[meteorite-list] A Mission to Sedna Could Really Answer Big Questions

From: Francis Graham <francisgraham_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:32:55 2004
Message-ID: <20040328151458.33024.qmail_at_web40106.mail.yahoo.com>

    Call it planet or planetoid, red Sedna has an
orbit that extends out into the farthest reaches of
our solar system, and the Inner Oort Cloud and inner
reaches of interstellar space. As such, it carries
with it a sample of the environment in the Oort cloud
and near interstellar space, which, by virtue of the
slow speed near the aphelion of the Keplerian ellipse,
 it spends most of its time. Thus a lander or rover to
it could be just as scientifically valuable as a
mission would be to any of the official planets.
     1. Sedna’s surface shows the effects of the Oort
comet cloud and near interstellar space.
     2. Cosmic ray penetration of the surface rocks
and ices of Sedna would allow us to know the cosmic
ray environment at those distances.
     3. Same with micrometeor microcraters.
     4. Cratering and other phenomenon, and crater
counts, and histograms, would show us the impact
history of the Oort region.
    4. Its red color may be to acquisition of organic
molecules or other materials in the Oort Cloud region.
Some (Wickramisinge and Hoyle--and others--) suggested
such organics originated from the Oort clouds, and
they are in many other interstellar clouds. Like
Iapetus, Sedna could have "scooped" up material on its
surface, as it moves at low velocity near aphelion. It
would be VERY NICE to send a little X-ray fluorescence
spec to Sedna.
    5. If there were past close encounters of our
solar system with a brown dwarf or a red dwarf star,
as has been suggested, icy Sedna would have a
melted-resolidified surface layer, the depth and
extent of which would be invaluable for retracing that
6. Sedna’s 10K year returns to the “inner” outer solar
system may allow it to sample debris from early solar
system processes, such as the disruption of the
Uranian system, without loss processes that would have
obliterated such debris.
   A probe to Sedna could be readied using Pluto
Express technology, it would seem. Because at 80 AU it
is almost 4 times more distant than Pluto, it will
take decades to arrive.
   To deal with this fact, Sedna science teams might
be selected for training in planetary science while
yet in high school, and directed into college programs
in planetary science, with scholarships with
post-graduate commitments (some medical and ROTC
scholarships have such commitments) . By the time it
reaches Sedna the planetary scientists thus trained
would be at the peak of their experience at arrival,
and would have planned for the mission all their
   This idea of starting high school students to be
planetologists on the Sedna mission also would test
the paradigm of a life-long commitment to a mission,
which was accidentally experienced by some mission
people associated with Galileo (which was numerous
times delayed), but instead with a systematic career
plan. Experience gained in such a program would be
useful for later mission teams of interstellar probes,
which may even have to be trans-generational.
   There is another reason for a dedicated
scholarship-activited cadre of mission specialists for
such a long-term mission. When Mariner 10 Mercury data
was re-examined 15 years later, the people that did it
had a hard time finding software and hardware to run
the old magnetic tape reels. Any "Pluto Express"
mission to Sedna will use the latest computer, which,
upon its arrival, will be as outdated as a 1957
Bourroughs mechanical adding machine is today. Picking
planetologists up from the situations wanted posts
would not get the kind of ongoing dedicated knowledge
needed in 2040, when the probe might finally arrive.
  Kent State University's regional campuses could
provide the 1st two years foundations in physics,
mathematics, chemistry and geology by the way :}

Francis Graham

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Received on Sun 28 Mar 2004 10:14:58 AM PST

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