SPACE ROCK: A diagram depicting the passage of asteroid 2012 DA14 through the Earth-moon system.
SPACE ROCK: A diagram depicting the passage of asteroid 2012 DA14 through the Earth-moon system. NASAJPL-CALTECH

NASA's new plan to capture an asteroid

NASA could spend $100 million in an effort to capture and explore an asteroid.

United States President Barack Obama will this week ask NASA to budget for and plan a mission to secure a small asteroid, tug it near the moon, then send astronauts to study it.

An asteroid-capturing robot could be launched by 2017, with astronauts flying to meet it near the moon by 2021, according to a NASA briefing to Congress.

The Washington Post reported the President's request included $74 million for NASA to develop technologies for the project and $26 million for beefing up the agency's asteroid detection systems.

The mission would fulfil a goal Mr Obama set three years ago to send astronauts to an asteroid.

The human portion of the mission would send people beyond Earth's orbit for the first time since the final Apollo moon landing in 1972.

Former NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart told the Post there were many technical challenges, including finding the right asteroid. "One big issue is how do you hold on?" he said.


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