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Video: How NASA robots plan to capture an asteroid and park it near the moon

Asteroid Capture

Image Credit: NASA/Advanced Concepts Laboratory

Concept of Asteroid Capture in Progress : This asteroid mission brings together the best of NASA's science, technology and human exploration efforts to achieve the President's goals faster and at a lower cost to taxpayers than continuing with business as usual. This image shows what capturing an asteroid could look like. NASA will enhance its detection and characterization capabilities, accelerate solar electric propulsion technology development and begin the design of the overall mission.

Asteroid Capture

Image Credit: NASA/Advanced Concepts Laboratory

Concept of Spacecraft with Asteroid Capture Mechanism Deployed : By leveraging capabilities across all of NASA, the agency is developing a first-ever mission to identify, rendezvous with, capture and redirect a small asteroid into a stable orbit in the lunar vicinity, and then send humans to visit it using the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. This mission represents an unprecedented technological feat and allows NASA to affordably pursue the Administration’s goal of visiting an asteroid by 2025. It raises the bar for human exploration and discovery while taking advantage of the diverse talents at NASA. This image represents a notional spacecraft with its asteroid capture mechanism deployed.

Asteroid Capture

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Analytical Mechanics Associates

Artist's Concept of a Solar Electric Propulsion System : Using advanced solar electric propulsion (SEP) technologies is an essential part of future missions into deep space with larger payloads. The use of robotics and advanced SEP technologies like this concept of an SEP-based spacecraft during NASA’s mission to find, rendezvous with, capture and relocate an asteroid to a stable point in the lunar vicinity before sending humans to it offers more mission flexibility than would be possible if a crewed mission went directly to the asteroid.

Asteroid Capture

Image Credit: NASA/Advanced Concepts Laboratory

Concept of Asteroid Capture Spacecraft in a Stowed Configuration : By leveraging capabilities across all of NASA, the agency is developing a first-ever mission to identify, rendezvous with, capture and redirect a small asteroid into a stable orbit in the lunar vicinity, and then send humans to visit it using the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. This mission represents an unprecedented technological feat and allows NASA to affordably pursue the Administration’s goal of visiting an asteroid by 2025. It raises the bar for human exploration and discovery while taking advantage of the diverse talents at NASA. This image represents a notional spacecraft with its asteroid capture mechanism stowed.


NASA's FY2014 budget proposal includes "a plan to robotically capture a small near-Earth asteroid and redirect it safely to a stable lunar orbit where astronauts can visit and explore it," according to a news release by the space agency.

Scientists and engineers will be employing current and developing technology to locate:

  • LARGE asteroids that pose a potential hazard to Earth 
  • SMALL asteroids that make good candidates for capture

The initiative will help keep NASA on point for the President's goal of getting humans to Mars in the 2030s. The project is expected to utilize high-powered solar electric propulsion technology, the agency's Space Launch System rocket, and Orion spacecraft. 

VIDEO | ASTEROID INITIATIVE 

Animation: Asteroid Retrieval Initiative

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