Why Does NASA Want To Bring An Asteroid to Earth?

NASA mulls plan to drag asteroid into moon's orbit, New Scientist

"Researchers with the Keck Institute for Space Studies in California have confirmed that NASA is mulling over their plan to build a robotic spacecraft to grab a small asteroid and place it in high lunar orbit. The mission would cost about $2.6 billion - slightly more than NASA's Curiosity Mars rover - and could be completed by the 2020s. .. Robotically bringing an asteroid to the moon instead would be a more attractive first step, the Keck researchers conclude, because an object orbiting the moon would be in easier reach of robotic probes and maybe even humans."

Keith's note: This study has not been released yet so we don't know what is in it. All we hear is how to go get an asteroid and bring it back to Earth - but not why. If the idea is to study an asteroid close up, I would think that you could send a swarm of satellites, large antennas, etc. based on existing hardware to an asteroid and allow high fidelity telepresence capability for the same/less cost and less complexity than using brute force to bring it to Earth. The only possible rationale for bringing an asteroid back to Earth would be to use the materials in it. I have yet to see any mission statement that charters NASA to mine asteroids. Indeed, the White House doesn't even support the more modest L2 station that Charlie Bolden (sometimes) wants to build using traditional engineering.

The last time I checked, one of the main reasons why the White House tasked NASA to send humans to an asteroid in the first place was to test out long duration deep space human capabilities as a prelude to sending humans to Mars. Bringing their asteroidal destination to Earth sort of defeats that initial intent. Who knows: maybe Charlie Bolden wants to bring Mars closer to Earth to cut down on travel time.

Keith's update: the original report has indeed been released previously. But the specific mission proposal that NASA has sent to the White House has not been released - nor will it be any time soon since this is all "predecisional" stuff.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 3, 2013 10:17 AM.

Yet Another NASA Pick-the-Next-Destination Effort was the previous entry in this blog.

Important Research Results NASA Is Not Talking About (Update) is the next entry in this blog.

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