Skip to Main Content
Asteroids are remnants of the material from which the Solar System formed. Fragments of asteroids, in the form of meteorites, include samples of the first solid matter to form in our Solar System 4.5 Myrs ago. Spectroscopic studies of asteroids show that they, like the meteorites, range from very primitive objects to highly evolved small Earth-like planets that differentiated into core, mantle and crust. The asteroid belt displays systematic variations in abundance of asteroid types from the more evolved types in the inner belt to the more primitive objects in the outer reaches of the belt thus bridging the gap between the inner evolved apart of the Solar System and the outer primitive part of the Solar System. High-speed collisions between asteroids are gradually resulting in their break-up. The size distribution of kilometer-sized asteroids implies that the presently undetected population of sub-kilometer asteroids far outnumber the known larger objects. Sub-kilometer asteroids are expected to provide unique insight into the evolution of the asteroid belt and to the meteorite-asteroid connection. We propose a space mission to detect and characterize sub-kilometer asteroids between Jupiter and Venus. The mission is named Bering after the famous navigator and explorer Vitus Bering. A key feature of the mission is an advanced payload package, providing full on board autonomy of both object detection and tracking, which is required in order to study fast moving objects in deep space. The autonomy has the added advantage of reducing the cost of running the mission to a minimum, thus enabling science to focus on the main objectives.