A recently proposed space mission called Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return (CAESAR) can greatly expand our understanding of the origin and history of Comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko. If this mission is selected by NASA, it will deliver a sample of material from the surface of the comet for further study on Earth.
Mission CAESAR (“CAESAR”) is one of two projects that have reached the final of the competition under the NASA New Frontiers program. This project will receive funding until the end of 2018 for the further development of its conceptual framework. The decision on whether the financing of this project will be continued will be taken by the agency in the spring of 2019.
The CAESAR probe will be equipped with an electric rocket engine, and from the scientific equipment it will be installed systems for collecting and storing solid samples, as well as a gas storage system. The last element of the scientific equipment will be a camera intended for selecting the sampling site and shooting the material selection process.
After the completion of the selection of solid and gaseous samples of the comet’s material, the apparatus will return to Earth. In total within the CASEAR mission it is planned to select about 100 g of solid material – for comparison, the previous mission to select and return to Earth solid samples from the surface of a comet called Stardust delivered only 1 milligram of cometary dust for laboratory studies.