NASA is gearing up its plans for a â€˜Plymouth Rock Killerâ€ manned asteroid mission, and one to Mars in the near future. The aggressive plans are gaining ground, rapidly, in the Obama administration who endorsed such a plan in April. If needed, NASA can tap into its voluminous data base as they gear up for a possible deep-space exploration. What are the implications of a manned asteroid mission, and how does it add value to our current conditions?
Why is a mission planned?
President Obama and NASA, who announced the end of the Space Shuttle program earlier this year, are intent on making a transition to delve deeper into space. Lockheed-Martin, a leading contractor for space craft development, has been hard at work producing NASAâ€™s Orion space capsule to replace the old fleet.
NASA can rely on its large asteroid database in which to determine where best to allocate its resources. At any given moment, there are scores of asteroids and meteorites, all of which have the potential to strike a devastating blow to earth upon impact.
The database contains vital information such as mass, orbit, vector, composition, and a host of other components that it provides NASA and scientists with for the purpose of planning and logistics.
The planned manned asteroid mission is heavily viewed as a â€œPlymouth Rockâ€ opportunity to set foot on Mars or another celestial body beyond our moon. NASA believes it will be a chance to gain a wealth of intelligence and data about the possibility of going even deeper into space.
Others view it as a mission for planetary defense as we contend with the possibility of a â€œkiller asteroidâ€ impacting our earth at some point in the future. With so many cosmic bodies floating around in space, the possibility of a close encounter is always factored into any equation of planetary defense.
A manned asteroid mission is tentative at best, and could launch by 2025. This â€œdress-rehearsalâ€ would be a lead-in to the so called â€œPlymouth Rockâ€ plans to step foot on Mars by the mid to late 2030â€™s.
How best to approach a planned asteroid Mars mission?
For safety, feasibility, and scientific validity, NASA underwent a two-day workshop in the nationâ€™s capital, this month for fact-finding. Because this is a priority to the Obama administration and NASA, the logistics involved in sending humans or robots into space is vital to the success of the missionâ€™s plans.
In addition to safety of any manned asteroid or Mars mission, all those assembled at the work-shop had additional takeaways: To determine the technologies involved in deep space asteroid manned missions, a viable time frame, and how the Space Station can still be supported while resources are re-allocated.
"We are pleased that the Orion project is included in the House and Senate bills as Lockheed Martin works toward a 2013 launch date," said Linda Singleton, Communications Manager for the Orion project at Lockheed-Martin.
The â€œPlymouth Rockâ€ plan is a project that NASA is championing in order to satisfy their quest for knowledge on the intricacies of asteroids. By understanding what makes them â€œtickâ€ gives them important information they can use to go further into space, perhaps to Mars.
The â€œPlymouth Rockâ€ concept involves a dual combination of Orion spacecraft that are specifically manufactured to hold two astronauts, and have enough capacity to maintain orbit and support life for months.
"Because Orion is already designed to do missions far beyond low-Earth orbit, it already has most of the capabilities that we need," said John Hopkins of Lockheed's Human Spaceflight Advanced Program
The creation of the â€œPlymouth Rockâ€ concept, headed primarily by Lockheed-Martin, highlights what can be done, given the proper research and funding. Currently, NASA has yet to officially endorse the project, but with so much buzz behind the project, it appears they will at some point in the future.
Proponents for NASAâ€™s planned asteroid mission, highlight the need to dig deeper into space in search of how we can mine for undiscovered resources, search for alternate forms of energy, and even to ward off the possibility of an asteroid impact thatÂ could devastate our planet. The asteroid database gives NASA an insight into where to target their efforts, first.
Opponents are pushing back on the idea because not much has been said on how to fund such an undertaking. Congress is currently exploring the feasibility of injecting financing into the proposed manned asteroid mission without asking the American people to pick up the tab.
If we were capable of getting into the far reaches of space (at that time) by successfully sending a manned spacecraft to the moon, the time has come for us to lead the way, again to determine what is beyond our lunar capabilities.
What has made the United States of America so great is our ability to champion projects that lead to cutting-edge discoveries on our own planet and beyond. With the recent discovery of a new solar system with 5 planets, recently, the question that bubbles to the surface is: What else is out there, and how can an encounter or discovery add value to what we do here on Earth?
Certainly, funding is always a concern as our government has a fiduciary responsibility to its constituency. However, partisan politics aside, any new discovery beyond our current conditions on earth can only enhance our means to acquire more resources that may even lead to new innovations in medicine and planetary sustainability.
What are your thoughts about NASAâ€™s plans for a manned asteroid â€œPlymouth Rockâ€ deep space mission? Thoughts are mixed about the utility of the Space Shuttle missions, and even after years, a consensus is not on the horizon.
Will this amount to another sour taste in the mouths of those who are content with things right here on Earth? Should we allocate our resources into other areas that warrant immediate attention, like social security, education, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, a falling dollar, and our sense of â€œhonorâ€?
Â©2010 by Bruce Baker for Gather.com, All rights reserved