NASA’s SCIFI mission: The US Space agency wants to drag an asteroid from outer space in orbit around the moon.
It seems that throughout the years, science fiction ahs slowly become a reality for NASA and other privately owned companies. A never-before-seen mission is being put together that will capture an asteroid and ‘drag’ it into orbit around the moon using a revolutionary electric propulsion system.
Finally, the next step for space exploration has been given the go ahead, and NASA scientists are planning a never-before-seen mission that will ignite mankind’s interest for space exploration.
The idea is simple. A spacecraft will travel towards a celestial object where it will ‘pluck’ a large boulder off the asteroid and transport it into orbit around the moon. NASA has revealed that once the object is in orbit around the moon, in will become a space destination that will allow future human crews to prepare for a mission to Mars and beyond.
The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is believed to cost around $1.4 billion not taking into account the costs for the launch and preparation. The mission is scheduled to lift off in December of 2021.
The mission is divided into two KEY phases: Robotic and crewed mission.
The mission’s crew segment which is estimated to launch sometime around 2026, but it remains an early mission concept phase that will most likely have a lot of rescheduling.
Speaking about the revolutionary mission, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said: “This is an exciting milestone for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, not only is ARM leveraging agency-wide capabilities, it will test a number of new technologies already in development.”
In April, NASA awarded a $67m contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne for the development of a revolutionary electric propulsion system which is expected to be one of the most important parts of the robotic mission.
Called Advanced Electric Propulsion System or AEPS, the system could greatly increase spaceflight fuel efficiency by a staggering factor of 10 when comapšred to current rocket technology in use.
“Since its early formulation, NASA has invited mission concept feedback and development ideas from the planetary science community, general public, US and global industry, and international partners,” said Michele Gates, NASA’s programme director for ARM. “With KDP-B under our belt, ARM can now move forward to define partnerships and opportunities for long-term engagement.”
NASa expects to select the targeted asteroid by 2020 but until then, the American Space Agency is using 2008 EV5 as their reference target as research for potential asteroid continues.
Before its trip to lunar orbit, the new ARM spacecraft will show off its SciFi-like asteroid deflection technique called ‘Gravity Tractor.’
Almost as if the idea came out of a science fiction movie, the spacecraft plus the mass of the asteroid will create a small gravitational attraction that will allow for the alteration of the orbit of the celestial body.
In the future, NASA is expected to use asteroids ass stepping stones in the journey to Mars.
Image Credit NASA.