NASA Finishes First Internal Review of Asteroid Redirect Concepts

One possible scenario for a future asteroid retrieval mission is pictured here. NASA completed an internal review of asteroid redirect mission concepts this week. Photo Credit: NASA.
One possible scenario for a future asteroid retrieval mission is pictured here. NASA completed an internal review of asteroid redirect mission concepts this week. Photo Credit: NASA.

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.

NASA concept art for SLS posted on AmericaSpace
NASA currently plans to launch the first SLS on an unmanned test flight in 2017, with a manned flight four years later. Image Credit: NASA

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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  1. I really don’t know what to think of the ARM. Although the concept looks promising and is a step out of LEO at last, I don’t know if this is the right way for the agency to go BEO, since most of the ARM objectives could be met by a lunar surface mission.

  2. Like Capt. Eugene Cernan, the last man on the Moon, I think we should return to the Moon for serious, long-term exploration. We have only scratched the surface. If that accursed explosion had happened over the south Pacific instead of over Russia, the whole issue of a highly improbable catastrophic encounter would not be receiving a fraction of the attention it now receives. I would like to see a poll of members of the scientific community as well as members of the general public as to whether they would prefer a mission to an asteroid, or a long-term mission on the lunar surface.

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