Marco Polo-R mission is a currently proposed ESA mission with the main goal of returning samples from a primitive asteroid. By obtaining materials from 1996FG3, a pristine binary asteroid that exhibits deep water absorption bands in IR spectra, we expect to gain insight on many key issues on the role that these asteroids had in terrestrial planets' evolution. Nowadays we know that some groups of carbonaceous chondrites accreted with significant organic and water content, but these meteorites arrived to Earth surface were biased towards the highest strength ones. Consequently, we really don't know how representative are of the volatile content of pristine asteroids. In this sense, we are still far to understand how aqueous alteration participated in the catalysis of organic compounds: was a prebiotic chemistry on work in undifferentiated bodies before the formation of Earth?. Marco Polo-R mission will assess which is the amount of carbon and water present in a primitive NEO, being also able to answer these important questions on the amount, and complexity of organics and water delivered to early Earth. All these topics are relevant for astrobiology and planetary sciences communities, so we encourage people to participate in this interdisciplinary meeting. Scientific discussions, and results will be crucial to write the Marco Polo-R yellow book before the final decision to be taken by the European Space Agency (ESA) and set the main scientific goals, and questions to be answered. The scientific program can be found together with the 2ond Announcement.
The high international interest for sample return missions to primitive asteroids is demonstrated by their recent selections by leading space agencies. NASA selected the OSIRIS-REx mission in spring 2011 in the New Frontiers program for launch in 2016 and a return from the B-type NEA (101955) 1999RQ36 to Earth in 2023. The Hayabusa 2 mission is now in phase B at JAXA for launch in 2014 and a return from the C-type NEA (162173) 1999JU3 to Earth in 2020. Both missions will allow us to improve greatly our knowledge of the material composing primitive asteroids. However, it is important that several such missions are sent to different objects using different sampling approaches in order to eventually achieve a comprehensive knowledge of primitive materials. The main goal of the MarcoPolo-R mission is to contribute to the knowledge of primitive material by returning unaltered material from a primitive NEA for detailed analysis in ground-based laboratories, offering to Europe the possibility to play a crucial role in those fundamental advances. Moreover, MarcoPolo-R will have unique science values thanks to the choice of a binary object of very primitive nature as its baseline target.
This meeting is organized by the Institute of Space Sciences (www.ice.cat, CSIC) and the Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (www.ieec.cat, IEEC) with the collaboration of the Scientific Secretariat of the Institute for Catalan Studies (www.iec.cat, IEC).
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