Carnival of Space 639 – 75 Temporary Moons Should Be Detected Over the Next Ten Years

The Carnival of Space 639 is up at Urban Astronomer.

Universe Today – The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Could Find More of Earth’s Transient Moons.

Earth also has a population of what are known as “transient Moons”. These are a subset of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that are temporarily scooped up by Earth’s gravity and assume orbits around our planet.

According to a new study by a team of Finish and American astronomers, these temporarily-captured orbiters (TCOs) could be studied with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) in Chile – which is expected to become operational by 2020. By examining these objects with the next-generation telescope, the study’s authors argue that we stand to learn a great deal about NEOs and even begin conducting missions to them.

Icarus – Discovering Earth’s transient moons with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope

Earth’s temporarily-captured orbiters (TCOs) are a sub-population of near-Earth objects (NEOs). TCOs can provide constraints for NEO population models in the 1–10-metre-diameter range, and they are outstanding targets for in situ exploration of asteroids due to a low requirement on . So far there has only been a single serendipitous discovery of a TCO. Researchers assessed in detail the possibility of their discovery with the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), previously identified as the primary facility for such discoveries. They simulated observations of TCOs by combining a synthetic TCO population with an LSST survey simulation. They then assessed the detection rates, detection linking and orbit computation, and sources for confusion.

TCOs are challenging objects even for an advanced system such as LSST.

These objects are an appealing target for research and rendezvous with spacecraft – either in the form of CubeSat-sized missions or larger spacecraft that could conduct sample-return missions.

They expect to find a TCO on average once every two or three months, resulting in the order of 75 objects during the nominal ten-year operation period of LSST.

Universe Today – If Astronauts Hibernated on Long Journeys, They’d Need Smaller Spacecraft.

The ESA says they’ve “identified the controlled use of torpor & hibernation as a game-changing technology for human spaceflight.” They also speculate that lowering the metabolic rate of astronauts on long space journeys could not only conserve air, water, and food, but also lower their susceptibility to radiation damage.

The preliminary study showed that the mass of the spacecraft could be reduced by one third. The crew would hibernate in small pods that would double as cabins for the crew while awake. The removal of consumables would help by eliminating several tons of mass.

If we were able to reduce an astronaut’s basic metabolic rate by 75% – similar to what we can observe in nature with large hibernating animals such as certain bears – we could end up with substantial mass and cost savings, making long-duration exploration missions more feasible.

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10 thoughts on “Carnival of Space 639 – 75 Temporary Moons Should Be Detected Over the Next Ten Years”

  1. Sound like good prospects for robotic mining. It would almost have to be easier to move the orbit on one of those things, or on the materials extracted from it, than go all the way to the asteroid belt.

    So far as hibernating astronauts needing smaller space craft? Substantially smaller? I doubt it, at least not so much as they might not require recycling systems to be as efficient. Anything carrying human tissue for very long outside the Earth’s electromagnetic shield is going to require massive amounts of shielding, most likely in the form of ice, several meters thick.

    Let’s face it, despite the huge rooms we see on the starship Enterprise, or even in The Martian (did you see how much wasted space there was in their workout room alone?). Barring some fabulous new energy sources, the interiors of spaceships are far more likely to resemble the insides of small attack submarines. I’ve been in some of these subs; don’t try it if you are the least bit claustrophobic.

    Also, unless they are going to an already established facility, they are going to need living space and workshops and laboratories when they get there. Perhaps as an emergency option for returning to Earth, spacecraft might be built with the ability to jettison large portions of the ship (labs and workshops and such) and place survivors into suspended animation.

  2. Yes, but that is universal. I read as “comparable”, quite inaccurately. I wonder if they can find TCOs that are *small* enuf to just grab with a Starship, rather than visit and dig from? There should be more the smaller they are. Quite exciting!

  3. And the reason I was looking that up was to see why the article was talking about hibernation. If a moon is 4.5M km away, an mission would take weeks.

  4. Learned something new following up on this:

    The Hill Radius – how far away a smaller body can stay in orbit around a planet (or other larger object that in turn orbits an even larger object such as a star).

    Earth’s HR is about 0.01 AU, or about 1.5M km.
    Transient moons can be out to ~3 HR, or about 4.5M km for Earth.

  5. A few rockets strategically placed on a TCO could make it a permanent mini-moon, if it’s not too large. With some luck, some TCOs may have compositions complementary to Lunar minerals. That would allow both Lunar and asteroid mining without leaving cislunar space.


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