Manned Asteroid Missions Could Come Soon
Artist concept of OSIRIS-REx. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)
Instead of a man on the moon, pretty soon we could see a man on an asteroid.
NASA already has a program in place called OSIRIS-REx which will launch an unmanned spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016, but after that, a manned mission to an asteroid is a possibility. Jay Melosh, Professor of Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, says going to an asteroid is more challenging than lunar missions but it doesn't offer as many challenges as landing on an actual planet.
Melosh says asteroids have been talked about as a source of minerals, metals, fuel, and oxygen for breathing. He says both unmanned and manned trips to an asteroid can tell us more about the resources they have to offer.
Brian Murphy with the Holcomb Observatory at Butler University says the plan during the George W. Bush administration was to go back to the moon. However, the National Academy of Sciences decided to go somewhere new with the asteroids. Melosh says a manned mission to an asteroid would be a warmup for possibly sending astronauts to Mars.