NASA Develops Comet Hitchhiker To Land On Comets And Asteroids

Posted: Sep 3 2015, 7:59am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 3 2015, 8:32pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

NASA Develops Comet Hitchhiker to Land on Comets and Asteroids
This artist concept shows Comet Hitchhiker, an idea for traveling between asteroids and comets using a harpoon and tether system. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornelius Dammrich
  • NASA looking forward to Piggyback Rides on Space Comets

NASA has big plans for the future. It is in fact looking forward to sending its probes on piggyback rides on space comets.

Not only our solar system but the entire universe could be explored via a new strategy NASA has devised for the near future. Its spacecraft may be able to sit atop comets and thus tour the entire universe.

By using the universal forces of inertia and force and mass, these probe missions could hop aboard comets. And the good thing is that they would not have to exert even a single horsepower of energy in their travel plans.

A long cable and harpoon-like instrument may be used for his scheme. A robotic device could than be sent hurling off into space. When it lands on a comet it will send home valuable information on the universe we inhabit. And the probe could then proceed to hop from one asteroid to another.

Thus the mission would be able to span large distances in no time at all. However, it will take a lot of energy and initiative to put this plan into action. The practicalities of the situation call for a high level of expertise that is not available yet.

"Hitchhiking a celestial body is not as simple as sticking out your thumb, because it flies at an astronomical speed and it won't stop to pick you up. Instead of a thumb, our idea is to use a harpoon and a tether," Masahiro Ono, the principal investigator based at JPL, said.

Comet Hitchhiker, shown in this artist rendering, is a concept for orbiting and landing on small bodies. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornelius Dammrich

Hitchhiking across space debris is not as fluid and smooth a process as it may sound like to many. The harpoon will be shot into the comet’s body and then the probe will be sort of pulled onto it. This is not an easy procedure.

It will take infinite precision and careful planning in real life. And what works on the drawing board may not be so feasible in reality. Reality is much more bitter and it bites as opposed to fantasy and reverie. The whole concept will have to perfected. Its mechanism is similar to angling. At least, that is the impression one gets from the looks of it.

The velocity of the comet and the aircraft will have to be in sync for the operation to go well. Like previously mentioned, the process bears an uncanny resemblance to fishing. The harpoon’s line will have to be cut some slack too in order to match the speed frequencies of both the heavenly body and the man-made probe.

The experts at NASA are busy working on the nuts and bolts of this obviously overt operation. Computerized models have been simulated too so as to see how the variables measure up in the lab. Ultimately, it will all depend on the boldness and funding of NASA. And that is something which only the top brass of the organization can decide.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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