NASA plans most ambitious mission – to the asteroids

NASA plans most ambitious mission – to the asteroids

NASA will somehow have to accomplish its most ambitious mission – landing on an asteriod within 15 years, after a presidential directive.

The challenges are manifold, but NASA nerds are delirious at tackling the nitty gritty of such an inconceivably challenging project – though Hollywood has already done it in “Armageddon” 13 years ago.

An asteroid is a gigantic rock orbiting the sun, like Earth. One of them, just 16 km across, devastated the earth and wiped out dinosaurs 60 million years ago. Another, a much smaller one, exploded over Siberia in 1908, wiping out vegetation over 108 square km.

But sending people to an asteriod won’t be that easy because of its zero gravity. Astronauts would just float away.

NASA is thinking about jetpacks, tethers, bungees, nets and spiderwebs to allow explorers to float just above the surface of it while attached to a smaller mini-spaceship, reports the Daily Mail.

Such a ship – something like a Star Trek shuttle craft melded with a deep sea explorer with pincer-like arms – is needed just to get within working distance of the asteroid.

That craft would have to be big enough for astronauts to live in for a week or two. They’d still need a larger habitat for the long term.

NASA has also announced details of plans to determine if Mars has or ever had the ingredients for life. A robotic science lab, being prepared for a Nov 25 launch, will land in August 2012 near a mountain in a crater on the planet most like Earth in the solar system.

But President Barack Obama has said the objective is to build new spaceships that can travel beyond the shuttle’s near-Earth orbit and eventually send astronauts to asteroids, Mars and other destinations in deep space.

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