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NASA Planning Mission To 40-Meter-Wide Asteroid

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the how-good-is-your-aim dept.

NASA 205

FudRucker points out a story from The Guardian about NASA's plans to visit 2000SG344, an asteroid 40 meters wide and weighing roughly 71 million kilograms. The manned mission would take three to six months, and it would make use of the Orion spacecraft, which will be replacing to retiring space shuttle fleet. "A report seen by the Guardian notes that by sending astronauts on a three-month journey to the hurtling asteroid, scientists believe they would learn more about the psychological effects of long-term missions and the risks of working in deep space, and it would allow astronauts to test kits to convert subsurface ice into drinking water, breathable oxygen and even hydrogen to top up rocket fuel. All of which would be invaluable before embarking on a two-year expedition to Mars. As well as giving space officials a taste of more complex missions, samples taken from the rock could help scientists understand more about the birth of the solar system and how best to defend against asteroids that veer into Earth's path."

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205 comments

Planned mission != actual mission (5, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23346956)

NASA plans a large number of missions but political considerations affect their budget so much that I wouldn't bet this is going to happen, no matter how cool it sounds. Right now, Mars is officially high on the agenda, so stepping-stones toward Mars are hot. In 5 years the next administration might decide to take the unmanned direction and this will go to the back burner. For the moment this should be thought of as contingency planning.

Not to mention (4, Funny)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347048)

What if they can't convince Bruce Willis to come along?

Re:Not to mention (5, Funny)

mdemonic (988470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347802)

Then they will all die hard

Re:Not to mention (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23349090)

God why is the Internet so funny today?

Re:Not to mention (1)

thegnu (557446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349328)

From the sound of the article, I think they may need to send AC/DC, so that they can rock the asteroid to pieces. Each asteroid needs a different skill set to destroy.

Quit being naive, people. You can't just always send balding actors.

Re:Planned mission != actual mission (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348028)

Actually, it's only really the moon that's high on the agenda. There's still a hell of a load of things to solve before we can think of going to mars, and we haven't got a clear roadmap of how to do it.

Re:Planned mission != actual mission (1)

CDMA_Demo (841347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348478)

There's still a hell of a load of things to solve before we can think of going to mars, and we haven't got a clear roadmap of how to do it.
Care to share some numbers/facts mr. obvious?

Re:Planned mission != actual mission (4, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349170)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Direct [wikipedia.org]

This is proposed back in 1990, and was deemed to be a viable plan for going forward with technology we had at that time. As with all missions, we don't know the SPECIFICS (as in, we don't have blueprints of the craft to take us), but if we had those we'd probably already be on the way there now. There are enough sound plans out there that I'm sure if funding were approved for the mission, we'd be able to do it. The problem though, is not in solving problems, getting a clear roadmap, or whatnot. The problem is in getting the government to simply lay down the funding so we can go.

Re:Planned mission != actual mission (1)

UNKN (1225066) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348676)

"All of which would be invaluable before embarking on a two-year expedition to Mars." I think this might make said mission "hot" on the agenda as you so eloquently put it.

Paper studies do not a mission make (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23346964)

It would be awesome, don't get me wrong.. I actually think this is The Way To Go [TM] and I'm surprised to even see this being studied but NASA is not planning to send a manned mission to an asteroid, not now, not in 20 years time.. maybe *after* Mars is done but as I doubt NASA will have anything to do with that, I'm thinking they won't have anything to do with going to an asteroid either.

Re:Paper studies do not a mission make (5, Informative)

l2718 (514756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347022)

maybe *after* Mars is done
Actually, if you RTFA you'd see that NASA is floating this as one possible stepping-stone toward a Mars mission and as a potential use of the CEV. At 3-6 months the asteroid mission would be shorter than a trip to Mars, closer to Earth, and require simpler spacecraft (the CEV). It would serve as a test for the capabilities required for going to Mars (or even long-term to the moon), and for the abilities of the CEV. You are completely right that this is one idea they are kicking around on, and my guess is that the best description of their reasoning is:

We're going to build the CEV; officially Congress said we're supposed to be going the moon first and then to Mars. What could we do that would use the CEV, and could be sold to Congress as part of the politically-assigned goals?

Re:Paper studies do not a mission make (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349602)

They'll quit if the Astronauts don't come back from that mission which is likely to happen more as we explore further out.

Re:Paper studies do not a mission make (5, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347306)

It would be awesome, don't get me wrong.. I actually think this is The Way To Go [TM] and I'm surprised to even see this being studied but NASA is not planning to send a manned mission to an asteroid, not now, not in 20 years time.. maybe *after* Mars is done but as I doubt NASA will have anything to do with that, I'm thinking they won't have anything to do with going to an asteroid either.
Plans were made to do it with Apollo, in the 1970's but then the Shuttle came along and the US confined themselves to low earth orbit.

Their new capsule design is basically Apollo again so the old plans are on the table. An asteroid mission is a stepping stone to missions to the planets. It is shorter, but interesting all the same.

The asteroids are a likely resource for Earth. Planets are only of use to us for colonisation or science. There is no way to export from Mars to Earth for example, but water could be exported from asteroids to the moon.

This is a great idea. I can't wait to watch.

Re:Paper studies do not a mission make (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347312)

It *is* a great idea.. which is why I don't think NASA are interested.

You don't get it... (5, Funny)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347752)

This is a coverup of the fact that 2000SG344 will hit Earth as was originally reported in year 2000. What is a more perfect cover than to actually plan out the whole mission under the guise of advancing science or preparing for Mars? Then, once independent scientists wise up, public can be reassured that NASA developed the technology to deflect the asteroid with a series of controlled, directed pocket nuke type charges.

Re:You don't get it... (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347900)

And Bruce Willis fits into this scenario how?

Re:You don't get it... (2, Funny)

twistedcubic (577194) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348692)

Somebody's got to dig that hole!

Re:You don't get it... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349672)

They'll be able to do another 'Pollo 13' and show how three guys, not even planning on deflecting an asteroid, were able to McGuiver a solution out of velcro and Tang.

amazing, but will they follow through (-1, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347002)

talk is cheap, let see them grow a pair and do it. today there is far too much talk and not enough action in the world.

Sounds like good practice for an inbound bogey (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347076)

They should have them bring a can of white and Black Paint to measure its affect.

Re:Sounds like good practice for an inbound bogey (2, Funny)

freeweed (309734) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348844)

The asteroid is already grey.

Note: they may want to bring the paint in 2 separate cans.

*crosses fingers* (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347082)

And hopes that this happens. Personally, this is 'Cool shit' (tm) and I hope that this does eventualy.

Perhaps they could shave off some of that 3 Million slated for NASA MMO [slashdot.org] and slosh it towards this. Lets face it, a 3 Million dollar game would look like a uni science project, but it might get put to some sort of use here at least.

Re:*crosses fingers* (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347588)

Lets face it, a 3 Million dollar game would look like a uni science project,
I don't get it.

Are you saying that a group of 5-10 university students, working for a semester, maybe a year, should be paid a total of 3 million dollars? That's at least some $300k each, for those not keeping track.

Or are you saying that a group of 5-10 university students, working for a semester or a year, would outperform the kind of development you could actually hire for 3 million?

Re:*crosses fingers* (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347902)

I suspect the $3M includes materials costs as well as salaries. Material costs tend to be rather high in a lot of science research fields (what does the electricity bill look like for a high-energy particle accelerator?)

Re:*crosses fingers* (1)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347714)

Lets face it, a 3 Million dollar game would look like a uni science project, but it might get put to some sort of use here at least.


This is a NASA run manned space mission. $3 million might stretch to the toilet paper, with maybe enough left over to buy a holder for it.

Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (4, Interesting)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347086)

Okay, so it's really really big. But not "too" big. And it just happens to be in an orbit that's very close to earth's orbit around the sun. So I'm guessing that with the right nudges at the right times, it'd be possible to swing that rock around the moon and park it in orbit around the earth. And having a million tons of raw material in orbit is something that both makes more sense than a manned landing, and is a lot more interesting and exciting, to me at least.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (2, Interesting)

m95lah (55920) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347114)

Well, that sounds cool.

But what I would really like is for someone to work out roughly how much energy this would take.
More or less than all nukes on earth, for example?

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (5, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347202)

It's got 1.37 km/s hyperbolic excess velocity, and on an orbit that damn near intersects ours. That means it takes a little more than 1370 m/s of delta-v to perform the capture. At 7.1E7 kg, that's about 6.6E13 joules -- approximately 15kt TNT equivalent worth of energy.

Assuming a high performance LOX/Methane engine, it would need about 34kt of propellant (rockets are inefficient for delta-v low relative to exhaust velocity). Note that this is a significant proportion of the asteroid mass. To make it economical, you'd need something more exotic -- a mass drive throwing bits of asteroid, or a high performance solar-electric ion drive, for example.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347368)

a mass drive throwing bits of asteroid, or a high performance solar-electric ion drive, for example.
To do that you need a sample of the asteroid, so you know what kind of reaction mass you are dealing with. I think it would be possible to install the engine on the second close pass, assuming a good examination on the first pass.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (4, Informative)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347700)

To make it economical, you'd need something more exotic -- a mass drive throwing bits of asteroid, or a high performance solar-electric ion drive, for example.
Or the other Orion [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348264)

Anyone know enough to see if there is a chance of using the moon's gravity to assist the capture?

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349058)

You're overlooking a teensy-weensy problem: We still do not fully understand the effects our single moon has on this planet. Adding another could be devastating.

There are obvious concerns:

A) Tides
B) Changes to the orbits of the Earth and Moon1
C) Possible climate change due to the Moon2's shadow, etc

Then there are the more mysterious:

A) Does the full moon impact human behavior? If so, what would two such moons do? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_effect)
B) Is it mere coincidence that lunar cycles and other cycles run in approximately 28-day patterns? If not, would Moon2 have a 28-day cycle as well, or do we now have all sorts of natural rhythms messed up?

Interesting stuff, but please test it on Earth Jr first... :)

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23349600)

I know on average it's about 28 days for most girls, but my girlfriend's is around every 30 days. My previous girlfriend was every 24 days... damn that was awful!!

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (2, Interesting)

AshtangiMan (684031) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349724)

I'm reading that as partial toungue in cheek, but even if it is not you might get a kick out of the TC Boyle short story where a US president (future, unspecified) looking for something to bring the country together had a new moon installed (the old one was dingy). Anyway the new one was much brighter than the old, and at its unveilling people began to exhibit some strange behavior (trying not to spoil it just in case . . . ).

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (5, Informative)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 6 years ago | (#23350022)

It's 40 m across. It's smaller in size than the space shuttle or the ISS. You'd need to be outside of most urban zones to even see it, assuming they put it in LEO. If it was set orbiting the moon, good luck spotting it with nekkid eye. As for gravitational effects on your cycles, I think a garbage truck down the street would have more effect on you.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

jacksdl (552055) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349674)

I'm too lazy to research the physics of the orbital mechanics involved -- so I'll just ask someone who sounds like he knows what he's talking about.

If this particular asteroid would be hard to capture, what about others? Are there near earth asteroids that could be captured and parked in L4, L5 or high earth orbit? What kind of orbit characteristics would make for a good candidate for capture? I like the idea of snagging some raw materials that we don't have to lift out of a gravity well.

Thanks

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

Filip22012005 (852281) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347264)

That sounds like a great use for all the nukes on earth.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347446)

Yeah, as long as we don't replace them with bigger, more devastating ones.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347450)

15 kt is a very small nuke. Today's thermonuclear bombs have energies measured in megatons. So all nukes at this tiny piece of rock is actually an overkill.

Get your motor running (1)

Sciryl Llort (1160727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347928)

That sounds like a great use for all the nukes on earth.
Are you saying that by simulataneously discharging the totality of our weaponry we could harness the energy for interplanetary travel?

I am genuinely descended from the ecosystem, therefore I'm congenitally predisposed to live in a natural state. I could reach such an altitude that I would wish to be immortal!

Re:Get your motor running (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23348288)

Is this some kindof bot or something?

unless USA starts using asteroids as nukes (1)

CDMA_Demo (841347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348358)

no radioactivity, only damage. Put a few small one in huge orbits around the earth....

Re:unless USA starts using asteroids as nukes (2, Informative)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349324)

Yeah, but the delay between needing the strike, and being able to carry it out, will be measured in days or weeks. With that amount of delay, an enemy could launch their own nukes at our asteroids, and if not destroy them at least change their orbits enough to make them useless to us.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (2, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347186)

No, forget the rock. What you want to capture is a comet. We need water and oxygen in space far more than we need silicates and iron. I propose making a really big zip-loc bag and slipping it over a comet. As the comet outgasses, the bag fills up. By venting in the right direction at the right time, you might be able to push the comet into a friendlier orbit, and voila, millions of cubic metres of propellant, oxygen and water.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347230)

Potato, potato. Most everything we know about comets suggests they are the thing is asteroids.. they just happen to have the oxygen and the hydrogen embedded in them in different ways. Extracting oxygen from an asteroid isn't all that hard. Extracting iron from a comet, might just well be.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (4, Interesting)

afaik_ianal (918433) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347292)

The actual object is only 71,000 tonnes, not 1.1 million tonnes as claimed by TFA.

The energy of any possible collision with Earth is "1.1 million tons of TNT", which is about 4.6 petajoules. I expect the energy required to pull it into orbit would be in that order of magnitude, as you'd basically be trying to slow the thing down as it got near us.

I'm not sure how you many nukes it would take to apply that much kinetic energy to an object in space, but the biggest nukes can release in the order of 2 petajoules of heat.

I'm not sure that I'd want an object that size -- without any means of correcting its orbit -- hovering over my house though.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (3, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347610)

Well, if we can slow it down that much, I'd imagine we could use the same tricks to correct its orbit.

Somehow, I'm not that bothered by it -- how much does the moon weigh? It's often over your house, right?

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

egyptiankarim (765774) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348476)

Ugh! Another awesome project that'll be delayed by your not-in-my-orbital-backyard shenanigans! ;)

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

a_claudiu (814111) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347300)

71.000.000 kilograms = 71.000 tons. Related to the summary, maybe 71 million kilograms sounds cooler but for masses so big the ton is more appropiate.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

The -e**(i*pi) (1150927) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348308)

Metric tons

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (2, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347578)

I can allready see the look of confusion on the faces of horoscope readers everywhere.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347850)

I offer the much better idea of nudging the asteroid so that it falls into a stable orbit between Mars and the Earth.

Then each time it comes round, regular trips from the Earth could stock it with food, water and air, as well as building long-term habitation. It would then become a 'Mars Bus', able to shift lots of material, as well as all the Mars tourists/colonists who will want to go.

And I haven't even patented this concept. Perhaps it's because I am from the UK and not American?

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23348032)

Umm....No.

If you were American, your first thought would be to use the asteroid as some sort of weapon....

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (2, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348456)

You want the same crew that accidentally converted from Imperial to Metric to be responsible for redirecting something this size toward earth? You do understand that an orbital calculation is a very fine thing, in a sense you're shooting not simply at a target, but to intentionally MISS the target by a hairsbreadth at a specific speed and time?

"...a lot more interesting and exciting..." indeed.

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

RKThoadan (89437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348664)

Maybe I just like Big Booms, but I think it might be quite interesting to try to slam this into the moon. Obviously they'd need to do the math to make sure it's not going to affect the moons orbit, but the moons gravity should be strong enough to keep most of the debris contained. We could probably learn a lot from observation, and if we have an active presence on the moon we could inspect the aftermath directly.

Most importantly of course: It would be a really big boom!

Re:Land, schmand. Pull it into orbit! (1)

Jarik_Tentsu (1065748) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348850)

It'd certainly be great to build space-infrastructure!

I mean, imagine if they could make Russia's idea of an orbital construction plant [slashdot.org] a *lot* cheaper, because you wouldn't have to worry about sending up tonnes of raw material in rockets. You could have a whole bunch of orbital factories and build space infracture in space.

Of course, it'd suck if someone messed up on a calculation and coursed the aseteroid to collide.... >_>

~Jarik

Hopefully (4, Funny)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347152)

Hopefully through their all research, hard work, and bravery they'll finally discover
what it's like to go out one side of the screen and come back in the other.

how many kilograms? (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347176)

Yes, I know the referenced material quotes the weight in kilograms.

However, when writing an article, is it too hard to call it 71,000 tons (or tonnes, or "metric" tons - they're all essentially the same unit - with a percent or two)

Re:how many kilograms? (2, Informative)

afaik_ianal (918433) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347258)

Interestingly, TFA incorrectly says the asteroid is 1.1 million tonnes. They seem to be confused with the energy of any potential impact, as measured in tons of TNT.

I don't know about you, but I get a little concerned when science reporters get stuff like that wrong.

In truth... (2, Insightful)

RationalRoot (746945) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347322)

When the reporters start getting stuff right I start getting worried.
Any time I read anything in the press that I personally know about, I dispair at just how far wrong the reporters are.
It's the little things, like an order of magnitude here or there. We say 10,000 they say 100,000 what's a 0 between friends.
So I assume that anything I read is little more than an vague approximation of the truth.
I'm not even getting all tin hat.
Think Hanlon's Razor..
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Re:In truth... (1)

jeric23 (1154589) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349250)

In truth there is plenty of subjection. Really it's the pragmatics skew how people convey the truth. I believe the recipe is as follows: 1 story bowl, 2 quarts of truth (sic), 1 oz of pragmatics, 3 tbsp creativity, a pinch of salt, and a little spit. There, now that is how the world really works. Easy as bread.

Finally! (4, Interesting)

Erpo (237853) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347178)

Unmanned missions may be cheaper and safer, but sending out real people to expand the horizons of human activity in space is much more important. It gets people excited! That brings in money and inspires young people.

Then, when NASA has a huge group of talented experts and tons of cash, they can do real science instead of worrying every day about whether the budget will get slashed before they can complete the current round of experiments.

Re:Finally! (4, Insightful)

Haoie (1277294) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347416)

Yes, but think of the vast, vast differences in cost.

No pun intended, it's astronomically different.

Re:Finally! (2, Insightful)

rubenerd (998797) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347576)

You're right, they shouldn't have sent people to the moon, it was too expensive. Think of all the money they could have saved if they sent a few robots up there.

I'm sure Rosie [wikipedia.org] would have loved to volunteer!

Veering into Earth's path? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347204)

...help scientists understand more about the birth of the solar system and how best to defend against asteroids that veer into Earth's path."
I think we may have more to worry about if asteroids start veering into Earth's path, like who's behind the path change.

Re:Veering into Earth's path? (1)

Jellybob (597204) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347730)

No - I'd worry about the several million tons of rock heading towards the atmosphere first.

Once that's dealt with, then we can start the interstellar finger pointing... it's probably just them damn terr'ists anyway, and what better incentive to go to Mars then to invade?

Re:Veering into Earth's path? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347884)

If it crashes, and we have no way of stopping it, at least lets try to aim it at Bush's house. That'll show him weapons of mass destruction :D

Why bother worrying about a crash? (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349032)

Acccording to the article, if this 40 Meter, 71,000 Ton asteroid hit earth it would release the energy of 1.1 million tons of TNT.

Lets change the units...

1.1 Million Tons of TNT == 1.1 Megatons

The governments capable of getting to this thing have weapons WELL in excess of that strength on hand. They don't even have to spend hundreds of Millions of Dollars to get to the asteroid, move it (also probably with a nuke) and target it.

Wrong Orion (3, Interesting)

stjobe (78285) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347344)

it would make use of the Orion spacecraft
Too bad it's the wrong Orion [wikipedia.org] . Would have been a hell of a lot cooler if it was a project Orion spacecraft instead of a souped up Apollo capsule.

Re:Wrong Orion (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347484)

Very cool link (in parent)- heres a tidbit to get you to go read it!!!

StanisÅaw Ulam realized that nuclear explosions could not yet be realistically contained in a combustion chamber.

Instead, the Orion would have worked by dropping fission or thermonuclear explosives out the rear of a vehicle, detonating them 200 feet (60 m) out, and catching the blast with a thick steel or aluminum pusher plate.

Large multi-story high shock absorbers (pneumatic springs) were to have absorbed the impulse from the plasma wave as it hit the pusher plate, spreading the millisecond shock wave over several seconds and thus giving an acceptable ride.

Re:Wrong Orion (1)

3waygeek (58990) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348506)

Instead, the Orion would have worked by dropping fission or thermonuclear explosives out the rear of a vehicle
When the Orion team needed to figure out how to dispense the nuclear charges, they consulted Coca-Cola. Coke's experience with vending machines proved quite useful to the Orion designers; reliably dispensing cans of cold caffeine/sugar water isn't too different from lobbing nukes out the back of a spaceship.

Re:Wrong Orion (2, Insightful)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348144)

Hmm. I don't know about "Cooler".

Project Orion is a pretty incredible concept, and I think the odds are good that something like it will get built eventually if high-tech civilisation doesn't collapse first. (Nuclear thermal rocketry [wikipedia.org] is another idea that perhaps deserves revisiting.)

However: using either of these drives as a means of getting off the Earth's surface is utter madness. The last thing we need is more unshielded bare-atmosphere nuclear detonations. I'm no anti-nuclear activist, but there's a hell of a difference between a shielded reactor that can't meltdown and pushing things off the ground and past escape velocity by riding the shockwave of atmospheric thermonuclear explosions.

Now, if we could build a space elevator and assemble and launch these things from high orbit - that would be awesome. And, I think politically and environmentally speaking, it's the only way that nuclear propulsion will ever get off the ground.

40 metres? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347410)

40 metres doesn't sound like a very big asteroid. What happens if they miss?

What about the War? (4, Funny)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347506)

Would somebody *please* think of the children???
I mean if NASA goes on spending recklessly on such projects, who is going to feed the poor kids in Iraq, and not to mention upcoming Iran, Syria and N.Korea (although in this case it would be radioactive S.Korean kids).
NASA is just literally throwing money away to send 2 girls and 1 man away for tax-payer-funded jaunts to the ultimate holiday-spot: Asteriod!
I say we snatch NASA's budgets and feed it to Cheney; er sorry, Halliburton so that they could prosecute this devastating War to its conclusion.
Of all the daring, reckless things NASA can do, this rates the 3rd worst: The first was the Hubble-Schubble telescope thingy that NASA claims can take photos 130 million light-years away, but can't take photos of my Pet Cat! I mean who wants to look into the past 130 million years ago? Didn't God say he created Earth 6,000 years ago?
Secondly they sent TWO stupid rovers to Mars and cheer loudly when their rovers cross 6 mph speed. I mean, come on. My Hummer easily tops at 112 mph on a Texas village road! Who the hell needs photos from Mars, when the money can be spent to 'assist' JP Morgan and Citibank so that the poor executives can support their children at harvard? Plus Mars has no oil or CNG. Atleast Venus and Europa have oil.
Thirdly now this stupid honeymoon jaunt for 3 months!!!
 

Re:What about the War? (3, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347640)

Ranting aside, asteroid landing is pretty important if we're going to take advantage of the iron, other metals, and energy available to space travel. Solar mirrors have to be made out of something: the entire fossil and nuclear energy demands of this planet can be provided with a fairly modest set of solar mirrors. Even if you think it's unsafe or a military issue to beam the energy down to Earth, there's enough manufacturing of toxic materials and especially of cumputer chips and crystalline structures that would benefit from operating in orbit instead of on the ground, where it's more idfficult and expensive to control temperature, maintain purity, control temperature, and avoid gravitic problems in the formation of crystalliine or porous materials.

Asteroid visits are a wonderful step towards the industrial use of space, far more effective and useful than a Mars mission. Do the Mars mission after we have a working space station that can build things, and a reliable supply line to it.

Re:What about the War? (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348494)

NASA needs a Karl Rove.
NASA has some wonderful ideas and good planning. Unfortunately they miss the funding.
I bet EU does it or even China will do it for prestige.
Our politicians hate spending money on NASA primarily because none of their pet industries where they have interests benefit from it.
Take for instance the rovers's lenses. None of our politicians has any remote interest in any company that makes mirrors and lenses.
So why would they fund?
The trick for NASA is to market itself as benefitting the politicians, sorry, constituents by clearly specifying the names of companies shortlisted, amounts to be donated, er, given to them, and then sit back and watch as Senate and House vie with each other to pass funding.
NASA is full of geeks.

Re:What about the War? (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349442)

Oh Sure, pull down the Solar System's Asteroid belt and rape it like a 3 dollar ho.

When will mankind stop meddling with nature and die like the primitive little half-monkeys they are in 3 billion years when the sun expands like they are supposed to!

Fir57 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347672)

Dying' cr0wd - [goat.cx]

blah blah exotic projects that will never happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347712)

The United States is an utterly bankrupt nation - we don't even have the cash to repair our crumbling infrastructure. Toss this in the bin with returning to the Moon, going to Mars, space elevators, Freedom Towers, maglevs between LA and Vegas, and all the other interesting but utterly financially pointless and impossible projects.

Landing... (3, Insightful)

TrevorB (57780) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347772)

Just a technical note. With an asteroid this tiny, you don't land on it, you dock with it. The gravity will be practically non-existent.

Probably best to go nose first, nose down. Then you'll be able to see it so you don't hit it so hard.

Wisdom follows, pay attention! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23347774)

> about NASA's plans for a manned visit to 2000SG344 an asteroid 40 meters wide and weighing roughly 71 million kilograms

40 meters wide is OK, but saying something weights 71 million kilograms sounds stupid. In countries where the metric system is in use, nobody would say, rather simply use "71 thousand tons". One metric ton is 1000 kilograms.

(Coincidentally 71000 metric tons is about the weight of the largest ever japanese space battleship Yamato.)

The news source is possibly doing this weird "million kilogram" wording, because an american ton is only 908 kilograms, making people confused.

Re:Wisdom follows, pay attention! (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348808)

40 meters wide is OK, but saying something weights 71 million kilograms sounds stupid. In countries where the metric system is in use, nobody would say, rather simply use "71 thousand tons"

Although "71 thousand tons" sounds a bit better to me, it still doesn't quite ring true. I prefer "71 kilotons".

That said of course, it's a matter of preference, and the great thing with the metric system is easy conversion.

(as an example of preference: mainland Europeans use "centilitres" a lot for liquid measurement (a standard can of Coke here is 33cl), but in Australia and New Zealand which are use metric, that's quite unheard of. They prefer to give it in millilitres (a typical can of Coke there is 375ml))

Solar Flare shelter? (3, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 6 years ago | (#23347916)

Does anyone who knows anything about solar physics know whether or not you could use a small body like this as a solar flare shelter? If you are in deep space or in a hard-to-change orbit around a large body (like the moon), if a solar flare happens you're out of luck. If you're on the surface of a body with little or no atmosphere I guess you're still out of luck. But with a small body like this could you just zip to the side in the shadow? Could this make long-term trips like this safer than say going to the moon?

The idea is reminiscent of an Arthur C. Clarke story about a trip to Icarus.

On a more sinister note, while the delta-V for CAPTURE of this body around earth might be prohibitive using todays technology, what about for IMPACT? Not the U.S. would want to do such an obvious war provoking act but wondering if it could be done with just chemical propellants. Of course it depends on how far in advance you have to alter the course, orbital parameters etc.

Now if we were really good at orbital mechanics we could possibly have it skim the atmosphere to lose some delta-v for capture. Don't think anyone's gonna try that though.

obligatory Titan reference (1)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348128)

We must drink poisonous wine to slake our thirst.
In the book Titan by Stephen Baxter there is a similar mission.

Re:obligatory Titan reference (1)

AragornSonOfArathorn (454526) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348776)

Also, as in Titan, maybe they should use an old Shuttle to get there. Who wants to spend 6 months in a cramped Apollo-like capsule?

Dead man walkin (1)

ThoreauHD (213527) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348344)

Maybe you folks on slashdot have a 30 second attention span, or maybe most of you just haven't been paying attention. Maybe you were born yesterday.. if that's the case, then the comments make sense.

Nasa and the UK/AU have been building ships to destroy an asteroid since 1998. Anyone recall this at all? Did you not see this on the BBC/Space.com/anything at all. Is every day a new one for you?

Why would this be do you think? Why would Nasa keep sending up ships to destroy near Earth asteroids. It's not like they have alot of money to begin with. Hmmm, is it to extract metals from nearby rocks at $100,000 per hour? No.. let's see. Do they want to starve the children in asscrackistan or baliachiland? No? Well then, let's think real freakin hard.

An asteroid is going to hit this planet you morons. They have known this for 10 years. Right before the time those 2 comedic asteroid movies mysteriously started filming redundantly.

Nasa and the government are concerned with survival. That is it. The research BS is to keep you entertained and all you foreigners waiting around like gerbils in a jar. Don't start believing in fairy tales now. Listen to the astronauts that actually worked there.

But this is just one piece of what's coming ladies. Don't worry about somebody 3000 miles away. Worry about yourself.

I say bring it on and let it land 20 miles from me (1)

clonan (64380) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349084)

If this asteroid hits the earth it will release about 1.1 million tons of TNT worth of energy.

Put it another way, it is equivalent to a 1.1 Megaton Nuke (with little or no radioactivity)

I believe minimum safe distance for a megaton nuke (WITH radiation) is 20 kilometers...so 20 miles is perfect

I wonder ... (2, Interesting)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348350)

... what will be the affect of the next election on NASA and NASA's budget. According to this chart (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:NASA_budget_linegraph_BH.PNG [wikipedia.org] ), it looks like Democrats tend to roll back NASA's budget whereas Republicans tend to increase it, ignoring of course the Apollo years (arguably that money was looked at as Cold War defense expenditures, not space program expenses). To summarize the chart, during the Carter years, NASA's inflation-adjusted budget went down. During the Reagan years it went up a little. During Bush I it went up dramatically, and then it went down quite a bit during the Clinton (I?) years. During Bush II it also went up a little. Now what will happen should a) Obama b) Clinton II c) McCain become the next president? My guess would be a) down a lot, b) down a little, c) up a little.

This will be interesting. (1)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348536)

I hope people are prepared for the day when we first lose someone outside of the play pen that the shuttle has been in. I hope everything goes well but what happens if something goes wrong and someone floats off in to forever so to speak? How are people going to handle that? What do they do to prepare the people going on the mission in case that happens? Do they offer them a quick and painless option so to speak? I'm kinda curious.

Where will they get energy to crack hydrogen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23348630)

kits to convert subsurface ice into ...hydrogen

WTF??? We can't even do this on Earth with net positive energy! How are we going to carry enough energy out to a friggin' ASTEROID to crack enough hydrogen for fuel?

Re:Where will they get energy to crack hydrogen? (2, Informative)

clonan (64380) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348994)

Well of COURSE you can't create energy from cracking water! You will NEVER be able to do that.

However, electrolysis is nice and easy and solar cells are often used in space....

Think BEFORE you type.

Here we go again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23348650)

NASA makes plans to invade a-rock

Lets just hope... (0)

jflo (1151079) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348690)

Lets just hope that LT Taurez (Chief Engineer) can pull some Macki tricks out of her sleeve to pull this one off

Mission description (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 6 years ago | (#23348710)

Description
Your space craft is dangerously situated among fast moving asteroids in an asteroid belt that can destroy your ship on contact. Armed with a front mounted weapon and the ability to hyperspace, you fly through the debris, destroying each rock one piece at a time. Alien saucers visit the playfield from time to time with an eye towards destroying your ship

Escape velocity (5, Funny)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349046)

The escape velocity on this asteroid is 1.5 cm/s. Yes, centimeters. One small step for man, one giant trajectory for that same man.

Frist ostop (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23349072)

Confirmed that *BSD TOLD REPORTERS, maggot, vom1t, shit 0p my toys. I'm been the best, of OpenBSD versus

Asteroid B612 (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | more than 6 years ago | (#23349700)

... And what they'll find is a vain rose, three vulcanos (one dead but you never know) and a little boy asking them to draw a shield for the rose that he loves so much..

Mars Stepping Stone? (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 6 years ago | (#23350136)

A stepping stone to Mars? Perhaps, but this should signal more than that. Given that we have a better chance to be productive by sending missions, manned or otherwise, to Venus (aerostatic drones or ships in the upper atmosphere) or Titan or Enceladus, is there any hope that for missions like that instead? It seems that a mission to Mars is simply misguided. Yes, it would be a great achievement. Perhaps I am biased here, but after reading about the subject more, it seems fairly obvious that better long term gains could be made through other types of space missions beside a Mars mission. Mars is in the spotlight, but how hard would it be to shift America's short attention span and inform them that Venus is now the most promising frontier? I hope this madness (?) over a Mars mission will segue into more useful missions on the clock of what I hope is a more intelligently visionary administration. Call me biased, though.
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