“Nine summers ago, I went for a visit,
To see if the moon was green cheese.
When we arrived, people on earth asked: “Is it?”
We answered: “No cheese, no bees, no trees.”
There were rocks and hills and a remarkable view
Of the beautiful earth that you know,
It’s a nice place to visit, and I’m certain that you
will enjoy it when you go.”
Neil Armstrong (1930-2012),
written 1978 for the pleasure of children
Thanks for all you did, Mr. Armstrong — both on earth and above it.
The first exciting steps are closer than you might think. “We’re launching the first telescopes” they say, “in 18 months“. A February 2014 launch date would certainly help convince me this project might actually happen. They also plan on having “10-15″ of them over the next 5 years.
They go on to talk about how they’ll find promising asteroids, and then send rocket-powered versions of these telescopes to the rocks, themselves (very cool). Then they unveil this little tidbit:
There is one incredible concept: We could place the asteroid in an orbit between the Earth and Mars to allow astronauts who want to get there to hop on and off it like a bus. Think about that. You could make a spacecraft out of the asteroid.
Wha-what? These are asteroids that will also be strategically positioned to provide rocket fuel in various stages on the way to Mars. According to Anderson, future Mars programs may rely on Planetary Resources for fuel:
One of our first goals is to deploy networks of orbital rocket propellant depots, effectively setting up gas stations throughout the inner solar system to open up highways for spaceflight.
In the meantime, the search for killer asteroids is being called off:
When we visited the sea lab in early July, staff were getting ready for a visit from James Cameron and Sylvia Earle, in the hopes of drumming up more political support amidst a flagging budget. But in late July, the bad news surfaced: NOAA announced budget cuts that are likely to imperil it for good. “There were signals that the budget was tight but we didn’t think it would be zeroed out,” Thomas Potts, director of Aquarius, told ABC News in July, when the $5 million budget was killed. The lab, which is used extensively during the year for a wide spectrum of non-space-related oceanic research, is no longer mission-ready.
This, despite NASA estimates that there are 4,700 potentially hazardous asteroids. How does NASA define “potentially hazardous”?
NASA defines a potentially hazardous asteroid as one large enough to survive the intense heat generated by entry into the atmosphere and cause damage on a regional scale or worse.
I know the overall odds of a strike are statistically low at any given time, but, you know, considering the world could end, isn’t $5 million a pretty paltry sum, given that the US measures its GDP in the trillions?
Remember that very cool, but highly pixelated postage stamp sized video of the heat shield separating from our latest Mars lander? It didn’t look so crappy because NASA couldn’t afford good cameras. Rather, they didn’t have the bandwidth to send all those frames on the first day. Several dozen MRO, Mars Express, and Odyssey pass bys later, we have a spectacular HD video.
Make sure you maximize this video before watching it. Better yet, port it to your television. It’s THAT awesome.