Arecibo Radar Threatened & Possible Human Flights to NEAs

By: David Morrison

Below are two reports, one on radar studies at Arecibo of binary asteroid 1999 KW4, the other on NASA planning for possible human visits to NEAs as part of the Space Exploration Vision.

The report on Arecibo radar studies of 1999 KW4 comes at a difficult time, when a senior review at NSF has recommended closing the Arecibo facility within the next five years. This is especially ominous for radar studies of NEAs, which were not evaluated by the review panel. Their recommendations were based almost entirely on the role that Arecibo plays as a radio telescope, not as the world's most powerful planetary radar facility. The radar observations at Arecibo could be terminated within a year. See the following link for more information on these plans. Note especially item 6, which discusses to the future of the Arecibo planetary radar.

The second story (from Leonard David at refers to an on-going study within NASA of options for human piloted visits to NEAs as part of the new space exploration vision. One intriguing possibility is to visit an NEO before flying to the Moon. An analogy would be the highly successful Apollo 8 mission, which orbited the Moon before the actual lunar landing hardware was complete. Al Harris notes: "The idea of sending a manned mission to a near-Earth asteroid is very old; it's long been realized that such a mission is lower energy and shorter time than going to Mars, and could provide an intermediate challenge ahead of an actual trip to Mars. I attended a small workshop organized by Gene Shoemaker and Jack Schmitt back in the early to mid-80's down at JSC to discuss the logistics and scientific merits of such a mission. At about the same time Gene Shoemaker was advocating the NEA mission as the very easiest manned mission beyond the moon."

David Morrison

0 Response to "Arecibo Radar Threatened & Possible Human Flights to NEAs"