The United States government space agency (NASA) has a new very bold mission. It is named ARM and wants to create an orbit around Moon for flying loose rocks with the use of microgravity. The scheme may prevent Earth from a possible disaster of getting hit by one of them.
Mission Named ARM – Asteroid Redirect Mission – will be carried out by launching a spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid which is big enough to have boulders on the surface. Then, with the help of robotic grapples, the spacecraft will retrieve a rock and place it in a stable orbit around the moon. The scientists settled for this version of the plan, called Option B, after Option A was abandoned. At first, NASA wanted to carry an asteroid which is less than 10 meters in diameter for redirection.
Ross Lightfoot, Spacenews quotes administrator, reported from a NASA press conference that settling on a boulder rather than grabbing a whole asteroid will offer the agency more options. “I’m going to have multiple targets when I get there”, Lightfoot said.
NASA added that it found three possible candidates for the mission, known as Bennu, Itokawa and 2008 EV5.
The agency expected to identify more asteroids suitable for the mission this year In the last three years of asteroid searching, NASA increased the detection of near-Earth asteroids by 65 per cent.
The ARM Mission target will be carried out by 2019, NASA explained, based on size, shape, rotation, and orbit of the asteroid.
The ARM spacecraft will provide the first opportunity to use a number of technologies, among them an advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) ion drive, which could be used in preparation for eventual missions to Mars.
While SEP will be slower than the regular liquid fuel engines, it needs a lot less propellant.
The ARM project will also be used for the implementation of “planetary defense techniques”, like using the small gravity of a nearby spacecraft to change an asteroid’s orbit. This will be very useful in the case of a potential Earth-impact, helping to alter the trajectory of the asteroid.
“Effectiveness of this maneuver is increased, moreover, if mass is moved from the asteroid to the spacecraft by the capture of a boulder”, NASA said, adding that it plans to send a crewed mission to the captured piece of rock in the next decade.
Image Source: Space