Friday, April 30, 2010
I wrote last week that the important part about the White House's vision for NASA and President Obama's speech was the asteroid mission, not Mars, simply because the asteroid mission is much easier, will happen much sooner, and has a much lower chance of being cancelled. Fortunately, after the furor over the speech has settled down it looks like the discussion is starting to shift towards the asteroid mission. An article here from New Scientist goes over what it will take to select a destination, and why we haven't decided on one yet.
The biggest reason is that we simply haven't found all the possible targets yet, not even close. A study in 2009 referencing numbers from 2006 only found seven possible targets during that time, but updated numbers increased this to 42. When WISE is done its mission we should see about 300,000 more asteroids added to those we know, and there are a lot of other sky surveys going on right now doing the same thing. Pan-STARRS is one of the newest ones.