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NASA Space Science

NASA Planning Mission To 40-Meter-Wide Asteroid 205

FudRucker points out a story from The Guardian about NASA's plans to visit 2000SG344, an asteroid 40 meters wide and weighing roughly 71 million kilograms. The manned mission would take three to six months, and it would make use of the Orion spacecraft, which will be replacing to retiring space shuttle fleet. "A report seen by the Guardian notes that by sending astronauts on a three-month journey to the hurtling asteroid, scientists believe they would learn more about the psychological effects of long-term missions and the risks of working in deep space, and it would allow astronauts to test kits to convert subsurface ice into drinking water, breathable oxygen and even hydrogen to top up rocket fuel. All of which would be invaluable before embarking on a two-year expedition to Mars. As well as giving space officials a taste of more complex missions, samples taken from the rock could help scientists understand more about the birth of the solar system and how best to defend against asteroids that veer into Earth's path."
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NASA Planning Mission To 40-Meter-Wide Asteroid

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  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @02:18AM (#23346956)
    NASA plans a large number of missions but political considerations affect their budget so much that I wouldn't bet this is going to happen, no matter how cool it sounds. Right now, Mars is officially high on the agenda, so stepping-stones toward Mars are hot. In 5 years the next administration might decide to take the unmanned direction and this will go to the back burner. For the moment this should be thought of as contingency planning.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aitikin ( 909209 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @02:54AM (#23347096)
    So that's why they were wondering about the effects of staying in bed for 90 days! []
  • In truth... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RationalRoot ( 746945 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @03:46AM (#23347322) Homepage
    When the reporters start getting stuff right I start getting worried.
    Any time I read anything in the press that I personally know about, I dispair at just how far wrong the reporters are.
    It's the little things, like an order of magnitude here or there. We say 10,000 they say 100,000 what's a 0 between friends.
    So I assume that anything I read is little more than an vague approximation of the truth.
    I'm not even getting all tin hat.
    Think Hanlon's Razor..
    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @03:57AM (#23347368) Homepage Journal

    a mass drive throwing bits of asteroid, or a high performance solar-electric ion drive, for example.
    To do that you need a sample of the asteroid, so you know what kind of reaction mass you are dealing with. I think it would be possible to install the engine on the second close pass, assuming a good examination on the first pass.
  • Re:Finally! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Haoie ( 1277294 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @04:06AM (#23347416)
    Yes, but think of the vast, vast differences in cost.

    No pun intended, it's astronomically different.
  • Re:Finally! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rubenerd ( 998797 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @04:46AM (#23347576) Homepage

    You're right, they shouldn't have sent people to the moon, it was too expensive. Think of all the money they could have saved if they sent a few robots up there.

    I'm sure Rosie [] would have loved to volunteer!

  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Friday May 09, 2008 @04:54AM (#23347610) Journal
    Well, if we can slow it down that much, I'd imagine we could use the same tricks to correct its orbit.

    Somehow, I'm not that bothered by it -- how much does the moon weigh? It's often over your house, right?
  • Landing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TrevorB ( 57780 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @05:30AM (#23347772) Homepage
    Just a technical note. With an asteroid this tiny, you don't land on it, you dock with it. The gravity will be practically non-existent.

    Probably best to go nose first, nose down. Then you'll be able to see it so you don't hit it so hard.

  • Re:Wrong Orion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sapphire wyvern ( 1153271 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @06:56AM (#23348144)
    Hmm. I don't know about "Cooler".

    Project Orion is a pretty incredible concept, and I think the odds are good that something like it will get built eventually if high-tech civilisation doesn't collapse first. (Nuclear thermal rocketry [] is another idea that perhaps deserves revisiting.)

    However: using either of these drives as a means of getting off the Earth's surface is utter madness. The last thing we need is more unshielded bare-atmosphere nuclear detonations. I'm no anti-nuclear activist, but there's a hell of a difference between a shielded reactor that can't meltdown and pushing things off the ground and past escape velocity by riding the shockwave of atmospheric thermonuclear explosions.

    Now, if we could build a space elevator and assemble and launch these things from high orbit - that would be awesome. And, I think politically and environmentally speaking, it's the only way that nuclear propulsion will ever get off the ground.
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @08:06AM (#23348456) Journal
    You want the same crew that accidentally converted from Imperial to Metric to be responsible for redirecting something this size toward earth? You do understand that an orbital calculation is a very fine thing, in a sense you're shooting not simply at a target, but to intentionally MISS the target by a hairsbreadth at a specific speed and time?

    "...a lot more interesting and exciting..." indeed.
  • Re:Finally! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Erpo ( 237853 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @01:14PM (#23352300)
    Now think of the names of the current ISS inhabitants.

    Just being in orbit isn't cool anymore. That's why missions like the one in this story are important.

    There's no question the robots get you more science for your buck

    The problem is that if you don't have enough bucks, you can't do much science. Manned missions, on the other hand, get you more buck for your buck.

Variables don't; constants aren't.