Free Newsletters - Space News - Defense Alert - Environment Report - Energy Monitor
. 24/7 Space News .




IRON AND ICE
More Treasures from Asteroids
by Morris Jones
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Apr 06, 2013


illustration only

The recent announcement of a potential NASA plan to robotically capture an asteroid, transport it to lunar orbit and use it as a target for a human expedition is amazing.

Admittedly, it sounds more than a little crazy at first, but the mission plan is more realistic than some may suspect. It is technically feasible, but still advances technological development. It is practical and useful for scientific, engineering and industrial reasons. It's also feasible in the near-term, and would serve as effective stepping stone for more ambitious projects.

The current NASA plan calls for capture of a small asteroid in 2019, followed by a human visit by the crew of an Orion capsule in 2021. It's possible that these target dates will not be met, but the overall structure of the plan looks good, and it should pursued and advocated.

Hopefully this plan will come to fruition. It's probably the best plan for deep space exploration we have encountered in a long time.

A basis for the plan is laid out in a recent report from the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS), and can be found online with a Google search. Some of the details in the KISS report have been modified in recent statements by NASA, and we can expect that the plan will probably evolve in the future.

The KISS plan is filled with ideas for all the good things that astronauts can do when they finally reach the asteroid, such as taking samples, performing experiments and testing extravehicular procedures for working on small celestial bodies.

If the plan goes ahead as advertised, it will be an outstanding mission. But this analyst is considering ways to add to the bounty. For obvious reasons, most of the human activity focuses on the asteroid. That's the way it should be, but mission planners could consider adding a few additional tasks. This would be icing on the cake for the mission, and it could broaden the appeal of the whole plan to areas beyond simply exploring and mining asteroids.

Let's consider the first step of the mission. A large robotic space tug will fly into deep space to capture the asteroid, then steer it like a tugboat to a high lunar orbit. The mission will be conducted at a leisurely pace and could take years to complete its initial mission.

The KISS report paints the capture/tugboat spacecraft as almost exclusively utilitarian, designed to retrieve the asteroid but not examine it. That's understandable when a crew of skilled astronauts is expected to follow in its wake. However, as the Apollo missions demonstrated, there's more to do in deep space than simply examine celestial bodies. Additional science and engineering can be performed, and the robotic tugboat is integral to these plans.

This analyst proposes that a small experiment package should be attached to the exterior of this spacecraft. The experiments would travel into deep space for an extended period before they were finally inspected or retrieved by astronauts. Similar experiments have been performed by astronauts in the past on spacewalks to the exteriors of space stations.

What would we send aboard the package? One option would be biological samples. Seeds, spores and microorganisms could be sealed in small vials and exposed to the harsh conditions of interplanetary space.

Some could be protected from radiation and vacuum. Some could not. The results of these experiments could be useful for biomedical studies of astronaut health on long interplanetary missions and also for the rapidly advancing discipline of astrobiology.

Materials could also be useful. Small patches and samples of foils, plastics and coatings that could be used on future spacecraft could be tested.

A small collection panel could also sample dust and debris collected in deep space, as previous missions have done. These could be particles quite distinct from the collected asteroid.

A compact panel containing these experiments could be easily bolted to the exterior of the spacecraft, together with a cover that could be hermetically sealed by a spacewalking astronaut. The panel could then be stowed aboard the Orion spacecraft for the return to Earth.

A close engineering examination of the tugboat could also be useful. This could be done by simply parking the Orion spacecraft in close proximity to the tugboat and photographing its exterior with high-resolution cameras.

How well has the spacecraft stood up to its epic journey in deep space? Has anything weathered or discoloured? How many hits from space debris have been sustained? Again, these are engineering questions that will be useful for future missions.

By the time the mission is finally ready for launch, there will probably be numerous modifications, and some probably can't even be guessed at the present. There's a long way to go, but it's not too early to consider how we can make a great mission even better. Hopefully this plan will be more than just a great engineering study. We want to see it fly!

Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst and writer. Email morrisjonesNOSPAMhotmail.com. Replace NOSPAM with @ to send email.

.


Related Links
NEOs at NASA
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





IRON AND ICE
NASA wants to tow an asteroid to the moon: senator
Washington (AFP) April 6, 2013
NASA wants to grab a small asteroid and tow it into orbit around the moon, as part of a long-range plan towards establishing permanent manned outposts in space, according to a US senator. To get the project off the ground, US President Barack Obama will propose around $100 million for the US space agency in his 2014 budget, which he submits to Congress on Wednesday, Senator Bill Nelson said ... read more


IRON AND ICE
Russia rekindles Moon exploration program, intends setting up first human outposts there

Pre-existing mineralogy may survive lunar impacts

Lunar cycle determines hunting behaviour of nocturnal gulls

Ultraviolet spectrograph observes mercury and hydrogen in GRAIL impact plumes

IRON AND ICE
Final MAVEN Instrument Integrated to Spacecraft

Used Parachute on Mars Flaps in the Wind

BusinessCom Networks Connects Mars 2013

SwRI study finds liquid water flowing above and below frozen Alaskan sand dunes, hints of a wetter Mars

IRON AND ICE
Do Intellectual Property Rights on Existing Technologies Hinder Subsequent Innovation

Boeing Completes Preliminary Design Review for Connection Between CST-100 Spacecraft and Rocket

NASA Invests in Small Business Innovative Research and Technology Proposals to Enable Future Missions

India doing excellent in space programmes: Sunita Williams

IRON AND ICE
Shenzhou's Shadow Crew

Shenzhou 10 sent to launch site

China's Next Women Astronauts

Shenzhou 10 - Next Stop: Jiuquan

IRON AND ICE
First data released from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Team Publishes First Findings

New crew takes express ride to space station

Soyuz Docks At Space Station Four Orbits After Launch

IRON AND ICE
Future Looks Bright for Private US Space Ventures

Europe's next ATV resupply spacecraft enters final preparatio?ns for its Ariane 5 launch

ILS Proton Launches Satmex 8 Satellite for Satmex

When quality counts: Arianespace reaffirms its North American market presence

IRON AND ICE
NASA Selects Explorer Investigations for Formulation

The Great Exoplanet Debate Part Four

Astronomers Anticipate 100 Billion Earth-Like Planets

The Great Exoplanet Debate

IRON AND ICE
Theory and practice key to optimized broadband, low-loss optical metamaterials

CWRU-led scientists build material that mimics squid beak

Watching fluid flow at nanometer scales

Michigan Tech researcher slashes optics laboratory costs




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement