Astronauts to bring asteroid back into lunar orbit (Vol. 48, No. 5-6)
Italian Space Agency presents plans to develop a robotic solar-powered spacecraft capable of displacing a near-Earth asteroid towards lunar orbit for ease of study
Future space exploration aims to fly further from Earth than ever before. Now, Italian Space Agency scientists have expressed an interest in contributing to the development of robotic technologies to bring an asteroid from beyond lunar orbit back into closer reach in order to better study it. In a paper published recently, the authors make the case for taking part in the robotic phase of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). In addition to taking manned spaceflights deeper into space than ever before, the proposed mission would also bring some benefit for planetary science. Further, the mission has potential implications for a field called planetary defence. The next step for human space exploration after the International Space Station is to send astronauts on a Near Earth Asteroid by 2025, as planned by NASA. This constitutes an intermediate step towards future manned missions to Mars. The planned ARM mission has been part of the NASA program since 2013.The robotic spacecraft would cruise in deep space towards a near-Earth asteroid, using a technology called advanced Solar Electric Propulsion. Under the proposed plan, Italy would contribute by enhancing the carrying capacity of that spacecraft.
M. Tantardini and E. Flamini, Synergies between human space exploration and science in the asteroid redirect mission and the potential Italian participation in the asteroid redirect robotic mission phase, Eur. Phys. J. Plus 132, 314 (2017)