AdminCadet: NASA and the Administration has established the “NASA Asteroid Redirect and Sampling Mission” as the current goal of our Human Space Program. The initiative consists of three stages: First, ground and space based infrastructure will detect, characterize, and select the targeted asteroid. Then the asteroid will be robotically redirected to earth-moon space using a vehicle provided with advanced solar electric propulsion. Placing the asteroid in lunar-vicinity space will establish a rendezvous destination for the Orion and SLS vehicles and allow subsequent human investigation and sampling of the asteroid using Orion / SLS assets during proximity operations.
What do you think of this Human Space Flight Initiative?
My opinion: I’m more in favor of returning to the moon and working toward establishment of a permanent presence on the lunar surface. I think a lunar mission will provide us with invaluable experience and knowledge for a subsequent mission to Mars and its Moons. Yes, I know, President Obama said: “Done that, been there”, but I don’t subscribe to that rather un-informed opinion. I do think the Asteroid Initiative will grow our asteroid detection infrastructure and solar electric propulsion technology, and I see strong advantages in this. But the mission is projected to take until 2023 for completion, with the identification/selection and robotic retrieval operations taking the majority of the schedule. Apparently staged un-crewed flights of the Orion would occur in parallel. Such an extended mission could have detrimental impacts to the NASA human space flight workforce – both in motivation, in loss of near term goals, and limited opportunities for human space flight experience beyond Low Earth Orbit.