Will Humans Go?
TRAVELING TO AN ASTEROID
Sending human astronauts to near-Earth asteroids is a distinct possibility. In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama announced ambitions to send "astronauts to an asteroid for the first time in history."
Why send people to a remote space rock, one with no atmosphere and so little gravity that astronauts literally couldn't walk on the surface? Learning more about potentially hazardous asteroids could help humans learn to deflect them and protect Earth. The long journey--perhaps up to six months or more--would also be good practice for a future mission, say, to Mars.
"WALKING" ON AN ASTEROID
Low gravity on asteroids means astronauts couldn't walk on the surface, as they would on the Moon or Mars. To tether themselves to the asteroid, they could use a net attached to the rocky asteroid by bolts, as in the illustration at left. Other ideas to keep astronauts from drifting off the surface include using small rockets to pull a rope around the asteroid. The astronauts would then use the rope pull themselves along.