Who’s up for an asteroid rodeo?

posted at 5:01 pm on April 7, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

I’m generally a fan of NASA, as I’ve said here many times, and I’m willing to forgo some fiscal restraint to fund a lot of their work. In particular, I like the investments we make in the technology for newer and better telescopes to search for planets outside our solar system and locating near Earth objects. The results are not only interesting from a scientific point of view, but the process of developing them sometimes leads to new technological advances which can be used here on Earth. But even with all that said, I’m not sure if this particular scheme is even worth $100M.

Nasa plans asteroid rodeo to lasso 25ft space rock for research

Nasa is going on an asteroid rodeo. In plans that sound like science fiction but that are aimed at becoming science fact, the US space agency has revealed its ambitions to lasso an asteroid and drag it back to the Earth. Nasa scientists are engaged on a hunt for a suitable space rock that can be the target of the mission, which has been scheduled tentatively for 2019.

“It really is a clever concept. Go find your ideal candidate for an asteroid. Go get it robotically and bring it back,” said Florida senator Bill Nelson as he unveiled the plans at a press conference.

The capture plan is being described as a “baggie with a draw string” to snag the rock – ideally 25 ft across and 500 tons – and drag it back here to park it in orbit near the moon. Then we could examine it and potentially learn something which could be used for asteroid mining in the future.

I don’t know how much we’re going to learn from this about asteroids in terms of being able to protect ourselves from big ones which may come our way. If that’s the primary reason and they’re going to get some good data, I suppose I could see it. But I’ve never been a big believer in the idea of “mining” asteroids for resources to bring back to Earth. (Using them for fuel sources for missions out in space I can see, I guess.) Even if this thing was made of solid platinum, the cost of cutting it up and getting it back to the surface in a usable form would be prohibitive from most studies I’ve seen. And if you really want a small asteroid, the moon is simply peppered with them, isn’t it? Couldn’t you do some sort of mining operation up there?

I don’t want to be all Debby Downer here. I really do love space research and think it’s generally a worthwhile investment. This looks like a bit of a lark, though.


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What does this have to do with Muslim outreach.

RickB on April 7, 2013 at 5:04 PM

If they are telling us this, I have a suspicion it is a practice exercise for a huge asteroid already projected for earth.

We’re doomed.

portlandon on April 7, 2013 at 5:04 PM

What does this have to do with Muslim outreach.

RickB on April 7, 2013 at 5:04 PM

Joe Biden calls it “The Muslim Reach around”.

portlandon on April 7, 2013 at 5:05 PM

As long as we fire it back at Klendathu at some point.

lorien1973 on April 7, 2013 at 5:11 PM

What does this have to do with Muslim outreach.

RickB on April 7, 2013 at 5:04 PM

…and who is getting paid?

KOOLAID2 on April 7, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Wasn’t there a movie back in the day where some cowboy looking somebody was riding an asteroid? IIRC he/she was wearing cowboy boots. And little else.

If a ‘shopper can find it, the will be WWW famous with the appropriate tweaks.

davidk on April 7, 2013 at 5:18 PM

This is actually a practical mission that will help us in the long run to deal with Earth killers.

If they are telling us this, I have a suspicion it is a practice exercise for a huge asteroid already projected for earth.

We’re doomed.

portlandon on April 7, 2013 at 5:04 PM

We can’t lasso anything that big. Not yet anyways. But lassoing small rocks may tell us what big rocks are made of. We can use that knowledge to better deal with big rocks.

NotCoach on April 7, 2013 at 5:18 PM

NASA is playing catchup with the private ventures already working on this.

They caught heck when SpaceX started sending supplies to the ISS and NASA can’t.

They figure if they are caught napping again, it will result in more bad press.

Will it be profitable? It won’t be known until some are caught and examined. It for sure won’t be profitable if the government does it.

cozmo on April 7, 2013 at 5:23 PM

Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.

davidk on April 7, 2013 at 5:24 PM

But he may have been riding a nuke.

davidk on April 7, 2013 at 5:25 PM

We can’t lasso anything that big. Not yet anyways. But lassoing small rocks may tell us what big rocks are made of. We can use that knowledge to better deal with big rocks.

NotCoach on April 7, 2013 at 5:18 PM

May be they can use the rock to fix the pothole in front of my house.

(And I don’t usually use the sarc tag, but ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

davidk on April 7, 2013 at 5:27 PM

Isn’t this the kind of nutty thing megalomaniac dictators do?

katy on April 7, 2013 at 5:27 PM

But he may have been riding a nuke.

davidk on April 7, 2013 at 5:25 PM

He was.

NotCoach on April 7, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Perry Como thought of that back when I was a kid.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t_PDU5RmBw

fourdeucer on April 7, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Didn’t they just have one crash in Siberia? Liberals and their priorities.

msupertas on April 7, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Will it be profitable? It won’t be known until some are caught and examined. It for sure won’t be profitable if the government does it.

cozmo on April 7, 2013 at 5:23 PM

It’s time to dismantle NASA. I know that’s not a popular opinion around here but it is true.

The private sector is up to speed, and as you suggest maybe a bit ahead.

The military can do the research required for their needs.

davidk on April 7, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Didn’t they just have one crash in Siberia? Liberals and their priorities.

msupertas on April 7, 2013 at 5:28 PM

It didn’t crash, it exploded 15 miles up. Small pieces have been recovered though.

NotCoach on April 7, 2013 at 5:31 PM

It’s time to dismantle NASA.

davidk on April 7, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Not yet. There is still plenty that NASA can do

cozmo on April 7, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Because we can, is sometimes reason enough for space stunts.

Neo on April 7, 2013 at 5:36 PM

How about just saying we did it and save a lot of money.

VorDaj on April 7, 2013 at 5:38 PM

Even if this thing was made of solid platinum, the cost of cutting it up and getting it back to the surface in a usable form would be prohibitive from most studies I’ve seen.

You don’t cut it up. You cover it with an ablative surface and deorbit it. Then you go over to Pyongyang or whatever target you chose for the impact point and collect the nearly intact rock.

unclesmrgol on April 7, 2013 at 5:48 PM

*************** NUTS *****************

Its another awesome brilliant idea by a Democrat.What could
possible go wrong,towing an asteriod,and get it into our moons
orbit!!

And,maybe Bill Nelson has consulted Hank (Tip-Over Guam)Johnson
for the technicals on this!!!
(snark)
=======

Sen. Bill Nelson announces NASA’s plan to capture asteroid
************************************************************

NASA will use a robotic spaceship to capture

an asteroid

and bring it closer to the moon.

Astronauts will then explore the asteroid in the hopes of developing technology to nudge dangerous asteroids away from Earth.

AP Science Writer / April 6, 2013
=================================

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/0406/Sen.-Bill-Nelson-announces-NASA-s-plan-to-capture-asteroid

canopfor on April 7, 2013 at 5:52 PM

a enduring trait of left wing wackos is that the chatter and wring their hands about the future of Gaia…these Cranks have their beloved Precautionary principle…We muat All live poor to avoid the Great Doom that lurks…and it the Doom is just toooooooooo risky…Precaution is Mandatory, because we could all DIE if the models are right

‘dragging’ a 500T rock into earth orbit…yeah, that’s real cool…i mean what could go wrong??? /left wing wacko

r keller on April 7, 2013 at 6:01 PM

We should figure out how to use asteroids as weapons. Just have a robot out there and use it to hurl asteroids at targets.

The Notorious G.O.P on April 7, 2013 at 6:11 PM

1) examining one intact will let us know what we are dealing with as far as usable resources in space. Both composition, and how arranged.

2) a step towards “cosmic love pats” on command. First one with that capability, wins.

3) yeah, knowing how they are put together before exploding on impact or in the atmosphere may come in handy in figuring out how to stop one of the things if it does head for earth. Are they naturally solid and homogeneous? Are they “crumbly”? Full of fault lines that may break under stress?

If either of the latter, if they can be impacted or nuked far enough away, we will be dealing with the mass broken into a lot of smaller pieces occupying an expanding volume of space, with the part coming towards us being functionally an expanding cone of debris; most of which will either miss us or be small enough to burn up in the atmosphere.

4) and down the line, if it turns out that there is something up there worth mining, why not if it can be made economically feasible. Which we will not know about unless we take a look.

Private space operations and NASA actually are not mutually contradictory. Someone has to do the experimental stuff, test concepts, push the envelope. The thing is, we have to develop a way to get them out of the way so that the market can take it from there.

Subotai Bahadur on April 7, 2013 at 6:14 PM

‘dragging’ a 500T rock into earth orbit…yeah, that’s real cool…i mean what could go wrong???

r keller on April 7, 2013 at 6:01 PM

Nothing. 500 tonnes is peanuts when talking about asteroids. As a comparison the rock that exploded over Chelyabinsk two months ago was estimated to have a mass of 11k tonnes and a diameter of 55 to 65 feet. Furthermore they are talking about placing it in the Moon’s orbit, not Earth’s.

NotCoach on April 7, 2013 at 6:17 PM

It’ll need a zombie Slim Pickens riding it.

BallisticBob on April 7, 2013 at 6:23 PM

Nasa scientists are engaged on a hunt for a suitable space rock that can be the target of the mission, which has been scheduled tentatively for 2019.

And NASA expects the Hubble telescope to last until 2018.

I dunno…I forget who said it on FOX News earlier, but just fixing one little thing on the Hubble telescope took a lot of effort and time, and now NASA wants to lasso an actual asteroid? I’m no expert on this, but it just sounds like grabbing an asteroid and “parking” it in orbit near the moon is a huge jump for NASA.

But hey, if they can do it, more power to them. The amazing success of the Mars rovers…and especially the most recent and epic Curiosity rover landing was a technological and logistic success…they probably can figure out a way to do it.

JetBoy on April 7, 2013 at 6:25 PM

It’s time to dismantle NASA. I know that’s not a popular opinion around here but it is true.

The private sector is up to speed, and as you suggest maybe a bit ahead.

The military can do the research required for their needs.

davidk on April 7, 2013 at 5:30 PM

You have to see the big picture here…NASA technology has had a big impact on everyday technology that resonates to all of us. READ

JetBoy on April 7, 2013 at 6:32 PM

the US space agency has revealed its ambitions to lasso an asteroid and drag it back to the Earth.

What does this have to do with Muslim outreach.

RickB on April 7, 2013 at 5:04 PM

Obviously so they can replace the one in Mecca if they ever have to. Like, say, if the old one starts glowing from an over-exposure to plutonium, some day.

GWB on April 7, 2013 at 6:42 PM

Yeah, the libruls and Democrats are all panicky about GoreBull Warmin’ and then somebody comes up with this choo-choo sinkhole of Federal funds. It would be better if we had the NASA math mavens come up with a set of algorithms (hmmm, al gore ~ algorithms, oh well) that would help us drive the national debt down to manageable levels rather than concocting this stunt. Let me remind everyone:
1. In 500 million years the Solar Safe Zone will extend past Earth and the oceans will evaporate, to say nothing of fresh water streams and rivers.
2. We need to be off the rock by then or it’s “Bye bye, Humanity.” No one will live through it.
3. If we are going to do space stuff, let’s focus on the human drive to explore and move around so that we can populate the solar system and beyond with our gene pool and best of all, get away from those authoritarian libruls and Democrats.
4. Place a 500 ton rock in the same orbit as our moon without mishp on the first try…? C’mon! Get real!

ExpressoBold on April 7, 2013 at 6:49 PM

What happens to the earth’s orbit and rotation if we start bringing additional mass (asteroid mining, whatever…) to Earth?

ParisParamus on April 7, 2013 at 6:54 PM

ParisParamus on April 7, 2013 at 6:54 PM

It already increases every year due to the meteorites that strike it every year.

cozmo on April 7, 2013 at 7:03 PM

In the future, if we do have a future in space, almost any useful thing will have two different values. It will have a value here on earth, and, it will have a value up in orbit. A steel I-beam down here is probably worth a few dollars. The very same I-beam, up in orbit will be worth millions. It’s worth more up there because we have to drag it up there. Dragging it up there is very expensive.

Even if it’s expensive, or difficult, it may make a lot more sense to make things ‘up there’ rather than ‘down here’. We need to find out.

trigon on April 7, 2013 at 7:06 PM

It already increases every year due to the meteorites that strike it every year.

cozmo on April 7, 2013 at 7:03 PM

And it decreases every time we toss some of our recyclables into orbit or to Mars. So, it’s a wash. Unless, of course, meteor strikes are the karmic answer to us sending things off the planet? Ooooohhhhh…….

GWB on April 7, 2013 at 7:15 PM

GWB on April 7, 2013 at 7:15 PM

Yeah
.
.
.
.

40,000 or so, tons a year is equal to what we send beyond earth’s orbit.

cozmo on April 7, 2013 at 7:31 PM

how is it environmentally friendly to add an item to orbit ??

dmacleo on April 7, 2013 at 7:31 PM

Don’t try to understand ’ em
Just rope and throw and brand ‘em…

eyesky on April 7, 2013 at 7:33 PM

List Of The Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs)
**************************************************

Information on converting absolute magnitudes to diameters is available, as is an explanation of the quantities given in the listings below.

A list of close approaches to the earth through the end of the 21st century is available.

NOTE:The quantity EMoid in the table below does not give any information on actual close approaches to the earth–you should consult the previously-referenced list for such details.

See a plot of the innermost solar system (or the inner solar system)

This list is updated daily and is also updated as and when new objects are discovered.

http://www.minorplanetcenter.org/iau/lists/Dangerous.html
=========================================================

Near Earth Asteroids
****************************

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

On April 7, 2013 there were 1391 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:
(Chart )
========

http://www.spaceweather.com/

canopfor on April 7, 2013 at 7:35 PM

canopfor on April 7, 2013 at 7:35 PM

I wonder…if someone at NASA or somewhere else finds a good size asteroid or comet and do the math, and find out it’s a good possibility it’s going to hit the Earth in a month or two…what do they do, release it publicly? Or sit on the info for as long as possible? Would you really want to know?

JetBoy on April 7, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Asteroid Watch Verified account
@AsteroidWatch

JPL’s Near Earth Object Office coordinates NASA’s efforts to detect, track & characterize potentially hazardous asteroids & comets that could approach Earth.

Pasadena, California · jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

https://twitter.com/AsteroidWatch

canopfor on April 7, 2013 at 7:43 PM

Don’t try to understand ’ em
Just rope and throw and brand ‘em…

eyesky on April 7, 2013 at 7:33 PM

.
Oh yeah, that reminds me ….. YeeHaaaawwww

ExpressoBold on April 7, 2013 at 7:46 PM

canopfor on April 7, 2013 at 7:35 PM

I wonder…if someone at NASA or somewhere else finds a good size asteroid or comet and do the math, and find out it’s a good possibility it’s going to hit the Earth in a month or two…what do they do, release it publicly? Or sit on the info for as long as possible? Would you really want to know?

JetBoy on April 7, 2013 at 7:41 PM

JetBoy:Good to see ya,and,

good points,there is a close encounter for Mars in 2014,
had to back-track in SW`s archive!:)

COLLISION COURSE?

A comet is heading for Mars, and there is a chance that it might hit the Red Planet in October 2014. An impact wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of NASA’s Mars program, but it would transform the program along with Mars itself. Get the full story and a video from Science@NASA.

http://www.spaceweather.com/archive.php?view=1&day=28&month=03&year=2013

canopfor on April 7, 2013 at 7:52 PM

PBS/NOVA,has already done a show,about the Meteor
over Russia!!!

Meteor Strike

A meteor burst into a fireball over Siberia. Can we spot the next deadly asteroid in time?
Air date: 03/28/2013 Watch

http://give.wgby.org/episode/8381
*********************************

NOVA Meteor Strike

A meteor burst into a fireball over Siberia. Can we spot the next deadly asteroid in time?

http://video.pbs.org/video/2358778286/

canopfor on April 7, 2013 at 7:59 PM

40,000 or so, tons a year is equal to what we send beyond earth’s orbit.

cozmo on April 7, 2013 at 7:31 PM

Dude, our primary problem is dust?!? The earth is getting heavier because the Martians are shaking their welcome mat out into space?!? WTH? Obviously we need an interplanetary housekeeping treaty to deal with this. After all, doesn’t all that particulate matter contribute to global warming or something? What, are they trying to kill us down here?

(I thought the last statement I made before obviated the need for a sarc tag. But, it’s good to know that someone is actually calculating this stuff.)

GWB on April 7, 2013 at 8:10 PM

GWB on April 7, 2013 at 8:10 PM

We had one, it got cancelled.

I kinda’ caught the snark, but its been one of those days around HA.

cozmo on April 7, 2013 at 8:14 PM

It didn’t crash, it exploded 15 miles up. Small pieces have been recovered though.

NotCoach on April 7, 2013 at 5:31 PM

How about the piece that put the 50-foot hole in the ice on a Russian lake? That sounds about twice as big as what they’re planning…and a helluva lot cheaper.

Solaratov on April 7, 2013 at 8:42 PM

I kinda’ caught the snark, but its been one of those days around HA.

cozmo on April 7, 2013 at 8:14 PM

No worries. :)
(Dang, that’s an obscure show! I vaguely recall it, though.)

GWB on April 7, 2013 at 8:45 PM

How about the piece that put the 50-foot hole in the ice on a Russian lake? That sounds about twice as big as what they’re planning…and a helluva lot cheaper.

Solaratov on April 7, 2013 at 8:42 PM

That hole was caused by something about the size of a softball, hitting with tremendous speed.

BobMbx on April 7, 2013 at 8:51 PM

That hole was caused by something about the size of a softball, hitting with tremendous speed.

BobMbx on April 7, 2013 at 8:51 PM

Not according to the Russians.

And it’s doubtful its speed was all that tremendous after the explosion that broke it up.

Solaratov on April 7, 2013 at 9:00 PM

Black Bag Weapon Program©

A robot ship goes to the asteroid belt, bags an asteroid and sends it towards Earth. The black bag containing the asteroid is undetectable from Earth…

The bag’s path is adjusted so as to have it make contact with atmo over a city or other target… taking out as much infrastructure and human life as the asteroid’s pre-selected size is intended to eliminate.

NO. WARNING. & NO. ONE. SUSPECTS. (They would if it were Bush though)

The recent explosion over Russia was the last piece of research…

A new weapons program is born./removes foil hat

RalphyBoy on April 7, 2013 at 9:12 PM

RalphyBoy on April 7, 2013 at 9:12 PM

The biggest problem is fuel. A ‘bot ship with the power to go out, snag a rock, drag it all the way back and hit anything close to its target can’t exactly be run by what powers a TV satellite.

MelonCollie on April 7, 2013 at 10:02 PM

What happens to the earth’s orbit and rotation if we start bringing additional mass (asteroid mining, whatever…) to Earth?

ParisParamus on April 7, 2013 at 6:54 PM

We’d have to bring in additional mass the size of a mountain range for it to make any measurable difference at all. This is not likely to be an issue in the next 100 years at the least, probably more because space exploration is all but dead.

MelonCollie on April 7, 2013 at 10:06 PM

What does this have to do with Muslim outreach.

RickB on April 7, 2013 at 5:04 PM

Muslems worship a black meteorite.

Rebar on April 7, 2013 at 10:58 PM

What does this have to do with Muslim outreach.

RickB on April 7, 2013 at 5:04 PM

The rock in the Dome of the Rock could be updated!

TexasDan on April 8, 2013 at 12:12 AM

This is not likely to be an issue in the next 100 years at the least, probably more because space exploration is all but dead.

MelonCollie on April 7, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Right now, there is a spacecraft headed for a flyby of Pluto in 2015. NASA has spacecraft orbiting Saturn, Mars, the Moon, Earth, and Mercury. There is another spacecraft that just left the orbit of one asteroid and is headed for another asteroid.

Two lunar orbiters just finished mapping the gravity fields of the Moon. Another lunar orbiter is taking high-resolution photos of the lunar surface with such clarity that the sites of the Apollo landings are clearly visible in its pictures. Another spacecraft is positioned next to the Moon, collecting data about the nature of the boundary layers at the edge of our solar system.

We have two active robot explorers on the surface of Mars, reporting back to Earth via a Mars-orbiting communications satellite that’s been operating since 2001. There’s also a Mars Reconnaisance satellite, taking high-resolution pictures of the Martian surface and weather systems.

Meanwhile, at least four Sun-orbiting satellites are keeping track of solar activity, forming a solar weather network that can warn Earth of approaching solar storms much earlier than Earth-based observatories.

The Spitzer Space Telescope trails Earth in a solar orbit, viewing the infrared spectrum and objects too dim to be seen by Earth-based telescopes. Hubble remains in Earth orbit, on its 22nd year of photographing the deepest reaches of the Universe. The Kepler Space Telescope has discovered its 26th extra-solar planet this year, continuing to reshape our basic understanding of planetary formation in the galaxy.

And five months ago marked the 12th anniversary of continuous human presence in space, on board the International Space Station, a creation of not just NASA, but the Russians, the European Space Agency, Japan’s JAXA organization, and the Canadian space program.

For the next 16 months, we’re going to continue to lease seats on the Russian Soyuz program until the Dragon, Orion, and Dream Chaser spacecraft take over ferry flights to low Earth orbit.

How is “space exploration all but dead” exactly?

DarthBrooks on April 8, 2013 at 12:16 AM

As I said in the headlines, this appears to be mostly an effort to give the SLS (aka the Senate Launch System) something to do. The mission itself is definitely worthwhile as part of a project to set up a Lagrange point way station with fuel depots and lunar tele-robotic capability. Learning how to utilize space resources in space is absolutely vital if we ever want to be a space faring civilization. We’ll eventually need that capability to ensure long term survival.

However, using the SLS makes no sense and it likely will never fly. It’s being crushed under its own bloated funding. The mission would be cheaper, quicker and more capable with Dragon 2, and inflatable module and Falcon Heavies. All of these will be be both available and affordable long before Orion + SLS ever gets off the ground.

MichiCanuck on April 8, 2013 at 8:50 AM