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The model also can be used to predict interactions between an asteroid and the spacecraft itself. "One of the reasons we're visiting asteroids is because they are relatively pristine remnants from the formation of the solar system, so they give clues as to how the planets formed and life originated," says Farrell. "However, spacecraft release gases (like water) that ionize, and these spacecraft-emitted ions likely will contaminate the surfaces of the asteroids we want to study. This new asteroid model will allow us to estimate the degree of ion collection and contamination over various regions." Farrell is the Principal Investigator of one of SSERVI's nine teams called the Dynamic Response of the Environment at Asteroids, the Moon, and moons of Mars (DREAM2), which provided a portion of the funding to develop the model.
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