A US senator has revealed that NASA plans to capture an asteroid and place it in orbit for astronauts to explore in a later mission.
Sen. Bill Nelson, who is chairman of the Senate science and space sub-committee, revealed Friday that NASA has a clever plan to speed up their manned mission to explore an asteroid, and it involves capturing one into Earth’s orbit. A robotic spaceship would be sent to the selected asteroid and then throw a bag around it. Solar sails would be deployed to stop it from spinning and then it would be brought back to earth, where it would be placed near the moon.
"It really is a clever concept," said Nelson in a news conference, "Go find your ideal candidate for an asteroid. Go get it robotically and bring it back." Visiting a nearby asteroid is much less demanding for NASA than visiting one while it’s hurdling through space, so it makes a lot of sense to capture it. NASA’s Near Earth Object program expects the plan to reduce the mission’s prep time by four years, meaning the after capturing the asteroid in 2019, it would be visited by humans in 2021.
The new Orion capsule would be used to send four astronauts to the asteroid
President Barack Obama is apparently putting $100 million into planning the accelerated asteroid mission, according to the 2014 state budget that comes out next week. The money would largely be used in finding the right asteroid for the mission, a feat which is no easy task according to Near Earth Orbit program head Donald Yeomans: You’d need to find one that’s passing by earth at just the right time, and which is of just the right size.
NASA has stated that the mission is important, as it will help them figure out how to nudge away dangerous asteroids, and will also serve as a training platform for conducting Mars missions in the future.