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NASA asteroid redirect mission delayed again

Due to the uncertainty of its budget NASA has decided to delay the award of the contracts to begin work on its asteroid redirect mission (ARM).

The uncertainty is that Congress has never budgeted any real money for it. The mission was proposed by Obama but only vaguely, without any real support. First it was to be a manned mission to an asteroid, using Orion. Then it was to be an unmanned mission to bring a large asteroid closer to Earth to be later visited by astronauts in an Orion capsule. Then the large asteroid became a mere boulder, with the manned mission delayed until the unforeseen future.

I think NASA sees the writing on the wall here. They expect this vague unsupported mission to die with the next administration, and have decided it is better not to waste money on it now.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

2 comments

  • LocalFluff

    ARM is a joke and I think that NASA has handled it well. They have invested as little as possible in it, and that mostly went into the Solar Electric tug which is useful for many things. Not much seems to have been wasted on ARM specific stuff.

    On the Moon, boulders are eroded by micrometeorites by something like 1 millimeter per million years. So boulders on the Moon are relatively rare results from larger impacts. They shrink by a meter or so per billion years. For sure, the Moon attracts more micrometeorites than asteroids, because of its much greater mass and I suppose also from impact ejecta returning as micrometeorites. But it makes me doubt that a boulder on an asteroid would be the primordial untouched piece of material that formed the Solar system 4,567,000,000 years ago. They should instead be recently formed and have been badly battered ever since.

    Tens of meters of the Lunar surface consists of nothing but asteroid materials that came from the Main Belt after the Moon was formed. The Moon is the place to go to in order to study the composition of asteroids.

    NASA has been waiting for an opportunity to kill this silly ARM nightmare. It has the signs of group think. Obama wanted to have an anti-Bush space program. Some less informed WH adviser suggested sending astronauts to a near Earth asteroid, which sounds cool for mining and planetary protection. But since that is harder than to go to Mars or to the Moon, it was changed into towing a boulder to Lunar orbit in order to save face. The alternative would’ve been to land humans on Mars as a stepping stone to an asteroid mission. There’s tens of years between the conjunctions with a NEA, since they have similar orbital periods as the Earth. And going from 6 months in LEO to 10 years in deep space is a big leap. Who wants to spend ten years in a tin can?

  • LocalFluff

    The uncertainty about AIM does not affect development of DART, however.
    So NASA will build an asteroid impactor, DART, without ESA’s asteroid orbiter, AIM, to observe it? Hubble, if still in action when it is supposed to hit the asteroid 6 years from now, could maybe catch a glance. But the mission is simply not motivated anymore without AIM. Another total failure because of the very much higher risks with international cooperations compared with doing it nationally or commercially. All money, time and effort completely wasted for nothing just because of political corruption and the naive stupidity of easily fooled space administrators.

    One could even suspect that ESA canceled AIM in order to take revenge on NASA for having canceled their participation in the Europa moon mission and the ExoMars rover mission. The decision was recently taken by the political leaders of ESA, so it was politically motivated. They probably wanted to teach NASA a lesson by deliberately sabotaging their DART mission like NASA has sabotaged two of the biggest ESA missions in recent years. Luckily, instead Russia came to the rescue for the ExoMars rover mission.

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