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NASA is exploring the possibility of giving the moon its own moon

NASA is considering a plan to bring a small asteroid into orbit around the moon by 2025. Why? It turns out that there are several reasons, but the main one is that it is possible, and that they have not done such a thing yet.

Capturing an asteroid with a diameter of 7 meters and a weight of 500 tons. Credit: Rick Sternbach / KISS
Capturing an asteroid with a diameter of 7 meters and a weight of 500 tons. Credit: Rick Sternbach / KISS

NASA is examining a paper submitted by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, which explored the possibility of capturing a small asteroid that passes close to Earth, and bringing it into orbit around the Moon by the middle of the next decade. The main news is that using existing technology it is possible to collect an asteroid with a diameter of about 7 meters and a weight between 250 and 1,000 tons. The cost of the mission is estimated at 2.6 billion dollars, and can be completed by the middle of the next decade. This cost is not much more expensive compared to the cost of the MSL (Curiosity) mission, which is also a frontier mission.

First step - identification
The first step is to be able to find an asteroid of suitable size. One that will pass in a few years near the Earth.

This is already a problem. Such small objects can only be detected when they are very close (no more than 10 times the distance of the moon from the earth). That's why you need to identify them quickly, and get all the information you can about them before they go out of range. One has to calculate their orbit, know what their rotation speed is, assess whether they are a hard lump or a "gravel pile" held by its tiny self-gravity, and so on, in order to find suitable candidates.

Another way to deal with the problem is to identify much larger asteroids (over 100 meters in diameter), which are easier to find. A limited number of such objects have even been photographed from short range by spacecraft, so we know that there are also rocks on their surface in the dimensions that the proposal deals with. That is why it is possible to reach such an asteroid, pick up a 7 meter piece of rock from it, and return back!
The reality is of course much more complex, but these possibilities are clearly within the existing technological capacity.

The mission of bringing an asteroid into orbit around the moon. The duration of the return journey depends on the mass of the asteroid
The mission of bringing an asteroid into orbit around the moon. The duration of the return journey depends on the mass of the asteroid


Second stage - interception and capture
At an appropriate time, the spacecraft will be launched, with a total weight of over 18 tons, and will go on a journey of a few years until the encounter with the asteroid. The spacecraft will fly using ion engines, which give a tiny thrust, but their efficiency is extremely high. In this way, you can accumulate momentum over a long period of time and reach a high speed with a great saving of fuel.

Near the asteroid, the spacecraft will use cameras, sensors and a laser to measure distance (LIDAR) to determine its speed relative to it, and its composition and structure. These details are important for the capture process. It is also hinted that the spacecraft may be aided by tiny auxiliary spacecraft (Cubesat, for example), probably to map the shape of the asteroid.

Finally, the spacecraft will deploy an oversized bag that will surround the asteroid and close over it. The asteroid will be pressed against a surface made of foam material on top of the spacecraft (on the inside of the bag) and will actually become part of the spacecraft. It is interesting because the asteroid will be almost 100 times heavier than the spacecraft, so technically you can say that the asteroid is the one that captures the spacecraft, which actually lands on it.

When she grabs hold of the asteroid, she must perform the difficult task of de-spinning it, and she will need powerful rocket engines to do so. After that, it needs to accelerate it to a new orbit that will move it from its original orbit to a new orbit around the moon. This journey will last several years, and will consume tons of xenon gas for the ion propulsion system.

Safety above all

Changing the trajectory of a harmless asteroid towards Earth is a potentially dangerous operation, therefore several steps are required to prevent disaster even in the event of a serious malfunction, such as the spacecraft losing the asteroid after changing its trajectory. The proposal states that the candidate asteroid should have the structural strength to disintegrate upon entering the atmosphere, and that its return trajectory would be directly into the moon's gravity well. That way, a loss of control would crash it on the moon rather than the earth. The proposed orbit around the moon will be stable for decades, and minor repairs can be made if necessary using the engines of the spacecraft connected to it.

Why the hell is this good?!
First, you should know that the largest amount of material brought to Earth in space missions was only 382 kilograms from the lunar soil, and that too through the six Apollo missions. Other missions to the Moon and other bodies returned a few tens of grams at best. With tons of material there is more to do. Minerals can be mined for humanity's future uses in space, and they can be studied to better understand what asteroids are made of, and how the solar system was formed.

One of the proposed uses is a target for manned missions for training and research purposes in preparation for the arrival of people to distant asteroids, the moon and other places. The truth is that I am not convinced that it is necessary for training. Firstly, the manned landings on the moon were successful even without this kind of training, and secondly, living on a rock 7 meters in diameter is not exactly like the painting of the little prince. There will be no perceptible gravity, so basically it won't be much different than life on the space station, just without the required protection like walls and air pressure.

Petit Prince

On the other hand, there are other advantages that are more important to me; Going on a mission beyond everything that has been done to date produces new technologies and new discoveries (for example, improving ion engine technology will greatly reduce costs), creates cooperation between organizations, businesses and countries for a purpose (as opposed to cooperation against something or someone), and improves our ability to cope with an asteroid threatening Earth.

In addition to these reasons, an innovative mission of this magnitude creates a lot of public interest, as only large space programs are capable of stimulating, and that is a value in itself.

I finished reading the report with the feeling that its authors are very enthusiastic about the ideas that came up during the development. In my opinion, this is an innovative, creative and challenging mission proposal, and in addition, it is not overly imaginative or ambitious, so that we can accept the statement that it is indeed applicable today.
NASA is currently strangled in terms of budget, but the slogan that appeared at the end of the video "7 minutes of horror", "Dare Mighty Things" still resonates. The United States cannot present itself as the world leader without doing great things that have not yet been done. So before you start moving mountains, you can start with relatively small rocks, which have a lot to learn from them.

For the blog article "Critical Essay"

37 תגובות

  1. With respect for the free market.
    Prominent people in human history were "run over" in the free market.
    The free market is not a good place for science.

    And I said, I am good, wise and mighty; And the poor man's wisdom is deceitful, and his words are not heard:

    Ecclesiastes Chapter XNUMX (recommended to read the entire chapter).

  2. to another, and to Mickey,

    Your question:
    What is the benefit? and-
    Why exactly is this project the most suitable thing?

    If we look for the things that space exploration needs to make a real leap forward, we will come to some things, the most important of which is lowering the launch cost. Thank God the British exist and there is a chance it will happen in the next few years.
    Another thing that can lead to a jump in space exploration is the ability to produce materials in space. A complementary action to lower costs, which NASA is already working on in the search for water in every stone in space.
    Another thing, and the one that capitalists like you will relate to the most, is what no one has yet been able to do, make real money from it. Not tax money but real money. so called profit. Once they manage to make big money in space, the continuation is inevitable.
    The proposed mission can, with minimal effort, prove the feasibility of the latter two and bring an outbreak to the field that may finally add to the number of countries that will lead it. Two billion sounds like a lot, but it's nothing compared to the hundred billion they invested in an international box for growing sprouts.
    In short, I don't believe in investing for the sake of a muse, or doing it because it's possible. But this is the only project that can bring real benefit to the field of space exploration and to the country that will carry it out.

  3. I already forgot how much of a socialist you are.
    If she didn't vote for Laor, she would probably vote for Hadash.
    There is no point in convincing communists of the benefits of a free society.
    They need to sober up themselves.
    And now back to the topic at hand.
    There are many projects in space that can be offered - why exactly is this project the most suitable thing?
    The United States government does not have infinite resources.

  4. Avi,
    It's a shame you don't check your claims before you make them.

    You are welcome to examine the facts presented in the following videos:
    After watching the video, even if you have a criticism
    She will be more learned.

    The capitalist system should be tried in the field
    before we can declare it a failure.

    As long as there is a central bank that plays with the interest rate artificially
    And as long as government spending is 50% or more of GDP
    So such an economic method can be called by many names
    But she is not capitalist.

    in capitalism
    1. The tax burden will be minimal, say a single tax rate of 5% (uniformly for everyone).
    2. There will be no central bank.
    3. The government will provide only basic services: national security, foreign relations, and a law enforcement system, and this too with the extensive participation of the private sector.
    4. All restrictions on trade (such as import quotas and customs duties) will be abolished.
    5. All government welfare programs will be canceled and replaced by charity on a voluntary basis.

  5. If the capitalist system was working and was effective, we would see it in the economic results, but the situation is on the face, and only one percent is drowning in money and avoiding taxes while the others moan, if the same percent gave their share, there would be no need for any increase in taxes. You will not convince me that lowering taxes and leaving money with the citizens makes the system more efficient. It only causes waste, and cigarettes are just a prominent example.
    Because I think a better society is one that also thinks about the future and not just the pleasure of the moment, I'm in favor of pooling all the money and doing good things with it like public universities, and a public elementary education system. Only in this way will we get more educated people who end up paying more taxes. The capitalist system has failed in everything related to the long term, period. You won't convince me otherwise.

  6. Research at the forefront of science - such as those that do not bring immediate profit or at all are done by universities that receive their money from donations, and from students who come to study with them, most of them to find work in industry later - this is how the industry funds the research.

  7. People have every right to spend their hard earned money
    on cigarettes or even throw it in the trash.

    That they, in your opinion, waste it
    Does not train the tax creep.

    All the more so when the taxes are wasted on ostentatious and futile projects.

    Wasting tax money will not improve the quality of education
    On the contrary,
    The waste will draw funds that could be directed to improving education.

    The best way to improve the education system is to stop government involvement in the field.
    and lower the taxes proportionally.

  8. I cover the technology field on other sites - People and Computers, CHIPORTAL and I talk to the executives of these companies on a regular basis and also follow their financial reports. In any case, spending on R&D today is much higher than 50 years ago. Which company, for example, can build a particle accelerator like at CERN? What company would have the patience to wait 20 years for results?

  9. "The companies that invest in R&D and basic research are getting more and more confused"
    Do you have any reference to that?

  10. For Miki this is a big enough benefit, it is not something that expensive, and it will motivate developments that will benefit many areas of our lives.

  11. Can someone answer me?
    I didn't understand the benefit of such a project, except that it would encourage people to learn or that the very act of engaging in it would advance technology. These are benefits derived from the project, but what will the project benefit directly?

  12. Definately not. Remind you what happened to the glorious Bell Labs after the dissolution of AT&T. A commercial company is looking at the next quarter, the companies investing in R&D and basic research are getting confused - IBM is perhaps the latest example of this. Private industry cannot be trusted in any way.

  13. The best way to invest in science is to allow a free market and doing this is beneficial for knowledge-intensive companies to develop in Israel - when you have a lot of engineers but they leave the country to work abroad so you have done nothing.

  14. By and large, California is a "liberal" state (in American terms)
    Its current governor is a democrat - most of the district representatives are democrats - and most of the votes there consistently go to the democrats.
    So you think that the government of China and the government of India are better than the governments of the United States and Israel?

  15. Who exactly is Schwarzenegger running on behalf of? And yet, there is a Republican majority in the local houses of representatives that stick to things such as high-speed rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and the tax cuts that the Republicans and Democrats have failed to fix.
    And I wish everyone would be like India and China, their engineers are in every possible hole and not only in the role of wood cutters and water pumps but also with original ideas.

  16. Avi- Do you think that the Indian and Chinese education system is better than the education system in California?
    China and India are huge countries and only the best come to universities in America-
    It has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of education.
    By the way,
    California is actually considered a state that belongs to the American left (the "Democrats" in a quite distinct way.
    So what exactly does that mean?

  17. Another one, it can't explain that California, which has the best universities, is forced to fill them with Chinese and Indians because its education system is the worst among the education systems in the USA, it starts with the fact that the tax for the rich in California is the lowest in the entire USA

  18. I'm sorry, but I didn't understand the benefit of such a project, except that it would encourage people to learn or that the very act of engaging in it would advance technology. These are benefits derived from the project, but what will the project benefit directly?

  19. my father
    Yes it's all the Republicans fault who after all are fundamentalist creationist clerics who hate true science…..

    My father - only a small percentage of the population can really promote science -
    Not everyone has the right talent to bring breakthroughs - and there is no lack of motivation to go into such professions because there is quite a lot of money in them.
    And it still requires a different talent than law or even medicine.

  20. The limitation is the quality of education, not the number of people in the population. Today, the potential of the smart people is too far to be realized, mainly because of conservative schools that censor science, and because of the hostility of the Republicans to any public investment, even in an important area like education.

  21. No - it will not give such an effect -

    The United States does not lack scientists anyway.

    There is a limited amount of talented people in any population and they are the smart people who are least affected
    From such publicity stunts.

  22. Because it is possible, and because it will create the economic boom that the Apollo program did - it made thousands of young people study math and science while the generation after them studied law.

  23. I already forgot that you are a socialist, my father...
    What do Reagan and Thatcher have to do with the subject?
    In a time of economic crisis, is it really necessary to promote a project whose research benefit is unclear when, according to the article, the main reason for doing it is "because it is possible" - are we still in the heroic age of space exploration?

  24. People in the US spend more money on cigarettes per day than the annual NASA budget. The approach of Reagan and Thatcher failed and brought the tycoons upon us and did not channel the money freed up from taxes to more beneficial needs.

  25. The task is completely unnecessary and is a horrendous waste of public funds
    In a country that is still in huge debt and whose economy is faltering.

    Obviously, such a task will require research and development
    However, it will come at the expense of other research and development that could have been financed with this money.

    The best choice in my opinion is to just shut NASA down
    and lower the taxes at an appropriate rate
    This is how the invisible hand of the market will direct this freed money
    Bringing the most value to people's lives.

  26. Really Ron? This is the most important and the greatest task of humanity (to get out of the parents' house before we make them give up). There is nothing that justifies the money invested in it more than this.

  27. The main reason for bringing an asteroid is an attempt to extract materials from it - water, gold and platinum. Precisely large amounts of water outside the Earth's orbit can be the most significant factor, as explained in the article:
    "Extracting water ice from an asteroid is an attractive goal and not only because it will allow future colonists to live in space. If water is broken down into its components - hydrogen and oxygen, they become rocket fuel. "A large asteroid could be used to create a refueling station in orbit beyond the moon and reduce the cost of manned flights in the solar system" says Eric Anderson, co-CEO of Planetary Resources. "This will be a game changer," he said.

  28. My feeling is that deflecting an asteroid of that size requires more energy than raising a space station, similar to the ISS, around the moon. To deflect an asteroid moving at high speed so that it travels in a different orbit requires a lot of energy, of the same order of magnitude of energy required to raise a space station from there. If we add to this the fact that the process cannot be planned years in advance, since there is currently no candidate asteroid, this story sounds a bit dubious.

  29. In short, there is no need for it.
    Humanity behaves too arrogantly. Playing with the forces of nature and more for no real reason

  30. I read the article and looked at the calendar while doing so... Well, we're in January, I thought we were on April 1st.

  31. To Ron - there is nothing more or less important. In science every discovery is important. I'm sure there were many people who came to Thomas Edison and told him to stop messing around and start working on important things like finding a cure for fever or smallpox

    Hundreds of billions of dollars a year are already invested in the pharmaceutical industry. I wish the space industry would invest half of that.

  32. Oh well, do they really lack something to spend the money on?
    Let the money be transferred to experienced scientists in important studies for the advancement of technology and medicines.

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