London, May 7 (UNI) In an attempt to understand more about the genesis of solar system, NASA scientists are planning to land on a 40 metre-wide asteroid travelling at an alarming speed of 28,000 mph.
The scientists are planning to land on the asteroid called 2000SG344 in view of future space exploration. It also aims to give space officials a taste of more complex missions. The samples taken from the rock could help scientists understand more about the birth of the solar system and how best to defend against asteroids that veer into Earth's path.
In a study to be published in the journal Acta Astronautica, scientists at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre in Houston and the Ames Research Centre in California say they envisage the next-generation shuttle Orion delivering a two-man crew in a pod to land on the asteroid as it hurtles through space.
In 2000 , the 1.1m tonne asteroid was given a significant chance of slamming into Earth, as a potential landing site for astronauts, ahead of the Bush administration's plans to venture deeper into the solar system with a crewed voyage to Mars.
''An asteroid will one day be on a collision course with Earth.
Doesn't it make sense, after going to the moon, to start learning more about them? Our study shows it makes perfect sense to do this soon after going back to the moon,'' said Rob Landis, an engineer at Johnson Space Centre and co-author of the report.
More precise measurements of the orbit of 2000SG344 have allayed fears that it could hit Earth sometime around the end of September 2030, but the asteroid is still expected to come close in astronomical terms.
The report lays out plans for a crew of two to rendezvous with a speeding asteroid that is due to pass close by Earth. After a seven-week outward journey, the Orion capsule would swing around and close in on the rock.
With this, scientists believe they would learn more about the psychological effects of long-term missions and the risks of working in deep space, and it would allow astronauts to test kits to convert subsurface ice into drinking water, breathable oxygen and even hydrogen to top up rocket fuel. All of which would be invaluable before embarking on a two-year expedition to Mars.
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