AP Science Writer Excited About Asteroid Mission

This article from the AP (via Yahoo) waxes gloriously the Obama space plan. Going to an asteroid is going to be much harder than going to the moon, they say. Well, they’re right. That’s why we shouldn’t do it immediately.

Going to an asteroid is a necessary and important step in our exploration of space and our eventual survival as a species. It’s got to be done. But if we’d tried to go straight to the moon after JFK’s speech in 1961, without taking the intermediate step of Gemini to test the technology, we’d have lost the race. Going to an asteroid isn’t much different than going to Mars, except for the landing. It’s cheaper, of course, but that doesn’t make it safer than going to the moon again. There are so many benefits to a lunar base (as I’ve touched upon). Why not go?

It seems to me that not much has changed from the old Plan to the new; just a couple of dates and a specific destination. Which is good. It’s not the destination I’d have picked, but hey, at least we’re going somewhere. I just think that abandoning the moon to another country is foolish. Of course, NASA is a civilian organization. It may be that by the time someone else lands on the moon, we’ll have the technology to go back more or less immediately.

But we have to go back. The moon is right there, useful and waiting. We don’t have the technology yet to extract materials from asteroids, and I wonder if we will in 15 years, given that we’ve never been there before, so that argument is out. Granted, extracting water and minerals from lunar regolith faces much the same reality, but we’re working on technology here for that purpose, and the advantage is we’ve been to the moon before. We know a bit more about what we’re dealing with.

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