President Barack Obama’s administration will seek $100 million in funding for a mission to tow an asteroid closer to Earth for the purpose of helping future expeditions to Mars, NBC News reported on Saturday.
This corroborates an announcement made by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on Friday. As the Associated Press reported, Nelson, who chairs the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee, said the request would be made in Obama’s proposed budget for 2014, with $78 million set aside for the mission to grab the asteroid and $27 million for helping NASA identify asteroids that could endanger the planet, a $7 million increase from current spending.
NASA’s mission proposal, adapted from a scenario (PDF) designed by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, calls for a robotic probe to grab an asteroid measuring approximately 500 tons and 25 to 35 feet in width in 2019 and bringing it into orbit near the moon, which would shorten future asteroid expeditions by months, on top of providing access to the asteroid’s natural resources.
Donald Yeomans, who leads the agency’s Near Earth Object program, told the AP those dimensions would make the designated asteroid unlikely to damage Earth even if it entered the atmosphere, since it would burn up before reaching the ground.
Watch Newsy Science’s report on the potential benefits of NASA’s budding asteroid hunt, posted on Saturday, below.