DPS 2001 meeting, November 2001
Session 57. Future Missions and Instruments posters
Displayed, 9:00am Tuesday - 3:00pm Saturday, Highlighted, Saturday, December 1, 2001, 2:00-2:30pm, French Market Exhibit Hall

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[57.09] Using ANTS to explore small body populations in the solar system.

P.E. Clark (Catholic University of America), M. Rilee (Emergent IT), W. Truszkowski, S. Curtis, G. Marr (NASA/GSFC), C. Chapman (Southwest Research Institute)

ANTS (Autonomous Nano-Technology Swarm), a NASA advanced mission concept, is a large (100 to 1000 member) swarm of pico-class (1 kg) totally autonomous spacecraft that prospect the asteroid belt. Little data is available for asteroids because the vast majority are too small to be observed except in close proximity. Light curves are available for thousands of asteroids, confirmed trajectories for tens of thousands, detailed shape models for approximately ten. Asteroids originated in the transitional region between the inner (rocky) and outer (solidified gases) solar system. Many have remained largely unmodified since formation, and thus have more primitive composition than planetary surfaces. Determination of the systematic distribution of physical and compositional properties within the asteroid population is crucial in the understanding of solar system formation. The traditional exploration approach of using few, large spacecraft for sequential exploration, could be improved. Our far more cost-effective approach utilizes distributed intelligence in a swarm of tiny highly maneuverable spacecraft, each with specialized instrument capability (e.g., advanced computing, imaging, spectrometry). NASA is at the forefront of Intelligent Software Agents (ISAs) research, performing experiments in space and on the ground to advance deliberative and collaborative autonomous control techniques. The advanced development under consideration here is in the use of ISAs at a strategic level, to explore remote frontiers of the solar system, potentially involving a large class of objects such as asteroids. Supervised clusters of spacecraft operate simultaneously within a broadly defined framework of goals to select targets (> 1000) from among available candidates while developing scenarios for studying targets. Swarm members use solar sails to fly directly to asteroids > 1 kilometer in diameter, and then perform maneuvers appropriate for the instrument carried, ranging from hovering to orbiting. Selected members return with data and are replaced as needed.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://ants.gsfc.nasa.gov. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

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