Human Missions to Near-Earth Objects: Examining Enabling Science Instruments and Mission Technologies Conference Paper uri icon


  • Through a collaboration of the two universities, senior capstone design classes in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland and Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University have spent the last year developing an in-depth analysis of human exploration missions to near-Earth objects. This has included both the design of vehicles and support systems, as well as instruments for scientific investigation upon arrival and approaches for human and robotic geological exploration in the microgravity environment. The engineering design study focused on the spacecraft and in-space propulsion systems required for the mission, starting from a requirement to base all Earth launches on the use of existing expendable launch vehicles. The baseline mission developed supports a human crew of three for up to six months in space, to allow travel to and from the NEO and extended science exploration activities while there. Three specific aspects of this mission were singled out for more detailed examination, including the development of hardware prototypes for the flight systems required. These systems included a small (25-kg class) robotic maneuvering vehicle, with interchangeable science mission kits for carrying out remote exploration of the body under control by the local astronauts. The second technology was the development and testing of a full-scale inflatable habitat module, which allows for more habitable volume throughout the trip, and permits the adoption of a minimal-sized core spacecraft dedicated to the launch and entry phases of the mission. The third detailed research area was the development of necessary techniques for human field geology in the microgravity environment. This paper summarizes the extensive documentation of this mission developed by the design teams, and includes results of the hardware development and testing phases of the program. 2011 by University of Maryland and Arizona State University. Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.

name of conference

  • AIAA SPACE 2011 Conference & Exposition

published proceedings

  • AIAA SPACE 2011 Conference & Exposition

author list (cited authors)

  • Akin, D., Saripalli, S., Bowden, M., & Hodges, K.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Akin, David||Saripalli, Srikanth||Bowden, Mary||Hodges, Kip

publication date

  • September 2011