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.