NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission Notional Concept Video, released on YouTube, offers a fast paced account of how U. S. astronauts might launch aboard an Orion spacecraft mounted atop a Space Launch System rocket to rendezvous with a small asteroid and gather samples.
The space agency is seeking the funds to start preparations for such an expedition as part of NASA’s proposed 2014 budget.
The mission itself, a piloted test flight of the Orion/SLS system, could take place as early as 2021. It would follow a novel robotic mission to locate and capture a small asteroid well beyond the Earth and then maneuver it into a stable orbit around the moon.
Orion, which is being developed to carry four astronauts, would launch atop the SLS on a nine day flight to the asteroid. The moon would provide a gravitational assist to the capsule to speed the explorers toward their destination.
The Orion spacecraft would dock with the robotic asteroid capture spacecraft. Spacewalking astronauts would emerge from the capsule to gather samples of the asteroid and return them to their capsule. The Orion astronauts might remain docked for up to six days.
Upon departure, the Orion crew would retrace their steps back to Earth over 10 days.
The flight would mark the first time since the final Apollo mission in 1972 that human explorers had ventured beyond low Earth orbit. It would end with an ocean splash down and recovery.