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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.

    Check out the new Slashdot iPad app [apple.com]
    • Well, why shouldn't it be cut? The space program is a playtoy for whites and Asians. Americans have different priorities, such as getting enough food to eat every day. Let the capitalists waste their money in space, if they can find a way to make a profit, grand. But leave the government out of it.
    • by Raenex ( 947668 )

      Put your app whoring into a proper signature.

    • The President doesn't control NASA's funding. Congress does. Congress controls funding for everything.

    • 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.

    • by Lotana ( 842533 )

      I agree! Judging by history, we need to wait till the president makes a promise, then kill him before he changes his/her mind. The next president will hopefully contin...

      Ah crap! There are SWAT vehicles pulling up. Read the whole thread you illeterate NSA bastar..... NO CARRIER

  • by Anonymous Coward

    2025 ! You gotta be kidding me. How many years did it take for us to land a guy on the moon for cry'n out loud ! If it is really going to take us 8 years to put a bag around an asteroid we are soooo screwed if one of these "Mass Extinction Event's" wanders in our direction!

    • 2025 - 2013 = ?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's the reason I'm writing as AC always. I can pretend other time that I finish 2'rd grade.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        2025 - 2013 = ?


    • Back then we actually gave a damn about the country and had national pride at accomplishing a goal. Plus, American productivity was actually more than a field of wheat to be harvested by our corporate masters...unlike today. We'll never have that kind of drive again. Our only drive is profit nowadays.
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Back then you were scared to death of communists, and those same communists were launching people (and possibly nuclear weapons) into space.

        • It's like they were plotting to overthrow our government and replace it with one just like theirs or something. Nah, crazy talk! It's not like they explicitly stated it repeatedly or anything.
          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            I didn't say the fear was unjustified (you guys DID invade them with the explicit purpose of putting down their revolution, so their paranoia wasn't unjustified either).

            A couple hundred million space faring, nuke building, half-the-world-controlling communists just seem to be a more credible threat, and better motivation to do impressive things than a few thousand religious nutjobs in a desert half the world away with AK-47s you gave them.

        • Back then you were scared to death of communists, and those same communists were launching people (and possibly nuclear weapons) into space.

          Yesssss, well, guess what the communists are doing now? China has a space program, they've shot satellites with missiles, and done asteroid fly-bys. Chelyabinsk was 20 to 30 times Hiroshima, it just didn't strike ground. You mistake me, this is perfect opportunity for the pansy ass scientists to grow some balls and use the social science for the advancement of the human race -- It'll be used to its detriment otherwise.

          Here, I'll draft a bit of the speech:

          If we don't capture and control the asteroids we lose space superiority. We lose Earth. We lose AMERICA! Whomever conquers the asteroid belt wins a near infinite supply of weapons as powerful as nuclear weapons, and far more dangerous. You see, a nuclear blast poisons the land and sea and air, but an asteroid grants that level of destruction while leaving the land free of radiation, ready to colonize...

          The American Tax Payer has put Trillions into the war effort, in the name of fighting the nebulous terrorist threat. This Space Threat is immensely more dangerous. While a terrorist may topple a pair of sky scrapers killing tens of thousands of lives, a single asteroid strike to New York can Kill MILLIONS. And, unlike our bluff with the first Nuclear Bombs, there really is a rock for every city in America. No assembly required.

          The American people will NOT sit still and wait for this very real and immense threat to our country, nay, Our Planet, to grow unchecked. NASA's budget operates on par with the budget for our troop's air conditioning. No Longer! It would be a DISGRACE for America to have all our military might rendered futile by a Few Space Rocks!

          We Americans have never balked at a fertile frontier in fear. We have the technology. We have the man power. We have the Intelligence. We have the Integrity. In 2015 the United States of America will become the First Nation of Earth to capture an Asteroid. By 2018 we will have pushed the frontier of human space exploration further than even any other nation has plans to do in decades. We will have several Asteroids in Lunar Orbit granting the means to defend our Great Nation from any threat on Earth, and for the first time in Human History, Mankind will have made a commitment to Fight off Extinction Itself directly with a Rogue Asteroid Deflection program.

          As the American People have done time and again, we will pull together do what think impossible, for the good of Mankind. We can no longer ignore our Duty to our Beloved Planet, the only cradle of life in the known Universe. As President Kennedy said before I say again with every bit as much resolve, "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard".

          Damned "moral" pussies, you would rather be p

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            I was hoping the US would take things a little more seriously when the Chinese started putting people in orbit, but the overwhelming attitude seems to be "yawn, we've been doing that for fifty years." Maybe it'll happen when they land on the moon. Hopefully we don't have to wait until they get to Mars.

            You seem to be well in the grip of xenophobic hatred though. Vote some funding to those "pansy ass scientists" hey?

        • , and those same communists were launching people into space

          It was because of an American remark. At least, that was what my space technology teacher told. There was a conference about space travel, which was up to then purely theoretical, at which an American guy told his Russian colleague that they were working on a space program (which was not true at that moment). This remark started the space race.

          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

            Quite possible. Rivalry that involves decade long engineering projects is more about what you think the other guy is going to do next rather than what he's actually doing now. Which is why terrorists aren't quite the impetus communists were. "Al-Quaida is building a Mars rocket!" is a joke. "The Soviets are going to put nukes on the moon!" was a crisis.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by WillgasM ( 1646719 )
      Um...that's when the asteroid will be passing close enough. I don't care how motivated we are, I don't think we can ask the asteroid to hurry up and get here.
  • It has taken billions of years for the Earth to clear its orbit, and all remaining are in relatively safe orbits. Changing an orbit can have devastating consequences if they get it wrong.
    • No, it won't. This is not a large asteroid. If they succeeded in vectoring it directly into the Earth, it would make a pretty light as it burned up in the atmosphere. It wouldn't even reach the ground.

      • 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.

        • you have huge misconception between your ears. such a small asteroid would not reach the ground. it would not cause dangerous shock wave. it is too small. you could be anywhere on the ground and be safe

          • You can't say that with any certainty at all. It heavily depends on the exact composition, structure, velocity, and angle of entry. It is quite possible for a rock this size to either reach the ground or generate a fireball at an altitude that could cause some significant damage on the ground in a limited area. It is just largely moot, there's virtually no chance such a thing would happen.

            • look it up already, 7-10 meter asteroid, target of this experiment, absolutely cannot reach the ground regardless of composition, they burn up.

              30 meter range is another matter, but that' is not on the table for this experiment

    • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Monday August 26, 2013 @10:54AM (#44676627)
      Agreed, what we see here is an evil plot by NASA to get more funding. They pick up an asteroid from the belt. They have it coming towards Earth, but will deliberately have the towing craft go out of control. Suddenly Bruce Willis is our only chance, and Congress will have to approve emergency spending.
      • At which point the House will decide that it will only pay for this asteroid-protection plan to save the earth if equivalent cuts are made some place else. Now, the Senate ain't gonna buy that. So the asteroid will just go ahead and hit the earth, but fortunately hit someplace nobody (here) cares about. And, for some fucking incomprehensible reason, fully 90% of these asshats will be reelected the next cycle.
    • Bring an asteroid into orbit is very very different from a collision course. As long as it's not experience significant atmospheric drag, the amount of angular momentum with respect to the Earth will make sure that almost any minor deviation from then on will just result in a slingshot or eccentricity because it has to be conserved. It will not suddenly plunge directly down.

  • So we're now using 'The Secret' as our engineering method? Cool, we're using it for everything else in Govt. anyways...

  • Has NASA run the footage by Bruce Willis yet?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Of course not. You expect Bruce Willis to leave his highly-paid job as a tool pusher [wikipedia.org] for some half-assed mission that hasn't even settled on the soundtrack yet? Please. Not until the Aerosmith soundtrack is finished. Then they'll make their pitch.

  • Look, I know we all like growing up and making our favorite tech from video games or movies happen in real life. That being said I'm not sure if a real life version of Asteroid or Space Invaders is a good idea. I know they have some really nifty lasers they also want to test, but somehow this could all going quite badly...

    • Note: No one saw Chelyabinsk coming. Humans are basically blind. Rocks are really hard to see, hell, we didn't even know Eris was out there -- A DWARF PLANET MORE MASSIVE THAN PLUTO, was only just seen in 2008! That's why Pluto's not a planet anymore, because if we left it a planet, we'd have to admit there are PLANET SIZED ROCKS we didn't see drifting about in our back yard.

      Just Imagine it: Every channel on TV is talking about the huge asteroid comparable to the one that caused the extinction of the

      • It was a joke, going back to the days of old Atari games. Many of today's scientists at NASA grew up playing these games. I'm well aware of the actual scientific value.

  • Relax, people. It's a small asteroid in an orbit beyond the moon. We'll have hundreds of thousands of kilometers between us and a smallish rock in space.
  • Return to lunar orbit for astronauts to study. I can see lunar orbit as a 'safe' alternative to earth orbit, even though this is small enough to burn up in the atmosphere. It would cut risk to other orbiting objects, and make it 'seem' safer to the masses. However, we have not had an astronaut in lunar orbit for decades. Who the fuck are these astronauts that will study it?
    • Who the fuck are these astronauts that will study it?

      They will probably be astronauts in the same sense that the guy who controls a drone is a "pilot". In other words, they will be in some NASA control center controlling some drone spacecraft with lasers and drills and mass spectrometers.

  • NASA Visualizes Asteroid Grab Mission, I visualize replay of Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. Houston, we have a problem.
  • by Steve1952 ( 651150 ) on Monday August 26, 2013 @10:21AM (#44676359)
    Mounting a robotic arm and small reentry capsule on the asteroid transfer vehicle could do the same mission. I like space travel, but the main thing this video showed me is that the politics are making NASA propose dumb ideas. NASA is burdened with the politically mandated "Senate Launch System" and the apparently unkillable Orion capsule, but insufficient funds for anything else. So here we are. Personally I would kill the SLS and Orion, subcontract manned work to SpaceX, and use the funds for advanced space-related R&D.
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday August 26, 2013 @10:33AM (#44676479)

    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.

    I'm kind of at a loss for why you would want to do that. Ignoring for the moment the geopolitical WMD ramifications of doing this, what advantage would there be in having people there that we cannot accomplish with robots? Sending people adds massively to the cost, complexity and danger. If we have the ability to capture the asteroid with robot we probably have the ability to analyze the asteroid with robots too. I just don't see what the gain of sending people would be other than bragging rights. Because we can isn't an adequate reason because we can send people to other more useful missions and accomplish research/exploration goals.

  • 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.

  • Isn't science Great!!!!! We are going to get our very own second moon all thanks to science.
  • 2025? Really ambitious, NASA... or maybe not...

    Isn't 2024 about the time Planetary Resources plans to start platinum mining operations on a captured, much larger, asteroid?

  • If a planet has land, and land is property, the question must be posed: does an Asteroid have property, which can be owned. And who could own that? We already have companies trying to "sell" people claim to titles of property on both the moon, and mars. But I don't think that there's any basis in international law - in fact, I think that there are some treaties that BAN claiming sovereignity of the moon.

    So if NASA can "own" an asteroid, (in the legal sense) - then they could "take" it, and change it's or

  • One thing the video didn't address was the capture process. I keep wondering how this whole fly-up-and-bag-it thing would work. I find it unlikely that the rock just be sitting there waiting. It would have some rotation. If we've learned anything from recent close encounters with asteroids, it's that they are rotating on multiple axises. Even a small rock like the one in the video would have a lot of inertia to overcome in order to bring it to a stop. I doubt that little docking clamp they showed would have

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