NASA has proposed the ambitious idea, but can they really lasso an asteroid into the Moon’s orbit? With the growing intensity of NASA asteroid finding technology, NASA targets asteroids to lasso into the Moon’s orbit. The goal is to find a suitable asteroid to capture and release it into a stable orbit around the Moon, giving researchers and scientists an opportunity to study the asteroid in space. The task will require impeccable calculations, given the speed at which asteroids can travel and their sometimes monolithic size. In space, any miscalculation or small error can be proven disastrous.
NASA’s ambitious lasso mission posses two intense challenges, first finding and capturing a suitable rocky asteroid that is large enough to study and keep in orbit around the moon, and simultaneously not too large to where the mission is impossible to resource. This is requiring NASA engineers to create a spacecraft that can capture an asteroid without colliding and destroying itself or the asteroid. This has lead NASA astronomers to narrow the search down to an asteroid less than 32 feet, or ten meters in size. The space agency has announced however that they will keep an eye on larger boulder-type asteroids in the anticipation of advancing their technology. NASA’s NEO, or Near Earth Object Observation Program executive Lindley Johnson, reported Friday, March 21st, that the space agency has about six candidates to lasso into the Moon’s orbit. The NEO program astronomers believe over the next two or three years they will continue to find more asteroid candidates. Eventually the team of scientist will have to determine which asteroid is best suitable for the lasso mission. This will be a unique mission for the NEO program , as NASA targets an asteroid to lasso into the Moon’s orbit, since their primary purpose is to help NASA identify and track the potentially dangerous asteroids in the solar system.
It is now being hypothesized that the asteroid lasso mission will launch a robotic probe that will land on the asteroid and redirect the rock into the Earth’s and Moon’s space; the second hurdle for the space agency. Furthermore, NASA hopes they will visit the asteroid several times, conducting data and sediment extractions by the astronauts aboard the Orion capsule and NASA’s Space Launch System rocket scheduled for launch in 2021. This will be the first time the Orion and rocket system will be launching flight crews to space together. All this planning to be fully developed by 2021? It still seems rather difficult that NASA can really lasso an asteroid into the Moon’s orbit, especially when the space agency has limited funding.
NASA projects that the first manned visit to one of the lasso captured asteroids will be around 2025, situating well with the exploration timeline presented by the White House. President Barack Obama has directed NASA to orbit or be in the vicinity of a near Earth asteroid by 2025. President Obama has also directed NASA to been in Mars’ vicinity by the 2030’s. The White House reality represents how important this mission is as a stepping stone for NASA. Not only does the mission help us understand asteroids and possibly how life came to be on our planet, the mission also helps advance the technology needed for the future of landing a manned spacecraft on Mars. The question becomes is this announcement really an accurate foretelling of NASA and their plans to capture an asteroid, or a situation politically motivated.
As the ambitious space agency believes they can lassos an asteroid into the Moon’s orbit, they aspire to develop asteroid mining technology and give scientists insights on the early solar system. NASA has even announced their are seeking innovative ideas that will help turn the asteroid lasso mission into a reality. NASA will pick up to 25 proposed ideas announced on July 1st, preparing to give out a maximum of 6$ million dollars in awards. NASA hopes to have the basic mission conceptualized by the end of 2014. It seems that NASA and their team of researchers and engineers believe they can really lasso an asteroid into the Moon’s orbit, and judging on their legacy of seemingly doing the impossible, it seems prudent not to disagree.
Opinion by Zane Foley