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NASA Plans to Capture Asteroid for Technology Tests

Aug 16, 2016 03:36 AM EDT

Studying an asteroid is now in NASA's future campaign. With the help of private companies, the space agency plans on capturing an asteroid for technology tests. Samples taken from the asteroid will also help in further studies about life on Earth.

NASA made a pre-announcement regarding their "near future" plans of the Asteroid Redirect Mission Umbrella for Partnerships (ARM-UP) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The mission is said to cost $1.4 billion and is targeted for launch by December 2021.

A virtual forum is already scheduled on September 14. Companies hoping to become part of the program or partnership have until August of 2018. Interested private companies may refer to the synopsis released on FedBizOpps:

"NASA intends to seek proposals in research areas to include, but not limited to: partner-provided investigations through systems/payloads to be hosted on the ARRM [Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission]; collaboration through an Investigation Team to support definition of additional mission investigations; studies to define mission partnership opportunities toward NASA's planned crewed mission to the multi-ton asteroid boulder; and opportunities for access and experimentation at the asteroid boulder after the crewed mission."

As for the ARM mission, NASA is on its way to designing and developing a robotic segment which will pluck off an asteroid and sling it around earth's moon.

"This is an exciting milestone for the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Not only is ARM leveraging agency-wide capabilities, it will test a number of new technologies already in development," stated NASA Associate Administrator, Robert Lightfoot.

The robotic segment of ARM is said to be the most advanced and solar efficient electric propulsion system. It will travel to a near-Earth asteroid (NEA), said to be 121 miles away from the sun. After collecting a boulder from the selected asteroid, the robotic spacecraft will orbit around the moon.

With the help of moon's gravity, NASA plans to conduct ground missions by 2020. There, astronauts would select, extract, and collect samples from the asteroid. NASA aims to study the asteroid for a year. Right now, the space agency has three asteroids as candidates. The decision to fly out to these candidate asteroids is expected before 2019.

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