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NASA Proposes Manned Asteroid Mission 219

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the summon-bruce-willis dept.
eldavojohn writes "NASA has proposed a manned asteroid mission to a near earth object. They mention this being viewed as a "gap-filler" to keep the public's attention between a lunar exploration & manned mars mission. The article also cites these goals as in line with the Constellation Program. From the article, 'Furthermore, a human venture to a space rock may well accelerate precursor robotic surveys of asteroids, Schweickart observed. "Early unmanned visits to asteroids ... it's the same pattern as we did with the Moon and we're doing right now with Mars. It's all pretty logical," he told SPACE.com.'"
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NASA Proposes Manned Asteroid Mission

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  • by B11 (894359) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:46AM (#16870076)
    The experience we get from a mission to asteroids could serve us well in the event that one heads towards earth. I mean, Bruce Willis isn't getting any younger.
    • Asteroids are relics from early solar system formation, McKay pointed out. "Then there's the whole, what I call the 'Bruce Willis factor'...the star in the movie Armageddon...and the ability to send significant assets to an asteroid."
      • Well this one is kinda wtf:

        "There's a lot of public resonance with this notion that NASA ought to be doing something about killer asteroids...to be able to send serious equipment to an asteroid," McKay observed. "The public wants us to have mastered the problem of dealing with asteroids. So being able to have astronauts go out there and sort of poke one with a stick would be scientifically valuable as well as demonstrate human capabilities," he said.

        So get rid of Bruce Willis by sending him to deal with

        • I think that "poke it with a stick" here is a substitute for "deliver unto the asteroid a large nuclear weapon."

          If you can land on it, then you can probably drop a nuke there. That's the scientific part. However, actually putting a person there also satisfies the equally important goal of continuing NASA's public relations campaign and spurring public interest in space exploration.
    • by Keebler71 (520908)
      CmdrTaco: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.

      NASA: Never tell me the odds!

  • by Mayhem178 (920970) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:46AM (#16870082)
    ...that when the special edition of Armageddon is released, it'll be marked as "based on a true story?"
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:47AM (#16870090)
    If the plan is to "land" on an asteroid and plant a flag (or whatever), it's probably a good idea to actually know ahead of time that there's solid ground there. If I recall correctly, the most recent asteroid fly-bys suggested that it was mostly loose gravel held together by microgravity. Imagine "landing" and finding yourself sinking into a bunch of rocks that start flying about.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:49AM (#16870114)
      Yeah, I sure hope someone at NASA reads your post, otherwise they'll just blast a rocket full of people up there and hope for the best.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PIPBoy3000 (619296)
        Well, my point is that we don't have a very good understanding of asteroids. Personally I'd rather see a plan that involved a lot of robotic exploration first, with a tentative "later we'll decide if a manned mission makes sense". Doing manned missions for PR purposes seems pretty silly.
        • by Volante3192 (953645) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:22PM (#16870582)
          Doing manned missions for PR purposes seems pretty silly.

          You must've missed the whole Mercury - Gemini - Apollo era of NASA. Science aspects aside, it was just a cockfight with Russia.
        • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:45PM (#16870986) Homepage Journal
          Doing manned missions for PR purposes seems pretty silly.

          Not doing PR will guarantee that the entire Space Program ends up being nothing but a bunch of expensive lawn ornaments and a theme park in Florida.

          It's only because of the public interest in space, and their willingless to spend a shitload of money on it, that there is the opportunity to conduct scientific research up there at all. Private industry isn't going to pay for it; at least not on anything like the scale that we've come to enjoy today.

          The primary goal of the space program should be to ensure its own future existence, and that means keeping the public interested. If that means going and sending some guy up to stand on an asteroid for a photo op next to a flag, so be it. It's that sort of thing which will keep the money flowing.

          • by Amouth (879122)
            yea.. and well.. screw the robotic stuff .. i will go.. i don't care if i die.. it would be worth it to be the first man on a space rock.. shit.. i would go to Mars even if i knew i wouldn't be able to get back.. just to go..
            • I feel the same way man. Give me the one way ticket and im out of here. Of course I would rather the return trip(or some preferment settlement) but one way is better than nothing.
          • Not doing PR will guarantee that the entire Space Program ends up being nothing but a bunch of expensive lawn ornaments and a theme park in Florida.
            ...
            The primary goal of the space program should be to ensure its own future existence, and that means keeping the public interested. If that means going and sending some guy up to stand on an asteroid for a photo op next to a flag, so be it. It's that sort of thing which will keep the money flowing.

            But in that case, why not just cut to the chase? If the

      • by caluml (551744)
        I've got to say, that's one funny post :)
    • won't sink (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ArbitraryConstant (763964) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:15PM (#16870464) Homepage
      You won't sink. The gravity's too weak, remember?
    • Interesting you mention that. Before the first moonlandings, there was a similar concern: there was a theory that the soil consisted of such a fine dust that it had properties similar to a liquid, and that anything landing on it would just sink. Arthur C. Clarke even wrote a novel exploring this idea: "A fall of moondust" [wikipedia.org]. A nice read, but of course a bit outdated.
  • by viper21 (16860) <{moc.yrdnuofqi} {ta} {ttocs}> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:49AM (#16870102) Homepage
    Like NASA can do better than Armageddeon? [yahoo.com]

    Maybe if they get Steve Buscemi [yahoo.com] to pilot the mission they have a chance.
  • Can we put some small ion engines on the asteroid? Because if we do that and can feed the engines with asteroid dust, we can move it into Earth orbit within my lifetime. And that would just be too cool.

    • A little shove would bring it nicely down upon an enemy state of your choice, without the messy fallout that nukes have.

      Perhaps one of the Lagrange points would make people feel more comfortable.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Gospodin (547743)

        It would take more than a "little shove" - unless you don't mind smiting your enemies a couple of hundred years hence.

    • Not an asteroid! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by camperdave (969942) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:45PM (#16870980) Journal
      Capturing an asteroid for resources would be idiotic. Placing a spacecraft hull in orbit is simple. Tie together a few TransHab modules, and there you go. It is a one time cost. The real problem is consumables: Water, oxygen, propellant. You won't find usable quantities of these things on an asteroid.

      No, what you want to do is capture a comet. Thousands, if not millions of tonnes of water, which can be cracked for oxygen. Also, plenty of other ices which can be used as propellant. Launch a giant plastic bag into an intercept orbit, seal the comet inside. As the sun heats the bag/comet, vent the gas to put the comet into a more usable orbit, and voila, a mountain sized chunk of water to live off of.
      • by Gospodin (547743) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:50PM (#16871054)

        Actually, it's only a few consumables that you'd be short of in an asteroid: hydrogen and carbon, in particular. Oxygen is abundant in most lunar and asteroid regolith. Furthermore, there's a slight difference of scale between a billion-ton asteroid and a "few TransHab modules strapped together". At current rates, launching a billion tons into LEO would cost about $10 quadrillion. While this may be a "one-time cost", it's a wee bit of steep one.

        However, you're certainly right that capturing a comet would be extremely useful. And I love the plastic bag method of propulsion! Has anyone studied this for practicality?

        • Holes in the theory (Score:3, Interesting)

          by iamlucky13 (795185)
          It sounds theoretically feasible, but technically a nightmare. If a meteor knocked a hole in your bag (pretty likely over time), you would suddenly have a second jet, and you didn't get to pick which way it's pointed, so it's effectively uncontrolled. It might hit the earth instead of orbiting. If it broke apart due to the warming, your bag is completely history.

          Plus, when was the last time somebody wrapped something that big? It would probably take hundreds of thousands of pounds of plastic, plus some s
  • Sign me up, I'm ready to take a vacation from *this* rock.

    I wonder that if NASA is thinking about the public's attention, why not send rock-stars, or famous people to some asteroid? Make them do the television circuit to tell us all about it. I don't care about the risk of death due to failures.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rob T Firefly (844560)
      I for one can think of many, many celebrities I'd like to fire at asteroids and then forget about. Finally, a use for Tyra Banks!
  • A Gap Filler? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by matt4077 (581118) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @11:55AM (#16870190) Homepage
    It's so great NASA has the right goal: entertaining the masses.
    • Re:A Gap Filler? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:08PM (#16870382)
      It's so great NASA has the right goal: entertaining the masses.

      "The masses" would be the people that pay for what NASA does. I mean, I know I pay a lot of taxes. And the whole purpose of missions like this is to find activities that do benefit their program (more experience in different circumstances) while also stimulating an interest, in the taxpayers, to continuing to fund this stuff. Making sure that some of the testing and learning also happens to be interesting to watch is simply smart. We're a long way from stomping around Mars and looking under rocks, but we can do some very good CEV testing and some other very cool science near one of those interesting big rocks. And it will look great in HD.
      • while also stimulating an interest, in the taxpayers

        Science is not circus. What NASA needs to do is set scientific goals, achieve those goals and then the taxpayers profit from the knowledge obtained. There are more interesting things going on in a small part of cosmology, with huge implications, than a "hey look! We can do this, how cool!" attention grab from NASA ever could achieve. Interesting, important != understandable to the average person.

        The average guy is not going to hear or care about 21 cent

        • by ScentCone (795499)
          Yeah, it's hard to justify on a funding level because it's not immediately spectacular, but it's still the right thing to do.

          I maintain that these thing are not mutually exclusive. Doing science with a bit of flair is scarcely more expensive than doing it without. You may not like spending money on projects that don't expressly pursue the areas of inquiries that you're passionate about, but I think you're really missing how hard it is to get 400+ congress-creatures to write a check for 21cm radiation res
        • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:55PM (#16871134) Homepage Journal
          Interesting, important != understandable to the average person.
          Unfortunately, it's those "average people" who control the flow of cash to scientific research, and it's their basically ignorant, baseless opinions which determine what agencies get funded and which get redlined out of existence.

          Democracy is sort of a bitch that way. If you can't make your case for funding to the masses, they're going to ignore you; once that happens, the politicians will smell money, and move in for the kill.

          Politics is circus. And thus, anything that derives its funding from the political process, or has to otherwise interact with it, needs to get with the program.

          Unless you have some brilliant ideas on how to make NASA totally self-funding, it's the "PR stunt" missions that are going to effectively pay for all the boring research ones, that Mr. and Mrs. America don't care about.
      • Actually, we as taxpayers should demand that all government programs be more entertaining for the masses. As it is now, all we have is an occasional space mission and perpetual war. Surely the Department of Agriculture can whip up some excitement to keep those tax dollars flowing.

        Of course, besides being scientifically unjustifiable, a manned asteroid mission will carry significant risk, so part of NASA's planning will have to include a spin campaign if something goes wrong. Most of "the masses" won't care
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      A mass in motion tends to stay in motion till effected by an outside poll.
  • yet, they want to land on an asteroid

    i mean, set your bar high, but not so high you can't reach it.
  • Mining? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman @ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:03PM (#16870300) Homepage Journal
    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the obvious: Using an asteroid landing as a precusror to a mining mission.

    If NASA's plans go forward, they're going to need a space infrastructure. Eventually, that will mean space-based manufacturing. For manufacturing, you need raw materials. Those raw materials are expensive to lift from Earth's gravity well. Ergo, the best solution is to mine them from much smaller gravity wells where the cost of transport is comparitively minimal.

    The key issue that an mission to an asteroid would need to resolve is the actual composition and concentration of valuable ores. Scientists currently have a lot of educated guesses, but we won't know for sure until a geologist makes a proper survey.
    • The key issue that an mission to an asteroid would need to resolve is the actual composition and concentration of valuable ores.

      I think wrt asteroid missions, the first issue is determining what value of goods we'd need in order to make extraction and transport cost-effective. Refining ores is expensive... refining ores in space more so. Never mind the cost of having staff members on-site, unless the process is fully automated, that cost would get prohibitive.

      I guess what I'm trying to say is that energy

      • Refining ores is expensive... refining ores in space more so.

        This is true. However, most of your costs are upfront. Just like on Earth, you have to spend the money to tool up, ship in the equipment, and begin production. Also just like on Earth, your costs will drop substantially the longer the facilities operate. They'll also increase in efficiency as the workers better understand the job they're doing.

        Never mind the cost of having staff members on-site

        I think you're blowing this cost out of proportion. A

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by networkBoy (774728)

          Refining ores is expensive... refining ores in space more so.

          This is true.

          Not entirely.
          Most refining is reduction of the metal. In space you have no O2 atmosphere to interfere with the redux reaction, so all you add is power. should be a push when all is said and done. Also, in the low G environment I'd think that you could make some pretty awesome alloys that normally would be self-separating due to gravity. Might easily pay for its self back here on earth, getting into the gravity well is cheap.
          -nB

        • A Space Shuttle launch today costs about 200 to 500 million, and can only carry about 25 tonnes of material into orbit.

          The Shuttle is not a vehicle optimized for delivering payload.

          There is no way that constantly shipping manufactured materials from the bottom of Earth's gravity well is going to be less expensive in the long term.

          Sure, but what's the long-term? It's quite possible that with today's needs and capabilities, we'd not recoup the cost. 200 years down the road? Possibly... but what's the life

      • by c6gunner (950153)
        On a small scale, sure. Say you need a souvenir Astronaut ring. Well, it'd be more expensive to ship all the tools from earth and make it in space than to just make it on the earth and bring it into space. But when it costs you about $10,000 per kilogram to get something into orbit, it doesn't take long before refining and manufacturing in space becomes much more cost efficient than transporting everything from earth. The initial investment would be high due to the fuel required to lift a friggin' refin
    • first, it makes sense to do this with ba-330 rather than the orion. in addition to mineral, it would make sense to find some amonnia asteroids and steer them towards mars. a few of those would help bring the temp and pressure up. but of course, a robotic could do the job just as well. in fact, in my mind, sending man to asteroids does not make sense until we can handle mars and the moon.
    • The idea of mining in space kinda scares me. To me, it seems inevitable that a good chunk of whatever they mine out there will be brought back to Earth, if it's even vaguely scarce or valuable (is there oil in asteroids? coal? gold? diamonds?). I suppose it would only improve my own quality of life, but how would generations of bringing minerals from space to the Earth affect the planet, long after we're dead? Could we bring back enough to affect our gravity (for example)?
      • Diamonds aren't particularly scarce on Earth and have dramatically less value beyond the jeweler's counter. They're already being synthesized fairly inexpensively and once gem-quality synthesis production ramps up, bye bye DeBeers. Asteroids are rich in useful metals and we don't have to tear up our landscape to get at them.
      • Could we bring back enough to affect our gravity (for example)?

        You have to ship back enough materials to create a sizable increase in the Earth's diameter. (Basically, buring the current surface and building on top.) That's not only impractical, it's pointless. If we're shipping that much material around, we'd have a massive outer-space presence that would need those materials just as much as Earth would.

        To give you an idea of how much mass would be required, the Earth is ~5.98 x 10^24 kg in mass. A 1% incr

  • Deep Impact [imdb.com] was a much better movie IMHO than Armageddon [imdb.com].

    Users of The Internet Movie Database [imdb.com] seem to barely agree with me.
  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:08PM (#16870372)
    What's the basis for NASA's planning, here?

    Science, or entertaining the public to keep the space budget healthy?

    What happens when the public start to wonder why exactly we're sending men to the Moon and Mars and asteriods, just to have them come back again? what exactly did we get for it, except the bill? saying "it's for science" or "it's advancing towards men in space" is getting *old*. We don't have an off-planet base, we're not getting one in the next ten or twenty years.

    When you consider that reality, statements like "for science" and "men in space" are ring hollow and people basically go "well, I can't see why we're doing this" and then your public support goes away.

    And no bad thing if it did. NASA has been an unmitigated disaster for space travel and exploration. It's almost entirely prevented enterprise and investment into the field and substitued expensive, slow, bureaucratic, political-football State-run snails-pace development.

    What have we got to show for the last thirty, fourty years of NASA?

    We got men on the moon and then...

    What?

    One exploration satellite every year or two? Skylab for a bit, then that came down and after thirty years, we FINALLY have the ISS...and it's in low Earth orbit. What's the point, exactly? it's a frickin' expensive way to get into space.

    Where's the innovation?

    State run companies *DO NOT INNOVATE*.

    And by God, if there's a field which needs innovation to get off the ground, it's space travel.

    We need solutions to fundamental problems. You don't get that from a committee.
    • by krell (896769) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:18PM (#16870500) Journal
      "State run companies *DO NOT INNOVATE*.

      I love to read such claims on posted the internet. [isoc.org]. Nice high irony factor.
      • Tim invented the Net in his spare time; not as part of his work for CERN.

        • by krell (896769)
          Was that before or after Gore created it in Congress? :)

          The point is, Darpa is a state run company, and has been rather innovative.
          • In what way is Darpa innovative?

            The argument given was Tim and the net, which was incorrect, so the statement currently stands unsupported.

            Here's another good question; for the same money given to Darpa, would we have got much less/less/same/more/much more innovation from that money if it had been used by non-State entities? e.g. if we had not been taxed to fund Darpa and that money had therefore been available for people to use directly.

            I'm not seriously looking for an answer for that question of course,
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Volante3192 (953645)
              I'll answer anyway: unlikely.

              The problem with private industry is they end up needing results and showing profit. Thus long, difficult projects that don't show a good return will be scrapped. The government doesn't need to show results on a profit level, which is why they fund things like this: to promote the wellbeing and advancement of the state in ways the private sector would not.

              Personally, I like my tax dollars going to NASA as opposed to the multitude of social programs run by the state.
              • > The problem with private industry is they end up needing results and showing profit. Thus long, difficult
                > projects
                > that don't show a good return will be scrapped. The government doesn't need to show results on a profit level,
                > which is why they fund things like this: to promote the wellbeing and advancement of the state in ways the
                > private sector would not.

                However, the converse holds true, and I think is far, far more common, which is to say;

                The problem with the State is that since it is
                • Such projects actually then happen because they can be profitable - which is to say, they produce something people actually WANT enough to spend their money on it. Profitability actually means making something *people truly want*, rather than what people SAY they want.

                  Let's converse this again.

                  I can see myself donating to NASA, but unless I was given a form with a list of everything, I doubt I would remember to do the same for the NOAA. One problem with the definition "what people truly want" is people don
            • by fatboy (6851)
              AT&T rejected the idea of packet switching because it was a threat to it's monopoly. The contract for the first IMP was awarded to BBN. Packet switching was innovated by ARPA and it's contractors and funded by the US Government.
            • by krell (896769)
              Generally, it is best if matters are left to the people (the private sector) and not the rulers (the state). However, there are certain instances of innovation coming out of government-controlled agencies.
        • by fatboy (6851)
          Tim invented the Net in his spare time; not as part of his work for CERN.

          Don't you mean the Web? The ARPAnet/Internet has been around much longer than the World Wide Web.
        • by eln (21727) *
          Tim? Do you mean Tim Berners-Lee? The Internet isn't the World Wide Web, Sparky. The Internet was developed over decades through a project funded and operated by the US government.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:31PM (#16870718) Homepage
      We don't have an off-planet base, we're not getting one in the next ten or twenty years.

      So the ISS then is simply on the soundstage wher they faked the moon landings then?
      • I wrote:
        > Skylab for a bit, then that came down and after thirty years, we
        > FINALLY have the ISS...and it's in low Earth orbit. What's the point,
        > exactly? it's a frickin' expensive way to get into space.

        What do we get for having the ISS?

        How does it help us establish an off-planet colony or resource exploitation?

        Of course, it may help a little bit - general experience gained, etc - but that's like saying having a French newspaper delivered each day helps with learning French. Well, it does, a BIT,
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Guppy06 (410832)
      "State run companies *DO NOT INNOVATE*."

      Compared to whom? Where are the moon landings accomplished by private enterprise?

      "We need solutions to fundamental problems. You don't get that from a committee."

      Name one private enterprise with the assets to attempt a moon landing that isn't run by committee.

      Until you anarcho-capitalists can show me something concrete, I'm not willing to let these things be thrown to the wolves of your illusory free market. Perhaps if you'd accomplished more in space exploration th
      • > Compared to whom? Where are the moon landings accomplished by private enterprise?

        They're present in the tax money taken from each and every one of us and given to State run enterprises to inefficiently and bureaucratically spend.

        If you have a massive State run organisation dedicated to space travel, funded by the taxpayer, are YOU going to invest your companies money in space travel? or would you let the taxpayer pay the bill till nice cheap technology is *finally* invented and *then* get involved?
        • by jdunn14 (455930)
          the existance of State organisations in a field is like penicillin in a petri dish.

          Yeah, seriously, like the US Postal Service. If only they'd shut down then private companies could start shipping packages. And the pharmacutical companies. I mean they're research is just being held back by the existance of things like the NIH and CDC.

          No rule is absolute, regardless of how strongly you believe it, even this one =).
        • ... they just don't have the funds or capabilities of NASA. Yet. They are all backed by "angel investors" from other industries who want to see private companies enter space, hence they started their own companies to try and bring commercial space into fruition:

          Armadillo Aerospace [armadilloaerospace.com] (John Carmack)

          Blue Origin [blueorigin.com] (Jeff Bezos)

          SpaceX [spacex.com] (Elon Munsk)

          XCOR [xcor.com](various members of RRS and others)
        • by Guppy06 (410832)
          "If you have a massive State run organisation dedicated to space travel, funded by the taxpayer, are YOU going to invest your companies money in space travel?"

          "I could do a better job if I felt like it" isn't a very convincing argument.

          "or would you let the taxpayer pay the bill till nice cheap technology is *finally* invented and *then* get involved?"

          I'll go with the option that produces tangible results, however minor, rather than the one that "promises" to produce results "eventually." I believe the phr
    • by soft_guy (534437)
      I completely agree with your ideas expressed in your post. If I had my way, NASA would be shut down completely. Let someone else innovate. NASA does a LOT to keep private industry from working on space technology.
    • by GreggBz (777373)

      Where's the innovation?

      State run companies *DO NOT INNOVATE*.

      So, who did all the things NASA has done before NASA, exactally? What do you want them to innovate? It's not sci-fi, you know it's real life.

      I hate to tell you this, but space is bleeding edge. Simply getting there requires knowledge, technology and materials never developed before.

      Christ, browse to NASA's webpage and look at a few current and proposedmissions [nasa.gov]. Or, look at the science secion in Barns & Noble. 90% of what we know about the out

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dig [wikipedia.org]

    But, yeah, it was pretty lame, I think.
    • I thought The Dig was pretty good. I resurrected it a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I think I must now be about 2/3 of the way through. Unfortunately I got stuck and lost interest. I really enjoyed the 'classic' science fiction feel. Although many games pretend to be science fiction, they're usually more like science fantasy. The Dig felt more like the kind of science fiction I grew up reading (particularly Asimov) than any other game.
  • by wisebabo (638845) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:25PM (#16870614) Journal
    For all of you slashdot readers who have plenty of time on your hands, here is an excellent book on why going to the asteroids should be one of, if not THE, priorities of the manned space program. Although I haven't read it since I was young(er) I still remember it fondly as being one of my great inspirations for space travel. The ease of getting there (it is energetically easier to get to a Near Earth Orbit asteroid than going to the moon!), the resources available there (iron asteroids = lots of metals, icy asteroids/comets = water and volatiles, carbonaceous = building materials) and the potential for discovery/experience in deep space travel are covered in this fascinating book. It made a compelling case, without resort to more speculative ideas such as orbital habitats a la L-5, for why this is our logical next step after the moon.

    Of course the book was written before Luiz Alvarez proposed that asteroids likely were responsible for mass extinctions. However since that justification for travelling to the asteroids has been discussed endlessly I don't think the omission hurts this book.

    If you can find this book (I'm sure it's been out of print for decades) and have the time to read it, please do, It will help restore the feeling of endless possibilities that some of us had about space travel when we were young.

    "Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids" Donald Cox and Dandridge Cole

    By the way, if you've read this far, you might want to check out my previous musings on asteroids - http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=171538&cid=142 87818 [slashdot.org]
  • So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:34PM (#16870754)
    NASA talks about this and that, shuffles around some papers, maybe changes the names of certain desk jobs, and nothing concrete comes out of it. This has been going on for, oh, a decade now (at least).

    Whether we should blame NASA, Congress or the White House for this current situation is moot. Anything NASA says about future manned missions that involve something other than putting people into low-earh orbit in an aging space shuttle is a pipe dream, isn't particularly noteworthy and I fail to see why it belongs on the front page here.
  • by njdj (458173) on Thursday November 16, 2006 @12:48PM (#16871024)

    For 40 years, NASA has been sending astronauts into low Earth orbit and calling it "spaceflight". Dinking around in LEO is not space travel.

    OK, there was the Apollo program. That begins to count. But the Apollo astronauts were still, at all times, within the Earth's gravity well (the moon is gravitationally bound to the Earth).

    But now ... "That kind of early demonstration mission might last no more than 60 or 90 days," Durda said, "and take the crew no farther than a few lunar distances away from Earth."

    Finally. A human being is going to travel in space. Not very far. But it's a start, after decades of pitiful pretence.

  • It is quite obvious that this is the result from someone sending us a message from the future telling us to start this program. It only makes sense that an asteroid in our future will be heading towards us. Next we'll have to gather up the best men on the planet to take this bitch down. By starting this program now, we're saving ourselves for the future. It's all pretty logical.
  • by Kazrath (822492)
    Astroids are definitly a much better endeavor than making a 3d image of the sun. The possibility for mining resources that are rare on earth or needed for space-based manufacuring are high. Who knows maybe we will be able to expand the known elements and open up a whole new scope of metallurgy.

    I for one am willing to pay taxes for experiments with potential this has.
  • Why bother spending all that money visiting asteroids, when if we just sit back and wait, the asteroids will come to us?
  • This sounds like a problematic space mission because of the potential of collisions. I'm not talking about the Star Wars image of an asteroid field. But, any asteroids we approach will probably be of significant size. And, they'll probably be surrounded by a cloud of small rocks or particles. Maybe you can inch up to one from a long way out to mitigate the risk of high-speed impacts, but it seems like impacts will be a certainty.
  • NASA, in our post 11/7 era, is suggesting going to an astroid? Maybe our president could lead the team? In fond memory of Sam Kinison, "WTF! There is an Astorid orbiting our planet! Practice on that! Oh! Oooooooooooooh! I am in NASA Hell! Oh! Ooooooooooooooooh"

    "Slowly, one by one, the Peguins steal my sanity." - Unknown

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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