NASA Manned Landing On Asteroids?

President Obama reiterated his space vision before a crowd of scientists, astronauts and policy makers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The president also announced his commitment Thursday to building a heavy-lift rocket in 2015, one which could be geared to launching new spacecraft and payloads for ambitious expeditions to a nearby asteroid and stable points in space called Lagrange points in preparation for a manned spaceflight to Mars. Obama has proposed a $19 billion budget for NASA in 2011, and added another $6 billion over five years onto that in his announcement today.

"We will finalize a rocket design no later than 2015 and then begin to build it," Obama said. "I want everyone to understand. That's at least two years earlier than was previously planned. "

NASA has already sent an unmanned probe to land on an asteroid.


(NEAR landing site on Eros)

Take a look at these high-quality, close-up images of Asteroid 433 Eros that NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft transmitted as it floated to a historic landing on the rocky surface nearly 200 million miles (322 million kilometers) from Earth on Monday, February 12, 2001.


(NEAR landing site pictures beamed from Eros)

As far as I know, the first story about landing a craft on an asteroid was written by Edward Drax in 1931. In The Travel Tales of Mr. Joseph Jorkens, minor navigation problems result in a landing on an asteroid:

"I had not seen it as soon as I had seen Mars, on account of its being so near to the line of the Sun... I couldn't make out anything, as most of the orb was in darkness... I got into the darkness at last and switched on my engines, and flew till I came to the very first edge of twilight that gave light enough for me to land... And that was how I came to make a bad landing, with my wheels deep down in a marsh...

A more technical approach to landing on an asteroid was completed by Robert Heinlein. In his 1939 short story Misfit, young men without a trade were given another chance in the Cosmic Construction Corps. One job was to make a livable space habitat on selected asteroids.

He walked over by the lookouts at stereoscopes and radar tanks and peered up at the star-flecked blackness. Three cigarettes later the lookout nearest him called out.
"Light ho!"
"Where away?"
His mate read the exterior dials of the stereoscope. "Plus point two, abaft one point three, slight drift astern." He shifted to radar and added, "Range seven nine oh four three."
"Does that check?"
"Could be, Captain. What is her disk?" came the Navigator's muffled voice from under the hood.
The first lookout hurriedly twisted the knobs of his instrument, but the Captain nudged him aside. "I'll do this, son." He fitted his face to the double eye guards and surveyed a little silvery sphere, a tiny moon. Carefully he brought two illuminated cross-hairs up until they were exactly tangent to the upper and lower limbs of the disk. "Mark!"
The reading was noted and passed to the Navigator, who shortly ducked out from under the hood.
"That's our baby, Captain"
...McCoy forced them to lie down throughout the ensuing two hours. Short shocks of rocket blasts alternated with nauseating weightlessness. Then the blowers stopped and check valves clicked into their seats. The ship dropped free for a few moments -- a final quick blast -- five seconds of falling, and a short, light, grinding bump. A single bugle note came over the announcer, and the blowers took up their hum.

Via Space.com and also NEAR Shoemaker lands on Eros.

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