September 4, 2013
Close To One Hundred Ideas Selected For Possible NASA Asteroid Missions
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NASA has selected 96 asteroid initiative ideas about how to protect Earth from asteroids and find a space rock for humans to explore.
The latest ideas derive from more than 400 submissions the space agency received after it sent out an asteroid initiative request for information (RFI) during a planned event on June 18, 2013. The ideas also help provide NASA with new insight into the best way to identify, capture and relocate a near-Earth asteroid for closer study.
Some of the ideas include how to decrease an asteroid's spin, nudge it away from a path toward Earth and take samples to return to Earth, as well as to create activities to heighten public awareness of not only the threat asteroids pose, but the valuable resources and scientific benefits they offer.
"This rich set of innovative ideas gathered from all over the world provides us with a great deal of information to factor into our plans moving forward,” said Robert Lightfoot, Associate Administrator for NASA. "We're making great progress on formulating this mission, and we look forward to discussing further the responses we received to the RFI."
After NASA made the request back in June, people from the industry, universities, international organizations and the public began writing submissions. NASA utilized agency scientists, engineers and mission planners to determine which of the 400 submissions needed to be part of the asteroid initiative.
The space agency is planning a public workshop between September 30 and October 2 to examine and synthesize the 96 highly-rated ideas. This workshop will feature discussions by experts from both inside and outside NASA walls. The other submissions that did not make it this far are not dead ideas yet, because NASA says they may eventually be fed into planning for the asteroid initiative.
NASA unveiled a new animation and images of one idea it has, which is to try and capture a near-Earth asteroid, wrap a sheet around it and redirect its orbit. Eventually, a manned spacecraft would make its way towards the asteroid for sampling. NASA's goal is to send man to visit an asteroid by 2025 and then off to Mars in the 2030s.
The space agency is going to have to rely on its upcoming Orion spacecraft in order to accomplish its ambitious goals. This spacecraft is currently under development and is expected to have its first Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) in September 2014. During this test flight, Orion will be traveling 3,600 miles into orbit, then return to Earth at speeds as fast as 20,000 miles per hour before relying on its parachute system to help it safely land in the Pacific Ocean.