Nasa plans to capture, explore asteroid

2013-04-06 11:49

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The US space agency is planning for a robotic spaceship to capture a small asteroid and park it near the moon for astronauts to explore, a top senator disclosed on Friday.

The plan would speed up by four years the existing mission to land astronauts on an asteroid by bringing the space rock closer to Earth, Senator Bill Nelson said.

The robotic ship would capture the 450 metric-ton, 7.6-metre asteroid in 2019. Then using an Orion space capsule, now being developed, a crew of about four astronauts would nuzzle up next to the rock in 2021 for spacewalking exploration, according to a government document obtained by The Associated Press.

Nelson said this would help Nasa develop the capability to nudge away a dangerous asteroid if one headed to Earth in the future. It also would be training for a future mission to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, he said.

'Clever concept'

Nelson, chairperson of the Senate science and space subcommittee, said President Barack Obama is putting $100m in planning money for the accelerated 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 news conference in Florida, the state where Nasa launches take place. "Go find your ideal candidate for an asteroid. Go get it robotically and bring it back."

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 programme that monitors close-by asteroids. He said once a suitable rock is found, it would be captured 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."

Yeomans said an asteroid of that size is no threat to Earth because it would burn up should it inadvertently enter Earth's atmosphere. The mission as Nelson described is perfectly safe, he said.

The government document said the mission, with no price tag at the moment, would inspire because it "will send humans farther than they have ever been before."

 

Read more on:    nasa  |  us  |  space

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
13 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.