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A Year After Chelyabinsk, NASA Readying Asteroid Response Mission

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the efforts-to-not-die dept.

NASA 64

An anonymous reader sends this NASA report: "One year ago, on Feb. 15, 2013, the world was witness to the dangers presented by near-Earth Objects (NEOs) when a relatively small asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere, exploding over Chelyabinsk, Russia, and releasing more energy than a large atomic bomb. ... NASA is now pursuing new partnerships and collaborations in an Asteroid Grand Challenge to accelerate NASA's existing planetary defense work, which will help find all asteroid threats to human population and know what to do about them. In parallel, NASA is developing an Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) — a first-ever mission to identify, capture and redirect an asteroid to a safe orbit of Earth's moon for future exploration by astronauts in the 2020s. ... NASA is assessing two concepts to robotically capture and redirect an asteroid mass into a stable orbit around the moon. In the first proposed concept, NASA would capture and redirect an entire very small asteroid. In the alternative concept, NASA would retrieve a large, boulder-like mass from a larger asteroid and return it to this same lunar orbit. In both cases, astronauts aboard an Orion spacecraft would then study the redirected asteroid mass in the vicinity of the moon and bring back samples."

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64 comments

fizzz poss (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46255081)

fizzz poss

The moon will have a moon (3, Interesting)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 months ago | (#46255087)

That will be interesting for amateur astronomers as well. I know I would love to check that out

Re:The moon will have a moon (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 months ago | (#46255141)

That hadn't occurred to me. How big a scope would you need to see it? Could you see it with the naked eye? The ISS is certainly bright, although it's nowhere near as far as the moon but much smaller than what came down in Russia.

Re:The moon will have a moon (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 months ago | (#46255185)

I dont know the details, but I would wager naked eye would be out of the question, then again I have no idea how big of a rock they will eventually end up with

Re:The moon will have a moon (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 months ago | (#46255301)

I just RTFA, you won't be seeing it with the naked eye or even binoculars. Still don't know how big a telescope you'll need, but they're talking boulder-sized. Probably only the most serious of hobbyists will have the equipment but I'm probably wrong about that.

Re:The moon will have a moon (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 months ago | (#46255355)

you can see quite a bit with a 500$ scope these days. I know thats not cheap by any means but for a scope thats fairly cheap.

I believe it will be a small number of people who get a chance, but larger than most people would think

Re:The moon will have a moon (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 months ago | (#46255187)

Probably only see reflected light from solar panels, similar to Iridium Flares. At that distance, it's going to be pretty hard to spot with an amature scope.

Re:The moon will have a moon (1)

dataspel (2436808) | about 2 months ago | (#46257323)

The largest telescope in the world, under perfect conditions, can see an object on the Moon about the size of a small house. It's hard to imagine any amateur telescope seeing an asteroid that is small enough to be moved into Lunar orbit.

Re:The moon will have a moon (1)

metaforest (685350) | about 2 months ago | (#46264319)

What came down in Chelyabinsk was not much bigger than an SUV. The ISS is considerably bigger and more mass than an SUV.

Re:The moon will have a moon (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 months ago | (#46267163)

Wikipedia says it was twenty meters with a mass of 12,000-13,000 metric tonnes. That's quite a bit larger than an SUV.

Finally, a mission for NASA (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46255107)

that almost everybody can agree deserves full funding

Re:Finally, a mission for NASA (3)

n1ywb (555767) | about 2 months ago | (#46255295)

Not really. Couldn't robots do this at a fraction of the cost and risk?

Re:Finally, a mission for NASA (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#46255875)

The first thing that I thought of when I heard about this program was 'oh, now NASA has reason to put humans back in space again'.

I really don't see the advantage of doing this with humans. The asteroid will be close enough that communications time lag won't be too big a problem. It's not like the Orion capsule can house a real laboratory - although there is some room compared to an Apollo Command Module, it's not all that large. The Orion isn't designed to dock with anything other than the ISS - it can't hold much of a robotic arm. Yes, you could 'spacewalk' over to the asteroid and boy would that be a blast, but in terms of scientific results vs. dollars expended, robots are the way to go.

Re:Finally, a mission for NASA (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 months ago | (#46256251)

it will not be just the orion. It is too small for 2, let alone 3 ppl to spend a month or more doing a mission. It will be the orion combined with a some unit, probably a Bigelow unit. Considering that a BA-330 weighs less than the Orion itself, it makes sense to send one up to

Re:Finally, a mission for NASA (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 2 months ago | (#46255917)

"NASA is assessing two concepts to robotically capture and redirect an asteroid"
Robots are cheaper than robots?

Re:Finally, a mission for NASA (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 months ago | (#46256213)

the robots will do the capture and move it, not ppl. As to the rest of the mission, humans exploring it makes perfect sense once it is in lunar orbit. Both from the sense of costs as well as capabilities.

Assteroids (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 months ago | (#46255123)

We've all been spelling it wrong, even the dictionaries, because that one in Russia last year certainly made an ass of itself. I guess in Britain the correct spelling is arseteroid.

Seriously, though, this is the kind of stuff I could only dream of as a kid. Incredibly cool!

Re:Assteroids (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 2 months ago | (#46257851)

It certainly showed how stupid the disaster movies are. From one of those clips a great big glowing meteor didn't seem to be a big enough deal to turn off the radio let alone stop driving.

Soon to be a DLC for KSP (2)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | about 2 months ago | (#46255151)

Soon you can experiance the difficulty and possible mayhem for yourself in Kerbal Space Program. NASA is working with Squad to bring an official
DLC to KSP highlighting this mission.

Should be an absolute blast....and a huge feather in the cap for an indie game companys first foray into gaming. Especially since it is still in development (kind of an alpha game with an entire community of beta testers (and one place where beta doesn't suck!) If you have an interest, it is a truly unique game and well worth the pittance they are charging for it.

http://forum.kerbalspaceprogram.com/content/252-To-The-Mun-and-Back

Re:Soon to be a DLC for KSP (1)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 2 months ago | (#46255385)

It's already unofficially available, look for KASA Asteroids (I helped a tiny bit with the deal!)

Re:Soon to be a DLC for KSP (1)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | about 2 months ago | (#46255513)

One of my installs uses that. I have three differently modded, until 64 bit occurs in Unity, I can't run everything I would like. But my favorite by far is clouds and city lights.

I got it at v0.18 and have 730+ hours since it went on Steam a month or so later. Best $17 I ever spent on gaming.

Kudos on your work to make an incredibly intricate and difficult game even harder! I love the astroids mod and as yet have not sucessfully completed a NASA analoge mission.....THANK YOU!

Re:Soon to be a DLC for KSP (1)

pslytely psycho (1699190) | about 2 months ago | (#46255533)

My spelling is horrible today. Maybe I should of gone to bed last night instead of Gilly......

cue grammer and spelling Nazis in 3...2...1...

Re:Soon to be a DLC for KSP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46256287)

I am trying to figure out which is worst:
1) the AC running around with racial epithets because of Obama.
2) the AC running around screaming about beta.
3) anything dealing with kerbal.

At this point, all 3 of you are total assholes.

Re:Soon to be a DLC for KSP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46258211)

At this point, all 3 of you are total assholes.

And your tongue will caress each one, with love.

Totally Honest (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46255177)

Not a cover for developing the tech for asteroid mining operations using tax dollars.

Re:Totally Honest (2)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 months ago | (#46256307)

what is your point?
One of the biggest reasons for war on earth, are resources. China is running around grabbing all that they can. The best thing for the west, if not the world, is to have mutliple sources of every element in use. That is far more likely to stop future wars.

Re:Totally Honest (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 2 months ago | (#46257935)

A lot of that is about making sure a US company (or Chinese) is the one with full control of the mine instead of just buying it from a friendly nation that has the stuff. For instance an enormous amount of fuss has been made about a lithium deposit in a remote bit of Afganistan while the biggest one on the planet in Bolivia has as much per ton of salt and has a railway line going right onto the salt flat. Even before that there's deposits in California, but probably mined by people that are not spending enough on "lobbying". They could certainly produce enough that the US could make lithium batteries instead of importing them.

The best thing for the west, if not the world, is to have mutliple sources of every element in use.

I agree but there when the price of a resource drops a lot of mines close which reduces relatively common things to a very small number of sources. The other thing is local demand. When US manufacturing crashed (or was moved offshore) the local demand dried up and the Chinese had their own suppliers. That's left the US with a lot of abandoned mines that would still be viable if they could find someone to sell stuff too. They can't break into the complex connections of the Chinese market if there is already a Chinese connected company in that niche. Also what do you do when the competing mine is digging up copper, gold and silver with uranium as a byproduct (eg. Olympic Dam Mine) and you are only digging up uranium? They can afford to sell uranium at a low price because it's just gravy and not their main business. The "freedom fries" stupidity highlighted that there is a uranium mine in Niger that has been inactive for years due to the inability to compete in such a situation.

What could possibly go wrong? (3, Funny)

Lije Baley (88936) | about 2 months ago | (#46255225)

Armageddon/Deep Impact 2: NASA mission accidentally brings killer asteroid into collision course with earth. Or maybe a documentary on how NASA is using asteroid winter to cancel out global warming. Carefully done, we can kill only a few million poor folks every once in a while to preserve our precious beach front property.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Informative)

n1ywb (555767) | about 2 months ago | (#46255325)

They're talking about something the size of a boulder according to TFA. Earth gets hit by objects this size all the time.

The diameter of the biggest impactor to hit Earth on any given day is likely to be about 40 centimeters, in a given year about 4 meters, and in a given century about 20 meters.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteoroid#Frequency_of_large_meteoroid_collisions_with_Earth

"There are other elements involved, but if size were the only factor, we'd be looking for an asteroid smaller than about 40 feet (12 meters) across," said Paul Chodas, a senior scientist in the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 months ago | (#46255339)

A boulder-sized asteroid won't hurt anyone. The one in Russia was heavier than the Eiffel Tower. You don't think the scientists at NASA have considered this??

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46337587)

They don't have funding for a bolder plan.

NASA will pick the easy targets (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 2 months ago | (#46255421)

Donald Rumsfeld called the most difficult problems requiring dealing with the unknown, unknowns.

When you have an asteroid you detect with a long approach or known orbit, you have a manageable task in understanding what you can do.

When an asteroid approaches from the Earth's blind spot obscured by the Sun, we may have only weeks or months and there may be no way to exert enough energy quickly enough to modify its trajectory.

They refer to these situations as "extinction events" for a very good reason.

... and the easy targets are not a real threat (1)

American Patent Guy (653432) | about 2 months ago | (#46255805)

The asteroids that pose a threat will fall into two classes: those already in solar orbit and those that come from outside the influence of the Sun. The ones orbiting the Sun have had billions of years to impact the earth (and other planets), and thus the probability of a harmful event is so close to zero that it isn't worth bothering about. Those coming from outside will not be seen until they are too close to the Earth to change their path. They'll look like a dim and brightening star, not really moving against the sky due to a lack of a transverse path. If an Eiffel Tower-sized object isn't detected until it hits, exactly how would we detect an object that is truly a threat to humanity?

In other words, this is a case of a real problem with no practical solution. It makes great politics, though, as lots of people are afraid of the unknown and are willing to throw money at government-sponsored flying saucer detectors.

Not Even Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46257201)

Loon.

Because you dismiss the program, and you have determined in your almighty wisdom that nothing can be done, it's cancelled.

You are Not Even Wrong.

Re:NASA will pick the easy targets (1)

NockPoint (722613) | about 2 months ago | (#46256417)

Most asteroids large enough to cause an "extinction event" have been found and future orbits calculated for hundreds of years.
What might hit are smaller asteroids and long period comets. There is almost nothing we could do with a large long period comet. While we might get several years of warning, there is almost nothing that could be done.
Smaller asteroids we would get no warning on most of the time. There is a lot of sky, and only a tiny fraction of it is searched by something big enough to see a "city killer" a month away. A week's warning is more likely, even a day's warning is less than 50%. The most likely first warning would be a bright spot in the sky as the asteroid starts to hit the top of the atmosphere... Seconds before impact.
To get warning of city killers would require putting up some specialized sky survey satellites. Unlikely, in today's political environment.

Re:NASA will pick the easy targets (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 2 months ago | (#46257295)

Even if we knew "all the asteroid obits", there is a fatal flaw in assuming that means we can define all potential impacts.

Gravity and collisions in the outer solar system "belts" can suddenly change the orbit of a large asteroid.

Just another of the unknown unknowns.

Maybe (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 2 months ago | (#46255443)

Its based on the SLS launcher and Orion vehicle - but political troubled projects. The mission seems technologically possible, but would likely be expensive and seems much larger and more complex than anything NASA has done recently.

I hope they do it - but I'm very skeptical that we have the political will for such a project.

Re:Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46255619)

After all, what could possibly go wrong? Think they are aiming at the Chinese rover?

Re:Maybe (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 months ago | (#46256415)

Actually, when we went to the moon, that was more than a magnitude more difficult. We had very little knowledge of surviving in space. In addition, we had very little knowledge of the moon. Then you add to it, the fact that nearly all of the technology was recently developed for this mission, you realize that SLS and even Orion are based on technology that is 50 years old. these are well tested and the mission itself will not be a huge issue.
Probably the biggest issues will be:
1) moving the asteroid which will require all sorts of interesting engine technology. Without loads of lead-time, we are probably looking at using NERVA. Even now, NASA is working on re-doing that.
2) having astronauts be separated from their vehicle. The only time that has been done was on the shuttle with the MMU. IIRC, it was done only a couple of times. We still need to figure out safe ways for humans to move around this rock.

Historic problems with newer generations.... (1)

rts008 (812749) | about 2 months ago | (#46260477)

I don't think the younger ones can appreciate just how fast tech is happening.(just as our generation did not)

To put it into a different perspective:
Sputnik had not even reached voting age(USA) when we landed on the moon...using tech based on 25 year old tech(NAZI V-2 rockets)

About the only thing I'd like to add to your list is:
3) development of better radiation shielding for both spacecraft and spacesuits.
4) coming up with ways to counteract physiological damage from long term micro-gravity exposure.

(I realize #3 could be included in your #2, but this is such a huge issue for long term space endeavors, that it needs more emphasis)

If you would plot a graph so that tech advances were plotted along a timeline, we are at the 'base' of a steep mountain(heading 'up') that would be represented by the graph...a 'hockey stick' if you will.

It boggles my mind when I try to fit the world I grew up into this modern world. Going to the moon was just sci-fi stuff of fantasy...now it's old history to the young ones.

*Old Geezer anecdote warning!*

I was a NASA brat, and I still remember all of the dinner parties held by NASA employees for the sole purpose of watching the pilot episode of "Star Trek", and the excitement surrounding that event, the engineer's discussions and their 'critic review' of the tech portrayed in that show.

For you kiddies, that's 'Star Trek:TOS' ;-)

Re:Historic problems with newer generations.... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 2 months ago | (#46262225)

Good post. I would mod you up had I not posted here originally.
#3 and 4 are accurate for LONG-term missions. For one that will last less than 1 month, they are not that important compared to the original 1 and 2. BUT, there is little doubt that those are up high on our needs for long-term needs.
And yeah, I recall watching those original star treks. Not in re-runs, but original shows. With my dad, who flew B-47s at the time.

Note the date (1)

scotts13 (1371443) | about 2 months ago | (#46255715)

"...capture and redirect an asteroid to a safe orbit of Earth's moon for future exploration by astronauts in the 2020s." Note that it's already 2014. At this point, we couldn't get a box kite in the air in six to fifteen years, let alone a mission like this. No budget, no sense of urgency, and no time to divvy up the contracts amongst the congressional districts.

When they lie it sort of discredits them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46255909)

They are either lying or stupid.

releasing more energy than a large atomic bomb.

Since when is 1/2 megaton large for an atomic bomb? That is small maybe even tiny.

Yes, they want to sensationalize for page hits but lying is lying.

Re:When they lie it sort of discredits them. (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 2 months ago | (#46256191)

Since when is 1/2 megaton large for an atomic bomb?

A 500 kiloton purely atomic device IS rather large.. Remember, the ones dropped on Japan were only about 20 kilotons.

Now, a thermonuclear device that was only 500KT would be quite small.

My hope with this asteroid capture plan is that, if there's a serious mistake and the object impacts Earth, it hits square in Washington, D.C. with no warning and wipes it out.

"...And nothing of value was lost..."

Strat

Re:When they lie it sort of discredits them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46256293)

The current US arsenal is mostly 300kt devices. This isn't the 1950s anymore.

Re:When they lie it sort of discredits them. (3, Interesting)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 2 months ago | (#46256745)

500kt is large ever since people figured out how to actually *hit* anything with the darn things.

Back in the 50ies and 60ies you could easily be off by a mile and they'd still call it a bullseye. A few miles off wasn't unusual at all. That's not because they thought this is good, but because they knew it was the best they could do. Thus, in order to destroy a target you can't hit, you had to get a much bigger bomb in the general vicinity of your target. Because you didn't expect to be hit directly, people started building bunkered silos for their bombs and rockets. In order to destroy those, even if you couldn't expect to hit them, you needed even bigger bombs.

The better the targeting, the smaller the bombs became. Then bunker busters were developed that could not only hit a target the size of a few hundred meters size, they could also bury themselves in the ground by some 50m and explode there, with much greater effect in terms of shock waves. These days, a few 100kt is all you need to destroy anything you want.

In fact, for the most part, you don't need any nuclear weapons to destroy most things out there. Simply because of the accuracy of modern weaponry. Part of this is GPS, but since this is likely the first thing to be destroyed in a big war, people developed inertial guidance and other navigation systems that can do without it. Hence, 500kt is a big bomb these days and people are unlikely to build bigger ones for the foreseeable future. If only because it is much more effective hit several targets with a couple of warheads than just one or two with a big one.

Re:When they lie it sort of discredits them. (1)

jafiwam (310805) | about 2 months ago | (#46259331)

Nukes still have a role as big bunker busters, ship killers / sub, and deterrent.

That last one is the only one that requires big nukes. The best deterrent isn't "we will defeat you" it's "we will wipe you out".

For that, you need city-killer nukes to kill the "civilian" population.

*in quotes, because the line is blurred now.

Screwing with asteroids... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46255925)

"In the alternative concept, NASA would retrieve a large, boulder-like mass from a larger asteroid and return it to this same lunar orbit."

Wouldn't taking a chunk out of an existing asteroid change it's trajectory and response to external gravity fields? What if we break up an asteroid and the bits go flying off and trash a planet that otherwise would have been fine if we didn't start tinkering around with celestial bodies?

NASA NASA NASA (1)

cj51 (921458) | about 2 months ago | (#46256657)

guess who is also going all in Asteroid Response? Russia. Not a mention of that in this thread. The Russians will probably far outspend the USA also. The USA is in a bad spot where Congress seems to think there is some virtue in reducing NASA's budget. The Russians intend to own this program which should create a lot of jobs.

Re:NASA NASA NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46258297)

guess who is also going all in Asteroid Response?
Russia.

"Mr. President, do you realize this means there will be an ASTEROID RESPONSE GAP ?"

                                                                            - General Buck Turgidson

How often sci-fi predicts the future?... (1)

rts008 (812749) | about 2 months ago | (#46260557)

That explains why a lot of sci-fi has China and Russia as the two primary 'Space Powers', and the US on the sidelines.

When it comes to the whole 'space' thing, the Russians have always had the balls to stick to what was practical, and then 'just do it', while we seem to have lost our balls(politically, as far as NASA budgets go) on the moon somewhere.

The Russian's 'ownership of space' happened some years back. Their only upcoming competitor seems to be China, but they are not really breathing down Russia's neck yet.

Ian Malcom vs NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46257785)

NASA: "a first-ever mission to identify, capture and redirect an asteroid to a safe orbit of Earth's moon"
MALCOM: "But if a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan..."
NASA: "Err.. we never watched Jurassic Park..."
* Ian Malcom gets stands on his chair and flaps
NASA: ...
MALCOM: ...
KNOBI: "That's no moon..."
* The room falls silent...

weaponized asteroid (2)

thygate (1590197) | about 2 months ago | (#46258321)

Has anyone considered that this tech can be weaponized ? Of course I'm all for a planetary wide protection against space debris, but it seems that the technology to intercept and redirect asteroids and such could be used to selectively wipe out entire nations without there ever being a radiological alert going off ..

Re:weaponized asteroid (1)

rts008 (812749) | about 2 months ago | (#46260621)

Has anyone considered that this tech can be weaponized ?

Yes, I would say most of us(and those working on this, and others) have thought about this, discarded that as unjustified FUD, and moved on.

It's not like we don't have experience with the destructive potential of nukes, or the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction. No, of course not!
[sarcasm]

Too many players have the ability and means to do the same things, or to spot this happening for this to be a valid concern.

No one wants to open your 'Pandora Box'...we can all see where it leads. It is truly one of those 'games' that the only way to win, is to not play the 'game' in the first place.

Re:weaponized asteroid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46260679)

Has anyone considered that this tech can be weaponized ?

Yes, many people have considered it. Dozens of science fiction authors, in fact.

and releasing more energy than a large atomic bomb (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about 2 months ago | (#46258991)

"and releasing more energy than a large atomic bomb" in the first reports it was "a small atomic bomb".

what if..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46260321)

They try to wrangle an astroid into orbit but totally fail and it arcs straight into the earth? What do they say then "Oh hey our bad. That astroid we were gonna look at... Yeah... It's about to rain down hellfire and oh! It is actually a lot heavier than calculated so.. Hold On!"

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