It’s still unclear if NASA will receive Congressional funding or authorization to do an asteroid retrieval proposal backed by President Barack Obama’s administration, but as missions take time to plan, the agency is moving ahead with its work for now.
NASA just did a mission formulation review this week to look at some internal studies on the mission. It also is starting to wade through hundreds of ideas the space community submitted concerning the mission.
“With the mission formulation review complete, agency officials now will begin integrating the most highly-rated concepts into an asteroid mission baseline concept to further develop in 2014,” NASA stated. The agency was light on details, but more information should be forthcoming when the process is further along.
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The agency’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal suggests robotically picking up an asteroid, steering it closer to Earth, and putting it in a safe orbit where probes and possibly astronauts could visit. The budget is still being moved through Congressional committees and we won’t know until later this year just how much money will be available for NASA, and what initiatives the agency will be allowed to do.
For more information, be sure to read this past article from Universe Today editor Nancy Atkinson looking in detail at NASA’s asteroid retrieval mission. It includes information on what technology could be used, and the history of NASA’s quest to explore asteroids.
Space rocks have hit the headlines several times this year, particularly when one exploded over the area of Chelyabinsk, Russia earlier in 2013. NASA and several other groups have ongoing searches for asteroids and other small bodies in our solar system to catalog and calculate the orbits for as many as they can find. No imminent threats are known.