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Human World | Space on Apr 08, 2013

NASA plans to catch asteroid and place in orbit around moon

Why? In part because there’s a growing realization that Earth is vulnerable to an asteroid strike.

According to a Florida senator, U.S. President Obama’s proposed federal budget for the coming fiscal year will include a line item for catching an asteroid and placing it in orbit around the moon. The budget is expected to be released later this week. There’s speculation that this proposal is in response to the recent realization by many that Earth is vulnerable to strikes from asteroids. This realization followed the February 15, 2013 asteroid explosion in the atmosphere over Russia on the same day that a second asteroid, traveling from a different direction in space, passed closer to Earth than some communications satellites.

In 2010, President Obama set a goal for NASA of sending a team of astronauts to visit a near-Earth asteroid (NEO) by 2025.  But rather then propelling humans on a dangerously long journey into interplanetary space, why not bring the asteroid here and place it in orbit around the moon?  That idea has found its way into Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.

In 2010, President Obama set a goal for NASA of sending a team of astronauts to visit a near-Earth asteroid (NEO) by 2025. But rather then propelling humans on a dangerously long journey into interplanetary space, why not bring the asteroid here and place it in orbit around the moon? That idea has found its way into Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014.

Dashboard camera captures the bright fireball that appeared over Russia this morning - February 15, 2013 - shortly before the meteorite struck.

Dashboard camera captures the bright fireball that appeared over Russia this morning – February 15, 2013 – shortly before the meteorite struck.

A statement from the office of Florida Senator Bill Nelson said:

In a nutshell, the plan in NASA’s hands calls for catching an asteroid with a robotic spacecraft and towing it back toward Earth, where it would then be placed in a stable orbit around the moon.

The idea is that others from Earth might then travel to the asteroid where, the statement said:

… there could be mining activities, research into ways of deflecting an asteroid from striking Earth and testing to develop technology for a trip to deep space and Mars.

Nelson, who is chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, said this plan is similar to one suggested by experts at the California Institute of Technology last year. That plan proposed bringing a 500-ton asteroid closer to Earth.

Obama supports NASA’s plan and is including about $100 million in his proposed budget to kick it off, the senator said.

Bottom line: A Florida senator and chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space issued a statement on April 8, 2013 saying that President Obama has a $100 million line item in his proposal budget that will allow NASA to capture an asteroid and place it in orbit around the moon. The budget is expected to be released later this week.