Blowing Up Asteroids with NASA and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Uploaded by vice on 20.08.2012


PRESIDENT OBAMA: By 2025, we expect new spacecraft designed
for long journeys to allow us to begin the first ever crewed
missions beyond the Moon into deep space.
We'll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for
the first time in history.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: There's an asteroid called Apophis
discovered a couple of years ago.
That asteroid, on Friday the 13th in April in the year
2029, will come close enough to Earth to dip below our
orbiting communications satellites.
It'll be the biggest, closest thing
ever in recorded history.
If it goes through what we call the keyhole, which is
where the Earth's gravity is just right, it will hit the
Earth seven years later.

If it goes through the center of the keyhole, it will hit
the Pacific Ocean and create waves of tsunamis that'll
blast clean the entire west coast of North America.

MIKE GERNHARDT: It is a statistical certainty that one
day, the Earth will get hit by a large asteroid, whether that
be in 50 years or 100 million years.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: We pay for insurance against car
accidents, against damage to your home, but no one has
organized what it would take to get asteroid insurance.
In fact, the asteroid insurance isn't to replace
your home if you get hit by an asteroid, it would be to have
enough money to do something about it in the first place.

SAUL ROSSER: My name's Saul Rosser.
I'm the Operations Director at Aquarius Reef Base, which is
NOAA's underwater habitat or research station about four
miles off of Key Largo.
We house six people at a time about 60 feet underwater.
During this mission, we have three astronauts, a planetary
scientist, and two of our technicians living underwater
to work on techniques for exploring asteroids.

The first habitat was built in 1962 by Jacques Cousteau.
Now 50 years later, this is the last
habitat on the sea floor.
And this is the only place you can do this kind of thing.
So they're down there looking at, how do you translate
across an asteroid, and how do you work out the details of
moving along in a zero-G environment, taking samples,
and working across the surface of the asteroid?

BILL TODD: NEEMO is NASA's undersea research program--
stands for NASA's Extreme Environment Mission
This particular mission is focused on going to an
asteroid and living and working on the surface of an
asteroid, which is a fairly complex and difficult task.
What possibly could be more cool and more exciting than
blending outer space and undersea together in this is
extremely vivid, dynamic, exciting environment that
there's also risk that you have to manage, and you have
to really pay attention to what you're doing?
For me, that's exciting.

MIKE GERNHARDT: So my name is Mike Gernhardt.
I'm a NASA astronaut.
I've actually flown in space four times, and I'm the
principal investigator of the Neemo 16 mission.
So to be perfectly honest with you, I had my heart set on
going back to the Moon, and I was hoping to maybe have a
chance to be the crew that did that.
So when I first heard we're going to an asteroid and
stopping the lunar program, that was a big
disappointment to me.
But rather than go off and cry in the corner, I picked it up
with my team, and we started working the details of what
it's going to be like to work on an asteroid.
And it's turned out to be a very fascinating, challenging
place to work that's really moved our technologies forward
in a very positive way.

Working and doing space walks on the asteroid is like the
worst combination of the dirt and all of that of the Moon
but with no ground reaction force.
On the Moon, you can walk.
You have ground reaction force.
On a space station, we're floating around but we have
pre-engineered translation paths with handholds and foot
restraints and all these kinds of things.
And we have none of that on an asteroid.
So two and a half years ago, no one had any idea of how
we're going to do these things.
And we have very systematically developed the
techniques and evaluated them, and I think that we're well on
our way to understanding what those
operations should be like.

So we probably won't land on an asteroid, but we will touch
the asteroid with a human hand.
And the way we will do that is to be on a foot restraint
that's attached to the space exploration vehicle, this
small vehicle that flies around.
So we'll fly in close to the asteroid and then reach in
with our foot on a foot restraint and grab rocks or
deploy scientific instruments on the asteroid.
So unlike the lunar landing, we will probably not land and
attach to the asteroid.
We will fly around it and touch it with our hands to get
the samples that we need to understand the geology.

There are all sorts of minerals on these asteroids
that we can't get here on Earth.
There's rare earth metals.
There's platinum.
There's precious metals, things like that.
Without a doubt, there are economic benefits of mining,
and I think it will come.
It's not 10 years away.
I think it's way more than that, but
you gotta start somewhere.

By going to an asteroid and understanding their
characteristics, that informs us with better techniques for
so-called planetary defense, where we could either slightly
shift the course of the asteroid at a distance far
enough away that it doesn't hit the earth or possibly
percuss it into smaller pieces.
We don't really know the right answer for that, but the more
we know about asteroids, the better informed we'll be to
defend the Earth against an asteroid hit in the future.
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Well, we're smart enough, and we
have a space program, and we're clever enough that we
never have to go extinct by an asteroid.
We have more choices available to us than
Tyrannosaurus Rex did.