NASA’s asteroid retrieval proposal was thrust back into the news Friday, when Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) announced that the ambitious plan to lasso an asteroid and bring it closer to earth had the president’s support.
Now, you and I may have been asking ourselves just what the good senator was smoking, but the project is very real — and the head of Russia’s space agency Vladimir Popovkin hinted that the Russians want in. The asteroid retrieval is “a very interesting project, which NASA proposes to carry out jointly with Roscosmos specialists,” he said in a brief comment to UPI.
With or without the Russians, Americans can expect to see $100 million for the project appearing in this week’s federal budget, according to Sen. Nelson. The project was originally priced out last year by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In late March, Aviation Week noted that President Obama wants to send human astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, a goal that can’t be met by private investors and probably not even with NASA’s current budget. However, the alternate technique studied by KISS — of sending an unmanned craft to the asteroid belt with a high-tech lasso to retrieve an over one million pound asteroid for us — could be done for less than $3 billion.
NASA’s $100 million request, a pittance by comparison, will allow the space agency to seek out an asteroid that’s just the right size for the project. Nelson revealed that if the project worked, it would actually bring forward the day when humans stood on an asteroid by four years, from 2025 to 2021.
Here’s the Keck video about what’s involved in catching an asteroid with a high-tech lasso:
I have to admit I’d love to see me some cowboys lasso an asteroid, but I never imagined Russia coming along for the ride. What do you think of the asteroid retrieval program?
[artist’ s conception of an asteroid belt from a nearby planet courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech]