The scientists at US Space Agency NASA are planning a radical new mission, one that entails capturing an asteroid and then sending over a manned spaceship so the astronauts can obtain some samples and bring them back to earth.
The purpose of this expedition is to gain a better understanding of asteroids, meteors and other space rocks. Called an 'asteroid redirect mission', it will be undertaken aboard NASA's state of the art Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the same spacecraft that is expected to take astronauts to the moon and Mars. In order to demonstrate that the task is not as impossible as it sounds earlier this week, the space agency released a fascinating video to demonstrate how they were planning to accomplish it.
An unmanned solar-powered spacecraft will first pluck an asteroid from its orbit and relocate it to one close to that of the moon's so that astronauts can get to it. Once the rock is in place, a team of 2-4 astronauts will hop aboard the Orion and with the help of solar power and the gravitational pull from the moon, make their way to the asteroid. Once there, they will dock and conduct space walks to photograph the rock extensively and collect samples to bring back to earth. The Orion will then retrace its path back and if all goes according to plan, land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, within ten days.
Whether NASA will ever get to embark on this mission will depend on if the agency can get approval for the expected cost of between $1- $2.6 billion USD from the US Congress and after that of course, if they can actually get everything to work the way it's being envisioned. But, it is sure fun to think about isn't it?