Nasa is considering the idea of capturing an asteroid and placing it into lunar orbit giving our satellite, a satellite.
Researchers at the Keck Institute for Space Studies in California have confirmed that NASA is considering giving our moon a friend to roam the galaxy with. The plan involves launching a robotic spaceship that would capture an asteroid, then dropping it high into lunar orbit.
The mission would cost something along the line of $2.6 billion dollars to achieve the feat and could feasibly be done by 2020.
NASA’s interest in the mission stems from the Obama administrations interest in sending astronauts to asteroids that are near-Earth. Currently at this point the only possible target for such a mission would be a dangerous six month trip to a space rock called 1999-AO10. Capturing an asteroid and bringing it to the moon would be safer, albeit a far more complex solution.
The proposal for grabbing an asteroid requires a specially designed space craft. The current proposal for lassoing an asteroid would use a specially designed space craft. Our friends at New Scientist elaborate:
The Keck team envisions launching a slow-moving spacecraft, propelled by solar-heated ions, on an Atlas V rocket. The craft would then propel itself out to a target asteroid, probably a small space rock about 7 metres wide. After studying it briefly, the robot would catch the asteroid in a bag measuring about 10 metres by 15 metres and head back towards the moon. Altogether it would take about six to 10 years to deliver the asteroid to lunar orbit.
The mission is anything but easy, and Louis Friedman of the Planetary Society agrees stating that the proposal still needs some technical and scientific fine tuning.
There are some alternatives to giving the moon a moon, one involving placing an asteroid at Earth Moon Lagrange point 2. An object around point 2 will be able to maintain the same relative position with respect to the Sun and Earth, making shielding and calibration much simpler.
Would you like to see our moon with a moon? Let us know what you think in the comments below!