NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission to capture and study an asteroid in space
NASA’s latest space exploration plan is well under way and involves sending a robotic spacecraft into deep space, where it will capture an asteroid and redirect it into the Moon’s orbit. Astronauts will then be able to visit it in the Orion spacecraft so they can collect samples to bring back to Earth. It is hoped this will reveal clues to the origin of our Solar System and life on Earth, as well as provide the first step to putting humans on Mars.
NASA has already conducted an unmanned test flight of Orion, and begun using telescopes to find an asteroid to capture. It also has two potential concepts for the robotic spacecraft that will collect the asteroid. The first concept involves capturing a small asteroid in an inflatable bag – you can watch an animation of it in the video below…
The second concept involves using robotic arms to collect a small boulder from the surface of a larger asteroid. Watch the video below to see an animation:
Finally, see how astronauts will visit and study the asteroid in space in this animation…
To find out more about the NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission, including how the robotic spacecraft will work, pick up issue 71 of How It Works magazine, on sale 26 March.
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