Sunday, August 05, 2007

Asteroid Adventure


THREEPIO: Sir, the possibility of successfully negotiating an asteroid field is approximately 3720 to 1!

HAN : Never tell me the odds!

Threepio's comment may be an example of how mathematics can be misleading. The odds he quoted may be those of a spaceship travelling straight through the asteroid field. (Robots tend to think linearly.) Fortunately Han and the Millenium Falcon can STEER, avoiding the biggest asteroids. Let us hope that people in science learn to think outside the box.

Earlier this year asteroids were the subject of a series of posts. In many ways an asteroid mission is easier than reaching the Moon, January 22. The DAWN mission will explore two of the largest asteroids, January 23. The lines between asteroids, comets and minor planets are becoming more blurred, January 24. In 2029 Apophis will pass closer to Earth than a communications satellite, January 29. A "gravity tug" could be used to deflect dangerous asteroids, January 30.

Last week the private company Digital Space released video of a notional asteroid mission. Darnell of Colony Worlds has posted the whole video here. Once a spacecraft achieves Earth escape velocity, reaching an asteroid is relatively easy. Unlike the Moon, there is no deep gravity well to descend into. A Orion spacecraft could virtually hover over an asteroid using thrusters. Digital Space envisions a landing craft based upon Lunar Surface Access Module designs. The spacecraft could "hop" from one landing site to another. The lower stage is designed to be left behind as a science station.

Check out those big old spacesuits! Using skintight suits could save 600-1200 pounds from the mission weight. When astronauts are ready to return home, the bulky outer layers could be left behind with the lower stage. Asteroids are probably dusty, and all that dust would be left behind too.

Concerning thrusters,Orion is still going through redesigns. As with many projects, weight is a growing problem. Like Apollo, Orion will now use hypergolic propellants for the thrusters. To save the mass of airbags, Orion is now planned to splashdown in the ocean. I hope they realise that the US has fewer aircraft carriers than in the 1960's. The Orion 3 unmanned mission is scheduled to land off the coast of Australia in September 2012. Watch out for the box jellies, and we'll put another shrimp on the barbie for you.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous alex said...

Mr's Riofrio

In your profile you are writing that you are Full-time researcher in cosmology.Can you tell me please in which university?

8:32 AM  
Blogger DaVinci said...

I wonder if you would elaborate on the exact process for moving an asteroid in one of your posts.

8:36 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

For illustration of Edward Lu's plan to move asteroids, please refer to my January 30 post. For purposes of safety, a woman researcher should not reveal where she is working.

9:20 AM  
Blogger DaVinci said...

A tractor beam, how original!
I was thining somewhere along the lines of dropping a small Ion engine onto the asteroid and 'driving' it to deep space. I remember how problematic the tractor beam was in Star Trek.

9:39 AM  
Blogger DaVinci said...

Wow, April 13 2029 is friday the 13th.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous alex said...

"a woman researcher should not reveal where she is working"

So how will we knew that she is a really researcher?

3:36 AM  
Anonymous dc said...

many TBHs increasingly evident to me ... Are any space-rocks primordial? Or has everything a certain size ( bigger than 'breadbasket') formed from collisons off gravitationally large objects?

6:15 AM  
Anonymous Darnell Clayton said...

Brian of Colony Worlds has posted the whole video here.

Heh! I have a new nick name!

@ Alex:

Lady RioFrio currently resides on a world called Earth, orbiting at a distance of approximately 150 kilometers from its parent star in the Sol System.

Translation: In this day and age it isn't safe for women to reveal their whereabouts like us guys.

Just my opinion...

7:29 AM  
Anonymous dc said...

I meant "directly from 'big bang'" primordial rocks ie. similar to TBHs

1:14 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Sorry Darnell, just fixed that. Thanks for your understanding too.

dc, many "primordial" rocks have been found, but they probably broke off bigger objects.

The Big Bang created the first atoms, which formed an extremely diffuse gas. Even during the Solar System's formation, which was far denser than the period following the big Bang, gas particles could not have coalesced into rocks without help.

5:35 PM  

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