It’s not exactly the film Armaggedon, but I guess you could say this news hints at the film that brought humanity’s near-destruction to the big screen.
According to a recent report at Ars Technica, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning a mission that will send a small unmanned spacecraft to a nearby asteroid for extraction of a small boulder from that asteroid. That boulder will then find itself placed in cis-lunar orbit (in orbit of Earth but closer than the Moon) for study by NASA scientists on a manned mission. The project could be underway, including the manned mission, by 2025.
NASA announced the project in a press conference which provided details about three asteroids that are the final contenders for extraction. The three are Itokawa, Bennu, and 2008 EV5. NASA and other space agencies know them well, so they make good candidates for the mission and present a low threat of complications.
Forbes added that the mission will not only present a technical challenge for spacecraft designers and astronauts; it will also provide a stepping stone for manned missions to Mars that could begin as early as 2030. It quoted Robert Lightfoot, the NASA associate administrator, who said missions like this could help usher in a “new era of spaceflight.”
One part of that new era may include solar-powered ion engines which are able to move masses in space efficiently. It is possible that NASA could use such engines to position equipment for manned space missions to deeper parts of space. Ars points out that the engines could also provide an effective method of altering the trajectory of large bodies that could impact Earth.
As far as we know, there aren’t any global killers making their way in a few days toward collision with our world. At least for the time being, that’s the stuff of Hollywood. This type of mission, however, could help scientists figure out ways to deal with those types of situations. And on our way, we could set a few feet on Mars.
Image courtesy of Don Davis/NASA via Wikimedia Commons (Caption: An artist’s rendering of an asteroid impact of Earth.)