One of the subjects near and dear to my heart is the avoidance of Earthly extinction via asteroid or cometary impact. We should be working diligently to get off this planet and spreading ourselves around, and we are, though at an excruciatingly slow pace. It would be so much better to not be a single target for some wayward rock to take us out. The sooner, the better.
Another issue of great importance to me, which serves the first, is the exploitation of those same asteroids to build up whatever toeholds we establish off-planet. Again, sooner the better.
Jonathan Goff has written a concise set of ten reasons why the NASA-developed Asteroid Retrieval Mission could be very worthwhile in addressing the above. It may not be the perfect mission, and certainly not the most economical, but it is miles ahead of having no mission. You can read Mr. Goff’s work here:
Just to start, I want to list his points here, and over the next several days, I’m going to discuss each of them one by one.
1. Adding a new, even more accessible “moon” to the Earth-moon system.
2. Providing an ideal testbed for asteroid in situ resource utilization (ISRU) development.
3. Providing a much larger sample quantity to work with than other existing or proposed missions.
4. Providing a good way of testing out a man-tended deep-space habitat.
5. Demonstrating large-scale solar electric propulsion (SEP) systems.
6. Demonstrating planetary defense techniques.
7. Developing technologies for a Phobos/Deimos large sample return.
8. Providing the beginnings of a lunar gateway.
9. Providing more experience with on-asteroid operations.
10. Leaving something permanent.
I’d encourage everyone interested in the ARM wrestling match over the validity of this mission to read Mr. Goff’s article.