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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Private Probe Proposed to Gather Asteroid Data
9 September 1997 8:00 pm
A small company unveiled plans today to launch the first private spacecraft to leave Earth's orbit, on a mission to visit a nearby asteroid. A team of University of California, San Diego, students are working on the design of the Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP), which would be launched in 1999, says Jim Bensen, chair of Colorado-based SpaceDev. The company hopes to turn a profit on the sale of data from the target asteroid, which will be chosen later and depends on the exact launch date.
Bensen is betting that his company can build and launch the spacecraft for under $50 million--a fraction of the cost of a typical NASA space science mission--and offer the resulting data to government agencies for less than a government mission would cost. NEAP would carry a camera, a proton spectrometer to determine the composition of the asteroid's surface, and a neutron spectrometer that could detect the presence of hydrogen.
The ultimate goal of the company, he adds, is to mine nearby asteroids for precious metals and ancient comets for hydrogen and oxygen. These elements could be ferried to a low-Earth orbit and turned into materials and propellant for other missions. SpaceDev has raised nearly all of the money needed to build the spacecraft from private investors, but Bensen declined to identify them.