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April 11, 2013

NASA Budgets $100 Million to Capture Asteroid, Deflect It Towards Earth, and Get it Captured by the Moon as a Sub-Satellite

I'm not sure why they want to do this. The goal is to study the composition of an asteroid, but can't that be done by landing a lightweight probe on an asteroid and having it take a few core samples?

Well, we're lassoing an asteroid and sending it hurtling towards earth. They say this should not be a worry, because an asteroid of the size they're looking for -- less than 25 feet in diameter -- is small enough to completely burn up in earth's atmosphere, should the worst happen.

Okay, I get that. I trust their calculations. But $100 million? I suppose that, given the very real possibility of a celestial hammer smashing into the earth at some point, we could use a bit of technical practice at lassoing and redirecting objects in space.

I don't know.

Isn't there a sequester or something? I thought I heard that.

Anyway:

NASA unveiled a $17.7 billion spending plan for 2014 today (April 10) that continues major ongoing space exploration projects, while including funds to kick-start an audacious new mission to capture a small asteroid and park it near the moon so astronauts can explore it by 2025.

The proposed NASA budget is part of President Barack Obama's 2014 federal budget request and would restore the U.S. space agency's funding back near its 2012 levels. The request is about $50 million less than NASA's last budget in 2012, but would restore deep cuts from sequestration, leaving the agency with a roughly $1 billion increase from the $16.6 billion spending bill the agency received for 2013.

NASA's plan to send a robotic spacecraft to lasso an asteroid and tow it to the moon is a stand-out item in the 2014 budget request. The goal is to capture an asteroid and bring it closer to Earth so that a manned mission can explore the space rock by 2025 a major U.S. spaceflight goal set by Obama in 2010.

Yeah, no. I don't want. Send a probe-robot (probot?) to mine an asteroid of some cores and such. This just seems like bureaucratic make-spend.

This whole thing with manned spaceflight, making up reasons why humans, rather than robots, must perform these tasks, is just a very expensive PR effort by NASA. The fact is, from the first days of the exploration in space, man's presence in the capsules was largely for PR and for bragging rights. But most of this stuff can be done by robots, computers, and telemetry.

There's no reason why actual humans would have to lay actual hands on a space-rock. This is just something dreamed up to hopefully "light the fire to public imagination" and keep NASA's budget at its current levels.

It doesn't light the fire to my imagination. Falsehoods usually don't. I am in great favor of space exploration, but not this nonsense designed to make children excited to see astronauts.

Real exploration is purposeful exploration, not crap made up for some corporate PR agenda.

Corrected: NASA's total 2014 budget is $17.7 billion. This particular item is only budgeted at $100 million ("only"), but then, that's just a "kickstart" to the program.

The full cost will be...

In all, NASA could spend up to $2.6 billion on the asteroid-capture mission through 2025...

Still pretty high. I just don't see the advantage of doing this, apart from being able to say "we did this." Sure, send a probot and get some canisters of space-rock to send back home for analysis. But this just seems daffy.

Thanks to commenters!



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posted by Ace at 04:45 PM

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