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A Comparison of Astronaut Near-Earth Object Missions

Globus, Al and Cassell, Chris and Covey, Stephen and Luebke, Jim and Sonter, Mark and Versteeg, Bryan and Wolff, James (2012) A Comparison of Astronaut Near-Earth Object Missions. In: AIAA SPACE 2012 Conference & Exposition, 11-13 September 2012, Pasadena, CA.

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NASA intends to send astronauts to a near Earth object (NEO) in or around 2025. This is expected to involve a six month mission with a few weeks stay-time at the NEO. Problems with this concept include lack of abort modes, vulnerability to solar flares, and lack of resupply opportunities. Studies by the authors (the Asteroid Mining Group) and a recent workshop at JPL organized by the Keck Institute opens the door to an alternative that addresses these problems and creates additional opportunities. Both groups investigated the feasibility of bringing one of more small NEOs into Earth or Lunar orbit. Particularly for High Earth Orbits (HEO) or High Lunar Orbits (HLO), this appears feasible with near-term technology, especially high-propellant-velocity, low-thrust solar electric propulsion (SEP) inspace vehicles. This paper compares the currently planned mission with an alternative: bringing one or more NEOs into HEO or HLO using SEP and lunar gravity assist. An astronaut mission to the NEO is then similar to a mission to the Moon without a landing. Trip times are measured in days, the NEO can be used for solar flare protection for most of the mission, and resupply within a few days is practical. Furthermore, materials derived from the NEO, e.g., propellant, water, radiation shielding, metals, silicon, and others, are available for projects in cis-lunar space, including satellite refueling, habitats, and space solar power. The alternative mission also develops much of the technology, experience, and infrastructure needed to protect Earth from potentially hazardous NEOs. As an outcome of these studies we are proposing a process whereby early missions can lead to large-scale industrialization of cis-lunar space based on solar energy and asteroidal resources.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
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Additional Information:© 2012 by Al Globus. Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., with permission. We would like to thank the Space Studies Institute for organizational support.
Group:Keck Institute for Space Studies
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Space Studies InstituteUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20160223-162348976
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Official Citation:Al Globus, Chris Cassell, Stephen Covey, Jim Luebke, Mark Sonter, Bryan Versteeg, and James Wolff. "A Comparison of Astronaut Near-Earth Object Missions", AIAA SPACE 2012 Conference & Exposition, SPACE Conferences and Exposition.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:64699
Deposited By: Colette Connor
Deposited On:24 Feb 2016 19:25
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 23:34

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