to plan and launch space missions to NEOs. In this respect, observations investigating the physical and thermal structure of NEOs are needed in support of future space missions. Due to the wide variety of the orbital characteristics of NEOs, target selection must be able to guarantee both technical feasibility and high scientic return. We therefore propose to carry out spectroscopic observations, in the mid- and far-infrared wavelength range, of NEOs characterized by a high degree of accessibility for a space mission. We have selected 13 targets accessible from Earth for space missions that amount to a total of 24.5 hours of IRS observations to obtain spectroscopic data between 5.2 and 38 microns. The aim of these observations is the investigation of the surface composition and thermal structure and the determination of the albedo and diameter of each selected target.