University of Central Florida asteroid expert Humberto Campins has been selected to help prepare a one-of-a-kind mission. The mission is unique because it aims to bring back to Earth a sample of a primitive, organic-rich asteroid that is not found in any meteorite collection.
This asteroid formed somewhere between Mars and Jupiter; however, its current orbit brings it relatively close to Earth (sometimes almost as close as our moon). This proximity to Earth makes it more accessible for a spacecraft visit.
The OSIRIS-REx mission, led by researchers at the University of Arizona at Tucson, is one of three finalists for NASA’s next space mission under the New Frontiers program. The team has already received $3.3 million to complete a 12-month mission study plan. NASA then will determine which of the three projects it will ultimately fund for flight sometime in 2016.
Campins, a UCF professor who has partnered with scientists around the world and is well known for his expertise in asteroids, is no stranger to space missions. Most recently, he worked with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
The Orlando resident also is a member of the Marco Polo mission funded by the European Space Agency, which is exploring what asteroids can reveal about the birth of the solar system.
Last year, Campins announced exciting findings regarding the presence of ice water on an asteroid that received international media attention. And recently Campins published a study about an asteroid similar to the one the OSIRIS-REx team has identified as a target for the upcoming NASA mission.
A detailed knowledge of an asteroid’s surface, including whether it includes dust or rocks, “could tell us a lot about how the solar system was formed and what that means for our future,” Campins said.
Campins holds degrees from the University of Kansas and the University of Arizona. He joined UCF in 2002 as the Provost Research Professor of Physics and Astronomy and head of the Planetary and Space Science Group.
He worked for nearly five years at the world-known Planetary Science Institute in Tucson. He also has served as a professor at the University of Florida and as an adjunct faculty member at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona in Tucson. He is a former director of the Florida Space Grant Consortium