NASA IS CONSIDERING a proposal to ‘catch’ an asteroid and drag it into orbit around the moon, as a potential site for a more permanent development within easy reach of the lunar surface.
NewScientist reports that the Keck Institute for Space Studies at Caltech has tabled an ambitious proposal to build an unmanned robotic spacecraft that would aim to capture a small asteroid.
The craft would then drag the asteroid toward the moon and set it in motion so that it would be in orbit around our own natural satellite.
Researchers from the Institute told NewScientist that NASA was actively considering the project.
It is estimated that the mission would cost about $2.6 billion – only slightly more than the $2.5 billion that NASA spent on the Curiosity rover currently deployed to Mars.
The novel idea – which could permanently change our view of the moon from Earth, depending on the site of the asteroid being dragged into its orbit – could fit in with other priorities previously expressed by NASA.
Though it has no immediate plans for a manned mission to the moon, the agency has discussed the possibility of having its Orion spacecraft – being proposed as a possible successor to the space shuttle – do a tour that would take it around the moon.
The Obama administration has meanwhile put forward plans to send a manned mission to a nearby passing asteroid – though this could prove unattractive because it would put astronauts in a scenario where no possible rescue missions could be undertaken.