NASA Plans Mission To Capture Asteroid

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i was beaten. damn.
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NASA The biggest carebears ever!
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I want a medical clone now. I was born 50 years before my time.
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Depending on how tests go, they could even have that fusion engine ready for this--could cut way down on the slingshot-acceleration phase.
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I doubt they'll be using Ion drives to get themselves into orbit - Ion drives have shit TWR, but for deorbiting an asteroid, it's completely possible. How they intend to then bring it into a non-eccentric earth orbit without multiple missions is a mystery to me.
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Rats or suicide gankers will kill their robot anyway. We all know what happens in asteroid fields.
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The spacecraft will be launched via rockets, the ion drives will be used after stable orbit. :)
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Oh hells yes! Thank you for having a bad-ass nasa article! I wish we could afford to give nasa more money, they are pushing us toward the future!
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Articles like these are awesome. Keep them coming!
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We should be able to mine in EVE by just blowing up asteroids with torpedoes and scooping up the fragments. Mining lasers are for the weak.
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NASA CAN NOT BUILD A SHIP TO GO TO SPACE.tHE LAST ONE WAS 30 YEARS OLD AND OUTDATED.NASA COULDN'T CATCH WATER IN THE OCEAN.FUCK NASA DISBAND THE SORRY ASS AGENCY.A WASTE OF OUR MONEY GIVE IT TO THE PRIVATE SECTORS.
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Kerbel has a better chance of making this happen than NASA before Barack defends the entire agency to pay for some other unproductive part of society
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Keep up the space news!!! Also, I hope they remembered to send James315 his 10mil.
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What the hell are you on about?
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As much as I want to be excited for this, NASA's got a great history of taking forever and having their budget sliced.I'm more excited to see how private space ventures (SpaceX, Bigelow, etc.) move forward in the future.
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GANK THE BOT!!!!! 2 BILLION GANK!!!
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This will end well
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Great article! Also--right on cue with the miner jokes, woot
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Which is why NASA is moving the asteroid out of the field so they can mine it without competing with other miners or worrying about gankers.
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I SAW ARMAGEDDON WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU BRING AN ASTEROID TO EARTH
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the sad thing is resources will never run out on Earth. Its not like the resources we use today are going to a black hole and never coming back. What will run out will be unique biological species that many inhabits the Earth. Resources will always come and go but once you lose genetic material it is lost forever.
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btw its impossible to economically harvest asteroid in space since you need a spacecraft to go get the asteroid in the first place. (Hella space to travel) and not only that but you will have to find some way to bring it back to Earth (impossible to decelerate gravity wins always) the freaken asteroid. The only feasible way is to build a base on moon or something where the gravity is significantly lower and use that base to refine the materials on the base in order to send small package of good into Earth or some shit. In your dreams NASA.
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reported NASA for using mining bot
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This is why you perform regular PI maintenance. If the resources are depleted at one part of the planet they pop up on another part of the planet.
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You are implying that the asteroids are kiting the NASA spacecrafts?
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Mining drones >.<
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Seconded!
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did NASA buy a mining permit? I mean it's only 10m
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Yeah. They surely simulated the whole thing in Kerbal Space Program to make it all work.
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LMAO
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This is really cool!
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You do realize that there are metals that are so rare on earth that NASA goes on "rock hunts" whenever a rock touches earth. The one that came down in Sweden at the end of last year NASA offered its weight in gold (expected to be 100+ KG) to anyone that finds it, due to some of the metals that it MIGHT have in it. And that is just what survived re-entry....

With the release of the 2014 federal budget by President Obama, it seems NASA has acquired the funding it needs to move forward with their latest, and by far, boldest mission in recent times. Included in the new budget is $105 million that will be used to begin a mission to identify and to capture a small asteroid to bring back to the Earth-Moon system.

That's right, if all goes well in the next few years, NASA will attempt to capture an asteroid and bring it near the Moon for further study. While the final cost is not yet known, it is believed to be less than the $2 billion calculated by certain analysts. Not only will this feat mark the first time humanity has successfully redirected the motion of an object in outer space, it also opens many doors for other scientific and economic opportunities. "We were surprised to find technically this is well within our reach to do," said Tom Jones, a former NASA astronaut turned research scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. Mining in space? Not so far-fetched anymore.

The Plan

The plan involves launching a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid, with the ultimate goal of towing it back to a stable lunar orbit. Ideally, this would be at Lagrange Point 2, an area between the Earth and the Moon where the gravity of both cancel each other out.

NASA will first need to find an asteroid to suit the mission's needs. An asteroid roughly 23 feet wide (7 meters) and 500 tons (551 tonnes) is their current goal. That would be big enough for the spacecraft to reach and to capture, but also small enough to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere if things go awry.

Next, the capture spacecraft will be launched into orbit, presumably using Hall thrusters, a type of ion engine that uses xenon gas charged in an electrical field as the method of acceleration. The spacecraft will spend a few years using the Moon's gravity to slingshot into deep space, where it will then travel to the asteroid.

Once the asteroid is in close proximity to the spacecraft, a 50-foot (15-meter) capture bag will be deployed that will envelope the asteroid completely. In order to accommodate the spinning motion of the asteroid, thrusters may need to be used to "de-spin" the asteroid to safely transport it back to a stable orbit around the Moon and Earth.

After towing the asteroid back to the Moon, NASA plans to send astronauts to the captured asteroid by 2021. The team, consisting of at least two astronauts, will be tasked with collecting samples and exploring the asteroid up close. This timetable falls within President Obama's plan to have astronauts sent to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, ultimately culminating in a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Implications

"This is part of what will be a much broader program," said U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. "The plan combines the science of mining an asteroid, along with developing ways to deflect one, along with providing a place to develop ways we can go to Mars."

In order to reach Mars, new technologies will need to be developed. If successful, this mission could provide both the experience and the technologies needed for future expeditions beyond the Moon. The mission already plans on using NASA's Orion capsule and the Space Launch System, both of which are being developed as successors to the Space Shuttle program. Any experience gained by traveling to the captured asteroid will inevitably benefit future expeditions to Mars or to its asteroid moons Phobos and Deimos. Even an expedition to the main asteroid belt could become plausible.

Furthermore, samples collected from the captured asteroid could provide insight into how the Solar System developed 4.5 billion years ago. Asteroids represent all the matter left over from the formation of the Solar System, masses of rock, dirt, metal, and the like that were unable to coalesce into planets like Earth or Mars. Due to their nature, samples from the asteroids will allow us to learn more about them just as samples from the Moon allowed us to learn more about its composition.

Another factor to consider is the possibility of near-Earth asteroids colliding with our planet in the near future. NASA currently has $20 million dedicated to the identification and tracking of near-Earth asteroids, a number that will increase if the 2014 budget is approved. This project will give NASA the experience it needs with asteroids in order to deal with other possible collisions, for example, the best way to deflect and change the course of a potential city or world killer. This is a possibility that became almost too close to reality when an asteroid exploded over a Russian city a few months ago.

Space Mining?

NASA has argued that this mission will not only allow us to learn more about asteroids, but it will be beneficial to all parties economically. Several space analysts believe that this mission could open the door to more private entrepreneurs taking the reins of space exploration from the money-restricted space agency. "If the current budget is flat or declining, NASA will go nowhere," said Tom Jones. "This could be the dawn of space mining. We have finite resources on Earth and this program might open the door for businesses interested in exploring space."

As resources run out on Earth, the stars will be the first place to look at to sustain our way of life. Capturing the asteroid is the first step, but it will not lead to any significant resources being mined and brought back to Earth. However, the first step is always the most important. If successful, private companies will become interested in the prospects of space exploration and mining, helping develop spacecraft (mining barges?) and tools (strip miners?), ultimately advancing humanity further in the field of space exploration.

So while the plan to capture an asteroid is only the beginning, it may be possible that, within our lifetime, we will be sending miners not to mines underground but to those among the stars.

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