Proximity and slow spin rate are desirable for exploration
The Little Prince, who stood tall on his fictional house-sized asteroid B612, may soon have company. Since President Obama announced last month that NASA plans to send people to an asteroid by 2025 (SN: 5/8/10, p. 10), scientists have been scrambling to fill in the details. Before astronauts can embark on such a journey, they need to choose a destination.
Already, researchers have begun culling the list of potential candidates. Martin Elvis of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., proposed criteria for identifying “potentially visitable objects” on April 28 in Brookline, Mass., at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division on Dynamical Astronomy.
Asteroids come in a menagerie of sizes, shapes and trajectories. Some are little more than giant loose rubble piles, while others are densely packed. Though Obama’s proposal didn’t point to any specific destinations, Elvis says that a w