Saturday, November 24, 2012

NASA & The Asteroid

NASA has a mission, at least at present – it could get cut or the moon could be cut again or… Anyway, the plan is a manned mission to an Asteroid. This is far more difficult than most people think. The movie Armageddon led people to think that all one has to do is land on the asteroid and step out in their spacesuits and drill. Not exactly.

In actuality an asteroid is a much scarier place. First of all there is the gravity problem. An astronaut can’t just walk around, there would have to be some sort of tether or safety rope system to basically tie them to the surface. But how would they get to the surface. A spacecraft cannot just land on as asteroid. Because of the lack of gravity on an asteroid a spaceship would bounce off the surface. Instead it would have to hover nearby meaning the astronauts would be required to utilize a space-jetpack, or once they got there have spikes or a netting system to keep them on the ground.

Drilling presents a challenge because of the same situation – the gravity, or lack thereof. Still, it is an easy problem to solve. In order to catch all the debris, some sort of netting needs to be used. But then wouldn’t a drill and its vibrations also force the astronaut to fly off into space? Well, that brings us back to however we tether them to the asteroid.

So why do we care; why does NASA even consider this? Many reasons, but the main reason is the danger an asteroid can pose to Earth. Earlier this year NASA discovered an asteroid (460 feet wide) that may impact Earth in 2040. Shouldn’t we be prepared to do something? Every 30,000 years an asteroid has done just that, impacted Earth. Scientists suggest that such an extinction event is not a matter of if, but when. Also there are all those minerals up there and answers to where we came from, maybe?

Consider this. Remember the Repulsor Beam I wrote of recently. Instead of only thinking how we could use this to enhance space travel, how about considering if we could use this to send the asteroid off on a different trajectory? Just a thought. Maybe they have already had it.

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