Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Scientists seek to corral asteroid for study

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Scheming to rearrange the heavens, scientists are busy planning how to pluck, push and park a spinning asteroid between here and the moon.

While most of us hope to dodge space rocks, NASA has unveiled an ambitious, $105 million plan to build a spaceship to drag one closer to Earth. It's the Space Age equivalent of bringing the mountain to Mohammed and a first step in our future voyage to Mars.

"Our goal is to go out there and rendezvous — then get it into the hands of the people who can understand it," said David Korsmeyer, director of the Engineering Directorate at Mountain View, Calif.'s NASA Ames Research Center, which will contribute to the project.

Asteroids command our respect because a big one could play us like a billiard ball. February's twofer —a little one rocked Russia and a bigger one was a near miss — only added to the anxiety.

But they're also valuable, and pursuing one could launch us into deeper space.

That's because we'll need a vehicle a whole lot better than a fuel-driven rocket. With an infusion of new NASA money, engineers hope to design a futuristic solar-electric vehicle that would make a slow, steady and sustainable trip to find an asteroid. It's the journey, not just the destination, that thrills scientists.

After finding a suitable space rock orbiting our way, the spaceship might push, tug or harpoon the asteroid. Or it might stuff the rock into a big bag, or perhaps lasso it in some 21st century version of a Roy Rogers rope trick.

"As a space-faring country it has been more than 40 years since we have been to deep space," out where asteroids lurk, said Stanford University aeronautics professor G. Scott Hubbard, who conceived the Mars Pathfinder mission and formerly directed NASA Ames. "We need to regain our 'chops,' " he said. "It's a demonstration of space exploration technologies for the future."

The "Asteroid Retrieval Mission" is still under development in Washington, D.C., where it is a major new goal for an agency that has retired the shuttle fleet and grounded a moon-landing plan. Suggested last year by the Keck Institute for Space Studies at the California Institute of Technology, the idea has found favor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. There's a cooler reception in the budget-wrangling Congress.

Scientists seek to corral asteroid for study 05/12/13 [Last modified: Sunday, May 12, 2013 11:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Romano: Sewage is the issue in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the Pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    During the St. Petersburg sewage crisis, the city's ancient sewer system released about 200 million gallons of sewage into local watersways, spurring state and federal investigations and becoming a focal point of debate among the leading mayoral candidates. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  2. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.

  3. Police: Man tries to lure child with puppy in Polk County

    Crime

    Times staff

    HAINES CITY — A man was arrested Sunday after he tried to entice a young girl into his camper to view a puppy, according to police.

    Dale Collins, 63, faces a charge of luring or enticing a child under the age of 12. [Photo courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Scaramucci on leaks: 'I'm going to fire everybody'

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump's new communications director, vowed Tuesday to purge the White House staff of disloyal aides in an effort to crack down on leaks, as another member of the press staff resigned from a West Wing reeling from an unfolding shake-up.

  5. Editorial: Coming together to reduce car thefts

    Editorials

    The simple, knee-jerk response to the juvenile car theft epidemic in Pinellas County would be to crack down on offenders with an increased police presence and stiffer sentences. Thankfully, local community leaders did not stop there. As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its 
As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its "Hot Wheels" investigation into youth car thefts, a variety of ideas from multiple directions increases the odds of actually solving the cause and not just treating the symptoms.