NASA Asteroid Landing Mission to Take Place in 2021 after Accelerated Obama Plan

NASA plans to catch a small asteroid and park it near the moon for astronauts to explore, a senator unveiled on Friday.

An artist’s illustration of an asteroid retrieval spacecraft capturing a 500-ton asteroid that’s 7 meters wide. Photo: Rick Sternbach / Keck Institute for Space Studies

The ship would capture the 500-ton, 25-foot asteroid in 2019. Then with the help of an Orion space capsule, astronauts would nuzzle up next to the rock in 2021 for exploration, The Huffington Post reports.

Sen. Bill Nelson, explained that the introduced plan is expected to speed up the existing mission to land a crew of astronauts on an asteroid by bringing the space rock closer to Earth.

The top senator went onm adding that President Barack Obama would provide $100 million to accomplish the 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 of such kind and size, said Robert Braun, a Georgia Institute of Technology aerospace engineering professor and former 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.

“While there are thousands of asteroids that size out there, finding the right one that comes by Earth at just the right time to be captured will not be easy,” said Donald Yeomans, who heads NASA’s Near Earth Object program that monitors close-by asteroids.

He went on, adding that once a suitable rock is found it would be lassoed with the space equivalent of ‘a baggie with a drawstring. You bag it. You attach the solar propulsion module to de-spin it and bring it back to where you want it.’

The idea of capturing a space objects is quite similar to one proposed last year by researchers based at Caltech’s Keck Institute for Space Studies in Pasadena.

“Experience gained via human expeditions to the small returned NEA would transfer directly to follow-on international expeditions beyond the Earth-moon system: to other near-Earth asteroids, (the Mars moons) Phobos and Deimos, Mars and potentially someday to the main asteroid belt,” the Keck team wrote in a feasibility study of their plan.

As The Daily Mail writes, Nelson said this would help the austranaut agency develop the capability to draw away dangerous asteroids heading to Earth in the future. The is also created in order to train for a future mission to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, he said.

According to the government document, the mission, which has no price tag at the moment, would inspire because it ‘will send humans farther than they have ever been before.’

The mission was first created and suggestes last year by space experts at the California Institute of Technology.

It was estimated at $2.65billion in total and has finally favor with the Obama administration, which has already announced a goal of sending astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025.

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