NASA has been working on a mission to redirect a near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts will travel and return with samples. The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is touted as part of the path to landing people on Mars. But there are a lot of critics of the mission.
Last month MIT professor Richard Binzel presented his take on the ARM claiming that it's a dead end "one-and-done stunt."
"I think doing something with asteroids in the future is important, but the magic words are 'asteroids in their native orbit,'" Binzel says. "They naturally exist between here and Mars, so if we build a ship with the capability to go to Mars, then we'll have the capability to go to an abundant number of asteroids."
Meanwhile another critic of ARM, Charles Miller, president of NexGen Space LLC and former senior adviser for commercial space at NASA, says that returning to the Moon is the path to Mars.
"I led a NASA study that leveraged commercial launch and demonstrated we could return humans to the moon within NASA's existing budget," Miller says. "It would be a completely different strategy, using existing launch vehicles such as the Atlas V and Delta 4, but we could get to the moon in the next decade."
Popular Science says that everyone they talked to "with a vested interest in human spaceflight (and who works outside NASA's walls) agrees that ARM has got to go."
"This sense that this mission doesn't cut the mustard is so widespread but so whispered about for fear of retribution that I felt it was important as a professor at a private university to speak what one sees as the honest truth," Binzel says.