The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is developing a space shotgun to test the strength of asteroids and other space rocks.
It was announced in the third week of September 2015 by Brooklyn-based Honeybee Robotics that is involved in the development of the technology.
The space shotgun is intended to determine whether mass is sturdy enough for sampling and it is part of NASA’s Asteriod Redirect Mission.
Features of Asteriod Redirect Mission (ARM)
• It is NASA’s first-ever robotic mission to visit a large near-Earth asteroid, collect a multi-ton boulder from its surface, and redirect it into a stable orbit around the moon.
• Once an asteroid is in a stable orbit, astronauts will explore it in the deep space and return with samples.
• The samples will lead to new scientific discoveries about the formation of our solar system and beginning of life on Earth.
• A spacecraft as part of the mission will be launched by 2020 and the astronauts will return with samples in 2020s.
• The mission also will demonstrate planetary defense techniques to deflect dangerous asteroids and protect Earth if needed in the future.
• It is part of NASA’s plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience needed for a human mission to the Martian system in the 2030s.
How ARM will help NASA’s Mars Mission?
Flight to Mars will be a long and difficult journey for astronauts and launch vehicles as well.
In case of emergencies or for any support launch vehicles once launched cannot be returned easily from the deep space to the Earth.
Hence, astronauts need some mid-way stations in the space that can be used for docking, resupply and operational support.
At present, the International Space Station (ISS) at a distance of 400 km from the Earth is serving the purpose.
However, due to its limited space and nearness to the Earth it will not be suitable for deep space probes, including to Mars, in fulfilling stop-gap needs.
Hence, the asteroids redirected into stable orbits around the moon are the best replacement for the ISS as they will be located in a ‘similar’ environment to the Earth and at the same time at the appropriate distance.
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Who: NASA's Space shotgun