Interstellar Now! Missions to Explore Nearby Interstellar Objects

Andreas M. Hein, T. Marshall Eubanks, Manasvi Lingam, Adam Hibberd, Dan Fries, Jean Schneider, Pierre Kervella, Robert Kennedy, Nikolaos Perakis, Bernd Dachwald

Advances in Space Research
Available online 7 July 2021


“The recently discovered first high velocity hyperbolic objects passing through the Solar System, 1I/’Oumuamua and 2I/Borisov, have raised the question about near term missions to Interstellar Objects. In situ spacecraft exploration of these objects will allow the direct determination of both their structure and their chemical and isotopic composition, enabling an entirely new way of studying small bodies from outside our solar system. In this paper, we map various Interstellar Object classes to mission types, demonstrating that missions to a range of Interstellar Object classes are feasible, using existing or near-term technology. We describe flyby, rendezvous and sample return missions to interstellar objects, showing various ways to explore these bodies characterizing their surface, dynamics, structure and composition. Interstellar objects likely formed very far from the solar system in both time and space; their direct exploration will constrain their formation and history, situating them within the dynamical and chemical evolution of the Galaxy. These mission types also provide the opportunity to explore solar system bodies and perform measurements in the far outer solar system.”