Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mars, Asteroids, The Moon on NASA's To-Do List

Space shuttles will soon be a thing of the past, museum relics put on display around the country. But, NASA will remain, and they're determined to take the next steps in space exploration - without the shuttle taking them there.

Surrounded by the blackness of deep space, 117 million miles from Earth, is the asteroid "Vesta". In the not too distant future, U.S. astronauts could be looking out their window and preparing to set foot on an asteroid.

Astronaut Mike Gernhardt and his team are working on the kinds of equipment and techniques they'll need for human exploration of an asteroid as early as the year 2025 - before missions to either the Moon or Mars.

"What we're doing is building a simulated asteroid underwater." said Gernhardt. Not at some high tech lab, but right on the water in Key Largo, Florida. At the undersea habitat called "Aquarius", the group has created an asteroid proving ground in the near weightless environment of water. "We work there, we live there.....We can put anchors......We built a rock wall like a climbing wall. But we can climb up that wall in zero gravity."

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