Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Asteroid Mission 'Plymouth Rock:' Catchy Name, Practical Technology

" 'Plymouth Rock' Deep Space Asteroid Mission Idea Gains Ground"
Space.com (August 30, 2010)

"Plans for sending humans to visit an asteroid are heating up, with at least one company already scoping out the technological essentials for a deep space expedition within a decade, given the go-ahead.

"The asteroid space trek is seen as both scientifically valuable and as a dress rehearsal for a Mars mission, NASA officials have said. It could also hone ideas for planetary defense to guard Earth from a messy head-on clash with a space rock.

"Launching a manned asteroid mission by 2025 is NASA's new goal set by President Barack Obama, who announced the plan in April. The deep space mission would serve as a stepping stone to a crewed mission to Mars in the mid-2030s, he said...."

(from Lockheed Martin, via Space.com, used w/o permission)
"This diagram shows the possible layout of a deep space Orion spacecraft for a manned mission to an asteroid envisioned by Lockheed Martin."

The Space.com article outlines the Orion spacecraft's off-again-on-again history. It was scrapped by the current administration, as part of shutting down the lunar exploration program; then Orion was put back in development, as an emergency escape system for the International Space Station (ISS).

Right now, the asteroid mission involves two Orion spacecraft, plus some extra equipment. That picture's half the width of the original at Space.com, by the way.

The modular design of the proposed asteroid mission's vehicle seems to make good sense: particularly since it should allow the thing to be scaled up for longer missions.
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