Capturing a full asteroid is not NASA’s bag – it opts to “grab” a boulder instead

by | Mar 27, 2015 | exploration, NASA, Satellites, Science, Seradata News | 0 comments

The concept of NASA astronauts exploring and surveying a “proper” asteroid has become an even more distant prospect after NASA toned down its plan to capture small asteroid in a “bag” and try and grab an asteroid boulder instead.

The original Asteroid Redirect Mission was set up after it was realised that landing astronauts onto a passing Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) would be too risky and too difficult to attempt.  Instead, an asteroid would be captured and brought to the Earth-Moon system, to be parked there so that astronauts could explore and even mine it.  The initial “Plan A” concept was to wrap a “bag” around a small 10m diameter asteroid and attach an electric thruster-equipped spacecraft to bring the body back slowly.

However, NASA’s Associate Administrator, Robert Lightfoot, announced that NASA has dropped the “bag an asteroid” concept in favour of a “Plan B” architecture which would still use an unmanned craft to visit a larger asteroid, grab a large boulder from its surface, and return it to the Earth-Moon system by 2025.

The unmanned spacecraft and grabbed boulder, by this time in a distant lunar retrograde orbit, would then be visited by astronauts using an SLS launched Orion spacecraft.  They would retrieve samples from the boulder to bring back to Earth.

According to Lightfoot (as reported by Space News), officially the decision to move to the Plan B, now a sort of “Boulder Redirect Mission”, was made because it would have a greater choice of targets and would offer more technology benefits to future manned and unmanned exploration including asteroid soft landing technologies.

While the new plan will still include experiments on gravity tractor deflection techniques, it represents a considerable climb down from NASA’s original promises to explore a real asteroid and work out ways to deflect or destroy one should one ever threaten Earth.

Detractors of the whole much-criticised ARM concept instead note that returning mankind to the surface of the Moon would be much more exciting and useful for future exploration, including missions to Mars.

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to www.seradata.com/spacetrak

Related Articles

Trump’s plans: NASA avoids major cuts but ARM is broken and global warming mission is curtailed

While Russia is somewhat unrealistically advertising for candidate cosmonauts to go to the Moon (Roscosmos does not currently have a Read more

IAC 2014 Toronto technical sessions: Hibernation and air launches are back in vogue but MarsOne food plans need revisiting

Too much to see, and too little time to see it is the usual complaint about IAC, especially with respect Read more

One Starlink launch batch does not look very healthy: one in five satellites appear to have failed

While for the most part SpaceX Starlink satellites have proven to be reliable - or at least reliable enough to Read more

ULA Atlas V launch vehicle in “Lopsided” 511 configuration flies straight to put a pair of satellite GSSAP satellite snoopers into orbit

The Boeing/Lockheed Martin owned launch provider, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) which mainly specialises in US military launches, successfully launched Read more

SpaceX launches second Starlink mission of the year, 13 days after the first

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 49 Starlink satellites from Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, USA. The flight lifted-off Read more

SpaceX launches first planned Transporter rideshare mission of 2022 carrying over 100 satellites

The SpaceX Transporter-3 rideshare mission launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 1525 GMT, 13 January carrying over 100 satellites. The Read more

Russian cosmonauts make spacewalk to work on Prichal module as usual ISS raisings and departures go on

Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov, current commander of Expedition 66, and Peytr Dubrov, made a spacewalk from the International Space Station Read more

ESA confirms that Sentinel 1B’s radar is still knocked out by power issue

Sentinel-1B, a key Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite of the ESA/EU Copernicus Earth observation and monitoring programme, has failed in Read more

Categories

Archives

Tags