Story 2015-09-03 KARV NASA to 'lasso' a comet to hitchhike across the solar system

NASA to 'lasso' a comet to hitchhike across the solar system

in space on (#KARV)
Traveling around space can be hard and require a lot of fuel, which is part of the reason NASA has a spacecraft concept that would hitch a free ride on one of the many comets and asteroids speeding around our solar system at 22,000 miles per hour (on the slow end). Comet Hitchhiker, developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, would feature a reusable tether system to replace the need for propellant for entering orbit and landing on objects.

The spacecraft would first cast an extendable tether toward the object and attach itself using a harpoon attached to the tether. Next, it would reel out the tether while applying a brake that harvests energy while the spacecraft accelerates. This allows Comet Hitchhiker to accelerate and slowly match the speed of its ride, and keeping that slight tension on the line harvests energy that is stored on-board for later use, reeling itself down to the surface of the comet or asteroid. A comet hitchhiker spacecraft can obtain up to ~10 km/s of delta-V by using a carbon nanotube (CNT) tether, reaching the current orbital distance of Pluto (32.6 AU) in just 5.6 years.
Reply 2 comments

They should know better (Score: 1)

by on 2015-09-04 01:53 (#KAT0)

Unfortunately, it seems the NASA scientists made one fatal mistake... They didn't bother to read the opinions of Anonymous Cowards on the internet, who just last year throughly explained why the idea "makes no sense", and flies in the face of "basic orbital mechanics".

On the plus side, I do appreciate CNET calling me "someone as smart as a rocket scientist" for having conceived the idea quite some time ago.

Almost impossible (Score: 1)

by on 2015-09-05 17:13 (#KHN2)

It feels impossible to hit the target when the speed of the spacecraft is faster than a bullet, and to do that at the first try (a second chance seems very unlikely at such speeds). But then again NASA has done almost impossible feats, such as the sky crane which landed Curiosity on Mars.