Professor Daniel Scheeres, University of Colorado

The Future of Asteroid Exploration and the Osiris-rex Mission
April 4, 2019


On Dec. 3, 2019, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made a rendezvous with the Near-Earth Asteroid (101955) Bennu. The main goal of the OSIRIS-REx mission is to collect samples from this primitive body and return them to Earth. Supporting scientific goals are to fully explore that asteroid’s physical and geophysical environment. The mission marks an important step in the continued robotic exploration of asteroids, a larger endeavor motivated by the scientific study and exploration of the solar system and the protection of society against future hazardous asteroid impactors. To carry out such endeavors involves significant challenges for the dynamics and control of spacecraft. For example, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at Bennu will implement an entirely new approach to orbital mechanics in the asteroid environment. The successful implementation of these close proximity operations will usher in a new capability for the exploration of these bodies, albeit one requiring significant interactions with the ground operations team. To enable more frequent future missions there is strong interest to better understand and migrate key operations on-board the spacecraft where they can be executed autonomously. This is a topic of specific interest for NASA. This talk will discuss the technical challenges and state of the art of spacecraft operations in the asteroid environment. It will also give an overview of the OSIRIS-REx mission and discuss the extreme and exciting orbital dynamics environment in which that spacecraft will operate. It will also discuss future areas of research that are motivated by this mission in pursuit of autonomous operations about these bodies.


Professor Daniel Scheeres

The Member of the National Academy of Engineering and fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Astronautical Society 

The University of Colorado distinguished professor and is the A. Richard Seebass Endowed Chair Professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences. He currently leads the radio science experiment on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Prior to this he held faculty positions in aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan and Iowa State University and was a senior member of the technical staff in the navigation systems section at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was awarded his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in 1987, 1988, and 1997, respectively, in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan, and holds a bachelor’s in letters and engineering from Calvin College in 1985. Scheeres is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Astronautical Society. He was awarded the Dirk Brouwer Award from the American Astronautical Society in 2013 and gave the John Breakwell Lecture at the 2011 International Astronautical Congress. Asteroid 8887 is named “Scheeres” in recognition of his contributions to the scientific understanding of the dynamical environment of asteroids.