2015 Challenge Problem Statement
Caltech Space Challenge Description
In 2010, President Obama challenged NASA to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and to orbit Mars in the mid-2030s. The Asteroid Redirect mission has been proposed in order to enable a human mission to an asteroid brought back to the Earth-Moon system and to serve as a stepping stone towards future exploration destinations.
In 5 days, each team is challenged to design a mission to land humans on an asteroid brought back to lunar orbit, extract the asteroid's resources and demonstrate their use.
The challenge consists of an intensive one-week mission design competition where students will be challenged to develop a mission to send astronauts to utilize the resources of an asteroid in lunar orbit. 32 student applicants will be invited to participate in the competition. Students will be divided into two multidisciplinary teams. NASA-JPL and Caltech faculties will mentor the two teams to help them develop their mission plans. Students will be supported with guest lectures and workshops from top scientists and engineers from NASA-JPL, Caltech and other premier institutions. The challenge will conclude with final presentations at Caltech, the submission of a final report, constructive feedback for both teams, and the announcement of the winning team. The report will provide a complete description of the mission design, key technologies needed and their readiness level (TRL), the operating costs, timeline, etc. Students will benefit tremendously by working in a multidisciplinary team, learning about project management and systems engineering. It will also give students the opportunity to connect and interact with top scientists and engineers in industry.
Image credit: NASA.gov
The Asteroid Redirect Mission has been proposed in order to fulfill President Obama's vision for the future or space exploration through the 2030's. A human mission to the asteroid brought back to the Earth-Moon system will serve as a stepping stone towards future exploration destinations. The goal of the mission is to return up to 1000 metric tons of asteroidal material to a distant retrograde lunar orbit, either by capturing a small asteroid or picking a boulder off a much larger one. Powerful solar electric propulsion would slowly move the asteroid into position. Most viable candidates for the redirect mission could be returned and available for human exploration by 2026 at the latest.
Assuming financial support and technical success of the Asteroid Redirect Mission, the captured asteroid would be the likely destination for an early mission of the Orion capsule and Space Launch System, perhaps even for the first crewed mission utilizing those systems. Therefore, this mission is being viewed as a stepping stone on the way to Mars, principally as a mission to test the systems that will be required to send humans beyond the Earth-Moon system for the first time. However, asteroids have been touted as more than just intermediate destinations, also as valuable resources which can be utilized to enhance our exploration capabilities. A returned asteroid might optimistically contain a significant mass fraction of volatiles which could be extracted and used as fuel for future missions.