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NASA Building Space Shotgun To Blast Asteroids

Sanjay Kumar Writes: Scientists at NASA are working on a giant space shotgun capable of smashing rocks out of asteroids. It is hoped the shotgun will allow experts test asteroid strength and will eventually be used as part of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM).

Sanjay Kumar Writes: Scientists at NASA are working on a giant space shotgun capable of smashing rocks out of asteroids. It is hoped the shotgun will allow experts test asteroid strength and will eventually be used as part of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The probe called the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle will fly up to the asteroid and shoot it in a particular area with a projectile. By measuring the rebound speed of the projectile or its contents, or even how big a crater it makes, scientists can determine how solid the rock is and if it would withstand the recovery and exploration process by a manned mission.

NASA’s ARM aims to chip off a massive chunk of an asteroid and thereafter spacecraft will use its robotic arm to capture it. After an asteroid mass is collected, the spacecraft will redirect it to a stable orbit around the moon called a “Distant Retrograde Orbit.” Once there, the objective is to retrieve a boulder of appropriate strength from the asteroid, in order to study it. Collecting and characterising samples from asteroids is an important science goal in itself, and NASA has identified it as a key step toward human exploration of Mars.

NASA plans to launch the ARM robotic spacecraft at the end of this decade.  NASA says “The robotic mission also will demonstrate planetary defense techniques to deflect dangerous asteroids and protect Earth if needed in the future”.It will also serve as a proof-of-concept for technologies needed to redirect an incoming killer asteroid from impacting Earth.

On the other side, the above technological advancements could also be seen as US’s bid to enhance its capability to counter China’s growing ASAT capabilities.  China is developing technologies to jam or destroy the West’s traditional edge in satellite communications and surveillance in the event of an armed conflict. The West, particularly the US, relies on ever expanding constellations of communications and surveillance satellites to maintain its information edge over potential rivals and China is seeking ways to erode that advantage in the event of a conflict.

PLA writings emphasize the necessity of ‘destroying, damaging, and interfering with the enemy’s reconnaissance and communications satellites,’ suggesting that such systems, as well as navigation and early warning satellites, could be among the targets of attacks designed to ‘blind and deafen the enemy’.  PLA analysis of US and coalition military operations also states that ‘destroying or capturing satellites and other sensors will deprive an opponent of initiative on the battlefield and make it difficult for them to bring their precision guided weapons into full play’.”

The ARM, Shotgun and robotic arm  technology would enable US to place weapons on near-Earth asteroid, these  asteroids would act as ideal platforms to destroy hostile missiles and adversaries space assets in case of a conflict. Thus there is very much a possibility of such “Weaponisation of Space” by the US, keeping in view the growing threat from China.

 

 

 

 

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