NASA, Other

Nye: NASA’s asteroid mission concept won’t happen

Bill Nye, the CEO of The Planetary Society, is the subject of a rather positive profile by Mother Jones magazine published Thursday. In it, Nye identifies his top three “political passions”: “Climate change, raise the standard of women around the world through education, [and] asteroids.” The article describes his interest in search for, and finding ways to deflect, potentially hazardous asteroids. “Sooner or later we’re going to have to deflect an asteroid,” Nye says. “And we’re the first generation that can do something about it.”

So that means he should be a fan of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) concept, which seeks to shift the orbit of a very small asteroid into lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts, right? Not exactly. “I don’t think it’s a good value,” Nye tells the magazine of the ARM plan. “I don’t think it will happen.”

Why Nye was speaking presumably just for himself, it is a little different position from what The Planetary Society published in May, when it offered conditional support for what was then called the Asteroid Retrieval Mission. “It’s an intriguing idea,” Nye said in the May statement. However, the organization added at that time that it was concerned “detailed goals, costs, and implementation plan for this asteroid mission are not yet well defined”—and arguably still aren’t today.

69 comments to Nye: NASA’s asteroid mission concept won’t happen

  • reader

    And mr. Science guy gets the “Master of the Obvious” award for today.

  • Robert G Oler

    No, it won’t. RGO

  • Hiram

    “So that means he should be a fan of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) concept, which seeks to shift the orbit of a very small asteroid into lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts, right?”

    No, not at all. ARM won’t teach us much about deflecting a threatening asteroid. Such a deflection (of presumably a vastly bigger rock) would never use a capture glove as ARM would and, unlike ARM, wouldn’t have anything to do with human spaceflight. It most likely wouldn’t use a large SEP array either. This fantasy that ARM is going to make us more responsive to real asteroid threats is just nuts. If we took the money that would be allocated to ARM and spent it on actually trying to deflect (and identify!) threatening asteroids, we’d learn vastly more. I’d be strongly supportive of that latter strategy.

    I think Mr. Nye is smart enough not to be consumed by this fantasy. As he says, with regard to understanding how to deflect dangerous asteroids, it isn’t a good value. With regard to giving SLS something to do, that doesn’t require development of landers, it may well be. But giving something for SLS to do sure isn’t Nye’s priority.

    What ARM *might* do is teach us something about one asteroid. Those lessons are not necessarily applicable to the one that’s about to hit us, though. The science community, at least, isn’t overly supportive of ARM.

  • amightywind

    Nye is a performer, not a scientist. His words should carry proportionate weight.

    That said, Obama’s quixotic asteroid lasso mission was stillborn because, like the rest of his crazy policies, it was hatched in secret by his political supporters and unleashed on the world without proper review.

    • Coastal Ron

      amightywind said:

      …it was hatched in secret by his political supporters and unleashed on the world without proper review.

      You mean like the SLS was? No public review or comments, and NO COMPETITION.

      If anything the ARM was hatched as a way to give your precious SLS a reason to exist, so I find it HILARIOUS that even you won’t support a use for it… ;-)

    • DCSCA

      Rest easy, Windy. Space policy is in free drift for the rest of the Obama administration. as the PRC knows. Look to HRC as the Red Moon rises.

  • James

    ARM is designed to avoid looking bad. It will look real bad if, after cancelling Cx program, and touting the values of flexible path, the Obama administration lays an egg w nothing to show for it’s policies.

    So, rather than being committed to learning how to kick a 60 yard field goal, with all the training that is required, the necessary learning’s that must take place to succeed, and to fund the effort consistent with such a goal, Obama is telling his HQ political appointees to move the field goal posts closer, so he can be assured of making the kick. Because he isn’t really interested in learning, doesn’t have the money, and it would take to long otherwise. And he just wants to look good!

    So, to avoid looking bad, just move the goal posts closer!

    ARM is a kludge mission. From Websters, Kludge: noun, an awkward or inferior system or program that is created quickly to solve a problem

    NASA, the headless chicken clucking around in circles, having just laid an egg,,,about to drop dead.

    • reader

      ARM is designed to avoid looking bad

      They didnt do that too well, did they ? Everyone with two brain cells that looks at it calls the BS. The response from science community has been pretty hilarious, especially from people who actually study asteroids and small bodies for a living

  • Coastal Ron

    NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) concept would likely garner more support if it was part of an identified rampup of technologies and techniques that we’ll need for when we move on to Mars, but it isn’t.

    I agree with James that the proposed mission was a kludge, and one that was dreamed up specifically to show that the SLS and MPCV are somehow really needed.

    That the proposal failed is not necessarily a blow to NASA, although it does show how little political support there is for any space-related missions right now. But more than anything the lack of support from the SLS & MPCV folks shows that even they don’t have a clue what the SLS is supposed to be used for. They are just adding more and more straws to the camels back…

  • Fred Willett

    NASA ADMINISTRATOR OK. We’re building SLS and MPCV what are we going to do with them?
    NASA TECHNOLOGIST Well Mars is out. There’s too much stuff we don’t have and there’s no money to develop that stuff anyway.
    NASA ADMINISTRATOR What about the Moon?
    NASA TECHNOLOGIST Same thing. No lander and no money to develop one.
    NASA ADMINISTRATOR Well how about a trip to a Lagrange Point. We could put a hab there. We’d learn a lot about the BEO environment.
    NASA TECHNOLOGIST Hmmm. Same problem. No money to build it. No money to support it. Forget it.
    NASA ADMINISTRATOR Well how about this. A trip to an asteroid. The longest trip we’ve ever made beyond LEO is a fortnight to the moon and back. If we ever want to go to Mars (500+ days) a trip of a hundred or so days to an asteroid is a good first step.
    NASA TECHNOLOGIST Yea, but again you need long term life support and there’s just no money to develop it. Not to mention some sort of hab module for the crew to live in during the trip. And again that’s something we just don’t have, and can’t afford.
    NASA ADMINISTRATOR All right. All right. What can we do?
    NASA TECHNOLOGIST We could send send out a robot, snag a small rock (we’ll call it an asteroid), drag it back to lunar orbit then send our astronauts there.
    NASA ADMINISTRATOR Can we do that?
    NASA TECHNOLOGIST Probably. Just.
    NASA ADMINISTRATOR More importantly, can we afford it?
    NASA TECHNOLOGIST Probably. Just barely.
    NASA ADMINISTRATOR OK. That’s our mission then.

    • Coastal Ron

      Fred Willett proffered a potential historical conversation:

      I don’t know if you were in the room, but you sure seem like you nailed the thinking!

      I’d add Senator Nelson into the conversation too since I think he seems to have had his hand in the creation of the plan, and he may have been supported by his other SLS buddies in the anti-Obama states (they couldn’t be seen publicly supporting anything Obama related).

      • RockyMtnSpace

        “I don’t know if you were in the room, but you sure seem like you nailed the thinking!”

        Hardly. Perhaps you just like to reinvent history to suit your political perspective but the facts are that Obama directed NASA/Bolden to go to an asteroid. ARM was the last version that sorta/kinda met that directive.

        http://www.nasa.gov/news/media/trans/obama_ksc_trans.html

        http://www.spacepolitics.com/2013/08/16/boldens-flaky-explanation-of-nasas-asteroid-redirection-mission/

        • Coastal Ron

          RockyMtnSpace said:

          Perhaps you just like to reinvent history to suit your political perspective but the facts are that Obama directed NASA/Bolden to go to an asteroid.

          Apparently you are not immune from inventing your own “history”. Context is everything.

          The NASA link you provided is Obama talking after he requested Constellation to be cancelled, his requested budget called out for developing real exploration technologies that would be needed to leave LEO, and he had pushed out the decision on an HLV for 5 years. Obama’s vision was to go to an asteroid as part of proving out the technologies and techniques we would need to venture on to Mars. The reason for going to an asteroid was to prove out our ability to travel, not to “explore” asteroids. Bringing an asteroid to Earth doesn’t do that.

          Congress did agree to cancel Constellation, but Congress did not fund new exploration technologies that would have been needed to reach an BEO asteroid, and instead Congress told NASA to build the unneeded SLS. So now we don’t have the technologies we need to go BEO, but we have a massive rocket that has no need. Now what?

          Bring the asteroid to Earth. The second link does show that the ARM did not meet the President’s goal, and I’ve seen no evidence that the President actively supported it. In fact, all indications point to Senator Nelson being the one that pushed for the ARM. That mission would have been the first real use of the SLS, and without it the SLS is just an expensive museum piece.

          I stand by my comments – good job Fred Willett!

          • Andrew Swallow

            Also add in some people want to build a big SEP. The asteroid catching hardware can be replaced by an NDS docking port, on a second vehicle, to make a SEP tug.

    • reader

      NASA ADMINISTRATOR: I have read Akin’s laws of spacecraft design, and number #39 particularly stuck. Is there anything we can do ?
      NASA TECHNOLOGIST: please kill me now.

      • Guest

        Akin’s laws are obsolete and only applied to oldspace when space was an entirely new environment. It could be applied to any hazardous environment other than space. Then somebody comes along and summits Mount Everest, alone, unassisted and without oxygen. This is how progress occurs.

  • Robert G Oler

    The pivotal “test” for this year is what happens to Musk and SpaceX…this is their pivot year. either they will make their product and with it a lot of things change…or they wont and then well we settle into the gloom of the reality that free enterprise and spaceflight are mostly not compatible.

    If Musk can make his launch rate…or close to it…say 8 or maybe 7 with no “events” that cause loss of a rocket or the payload…and as he has claimed he can do it in his cost structure…then the world changes. It doesnt change that quickly but it starts moving at a good clip. At this point instead of upward pressure on launch cost, they start coming down, and Musk soon goes public which generates enormous amount of capital for future improvements. Plus the pressure on the US government to take advantage of those lower launch cost…increases enormously.

    It is this year…he has to make the launch rate and have no “events” that cause the loss of a payload…
    We will see Robert G. Oler

    • Coastal Ron

      Robert G Oler said:

      At this point instead of upward pressure on launch cost, they start coming down, and Musk soon goes public which generates enormous amount of capital for future improvements.

      Maybe, but maybe not. Musk has said publicly that he may not go public, and for him there are good reasons not to.

      In the tech world investors want you to go public because that’s how they make their money and pay back their investment funds. But SpaceX doesn’t have much outside investment, and Musk controls the majority of the stock, so this option only happens if Musk wants to lock in his personal profits.

      In the normal investment world companies go public so they can get more working capital. But by the end of 2014 SpaceX is likely to have finalized most of their current capital expenditure programs, such as launch facilities and reusability testing, and doing that mainly using launch deposits and money from CCiCap. From what we know that SpaceX has stated publicly, there is nothing else big that SpaceX would need lots of capital for.

      But there could be more “big stuff” coming, and SpaceX could do a partial public offering, with Musk still retaining majority control. He did bring on a CFO that specializes in IPO’s, so he was thinking along those lines, but then Musk pulled back on that.

      I’m thinking we may not know about an IPO until 2015.

    • Vladislaw

      Robert wrote: “At this point instead of upward pressure on launch cost, they start coming down, and Musk soon goes public which generates enormous amount of capital for future improvements”

      First, I highly doubt he would go public before human launches and Musk has remarked that himself. Early on, before the commercial crew he mentioned it. Since then he has put the IPO a lot farhter out into the future.

      Actually what I expect to see is that other governments will start doing the exact same thing with their space programs, as far as everything human. They will start pushing it out into their own private sectors. Expect to see that in the near future.

    • Neil Shipley

      NSF poll predictions:
      How many SpaceX flights do you anticipate in 2014?
      Flights Prediction
      1 (0.6%)
      2 (0%)
      3 (0%)
      4 (4.3%)
      5 (4.8%)
      6 (17.7%)
      7 (16%)
      8 (22.2%)
      9 (11.4%)
      10 (13.4%)
      11 (1.7%)
      12 or more (8%)

      I voted 8 flights for 2014 but I actually think that it’ll now be more.
      Last year’s majority voted for 4 flights but only missed by 1 and that very nearly flew. If all goes well, it’ll fly today (Monday in the U.S.).

      • Robert G Oler

        Vladislaw and Neil

        Musk has to prove two things this year. The first is that he can meet his cost structure (and stay in business) and the second is that he can launch “near on time” I dont know about his cost structure but I suspect a lot of it is related to “launching” nearly on time

        If he can launch oh 9 more likely 8 into orbit (ot counting abort test etc) and he can do that and make money…then he will own the launcher industry because even though he is not launching “heavy” enough to capture the biggest birds…bigger rockets are coming all based on the 9 (like the heavy) …

        If he cannot do 8 or 9 this year…he is in a for a tough ride
        I dont think that the response by other governments will be along the lines of private industry…

        Good luck “today” there or yesterday here :) RGO

        • Coastal Ron

          With the successful launch and deployment of the Thiacom 6 satellite today, SpaceX has their first launch of the year in the books.

          GTO delivery of satellites with the new Falcon 9 v1.1 looks to be validated, and next up is the Dragon with a full COTS payload, which will also be the next opportunity for SpaceX to test out parts of their 1st stage recovery (will attempt another landing in the ocean).

          While there could be issues that come up in the future, so far the trend is good.

          • Robert G Oler

            this launch was pretty impressive to me (I got up to see it)…they more or less “counted and fired” …and that is almost how the processing for this one went…(I realize they had a standdown but it didnt take them a month to solve it)

            what is impressive about SpaceX is that in a very short period of time they have matured a product and a team to “work” that product…and seem to be on the verge of making it “boring”…

            even more important you can start to see “the plan” that they are working to in terms of product development…ie a methane burner second stage, probably “widened” to the same dimensions of the payload shroud…and the Falcon heavy “trio”…

            That is going to be one heck of a booster…and it might be affordable. RGO

          • DCSCA

            “With the successful launch and deployment of the Thiacom 6 satellite today, SpaceX has their first launch of the year in the books.” gushes Ron.

            Space X launched a satellite. Welcome to 1957, Ron. And from a government facility no less.

            • Coastal Ron

              DCSCA whined:

              Space X launched a satellite. Welcome to 1957

              SpaceX launched a satellite to GTO for $56.5M. Welcome to 2014.

              As usual you don’t understand why what SpaceX is doing is different than what has come before. Until you understand why, you will continue to be clueless. Stop being clueless.

        • DCSCA

          All Musk has to do is risk his name, his firm, his fortune and a crew– and actually try to fly somebody without the government to take the blame when he has the inevitable ‘bad day.’ .

          • Coastal Ron

            DCSCA whined:

            All Musk has to do is risk his name, his firm, his fortune and a crew…

            It’s amazing how clueless you can be to what’s been unfolding for years.

            It’s been known since 2010 the process Commercial Crew would take, and you continue to want companies to short circuit that process just because of your childish urges? It’s a wonder how you got this far in life without being able to see The Big Picture.

            And since you have shown you have no clue what the actual plan is for SpaceX, I’ll reiterate it for you – abort testing this year, and SpaceX crew flying next year.

            Of course then you’ll just move the goal posts… again.

            What a maroon!

            • DCSCA

              It’s amazing how clueless you can be to what’s been unfolding for years.

              =yawn= Don’t be a sucker, Ron. In FACT, Ron, what has been ‘unfolding for years’ is the failure of SpaceX even attempt to fly anybody while its CEO keeps boastting to the media about moving millions of people to Mars. It is space projets of scale that matter while short-sighted forays by deep-pockets hobbyists do not.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA whined:

                …what has been ‘unfolding for years’ is the failure of SpaceX even attempt to fly anybody…

                How can it be a failure when it’s been the plan all along? Your inability to understand what’s going on is breathtaking.

                And no one cares about your misapprehension about when things are supposed to happen. NASA and the Commercial Crew participants have no idea you exist, and I see nothing that will change that… ;-)

    • DCSCA

      the gloom of the reality that free enterprise and spaceflight are mostly not compatible.

      Hardly gloom. But a harsh reality. Profiteers make for lousy rocketeers and only fools embrace the transient notion that Reaganomics or frr market capitaliam is going to fuel and fund the human experience out into space. /it is geo-politics that shapes the direction and momentum of space projects in this era. And it is government funded and managed space projects of scale that matter.

      • Coastal Ron

        DCSCA said:

        Profiteers make for lousy rocketeers…

        So by inference you’re saying that only the government can run a rocket transportation system?

        It’s amazing how many ways you can show how clueless you are. Do you even know what’s going on in the world, and who does what?

        What a maroon!

        • DCSCA

          Do you even know what’s going on in the world ponders Ron.

          Hmmm. Clearly you’re not kwwping up with what’s going on off it– and what is going on is government space projects– you know, ISS, PRC roving Luna, government probes peppering Mars, government probes doing flybys of the outer planets. Not commerical firms financed by private enterprise– but governments. The future you crave is one of going in circles, no where, fast.

          • Coastal Ron

            First DCSCA whined:

            …and what is going on is government space projects– you know, ISS…

            Then DCSCA whined:

            The future you crave is one of going in circles, no where, fast.

            It’s funny that you don’t recognize that the only current “government project of scale” is the one that is “going in circles”. No other HSF missions are planned or funded at this time.

            Galling, eh? ;-)

            • DCSCA

              Galling, eh?

              It has been for commercial space since over the past half century, it has flown nobody. Projects of scale take time but inevitably fly. Not so for commercial HAF– which has failed to even attempt to orbit anybody. Ron.

              • Coastal Ron

                DCSCA opined:

                Projects of scale take time but inevitably fly.

                Yep, of which the current “government project of scale” is the ISS. And now NASA plans to extend it’s mission.

                Galling, eh? ;-)

  • @Robert G. Oler;…..”Then well, we settle into the gloom of the reality that free enterprise and spaceflight are mostly not compatible.” BINGO! BINGO! BINGO! BINGO!

    • Coastal Ron

      Chris Castro said:

      BINGO! BINGO! BINGO! BINGO!

      If you actually read what Robert wrote, you seem to be voting for the status quo, the one where no new innovations drastically lower the cost to access space, and therefore blocks any progress on doing new HSF.

      Is that what you are rooting for? Doing nothing?

      Me, I’m rooting for Musk and SpaceX to significantly lower the cost to move mass to space, because inexpensive launches means that we can be doing MORE in space with the same money. And that means we can be doing something when right now we can’t do anything.

      • @Coastal Ron;…..I still have the dimmest opinion about Commercial Crew getting us anywhere. The sacrifice of the Constellation project at the altar of commercial space, was extremely galling & atrocious to watch happen. To think that instead of developing the Moon’s natural resources & expanding the engineering might of humanity to the cis-lunar realm, that we now—–for the next fifteen years—–are just going to limit ourselves to the ISS & LEO space taxis to reach it, is such a depressing prospect for the near-term future!
        Plus, don’t even get me started on all the see-through fakeness of such commercial space plans being floated around right now: such as Inspiration Mars & Mars One!! Ha! These card-house projects have not one iota of a chance of being pulled off, because all of the involved technology is way too immature. Sure, Commercial Crew might launch up a couple dozen of millionaire tourists to a new “hotel” section of the ISS, but America will get NOTHING further out of this government subsidy pact!

        • Coastal Ron

          Chris Castro said:

          I still have the dimmest opinion about Commercial Crew getting us anywhere.

          Transporting humans to space for significantly less than what the government can do is somehow bad in your eyes?

          The sacrifice of the Constellation project at the altar of commercial space, was extremely galling & atrocious to watch happen.

          It was WAY over budget and WAY behind schedule Chris. Republican’s in Congress that had Constellation work even voted to cancel it.

          Does money not mean anything to you? Do you think taxpayer money is free?

          To think that instead of developing the Moon’s natural resources…

          That is not the job of the U.S. Government Chris. That is the responsibility of the private sector.

          And what “natural resources” does the Moon hold that are worth the $100′s of Billions of dollars it will take to start up operations there? What do you see that companies with natural resource expertise don’t, huh?

          These card-house projects have not one iota of a chance of being pulled off, because all of the involved technology is way too immature.

          If that’s true, then NASA’s technology is too immature too, since everyone is using the same companies and technologies. You do realize that NASA shares what it knows with U.S. companies, right?

        • Vladislaw

          Chris .. you DO understand how many billionaires and multimillionaires their are on the planet? You are also aware of keeping up with the jones’s?

          Once there is commercial access, the flight rate will only increase as prices come down.

          Here is a little exercise for you chris… it takes from 47 – 62 pounds per day, on average, to keep a human in space. Once there is commercial access and a commercial destination… How much cargo has to be luanched to keep 12 – 24 people supplied at bigelow facilities? How many NEW cargo launches will be needed… along with what NASA needs…

        • “The sacrifice of the Constellation project at the altar of commercial space, was extremely galling & atrocious to watch happen.”

          Are you implying that it was some sort of either/or deal? Compare that part of the NASA budget that was for Constellation (or currently is for SLS) to Commercial Crew development (which has always gotten approximately half of the $800-odd million requested each year), and tell me that money for the latter could have made either of the former happen meaningfully sooner.

          “To think that instead of developing the Moon’s natural resources…”

          Are you under the impression that Constellation (or SLS) would accomplish anything toward that end? You don’t ‘develop natural resources’ anywhere if you don’t first have affordable transportation. Constellation was not that. SLS is not that.

        • Hiram

          “To think that instead of developing the Moon’s natural resources & expanding the engineering might of humanity to the cis-lunar realm, that we now—–for the next fifteen years—–are just going to limit ourselves to the ISS & LEO space taxis to reach it, is such a depressing prospect for the near-term future!”

          We really should make profound investments in developing the natural resources of Antananarivo, and expand the engineering might of humanity to Masagascar. Hey, I hear there are sapphires there! Can you imagine how depressing a prospect for the near term future a badly funded Constellation was going to be? Whew!

      • DCSCA

        Me, I’m rooting for Musk and SpaceX to significantly lower the cost to move mass to space

        Hmmm. Have you priced a Tesla lately? Musk is not going to be the Henry Ford of space, Ron.

        • Coastal Ron

          DCSCA confusedly said:

          Have you priced a Tesla lately? Musk is not going to be the Henry Ford of space

          Do you get confused in conversations easily? Find it hard to concentrate on the subject at hand?

          Because why in the world would the price of a car have ANYTHING to do with the price of transporting a satellite to LEO or GTO?

          Let me make this as simple as possible. One is a high-end product that addresses a known market for high-end performance cars. The other is a commodity service to transport payloads to specific orbits around Earth.

          And since ESA and China have already acknowledged that they can’t match SpaceX in price, I’d say the facts speak for themselves – Musk is not trying to be the Henry Ford of space, Musk is making SpaceX the SpaceX of space transportation.

    • Robert G Oler

      betting on failure of capitalism the keen minds of the right wing RGO

      • DCSCA

        betting on failure of capitalism the keen minds of the right wing RG0

        ‘democrativ capitalism’ ihas been playing a shell game since 1/20/81, RGO. Of late it is being propped up by the PRC. Geo-politics will push the human experience out into space in this era. Which is why the PRC is heading for Luna. The geo-political move is as brilliant as a full moon. They intend to hallmark this century as theirs.

  • Don’t discredit Nye as just a performer. He’s the CEO of the Planetary Society and an engineer by profession (not an acting job) and I can tell you as a fact that he knows what’s up in the space community. Just because he doesn’t work on rockets or sit at a desk in Washington doesn’t mean his statements should be ignored.

    There are a few people that can speak to the benefits and importance of space exploration that the general public will actually listen to and not fall asleep, and he is one of them.

  • vulture4

    I agree with Ron. I am embarrassed and depressed by the absurdity of the SLS and the creation of a phony mission made up to sound like it made sense when it obviously doesn’t. We need to get real. For human spaceflight to be sustainable, you need a quality product you can sell to real customers at a competitive price. Musk doesn’t have all the answers, but at least he’s going in the right direction.

    • Coastal Ron

      vulture4 said:

      Musk doesn’t have all the answers, but at least he’s going in the right direction.

      I think that is an important point.

      Musk has focused his efforts on lowering the cost to access space, which addresses one of the main issues for why we aren’t doing more in space – not enough money for the plans everyone has. Musk and SpaceX are making it possible to do more with the same amount of funding, which is something that no one else is doing as well as SpaceX is.

      And for all that new capability SpaceX is mocked and derided by those that can’t figure out how to do the same with even double the amount of money SpaceX has used. Weird, huh?

  • josh

    ofc it won’t happen. this has been obvious almost from the start. the whole thing is a silly attempt to give the sls something to do. cancel it and the sls and give the money to newspace. oh, and close down jsc and msfc already.

    • Neil Shipley

      SpaceX is going to totally make SLS obsolete – well it is now anyway. Their new Methalox engine will give an F9 equivalent vehicle greater lift than a Block 1 SLS and an equivalent FH leaves a Saturn V in the shade.

  • seamus

    Redirecting an asteroid to lunar orbit and sending astronauts to investigate would be an historic event in human spaceflight. Of course we should do that mission. At least it’s a start, however small and timid, on venturing beyond LEO and learning more about the resources available in the solar system. Just like lunar bases, asteroid retrieval– eventually leading to resource exploitation– is an essential part of building the space enterprise.

    I don’t understand why there’s so much cynicism and negativity about spaceflight these days. Heated debate is one thing, but the tribalism is getting really ugly. We’re on the cusp of actually moving forward. Great things are going to start happening. It could happen a lot faster with a little more funding, but that’s not NASA’s fault!

    • Guest

      I apologize in advance, but after the debacle of Constellation and SLS/Orion I simply no longer believe a word any of you people say on this subject anymore. Sorry. There is no ‘there’ there.

      • Coastal Ron

        Guest said:

        …but after the debacle of Constellation and SLS/Orion I simply no longer believe a word any of you people say on this subject anymore. Sorry.

        That’s OK, we don’t believe much of what “you people” say either… ;-)

  • Hiram

    “Redirecting an asteroid to lunar orbit and sending astronauts to investigate would be an historic event in human spaceflight.”

    Sending astronauts to “investigate”, eh? As in, gee, did I get my foot planted well enough to make a footprint? As in, did the Chinese see us do this? What else are these astronauts going to investigate? “Geez Louise! It’s a rock!!!” Betcha it’s going to look a lot like rocks we have laying on the Earth right now, which happen to have a fusion crust.

    ARM has no real purpose, except for putting footprints on an asteroid (which will be tricky, since there is no gravity, and little room for a pair of footprints anyway — the footprint engineers are doing double duty). We are NOT going to learn any thing useful about asteroids in this way, because the rock that we snag will be a totally random one, of no particular resource value, and it will in no way convincingly represent the dangerous rock that’s aimed at us. Putting that rock in a selenographic retrograde orbit, with its extreme stability, just means that, oh crap, it’s still going to be there to visit again! I guess we can send tourists to it, or maybe send another mission to take pictures of the flags and footprints we put there on the first mission. Perhaps we can build an outpost on it. A very small one, perhaps? When China decides to express their technological equivalency by going there, we’ll race to go there again before they can do so.

    The “historic event” that it will surely make for will be where the world realizes that the U.S. human spaceflight program is all for show, and that the U.S pays through its nose for stunts. It will also realize without a doubt that the purpose of SLS is specifically to enable such stunts.

    Now, going back to the Moon may not have particularly well established motivations, but those motivations shine compared to those for ARM.

  • DCSCA

    And so the current head of the Planetary Society prives once again that a broken clock is right twice a day.

  • Superstar

    Hilarious! When did everyone replace their imaginations with spread sheets, equations, and pessimism?

    If every policy derived was based upon what we KNOW we know, nothing would get done. The truth is, we don’t know much at all about Asteroid Redirection, Deflection, Destruction, or whatever other proposals have been floated out there. Hell, scientists have been learning a great deal from YOUTUBE videos of the Chelyabinsk meteor strike in Russia, because before that, they didn’t have whole lot to go on as to the trajectory of these space objects entering our atmosphere. Still, you have to start somewhere. Even if the research and development from *TWO* flawed ARM programs result in a legitimate discussion and eventual practical and FEASIBLE method of dealing with a threat that, for all intents and purposes, will probably never present itself (statistically speaking), then I’d say the ARM program did what it was meant to do.

    It’s easy for physicists and space junkies to sit around dissecting what “probably won’t work.” However, would they even be discussing it, as well as possible alternatives, on a serious level if the “flawed” program didn’t exist for them to debate?

    • Hiram

      “It’s easy for physicists and space junkies to sit around dissecting what ‘probably won’t work.’ ”

      No one is saying that ARM “won’t work”. At least that’s not what I’m saying. What we’re saying is that if what we’re trying to do is learn about asteroids, there are far better ways to do it. We actually think we understand quite a bit about asteroid redirection, deflection, and destruction, and none of it comes from Chelyabinsk YouTube posts. We have a deep understanding of asteroid orbits and composition from telescopic observations (Earth and space), and we’ve actually visited a number of asteroids that are, unlike the one ARM would reach, actually real threats. We certainly don’t need a “flawed ARM program” to start “legitimate discussion”. That’s a pricey discussion! It’s really easy to come up with mission concepts to prove out large asteroid deflection. We should try some of them. ARM isn’t one of them.

      This isn’t about “imagination”, but it really does come down to spreadsheets and equations. If you can’t handle those, then you’re in the wrong business. The pessimism is about using ARM to achieve the goals we really need to achieve.

      Wait. So you’re saying the purpose of ARM, as a flawed program, is to spur serious discussion and alternatives? Weird. If every policy derived was based upon what we know we don’t know, we’d sure have a bunch of flawed programs that could spur such thinking!

    • Guest

      By discussing why ARM will be too expensive and why it is unnecessary to develop the techniques for killer asteroid deflection will result in the determination of vastly cheaper and more valuable missions that will look nothing like ARM.

      Sorry but those are the facts as this pessimistic space cadet sees them, and I’ve written on this topic extensively already.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Welcome to the Spin Cycle, guest.

        The facts of Reality never intrude on the manned space fantasists’ reveries.

        Some people call it American Exceptionalism.

    • DCSCA

      “It’s easy for physicists and space junkies to sit around dissecting what “probably won’t work.”

      This isn’t abour whether it can be done but whetherit is worth doing in this politicla and fiscal climate. And the chief catalyst for spaceflight– manned or unmanned– is political science, not rocket science nor the musings of the elbow-patched, ivory tower set around the coffee maker in the coffee maker in the faculty lounge. ARM is DOA. Try pitvhing it for funding w/a corporate sponsorship- such as Exxon/Mobil or even Halliburton–and get laughed out of the conferenee room.

      • Hiram

        “Try pitvhing it for funding w/a corporate sponsorship- such as Exxon/Mobil or even Halliburton–and get laughed out of the conferenee room.”

        Exxon/Mobil and Halliburton would, on the other hand, roll out the red carpet for the idea of putting more humans on the Moon, and dig deep in their pockets to make it happen, right?

        But yes, it isn’t about whether ARM can be done or not. It’s whether it’s worth doing.

  • Space News reports that NASA has already identified about a dozen potential targets for the ARM:

    http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/38964nasa-slowly-amassing-list-of-potential-targets-for-asteroid-retrieval

    At the moment, NASA is looking at seven small, free-flying asteroids and six larger space rocks from which boulder-size samples could be pried.

    • DCSCA

      Space News reports that NASA has already identified about a dozen potential targets for the ARM

      =yawn= NASA identified Mas as a target for manned missions. National Geographic, March, 1964

    • Egad

      The Space News article says,

      Once corralled into the distant lunar orbit, the captured asteroid would, according to NASA’s current plans, be visited by human explorers using the Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket the agency is working on. That mission would notionally take place around 2025

      2025 is where the current schedule has EM-4, presumably leaving EM-1 and EM-2 in 2017 and 2021 as some sort of circumlunar missions, perhaps to the DRO proposed for the asteroid. EM-3, using the version of SLS with new boosters in 2023, still lacks an identified purpose.

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