NASA announced it has completed the first step toward a future mission in which a near-Earth asteroid may be captured and brought into a stable lunar orbit, allowing for a manned mission to explore the asteroid. A mission formulation review was brought together on the evening of Tuesday, July 30, consisting of NASA leaders across the nation who will examine internal studies proposing what it will take to make this kind of mission possible. This review is in preparation for fiscal year 2014.
With this review complete, managers will now focus on integrating the standout concepts into an asteroid mission baseline concept, to be developed during FY-2014.
The asteroid concept mission is part of President Barack Obama’s FY-2014 budget request for NASA and also includes provisions for the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion spacecraft, and related technology development. This mission proposal is meant to carry the agency further to an intended goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s.
“At this meeting, we engaged in the critically important work of examining initial concepts to meet the goal of asteroid retrieval and exploration. The agency’s science, technology, and human exploration teams are working together to better understand near-Earth asteroids, including ones potentially hazardous to our planet; demonstrate new technologies; and to send humans farther from home than ever before. I was extremely proud of the teams and the progress they have made so far. I look forward to integrating the inputs as we develop the mission concept further,” said NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who chaired the review at the agency’s Headquarters.
In addition to reviewing internal concepts, managers also discussed the nearly 400 responses sent to NASA as requested from universities, scientists, industry professionals, and the public concerning an asteroid mission. The responses were part of the “Asteroid Grand Challenge,” announced by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver on June 21. On that day, the agency released a request for information (RFI) for 30 days to search for asteroid mission ideas.
“NASA already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet, and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth’s orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth. This Grand Challenge is focused on detecting and characterizing asteroids and learning how to deal with potential threats. We will also harness public engagement, open innovation, and citizen science to help solve this global problem,” said Garver of the Grand Challenge.
With the Asteroid Grand Challenge completed, its findings will be considered in developing future capture scenarios and possible manned missions.
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