Asteroid To Orbit Moon?
A plan to find a small nearby asteroid and move into orbit around the Moon is now being talked about in the halls of NASA. The study, from the Keck Institute for Space Studies, examines the feasibility of carrying out the project in the next decade.
(Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle approaches an asteroid [NASA])
The two major conclusions from the KISS study are: 1) that it appears feasible to identify, capture
and return an entire ~7-m diameter, ~500,000-kg near-Earth asteroid to a high lunar orbit using
technology that is or could be available in this decade, and 2) that such an endeavor may be essential
technically and programmatically for the success of both near-term and long-term human exploration
beyond low-Earth orbit. One of the key challenges – the discovery and characterization of a sufficiently
large number of small asteroids of the right type, size, spin state and orbital characteristics – could be
addressed by a low-cost, ground-based observation campaign identified in the study. To be an attractive
target for return the asteroid must be a C-type approximately 7 m in diameter, have a synodic period of
approximately 10 years, and require a ∆V for return of less than ~200 m/s. Implementation of the
observation campaign could enable the discovery of a few thousand small asteroids per year and the
characterization of a fraction of these resulting in a likelihood of finding about five good targets per year
that meet the criteria for return.
Proof-of-concept trajectory analysis based on asteroid 2008 HU4 (which is approximately the right
size, but of an unknown spectral type) suggest that a robotic spacecraft with a 40-kW solar electric
propulsion system could return this asteroid to a high-lunar orbit in a total flight time of 6 to 10 years
assuming the asteroid has a mass in the range of 250,000 to 1,000,000 kg (with the shorter flight times
corresponding to the lower asteroid mass). Significantly, these proof-of-concept trajectories baseline a
single Atlas V-class launch to low-Earth orbit.
The study also considered an alternative concept in which the spacecraft picks up a ~7-m diameter
rock from the surface of a much larger asteroid (> 100-m diameter). The advantage of this approach is
that asteroids 100-m in diameter or greater are much easier to discover and characterize. This advantage
is somewhat offset by the added complexity of trying to pick up a large 7-m diameter rock from the
surface, and the fact that there are far fewer 100-m class NEAs than smaller ones making it more
difficult to find ones with the desired orbital characteristics. This mission approach would seek to return
approximately the same mass of asteroid material – of order 500,000 kg – as the approach that returns an
entire small NEA.
(Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study)
Update: See also this material on the AsterAnts: A Concept for Large-Scale Meteoroid Return and Processing, a proposal that dates from the late 1990's. (Thanks to Ashley for pointing this one out.) End update.
Robert Heinlein wrote about capturing an asteroid and changing its orbit in his still excellent short story Misfit:
Eighty-eight swung some millions of miles further around the sun. The pock-marks on her face grew deeper, and were lined with durite, that strange close-packed laboratory product which (usually) would confine even atomic disintegration. Then Eighty-eight received a series of gentle pats, always on the side headed along her course. In a few weeks' time the rocket blasts had their effect and Eighty-eight was plunging in an orbit toward the sun.
When she reached her station one and three-tenths the distance from the sun of Earth's orbit, she would have to be coaxed by another series of pats into a circular orbit. Thereafter she was to be known as E-M3, Earth-Mars Space Station Spot Three.
(moving an asteroid)
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/8/2013)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )
Related News Stories -
Elon Musk, Google To Extend Internet Into Earth Orbit, Then Mars
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'- George O Smith, 1942.
HAVOC Over Venus ala Bespin
'Cloud City is an installation on the planet Bespin...'- George Lucas, 1980.
Should SETI Talk To Molecular Cloud Barnard 68?
'I myself am building basic chemicals at about 10,000,000,000 times the rate at which building is occurring on the whole ... surface of your planet.'- Fred Hoyle, 1957.
Stellar Navigation Based On Network Analysis
'We are a traveling people. We need a travel station here.'- Clifford Simak, 1963.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
DJI Phantom Drone Now With GPS Blocking
'Workarounds were illegal and the fines were expensive...'
OMOTE Face Hackers At Work Video
'...a video-manicuring program came on line.'
Vroom! Your Car Or Truck's Engine Noise Might Be Fake
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'
Care-O-Bot 4 Personal Service Robot
'Beside her moved a gleaming robant...'
Skin Wearable Harvests Power With Triboelectric Effect
'He had tightened the chest to gain maximum pumping action...'
EDSAP Wearable Stroke Detection
'His Altec cephalochromoscope, around which he had built the pleasure part of his schedule...'
Brand Killer Helmet Blocks Real-Life Ads
'Some merely held the holos [ads] at arm's length.'
In Vivo Micromotors Powered By Stomach Acid
First in vivo study of artificial micromotors.
Synthetic 'Squid Skin' For Camouflage On The Way
'The small, chameleon-clad figures continued to advance.'
3D Printer 'Teleports' Objects Like Simak's Way Stations
'An entirely new being but exactly like the old one'
Laser Etching Makes Metal Super-Hydrophobic
'The water flowed off those walls without binding tension.'
Patient Walks Out With Fully Artificial Heart
'The throb of the robot pump gave him confidence...'
Radisens' Gemini Instant Blood Tests
An amazing lab-on-a-panel.
Nonhuman Artist Collective Keeps Robot Artist Earnings Until Legal
Pay the artists!
Argentine Orangutan Receives Basic Human Rights
'They wouldn't dare let the Fuzzies be proven sapient...'
Elon Musk, Google To Extend Internet Into Earth Orbit, Then Mars
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories