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

(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.