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2009 Annual Science Report

University of Hawaii, Manoa Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

MBC Mission Development

Project Summary

The distribution of water and volatiles in our solar system may be a primary determinant of solar system habitability. Main Belt Comets (MBCs), a newly discovered class of volatile-containing objects in the asteroid belt, present a sub-class of particular significance both to the water history, and to the history of other important volatiles in our solar system. As comets in near-circular orbits within the asteroid belt, these objects may harbor water condensed and frozen out from the primordial ‘snow line’ of the young solar system. Studying MBC water and volatile inventory will advance our understanding of both the origin of Earth’s ocean and of volatile inventories throughout the Solar System. The UH NAI team is developing a concept for a Discovery class mission to study the Main Belt Comets.

4 Institutions
3 Teams
1 Publication
0 Field Sites
Field Sites

Project Progress

We have been developing a Discovery mission concept that will advance our understanding of the origin an evolution of habitable planets and how habitable environments were created. Specifically we are addressing the issue of where habitable worlds get their volatile materials. The mission concept we are developing will involve an in-situ exploration of a member of a new class of volatile-containing bodies in the solar system: the Main Belt Comets. The result of the mission will be a new insight into the distribution of volatiles in the early stages of planet formation. During this period we developed specific measurement criteria that were drivers for instrument specifications and capabilities for the mission and worked out all the issues necessary to select an industry partner for spacecraft development. The mission baseline measurement criterial have been developed in the context of a vigorous program of MBC physical characterization, dynamical and thermal modeling.

Mission concept illustration – water in the solar system and its importance for habitable worlds.