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Thursday, December 06, 2012

Asteroid or Moon: The question remains ...

Animation of a human mission to a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA)
A new National Research Council of the National Academies report is now available: NASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus.
 
The committee has seen little evidence that a current stated goal for NASA’s human spaceflight program—namely, to visit an asteroid by 2025—has been widely accepted as a compelling destination by NASA’s own workforce, by the nation as a whole, or by the international community.
 
Return to the Moon in Next Decade?
On the international front there appears to be continued enthusiasm for a mission to the Moon but not for an asteroid mission, although there is both U.S. and international interest in robotic missions to asteroids. This lack of consensus on the asteroid-first mission scenario undermines NASA’s ability to establish a comprehensive, consistent strategic direction that can guide program planning and budget allocation. While the committee did not undertake a technical assessment of the feasibility of an asteroid mission, it was informed by several briefers and sources that the current planned asteroid mission has significant shortcomings. Ore from The Los Angeles Times and ScienceInsider/ScienceMagzine.

1 comment:

Mordanicus said...

The Asteroids, especially the Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), are from an economical point of view the better choice. The reason here of is explained by John Lewis in his "Mining the Sky. Untold Riches from the Asteroids, Comets and Planets." Although the Moon is rich in several interesting resources, Titanium, Oxygen and most importantly helium 3, our natural satellite is notoriously poor in the essential elements of Hydrogen, Carbon and Nitrogen.

Save for helium 3, all desired resources are found on (Near Earth) Asteroids. Further advantage of NEAs is that the are easier to be reached, since they have a lower required delta V, thus a trip to a NEA will take less energy (with the penalty of a longer travel time, which is however not a big deal in space exploration).

With an ever increasing level of living in the world, and aspecially in emerging countries like China and India, asteroids resources are the key for sustaining both high levels of wealth and the terrestrial environment.

The obsession with the Moon, and returning to it, is mostly due to the relatively unfamiliarity of the NEAs to most people, and politicians in particular. Whilst the Moon is known by everyone.