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Saturday, Sep 25, 2021

NASA astronauts turned space cowboys

Headline: NASA plans to lasso asteroid, bring it closer to Earth, senator says.
Initial reaction: What? Are you crazy? Why in the world would you want to bring an asteroid closer to us?
Isn’t NASA supposed to blow that sort of thing up in order to keep us safe? I think the Russians would agree. They got hit with a meteor not too long ago.
So apparently, NASA is sending a robotic spaceship out to lasso a small asteroid and ‘park it’ close to the moon so that astronauts can explore it.
The asteroid is allegedly 500-tons, and about 25-feet wide. The mission is scheduled to take place sometime in 2019.
My question is: how much funding was cut from the space program, again?
According to the Fox News article, an Orion space capsule carrying a crew of around four astronauts will travel to the asteroid in 2021 for spacewalking exploration.
Senator Bill Nelson, who is chairman of the Senate science and space subcommittee, said that “President Barack Obama is putting $100 million in planning money for the accelerated asteroid mission in the 2014 budget...The money would be used to find the right small asteroid.”
Personally, I’m not really sure what the importance of finding an asteroid and bringing it close enough for us to explore.
I understand the concept of exploring and learning new things to better the world, but this whole concept of manipulating space with this type of budget just seems absurd to me.
I would hope that there are other things that might be a little more important than spending $100 million on than looking for the right asteroid to poke and prod in the next decade.
I mean, the whole concept is kind of cool. Humans are manipulating space.
However, I just can’t really get over the fact that I picture boys in lab coats or with eccentric mohawks playing with really big and expensive toys.
What makes things a little more questionable to me is the fact that “last year, the Keck Institute for Space Studies,” according to Fox News, “proposed a similar mission for NASA with a price tag of $2.6 billion.”
I find these dollar amounts that they are throwing around a little disconcerting, considering the state of our national debt.
Plus, in the article that I looked at, there was a lot of talk about choosing the ‘right asteroid.’
Donald Yeomans, who heads NASA’s Near Earth Object program that monitors close-by asteroids said, “once a suitable rock is found it would be captured with the space equivalent of ‘a baggie with a drawstring. You bag it. You attach the solar propulsion module to de-spin it and bring it back to where you want it.” It’s that simple! Anyone can do it! Right?
I find this whole scenario a little ridiculous. The entire article has nothing to do with the importance of this exploration, but rather just focuses on how the exploration will be set up.
The closest the article comes to explaining the importance is when an Apollo 9 astronaut, Rusty Schweickart, is quoted saying “You’d have some interesting challenges in terms of operating in an environment like that.”
Nelson also mentions that this “mission would help NASA develop the capability to nudge away a dangerous asteroid if one headed to Earth in the future. It also would be training for a future mission to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.”
Curiously enough, this mission has no intention of planetary defense, which considering recent events, I would think it would be of higher priority.


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