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NASA Space

NASA Visualizes Asteroid Grab Mission 73

fergus07 writes "NASA has released new concept images and animations outlining one version of its plan to capture an asteroid with an unmanned craft. The scenario presented for a possible mission around the year 2025 involves literally bagging an asteroid in a huge inflatable cylinder and returning it to lunar orbit for astronauts to study."
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NASA Visualizes Asteroid Grab Mission

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  • by SpaceMonkies ( 2868125 ) on Monday August 26, 2013 @09:50AM (#44676153)
    Just like has happened over and over and over again, as soon as the next president gets into office the funding will be cut and the program cancelled. The Moon missions were a fluke of timing and circumstances, and nothing so grand is likely to be repeated anytime soon. Space is now becoming the playground of capitalism rather than the purvey of the government, and I think NASA is going to become an obscure part of the space race within a few decades.

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  • Re:Very dangerous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Monday August 26, 2013 @10:12AM (#44676299)

    You wouldn't want to be anywhere near where it hit, but agreed, the overall effect would be small and chances are it would hit a remote region where no significant damage would result.

    My guess would be that the whole thing would be done on the basis of 'zero risk'. At NO point would the asteroid even transiently pass through a configuration where it would impact at all. This isn't as hard as it might sound either. Surely there is SOME orbit within the Earth/Moon system that can be achieved under that criteria. Once you are in ANY Earth/Moon orbit transitioning to other orbits safely should be relatively easy. Notice that the NASA blurb shows the asteroid in a counter-rotating distant Lunar orbit, one which would be pretty safe presumably. As long as you have a Constellation configuration with 10 or so days of transit time capability it really doesn't much matter exactly what the orbit is, you can get there.

    So, I would STRONGLY suggest that this whole program is being proposed in a safe manner where impact is simply not possible. The 'tractor' capturing spacecraft could fail at any point and wherever the asteroid went would be OK.

    That being said, it is true that statistically speaking any random orbit probably is more likely to lead to an impact than whatever orbit any random object is currently in. However NEOs are ALREADY generally in transient pseudo-stable orbits, so it probably doesn't make much difference. Obviously if you start pushing main-belt asteroids around its a bit different. Still, bad orbits are a very small subset of all orbits.

  • That's great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Monday August 26, 2013 @11:30AM (#44676917)

    Because when you use infographics and animations to explain things these days it's much more readily assumed to be a practical solution by the masses and so they will gladly support and fund it. Just look at Hyperloop.

    If you had a link to a 2000 page factual whitepaper about the same thing it would be protested and government would cancel it.

    Better yet, NASA should put this on Kickstarter and give away T-Shirts and seats to watch the launch of the mission and people will willingly throw millions at the project and cut out the government tax middlemen.

  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Monday August 26, 2013 @05:25PM (#44680461) Homepage

    Apollo was Von Braun's pet project.

    Von Braun was dreaming about going to the moon, and colonizing space, when he was building V-2's for Hitler. In his mind - - he was conning Hitler into giving him the necessary R&D funds for science, by letting Hitler kill people with them. Hitler caught on, and tried to have him arrested. When he came to the US, it was pretty much the same deal. Von Braun built a bunch of ballistic missiles for the US (including redstone and atlas), and in the 50's, early thermonuclear weapons were actually pretty huge, and there were ideas about placing strategic weapons on-orbit (until the UN banned the idea) - so while the US and the Soviets were playing "who can build the biggest bomb" - the moon race was also about "who can put the most weapons into orbit" - to extort and threaten the rest of the world with nuclear annihilation.

    Then came Apollo, and the test-ban, and the acceptance of the reality that smaller nukes were probably the most practical in warfare anyway. And Congress decided to stop funding Von Braun's pet science projects. He also did try, very hard, (in the form of actual Disney-produced propaganda films) - to get the American public on board with the whole idea of space colonization. But in the end, most Americans didn't really give a crap, and just wanted to be able to wave a big American dick around, so they wouldn't have to hide under their beds from the commie invasion anymore. As soon as it became clear that the Soviets weren't going to be competing on that front anymore (the 1980's) - congress's funding got tighter and tighter.

    It got even worse when we started COOPERATING with Russia (ISS). A lot of people in congress wanted to kill that right-quick. The only reason any funding kept flowing, was with the shuttle, it was easy to funnel cash to ATK (Thiokol, the contractors who build the SRB's. - and ALSO make the Minuteman. . . ) When the Shuttle ended, that made the justification very difficult.

    Von Braun was a special case, and a very strong driving force. One of those greatly underrated and unknown geniuses. (Not gonna talk about ethics). He pulled of miracles, and got us to the moon.

    I think that Elon Musk is doing some fantastic stuff right now - and he's kind of "out there" as far as being a visionary. So who knows? I think that he understands that space exploration is about much more than next quarter's profits. And that's a huge part of the thinking that is required to actually DO this. Very few people actually understand this.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?