The Plan to Capture an Asteroid and Put it in Orbit Round the Moon

NASA has plans for an asteroid that will be passing near the Earth. The plan is to put it in orbit around the moon. By doing so, scientists hope to be able to study it and thereby learn more about the wider universe. In addition, it is hoped that this will pave the way for manned explorations further out into the solar system.

The Keck proposal, named for the Keck Institute for Space Studies, could be their ticket to Mars, according to NASA scientists. Putting the captured asteroid in orbit around the moon would give them a sample to study hands-on, since the moon has long been within the reach of manned space travel. Studying how the asteroid propels itself and how it shields itself from radiation could assist NASA in creating new craft that could survive the further depths of space while effectively shielding the astronauts from harm. This has the potential to not only get manned craft to Mars and its moons, but also for the human race to extend itself beyond the Red Planet.

There are many risks in sending unmanned probes, as anything can go wrong and the further away from Earth the probe is, the more difficult it can be to correct the issue. This was particularly evident in the Cassini-Huygens mission that was conceived to get a more detailed view of Saturn and its largest moon, Titan. Getting Cassini safely through the debris field that makes up Saturn’s rings and getting Huygens safely down to Titan’s surface involved a great deal of risk. At one point in the mission, failure seemed imminent, as the two probes were not communicating with each other properly due to an issue with a receiver on the Huygens probe. Being able to find a solution to this problem from such a great distance saved years of work, but the danger was very real. Imagine one day being able to send manned exploration vessels to Saturn instead! Problems could be addressed on-site, greatly reducing the possibility of mission failure.

The capture of the asteroid would be accomplished by a robotic probe. After it catches the asteroid it will tow it back to the moon. By studying it, humanity may also be able to shore up Earth’s defenses against potentially disastrous asteroid strikes. Not only might the future of space exploration and NASA rely on the outcome of the Keck proposal, but also the fate of the world.