What do you get when you cross an asteroid and a comet? A centaur! Centaurs don’t have a formal definition, but as a class of planetary bodies, they tend to orbit between 5-30 AU and often fit this description. Centaurs are also the only major class of planetary body which humanity has never sent a spacecraft to. Last summer, Harrison Smith, eLIFE grad student, was a part of a team of scientists and engineers at JPL that created a mission concept to visit one of these unexplored objects. A paper by the team detailing this mission concept was recently accepted to the journal Planetary and Space Science, and can be viewed by clicking this link.
Sara Imari Walker