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NASA Asteroid Capture Mission To Be Proposed In 2014 Budget 106

Posted by timothy
from the other-people's-money dept.
MarkWhittington writes "Included in President Obama's 2014 budget request will be a $100 million line item for NASA for a mission to capture and bring an asteroid to a high orbit around the moon where it will be explored by astronauts. Whether the $2.6 billion mission is a replacement or a supplement to the president's planned human mission to an asteroid is unclear. The proposal was first developed by the Keck Institite in April, 2012 and has achieved new impetus due to the meteor incident over Russia and new fears of killer asteroids."
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NASA Asteroid Capture Mission To Be Proposed In 2014 Budget

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is this a real word? asteroinauts? really?

  • Sequester Fodder (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kenh (9056) on Friday March 29, 2013 @07:20PM (#43315331) Homepage Journal

    This is a program designed to be cut, to show that this administration is being 'fiscally responsible'... I expect many such 'pie-in-the-sky' projects to be proposed, only to be cut at the altar of fiscal responsibility... And blame the minority party for the cut as well.

    Hey, if they can count as savings the money they don't spend on wars that have ended, why not propose wild plans to pump up the savings?

    Do you know how much (in inflation-adjusted dollars) we have saved since we stopped fighting the Second World War these last 65+ years?!?!?!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      An effective troll leads in with a worthwhile comment ("designed to be cut") and descends into crazy land. WTF happened after "altar of fiscal responsibility"?

      Anyway, the "need to cut the budget" nonsense is from both parties, largely the Republicans driving the discussion. Same old same old. Obama likes to play centrist, which practically speaking means letting Republicans wield more influence than they should. In this environment, the idea of budget-cut fodder makes a ton of sense. It might even b

      • by kenh (9056)

        Yes, it would go a long way towards making us meteor-proof.

        As for the descent into crazy land:

        In February, when Obama released his fiscal year 2013 budget, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget criticized the president’s plan for relying on savings from winding down the two wars. Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan group, called it a “gimmick.”

        “There are a number of good policies in this budget, but the use of this war gimmick is quite troubling,” said MacGuin

  • catching a 7 meter 500 ton space rock has nothing whatever to do with diverting dangerous asteroids or killer asteroids or even the mostly annoying asteroid that broke Russian windows. Real asteroid diversion would use tutally different tactics over many months or years, provided early enough warning was had.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      The purpose is to get more votes. How much of a mission do you think they're going to get from $100 million anyway? Or even $2.6billion, which makes the assumption that NASA will actually get that money.
    • by icebike (68054)

      catching a 7 meter 500 ton space rock has nothing whatever to do with diverting dangerous asteroids or killer asteroids or even the mostly annoying asteroid that broke Russian windows. Real asteroid diversion would use tutally different tactics over many months or years, provided early enough warning was had.

      Maybe, maybe not. The Bag-it-on-the-fly technique has been proposed for larger bodies as well. And we have enough space junk floating around the planet to practice on. You always start small. Its a practice mission at best, with a payload of manageable size.

      The rock that broke up over Russia was estimated at close to 10,000 tons. NASA currently believes the Russian meteorite was about 49 feet in diameter, or 15 meters. We never saw it coming.

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      150 tons of that rock is rocket fuel. That is a handy thing to have at L2 if you want to intercept another earthbound rock. L2 is the ideal fuel depot for this. 150 tons is not enough, but it is a significant start.
      • It's a handy thing to practice catching, and a handy thing to have in orbit to practice refining fuel, but L2 is not the place to do it. L1 and L2 are extremely unstable, you have to continuously consume fuel to remain there, though you can reduce the amount by orbiting them. L3 is better, but on the opposite side of the primary. L4 and L5 are where you can actually store stuff stably - that's where asteroid fields tend to naturally accumulate.

        Where L2 is useful is to hide something from the primary - fo

        • by symbolset (646467) *
          Stationkeeping is pretty easy when the asteroid you're mining is 30% water, like chondrites are. Water makes LH2/LO2 with sufficient electrical inputs.
          • by Immerman (2627577)

            Where are you getting that 30% number from? Chrondites are believed to have formed in the outer solar system where the minerals were shaped by water, but I know of no direct evidence that inner-system chrondites still contain it in appreciable quantities. Ice is unstable within the solar frost line, which lies partway through the asteroid belt beyond Mars. It will tend to have sublimated off any near-Earth asteroids.

            Assuming it does contain water one of the the major purposes of such a mission would be to

    • Re:no purpose (Score:5, Informative)

      by tragedy (27079) on Friday March 29, 2013 @09:00PM (#43315847)

      mostly annoying asteroid that broke Russian windows.

      Right, the mostly annoying half megaton explosion that injured over a thousand people and hospitalized over a hundred, and caused tens of millions of dollars of property damage. Most of the damage was broken glass, but it did manage to collapse the roof of one factory. If it had managed to last another half a second or so before exploding, it probably would have killed a hundred thousand or more people. I guess, in the grand scheme of things, that might only count as mostly annoying, but not to the people who live there.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Immerman (2627577)

        Right. No big deal as medium-small asteroid impacts go. Had it instead come in at a steep angle and hit a city it would have done some damage.

        Think of it this way - if we had seen it in time, and had the proven tech to divert it, would it have been worth the effort to divert? Probably not, much cheaper to replace some windows. Even a direct impact would only be mildly annoying unless it hit near something sensitive, might even through up enough dust to do a little local cooling and cloud seeding. Even

        • by rubycodez (864176)

          get real, 17 meter asteroid hit the ground once every century. usually in places where there is no one. even north russia is mostly full of places where there is no one had such a thing "come in at steep angle". you'd likly have a pretty hole in the ground for tourists, that's all.

          • by khallow (566160)

            sually in places where there is no one

            [...]

            you'd likly have a pretty hole in the ground for tourists

            Not everywhere has no one. If that pretty hole ends up in Paris or Mexico City, then you have a lot of dead people in addition to the pretty hole.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      Why does northern Russia keep having problems with asteroids and comets? Do they jack off too much or something?

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        no, there are no more incidents there than anywhere else. that particular type of event occurs about once a century somewhere on this planet

      • by Teun (17872)
        A fairly simple reason, think about the chance such a meteor would strike say Luxembourg or Andorra vs. the chance it hits Texas.

        Siberia is a big target.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      catching a 7 meter 500 ton space rock has nothing whatever to do with diverting dangerous asteroids or killer asteroids

      You claim that the only possibilities are purposelessness or diverting asteroids from striking the planet, but this is patently false. Notably, we would also like to mine asteroids.

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        mining would be done on huge asteroids without moving them at all, and only the products moved where needed. we would not play with little rocks

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          mining would be done on huge asteroids without moving them at all,

          Begging the question, is this true? There are several countermodels.

          and only the products moved where needed. we would not play with little rocks

          Begging the question again.

          I think it's not at all unlikely that we'll play with small rocks and just throw them wholesale into a solar smelter. When you have basically unlimited energy to work with, and virtually no worries about pollution (at least, waste disposal is easy) the whole game changes.

    • by lxs (131946)

      Are you implying that in Putin's Russia asteroid catches YOU?

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday March 29, 2013 @07:40PM (#43315431)

    ". . . can I keep it . . . ?"

  • What is... (Score:3, Funny)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Friday March 29, 2013 @07:44PM (#43315451)
    An asteroinaut?
    • by skine (1524819)

      It seems to be a poor attempt at a joke.

    • by Dabido (802599)
      Obviously a misspelling of A-stereo-naut ... where they send two twins into space to stand slightly apart from each other so that everything happens on your 2D TV in 3D as you watch it. (You just need some red and blue glasses to view it).
  • Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck don't come cheap.
  • by mpthompson (457482) on Friday March 29, 2013 @08:19PM (#43315663)

    Seriously, wouldn't sending a handful of robotic spacecraft to characterize larger asteroids be much more worthwhile? While it could be argued that astronauts on the surface of Mars with good geologic training and tools could be more productive than a robot, I'm not sure what value sending astronauts to such a small asteroid in lunar orbit really adds.

    The asteroids that really threaten Earth are an order or two of magnitude bigger -- a hundred meters to a few kilometers in size. A 7 meter asteroid may give us some insight into their composition, but it would be better to actually go an analyze the actual type of asteroids we are worried about. Knowing details of their structure and how they are held together could immediately eliminate some solutions for diverting their course if the need ever arises and provide insight that could spark creative solutions that haven't yet been thought of. This kind of work could actually be done much cheaper with robots than astronauts if what we really care about are actual results.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Probably not - all the science that's been done by all the Mars rovers combined since the first one touched down years ago could have been done by one person with a pack full of tools in a few days - for the next few decades at least humans will be far more versatile than any robot. The only problems are that keeping people alive for extended periods in the radiation outside of Earth's magnetosphere is a major challenge, and even if you get them to Mars safely you then need to deal with either the potentia

      • Probably not - all the science that's been done by all the Mars rovers combined since the first one touched down years ago could have been done by one person with a pack full of tools in a few days

        Bullshit. First of all for the mass budget that a single human on mars surface needs we could send dozens of mars rovers. Not just one. Secondly you still need to send the rover. A small set of tools does not include the quite fancy lab in remote car ever sent! Fact is we don't need people there to do science. Really what can that person do that a rover can't? Walk faster? Well that was about mass budget, which you total blow with a soft flesh bag that needs air food and water.

        Pound for pound, dollar for

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      You are missing the point. It's like arguing that there was no point sending Apollo 8 around the moon when a robot mission could have done it and humans should have give directly to thesurface.

      This will develop asteroid capture technology and prove the spacecraft needed to get to the moon and beyond.

      • There really was no point. Really. It was a cold war pissing contest. Yay we can piss further than those evil commies!

        Proof however is in the pudding. Can you buy a ticket to the moon? Thing is this sort of mission, and apollo are the worst way to achieve what most space enthusiast dream of. In fact its a road block to it. All that it will achieve is a massive budget for select few to do very little science.

        It fails to give general access to space. It fails to deliver science for the price. It could ac
    • > Seriously, wouldn't sending a handful of robotic spacecraft to characterize larger asteroids be much more worthwhile?

      If you design the asteroid tug right, after it returns with the first one, you can refuel it and sent it out to get another. If you use plasma (VASIMR) type thrusters, you can use oxygen as propellant. You need 2-3% of the asteroid mass as fuel, and asteroids are typically 40% Oxygen. Therefore once you get an extraction plant working, the mining is self-sustaining on fuel. You just

  • by Anonymous Coward

    plan to capture an asteroid, have something go wrong and find it breaking up an hitting several large population centres.

    • by khelms (772692)
      And if, oops, it just happens to land on the Iranian's buried nuclear facilities, well darn.
  • We should be looking at getting the technology to capture LARGE asteroids instead of planning a mission to mars. If we use government funds to push private industries into getting a large rock with value into moons orbit it can provide us with a source of material to help us colonies space which is a much better goal than trying to visit mars with humans. We can continue use robots to explore mars while we work on mining space rocks for rare earths for earth and also for space and for a moon base. Perhaps i
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Start small. We know almost nothing about asteroid composition, it's all theory and spectral analysis at this point. We catch something small, see if our theory holds water, and then make a try for something bigger and more profitable once e know we can pull off a capture rather than orbital bombardment. Comets provide a much larger challenge because they're moving much faster and are far more volatile, and even if we capture one we still have to figure out how to keep it from boiling away - the solar sy

  • I really wish that we would test out some technologies for diverting large asteroids so that we're not trying to scramble at the last minute when we realize something large is coming our way. I'd like to know for certain that we'll be ready for when we see something coming our way that could cause us some serious pain or even extinction.

  • Imagine seeing an astronaut by an asteroid, with the Earth and Moon in the background.
  • Nothing there to tax.

  • Ok, so once the asteroid collector has delivered the asteroid to high lunar orbit, what does the spacecraft do then?

    Well, if its got even a tiny fraction of its propellant left over (remember it just towed something maybe 100x its size clear across the inner solar system) , it slowly spirals down to low earth orbit and... REFUELS.

    Now here's where things get interesting. Once it's refueled (remember its main consumable is up to 12,000 lbs. of Xenon, it gets its energy from solar power), it can do any number

Theory is gray, but the golden tree of life is green. -- Goethe

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