NASA hopes for $100m to drag an asteroid into orbit

A grant to bring an asteroid into orbit will be one of NASA's future goals.

Budget cuts may be looming for many departments within the U.S. governmental body, but NASA hopes that the agency can secure $100 million to capture and study an asteroid.

According to Aviation Week, the space agency's budget requests for the 2014 fiscal year includes a mission to find a small asteroid and bring it close to the moon through the use of robotic spacecraft.

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A study conducted for the agency estimates it would cost $2.65 billion to bring an asteroid weighing 1.1 million lb. close enough to an Orion crew vehicle stationed close to the moon. Once stationed at the Earth-moon libration point 2 EML2 -- where gravitational pulls roughly balance so objects can "park" there -- the rock, measuring no more than seven meters across, will be captured.

A proposal sent to a National Research Council human-spaceflight technical feasibility panel on March 28 noted that risk to Earth will be minimal, as the asteroid would have the density of a "dried mudball," and its velocity would be too slow to cause any damage to craft or personnel. Although there will be no danger posed to our planet, finding a suitable target will be one of the most difficult elements of the mission.

If granted, the budget will be divided between human exploration, robotics and space departments to begin developing the technology required.

The mission could give researchers the opportunity to gain field experience and develop ways to push asteroids off collision courses with Earth if necessary. In addition, some businesses are considering asteroids as a source of metals, so any information that could contribute to this as a possible reality could monetize the project.

Via: Aviation Week

Image credit: Bruce Irving

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com