There have been a number of missions involving
probes sent to study asteroids.
In addition, you
may want to check out
AeroSpaceGuide. This site has some interesting
facts as well as mission summaries. There is also a
While not a
dedicated probe for studying asteroids, the
Galileo probe encountered three asteroids on its
Jupiter. The first encounter was with 951 Gaspra, the second with 243 Ida and third was
Dactyl. Galileo discovered, by surprise, that Dactyl
is actually a satellite of 243 Ida.
NEAR Shoemaker probe was the first probe
dedicated to the study of an asteroid. Launched in
1996, the probe encountered 253 Mathilda in June of
1997. 433 Eros was encountered in December of 1999
and a return to 433 Eros resulted in a successful
landing on February 12, 2001.
Deep Space 1 probes was designed to visit a
comet and an asteroid. Launched in 1998, the probe
reached its asteroid target, 9969 Braille, in July
Stardust mission is a sample return probe that
will return samples of particles from comet Wild 2.
To test the probes onboard systems, Stardust was
aimed at asteroid Annefrank on November 2, 2002
while on its way to the target comet.
The only current asteroid mission is
the Japanese probes
Hayabusa. This is a sample return mission that
was launched in May of 2003. Rendezvous with its
target Itokawa is expected to be in October of 2005.
The probe is expected back on
Earth in June of 2007.
NASA's Dawn project is expected
for a May 2006 launch. While still in its planning
stages, the probe will orbit two of the larger
asteroids Ceres and Vesta. The purpose of the
mission is to determine the environments during our
Solar System's formation: Ceres was cooled by water
during formation while Vestas' formation was more
"hot and violent."
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