Getting to space is expensive, and NASA has been feeling tight budget cuts. Its next generation of launchers has been cancelled, and while the administration has been able to piece together a simpler space program, they are being run about as cheaply as possible. So it is understandable that NASA is looking for interesting new ways to get man to the asteroids by 2025, as is President Obama’s mandate.
The International Space Station (ISS) is backdropped over Miami, FL
Essentially the idea calls for retrofitting the ISS for deep space. That means sticking a rocket on it and possibly beefing up thermal and radiation insulation. That could carry astronauts to the stars for a fraction the cost that a full-blown new vehicle would cost. The retrofitting would begin when the ISS is set to be scrapped in 2020, rescuing the craft from its fiery atmospheric demise.
NASA is also investigating more exotic approaches, for example the spun gravity toruses that ave been a staple of science fiction for years. This would require a whole new--and costly--vehicle, but would have the advantage of letting astronauts function in a normal gravity environment. A simpler geometry is also proposed, with a two spaceships being tethered together and spun.
This type of gravity ship is easier to assemble, but does mean that there is no good way to get from one spaceship to the other. Whatever the fate of the ISS is, we can only hope that we do eventually go to asteroids. They are liable to be our best hope for a true space civilization.
Photo by : NASA