NASA’s Asteroid Initiative RFI Generates Significant Interest
April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced this week that the agency has received more than 400 responses to its request for information (RFI) on its Asteroid Initiative.
“Under our plan, we’re increasing the identification, tracking and exploration of asteroids, and the response to this initiative has been gratifying,” said Garver, speaking at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2013 conference in San Jose, Calif. “The aerospace industry, innovative small businesses and citizen scientists have many creative ideas and strategies for carrying out our asteroid exploration mission and helping us to protect our home planet from dangerous near-Earth objects.”
The RFI represents the first opportunity for industry and other potential partners, including private individuals, to offer NASA ideas on planning for the mission to redirect an asteroid exploration by astronauts and the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge.
The Asteroid Initiative is an effort to combine human and robotic efforts to capture and redirect a small, near-Earth asteroid into a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system for study. This will help with the Grand Challenge, which is to identify all of the asteroids near Earth’s orbit, characterize them as to their threat to human populations, and develop contingency plans against a potential asteroid strike.
Approximately one-third of the responses to the RFI were in areas relevant to the Asteroid Grand Challenge, Garver noted. The rest of the responses concern the five mission components.
A grand challenge is an ambitious goal on a national or global level designed to capture the imagination of the public and push innovations and breakthroughs in science and technology.
“NASA already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet, and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth’s orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth,” said Garver in a June 18 statement. “This Grand Challenge is focused on detecting and characterizing asteroids and learning how to deal with potential threats. We will also harness public engagement, open innovation and citizen science to help solve this global problem.”
The asteroid grand challenge will complement NASA’s Asteroid Initiative, which has been included in President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget request for NASA. The Asteroid Initiative leverages the agency’s progress on its Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft and cutting-edge technology development. It is also an early step in NASA’s plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
NASA is evaluating and rating all of the responses received from the RFI. During a public workshop in September, the agency will explore the highly rated responses for inclusion in future planning.