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Sunday, December 23, 2012

NASA plans to 'lasso' asteroid to orbit Moon

The White House's Office of Science and Technology will consider a $2-billion plan in the coming weeks to capture a 500 ton asteroid, relocate it and turn it into a space station for astronauts on their way to Mars as it prepares to set its space exploration agenda for the next decade.
If approved it would be the first time a celestial object has ever been lassoed and moved by humans, reports The Daily Mail in London in reviewing of a planning assessment by NASA and the California Institute of Technology.
A, 'asteroid capture capsule' would be attached to an old Atlas V rocket and directed the asteroid between the earth and the moon. Once close, the asteroid capsule would release a 50ft diameter bag that wrap around the spinning rock using drawstrings. The craft would then turn on its thrusters, using an estimated 300kg of propellant, to stop the asteroid in its tracks and tow it into a gravitationally neutral spot. From here space explorers would have a stationary base from which to launch trips deeper into space.
'The feasibility is enabled by three key developments: the ability to discover and characterize an adequate number of sufficiently small near-Earth asteroids for capture and return; the ability to implement sufficiently powerful solar electric propulsion systems to enable transportation of the captured asteroid; and the proposed human presence in cislunar space in the 2020s enabling exploration and exploitation of the returned asteroid.

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