Near-Earth asteroids and Mars' 2 moons considered for future space missions



Washington: Researchers from the SETI Institute, the Mars Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, and the space robotics company Honeybee Robotics, have successfully completed a first series of field tests aimed at investigating how humans will explore and work on near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) and eventually the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos.

From April 13 to 15, field experiments were conducted at the US Army's National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, to evaluate geotechnical methods and systems that will enable humans to be productive explorers in the low gravity environment of small rocky bodies.

Sub-kilometer sized NEAs, Phobos, and Deimos are among destinations currently considered by NASA for future human missions into deep space.

"Human missions to near-Earth asteroids and to the moons of Mars present us with the exciting challenge of exploring planetary bodies with extremely low gravity" Pascal Lee, planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and leader of the field test, said.

"The goal of our field test was to learn how to characterize the physical properties of small body surfaces, and to test ideas that might enable humans to more productively explore these low-gravity worlds," he said.

The Mojave field test included three investigations: 1) a study of whether conventional field tools commonly used to characterize the mechanical properties of soils on Earth are suitable for small bodies; 2) an evaluation of how different anchoring systems might allow robotic spacecraft and astronauts to remain bound to a low gravity body; 3) a study of how astronauts might conduct geological sampling on a small body while using anchors and tethers.

ANI