NASA is Developing a Space Shotgun to Fire at Near Earth Asteroids

Thursday, 24 September 2015 - 5:35AM
Space
Technology
Thursday, 24 September 2015 - 5:35AM
NASA is Developing a Space Shotgun to Fire at Near Earth Asteroids
Many in the scientific community believe that asteroids and comets could represent a potentially endless stockpile for humanity's insatiable need for natural resources. Numerous private companies have sprouted up in recent years, all vying to be the first to claim a monopoly on this untapped resource. However, NASA sees such asteroids as huge stepping stone in their mission to get humans to Mars, using the space rocks to test the capabilities they believe are needed to reach the Red Planet.

At present, NASA's Near Earth Object (NEO) program has detected over 13,000 asteroids and comets in Earth's immediate neighborhood. Despite having detected such vast numbers of NEOs, very little is known about these space rocks. It's this relative lack of knowledge that prompted the administration to create the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which will eventually see a Near Earth Asteroid captured by a robotic spacecraft and moved into a secure orbit around the moon. Once the asteroid arrives in that orbit, science operations can begin and NASA hopes to have astronauts walking its surface by the year 2020.

NASA has already identified a number of potential candidates for their mission, but before that number is whittled down to just one we need to learn more about the geological make-up of the candidates. To do this, NASA is working with Honey Bee Robotics, a private robotics firm based out of Brooklyn, New York. This partnership between Honey Bee and NASA will see the development of an innovative space shotgun, which will help gather crucial data about the strength and make-up of any potential ARM asteroid candidate.


By firing one of a number of types of projectile at an asteroid candidate, the shotgun will be able to gather data that should help limit any risks to the astronauts who will eventually walk upon the asteroids surface. For example, should the asteroid have a weaker internal structure, the surface underneath the astronauts could break off with hazardous consequences.But such data goes beyond human safety, it will also be crucial for the development of the robotic arm needed to corral the asteroid into orbit around the moon.

While the vast majority of asteroids don't pose a threat to our planet, NASA believes that no fewer than 1,613 of the 13,000 detected NEO's could be considered potentially hazardous. Missions technologies such as this robotic shotgun could also aid the development of potential asteroid deflection missions which would seek to knock an asteroid off its collision course with Earth.

For more on NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission, watch this animated explanation below.
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NASA
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