The two instruments will most likely be a multi-band CCD imaging camera and a neutron spectrometer. The camera will help navigate the NEAP Spacecraft and provide imaging of the target asteroid, which will supply valuable information about the makeup of the surface of the asteroid. The camera is being designed by Peter Smith who also provided the multi-band cameras for the Mars Pathfinder Sagan Base and Sojourner Rover.
The neutron spectrometer will be similar to the one currently used on Dr. Alan Binder's highly successful Lunar Prospector. Neutron spectrometers search for the possibility of water on or under the surface of a planetary body.
The instrument on the Lunar Prospector has strengthened earlier evidence of large quantities of water ice in shaded lunar craters. The neutron spectrometer will be designed by Dr. Bill Boynton, with possible collaboration by Dr. Bill Feldman of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
"The University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab, under Dr. Mike Drake, is one of the best space science labs in the world", said Jim Benson, chairman and chief executive officer of SpaceDev," and we are very pleased to have an opportunity to work with these fine scientists."
Under the terms of the letter of intent, the two instruments will be provided by the University of Arizona at its own expense and at no cost to SpaceDev. SpaceDev will waive its usual "ride fee" for the University, but will have the right to offer the data gathered from the instruments for sale at the company's published prices. The University will receive a percentage on such sales, if any.
"I greatly admire Mike and his colleagues at the University of Arizona for their entrepreneurial spirit. There is no guarantee that the data from these instruments will be sold, but with such top notch practitioners as Bill Boynton and Peter Smith, we know the instruments and the return data will be of the highest possible quality," said Benson.
There are over 50 chemically distinct types of asteroids, and less than 600 out of an estimated 100,000 near earth asteroids have been discovered. Less than 60 of those have been analyzed from earth-bound instruments and only three have been photographed up close. The camera and neutron spectrometer would potentially provide unique and valuable scientific information about these mysterious and unknown neighbors of Earth.
If water is located in space, it is potentially very valuable because, not only is water the basis of life, it is viewed by many as the most likely source of concentrated energy in space. The simple electrolysis of water results in hydrogen and oxygen, the most chemically powerful rocket fuel.
SpaceDev, the world's first commercial space exploration and development company, intends to launch the first private mission to leave Earth's orbit with its NEAP spacecraft. SpaceDev intends to land on other planetary bodies and assess the chemical and physical makeups.
SpaceDev is selling commercial rides for scientific instruments to governments and companies to transport their instruments and experiments through deep space to near Earth asteroid 4660 Nereus. SpaceDev intends to sell the scientific data acquired by its own instruments as commercial products. Colorado-based SpaceDev has offices in San Diego and Washington, D.C.
NEAR Reports At SpaceDaily
Asteroid and Other Debris at Spacer.Com