NASA Testing Gear to Send Humans Into Sapce to Explore Asteroids

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-05-14 Print this article Print

To solve that problem, NASA is looking at bringing aboard separate, extra portable tanks that can provide the needed oxygen.

Those spacewalking astronauts will also need a way to communicate with each other and with NASA's Mission Control back on Earth, so they'll have to bring aboard a specialized radio system and antenna just for that purpose since the Orion systems won't work for an EVA, said Bowie. For that system to work, the crew will have to poke the system's dedicated antenna out of the cabin door when they want to use it.

"It's not real high-tech, but it doesn't have to be," said Bowie. "It works."

The idea of capturing and redirecting asteroids arose because they are usually very far away and hard to study, said Bowie. "It takes a long time to get to them. We wanted to get them closer so it's easier for our astronauts to explore them, other than having to take years to get to them."

The Orion spacecraft needs modifications for the mission because it was not designed for EVAs, but only as a vehicle to carry people from point A to point B, said Bowie. Orion is a new NASA vehicle that will undergo its first unmanned test flight later in 2014 on a Delta rocket booster. Orion will eventually be lifted into space on a live mission by the U.S. Space Launch System (SLS) booster, which is the most powerful rocket ever built for NASA. The asteroid mission is a stepping stone project for NASA to ultimately send astronauts to Mars in the future.

"It's a fun project to work on," Bowie told eWEEK. "We have been testing out all kinds of new tools, trying things. It's being able to work through those problems and find solutions to things we hadn't thought of before."


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