NASA planning to catch a small asteroid in 2019, explore it

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Houston, April 6: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to seize a small asteroid with the help of a robotic spaceship before the end of this decade, reports say.

Once the 7.6-metre-wide asteroid is captured as per NASA's plan, the next step would be to manoeuver it quite close to the Moon so that astronauts can examine the space rock in detail.

This unprecedented endeavour of the US space agency was revealed by Senator Bill Nelson on Friday. Addressing newspersons in Florida, the chairman of the Senate science and space subcommittee said that "It really is a clever concept. Go find your ideal candidate for an asteroid. Go get it robotically and bring it back."

Nelson disclosed that US President Barack Obama has allocated 100 million dollars for the accelerated asteroid mission in the 2013-2014 budget. NASA can use the grant to find an asteroid that fills the bill perfectly.

"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," added the Senator who was elected on a Democratic ticket from Florida.

Though there are numerous asteroids of the required size, the agency has the difficult task of locating one that will approach the Earth at the right time.

Citing government documents, The Associated Press reported that the robotic spaceship is expected to capture a 500-tonne asteroid in 2019. Subsequently a team of four astronauts will be sent to explore it in 2021.

According to top NASA scientists, the plan entails the spaceship catching the rock in a large concave-shaped receptacle as it streaks past. Then a solar propulsion module would be attached to the asteroid so that how it is spinning can be controlled. The space agency would ensure that the rock is gradually moved as near the Moon as possible.

OneIndia News (with agency inputs)

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