NASA is currently thinking of capturing an asteroid and placing it in the moon’s orbit.
According to Gizmodo, researchers at the Keck Institute for Space Studies in California have “confirmed that NASA is mulling over” a plan to put an asteroid into lunar orbit.
Said plan would require the launching of a special robotic spacecraft to grab an asteroid before placing it in the moon’s orbit. This mission is estimated to cost around $2.6 billion and could be underway by the 2020’s.
Now, why would NASA want to put an asteroid in lunar orbit? The moon doesn’t need a moon of its own.
The Obama administration has said that it wants to sent astronauts to an asteroid that is near Earth.
So far, the best target is a space rock called 1999 AO10. Taking a trip to this asteroid would require a dangerous six-month trip by the astronauts in question. If NASA could bring that targeted Asteroid into lunar orbit, it would be much safer for the astronauts.
According to New Scientist, a specially designed spacecraft would be necessary for the current proposal to work.
The Keck team’s vision is to launch a slow-moving spacecraft, propelled by solar-heated ions, with an Atlas V rocket.
The specially designed spacecraft would then propel itself out to a targeted asteroid. The asteroid would probably be no bigger than seven meters wide.
After briefly studying the asteroid, the robot would then catch the targeted asteroid in a bag measuring about 10 meters by 15 meters and head back towards the moon.
NASA is predicting that, altogether, it would take about six to 10 years to drag the asteroid into lunar orbit.
According to Louis Friedman of the Planetary Society the proposal still needs “some technical and scientific fine-tuning.”
It may not be easy, however, the moon just may have a moon of its own here soon.