PerspectivePlanetary Science

Nothing Simple About Asteroids

Science  26 Nov 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5701, pp. 1489-1492
DOI: 10.1126/science.1106674

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Despite a decade of focused asteroid exploration and valiant theoretical attempts, no major question regarding asteroid geophysics and chemistry has been resolved. Scientists have yet to peek beneath the surfaces of asteroids, and imaging and spectrometry can only say so much. In his Perspective, Asphaug highlights new efforts in the science of asteroid seismology, including the report by Richardson et al., that point toward a new era of asteroid exploration where radar sounders, seismometers, and other probes tell us what asteroids are, how they formed, and how they behave mechanically. As a precursor to subsurface probes, the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa aims to conduct the first direct measurements of asteroid surface properties next summer, deploying a tiny robot and bringing a sample home.