Thursday, January 3, 2013

Straight Out of Science Fiction...

NASA is actually considering capturing an asteroid, hauling it back toward Earth, and parking it in lunar orbit.  Wow!  That's straight out of a pulp magazine's space opera of the '50s!

It gets a little less exciting as you examine the details...

First, we're talking about a really little asteroid - just twenty feet or so in diameter.  Secondly, NASA really doesn't have much interesting in mind for this thing.  They want to study it (which could be done anywhere, of course), and (wait for it!) they want to land astronauts on it.  Why?  Because that's one of their goals, given to them by Obama.  And it's too damned hard to go out and land astronauts on asteroids in their native milieu - so of course, we need to bring the asteroids to us.  So we can land on it, plant a little flag, do a little brag, and then knock a few rocks off with a rock hammer.

Once again, for what these combined missions would cost (the robotic mission to capture an asteroid, plus the manned mission to the asteroid once it's parked in orbit around the moon), we could make 10 or so Cassini missions, sending capable robotic explorers on long, complex missions in the outer solar system.  Such missions would return vastly more science data than this single manned mission.

Naturally, we won't do it.  The political optics for the robotic missions suck, unfortunately.  It's apparently only a few curmudgeons like me who support them.  Everyone else wants the drama and romance of the manned missions, even if there's nothing particularly useful about them...

1 comment:

  1. If we want manned flights to other planets etc., my suggestion is "Big Brother Goes to Mars" A reality show where the contestants are sent to Mars. Follow their training, stick cameras all over the craft and sell the TV rights. Don't get me started with the "voting them off the ship". haha. I'm only half joking.