back to article NASA is sending two small hand-luggage suitcase-sized spacecraft into the void to study binary asteroids

NASA is splashing $55m on a new space mission to send two small camera-carrying spacecraft into the heavens to study a type of an object in our Solar System that has yet to be observed in detail: binary asteroids. Asteroids are typically lone chunks of dirt and rock that travel around larger bodies like the planets or the Sun …

  1. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Andre Norton had an entertaining series about Janus. It wasn't just an Asteroid in her books though :)

    1. bigphil9009

      As did Alastair Reynolds - "Pushing Ice" is a great book about the mysteries of Janus. It's one of my favourite books of his.

  2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Janus

    The name always reminds me of...

    Samantha Janus.

    Pie in the Sky.

    Quite so. Sigh.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Janus

      Conrad Janus?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if its first name is Hugh?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Your bum is soooooo big that it's captured a small asteroid in its orbit...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some asteroids

    Choose to identify as non-binary.

    I'll get my coat...

  5. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Just for curiousity...

    I wonder what the orbital period of the smaller satellite is? The primary isn't terribly large, and is probably not endowed with huge gravity. Even with a close orbit as apparent in the pictures, I'm guessing it's still pretty slow. Anyone knowledgeable in these things?

    Edit: I discovered it has its own Wikipedia page, which lists the secondary period as a tad over 16 hours. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/(175706)_1996_FG3

  6. Little Mouse

    Small hand luggage = 180 Kg?

    I hope it's stowed safely. I wouldn't want one of those in the overhead compartment above my seat.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Small hand luggage = 180 Kg?

      Unless you're going into space with them, as that overhead locker can just as well be described as underfoot once you're in zero G.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Small hand luggage = 180 Kg?

      > I wouldn't want one of those in the overhead compartment above my seat

      From my (limited I admit) experience, it's a common weight for hand luggage on planes...

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        FAIL

        Re: Small hand luggage = 180 Kg?

        Been there, done that...

        Flying Ryanair from Blighty back home to Belgium. Quite late, and didn't want to wait for baggage reclaim. "All" I had in the bag was a change of clothes and a quick trip to Sainsbury's worth of "emergency" supplies - stuff I couldn't get locally. Which in this case was a bunch of drinkable squash to disguise Brussels horrible tap water, jars of peanut butter etc. And inexplicably, 4 Curly Wurly's that I'd been craving - despite the fact that I was living in the land of chocolate to die for

        So as the stewardess goes down the line of passengers, screening us for scumbags who've taken the piss on hand luggage rules, I'm swinging this bag on one finger as if it weighs nothing. Which hurts my finger unsurprisingly.

        And she takes it off me looking apologetic as it's obvious from this that it doesn't weigh anything. And then it plummets to the ground with a loud thud, as my cunning trick has obviously fooled her into thinking it's feather-light - but not enough to actually stop her checking. Curses! Foiled again!

    3. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: Small hand luggage = 180 Kg?

      Doesn't everyone fill their hand luggage with depleted uranium?

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Small hand luggage = 180 Kg?

        That reminds me about the time I sat down in the train between terminals in Dallas, and two bullets rolled out from the seat onto the floor - damn litterbugs.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Small hand luggage = 180 Kg?

        Depleted? Amateurs...

  7. drewsup

    Nice pics in the article

    So wtf are they wasting money sending a probe there? We’re those radar images or Hubble pics or artist rendering, cuz if they are pics, they are pretty damn clear!

    1. Little Mouse

      Re: Nice pics in the article

      They look nice after processing, but the definition isn't that great. In those pics it looks like the larger asteroid is represented by about 15*15 pixels.

      That is just a guess though. Does anyone have any hard data about those images?

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Re: Nice pics in the article

        I think these are models built from the Arecibo/Goldstone imaging of 1996 FG3 using Doppler radar. There are some details and image resolutions given in this paper. There is more detail here.

  8. alain williams Silver badge

    If we can make them this cheap

    who don't we make a dozen and send them into the asteroid belt and just let them wander around ? Who knows what they will come across.

    Yep: good chances that they will bump into something but hopefully will have shown us something interesting before then.

    If NASA can find a bit more loose change then something similar to the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud, not just in the solar plane, might be good -- although they would need a heck of an initial push to get them there in a time that has political payback.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: If we can make them this cheap

      I know in the movies the asteroid belt is a seething mess of rocks. In reality there's about 600,000* miles between each rock.

      * Roughly 2½ times the Earth-Moon distance.

      1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C
        Coat

        That would make the arcade game sooo much easier. And boring.

        Mine's the one with a 35mm film canister of 10p pieces in the pocket...

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: If we can make them this cheap

        Pretty much. Any probe randomly going though the (main) asteroid belt is likely to come across a whole lot of nothing. One is considerably (70x) more likely to win the UK national lottery than to come across anything in the asteroid belt without specifically aiming for it.

        The total mass hanging around the asteroid belt is approximately 524,707,142,857,142,900,000 KiloJubs and roughly 50% of this total mass is to be found in the four largest asteroids: Ceres (6.7 million Linguine in diameter), Vesta, Pallas and Hygiea (each with a diameter of less than 30,000 Osmans). As half of the mass is found in these four this leaves considerably more nothing to aim for.

        An important consideration when planning a probe excursion through the asteroid belt is to time this so it doesn't happen on a Friday afternoon. All odds change significantly then.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: If we can make them this cheap

      Cheaper. The incremental cost of each article is a lot lower than the first one (which has all the prototypes and R&D hours loaded into it)

      There's still the launch costs of course but the "actual hardware cost" of the equipment being launched is usually surprisingly low

      A shotgun approach makes sense from a business point of view but not a national prestige one

    3. 96percentchimp

      Re: If we can make them this cheap

      If it's successful there's every chance they will produce a batch for different missions, but you have to shake down the prototype first.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    55m is *peanuts* by NASA standards.

    Let's see if they can deliver that with LM involved.

    If they can (and that's a very big if) this is excellent work

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I vaguely remember NASA trying cheap spacecraft before.

    I also vaguely remember Mars gained a couple of new craters from it.

  11. phuzz Silver badge

    NASA has given CU Boulder the thumbs up to start the final stage of designing the hardware for the spacecraft.

    Appropriate.

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