Harnessing Asteroids and Comets to Travel the Solar System

NASA is funding a study to see if it might be possible touse asteroids traveling between the orbits of Earth and Mars to shelterspacecraft from radiation. The study is the brainchild of Daniella Della-Giustina,engineering physics undergrad from the University of Arizona - and maybe science fiction writer Arthur C.Clarke.

Della-Giustina is one of five people to receive NASA'sAdvanced Concepts Student Fellows Prize this year. Her project is titled"The Martian Bus Schedule: An Innovative Technique for Protecting Humanson a Journey to Mars."

She will investigate two possibilities. The first involvesspacecraft actually hitching a ride on asteroids that cross the orbits of bothEarth and Mars; astronauts could mine various resources from the asteroidduring their journey.

The second possibility is that the asteroid could be used asa "sunshade." Astronauts would travel in the shadow of the meteor foras long as possible; astronauts could visit the asteroid on short space walks.

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Which brings us to ArthurC. Clarke. His short story Summertime on Icarus was published in1960; it describes a method for getting a research ship closer to the sun thanever before using a comet:

Everything had been carefully planned, years in advance, aspart of the International Astrophysical Decade. Here was a unique opportunityfor a research ship to get within a mere seventeen million miles of the sun,protected from it's fury by a two-mile-thick shield of rock and iron. In the shadowof Icarus, the ship could ride safely round the central fire which warmed allthe planets, and upon which the existence of all life depended.

This is not the first time NASA has investigated ideas forradiation shielding proposed by science fiction writers; see NASA'sNew Radiation Shielding First Proposed By John W. Campbell In 1936.

Read more about Della-Giustina and her project hereand here; thanks to Fred and Winchell for suggestingthis story.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used withpermission from Technovelgy.com - wherescience meets fiction.)

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