The Astrobiology Explorer (ABE) is a MIDEX mission concept, currently under Concept Phase A study at NASA's Ames Research Center in collaboration with Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Corp., and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ABE will conduct infrared spectroscopic observations to address important problems in astrobiology, astrochemistry, and astrophysics. The core observational program would make fundamental scientific progress in understanding the distribution, identity, and evolution of ices and organic matter in dense molecular clouds, young forming stellar systems, stellar outflows, the general diffuse ISM, HII regions, Solar System bodies, and external galaxies. The ABE instrument concept includes a 0.6 m aperture Ritchey-Chretien telescope and three moderate resolution (R = 2000-3000) spectrometers together covering the 2.5-20 micron spectral region. Large format (1024 x 1024 pixel) IR detector arrays will allow each spectrometer to cover an entire octave of spectral range per exposure without any moving parts. The telescope will be cooled below 50 K by a cryogenic dewar shielded by a sunshade. The detectors will be cooled to ~7.5 K by a solid hydrogen cryostat. The optimum orbital configuration for achieving the scientific objectives of the ABE mission is a low background, 1 AU Earth driftaway orbit requiring a Delta II launch vehicle. This configuration provides a low thermal background and allows adequate communications bandwidth and good access to the entire sky over the ~1.5 year mission lifetime.
Conference Committee Involvement (1)
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for Astrobiology XIII
3 August 2010 | San Diego, California, United States