NASA, right now, is focusing more on its new project called the Asteroid Redirect Mission or ARM. It might surprise many, but it’s true that due to this new project the space agency’s Mars mission has taken a backseat. However, the ARM will eventually facilitate things for the manned mission to Mars.
NASA scientists are carrying out its Asteroid Redirect Mission for grabbing a boulder from an asteroid adjacent to our planet and placing it onto a stable orbit surrounding the moon to allow exploration by astronauts.
Robert Lightfoot, the agency’s Associate Administrator, when asked about this crazy mission, said that the ARM will be demonstrating different spaceflight capabilities the agency will require for sending astronauts into deeper space including the red planet Mars. Lightfoot added that the ability of retrieving boulders from asteroids will help NASA experts to plan better for future manned missions to deeper space and mark the beginning of a new era of spaceflight.
So, by when NASA is planning to carry out its Asteroid Redirect Mission? Reports are suggesting that any such event is unlikely to take place before 2019. During these four years, the agency will study several asteroids in order to select one for its mission. So far, it has spotted a total of three asteroids for the ARM; they are: 2008 EV5, Bennu and Itokawa.
Before making the final selection, NASA scientists will need to gather a range of information on each of the shortlisted candidates. Some of the information, it will need include the asteroids’ shape, size, precise orbit and rotation. Before the mission begins in 2019, NASA is expected to add two more asteroids to the existing list of three every year.
The robotic spacecraft used for the mission will be carrying out a number of tests for determining the qualities needed for human missions in deeper space. One among those is SEP or Solar Electric Propulsion.
SEP is a system designed to harness solar power and convert it into electric power. This electric power then gets used for propelling charged atoms and moving a spacecraft. The method is slower than standard propulsion but is extremely useful for moving extra large cargo.
Above all, it’s a cost effective method; thus, it may play a big role in the manned mission to Mars. NASA is bothered significantly by the high expenditure associated with its upcoming Mars mission.