Author Topic: Should asteroid science missions double as impact prevention missions?  (Read 1497 times)

Offline TakeOff

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Asteroid missions are now launched about every second or third year. Hayabusa 2 is on the way, Osiris-Rex is about to launch, the AIDA mission will launch in about 5 years and of course the Rosetta comet mission is also relevant for planetary protection against impact events.


Before a mission to actually divert an asteroid on impact trajectory, it would be nice to study it up close with a precursor probe in orbit or at least for a flyby. This would give information about the asteroid's composition and whatnot and greatly help the design of a deflection mission and other mitigation measures.


- Would it make sense to use the regular flow of asteroid science probes as a reserve to double as such precursor probes, in the case that a near term threat is identified?


The idea is that the next asteroid science mission would not launch until the next one is ready to launch, so that there's always an asteroid probe ready to launch within a few months or so. This would delay in situ asteroid exploration by about two years. It would also require that the science probes are equipped to give data which also is useful for planetary protection. A small impactor would certainly be very valuable for that purpose, but heavy. And ground penetrating radar, although it is power hungry. Maybe space agencies could cooperate to finance such add-ons to otherwise purely scientific missions. Compared to having a specialized probe in storage, this has the advantage of free-riding on science missions and might be cheaper. Also, each probe will be newly made and use the latest technologies.


- Are there synergies enough between asteroid science missions and asteroid redirection missions to make sense out of such a strategy, or would the science be compromised and the data wouldn't matter much for the choice of actual deflection mission anyway?


- And what about the orbital mechanics, is it practical to today (8 months before planned launch) decide that Osiris-Rex, instead of launching to Bennu, should fly to asteroid X which is in a harder to reach trajectory? Could for example a planned Atlas V 411 launch be upgraded to a 452 (if that configuration is established) within a few months?


- Osiris-Rex is a sample return mission, a function which cannot be expected to be used in this scenario because of time and velocities. Would it be useful for planetary protection if it instead made a flyby, with its design as it happens to be today?
« Last Edit: 01/30/2016 10:21 AM by TakeOff »

Offline Akhenaten

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I would propose that asteroid/comet missions should "triple up"- as science missions, reconnaissance missions for planetary protection, and as prospecting missions.

 Given the emergence of enterprises such as Planetary Resources Inc, who have explicitly proposed to prospect for ISRU purposes, the opportunity should not be lost to garner some support from Prospecting Enterprises for asteroid missions, and, eventually, to achieve a return on investment for the global or commercial economy.

With the recent Passage in Congress of the Commercial Launch Services Enabling Act, and the demonstration of additive manufacturing on a sample of asteroidal material (a metallic meteorite) as shown at the CES in Las Vegas earlier this month, the time has come to turn a well-perceived danger (Impact events) into an Opportunity (building a space economy).

A good opportunity to have the public see Space Development as a feasible long-term economic benefit. The time is coming to start a positive, virtuous, circle, if we are not to succumb to those who would "Cut Humanity down to Size!"  at unimaginable human cost.
If there is to be a "Battle" for Hearts and Minds, or a kind of modern day debate between Oswald Cabal and Raymond Passworthy as depicted in the 1936 film "Things to Come!"  we have to play to win.

To paraphrase an old phrase
"It is surely sensible to kill three birds with one stone!"
"Humanity belongs wherever a Keen Eye, Quick Wits, and Intelligence can take Us!"

Offline TakeOff

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I would propose that asteroid/comet missions should "triple up"- as science missions, reconnaissance missions for planetary protection, and as prospecting missions.
Of course! That's a third leg to stand on. Companies could maybe buy instrument slots on space agency science probes. I doubt that is possible today, but these things seem to be viewed ever more flexibly. Other interests might be military and other commercial such as manufacturing, communication et c. but those applications are harder to imagine than science, protection and prospecting for asteroid missions.


Quote
To paraphrase an old phrase
"It is surely sensible to kill three birds with one stone!"
To me, that just sounds cruel and unnecessary. Killing birds just to make a rhetorical point ;-)
Birds are btw the most vocal animal. It has been suggested that humans speak and sing thanks to the existence of birds. A bird is as close to a communication satellite Nature on Earth has created. They even cause their own incoming debris problem and don't care about it, those little dinosaurs.
« Last Edit: 01/30/2016 11:05 AM by TakeOff »

Offline nadreck

All science missions have directly or indirectly added to the needed store of knowledge for impact prevention. However I think the big move is to connect both the responsibility for and cost burden of impact prevention to prospecting. I am pro prospecting but expect prospecting to involve diverting asteroids. Exploiting asteroid resources require techniques and technologies that go hand in hand with impact prevention and may also involve increasing the risk of impact so everything that can be done mitigate that risk seems to squarely rest in the same areas that prospectors are working in.

It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

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