Human Mission to a Near Earth Object
Human exploration of asteroids creates an opportunity to conduct valuable scientific research about the origin of our solar system and allows development of technologies for human deep space missions.
Such missions could also contribute to increasing the readiness level for a threat deflection effort. They would provide improved scientific insight into NEO properties which is essential for most deflection methods. Further, human NEO exploration can develop technological capabilities that are also valuable in the context of reconnaissance and deflection missions. Such capabilities may include, orbit determination, navigation, proximity operations, landing & anchoring.
Direct human support to NEO deflection
In most cases the direct involvement of humans in NEO mitigation missions is not an obvious approach. Generally , crewed missions would be advantageous only where highly complex or unanticipated tasks are required. A few ways in which human missions could potentially support mitigation efforts are:
- Explorative and measurement operations prior to deflection missions
This involves collecting samples of an asteroid and analysing their material composition by using human-assisted drilling. This in turn could allow tailoring the design of the actual deflection method to the specific target object. Visiting humans could also install beacons for precision measurement of the NEO trajectory. Such activities offer themselves particularly if human involvement is desired for other reasons, such as demonstration of human deep space capability.
- Participation in a deflection missions
The deployment of nuclear warheads on or below the surface of asteroids could be performed with human involvement. In such a scenario it could be argued that precise placement and trouble shooting in case of any difficulties could be a benefit of human presence. Humans could also install and trouble shoot complex deflection devices such as mass drivers.