Author Topic: Threats from Space: Efforts to Track and Mitigate Asteroids and Meteors I & II  (Read 4894 times)

Offline QuantumG

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Yeah, as simonbp put it succinctly in another thread, just spend a day or two examining the asteroid spectroscopically to figure out where you need to sample, and then collect the samples.  Astronauts won't add much except for a lot of costs and constraints.  Big bodies like Ceres and Vesta might be different, but for this purpose lots of robotic probes are the way to go.

What's your time frame? There's currently neither the robotic sophistication nor the human spaceflight capability to do that.

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Offline ChileVerde

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During the hearing, Holdren referred on a number of occasions to this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Near-Earth-Objects-Finding-Them-Before/dp/0691149291/

And, I just found out elsewhere, he said in that same hearing,

Quote
Statement of Dr. John P. Holdren
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President of the United States
to the
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
United States House of Representatives
on
March 19, 2013

<snip>

And of course NASA is committed to carrying out the President's goal of conducting a human mission to an asteroid by 2025. That mission will benefit from current efforts to detect, track, and characterize NEOs by speeding the identification of potential targets for exploration. And in return, such a mission will generate invaluable information for use in future detection and mitigation efforts.

So on March 19 and 20 Bolden and Holdren, both high officials with relevant responsibilities, said three times (Bolden twice, Holdren once) that the plan is to do Asteroid 2025. Maybe we should pay attention to that.

Edit: Spell
« Last Edit: 03/23/2013 11:12 PM by ChileVerde »
"I can’t tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025," Bolden asserted.

Offline spectre9

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The best way to get to an asteroid is to invest in detection.

That way mission options open.

So are they funding detector spacecraft or are they just promising a NEA mission in around 15 years when they're all retired and it's not their problem?  ::)

Offline Lar

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The best way to get to an asteroid is to invest in detection.

That way mission options open.

So are they funding detector spacecraft or are they just promising a NEA mission in around 15 years when they're all retired and it's not their problem?  ::)

We need a LOT of detection. Then we need a swarm of investigative automation and then we need some tests on how to change asteroid orbits enough to make them miss...  I don't know for sure we need humans in there.

Maybe NASA should sign up for all the data PRI can produce.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk

Offline Proponent

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Yeah, as simonbp put it succinctly in another thread, just spend a day or two examining the asteroid spectroscopically to figure out where you need to sample, and then collect the samples.  Astronauts won't add much except for a lot of costs and constraints.  Big bodies like Ceres and Vesta might be different, but for this purpose lots of robotic probes are the way to go.

What's your time frame? There's currently neither the robotic sophistication nor the human spaceflight capability to do that.

Asteroid sample return has been demonstrated on a very small scale by Habayusa.  Making that work better and on a larger scale and applying it to many NEAs is certainly going to be much cheaper and faster than than sending humans to a similar number of NEAs.

Online JohnFornaro

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Robotic spacecraft will always be better than humans at scientific data gathering, mostly because of the multiplicative effect. If you send a human, only that human gets to gather that information. Whereas with complex imagery and complex sensors you can spread the information over a wealth of scientists.

Well, I've heard of a congress of baboons and a gaggle of geese.  Did not know about the grouping: A wealth of scientists.

You are probably right that a scientist equipped with clay tablets and a cuniform stylus will gather less information than robots with those "complex sensors" you mention.  However, the intent would be to send an scientist operating a swarm of probe sats in near real time, by virtue of proximity to the NEO's.

I don't necessarily agree with the prioritization of a human mission to a NEO, but it is false that robots are "always better than humans" at gathering data.  It is never "either/or" regarding robots and humans.  It is always, "case by case".
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Rocket Science

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If you want to do a NEO as part of a hardware shakedown test for a Mars mission fine. If that is “the mission”, that’s just lame....
“You can execute another study or study the actual execute. It’s time to bend some metal and send it uphill.”

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Offline QuantumG

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Asteroid sample return has been demonstrated on a very small scale by Habayusa.  Making that work better and on a larger scale and applying it to many NEAs is certainly going to be much cheaper and faster than than sending humans to a similar number of NEAs.

.. and?

You're making a tradeoff that isn't on the table. I don't know why people insist on having the humans vs robots argument.. there's never going to be a magical feat of logic that causes human spaceflight funding to shift to robotic exploration.


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Offline woods170

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I hate to admit it but QuantumG hits the nail smack-center on the head.

Offline Proponent

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Asteroid sample return has been demonstrated on a very small scale by Habayusa.  Making that work better and on a larger scale and applying it to many NEAs is certainly going to be much cheaper and faster than than sending humans to a similar number of NEAs.

.. and?

You're making a tradeoff that isn't on the table. I don't know why people insist on having the humans vs robots argument.. there's never going to be a magical feat of logic that causes human spaceflight funding to shift to robotic exploration.

I expect no such shift.  I'm just pointing out that if learning enough about asteroids to be able to defend against a hazardous one were to become a high priority, then the rational thing to do would be to build many robotic probes.  Build lots of OSIRIS-RExes, because the robotic technology is closer at hand and much cheaper.

If, contrary to my expectations, asteroid defense becomes a high priority, I think a substantial boost in funding of robotic asteroid probes  is much more likely than the enormous boost in funding of human missions that would be required to provide an equivalent level of knowledge about asteroid deflection.

Offline QuantumG

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I expect no such shift.  I'm just pointing out that if learning enough about asteroids to be able to defend against a hazardous one were to become a high priority, then the rational thing to do would be to build many robotic probes.  Build lots of OSIRIS-RExes, because the robotic technology is closer at hand and much cheaper.

If, contrary to my expectations, asteroid defense becomes a high priority, I think a substantial boost in funding of robotic asteroid probes  is much more likely than the enormous boost in funding of human missions that would be required to provide an equivalent level of knowledge about asteroid deflection.

You're still making either-or statements!

The budgets are mostly unrelated.. yes, there's a theory that robotic exploration wouldn't get as much funding if human spaceflight were cut, and there's occasional raiding of budgets, but ultimately robotic exploration is not in competition with human spaceflight.

The only question worth asking is if human spaceflight could deliver any data about asteroid/comet threats that is worth having. The answer is obviously yes, and that focusing human spaceflight on that goal is better than the alternatives. (at least it's obvious to me, as defending the planet is more worthwhile than boring holes into LEO and it gives an intermediate goal before colonization begins, others may disagree).

Don't bring up robotic exploration when someone starts a conversation about the value of sending humans to explore asteroids. The two are completely unrelated.
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Offline Proponent

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You're still making either-or statements!

Yeah, and if they happen to be true, I'm not sure I see the problem.

Quote
The budgets are mostly unrelated.. yes, there's a theory that robotic exploration wouldn't get as much funding if human spaceflight were cut, and there's occasional raiding of budgets, but ultimately robotic exploration is not in competition with human spaceflight.

I basically agree.

Quote
The only question worth asking is if human spaceflight could deliver any data about asteroid/comet threats that is worth having. The answer is obviously yes, and that focusing human spaceflight on that goal is better than the alternatives. (at least it's obvious to me, as defending the planet is more worthwhile than boring holes into LEO and it gives an intermediate goal before colonization begins, others may disagree).

Sure, a human NEA mission could deliver useful data.  As Blackstar pointed out several posts up, however, what's really needed are visits to many NEAs, and that's really implausible with human missions.  And it would be massively ironic if the people who decide these things decided that for safety a human mission had to be preceded by a robotic mission, as many have argued in this forum.

Quote
Don't bring up robotic exploration when someone starts a conversation about the value of sending humans to explore asteroids. The two are completely unrelated.

It's funny, but I could have sworn the topic was something like efforts to track and mitigate asteroids and meteors.... :)

Offline QuantumG

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Sure, a human NEA mission could deliver useful data.  As Blackstar pointed out several posts up, however, what's really needed are visits to many NEAs, and that's really implausible with human missions.

I don't disagree with any individual statement here.

I'll ask again: what's one got to do with the other?

The only reason to bring it up is if you think the money that would be spent on a human mission could be shifted to what's "really needed". You just agreed that this isn't historically possible.

Quote
And it would be massively ironic if the people who decide these things decided that for safety a human mission had to be preceded by a robotic mission, as many have argued in this forum.

.. and? Are you trying to say that sending a robotic mission to explore a particular asteroid means that later sending humans to explore the same asteroid would not deliver any more useful data? If not, what are you saying here?

Quote
It's funny, but I could have sworn the topic was something like efforts to track and mitigate asteroids and meteors.... :)

We don't currently know enough about asteroids (or comets) to seriously say we can mitigate them.
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Online Robotbeat

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I hate to admit it but QuantumG hits the nail smack-center on the head.
I agree, but don't encourage him! ;)
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Online Blackstar

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I hate to admit it but QuantumG hits the nail smack-center on the head.
I agree, but don't encourage him! ;)

No, he's confused the whole issue. We're not talking about "space exploration" in general here, where the humans vs. robots angle is tired and over-simplified. We're talking about searching for, studying, and mitigating the threat of asteroids. And in that case the humans make no sense. What is needed for that is:

-good search data (humans not needed)
-good characteristics/ground truth on a lot of asteroids (humans not needed here either)

Sending a human mission to a single asteroid, or even a couple of them, isn't going to help at all, because the data gathered is not going to be applicable to the much broader sample size. It's not the reason to do it, and it's not a good reason to do it.

Go read the NRC study. They looked at the issue and came down pretty clearly on it.

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