Tony Spear was responsible for the highly successful and popular Mars Pathfinder mission which last summer put the lander and Sojourner rover on Mars to analyze the soil, rocks and atmosphere.
The Mars Pathfinder was the least expensive mission of its kinds and a bold departure from the traditional size and expense of such missions. Mr. Spear's job for SpaceDev is to use the same out of the box thinking to design an optimal mission and a minimum cost spacecraft for NEAP. Study results are expected in early July 1998.
James Benson, President and CEO of SpaceDev said "I am excited about Tony and his dream team analyzing the feasibility of re-targeting NEAP to a new and better target, asteroid Nereus. This is a wonderful and important possibility because Nereus will fly by quite close to earth just before the rendezvous opportunity, only .029 AU away. If we go to Nereus, a type C asteroid, it will be the first time that close-up ground based instrument findings can be correlated with instruments flown to and dropped onto an asteroid."
NEAP will be the world's first commercial deep space science mission, and will fly instruments from science teams, which have purchased insured rides on the unmanned NEAP spacecraft.
In early 2002, Nereus will fly by very close to Earth, less than three million miles away, only ten times the distance to the moon. A few months later will be the best time to rendezvous with Nereus. No other probe has ever rendezvoused with a carbonaceous asteroid.
Benson added "It is of the utmost importance that we go to near earth asteroids to examine and understand them. They are both incredibly dangerous and incredibly valuable, but at this time no one has a clue how to deal with them. SpaceDev is the first to do something practical about asteroids."
Carbonaceous asteroids are believed to contain water, iron, carbon, aluminum, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and a variety of other potentially valuable resources. Iron content varies from 6 to 23 percent, and some are believed to contain up to 20 percent water. NEAP will look for water with its neutron spectrometer, similar to that on Alan Binder's Lunar Prospector, which confirmed the presence of water on the moon. Dr. Binder is on the board of directors for SpaceDev. Nereus, about .6 miles in diameter, is estimated to contain resources with a street value of over $1 trillion.
NEAP is recognized by NASA as a "Mission of Opportunity" for both the Discovery and MIDEX programs. To date, seven teams of scientists have notified NASA of their intent to seek funding from NASA to purchase rides for their instruments on the NEAP mission.
SpaceDev intends to hold a press conference in Washington, DC in early July to release and describe the results of the Spear NEAP mission study.
SpaceDev, the world's first commercial space exploration company, intends to launch the first privately financed spacecraft to assess and to land on a near earth asteroid. SpaceDev is selling rides for scientific instruments to governments and companies to transport their instruments and experiments through deep space to another planetary body. SpaceDev intends to sell the scientific data acquired by its instruments as commercial products. Colorado-based SpaceDev has offices in San Diego, CA and Washington, D.C.