NASA appears to be serious about its ambitious Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) that was being discussed last year. It seems the space agency has already zeroed in on a potential candidate to pluck from the vastness of space, and make it orbit around the moon. The asteroid will help scientists fine-tune aspects about future manned missions to Mars, and other celestial objects in deep space.
A new report confirms NASA is serious about a plan that involves plucking a small asteroid and placing it in our moon’s orbit, reported Seeker. The new report offers insights from experts who are part of a special action team. The team was tasked with formulating a plan for ARM. The mission is supposed to address decadal science objectives involving deep space missions. Moreover, the objectives are meant to close or diminish Strategic Knowledge Gaps (SKGs) that have so far prevented long term manned missions, not just to the Earth’s closest planet, Mars, but also beyond our solar system.
The study was conducted by members of the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG). The team compared the ARM requirements, primarily involving the complex robotics that would have to work on remote and extreme environments, and possibly a human crew to the SKGs that were developed through international collaboration, reported Space Daily. The team also looked at the scientific objectives noted in the National Research Council decadal survey report, “Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022.”
The ARM is still very much in its infancy. Essentially, it involves sending a robotic probe to a large asteroid and lifting a relatively big rock off its surface. The probe would then deposit the rock into the moon’s orbit. The Earth’s moon has its own gravitational force. While it may not be as strong as that of Earth, it can still hold a rock of appropriate mass and volume within its grasp, and keep it revolving. Essentially, NASA intends to have an asteroid in an orbit that is close enough to Earth that it could easily be studied by a manned mission.
While the mission may seem absurd, the SBG already has 18 small body SKGs that, if addressed, can potentially answer 15 questions pertaining to the core objectives of the mission. While there are several complex questions that NASA hopes the artificially placed asteroid could answer, the agency is also tasked with testing theories that will try to protect Earth if or when a rock hurtling through space decides to make the planet its target.
While NASA hasn’t officially confirmed yet, there have been persistent rumors about the agency settling on asteroid codenamed “2008 EV5.” The 400-meter-wide rock, classified a near-Earth, potentially hazardous, Aten asteroid, is relatively nearer to our planet. Asteroid 2008 EV5 has been categorized as a Type C asteroid. This essentially means it is carbonaceous, rocky, and contains copious amounts of metals. Hence it is supposed to be an ideal candidate to study.
NASA has yet to go through several studies pertaining to characteristics of the ideal asteroid, its surrounding environment, boulder selection through imaging, even the actual process of capturing the boulder. Once these apects are finalized, the boulder will have to be lifted, brought back, and placed in a cis-lunar orbit (orbiting Earth and closer than the Moon). Once the asteroid is secured in its moon orbit, a manned mission will pay a visit in an Orion capsule. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, some of the candidates NASA had chosen beside 2008 EV5, included Itokawa (which was visited by the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa), and Bennu (which is planned for a sample return mission called OSIRIS-REx).
While NASA isn’t offering much information about the ambitious mission, experts caution the agency might also start a new space race to mine celestial objects. While the Earth’s limited resources are fast drying up, the planets, their moons, and asteroids have abundant resources just waiting to be claimed.
[Featured Image by NASA]