Starting Point

RSS
Reaction has been less than enthusiastic to NASA's plan to catch a small asteroid, nudge it into orbit around the Moon, and send astronauts to visit it.
 
The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is the U.S. space agency's near-term goal, with a do-by date of 2025. Few planetary scientists think the return will justify the investment, and Congress is uninspired at best. it will probably never happen.
 
But the mission plan also can be seen as kind of a Trojan horse -- a sneaky way for the U.S. space industry to focus its intellectual resources on solving the problems that must be solved to land humans on Mars.
 
This video that NASA prepared to plug the asteroid mission shows how applicable it would be to sending human space travelers on to the Red Planet.
 
 
The animation focuses on what astronauts would do to study an asteroid in the targeted distant retrograde orbit around the Moon -- find it, rendezvous with it and spacewalk to it -- all in an area of space never visited by humans before. They would use a heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) and an Orion capsule to get there.
 
NASA is building the SLS and Orion to take humans to Mars, and so far Congress supports that work. The asteroid side of the ARM -- before the human hook-up - would require high-power solar electric propulsion and advanced robotics to capture a small asteroid or a boulder off a big one and nudge it toward the Moon. Both would be essential for a human mission to Mars, as would the sensors necessary for rendezvous and proximity operations in lunar orbit.
 
Even if none of this ever happens, the ARM concept has focused some of the best minds in the country on how to do it. That mental energy won't be wasted. The ideas it generates can be applied to a human Mars expedition, and they will -- someday.

 

Please or Register to post comments.

What's On Space?

On Space

From The Archives

Aviation Week is approaching its 100th anniversary in 2016. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.

 

Aug 27, 2015
blog

Aviation Week Lifts Veil On Boeing B-52 Bomber (1952) 20

In 1952, Aviation Week provided the first details on the new Boeing B-52 bomber....More
Aug 14, 2015
blog

Bonanza Travel Pays 3

The legendary Beechcraft Bonanza has an impressive production record, so perhaps the marketers back in 1949 were onto something when they coined the phrase "Bonanza travel pays."...More
Aug 14, 2015
blog

Venerable Boeing 727 Prototype To Fly Again 29

The most famous 727, the prototype aircraft which would join United as N7001U, was delivered to the airline in October 1964 having served its time as a Boeing test aircraft....More
Aug 13, 2015
blog

Aviation Week And The Bomb

Aviation News did not predict how nuclear weapons would change the world. But neither did anyone else....More
Aug 13, 2015
blog

Collins Radar Takes The Ups And Downs Out Of Flying

Turbulence? Rockwell Collins had a solution for those bumpy rides in the early 80s with its WXR-700 Doppler Weather Radar....More
Blog Archive
Penton Corporate

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×