Nasa is planning an ambitious mission to send astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s.
Astronauts are training underwater to test tools for exploring an asteroid as well as the type of spacesuit that might be worn on the mission, according to the US space agency.
Wearing modified versions of the orange space shuttle launch and entry suits, two astronauts went underwater last week, in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center, a 40-feet-deep swimming pool that helps provide the lack of gravity needed for astronauts to practice for spacewalks.
Scientists are working on a model of a spacecraft that will carry astronauts to the asteroid, docked to a mock-up of the spacecraft that will be used to capture an asteroid and bring it into a stable orbit near the moon.
“We’re working on the techniques and tools we might use someday to explore a small asteroid that was captured from an orbit around the sun and brought back by a robotic spacecraft to orbit around the moon,” said Stan Love, one of the astronauts.
“When it’s there, we can send people there to take samples and take a look at it up close. That’s our main task; we’re looking at tools we’d use for that, how we’d take those samples,” Love said.
One of the goals of visiting an asteroid will be to obtain a core sample that shows its layers, intact — such a sample could provide information on the age of the solar system and how it was formed.