Astronauts to land on speeding asteroid by late 2020s

May 28 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Space   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

A lump of rock more than 40 meters in diameter speeding through space at 28,000 mph, once considered the most dangerous object in the universe, is about to become the site for humanity’s next “giant leap for mankind.”

NASA engineers have selected asteroid 2000SG344 – which in 2000 was given a significant chance of slamming into Earth with the explosive power of 750 Hiroshimas – as the perfect space object to study. The operation would take place before the 2030 Mars journey, a speculative trip bandied about ever since the first President Bush mentioned in 1989 that America should send men to the red planet.

The asteroid mission represents a crucial step for America’s space program. A report to be published next month in the journal Acta Astronautica describes plans to use the soon-to-be-developed Orion space ship for a three-to-six month round-trip to the asteroid, with two explorers spending up to two weeks on the rock’s surface.

As well as providing experience for longer Mars trips, samples taken from the rock could help scientists convert sub-surface ice into drinking water and breathable oxygen, understand more about the birth of the solar system, and how best to defend Earth against dangerous asteroid collisions. (cont.)

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