NASA Simulates Manned Asteroid Exploration
Landing men on an asteroid has long been a popular trope in science fiction films, from The Phantom Planet (1961) through to Armageddon (1998). Real-life asteroid missions could come within the next decade. Late in August, NASA began a mock near-Earth asteroid (NEA) mission at a facility in Houston to try out potential methods of exploring the massive space rocks.
The simulation was part of NASA’s annual Research and Technology Studies (RATS) program, which was held this year at the Johnson Space Center. Team members used a simulator to approach and land on the asteroid Itokawa, and perform a space walk. NASA is testing a new multi-mission Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) that is designed to use either a wheeled chassis or to fly in space using advanced propulsion systems.
The virtual space walk was performed via a virtual reality lab at the space center, as well as using the NASA Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS), which uses a crane to recreate the weightlessness of space. Crew members inside the SEV operated in a completely simulated environment
NASA plans to launch asteroid exploration missions by 2025.
You can read about the mission at NASA’s blog, and you can see a video about this year’s RATS simulation below: