Lassonde prof. Mike Daly takes aim at an asteroid
Lassonde professor Mike Daly is participating in the first international mission to return a sample from an asteroid to Earth. The asteroid Bennu may one day impact Earth.
Professor Daly developed the concept and led the development of a laser rangefinder OLA, the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter, that will map the surface and create a 3D model of the asteroid Bennu during a NASA mission launching in 2016.
OSIRIS-REx is a NASA-led mission that scientists hope will not only tell us more about the early history of the solar system but will also inform us how to divert objects on a collision course with Earth.
“From a science perspective, we need to understand the current state and the evolution of the asteroid,” said Mike Daly. “The sample will provide a snapshot of materials available during the formation of the solar system.”
OLA, funded by Canadian Space Agency, has important implications for the OSIRIS-REx mission. It will provide information on the overall size and shape of the asteroid. The laser rangefinder will also help guide the spacecraft when it nears capturing a sample.
For its contribution to the mission, Canada will get a portion of the sample. This will provide scientists with first-ever access to a pure asteroid sample for further study.
Bennu, which is about 500 metres in diameter, is of particular interest because it is one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids with a small chance of colliding with Earth in the 22nd century.