NASA Concept to Shoot an Asteroid into Moon Orbit

Nathan S
by Nathan S

NASA has a lot of smart people working for them. Considering this, I would have expected the Asteroid Redirect Mission to use more advanced technology than a firearm, but alas, sometimes violence is the answer.

Honeybee Robotics Ltd. has deployed a video of their concept shotgun that could be used to push an asteroid into Lunar orbit. Ideas on this aside (I personally don’t like the idea of an Asteroid hurtling anywhere near our planet), the concept is a fascinating look at a real potential “space gun”

Description from Video:

NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will capture a large boulder from the surface of an asteroid and transport it to a cislunar orbit. One of the mission risks relates to the unknown geotechnical properties and strength of the asteroid regolith and boulder, respectively.

The Shotgun system reduces this risk by firing small projectiles (“balls”) at the surface of the asteroid or boulder. If a ball impacts regolith, it will create a crater whose size is a function of regolith strength and density. If a ball impacts a coherent boulder, it will bounce back at a certain speed, whose value is proportional to rock strength. If the rebound speed cannot be measured, hollow balls packed with retroreflectors (similar to paintballs) could be used instead. The shell of such balls can be designed to crack open and release retroreflectors when impacting rock above the threshold strength required for successful boulder retrieval.

Nathan S
Nathan S

One of TFB's resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR's, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.

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  • BattleshipGrey BattleshipGrey on Sep 23, 2015

    Option #2 is probably the most accurate method of determining the density of the asteroid. As long as they have the imaging and radar capable of measuring the bounce no matter what angle the ricochets, then that should be more clear than the other options IMO.

    Option #1 is only determinate to a certain level and then doesn't give you anymore than a "yes" or "no" answer. I think NASA can do better than a junior high note asking "do you like me? Circle yes or no."

    Option #3 is kind of a crap shoot due to how the topography might deflect the shot and produce an inconclusive result.

    According to spaceweather[dot]com, there are currently 1611 potentially hazardous asteroids lurking near earth "and they're finding more all the time". All this said, I guess I don't really know why they want to put an asteroid into lunar orbit, but they don't ask me what I think their priorities should be.

    • Giolli Joker Giolli Joker on Sep 23, 2015

      @BattleshipGrey Option 3 is more aggressive, I prefer it.
      Option 2 as well could be influenced by topography giving an odd bounce and unlike the other two options it give an instantaneous result that requires high speed cameras recording every detail.
      A crater stays.

  • MR MR on Sep 27, 2015

    They were originally going to use a laser, but the life support system for the shark was too heavy.