Comets and Space Missions

  • C. P. McKay


The exploration of comets by space missions will require several phases in both the types and complexity of the missions. Initial reconnaissance can be accomplished with flyby missions. More detailed study will require missions that rendezvous with comets, possibly attaching to them, and fly with them through perihelion passage, including a large segment of the orbit, so that changes in comet activity can be studied. Ultimately, a sample of cometary material must be returned to Earth (with due regard for planetary quarantine) for more detailed investigation of the complex organic chemistry in a comet. Missions to several comets will be needed to understand differences between comets, and target choice must reflect the diversity of comets. A particular challenge for comet missions is a rendezvous with a new comet as it enters the planetary region for the first time. The planned Rosetta mission with the surface landers Champollion and Roland promise to greatly expand our knowledge of comets.


Solar System Space Mission Target Choice Perihelion Passage Cometary Material 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

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  • C. P. McKay

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