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Space

Asteroid Mission Competition Announces Winner 60

Posted by kdawson
from the too-close dept.
Riding with Robots writes "The Planetary Society invited participants to compete for $50,000 in prizes by designing a mission to rendezvous with and 'tag' a potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroid. The asteroid Apophis was used as the target for the mission design because it will come closer to Earth in 2029 than the orbit of geostationary satellites. The winning mission design is called Foresight, and calls for the use of off-the-shelf parts to undercut the price of other proposals. Here's a PDF of the winning proposal."
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Asteroid Mission Competition Announces Winner

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  • by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:00AM (#22572010)
    The asteroid could be full of highly toxic fuel.
    • It could be quite an interactive project, albeit not in the way intended.

      Perhaps it is a typo or the authors meant to avoid confusing the PHBs with 'technical' jargon like SSH, SFTP, and HTTPS. Page 28 of the document clearly says that FTP and Telnet are used. FTP will be used for data transfer to and from the satellite and that telnet is involve in the command and control.

      Looks like Lunar Lander [geody.com] needs to add an option for NEO Asteroid, so that the first one to get in doesn't use all the fuel on t

      • by icebrain (944107)

        Perhaps it is a typo or the authors meant to avoid confusing the PHBs with 'technical' jargon like SSH, SFTP, and HTTPS

        I know a few of the guys that wrote this, and I'm pretty sure they aren't intending simple, easy-to-hack communications protocols. They're aerospace and mechanical engineers, not IT or network types--but I'm quite sure they know such systems need to be secure. Telnet and FTP are more recognizable to the layperson (and PHBs, and beancounters), and I guess an argument could be made that SSH and SFTP are kind of like subsets of those, in a way. Overall, they probably went with the "simple" versions to emph

    • by tiluki (74844)

      Or, as Burns would have it:

      ``In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley.''

  • by red star hardkore (1242136) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:02AM (#22572018)
    Apophis... Didn't he try to destroy earth with an asteroid in SG1?
    • by TypoNAM (695420) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:18AM (#22572128)
      That was actually Anubis [gateworld.net] in Fail Safe of season five.
      • by joaommp (685612)
        Right, with a weapons grade naquadah core.

        But dun'worry. For those big ones, Carter will deal with them. Big ones get her horny.

        Let the wannabe's take care of those petty ones that the most they can do is bring Earth into a nuclear winter after destroying some major city. Paris. In the movies it's allways Paris.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Well, I for one, am going to bow before my new asteroid-weilding God.

      • by Tatarize (682683)
        The namers of the asteroids are reportedly fans. So it's not all an interesting coincidence.

        --

        I think that over twenty years the extra weight of that little tag is going to knock it off it's current course and make it hit Earth. I ask that all of you repeat this, make youtube videos about it and proclaim repeatedly that we're all going to die.

        Thank you.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Talderas (1212466)
      No, Apophis just was going to invade Earth, bombing us back into the bronze age. Anubis was the one that used the Asteroid to try to hit Earth. Apparently he had seen all our Armageddon type movies, and the asteroid he used was mostly Naquaada, meaning the use of a nuclear weapon to divert or split the asteroid would have resulted in the asteroid becoming a huge explosion that would have likely engulfed Earth in the blast.
    • by downix (84795) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:39AM (#22572292) Homepage
      Apophis, also called Apep, is the egyptian worldsnake, desiring to consume the sun and destroy all life. It was fought each day by the god Set, to protect the sun god Ra, as he made his way through the underworld. But yet, despite being killed every day, it continually ressurects to threaten again the next day.
  • Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:06AM (#22572050) Journal
    COTS - commercial off the shelf - parts is standard industry stuff. I'm wondering how this cut enough costs to be winner. What are the other people using? There is a lot of military hardware built with COTS. Does anyone have enough info on the other competitors to say why COTS undercut them?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kostya (1146) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:13AM (#22572086) Homepage Journal
      COTS means ready-made components, with very little custom parts or systems. Most gear sent into space is custom designed for the task (down to custom circuits, boards, and even processors). The Mars rovers were the first project to use COTS hardware (I believe their modems were COTS for example), and it saved a bunch compared with how they would usually build a similar system.

      So yes, building this with available components and not using custom-designed circuit boards and parts could significantly save money.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by xzaph (1157805)
        Yep. In essence, the main drawback to COTS parts is the need to verify whether they'll still function within the parameters of the environment to which they're being sent. Highly temperature-sensitive circuits, for instance, would not be a good COTS part to use in a spacecraft.
      • Sometimes it seems to me like the "shelf" is very small and new for a lot of "COTS" components... as in the vendor may have never actually sold or even built one, but they figure somebody might want it, so they say they have it, and then they somehow manage to have no units available for evaluation, and the lead time for getting the component is several months. I figure this is because almost all govt acquisition guidelines call for the use of "COTS" components.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MassiveForces (991813)
      Good point, especially since "an Orbital Sciences Corporation Minotaur IV launch vehicle" doesn't sound like it would fit very well on the average shelf.
    • by CBob (722532)
      Simple version - R&D costs limited to "will this work in that config?", they don't have to develop much beyond a wiring harness & "air frame" to bolt it to.

      Software issues can cripple this sort of project, but nowhere near as much as feature creep could.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:10AM (#22572074)
    This is a very small spend (in terms of space missions), quite within the capability of Europe and Japan, let alone, China, Russia and the USA. By the anticipated launch date India may even have the capability. Since this very small spend, and will give us an early warning as to whether a very large project to deflect the asteroid is needed, I am surprised that an "interest group" like the planetary society are the people looking into it. Maybe their costings will give some impetus to some country to achieve it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'll let Bruce Willis know.
  • by Esteanil (710082) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:29AM (#22572200) Homepage Journal
    I really do wonder if it's within the scope of today's technology to take one of these asteroids and guide it into earth orbit. For instance using small nuclear devices to prod it carefully to where it should be.

    Because an easy source of raw materials in orbit would certainly make a lot of things a *lot* more interesting, considering the price of lifting such materials to orbit.
    • only problem is the price of screwing up, I mean didn't you see Deep Impact?

      unfortunately I did, for the love of god DO NOT WATCH THAT MOVIE! IT BURNSSSSSSS!
    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @08:48AM (#22572424) Homepage Journal
      While that sounds dandy from a I-want-to-do-the-least-work-possible approach (which I am not necessarily condemning), the consequences of another "moon" may not be all that apparent up front. Tides would certainly change, possibly affecting coastlines. Whales and such would get confused. It would start raining cats and dogs. MASS HYSTERIA!
      • by MMC Monster (602931) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @09:43AM (#22573132)

        While that sounds dandy from a I-want-to-do-the-least-work-possible approach (which I am not necessarily condemning), the consequences of another "moon" may not be all that apparent up front. Tides would certainly change, possibly affecting coastlines. Whales and such would get confused. It would start raining cats and dogs. MASS HYSTERIA!
        Okay. But is there any downside?
        • by HTH NE1 (675604)
          But if it comes hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, it will unleash cosmic destruction. Man's civilization will be cast in ruin. It will take two thousand years for Earth to be reborn, a strange new world rising from the old. A world of savagery, super-science, and sorcery.
        • by The Queen (56621) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @12:11PM (#22575260) Homepage
          Well, at the risk of getting gross (and sacrificing karma), I have to wonder how a 'second moon' would affect menstrual cycles. Twice a month? There's your downside!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by icebrain (944107)
        I think the asteroid is rather small to be causing big tidal effects. It's only 200-300m or so, if I'm remembering right.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by frogzilla (1229188)
        "Tides would certainly change"

        Just how large a body do think the author was writing about?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Nuclear warheads aren't really the best way to "steer" asteroids. Ask Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_deflection_strategies [wikipedia.org]
    • by utnapistim (931738) <dan@barbus.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @09:25AM (#22572872) Homepage

      I really do wonder if it's within the scope of today's technology to take one of these asteroids and guide it into earth orbit. For instance using small nuclear devices to prod it carefully to where it should be.

      I believe this to be prohibitive, not because of guiding and asteroid would be impossible, but because for a earth orbit you'd have to slow it down a lot.

      • That's easy, you just skim the atmosphere just enough to slow it down, but not so much that it crashes to earth.
        • by HTH NE1 (675604)

          That's easy, you just skim the atmosphere just enough to slow it down, but not so much that it crashes to earth.
          Nor any bits break off big enough to survive re-entry.
    • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @10:55AM (#22574246)
      But then we'll have lots of people living in massive space colonies to mine the asteroids and then will eventually feel oppressed by the people living on Earth whose souls are weighted down by gravity and give birth to a revolting faction that will develop giant robots and use psychic pilots and start many wars where they usually try to drop these colonies and asteroids onto Earth.

      That or I've been watching way too much Anime.
      • I think you've got the makings of the next great sci-fi movie. Dystopian futures seem to always play well, sci-fi or not. Just look at Matrix, Blade Runner, even Children of Men (such a good movie). If you can get me a script, we're in business.
    • Because an easy source of raw materials in orbit would certainly make a lot of things a *lot* more interesting, considering the price of lifting such materials to orbit

      1)The nuclear devices would cause EM pulses if they were too close to the earth

      2)To be large enough to be useful, it would influence tides (and the moon's orbit) ever so slightly- enough to present significant problems in the long haul. It would also influence the orbit of everything *else* orbiting the earth.

      • 2)To be large enough to be useful, it would influence tides (and the moon's orbit) ever so slightly- enough to present significant problems in the long haul. It would also influence the orbit of everything *else* orbiting the earth.

        Large enough to be useful? Let's see. We've put how many millions of tons in Earth orbit since the dawn of the Space Age? 0.01? Less than that?

        So, let's imagine the potential value of a 300m diameter ball of nickel-iron in Earth orbit. Hmm, calculator says that that's 100

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)
      I'd guess that its within feasibility, but it would be overly expensive. First you've got to figure out where it is, which is known to a few kilometers I believe, and then you propogate that forward based on known forces.

      Without adding some kind of thruster, we only know the position during the 2029 close approach to within, a few thousand kilometers (at which point it can't hit the Earth within its 3-sigma probability, but may hit a keyhole), and the perturbation caused by the Earth at that point makes it
  • While my scientific rational mind realizes it's just a coincidence... the fact that the date Apophis is due to come dangerously close to (or possibly hit) the Earth in 2036 is April the 13th causes me some niggling concern.

    By "tag" in this context do we perchance mean "nuke into oblivion"... just asking...
  • ...simple: shoot it down so as that it lands on Earth.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by joaommp (685612)
      The US military seems to be getting some practice in shooting down outworld objects...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So my first thought was isn't 2029 the end of the Mayan calendar....
    But Google came to the rescue and the Mayan calendar actually ends on 2012... oh well.
    I guess I have to find another coincedental date of importance.... Did Nostradomus predict something for 2029?
  • Can we capture it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dl107227 (632747) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @09:15AM (#22572754)
    It would be nice if we could nudge it into an orbit around Earth. That way we would have a handy counterweight available for a space elevator.
  • Executive Summary (Score:2, Informative)

    by Atticka (175794)
    Executive summary from the the linked PDF:

    The Foresight spacecraft is a concept design for a radio tagging mission to Near Earth
    Asteroid (NEO) Apophis. The spacecraft is designed to be a low-cost, low-risk, minimal
    science mission in order to achieve the goal of obtaining accurate tracking information for
    Apophis. The baseline spacecraft mission includes a launch from Wallops Island, Virginia on
    an Orbital Sciences Corporation Minotaur IV launch vehicle. Five launch windows have
    been identified spanning the yea
  • I heard another cost cutting measure was to fill the medkits with OverTheCounter drugs instead of prescriptions. Godspeed!
  • Let's mess with one of the objects closest to Earth. Murphy's Law is itching for a new corollary.
    T3
  • Sounds like a mission for Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood and Robert Duvall...
  • If the asteroid is known to be coming close, but missing, with high certainty, please do not "tag" it until after it goes by, thx bie.

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