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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

MIT's AsteRope to Enable Astronauts to Walk on Asteroids

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a protype tether to enable future astronauts to walk over an asteroid in little-to-gravity. Such a tether or 'AsterRope' system would wrap all the way around the asteroid and perhaps enable the astronaut to attach to it.

A 1-kilometer wide asteroid is estimated to have a surface gravity of just 1/28000th that of the Earth leaving any unthered astronaut with the possibility to jumping right off the asteroid surface and not come back down. The lack of surface gravity poses many challenges to asteroid explorers or space miners in future years.

"NASA has taken a brief look at a human visit to a Near Earth Object," notes former astronaut and MIT Professor Jeffrey Hoffman.

The space agency is also reviewing the possibility of creating a radiation shield by either flying a human-rated spacecraft to Mars in formation or building a human habitat/lab inside the asteroid.

The United States , Russian and British space agencies are reviewing possible plans to defend Earth from a large asteroid impact as well.


David Stever said...

If NASA is serious about exploring the solar system, this is a mission they'll fly. By doing this, they also avoid the whole 'trillion dollars to fly somewhere we've already been' thing that seems to pop up at many web sites. The amount of science to be gained from doing this is nothing short of mind boggling.
Of course, I wonder how big a tool kit we'd need to fly with, to do that science. Will we be able to launch a mission like this with a Ares 2-pack, or would we be (once again) be better served by launching on a single EELV booster. How much would 3 miles (or more!)of wire weigh? Let me get out my copy of Poul Anderson's TALES OF THE FLYING MOUNTAINS and see what else they should think about bringing.

Anonymous said...

You might as well read the article along with the graphic you are taking:

MIT Tether For Walking On Asteroids.