Future spacecrafts could use harpoon like mechanism to obtain samples from asteroids and moons

02/24/2014 - 19:12

Mike Wall

Why bother landing softly on an alien world to collect samples if you can just snag material with a harpoon from afar?

Using a set of long-lined, hard-hitting harpoons would allow a mission to grab large samples from multiple locations on anasteroid or moon — and to get them from beneath the surface, where some of the most interesting material lies, say researchers developing the idea.

"This technology will be able for the first time to pull samples of the order of a few kilograms from depths of a few meters, which could greatly enhance our knowledge of solar system objects and the resources therein," Robert Winglee of the University of Washington and his colleagues wrote in a NASA report detailing their project.