ORLANDO, Dec. 11, 2012 — University of Central Florida astrophysicist Humberto Campins in one of a handful of Americans invited to speak at an international space meeting aimed at showing Europeans why space missions to bring back samples from asteroids are vital to our future.
The two-day meeting in Paris runs Dec. 17-18 at the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French agency responsible for shaping and implementing that government’s space policy in Europe. The CNES organized the event and selected its speakers.
Campins, an international expert on asteroids, led a team of scientists who first discovered water ice and organic molecules on an asteroid in 2010. He also is a member of the NASA team now preparing the OSIRIS-REx mission, which will bring back a sample from a nearby asteroid and is scheduled for launch in 2016. Campins also is a member of the MarcoPolo-R mission, which the European Space Agency has approved for further study. The MarcoPolo-R spacecraft could be launched by 2020-22 to return samples from another asteroid. Campins’ research is also contributing to the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency mission with the same goal in mind.
The purpose of the international workshop in Paris is to discuss the importance of past, current and future missions that involve returning samples to Earth. The raw samples brought back to Earth from asteroids could help scientists understand how the solar system and our planet formed. The information locked away in those samples also could help scientists prepare ways to deflect an asteroid should one ever be found on a collision course with the planet.
“This is a most exciting time in space exploration,” Campins said. “I’m honored to be speaking at this meeting and I believe we can demonstrate the need for missions like MarcoPolo-R and others.”