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In Refining the Asteroid Initiative, NASA Turns to the Public

Pretty rare that an organization as prestigious as NASA asks anybody else for ideas. Like most of us, I assumed they pretty much knew everything about everything. However, in looking for refinements to their Asteroid Initiative, an ongoing project to defend Earth against asteroids, NASA called on outside professionals and creative amateurs alike to submit ideas to this ongoing study. A conference showcasing the best ideas was held in November and a still more select group of concepts was released just last Friday.

Like the Red Sox asking a random Bostonian to play a couple innings at shortstop, NASA received an enthusiastic response from those space enthusiasts who heard the call. Of over 400 submissions, NASA selected 96 concepts to explore in a workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston last November. NASA is seriously considering some of the ideas presented, and there is reason to think they may employ more crowdsourcing of this type in the future.

Many of the submissions were potential refinements to the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which aims to capture an actual asteroid around 7-10 meters wide and pull it into lunar orbit. The initial capture and repositioning would be performed by an unmanned spacecraft, but once the rock is inside the moon’s orbit, astronauts could visit it using the Orion crew capsule. These human visits to the asteroid could help NASA gain more information on the nature of asteroids and thus aid the effort to defend Earth against them.

Asteroid IN POST

The workshop included a variety strategies for how an unmanned spacecraft could wrangle an asteroid and bring it into lunar orbit. The full assessment of the ideas discussed at the conference can be read in detail in NASA’s Final Report. (NASA)

While my suggestion didn’t make the official cut, I still think that sending Bruce Willis to blow up any oncoming asteroids makes a lot of sense. I actually have a simulation of exactly how this idea would work in both DVD and BluRay formats. Let me know if you want to check it out over popcorn sometime.


A notional concept video for the Asteroid Redirect Mission. (NASA)

Do you have an idea for how NASA could best defend our planet against an oncoming asteroid? Does it involve Ben Affleck and/or Liv Tyler, because if so that’s my idea and you should know they aren’t interested. Tell us your thoughts below. Include as much detail as possible. We don’t want to miss a thing.

Sources: NASA, Space.com

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