Astronomical observations from vantage points significantly away from the Earth can give us important and unique insights into a variety of astrophysical questions. A potential future mission to directly sample the interstellar medium (ISM) for launch around 2030 is currently being studied. This mission would offer an outstanding opportunity to perform astrophysical observations throughout and well beyond the solar system. Using new technologies and detectors, an astrophysics instrument for this Interstellar Probe could be made extremely compact and lightweight. The science cases that are unique for such an instrument require only a small, 10 cm-class aperture and passively cooled, off-the-shelf detectors. For studies of the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt dust disk of our solar system, a low spatial resolution FIR camera that shares the telescope focal plane would also be desirable. Recent studies of a CubeSat-class astrophysical mission designed to image interplatnetary dust to the asteroid belt provide a good template for a workable low size, weight and power system. Since a mission to the ISM spanning 50 years would require generations of scientists and engineers to realize, astrophysical measurements during its cruise phase would offer a critical opportunity to generate both high-impact science during the long quiescent periods en route to the ISM, as well as to build and maintain technical expertise in the spacecraft and instruments. Such a mission could be a true flagship of space science, offering an opportunity to demonstrate that different space science disciplines really can collaborate to make a generational vision become a reality.
American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts #233
- Pub Date:
- January 2019