NASA wants to chip off a big piece of a near-earth asteroid so that it can send a manned mission to retrieve samples without having to fly outside the moon’s orbit to do so. The only problem is that they need to know composition and strength of what they are about to chip away. This is where Honeybee Robotics thinks they have a solution with their “Space Shotgun.”
The concept is relatively simple: a probe called the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle will fly up to the asteroid and shoot it in a particular area with a projectile. By measuring the rebound speed of the projectile or its contents, or even how big of a crater it makes, scientists can determine how solid the rock is and if it would withstand the recovery and exploration process by a manned mission.
The hope is that by the mid 2020s such a mission, dubbed the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), could be launched as a dual pronged effort to learn more about our solar system and to prepare us for a manned spaceflight to Mars sometime in the 2030s. It will also serve as a proof-of-concept for technologies needed to redirect an incoming killer asteroid from impacting Earth.
The mission was the result of a controversial reformatting of space goals under the Obama Administration that stepped away from the ambitious Constellation Program which would have returned men to the moon, and towards commercial spaceflight and an eventual manned trip to mars, albeit ones decades away.
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Sources: NASA, Motherboard