Dear Commons Community,
The Huffington Post is reporting that NASA is planning for a robotic spaceship to lasso a small asteroid and park it near the moon for astronauts to explore.
The ship would capture a 500-ton, 25-foot asteroid in 2019. Then using an Orion space capsule, a crew of about four astronauts would nuzzle up next to the rock in 2021 for spacewalking exploration, according to a government document obtained by The Associated Press.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the plan would speed up by four years the existing mission to land astronauts on an asteroid by bringing the space rock closer to Earth.
Nelson, who is chairman of the Senate science and space subcommittee, said Friday that President Barack Obama is putting $100 million in planning money for the accelerated asteroid mission in the 2014 budget that comes out next week. The money would be used to find the right small asteroid.
“It really is a clever concept,” Nelson said in a press conference in Orlando. “Go find your ideal candidate for an asteroid. Go get it robotically and bring it back.”
This would be the first time ever humanity has manipulated a space object in such a grand scale, like what it does on Earth, said Robert Braun, a Georgia Institute of Technology aerospace engineering professor who used to be NASA’s chief technology officer.
“It’s a great combination of our robotic and human capabilities to do the kind of thing that NASA should be doing in this century,” Braun said.