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NASA Wants Funding To Capture Asteroid In A Bag

Mar 30, 2013 09:49 AM EDT
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NASA's 2014 fiscal budget request includes $100 million in funding help to send a spacecraft to capture a small asteroid and return it to man, according to Aviation Week.

The project, which was prepared last April by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, proposes capturing a 1.1-million pound, 7-meter wide asteroid using solar-electric propulsion to reach it and then capture the asteroid in a deployable bag and move it to a safe orbit around the moon by 2025, would reportedly coast $2.6 billion.

Astronauts at the could then observe the asteroid at leisure from the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle launched by the Space Launch System.

The hardest part of the mission will be finding a suitable target, according to Paul Dimotakis, of the Keck Institute at California Institute of Technology. Several candidates have already been dismissed. In addition to size, makeup and spin, prospective targets would need to be on a heliocentric orbit that will return to Earth's vicinity in the 2020's, to allow time to develop the mission, Aviation Week reported.

While capturing an asteroid and bringing it close to Earth is not quite in synch with President Barack Obama's goal of sending astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, it is about a close as technically and financially feasible alternative as possible.

The plan has "attracted favor" with NASA and the Obama administration, according to Aviation Week, and in January, NASA's Bob Jacobs told Space.com that "NASA and the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are giving the study further review to determine its feasibility."

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