NASA to Capture Asteroid
NASA has announced plans for a project to launch a solar powered unmanned spaceship with the intention of landing it on an asteroid. The $1.25 billion mission, planned for December 2020, is viewed as a stepping stone to the first manned mission to Mars.
To boldly go …
The spaceship would spend a year orbiting the asteroid with the intention of removing a 4 metre boulder from its surface using robotic arms. NASA’s associate administrator, Robert Lightfoot, estimates that there would be just a handful of chances to grab the rock.
Once the lump of space rock has been captured, it would be hauled into the moon’s orbit and ‘parked’ there. In 2025 a giant rocket ship together with the Orion crew capsule would fly out to the smaller rock. The rocket ship, which is still under development, would dock with the robotic ship. The two-man crew would then carry out space walks on the rock to inspect and document it before returning to Earth with a sample.
Mr Lightfoot explained that this mission would demonstrate the capabilities that we will need if we are to explore beyond Earth’s low orbit and ultimately make it to Mars.
The intended target for the ambitious mission is a 1,300 foot-wide space rock called 2008 EV5. Two other rocks are also under consideration: Bennu and Itokawa.
NASA favoured this plan over another suggestions to try to lasso or capture a whole asteroid using a huge bag, and drag it near to the moon. The final plan was chosen as it will test out technologies that will be required when we finally make the journey to another planet. A number of years ago, NASA proposed a mission in which astronauts would actually journey to an asteroid and then land on it. This plan was shelved in favour of drawing the asteroid closer to the Earth.
Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)
The ARM project will also be used to test out new spacesuits designed for use in deep space, and could even provide information that will help companies exploring the idea of mining asteroids for precious metals. The mission will also help to explore ‘planetary defence techniques’ which could enable us to develop ways of moving threatening space rocks away from the Earth.
This latest project is exciting for many different reasons. It could pave the way for future manned missions to other planets or even solar systems, and could even remove the threat of a catastrophic asteroid impact on the Earth. Looks like we won’t be needing Bruce Willis after all!
Image source: mirror.co.uk
About Alison Page
Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at http://www.theladywriter.co.uk