Posts: 1494 From: Greensboro, NC USA Registered: Feb 2006
posted 06-21-2012 09:41 AM
Astronaut Tom Jones wrote this article for Popular Mechanics explaining an interesting mission concept to capture a small near-Earth asteroid and return it to the vicinity of the Moon for study.
NASA and its partners snatch a small asteroid from deep space, bag it for delivery, and tow it into a safe orbit around our moon. There the captured asteroid creates an easy stepping-stone for astronaut explorers who want to explore an ancient rock from the dawn of the solar system, and creates a target for miners who might extract valuable water and metals. If successful, the grab demonstrates that humans could divert a dangerous space rock if necessary.
Science fiction or a glimpse into our space future? Right now, a team of space scientists and engineers put together by the Keck Institute for Space Studies in Pasadena, Calif., is urging NASA to pursue this futuristic mission to help America's space agency achieve its mission of operating beyond low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. I was an astronautics and asteroid consultant to the team, which spent six months analyzing techniques for pulling off the asteroid grab. Our conclusion: NASA could execute this affordable mission within 10 years.