NASA considering capturing and placing asteroid into moon orbit

Jan 03, 2013 by Bob Yirka weblog
Illustration of an asteroid retrieval spacecraft in the process of capturing a 7-m, 500-ton asteroid. Credit: Rick Sternbach / KISS

(Phys.org)—Researchers at the Keck Institute for Space Studies have released a paper outlining a proposal to send an unmanned spacecraft into deep space to capture an asteroid and return it as a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) orbiting the moon. In putting together the paper, the team at Keck worked with several NASA agencies, universities and private groups with the aim of discerning the feasibility of such a project and then outlining how it might come about.

The researchers say that putting an asteroid in orbit around the moon has become feasible in recent years due to three main developments: the ability to find and track small asteroids, the capability of building spacecraft that have the ability to fly to an asteroid and bring it back and finally, the plans by several groups to have a manned presence in the vicinity of the moon during the time proposed (sometime in the 2020s) for the capture of the asteroid. Putting an asteroid in orbit around the moon would allow for much more convenient study and also open the door to mining possibilities.

Asteroid return mission concept. Return flight time of 2 to 6 years depending on the asteroid mass.

In their paper, the Keck team proposes using an Atlas V rocket to launch a craft that once in space would be slow moving, powered by solar heated ions. Once the target is reached, a bag would be opened that would engulf the asteroid – which would likely be no bigger than 7 meters wide – then drag it back and place it into orbit around the moon. Such a mission, the researchers suggest, would likely take six to ten years depending on the distance to the asteroid and cost in the neighborhood of $2.6 billion, which isn't much more than the Mars Curiosity rover mission.

Currently NASA's only officially planned is called Orion and its aim is to send a craft around the moon. President Obama has also suggested that he would be open to sending a to an asteroid. By first moving an asteroid to moon orbit, it appears could accomplish both the Orion objectives and landing a manned craft on an in a single mission. Doing so with an NEA would also be far less risky – sending astronauts into would expose them to long term radiation and would put them beyond the limits of a rescue mission should something go wrong.

Explore further: France raises heat on decision for next Ariane rocket

More information: .
via Newscientist

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Henka
1.7 / 5 (20) Jan 03, 2013
what a small minded project
panorama
4.3 / 5 (13) Jan 03, 2013
what a small minded project

We have to start somewhere. Considering it's been decades since we've ventured beyond LEO this actually sounds rather exciting to me.
Lurker2358
1.3 / 5 (17) Jan 03, 2013
the plans by several groups to have a manned presence in the vicinity of the moon during the time proposed (sometime in the 2020s) for the capture of the asteroid.


hah. A 7 meter asteroid couldn't pay for the cost of the mission.

I don't think these bozos understand economics.

They're so used to making remote controlled toys on an unlimited budget, that they have no clue how the real world works.
GSwift7
4.2 / 5 (22) Jan 03, 2013
what a small minded project


I don't think so. I think this actually sounds like a really good one for NASA to take on.

It takes full advantage of the state of the art in our current technology and slightly expands the boundary of what we are capable of. They are combining the best of what we are currently working on to do a mission that could not be done before.

Furthermore, in a world where space is becoming increasingly privatized, the role of NASA needs to change to these types of pioneering missions. If NASA takes on the burden of doing the high risk high cost r&d, then they can pass on that engineering experience to the commercial operators. An example of this would be the robot arm on the ISS, or the engineering problem of how to stop a 500 ton asteroid from spinning when your spacecraft only weighs a few tons.

NASA needs to be the pathfinder in r&d and an incubator for human talent as well.
VendicarD
2.9 / 5 (16) Jan 03, 2013
Lurker is right. NASA should use a 30 kilometer wide bag and spend 400 million years bringing the asteroid into Earth Orbit.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.5 / 5 (22) Jan 03, 2013
Actually I believe this technology already exists. Its in a volcano somewhere.
http://www.youtub...N0zqHtn0

So much went on behind the iron curtain that we know absolutely nothing about. Thats what it was there for eh?
tadchem
4.6 / 5 (5) Jan 03, 2013
Assuming the engineering problems associated with the amount of energy required to de-obit the asteroid from its solar orbit and place it into a 'high lunar orbit' can be solved, the issue of celestial mechanics is still involved.
Orbiting an asteroid around the moon (in any orbit!) would place the asteroid in a position to be gravitationally 'pumped' out of orbit in a nearly-chaotic three-body gravitational system, which *could* readily send the asteroid out through the gravitational earth-moon L1 'saddle point' (the lowest 'wall' around the moon's gravity well) and directly towards the earth.
LagomorphZero
1 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2013
"it appears NASA could accomplish both the Orion objectives and landing a manned craft on an asteroid in a single mission"

not sure a 7 meter asteroid is really big enough for a manned mission, but I like the idea of capturing and orbiting the asteroid. Once it scales up, we could really start to modify our solar environment.

antialias_physorg
3.9 / 5 (7) Jan 03, 2013
Orbiting an asteroid around the moon (in any orbit!) would place the asteroid in a position to be gravitationally 'pumped' out of orbit in a nearly-chaotic three-body gravitational system, which *could* readily send the asteroid out through the gravitational earth-moon L1

And what exactly would do the 'pumping'? it's not like we can't compute stable orbits (we HAVE put stuff in orbit around the moon in the past, you know?)
And with a lack of atmosphere you can make that orbit basically as low as you want.

(Now wouldn't that be freaky: putting it in orbit 2 meters above the surface? Just jump up and hitch a ride - after getting your head smashed in from the delta-V of course)
GSwift7
4.1 / 5 (17) Jan 03, 2013
Orbiting an asteroid around the moon (in any orbit!) would place the asteroid in a position to be gravitationally 'pumped' out of orbit in a nearly-chaotic three-body gravitational system, which *could* readily send the asteroid out through the gravitational earth-moon L1 'saddle point' (the lowest 'wall' around the moon's gravity well) and directly towards the earth


lol, you are overestimating the effect of Earth's gravity at that distance. We have placed plenty of things into lunar orbit. It's quite safe. Even what they describe here as 'high' lunar orbit, is still extremely close to the moon compared to the distance from the Earth to the moon.
GSwift7
3.9 / 5 (16) Jan 03, 2013
Now wouldn't that be freaky: putting it in orbit 2 meters above the surface?


The moon moves around too much for that because its mass is not equally centered around its rotational axis. Also, the moon has mountains around 5 miles tall (no weathering). Mount Sharp (Curiosity rover's target) on Mars is almost exactly the same height as the tallest mountain on the moon. You would need to stay a good distance above those because of the local effects of gravity as you pass over them. Mountains like Hawaii here on Earth have enough gravitational pull that they raise the ocean level around them by several feet by pulling water towards them.
xX_GT_Xx
3.3 / 5 (7) Jan 03, 2013
Other than the novelty, what use is there in fetching a 50 ton asteroid? Especially if it takes 6-10 years as the above chart suggests? On Earth, that much ore would only fill up two or three dump trucks and could be pulled out of the ground in an hour.
antialias_physorg
4.1 / 5 (13) Jan 03, 2013
It's not for the ore.

1) We could study asteroid composition (which might give us clues as to how to best defend against similar ones heading for Earth).

2) Currently the best we have is something like the Haybusa probe which got back a few specks of surface dust. But we know very little about the interior of asteroids.

3) It's also very interesting from a historical perspective: These pieces of rock (at least the insides) are still in a very much pristine condition from when the solar system got started. Astronomers would have a field day (or better: a field decade - at least) studying this stuff.

4) We also don't know what kinds of materials are abundant in such asteroids. So you may think of this as a prospecting mission for future mining endeavours

5) We can use it to try out robotic mining techniques in space before sending them way off into the asteroid belt

6) ...
GSwift7
3.9 / 5 (20) Jan 03, 2013
Here's an interesting thought:

Let's assume NASA eventually does this. What are the rules regarding access? As far as I know, there's nothing to prevent someone like SpaceX from stepping in to grab a piece, or the whole darn thing.

Or, again assuming that someone brings one back to lunar orbit, say there are two groups trying to work on it at the same time. What if one of them kicks up a bunch of dust or starts the thing spinning and messes up the other team's work? Is there any liability up there? Does any court have jurisdiction?

I think questions like these are rapidly headed towards the point that they will need to be resolved. Low Earth orbit is already starting to get crowded. Shouldn't companies and nations be responsible for de-orbiting their junk? Should China clean up that mess they made with their satellite-killer missile test?
Lurker2358
2 / 5 (8) Jan 03, 2013
AP:

Do you seriously believe that's worth 200 billion dollars or more to first send the probe to capture and retrieve, and then send a manned mission to study the asteroid?

Where the hell is anyone supposed to get that kind of money from, because the U.S. government is already broke.

200 billion for a project that wouldn't have a chance in hell of making 200 billion worth of discoveries... Wow.

BS anyway. We already know the interior composition from actual meteoroids on Earth.

The way to make asteroids profitable is through self-replicating robots; launching a small seed capsule to produce an exponential production at a nearly insignificant startup cost.

Sending humans does nothing but inflate the costs in a monstrous way for no good reason.

A robot with every scientific instrument ever invented can go to mars and spend years there for 1/100th the cost of sending humans for a few days. Think about that idjits...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (22) Jan 03, 2013
Do you seriously believe that's worth 200 billion dollars or more to first send the probe to capture and retrieve, and then send a manned mission to study the asteroid?

Where the hell is anyone supposed to get that kind of money from, because the U.S. government is already broke.
It's called practice oh munificenct one. Tech is developed in steps. We learned more about how to construct large structures in space from building the ISS, than we will learn by doing anything else while there.

We will be moving a great deal of stuff around the solar system. We have to begin learning how. There are also vital defense issues. Asteroids as kinetic energy weapons are without parallel. We need to master this capability FIRST so that we can defend ourselves against it, and with it.

NASA is after all, a military establishment. The military profits from winning wars.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (22) Jan 03, 2013
The way to make asteroids profitable is through self-replicating robots; launching a small seed capsule to produce an exponential production at a nearly insignificant startup cost.
That's silly. Von Neumann machines are a long way off. Robots building robots however is more reasonable and will make large-scale activity in space possible and cheap.
Jeddy_Mctedder
1.8 / 5 (11) Jan 03, 2013
[We have to start somewher


No we dont. We dont have to waste money for the sake of starting somewhere. The only people benefitting from science that will not produce legitimate results ( or legitimate failures)
Are megacontractors. EVERYONE ELSE LOSES. ESPECIALLY Science.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (21) Jan 03, 2013
[We have to start somewher


No we dont. We dont have to waste money for the sake of starting somewhere. The only people benefitting from science that will not produce legitimate results ( or legitimate failures)
Are megacontractors. EVERYONE ELSE LOSES. ESPECIALLY Science.
Sure we do. If we don't, someone else WILL. But the overarching reason to establish a presence in space is that we are sitting ducks here. We need we protect ourselves from impactors and we need to spread ourselves around the system so we don't die out.

Your attitude is suicidal.
antonima
2.3 / 5 (4) Jan 03, 2013
Does the paper mention what could be done to justify such exorbitant cost? 500 tons of material is not that much, even by space standards, and I'm sure not all of it would be usable. However, studying an asteroid is very interesting from a scientific point of view. We can only learn so much from meteoroids on Earth. Has this been done before?
antonima
1 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2013
2) Currently the best we have is something like the Haybusa probe which got back a few specks of surface dust. But we know very little about the interior of asteroids.

3) It's also very interesting from a historical perspective: These pieces of rock (at least the insides) are still in a very much pristine condition from when the solar system got started. Astronomers would have a field day (or better: a field decade - at least) studying this stuff.

4) We also don't know what kinds of materials are abundant in such asteroids. So you may think of this as a prospecting mission for future mining endeavours


^This^ I think is the main reason for hauling an asteroid into orbit. To actually dissect one would be groundbreaking. I wonder just how representative one asteroid would be of asteroids in general however.
ryggesogn2
3.8 / 5 (16) Jan 03, 2013
This makes better economic/energy sense than mining the moon and launching the materials into orbit as suggested O'Niel for L5.
Mine the moon for materials that will stay on the moon and mine the asteroids for materials that will stay in space or can be dropped into a gravity well.
Why not put the asteroid at L1 along with the station that is planned?
robbor
2 / 5 (4) Jan 03, 2013
who authorizes these projects?
SmokedBort
1 / 5 (9) Jan 04, 2013
I don't think changing the mass of our planet/moon system is a very good idea, won't adding an asteroid to the moon change the centre of mass between the earth and the moon? Won't that put everything out of balance? Would it effect the tides of the ocean? What if at the moons Perigee, Earth yanks the asteroid into Earth's orbit then into the Earth. call me paranoid, but there's more that can go wrong with such a mission, than what the missions success is worth.
Egleton
3 / 5 (7) Jan 04, 2013
I am a fan of the O'Neil project. Professor James Lovelock of Gaia fame says that we are doomed on this rock.
Anyway, I am old enough to remember the cry of "What a waste of money this Soviet sputnik is.!! There are far better uses for the money. For instance, Why, you could give it to me to piss up against the wall."
Your choices are to die in your Billions on Eaarth or in your Millions getting off Flatland.
Choose.
Urgelt
5 / 5 (1) Jan 04, 2013
A seven-meter rock? Naw. That won't advance our space program at all.

If we want to study an asteroid's composition, it's easier and cheaper just to take samples and return them to Earth.

What we *need* is material, in space, that we can use. The most immediately useful material is water ice, which can be broken down by sunlight to make fuel and oxygen - a refueling station. Nickle-iron asteroids might be useful in the longer term. Rock? Not so much.

I'd prefer taking more time, bringing back something bigger from further out, that we can use to make fuel. The main trade-off doesn't have to be more expense, but the years to accomplish the misson.

I'd rather have a 200-meter snowball by 2050 than a 7-meter rock by 2030.
VendicarD
3.9 / 5 (7) Jan 04, 2013
Can you tell us who has ever built a self replicting robot?

Can you even begin to design such a machine?

"The way to make asteroids profitable is through self-replicating robots" - LurkerTard

Childish Nonsense.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2013
Can you even begin to design such a machine?

I have to agree here. A lot of 'grand ideas' without substance are bandied about. But no one actually stops to think what these ideas entail (and why we haven't achieved them yet).
No one seems to realize that science isn't like "Let's make a self replicating robot" and then 5 guys sit in a room and come out with a prototype a day (or a year, or a decade) later. Science isn't like in Hollywood movies.

It's all this "Oh, I thought about that years ago" talk that is really bizarre. The shere magnitude of the overestimation of one's own capabilities is staggering. But as with armchair-coaches: you only ever get to hear that from people who never played football/never have done any real science.

Bandying about technical terms isn't science. As Feynman says: "If you learn all the names of all the birds in the world - that still means you know nothing about birds"

alfie_null
5 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2013
I don't think changing the mass of our planet/moon system is a very good idea, won't adding an asteroid to the moon change the centre of mass between the earth and the moon? Won't that put everything out of balance? Would it effect the tides of the ocean? What if at the moons Perigee, Earth yanks the asteroid into Earth's orbit then into the Earth. call me paranoid, but there's more that can go wrong with such a mission, than what the missions success is worth.

Please don't be paranoid. Estimate the mass of the asteroid - for worst case assume it's something dense like pure iron. Then look up the mass of Earth. See how insignificant the asteroid is?
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2013
call me paranoid...

You're paranoid. There.

And they're aleady being careful by wanting to put that thing in orbit around the Moon, not the Earth (also a good idea because of sattelite traffic). If you want to get a sense of the scale of the Earth-Moon system then look at this:
http://www.aerosp...moon.jpg

As for tides:
Assuming roughly the same density as the Moon that piece of rock would have 17 orders of magnitude less mass.
For comparison: Tidal ranges are about 0.4m on average (can be locally higher - but that is due to geographical peculiarities and not due to gravity). The addition of that rock around the Moon would change average tides by 0.4E-18 meters (which is roughly a tenth of a billionth of the diameter of an atom).
YOU are causing more tidal flux by going to the beach than this rock.

I got a cheap deal on asteroid induced tidal wave insurance for ya: Wanna buy?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (16) Jan 04, 2013
Can you tell us who has ever built a self replicting robot?

Can you even begin to design such a machine?

"The way to make asteroids profitable is through self-replicating robots" - LurkerTard

Childish Nonsense.
Life is self-replicating machines. It might not be as difficult as you think. But making them do useful work is something else again.
I'd prefer taking more time, bringing back something bigger from further out, that we can use to make fuel. The main trade-off doesn't have to be more expense, but the years to accomplish the misson.

I'd rather have a 200-meter snowball by 2050 than a 7-meter rock by 2030.
And so we wait and then spend a huge amount of money on a megaproject and it fails because we missed some vital factors. NASA is doing it right, one step at a time.
ccr5Delta32
1 / 5 (4) Jan 04, 2013

I find myself in slight disagreement with antialias and Vendicar here
Can you even begin to design such a machine?

The question should maybe be "Who will design them ?" , Well they will themselves , all we have to do is find the code that sets their evolutionary path in motion and give them the means to follow it .We might even do it inadvertently someday or even we'll have no choice .
Back to the mission/article, NASA really needs to do some spectacular stuff , not that they have not already done and do but we public have a shorter attention span and an expanding apathy , WOW! factors only last a few daws now if even that NASA lives in this publicly funded circus and pulling an asteroid around the moon is pretty lame albeit potentially an excellent research and pragmatic testing of some doable s that we the ancient's were so naively hopeful were just so's
Good work Nasa , basking in glory was never your thang ,leave it to the ultrapreneurs ,leave ego on Earth
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Jan 04, 2013
all we have to do is find the code that sets their evolutionary path in motion and give them the means to follow it

Duh.

Read: "All we have to do is do the hard part and the easy part will be easy."

What are these 'means'?
What is that 'code'?
(And who the f*ck is 'we'?)

Being vague about it is the real problem her. Think it through! Anbody can claim it's easy by being vague.
"Oh, we just have to find a new way to create unlimited energy!".
"Oh, we just have to find a new way to make antimatter!"
"Oh, we just have to bend space and time!"
"Oh, we just have to make self replicating machines!"

C'mon. Scientists aren't magicians. Do some science and then you'll see that such 'grand' ideas require thousands of tiny steps (each of which is a full PhD's work worth of several years - and every single one of which could be a showstopper if it doesn't work).
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.2 / 5 (17) Jan 04, 2013
I don't think changing the mass of our planet/moon system is a very good idea, won't adding an asteroid to the moon change the centre of mass between the earth and the moon?
Tons and tons of dust and debris enter our atmosphere every day. Similar amounts of gasses constantly escape. We are frequently yanked this way and that by passing comets and meteors.

The solar flux pushes with varying force. We have placed 1000s of tons of material in complex orbits. Our moon is subject to similar such forces, and it's response affects the earth as well.

Don't worry.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.2 / 5 (18) Jan 04, 2013
C'mon. Scientists aren't magicians. Do some science and then you'll see that such 'grand' ideas require thousands of tiny steps (each of which is a full PhD's work worth of several years - and every single one of which could be a showstopper if it doesn't work).
Many scientists are doing lots of work in this direction; at NAIC, Cornell, NYU, and elsewhere.
http://en.wikiped...ent_work

-Sometimes we may think we know things but it is always best to look them up. I say this to lurker all the time yes? Tech is advancing parabolically did you know it?
ccr5Delta32
1 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2013
Great questions antialias
What are these 'means'?
What is that 'code'?
(And who the f*ck is 'we'?)


Means is supply , resources such supplies ,raw materials ,like we do with our offspring

The code , Now that's a beauty ,and of course I don't effin know and it could be simple and I speculate the core of the code is obvious but not to us .There may not be a code ,but DNA looks a lot like a code that that I think we think it is an emergent
(And who the f*ck is 'we'?)
We are an immense reservoir of stupidity in which all ideas are explored and we may get lucky , what else would you expect ?

TheGhostofOtto1923
1.2 / 5 (17) Jan 04, 2013
The code , Now that's a beauty ,and of course I don't effin know and it could be simple and I speculate
Or you could just follow the link I posted and learn something -?

"In 2011 a team of scientists at New York University created a structure called 'BTX' (bent triple helix) based around three double helix molecules, each made from a short strand of DNA. Treating each group of three double-helices as a code letter, they can (in principle) build up self-replicating structures that encode large quantities of information"

-instead of just guessing?
RitchieGuy01
2 / 5 (4) Jan 04, 2013
ahhhh. . .GhostofOtto. . .kiss kiss my love. No one else on physorg is as smart as U. It is U who knows everything and nobody else knows as much as U do. They all just pretend to know just to impress U. I know that you laugh at everyone else that posts in your physorg. YES. . .this IS your physorg and nobody has the right to post their imbecillic junk without YOUR aproval. U hve been avoiding me lately, Ghost. Have U found another man to suuck on? When are we gonna get together again at our favorite motel darling. Remember all those nites we spent together in bed making love? It was pure heaven. I have missed you so much. I see that you're going after other men and looking for some pussytard. Why are you looking for pussy, darling? U KNOW you only love to suckee on me. I thought we were suppose ta get married. Those other men don't deserve you the way I do. I'll have to leave this message everywhere I find U. U have my number. . .please call me, my precious juicy cockman.
RitchieGuy01
2 / 5 (4) Jan 04, 2013
The code , Now that's a beauty ,and of course I don't effin know and it could be simple and I speculate
Or you could just follow the link I posted and learn something -?
-instead of just guessing?
TheGhostofOtto1923

SEE THAT. That proves how much smarter my GhostofOtto is than all the rest of U retards. Y'all need to consider to stop commenting in Otto's physorg because y'all are just to retarded to give your dumbass opinions.
My lover man GhostofOtto runs rings around all the rest of U.

Otto, I sold my sorghum farm to my brother in Sicily and he will grow sorghum when he comes back to Florida. I did that so that U and I can be married. Same sex marriage is so right for us

All the rest of U tards who keep on voting down my GhostofOtto and his sockpuppets such as FrankHerbert. . . .please stop doing it. Don't U understand yet that Otto then has to give himself all fives so he can get up to 5/5?

kiss kiss and suck suck, Otto
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Jan 04, 2013
Means is supply , resources such supplies ,raw materials ,like we do with our offspring

Be specific:

What supplies? What raw materials? In what form? How does the uptake work? How does the incorporation work? Where do these materials come from out there? How do you find them? How do you make them accessible? ...

Any of these problems is worth years of resaerch.

Now that's a beauty ,and of course I don't effin know

See? You don't even know the vague outline. How do you expect someone to do the specifics which is MUCH harder than the outline.
(Any manager can give you an outline. But doing the actual work requires a bit more skill)

We are an immense reservoir of stupidity in which all ideas are explored and we may get lucky

Trial and error? That took about a billion years till it started to work on Earth (in a lab that was effectively planet size). How long are you willing to wait for your self-replicating robot?
ccr5Delta32
1 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2013
I am aware of the studies OttosGoast and similar studies but I await still .I love nothing better than to champion my aspirations ,in other words " Sometimes I love to believe somethings but the reality is it's not a choice "
It works or not
I'm a pragmatic dreamer ,I wish
ccr5Delta32
1 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2013
Trial and error in evolution did not have simulations it had only" Live " , "Die" with one extra bit of information
Blah the comment is nonsense anyway because evolution does not have a destination as "WE" would often like to think and mostly do

Our problem with Evolution is mostly that we look for a solution that explains us
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) Jan 04, 2013
This makes better economic/energy sense than mining the moon and launching the materials into orbit as suggested O'Niel for L5.
Mine the moon for materials that will stay on the moon and mine the asteroids for materials that will stay in space


Correct! Why haul rock out of a gravity well when space sends drifting by (relatively speaking) for free.

Why not put the asteroid at L1 along with the station that is planned?

L1 is unstable, and it takes work to keep something there. L4 and L5 are much more stable - perfect places to park currently-hazardous NEOs, and then use them for building materials.
ccr5Delta32
1 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2013
one extra bit of information is to reproduce
And their the "we " are more worthy than crocodiles or dogs should take prominence in conclusion ,Evolution does not make choices nor doe's it have preferences
To antialias the is code simple "live ,die " simple binary
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.2 / 5 (17) Jan 04, 2013
Correct! Why haul rock out of a gravity well when space sends drifting by (relatively speaking) for free.
Perhaps but mass driver tech is relatively simple and cheap, and we know more about mining and refining in gravity. Much of the prep work can be done on the moon before the stuff is launched.

Asteroid prospecting will take a great deal of time and the stuff we need may be located in inaccessible locations. Using moon resources may prove to be more practical near-term than refining and relocating asteroid stuff.

But we still face the existential threats of impactors and weaponization, reason enough for the mission above.
GSwift7
4.1 / 5 (14) Jan 04, 2013
Does the paper mention what could be done to justify such exorbitant cost? 500 tons of material is not that much, even by space standards, and I'm sure not all of it would be usable.


NASA isnt supposed to make money. However, once you get an asteroid into lunar orbit, it becomes extremely valuable to anyone with the capability to go to it, such as SpaceX. As stated above, the mining value is less than zero, but institutions and collectors pay BIG money for pieces of space rock. They could probably pay for the mission up front with advance orders for rock by the gram. If you could do it cheaper than NASA, then even NASA would buy samples from you.

For scientific and study purposes, the Lagrange points do not make any sense. They just make it harder to access from Earth. If not for public safety issues, medium Earth orbit would be best. Nice and safe inside the magnetic field, where people could work on it safely.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (16) Jan 04, 2013
NASA isnt supposed to make money. However, once you get an asteroid into lunar orbit, it becomes extremely valuable to anyone with the capability to go to it, such as SpaceX. As stated above, the mining value is less than zero, but institutions and collectors pay BIG money for pieces of space rock.
Except that under space law they would be prohibited from doing so.
http://en.wikiped...pace_law

-Look at the big flap with Sue the t Rex, and the moon rocks. They would have to go get their own, which a few are actually planning to do.
Moebius
1.4 / 5 (11) Jan 05, 2013
The first step to developing a devastating kinetic weapon.
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (4) Jan 05, 2013
No one seems to realize that science isn't like "Let's make a self replicating robot" and then 5 guys sit in a room and come out with a prototype a day (or a year, or a decade) later. Science isn't like in Hollywood movies.


Actually, that's almost exactly what the space race was: Some guys in a room saying, "Let's put satellites in orbit. Nay! Let's go to the Moon!"

Boom, like a decade later they were walking on the moon.

Idiot.
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (2) Jan 05, 2013
Except that under space law they would be prohibited from doing so.


I don't think it prevents corporations from exploiting resources. Only governments.

Government could still tax profits though.

Governments have signed so many treaties I'm sure the treaties themselves are illegal for one reason or another.
loneislander
1 / 5 (3) Jan 05, 2013
the plans by several groups to have a manned presence in the vicinity of the moon during the time proposed (sometime in the 2020s) for the capture of the asteroid.


hah. A 7 meter asteroid couldn't pay for the cost of the mission.

I don't think these bozos understand economics.

They're so used to making remote controlled toys on an unlimited budget, that they have no clue how the real world works.


I dunno about that, have you checked the price of ore in lunar orbit lately? ;)
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (16) Jan 05, 2013
I don't think it prevents corporations from exploiting resources. Only governments. Government could still tax profits though.
Specifically, the point was, that if a govt or private concern were to go to the trouble of fetching an asteroid and making it accessible, no one else would be able to touch it.
baudrunner
3 / 5 (6) Jan 05, 2013
GSwift&: are you baiting us? 5 mile high mountains present no obstacle to an asteroid in high lunar orbit, which is 1,000 to 3,000 miles above the moon.

I think as most of the others do, which is that a 7 meter asteroid is too small to justify the expense. Better to design a new mission to grapple onto something big enough that we could build upon and drill into. I've always thought that drilling into and establishing a base inside an asteroid would provide the best defense against cosmic radiation.

The idea to grab an asteroid and place it into a high orbit around the moon is an excellent one, though, and should be given serious consideration.
RitchieGuy01
2 / 5 (4) Jan 05, 2013
Otto thinks as most of the others do, which is that a 7 meter ass is too small to justify the expense. Better to design a new mission to grapple onto an ass big enough that we could build upon and drill into. Otto has always thought that drilling into and establishing a base inside a guy's ass would provide the best defense against cosmic radiation.

Otto's idea to grab an ass and place it into a high orbit around Otto's moon is an excellent one, though, and should be given serious consideration.

@Otto
kiss kiss - suck suck
RitchieGuy01
2 / 5 (4) Jan 05, 2013
I don't think it prevents corporations from exploiting resources. Only governments. Government could still tax profits though.

Specifically, the point was, that if TheGhostofOtto were to go to the trouble of fetching another guy's ass and making it accessible, no one else would be able to touch it but Otto.
TheGhostofOtto1923
Neinsense99
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 05, 2013
who authorizes these projects?

Probably the same people that gave us the fiscal cliff. Nothing to worry about...
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 06, 2013
Boom, like a decade later they were walking on the moon.

And you are aware that they had been working for decades prior on the principle used then? Rocket technology wasn't 'invented' then (it was mostly copied from nazi germany designs which date back to the early 1930's)?
So it took almost 40 years of dumping MASSIVE amounts of resources into these projects to get them to do anything (wartime spending is a tad bit different than research budgets during peacetime)

That making something that goes from A to B is a tiiiiiny bit easier than having something that can look for materials, extract materials, shape materials in a form that equals itself? (to give you a hint: on Earth figuring out that processs took about a billion years)

You somehow seem to think building a skateboard is as easy as building a nuclear power plant. This isn' "Iron man" type science. This is reality we're talking about.

Go out. Do some scientific work. Then comment again.

RealScience
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 06, 2013
While a 7-meter asteroid would be a good start, it can't provide 10-meter shielding (comparable to our atmosphere).
Why not use a near-earth asteroid? Example: 2012 DA14 is a 57-meter asteroid due to pass only 35,000 km from earth in February.
With a 366-day orbit the velocity change needed tocapture it is tiny, and coming that close to earth a small impulse now could steer it for lunar gravity braking and capture over the next few years.
Anything that big that comes that close is a hazard anyway, so parking it in a safe and accessible orbit would help keep the earth safe.
6 weeks is to soon to scramble a mission, but these 'gifts from the gods' pass by all the time.
Soylent_Grin
4 / 5 (4) Jan 06, 2013
hah. A 7 meter asteroid couldn't pay for the cost of the mission.I don't think these bozos understand economics.


A real asteroid in a known, reachable orbit will provide a test platform for future remote landers/miners. It will make a good, real world laboratory for technology development. Capturing it tests new technology.

The TWO billion, not two hundred billion, dollar project will more than pay for itself in developing resource collection technology going forward.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 06, 2013
Example: 2012 DA14 is a 57-meter asteroid due to pass only 35,000 km from earth in February.

Because it moves at an enormous clip and slowing it down would take a LOT more fuel than could be carried by any reasonable craft. You'd need to fly twarads it, turn around and reaccelerate also - something you don't need to do for the intended target.

Getting an asteroid from the asteroid belt is far easier, because you can slowly change its speed (and any kind of drive/maneuver technology we have to move such a massive piece of material is going to slow in changing its speed)

57 meter diameter is also a HUGE mass. Way outside the capabilities any kind of drive we can field.

The crucial number of such a mission is deltaV (with respect to Earth/Moon system) and mass (i.e. how much momentum needs to be imparted on the asteroid via artificial means). We ned to choose a target that minimizes these factors for the first mission. So a 7m asteroid from the asteroid belt is well chosen.
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) Jan 06, 2013
@antialias - Delta-V is MUCH smaller for 2012 DA14.
Its 366.25 day orbit is 1/365 longer than earth's, so by T^2 = R^3, R=~1/500 bigger and its orbital velocity is ~1/1000 less than earth's ~30 km/s, or 0.03 km/s slower than earth's velocity.

In contrast main-belt asteroid velocity is ~10 km/s slower, and need ~330 times the delta-V. So a 7-meter asteroid with mass ~500x less than 2012 DA14 would take ~2/3 as much mass*delta-V to bring to earth.
Thus even without gravitational assist, 2012 DA14 would yield ~500x the material for only 1.5x the momentum change.

And 2012 DA14 will pass so close that its relative velocity at perigee is 7.8 km/s, so one could get ~7.8/1.02 = ~7.7-to-1 leverage on thrust to get it to pass near the moon for gravity braking, and use ~5 time LESS momentum change than capturing a 7-meter main-belt asteroid (thrust would, however, have to be fast (rocket) rather than a more-efficient ion drive).
More complex captures could save much more fuel.
Soylent_Grin
3 / 5 (2) Jan 06, 2013
RS, I can think of at least two objections to 2012 DA14.

First, if something goes wrong, and it goes on an earth-intercept, 57 meters would probably be too big to burn up, and could cause damage.
Second, if the ultimate goal is to mine the asteroid belt, capturing a belt asteroid would be a better choice for testing new technology. I don't know if 2012 DA14 is the same composition...
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) Jan 06, 2013
@SG: Good objections deserve good answers.

First, 2012 DA14 is already coming closer than geosynchronous satellites this next pass, so it would be much safer in a safe orbit. That's why the 1.02 was there - 10.2 km/s is the moon's average velocity around the earth, so the math was to bring it in for orbiting around the moon), and why the math is for a simple (safe) two-stage capture rather than a more efficient capture.

Given the practice that we have with satellites, NASA nudging a rock is safer than the near-random nudge nature will give it in 6 weeks.
(Or to be safe we could just smash it into the moon and enjoy a fireworks show, and call it 'practice'.)

Second, why mine the asteroid belt now? Let's START with near-earth objects that nature brings us for free, and get rid of serious hazards in doing so. We can head farther out when we have more practice and need more than nature sends our way.
-continued-
NOM
1 / 5 (1) Jan 06, 2013
I bet there are some 7m rocks near one of the Earth-Sun lagrangian points. They would be far easier to capture than one from the asteroid belt.

The only known Earth-Sun trojan (2010 TK7) is 300m diameter and only discovered a couple of years ago, so there could be smaller rocks that we can't see.

I suggest that if NASA is going to retrieve an asteroid, that it sends the probe via the Earth-Sun lagrangian points first in case there are any suitable targets there.
RealScience
3 / 5 (2) Jan 06, 2013
-continued-

As to the composition of 2012 DA14, we need all kind of materials in orbit. For shielding, forget metal and drilling into rock. Mud is easy to work with, and frozen mud is as strong as limestone (give the mud shell a bit of spin to keep the temperature even). The volume of 2012 DA14 would give a 30-meter hollow cylinder with 10-meter-thick walls.

Then with micrometorites and radiation blocked, put a light-weight, air-tight chamber inside and just spin that inner chamber up to near 10 RPM for artificial gravity of ~1G.

So we can use dry rubble-pile asteroids for gravel/dust to make mud, comet chunks (water), and wet asteroids from beyond the frost line as well as metal. All are useful, so lets start gathering these 'gifts from the gods' and parking them in safe orbits.
RealScience
not rated yet Jan 06, 2013
Ouch - I just saw the I mistyped the moon's velocity as 10.2 instead of 1.02 in the comment 3 above this one. It is 1.02 km/s (average), as used in the math.
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (3) Jan 07, 2013
We should hire Jesus and his old man, they did a smashing job of putting that moon thing in orbit.

But then he threatened that he is going to come back and kill most everyone.

No point hiring a knife wielding nutter.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
I bet there are some 7m rocks near one of the Earth-Sun lagrangian points.

There seems to be an ansteroid at L4 as you already meantioned, but it's too large for a first test. L5 seems to have no asteroids.

L1, L2, and L3 are unstable. There's nothing there.

Before sending such a mission out we should make sure a target exists.
ScottyB
3 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
Here's a thought, once the asteroid had been minded. Could it be hollowed out, strap a few fuel tanks and engines to it and use it as a perfectly shielded space craft?
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
To get a perfectly shielded craft you'dneed several meters of material. If you leave that from a 7m diameter asteroid you have basically no living space left.

To make useable spacecraft from asteroids we need something bigger (something in the dozen to 100 meter diameter class).
To get something really useful (i.e. something you can spin up to simulate gravity) will take a rock even bigger (200-300m class)

Maybe next time.
RealScience
5 / 5 (3) Jan 07, 2013
@ScottyB - yes, but it is a mighty sluggish craft if you use fuel for maneuvers. Our atmosphere provides shielding equivalent to ten meters of typical rock, so walls for good shielding are THICK.

The 57-meter asteroid discussed above is on the small side, but would make a ~30-meter cylinder with ~10-meter walls. That would give ~3,500 square meters of interior 'floor' area (two floors) and ~7,000 cubic meters of protected central equipment/storage space.
It would take a very long time to maneuver (mostly with gravitational assist), but a dozen spaced out on constant earth/mars or earth / main belt orbits would make a fine 'bus' system, at ~1000 passengers per 'bus' for the many-months journey.

That's still science fiction, but we CAN start now by capturing hazardous NEOs into safe earth (or moon) orbits and building with those materials until we have sufficient experience with the construction processes.
NOM
1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2013
@aa
L5 seems to have no asteroids.
300m diameter is probably near our lower limit for detection from Earth, so it's not surprising that the smaller rocks haven't been detected yet.

L1, L2, and L3 are unstable. There's nothing there.
But L4 & L5 are stable, so there is a good chance that candidates are there.

Before sending such a mission out we should make sure a target exists.
Agreed. The potential time and cost savings from capturing a L4 or L5 rock compared to an asteroid belt rock would justify probes to the L4 and L5 points.

To make useable spacecraft from asteroids we need something bigger (something in the dozen to 100 meter diameter class).
To get something really useful (i.e. something you can spin up to simulate gravity) will take a rock even bigger (200-300m class)
2010 SO16 is a good candidate for this. It gets close to both Earth and Mars orbits, so it could be used as a radiation shield for travelling to and from Mars.
NOM
1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2013
2003 YN107 looks like a good candidate.

From wikipedia:
Its diameter is approximately 10 to 30 metres

It revolves around the Sun on an Earth-like, almost circular, orbit. Its orbital period of 363.846 days
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
@NOM - 2010 SO16 hangs out near earth (it actually dances with the earth in a strange resonance), and does not get near the orbit of Mars.

It would be a great resource for near-earth construction, but since it is not a danger to earth for at least tens of thousands of years I'd put it lower on the priority list than shorter-term hazards.
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
2003 YN107, 2002 AA29, 3753 Cruithne, etc. have fascinating dances with earth. YN107 and AA29 would only need tiny delta-Vs to capture.

3753 Cruithne has much higher relative velocity, and does go out as far as Mars. Is it the one you were thinking of for a Mars shuttle? (It's bigger, though - 5 km in diameter)
Eauman
1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2013
"I wonder just how representative one asteroid would be of asteroids in general however."

Probably quite representative of the asteroids in the region from which it was fetched, I suspect.

antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
2010 SO16 is a good candidate for this.

While I said that the 300m category would be good for stations/ships I also think that these kinds of rocks are FAR outside our ability to move them (in any kind of serious time) to near Earth or Moon orbit.

The 7m rock they're looking at already seems a tough one to do, considering that probes we have sent to such reaches so far are not much bigger than small cars (and mostly hollow compared to these MASSIVE objects),

Cassini is one of the more massive ones and that one weighed 2.5 tons.
An asteroid of 7 meter diameter weighs roughly 360 tons. So you can see that with the limited amount of fuel we'll be having there we aren't going to move this at any great speed even with the most efficient engines (much less one with 100 meters diameter which would up the mass by roughly a factor of 3000 compared).

And solar sails are sloooooow.
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2013
@AA - that's why it pays to capture a co-orbital NEO:
1) Very low delta-V, so it is easier to get fuel there.
2) Very low Delta-V, so one can capture hundreds of time the mass per unit of momentum change
3) Much more opportunity for gravitational assist near the earth/moon system than in the main asteroid belt (there are people who are really good at using gravitational assist to move satellites around the earth/moon system using amazingly small amounts of fuel).
4) Maneuvers go faster due to shorter distances
5) Turns hazardous objects into something useful
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (15) Jan 07, 2013
@AA - that's why it pays to capture a co-orbital NEO:
1) Very low delta-V, so it is easier to get fuel there.
2) Very low Delta-V, so one can capture hundreds of time the mass per unit of momentum change
3) Much more opportunity for gravitational assist near the earth/moon system than in the main asteroid belt (there are people who are really good at using gravitational assist to move satellites around the earth/moon system using amazingly small amounts of fuel).
4) Maneuvers go faster due to shorter distances
5) Turns hazardous objects into something useful
Thats like looking for your missing car keys under the lamp post. We need to learn how to go and grab the rocks we want to look at and use. Thats what this mission is for.

Hey - heres a chance

"Apophis – a 'potentially hazardous' asteroid – flies by Earth on Wednesday...

"Wednesday's pass is only really close by astronomical standards, taking place at around 14.5 million kilometres above Earth's surface..."
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (15) Jan 07, 2013
Or heres another

"On Friday 13 April 2029, Apophis [300-metre chunk of space rock] will slip past the Earth just 30,000km above our heads – less that one-tenth the distance of the moon and closer even than the communication satellites that encircle the Earth at 36,000km. It will appear as a moderate bright moving object, visible from the mid-Atlantic. Depending upon its composition, astronomers could watch the Earth's gravity pull the asteroid out of shape, offering an unprecedented insight into its composition.

"Russia has announced tentative plans to land a tracking beacon on Apophis sometime after 2020, so that its orbit can be much more precisely followed from Earth."
RitchieGuy01
Jan 07, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2013
@Ghost - It's not like missing personal keys, where there is only one set that will do any good.
If the ground around the lamp-post has dozens of keys, and most keys have some use, then picking up and using keys from around the lamp-post before taking a tiny flashlight on a long journey to get a tiny scrap of a key makes sense.

We know from meteorites that nickel/iron chunks come to us, the carbonaceous chunks come to us, and from fly-bys comets that ruble-piles and ice chunks come our way as well.

After we pick up the gifts that nature is already bringing us, we can go hunt specific resources (and we'll have enough practice to know what we are doing).

Regarding Apophis, that's exactly why we should park NEOs in safe orbits. A tens-of-millions-of-tons rock landing on your city can ruin your whole day.
NOM
1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2013
3753 Cruithne has much higher relative velocity, and does go out as far as Mars. Is it the one you were thinking of for a Mars shuttle? (It's bigger, though - 5 km in diameter)
Looking back, I'm not entirely sure which reference I was using for the near-mars bit. But 3753 Cruithne fits the bill. It would be a waste not to capitalise on the orbits of these asteroids.

I wonder if a solar powered ion drive is the best option for larget rocks. Why not dust off the old Orion nuclear engine plans?
RealScience
5 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2013
@NOM: I agree with 3752 Cruithne having great shuttle potential, although it doesn't go quite as far out as Mar's aphelion. If we want to colonize Mars, we could use Cruithne's mass to build dozens of small-cruise-ship-sized 'shuttles' with 10-meter-thick wall of frozen mud and air-tight (probably inflated) interior chambers, and scatter them in earth/Mars transfer orbits so that every few months one would pass earth on an orbit taking it reasonably close to Mars.

Of course by the time that we can do that, we might have fusion mastered and have the equivalent of a jet instead of a cruise ship.

However I suspect that even with fusion, gravity assist and patience will be our best allies in moving big chunks of stuff around. There's a guy at NASA who comes up with phenomenally efficient transfer orbits (his name escapes me at the moment, and a minute with Google didn't help).
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.5 / 5 (16) Jan 08, 2013
After we pick up the gifts that nature is already bringing us, we can go hunt specific resources (and we'll have enough practice to know what we are doing).
Well apparently the good scientists and engineers at NASA disagree with you, and so we can try to understand why they they think it is worth more to do what they are doing.

Developing the tech to fetch a rock from farther out is more important and/or more feasible at this point. And I am sure they have considered all options. NASA is not in the profit business, they are in the pioneering and defense business. They develop the tech with taxpayer money so others can use it to make money and protect western interests.
RealScience
5 / 5 (2) Jan 08, 2013
@Ghost - Thanks.
Your point about NASA caused me to read the original paper (http://www.kiss.c...rt.pdf).

While the phys.org article says "send an unmanned spacecraft into deep space to capture an asteroid and return it as a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA)", this is NOT correct. The original paper proposes hunting down a 7-meter asteroid that is ALREADY an NEO.

So NASA also thinks that capturing an NEO is better that going to the main belt because we can get far more material for the same effort.

However since my relative-size calculations were based on thinking that 7 meters was for a main-belt asteroid, my conclusion was quite over-optimistic. 2012 DA14's orbit better matches earth/moon than the paper's 2008 HU4 example (and the paper points out that a better orbit allows capturing a bigger asteroid, but is it nowhere near 500x better).

So you and AA and I should all have read the original paper rather than relying on the summary.
NOM
1 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2013
I like this bit:
One day, in the more distant future, it is possible that a small NEA (~10 m) returned to E-M L2/L1 could act as an orbiting platform/counter weight for a lunar space elevator to allow routine access to and from the lunar surface and also function as a space resource processing facility for mining significant quantities of materials for future human space exploration and settlement and possible return and inclusion in terrestrial markets.
GSwift7
4.2 / 5 (10) Jan 09, 2013
Specifically, the point was, that if a govt or private concern were to go to the trouble of fetching an asteroid and making it accessible, no one else would be able to touch it


Actually, space law (as it stands) says that no country can claim soveriegnty in space. That's to prevent someone from charging taxes to anyone else who wants to use the moon, for example. As things stand now, if NASA brings an asteroid to lunar orbit, ANYONE can go and use it. NASA is forbidden from claiming ownership of it. Once you bring pieces back to Earth, the laws of the country you land in apply. That's what the treaty says. And if you accidentally land in Russia, they are required to give your stuff back to you. The treaty says that too.
GSwift7
4.2 / 5 (10) Jan 09, 2013
baudrunner:

GSwift&: are you baiting us? 5 mile high mountains present no obstacle to an asteroid in high lunar orbit, which is 1,000 to 3,000 miles above the moon


You must not have been following the thread. I was responding to someone else who suggested orbiting something a few feet above the surface of the moon. I was saying that it wouldn't work.
GSwift7
4.2 / 5 (10) Jan 09, 2013
As for using an asteroid, we don't have a need yet. Right now, a few pounds of asteroid/comet would be worth a fortune back on Earth, no matter what it is made of.

I think it would make sense to bring a small one into lunar orbit. Wrap something around it like cables so that when you go to work on it you can tie your gear down. Then send a machine with a core drill and drill as many cores as you can and return them to Earth. With the asteroid in Lunar orbit you could use the SpaceX Dragon to do it. Once their Falcon Heavy is ready, the Dragon is already designed for this mission plan. You could take several people and still spend weeks at the asteroid. If you intended on making multiple trips, you might even mount one of the universal docking collars on the roid for safety.