On the Heels of Its Grand Challenge, NASA Selects 96 Ideas for Asteroid Initiative

SLS launch at Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Florida NASA image posted on AmericaSpace
Crewed missions to asteroids and near-Earth objects are slated to take place utilizing the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. NASA announced that 96 ideas are being considered to make such a mission happen. Image Credit: NASA

NASA announced on Wednesday, Sept. 4 that it has chosen 96 concepts from over 400 that were submitted in response to its Asteroid Grand Challenge” initiative.  The search began in June, when the agency issued a request for information (RFI) seeking views on how to harness—and, perhaps, one day visit—a near-Earth object (NEO) or asteroid. The RFI was the first opportunity for members of the aerospace industry and other partners to submit their thoughts on the asteroid initiative.

While no specific ideas have yet been released by NASA, the agency hinted that the information gleaned provides insight on how to identify and, perhaps, capture asteroids. The information ranges from ideas such as taking samples of asteroids to nudging them away from paths near Earth. NASA is interested in not only avoiding possible asteroid and NEO strikes here on Earth, but also wants to know more about the objects’ scientific benefits and possible resources.

It is hoped these nuggets of information may contribute to a future asteroid redirect or capture mission, in which astronauts may have the capability to visit one of these objects utilizing the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System (SLS), currently being developed. This initiative is part of President Barack Obama’s FY-2014 budget request for the agency. If this kind of mission can be pioneered, NASA hopes its next big goal will be to send humans to Mars by the 2030s.

“This rich set of innovative ideas gathered from all over the world provides us with a great deal of information to factor into our plans moving forward. We’re making great progress on formulating this mission, and we look forward to discussing further the responses we received to the RFI,” said Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s associate administrator.

NASA is planning on holding a public workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, from Monday, Sept. 30 to Tuesday, Oct. 2, in which these 96 ideas will be further discussed and examined. There are approximately 300 other ideas. While they were not selected for further discussion, they may be fed into the initiative in terms of future planning.


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