Asteroid Redirect Mission
The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), also known as the Asteroid Retrieval and Utilization (ARU) mission and the Asteroid Initiative, is a potential future space mission proposed by NASA. Still in the early stages of planning and development, the ARU is a mission to bring a small near-Earth asteroid into lunar orbit, where it could be further analyzed both by unmanned craft and by a future manned mission. NASA hopes to complete the mission, which may take anywhere from six to ten years, in time to accomplish its stated goal of landing humans on an asteroid by 2025.
The Asteroid Retrieval and Utilization mission, excluding any manned missions to an asteroid which it may enable, was the subject of a design study by the Keck Institute for Space Studies. The mission cost was estimated by NASA Glenn to cost about $2.6 billion, of which $105 million has been proposed for 2014. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has stated that: "This mission represents an unprecedented technological feat that will lead to new scientific discoveries and technological capabilities and help protect our home planet." The manned retrieval of samples has been criticized as an unnecessary part of the mission, as thousands of meteorites have already been analyzed.
The spacecraft for the ARM mission, which is as yet unnamed, would be built with a large, 15-metre (50 ft) capture bag capable of holding an asteroid up to 8 m (26 ft) in diameter. The spacecraft would be equipped with Hall-effect ion thrusters for propulsion, which fire at low acceleration but can fire for many years to move the spacecraft at high speed. These engines would be powered by ring-shaped solar panels.
Once launched from its Atlas V rocket in 2015, the spacecraft used for the mission would slowly spiral out of Earth orbit for about two years. Using a gravitational slingshot, it would then spend another two years going to the target asteroid, arriving there in 2019. If the Asteroid Retrieval and Utilization mission and the Space Launch System are both completed on schedule, a manned mission to the asteroid brought to lunar orbit could be launched as early as 2021.
NASA additional mission aims include demonstrating planetary defense techniques able to protect the Earth in the future - such as using robotic spacecraft to deflect dangerous asteroids. The asteroid chosen for capture by NASA will have a mass and a size too small to harm the Earth, because it would burn up in the atmosphere. Redirecting the asteroid mass to a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon will ensure it will not hit Earth and also leave it in a stable orbit.
By testing the capabilities needed for a crewed mission to the Red Planet in the 2030s NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission will greatly advance NASA’s human path to Mars.
As of June 2014[update] more than 1,000 new near-Earth asteroids have been discovered by various search teams and catalogued by NASA's Near-Earth Object Observation Program. 20 of those identified so far could be good candidates for ARM. On June 19, 2014, NASA reported that asteroid 2011 MD was a prime candidate for capture by a robotic mission, perhaps in the early 2020s.
There is a rival design of ARM robotic spacecraft which extracts a boulder from a much larger asteroid using a robotic arm.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Asteroid Capture Mission.|
- NASA press release on Asteroid Retrieval and Exploitation mission
- NASA 2014 budget proposal with details on ARU mission
- Video - Animation: Asteroid Redirect Mission, may 2013, 4 min
- Video - Asteroid Redirect Mission Concept Animation, august 2013, 4min