NASA is taking a plan to send an unmanned spacecraft to capture an asteroid and bring it into orbit around the Moon seriously. Aviation Week reports that NASA’s budget request for fiscal 2014 will include $100 million to help fund the asteroid retrieval mission. A feasibility study looking into the project was prepared last April year by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, and it proposed that capturing a 1.1-million pound, 7-meter wide asteroid using an automated spacecraft would cost $2.6 billion.
The plan “has attracted favor” from NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, according to Aviation Week, and the space agency’s Bob Jacobs toldSpace.com this January that “NASA and the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are giving the study further review to determine its feasibility.” Members behind the Keck Institute study are said to have briefed a National Research Council human-spaceflight technical feasibility panel yesterday, March 28th, informing the panel that the target asteroid wouldn’t pose a danger to Earth because it has the consistency of “a dried mudball.”
The original Keck Institute study determined that the mission would create an affordable destination that astronauts could use in preparation for future manned missions to Mars, and NASA may be see the proposal as an affordable way to accomplish President Obama’s goal to send astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025.