The ability to visit asteroids could also be invaluable for testing equipment for a mission to Mars by humans. Further, knowing how to tether an asteroid could be helpful if one needs to be towed away from a potential collision course with Earth, says Christopher Carr, a postdoctoral associate in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.
Carr and Ian Garrick-Bethell, a graduate student in the department, describe their system in an upcoming issue of the journal Acta Astronautica.
Walking on an asteroid is much more difficult than walking on a planet because asteroids have so little gravity. An astronaut who tried to step onto one would likely fly off or hover above the surface.
Now Carr and Garrick-Bethell say that tying a lightweight rope completely around an asteroid could solve that problem. Once the rope was in place, astronauts could attach themselves to it and maneuver or possibly even walk along the surface.That would allow an in-depth exploration of the composition and history of asteroids, which could shed light on some of the big questions about our solar system, such as how the planets formed, said Carr.
An asteroid's gravity varies depending on its density and size, which can range from a speck of dust to hundreds of kilometers. On an asteroid that has a diameter larger than eight kilometers, an astronaut who jumps will probably come back to the surface, Carr said. But if the asteroid is smaller than that, the astronaut may float away.
Even if an asteroid has enough gravity to keep an astronaut on the surface, it would be difficult to move around or collect samples. "You couldn't touch anything without sending yourself on a new trajectory or spinning yourself around," said Garrick-Bethell, who is the first author of the Acta Astronautica paper.
Some people have suggested that astronauts could bolt themselves directly to the asteroid, but the granular material covering the asteroids could prevent this.
"It would be like trying to bolt yourself to a pile of gravel or sand," Garrick-Bethell said.
The MIT researchers envision deploying their system with an astronaut or a remote-controlled rocket that unwinds a spool of rope while flying around the asteroid. When the craft reaches the starting point, a loop is formed and tightened. Astronauts could then be held to the asteroid using one or more ropes, permitting them to work on the surface.
One unknown is whether the rope would cut into the granular surface of an asteroid, hindering the system's effectiveness. But even if the rope does not allow astronauts to walk on the surface, it could at least give them something to hold onto as they pull themselves along the asteroid without floating away, said Carr.
Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab
15.08.2018 | American Institute of Physics
Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity
15.08.2018 | University of California - Riverside
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
16.08.2018 | Life Sciences
16.08.2018 | Earth Sciences
16.08.2018 | Life Sciences