As the exploration of the solar system progresses, some scientists are considering missions to often overlooked worlds. One of these is Ceres, the smallest known dwarf planet which lies within the asteroid belt.
Investigations have shown that Ceres is an excellent target for exploration and may even have astrobiological significance.
Joël Poncy is in charge of interplanetary advanced projects within the Observation and Science Directorate of Thales Alenia Space, a European company that works on satellite systems and other orbital infrastructures. This organization has been involved in many scientific missions, including the Huygens probe, CoRoT, ExoMars, Mars Express and Venus Express. Poncy and his team, in association with Olivier Grasset and Gabriel Tobie from LPG-Nantes, now have turned their eyes to Ceres.
Ceres Polar Lander
Preliminary plans for a Ceres Polar Lander are currently being drawn up. The idea is to build a low-cost mission using reliable existing technology to complement other larger missions, while benefiting from NASA's Dawn mission results. Assuming launch by a Soyuz rocket, the spacecraft would take around four years to reach Ceres. It would then enter orbit before attempting a landing.
Poncy adds that "the lander would separate from the carrier, brake, land close to the target site while automatically avoiding boulders and permanent shadows. We would then perform an analysis similar that that of NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander of the surrounding soil and release a mini-rover to explore further. Astrobiological experiments similar to ExoMars can be envisaged."
huh. I wonder if I could convince them to write a letter of intent wrt buying a Team Phoenicia space-hardened lander. hrm.