back to article NASA signs off on sampling mission to Earth-threatening asteroid

NASA has given final approval for a billion-dollar mission to visit one of the most potentially dangerous asteroids to Earth, collect samples and bring them back home for analysis. OSIRIS-REx asteroid sampling mission Asteroid sampler to set off in 2016 The OSIRIS-REx* mission, proposed by the University of Arizona, will …

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Terminator

So...

The thing lands on the asteroid, perturbing the orbit just enough that it actually hits Earth. Oops! I guess that's as close as I get to a tinfoil hat icon.

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Re: So...

You mean it could return 100% of the asteroid as a sample?

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Devil

Re: So...

LOL.......

"Awesome - so totally, totally, fucking awesome!"

(extinction - here we come)

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Its

It's not the ones we know about that are dangerous, it's the ones we haven't seen yet that pose the real problem.

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FAIL

It's all good

Everyone, chill out. We've all seen the documentaries "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon". We know destroying this thing involves a shuttle, landing on the asteroid, and then nuking it to kingdom-come.

...Wait. What do you mean, we scuttled the space shuttle program??

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Coat

Re: It's all good

You forgot Bruce Willis! ... We all know he's the only man with the skillz to do it.

We should freeze him now. Else come the impact date, he'll just be a talking head in a jar :(

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Happy

Acronyms

It's obvious! Asteroid Return Sampling Explorer.

Or for the Americans, Asteroid Sampling Spacecraft.

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Asteroids are sneaky!

Remember what happened last time?

While we had our eye on one getting to close, it's little buddy slipped in from the opposite direction and went on a window busting spree in Russia!

Better put a camera on the back of that probe, just in case!

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Mushroom

But..

For the text, it looks like if we wait long enough, the whole asteroid will fall into our laps anyway.

I'd propose a mission that waits until it does so, and then spend the hopefully well-invested mission funding scooping up whatever bits that survives Earth entry. (Oh yes, and help pay for whatever damages it causes)

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Happy

Re: But..

Cheaper to wait- £10 for the cart, £10 for the donkey to pull it, £10 for the shovel and £2 for the six survivors to dig out the bits.

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Mushroom

The good news is....

We'll know exactly what we are about to get hit by!

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Re: The good news is....

Which, to be serious for a moment, could be useful as knowing what the thing is made of could help define a suitable evasion strategy.

Moreover - if the data is of most use to James Cameron and his asteroid mining buddies, why don't they pay for part of that mission and save NASA some bucks for other things?

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Happy

Re: Real science

None if the Space Shuttles crashed. They exploded in mid air. A flight vehicle is considered to have crashed if the bulk of the craft makes an unplanned or uncommanded impact with the ground while in mostly one piece.

I'm not sure you realize how close to disaster space exploration always is and how much sheer good luck is involved. Even in the orbiting tin can (I agree thats what it is but its still cool) the chance for disaster is huge and their are human lives at stake. Every space related dollar spent helps pave the way for safer exploration and the worst thing space agencies can do is sign on for insanely risky missions and irritate the tax payer too much and lose even more funding. It's going to take a lot longer than 50 years to get it to the point we can feasibly explore those planet size moons.

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Re: Real science

As a 'murican, I would rather see the money expended on Real Science instead of the costly and wasteful spending for The War Against Terror, or the long running The War On Drugs.

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Surely the issue with two lost shuttles is that they suffered not bad luck but bad management.

But of course, a few hundred grams of junk could destroy the ISS tonight.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Real science

I blame Microsoft!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Real science

Yes I surpose Microsoft are to blame a bit. 30 years of restricting interoperability for the sole purpose of lockin does stifle innovation. Not personal, all successful business do this for as long as possible, be nuts not to.

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Stop

Re: Real science

@AC - May 2013 04:48 GMT

Please use more CAPITALS. Foaming at the mouth comes across much better on the Internet when typing all in caps.

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Thumb Up

Let's hope LM get the accelerometer the right way up this time.

IIRC that was why the Stardust capsule (comet, not asteroid) plowing into the desert.

The $240m on the rocket suggests they will be using an Atlas but I wonder what the price for an F9H would be?

A lot can happen between now and launch day....

Reservations apart thumbs up for an exciting and demanding mission.

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Re: Let's hope LM get the accelerometer the right way up this time.

You'd think that somebody could have spent 2 seconds with a Sharpie marker and drawn an arrow on the accelerometer. That such a small part destroyed the integrity of that missions findings has always bothered me.

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Trollface

Re: Let's hope LM get the accelerometer the right way up this time.

> That such a small part destroyed the integrity of that missions findings has always bothered me.

Well, it shouldn't.

UPDATE THE REQUIREMENTS LIST FOR NEXT TIME:

1.1) The accelerometer assembly SHALL be marked with an arrow point to the TOP of the accelerometer.

1.2) The accelerometer acceptance bay SHALL be marked with an an arrow indicating the location of the accelerometer TOP in a complete assembly.

1.3) The assembly specialist MUST check before launch that the installed accelerometer marking TOP and the accelerometer acceptance bay marking TOP do correspond.

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Unhappy

Re: Let's hope LM get the accelerometer the right way up this time.

IIRC LM said it was something to do with someone reading the blue prints from the wrong side.

In an era of CAD/CAM systems plotters and high resolution laser printers I did not know anyone actually used them any more.

Hard to believe...

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Happy

Re: Let's hope LM get the accelerometer the right way up this time.

Yep. Blueprints are still common practice. Here at our place the machine shop uses the plotter outputs for initial designs and spec compliance but after everything is approved we send the files off to a traditional blueprint shop. The high contrast makes them easier to see, the blue color hides the splatters of layout fluid that inevitably get on them and it reduces confusion: Too many white pieces of paper has more than once led to expensive rework. With the blueprints you get a higher level of confidence that you're working with the correct plans. Plus they look very cool framed and hung on the wall.

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Re: Let's hope LM get the accelerometer the right way up this time.

...and it reduces confusion: Too many white pieces of paper has more than once led to expensive rework. With the blueprints you get a higher level of confidence that you're working with the correct plans.

Oh how I wish that were standard practise in the construction industry nowadays! The number of times I'm talking to someone on a job and they've got no idea which version of the drawings they're looking at, and the spec and the drawings disagree... GRRRRRRRRRRAAAAARRRGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! It's just a big old folder full of badly-organised and badly-named files, so no-one can find anything.

I dread to think what that must be like with plans for complicated things like aeroplanes or spaceships - as opposed to simple things like buildings.

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Re: Let's hope LM get the accelerometer the right way up this time.

Most well designed non-low level industrial electrical or electro-mechanical components are designed so that they cannot be fitted in an incorrect orientation. It's always possible to stuff up the original drawings but with modern circuit software and simulations if the part is correctly described then incorrect orientation should be flagged up very quickly. Unfortunately I've come across a lot of custom parts that don't stick with this basic principle and have seen a lot of destroyed components as a result, and have done some of this destroying myself. :)

One off pieces of machinery like these probes are largely assembled by humans and designing from the ground up on the basis that the assembling human will insert parts incorrectly given the slightest opportunity to do so is the right way to design. Unfortunately I have come across "engineers" who when faced with parts that didn't fit in the orientation that they tried bent or removed pins to force the part to fit rather than rotate the component 180 degrees therefore you can't always protect yourself from idiots but I'd hope that the NASA team employed better assemblers than these.

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Anonymous Coward

Mission naming

The only reason for thinking that Mark Shuttleworth was not subcontracted to do the mission naming is that the two parts of its name do not begin with the same letter. (Or is this a cunning plan to throw people off the scent?)

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Coat

Re: Mission naming

So a Team put together for a Reconnaissance mission to an Asteroid, sometime in the Future could be...

Future Asteroid Reconnaissance Team?

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"But this is a problem in itself – current orbital calculations suggest there are a potential eight impact points between it and our home planet between 2169 and 2199, with 2182 the most likely date."

So it could hit us eight times...

I suggest on the first impact we grab hold of it real tight so it can't bounce off again into space. If we let it go it will have developed a taste for small planets and will likely just come charging at us again after working up a really long run up. I don't blame the asteroid per se, after-all it is just it's natural instinct to ram planets, but I don't think we can let it run amok with such gay abandon.

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Coat

You just need to taunt it a second time and it will go away.

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You know I'm wondering if some people could stick a spear through it, tie its legs to a stick and haul it off to a Lagrange point for later mining attempts.

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JDX
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So now we'll know exactly what it is that wipes us out

Great.

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Great Idea

I will be the first to say "I told you so" when the asteroid follows its babies back to Earth..

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Billion Dollar Bang on asteroid 101955 Bennu because NASA has cotton wool for brains

So in summary,a billion dollars is going to be spent on sending a rocket to a half kilometer size asteroid to gather a pound of rock that has less than a 1% chance in 156 years time of hitting the Earth. As one rendezvous is not enough to know how much the orbit might change with time and multiple radar mappings based from Earth bound telescopes would far more accurately determine its actual orbit next century. Spectroscopic analysis from the Earth or from satellites orbiting the Earth would tell us if this is a carbon chondrite, a stony asteroid, a stony iron or a nickel iron meteorite. Perturbations of of the orbit of 101955 Bennu by other passing asteroids will determine its mass and density. We do not need to spend a billion dollars to do what we can do from Earth for a hundred thousand dollars.

Now I do give the marketing team full marks for talking a hole in NASA'S head. They are brilliant in getting NASA to spend a billion dollars on a "PROJECT TO NOWHERE"

Now The Dawn Mission, launched in 2007, that has already mapped the giant asteroid(dwarf planet) Vesta of 525 kilometers in 2011-2012 and will be arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres of 952 kilometers in 2015 designed and built by Orbital Sciences and managed by JPL has been a magnificent success so far at a cost of less than half a billion dollars for detailed analysis and year long photography of really giant bodies.

There are two other giant asteroids Pallas of 544 kilometers and Hygiea of 431 kilometers. The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) surveys have found 140 asteroids with diameters of 120 kilometers or more and we have to spend a billion dollars on a pint size half kilometer asteroid that has an infinitesimally low chance in 150 years time of colliding with the Earth.

Now let us suppose that a 10 kilometer asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, What do you think a 120 mile or 500 mile asteroid let alone Ceres of 952 kilometers, will do to life on Earth. Do you not think that money is being thrown at irrelevant garbage to make some guys rich?

Will it not make more sense to send out ion drive probes like Dawn to map the hundreds of 50 kilometer plus asteroids over the next 100 years. Let us stop swatting flies when there is a herd of elephants inside the house.

NASA, wake up and get your priorities straight and get somebody with an IQ of slightly above 2 to manage the billion dollars you spend. Make the projects worthwhile with long lasting relevance. You are making scientists look like idiots. The paying public will not thank you for this in the years to come.

Think NASA

Chris Landau (geologist)

5/20/2013

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Death Star?

Who put the Death Star in orbit of the Earth for the picture? I assume it's a Death Star given a) the appearance and b) it's far too small to be the Moon.

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