NASA announced yesterday that they plan on launching a robot based spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016, to help them understand how life began.
The mission will cost a hefty $800 million and the plans are to get the robot to collect pieces of the asteroid. If successful it will be the first mission to carry asteroid pieces back to Earth.
The plans are to launch the craft in 2016, and it will take 4 years for it to reach the asteroid. Then it will return to earth in 2023.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said “This is a critical step in meeting the objectives outlined by President Obama to extend our reach beyond low-Earth orbit and explore into deep space. It’s robotic missions like these that will pave the way for future human space missions to an asteroid and other deep space destinations.”
The spacecraft is called “Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer” and it will come within three miles of the asteroid and then hold that position for 6 months to map the target surface. The asteroid is about the same size as five football fields according to NASA.
When the mapping is completed then it will move closer, to within six feet. The spacecraft will deploy a robotic arm and it will blast the surface with a nitrogen gas, so that a device on the end of the arm can scoop up more than 2 ounces of the material. This will be stored inside a capsule and the spacecraft will return home to Earth.
When the craft gets close to Earth it will release the capsule which will be taken into the atmosphere and will eventually drop down in a military spot in Utah. The spacecraft itself will turn around and head into an orbit around the sun, so NASA can use it later for other missions.
Asteroids are left overs formed from the cloud of gas and dust that collapsed to form the sun and the planets around 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists say that they contain the original planet and star forming material which will hopefully be able to guide research in a new direction.
Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division said “This asteroid is a time capsule from the birth of our solar system and ushers in a new era of planetary exploration. The knowledge from the mission also will help us to develop methods to better track the orbits of asteroids.”
KitGuru says: to boldly go where no robot has gone before