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Dusty Plasma Environments: Near-Surface Characterisation and Modelling

Programme Reference
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Dusty Plasma Environments: Near-Surface Characterisation and Modelling

The NEMS – Near-Earth Exploration Minimum System internal ESA study, conducted at ESA's Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) between March and April 2011 aimed at investigating and reporting on the main trade-offs, system drivers and critical risk areas associated with even the most basic human exploration beyond Earth-Moon system. The (purely theoretical) mission scenario addressed the transfer a crew of 3 astronauts from the Earth to an accessible Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) and their safe return to Earth before 2030. Dust contamination was identified as a major concern.

The present activity was launched under a General Studies Program ESA funding to specify the plasma and dusty environments around solar systems objects including the Moon and asteroids. The final goal was to propose a numerical model of plasma, object and dust interaction able to provide information on dust distributions above these objects of interests.

The work was divided in the estimation of harmful effects for landing missions, review of existing work, development and test of the numerical tool, and finally analysis of gaps and definition of a road map for future activities.

Executive summary