: International News
NASA plans most ambitious mission - to the asteroids
London, July 26, 2011
NASA will somehow have to accomplish
its most ambitious mission - landing on an asteriod within 15
years, after a presidential directive.
The challenges are manifold, but NASA nerds are delirious at
tackling the nitty gritty of such an inconceivably challenging
project - though Hollywood has already done it in "Armadeddon"
13 years ago.
An asteroid is a gigantic rock orbiting the sun, like Earth.
One of them, just 16 km across, devastated the earth and wiped
out dinosaurs 60 million years ago. Another, a much smaller
one, exploded over Siberia in 1908, wiping out vegetation over
108 square km.
But sending people to an asteriod won't be that easy because
of its zero gravity. Astronauts would just float away.
NASA is thinking about jetpacks, tethers, bungees, nets and
spiderwebs to allow explorers to float just above the surface
of it while attached to a smaller mini-spaceship, reports the
Such a ship - something like a Star Trek shuttle craft melded
with a deep sea explorer with pincer-like arms - is needed
just to get within working distance of the asteroid.
That craft would have to be big enough for astronauts to live
in for a week or two. They'd still need a larger habitat for
the long term.
NASA has also announced details of plans to determine if Mars
has or ever had the ingredients for life. A robotic science
lab, being prepared for a Nov 25 launch, will land in August
2012 near a mountain in a crater on the planet most like Earth
in the solar system.
But President Barack Obama has said the objective is to build
new spaceships that can travel beyond the shuttle's near-Earth
orbit and eventually send astronauts to asteroids, Mars and
other destinations in deep space.