According to a planetary scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, asteroids could aid NASA greatly in helping colonize Mars in the future.
Richard Binzel believes that asteroids could be used as stepping stones in reaching the Red Planet, which has been tagged by NASA as the “ultimate human destination”. Although the agency is continuously developing plans to make flyby’s, many scientists hope that we will finally be able to make a landing on Mars by 2030.
In hopes of preparing such a mission, NASA announced its intent to implement an Asteroid Redirect Mission by approximately 2025, where robotic probes would be used to drag an asteroid, or at least boulder-sized rocks from larger asteroids into the lunar orbit. After succeeding, NASA aims to send astronauts to the asteroid by using the Orion crew capsule.
The ARM (Asteroid Redirect Mission) represents, therefore, a preliminary goal for NASA’s Space Launch System rockets, in their attempt at bringing astronauts to Mars.
There are, however, voices harshly criticizing NASA’s ARM mission.
“There’s nothing about sending humans to Mars that requires us to capture an asteroid in a baggie. That’s a multibillion dollar expenditure that has nothing to do with getting humans to Mars,”
Richard Binzel, professor of Planetary Sciences said about the ARM mission.
As he views it, developing complex operations and hardware necessary to contain asteroids and place them in lunar orbit represents no value to NASA’s mission of sending a crew of astronauts to Mars. Instead, Binzel suggests scrapping ARM altogether and attempt another approach.
NASA could, in Binzel’s opinion, begin mapping all space rocks over 33 feet that are in orbit between Earth and the Red Planet. These are not documented by ground-based telescopes, however, after being mapped by NASA, a series of missions could be prepared that would send astronaut crews to soe of them.
The missions could progressively become longer, until the confidence and experience is built to undertake the years-long travel that would bring astronauts to Mars.
“We have to leave the cradle of Earth sometime. Asteroid missions could be a win-win for exploration and for safety.”
As NASA currently has a budget of $17,8 billion, the agency could invest in a dedicated space telescope costing no more than $800 million, Binzel believes, which could then be used to map the space bodies in question. The mapping project could also have the added benefit of also detecting asteroids on collision courses with Earth.