Saturday 20 December 2014

Will NASA Pull Off a Piece of an Asteroid

NASA’s Plan – Asteroid Redirect Mission

NASA has plans on Asteroid Redirect Mission, to snatch an asteroid out of space and send it in lunar orbit for study and recently the agency announced when its first phase of the operation would begin, the spacecraft would be launched in 2019.

NASA has indicated that it needs more information before plunging into the signature space mission. Examining an asteroid from space which does not change over a period of time could provide the scientist with some understanding about the earliest stages of the universe and if all goes well, NASA would pick out an asteroid in 2018 and send up the spacecraft in 2019, either by attaching it to a small asteroid or use it to chip off a piece of a large asteroid. Thereafter it would send both the asteroid- grabbing machine and asteroid to travel around the moon.

A crew of astronauts would be following the rock somewhere in 2020 for hooking the spacecraft and mining the 32 meter asteroid with regards to information on cosmic past. The final design for the craft is yet to be shaped with NASA accepting ideas and has released some sketches on how it would look.

Progress on the Orion Spacecraft

In the meanwhile NASA is also progressing on the Orion spacecraft, with the crew that will go up with it and has another asteroid program in the pipeline, a plan to launch a robot into space in 2016 to have it latched onto an asteroid and return back with samples by itself in 2023.

NASA Associate Administrator, Robert Lightfoot informed reporters during a teleconference recently on, whether taking that option is worth the extra expense and mission risk involved.Lightfoot had presided over the meeting to decide between the boulder grabbing mission known as Option `B’ and an Option `A’ plan, which involved intercepting a small near Earth asteroid and then bring it back intact.

At the end of the meeting, Lightfoot has commented that it would take another two or three weeks to obtain the data that was needed to form the decision and a mission concept review is scheduled for next February. Lightfoot had informed that Option B would be testing more of the technologies which would be used at the time of the future missions to Mars.

Mission Complex/Costlier

The mission would be more complex and around $100 million costlier and the target price tag is roughly $1.25 billion which excludes the launchcosts. Besides this, the figure also excludes the cost of sending astronauts to rendezvous with the space rock in mid-2020. The aim is to execute a manned mission to the captured asteroid by 2025 and in doing so, would manage an exploration goal that had been laid for NASA by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The retrieval mission of the asteroid would also help to develop the technology as well as its techniques that may be essential for a manned Mars trip which is planned according to the agency officials by mid-2030.To fund 18 six month studies `to mature system concepts and key technologies as well as assess the feasibility of potential commercial partnerships in order to support the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, NASA has made a commitment of $4.9 million.

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