Yesterday Mister Mason Peck, NASA’s chief Technologist, held a Q&A on Reddit. The topic was Killer Asteroids, how NASA is going to catch them, and how we the people can help them. However the questions the Reddit user asked Mister Peck were very insightful, and probably on your mind as well. Therefore we have gathered the best, and most intriguing questions, and the answer Mason Peck gave. (Read on if you want to get to the part where NASA confirms, that to blow up a Killer Asteroid, just like in Armageddon, is an actual option.)
Question 1 by mrkrabz1991: “If an meteorite (similar to the one that recently hit Russia) was headed towards Time Square or Washington D.C., how much time would you need to deflect it? What could be done about it? Does NASA or the government have any current contingency plans for this?”
Answer: “Probably it would not take long for the thrust from a small spacecraft to deflect an asteroid that size (months? just a guess off the top of my head). But we would need even more time to prepare the spacecraft, launch it, and rendezvous with the asteroid. That’s a reminder that technology for building spacecraft rapidly and providing ready access to space are part of the broader problem of protecting the planet.”
Conclusion: NASA confirms that they are not yet prepared to take action. If they need to build a spacecraft, get it up in space, find the Asteroid and find away to destroy it, (to blow it up might prove to be to dangerous), without causing damage we all might already be obliterated by the Killer Asteroid. NASA really does need our help to speed up this process and get some precautions in place STAT! It might be an idea to do it just like in Armageddon. It is an option, even though we need to be careful because it might prove to be more hazardous than any other option.
Question 2 by Mathea666: “What is the technologically hardest part of getting to an asteroid?”
Answer: “I’ll give you my top three for the redirect mission overall. We’ll need high-efficiency propulsion to ensure that the trip can be done without using a lot of propellant mass. We’ll need high-precision navigation, particularly for the rendezvous with the asteroid. And we’ll need the grappling, or robotic-manipulation hardware. Remember, we’re assembling the pieces of this mission from capabilities that already exist or are planned for this time frame. We’re leveraging a lot of great work to make this happen.”
Conclusion: A wise plan to leverage work that has already been done with other great work. Hopefully this will speed up the process and give us some room to breathe.
Question 3 by Universu: “Is it possible to put a Habitat Laboratory Module (HLM) on the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle (ARV)?”
Answer: “Well, it’s mostly a matter of resources. But the benefits to human exploration are very clear here, even without adding a habitat: we’ll learn about how to help astronauts survive the deep-space radiation environment, and we’ll learn how to operate long-term life-support systems, how to navigate outside Earth orbit, and the list goes on. And we’ll accomplish these goals using hardware we’ve been building for years, even before this asteroid initiative was announced.”
Conclusion: NASA is going to use the Asteroid to also look for other benefits for the human race. This might mean that we could leave Earth behind and find another planet to live on.
Question 4 by _artfag: “I’m an idiot on this subject, and please forgive me. So are you guys going to… blowup, asteroids? Like with a missile or something?”
Answer: “The asteroid initiative includes plans to send a robotic spacecraft to move a small asteroid into an orbit near the moon. It also includes a Grand Challenge in which we ask for the world to engage with NASA to identify the threats asteroids pose to human populations and then know what to do about them. The Grand Challenge addresses your question. There are many ideas about how to keep an asteroid from hitting the Earth, but the best offense is a good defense: know where they are, and the sooner we know, the easier it will be to deflect them.”
Conclusion: This means in less words than Mason Peck, but that NASA confirms that to blow up killer Asteroid, just like Armageddon, is an actual option. There might be better alternatives, but this might be the fastest one.
Question 5 by t0rt01s3: “What is the point/what can be gained from moving a small asteroid into orbit near the moon?”
Answer: “So much! We’ll learn how to send humans beyond Earth orbit, using technologies that will take us to Mars in the following decade. The moon is relatively convenient and safe, compared to trying out these systems for the first time in Mars orbit. So, this is a very cost-effective and yet ambitious way to make a lot of progress towards exploring Mars.
We’re going to send the first, robotic spacecraft under the power of solar-electric propulsion (SEP). So, this mission will be a technology demonstration of a technique that is broadly applicable across NASA’s portfolio and will help the commercial space industry as well. Our plans are to use a 30-50 kW SEP system here, which is traceable to at least 10x that level. This is a bold move, depending on a technology demo. That audacity recalls Apollo and the other work that has made NASA great.”
Conclusion: New and exciting developments. It seems like NASA counts the Asteroid threat a blessing not something we have to be afraid of. Also they confirmed there will be a mission to Mars soon. (Relatively soon, the next decade.)
Question 6 by dafuq_dude: “How exactly does one land anything on an asteroid? Aren’t those things moving at an incredibly fast rate?”