How to make landing on an asteroid safer

Now the number of unsuccessful landings on asteroids exceeds the number of successful ones. One of the main reasons for this is the inhomogeneous gravitational field of these bodies, which is difficult to take into account. However, scientists have found a solution to this problem based on artificial intelligence.

Asteroid landing. Source:

Asteroid landings

Chinese scientists from the Harbin Institute of Technology recently published an article on the problems of landing spacecraft on asteroids. There have been several of them in recent years, and only some of them can be called at least partially successful. An example here is the history of the Philae spacecraft. It did not land very successfully on the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.

The fact is that landings can be hard or soft. The latter are those in which the spacecraft does not damage the asteroid, does not collapse itself, and does not bounce like a ball. Absolutely all landings on small celestial bodies were hard, despite the fact that they were not generally thought of as such.

The main reason for this is the inhomogeneous gravity of asteroids. No matter how small it is, it must be taken into account, and these bodies have a mass distribution that is very different from what we know from the Earth or the Moon. As a result, it is extremely difficult to ensure the minimum landing speed of the spacecraft on them.

How to calculate non-spherical gravity

The problem of non-spherical gravity has long occupied the thoughts of astronomers. A new article is devoted to its calculations. First, the authors point out that one of the ways to do this is to represent asteroids in the form of polyhedra, more or less corresponding to their real shape. 

In this case, the force of attraction is determined for each individual face. This method gives fairly accurate results, but it is cumbersome. A very low-power computer on board the spacecraft simply will not be able to use it in real time.

Therefore, scientists have proposed another solution. It uses a number of advances in artificial intelligence to accurately simulate the gravitational field based on data collected during various asteroid exploration missions and uses them to simulate probable gravitational fields on a new target celestial body while using the computing power of the probe.

According to

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