News / Science & Technology

NASA: Humans Could Visit Asteroid in 2021

NASA: Humans Could Visit Asteroid in 2021i
X
June 19, 2013 12:51 AM
The U.S. space agency says its proposed asteroid capture mission takes several of NASA's ongoing initiatives and aligns them for one major mission. VOA's Suzanne Presto went to NASA headquarters in Washington and has the latest about the proposal to capture, move and ultimately visit an asteroid.
TEXT SIZE - +
Suzanne Presto
The U.S. space agency says its proposed asteroid capture mission takes several of NASA's ongoing initiatives and aligns them for one major mission.  

These chunks of ancient space rocks hold clues about the formation of the universe, pose threats to our planet, and present new territory for explorers.
NASA's proposed asteroid mission is a logical next leap for the space agency, says associate administrator for human exploration and operations Bill Gerstenmaier.

"It essentially fits right with what we were doing already.  This whole mission activity captures a lot of what we were doing before.  It captures the observation things.  It captures the electric propulsion, and it captures and utilizes our Orion [capsule] and SLS [rocket] just as it was envisioned," said Gerstenmaier.

Astronomers already are identifying and tracking near-Earth asteroids in an attempt to find potential threats, which will help as NASA chooses a target.

And the space agency's engineers are working on propulsion technologies that use sunlight to efficiently produce low thrust, reducing the amount of propellant needed for such a mission.
        
"We're going to capture and redirect a 7-10 meter, approximately 500-ton near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit in translunar space, probably a deep retrograde orbit around the moon, and this will enable an astronaut mission to the asteroid as early as 2021," said Gerstenmaier.

A successful mission would show that humans can alter an asteroid's path, and be useful if one is found to be a danger to Earth.  

NASA says there is no threat to our planet if something goes wrong during this capture mission, because an asteroid this size would disintegrate before it struck the planet.  

Gerstenmaier says lunar orbit is stable enough that the asteroid possibly could stay in place for a century.

"So once we get the spacecraft and the object in this orbit, it's there for us to go visit multiple times in the future," he said.

Astronauts could use the Space Launch System and Orion space capsule that are being developed. Space explorers could spend about five days near the asteroid and venture out of the Orion capsule to collect samples that would be returned to Earth.   

Gerstenmaier says this will give astronauts and mission control experience working in deep space, far from Earth and the International Space Station.  
"In this case, we're going to have to make sure we have the right abort scenarios, the right redundancy in place, that we can tolerate being in this situation for up to five days.  So that helps us take a step toward the bigger missions that we want to do going forward," he said.

Bigger missions such as a manned voyage to Mars in the 2030s.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid