Senator Bill Nelson of Florida announced Friday that Barack Obama and NASA have plans to send a robotic spaceship to capture a small asteroid and bring it closer to Earth. Astronauts would be able to explore the asteroid by 2021.
Nelson, chairman of the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee, said Friday that Obama is putting $100 million for the asteroid mission in the 2014 budget due out next week, reports Bay News.
“This is part of what will be a much broader program,” Nelson said in Orlando. “The plan combines the science of mining an asteroid, along with developing ways to deflect one, along with providing a place to develop ways we can go to Mars.”
Their jointly produced Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study suggests that bringing a 500-ton asteroid closer to Earth would give astronauts a “unique, meaningful and affordable” research destination for the next decade.
Astronauts aboard America’s Orion capsule will be sent into space on a massive new rocket called SLS, capable of lifting enormous payloads far beyond low-Earth orbit. The U.S. hasn't had a rocket capable of this since 1972. Nelson and former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey secured approval for the SLS in 2010.