NASA Teams Up with SpaceX for Historic Space Venture

( – NASA had a plan to send astronauts to an asteroid that made a close pass near Earth, and now the concept is being retooled to include SpaceX and its Starship rocket.

The idea was a consolation prize after Obama had canceled plans to return to the moon. The idea originated during a 2010 speech he gave at Kennedy Space Center. The idea was that they would do a crewed mission to an asteroid that made a close approach as a stepping stone to a manned mission to Mars.

Obama’s proposal was quickly dismissed by researchers in favor of another plan to redirect or nudge asteroids that were approaching and potentially threatening Earth.

MIT professor Dr. Richard Binzel is one of the foremost leaders in celestial bodies and astrophysics and he was very critical of the plan, instead suggesting that a survey of potential threats would be a more appropriate step if we’re serious about planetary defense.

Obama’s proposal died once Trump came into office and he switched gears back to a manned moon mission before a crewed Mars expedition under a program called Artemis. The program was incredibly popular and successful with the launch of the Artemis-1, an unmanned probe that went around the moon. President Biden has continued the program and a crewed mission is planned for some time in late 2024 or thereafter.

A recent attempt to divert an asteroid resulted in a swarm of small boulders being ejected from the surface. The boulders were merely sticking to its surface and not a part of its structure and were shaken loose by the impact of the spacecraft diverting its trajectory. The asteroid poses no threat to Earth which is why it was chosen for the experiment. It also indicates one of the potential pitfalls of this kind of intervention.

NASA will launch its Near-Earth Object Surveyor in 2027 to help identify any potentially threatening celestial bodies.

In 2039, a Starship is set to be launched into orbit and then take a crew out to asteroid 2001 FR85. The crew would collect samples and leave behind robots and other equipment for research purposes and return to Earth. The combined goals of researching rare minerals and defending the planet from potentially threatening strikes like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs prove valuable reasons to study space rocks that come close to Earth.

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