NASA's Journey to Mars: JPL seeks robotic spacecraft proposal for asteroid-harvesting mission
By Marrianne Ledesma | Sep 23, 2016 06:22 AM EDT
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California of National Aeronautics and Space Administration recently issued a request for proposal (RFP) seeking design and development of a robotic spacecraft that will be used in the Agency's Redirect Mission.
As per the press release of NASA, the robotic spacecraft will be used "to capture a multi-ton asteroid boulder from deep space during the first segment of ARM" and will "demonstrate the world's most advanced and most efficient solar electric propulsion system as it travels to a near-Earth asteroid."
NASA further stated that the robotic segment of ARM will demonstrate "advanced, high-power, high-throughput solar electric propulsion; advanced autonomous precision proximity operations at a low-gravity planetary body; and controlled touchdown and liftoff with a multi-ton mass."
NASA's goal with ARM, as Tech Crunch reported, is to select, lift, and redirect a boulder from a passing asteroid into a stable and man-accessible lunar orbit. In this relatively safe environment, astronauts could explore the space rock at their leisure and bring back samples to Earth.
Likewise, in the same report of NASA, ARM is a two-part mission that will integrate robotically and crewed spacecraft operations to demonstrate key capabilities that are needed for NASA's Journey to Mars.
Meanwhile, the crew segment of ARM will include "spacewalk activities for sample selection, extraction, containment and return; and mission operations of integrated robotic and crewed vehicle stack." All of these are components of a human future in-space mission to Mars.
NASA plans to award the ARM spacecraft build and delivery contract in 2017 to whoever wins the proposal. Lockheed Martin, Space Systems, Boeing, and Orbital AK who were involved with the conceptual design study phase have until October 24,2016 to finalize their proposals. Stay tuned for more updates!
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