asteroids and comets visited by unmanned space probes

This rogues gallery shows the relative size of the asteroids and comets that have been visited by unmanned space probes, courtesy of Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society.

We look forward to the day when we can show a similar picture of all asteroids visited by manned spacecraft.

That seems like a tall order, but remember — none of unmanned missions existed just a few years ago.

We can rebuild the space program. We have the technology. Johnson Space Center has done advanced concept studies of a deep space ship, Nautilus X, that could be built within the agency’s current budget. Instead, NASA spends its money on the politically mandated Space Launch System and Orion capsule, which duplicate capabilities already available (or soon to be available) from companies like SpaceX and United Launch Alliance.

Why should we be interested in the asteroids, when there are more alluring destinations like Mars? Well, it wasn’t Mars that killed the dinosaurs. We’re reminded of a (possibly apocryphal) quote from Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, comrade, but war is interested in you!”

Written by Astro1 on January 12th, 2013 , Planetary Defense

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