Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nasa's mission orders come in... put astronauts on an asteroid within 15 years - 25th July 2011

With the space shuttle now history, Nasa's next great mission is so audacious, the agency's best minds are wrestling with how to pull it off.

They have presidential orders to to send astronauts to an asteroid in less than 15 years.

The challenges are innumerable, but many Nasa brains are thrilled to have such an improbable assignment - and believe civilisation may even depend on it.

An asteroid is a giant space rock that orbits the sun, like Earth. And someday one might threaten the planet.

But sending people to one won't be easy. You can't land on an asteroid because you'd bounce off - it has virtually no gravity. Astronauts couldn't even walk on it because they'd float away.

Reaching it might require a Nasa spacecraft to harpoon it.

Nasa is thinking about jetpacks, tethers, bungees, nets and spiderwebs to allow explorers to float just above the surface of it while attached to a smaller mini-spaceship.

Such a ship - something like a Star Trek shuttle craft melded with a deep sea explorer with pincer-like arms - is needed just to get within working distance of the rock.

That craft would have to be big enough for astronauts to live in for a week or two. They'd still need a larger habitat for the long term. Read More