US Might Try to Catch an Asteroid

Plan would bring million-pound rock close enough for exploration

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 29, 2013 1:20 PM CDT

(Newser) – President Obama's budget proposal will include funds for a wild plan to use a robotic spacecraft to snag an asteroid and drag it close enough to Earth for astronauts to land on and study it, Aviation Week reports. The project, as dreamed up in a study last year by the Keck Institute, would involve locating a small asteroid (small here meaning about 1.1 million pounds), flying to it using solar-electric propulsion, grabbing it with a 7-meter "capture bag," and dropping it off near the moon.

Obama's budget will slip $100 million into NASA's budget for the project, which is something of a drop in the bucket, given that Keck estimates that the project would ultimately cost $2.65 billion. In addition to its scientific applications, the technology developed for the mission would be useful for redirecting asteroids on collision courses with Earth.

An asteroid is depicted approaching the Earth in this file image from NASA.
An asteroid is depicted approaching the Earth in this file image from NASA.   (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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