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NASA Funding Project RAMA To Turn Asteroids Into Spaceships

Project RAMA could also have applications here on Earth, Dunn added, saying that machines similar to Seed Craft could do a variety of jobs around the planet

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NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
Blockchain would address the potential issues of privacy, prevent spoofing, denial of service and other attacks, Reisman said. Flickr

NASA has recently announced it would give funds to a California-based 3D printing company for finding ways to turn asteroids into giant, autonomous spacecraft, which could fly to outposts in space, the media reported.

Made In Space’s project, known as RAMA (Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata), could one day enable space colonization by helping make off-Earth manufacturing efficient and economically viable, Space.com reported.

The company plans to use 3D printing to turn the asteroids into self-flying vehicles by 2030.

The concept received funding through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies.

“Today, we have the ability to bring resources from Earth,” Jason Dunn, Made In Space co-founder and chief technology officer, was quoted as saying.

“But when we get to a tipping point where we need the resources in space, then the question becomes, ‘Where do they come from and how do we get them, and how do we deliver them to the location that we need?’ This is a way to do it,” he said.

The company is considering sending an advanced robotic “Seed Craft” out to rendezvous with a succession of near-Earth asteroids in space, as part of its long-term project.

The concept received funding through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies.
The concept received funding through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies. Pixabay

The Seed Craft would harvest material from the space rocks, then use this feedstock to construct propulsion, navigation, energy-storage and other key systems onsite with the aid of 3D printing and other technologies.

Thus transformed into autonomous spacecraft, the asteroids could be programmed to fly to a mining station in Earth-moon space, or anywhere else they’re needed.

This approach would be much more efficient than launching a new capture probe (or probes) to every single space rock targeted for resource exploitation, the report said.

However, since RAMA is still in the very early stages, Dunn estimated that the effort might require 20 years and the first Seed Craft may get off the ground in the late 2030s.

Also Read: NASA Readies Probe to Touch the Sun With ‘Cutting-Edge Heat Shield’

Project RAMA could also have applications here on Earth, Dunn added, saying that machines similar to Seed Craft could do a variety of jobs around the planet.

“You could build infrastructure in remote locations somewhat autonomously, and convert resources into useful devices and mechanical machines. This actually could solve some pretty big problems on Earth, from housing to construction of things that make people’s lives better,” he said. (IANS)

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Asteroids Are Falling On Earth’s Surface Twice As Often: Study

This enhanced impact rate poses a threat for the next mass extinction event.

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Asteroids
This Dec. 29, 1968, photo made available by NASA shows craters on the moon. For the past 290 million years, giant rocks from space have been crashing into Earth more than twice as often as they did in the previous 700 million years, according to a new study. VOA

Giant rocks from space are falling from the sky more than they used to, but don’t worry.

For the past 290 million years, large asteroids have been crashing into Earth more than twice as often as they did in the previous 700 million years, according to a new study in Thursday’s journal Science.

But no need to cast a wary glance up. Asteroids still only smack Earth on average every million or few million years, even with the increased crash rate. NASA’s list of potential big space rock crashes shows no pending major threats. The biggest known risk is a 4,200-foot (1.3-km) wide asteroid with a 99.988 percent chance that it will miss Earth when it whizzes very near here in 861 years.

Tell that to the dinosaurs. Most scientists think dinosaurs and a lot of other species went extinct after a huge space rock crashed into Central America about 65 million years ago.

Earth, Asteroids
Taurids meteor shower lights up the sky. The risk of asteroids hitting the Earth has grown over the years. Wikimedia

“It’s just a game of probabilities,” said study lead author Sara Mazrouei, a University of Toronto planetary scientist. “These events are still rare and far between that I’m not too worried about it.”

Mazrouei and colleagues in the United Kingdom and United States compiled a list of impact craters on Earth and the moon that were larger than 12 miles (20 km) wide and came up with the dates of them. It takes a space rock that’s half a mile (800 meters) wide to create holes that big.

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years and nine between 291 million years and 650 million years old.

But we can see relatively few big craters on Earth because the planet is more than 70 percent ocean and past glaciers smoothed out some holes, said University of Toronto planetary scientist Rebecca Ghent, a study co-author.

Earth, Asteroids
These rocks were rare survivors from a very different time on Earth. Pixabay

Extrapolating for what can’t be seen brings the total to about 260 space crashes on Earth in the last 290 million years. Adding in other factors, the science team determined that the current space crash rate is 2.6 times more than the previous 700 million years.

Craters older than 650 million years are mostly wiped off on Earth by glacial forces so the scientists used impact craters on the nearby moon as a stand-in for holes between 650 million and 1 billion years old. The moon is a good guide for estimating Earth crashes, because it is close enough to be in the same bombardment path and its craters last longer.

Mixed reactions

So what happened nearly 300 million years ago?

“Perhaps an asteroid family was broken up in the asteroid belt,” Mazrouei speculated. The space rocks then headed toward the Earth and moon, and the planet got slightly more because it is a bigger target and it has higher gravity, Ghent said.

Oldest known asteroid family
An asteroid family. Wikimedia

Outside scientists are split about the research. Jay Melosh at Purdue said he found the number of craters too small to come to a reasonable conclusion, but Harvard’s Avi Loeb said the case was convincing.

Also Read: Newly Discovered Super-Earth Exoplanet May Sustain Primitive Life

Humans might not have emerged without mass extinctions from space rocks about 250 million and 65 million years ago, Loeb said in an email, adding, “but this enhanced impact rate poses a threat for the next mass extinction event, which we should watch for and attempt to avoid with the aid of technology.”

“This demonstrates how arbitrary and fragile human life is,” Loeb wrote. (VOA)